Winamp — “feel the love”

Winamp 2.95I prob­a­bly haven’t used Winamp in a decade, but learn­ing that it’s final­ly going away for good brought it back to the top of my mind this week.

Winamp wasn’t just my pri­ma­ry digital-music-playing-thing1 — like many peo­ple, it was the first thing I ever used to play MP3s.

Yes Junior, back then Win­dows Media Play­er was for CDs and WAV files, and iTunes didn’t exist yet.2

What made Winamp so awe­some? I could devote a whole post3  to the genius of Winamp skins, and things I’ve been read­ing (1, 2, 3) over­whelm­ing­ly ref­er­ence the clas­sic “whip the llama’s ass” sound clip — which, in addi­tion to being a neat lit­tle brand­ing thing, was per­ma­nent­ly imprint­ed on everyone’s mem­o­ry by being the first thing that would play after instal­la­tion.

Those were cool, but my favorite Winamp mem­o­ry is some­thing a lit­tle less… super­fi­cial, per­haps? It’s a short piece of writ­ing that long ago was fea­tured on the “About” page of

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Winamp — “feel the love””

  1. Until iTunes for Win­dows showed me the val­ue in hav­ing a library of files. Yeah, I know Winamp has a library fea­ture, but I nev­er used it.
  2. Oh, and by the way, MP3s were these things peo­ple used to lis­ten to before there was YouTube.
  3. And, shit, I may — Winamp was doing skeu­mor­phics before Apple did skeu­mor­phics before Apple stopped doing skeu­mor­phics.

No Ovaltine please — we’re cool

As a kid, I didn’t know any­thing about Oval­tine aside from their com­mer­cials, so I hadn’t seen it as a spon­sor of clas­sic radio and tele­vi­sion, as a joke on Sein­feld, or as a big fat liar in A Christ­mas Sto­ry. I can’t remem­ber any of my friends hav­ing any­thing to say about it, either.

I was total­ly unbi­ased.

But from the company’s mar­ket­ing alone, I could tell that rich choco­late Oval­tine was uncool. I had nev­er drunk any — and decades lat­er, I still haven’t — but if I ever had, I cer­tain­ly wouldn’t have told any­one about it.

I’m not exact­ly sure why the stuff made my lame-sense tin­gle as a kid. Maybe because Oval­tine was named after a shape (and shapes are for lit­tle kids), or that its mar­ket­ing proud­ly pro­claimed that it was full of vit­a­mins (like every­thing par­ents love, and kids don’t), but what I sus­pect it was… was a lit­tle more basic than that.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “No Oval­tine please — we’re cool”

Yes, that’s a new laptop. Yes, I know what year it is.

lenovo-thinkpad-x230-frontI know it’s 2013 and as far as “mobile com­put­ing” goes, I’m sup­posed to be pinch-zooming and app-buying and poorly-typing on a tablet like the cool kids. And I do — my  O.G. Nexus 7 (the 2012 mod­el) some­times makes a nice com­pan­ion1 to my Galaxy Nexus Android phone, by being slight­ly faster and hav­ing a slight­ly bet­ter screen. How­ev­er, over the 15 months I’ve owned the Nexus 7, it nev­er quite became the sec­ond mobile device that I want­ed. Use­ful, yes… tran­scen­dent, no.

I knew some­thing was still miss­ing, so I recent­ly went and bought a small lap­top com­put­er, a Leno­vo ThinkPad X230, to car­ry around. It runs Debian Lin­ux. It does the things I want. It’s a won­der­ful thing to have.

I needed this because…

The lap­top that the ThinkPad replaced was from 2007, and while a decent com­put­er from back then would like­ly still be good today, my old lap­top was not a decent com­put­er, even when new. Back then, I didn’t know just how painful­ly slow an ultra-low-voltage, low clock-speed CPU could be… I guess I thought it being dual-core would some­how make up for it. Also, the cool­ing fan was a bit of a whin­er, and would con­stant­ly and very vocal­ly dis­agree with Linux’s style of pow­er man­age­ment. The darned thing would con­stant­ly sound like a mini-jet-engine — too obnox­ious to use around peo­ple I actu­al­ly like.

Low on pow­er, high on noise — not a good com­bo.

But these days…

In the last half-decade or so, main­stream humans seem to have accept­ed the smart­phone, and seem to be doing the same for the idiot cam­era (“tablets”). It’s the “Post-PC era,” or some­thing. Plen­ty of peo­ple seem to be doing okay with­out spend­ing much time on their general-purpose per­son­al com­put­ers, but over time I real­ized that as I tried to go along with this trend, I was miss­ing out. For me, a com­put­ing life cen­tered around mobile “smart” devices was one of unac­cept­able com­pro­mise. Com­pos­ing more than a cou­ple of sen­tences with­out a key­board makes me want to just not both­er to write, devices with­out expand­able stor­age make one depen­dent on rent-seeking “cloud” ser­vices, and the mobile app ecosys­tem has hand­fuls of well-known prob­lems (pri­va­cy, lock-in, and so on).

There’s a place for these devices, even in my life, but they just don’t replace a general-purpose com­put­er. Ever.

So I did this…

I made sure not to make last time’s mis­takes when buy­ing this com­put­er. The i5 CPU is more than ade­quate, and I have a ton of RAM. ThinkPads are known to play nice­ly with Lin­ux, because they’re used by that awe­some kind of geek who fig­ures that shit out (and wouldn’t put up with a jet engine lap­top). It runs Debian Jessie (“test­ing”) with only minor annoy­ances — not per­fect, but noth­ing I can’t han­dle.2

Hard­ware build-quality and dura­bil­i­ty are major plusses for an every­day car­ry machine, and that’s what ThinkPads are known for. And of course, Track­Point is tru­ly the best way to mouse. A lot has been said about the new ThinkPad key­boards, and while this one suf­fers from the bull­shit key lay­out (com­pare it to the awe­some, ugly 1337-geek clas­sic style), the key­board actu­al­ly feel pret­ty nice to type on, even if the bizarrely-placed PrintScreen key occa­sion­al­ly enrages me.

And finally…

In the spir­it of bury­ing the lede, here are some things I intend to enjoy while tot­ing around this rock-solid, large-screen-and-real-keyboard device:

  • Full desk­top OS that does all the things
  • Bet­ter web brows­ing; approx­i­mate­ly 1,000 open tabs
  • Actu­al­ly writ­ing things, blog­ging sil­ly ideas and such
  • Tons of local stor­age (SSD + HDD = yay!)
  • Semi-modern PC games, includ­ing lots of Hum­ble Bun­dle good­ness
  • Codecad­e­my
  • Inter­ac­tive fic­tion, per­haps (now, where did I mis­place my patience?)
  1. My most com­mon tablet uses are as fol­lows: gam­ing, view­ing TV episodes and movies, and web brows­ing. I’m putting this in a foot­note so as not to side­track myself, but it’s an impor­tant point. One of the best things about hav­ing the tablet was that it gave me anoth­er 16 GB of stor­age, on top of the 16 GB avail­able on my phone. A lot of peo­ple seem to think that Google inten­tion­al­ly lim­its the stor­age avail­able in their flag­ship devices to push peo­ple into using their mon­e­ti­z­able “cloud” media offer­ings instead of local stor­age. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if this were true, but hon­est­ly, the #1 rea­son I’d like more local stor­age in my devices is not to car­ry around more media, but more and larg­er apps — some­thing you can’t put in the cloud.
  2. I imag­ine Debian Sta­ble or Ubun­tu would be bet­ter.

Can we just drop this?

If you’re not a rap­per pro­mot­ing your new album — and espe­cial­ly if you’re a non-rapper who works in mar­ket­ing — can you do us a favor and not use “drop” to mean “the date on which [my thing] is set to be released”?

I’m sor­ry you’ve cho­sen e-mail spam or what­ev­er the fuck you do for a liv­ing, but talk­ing about the day your new cam­paign or what­ev­er “drops” doesn’t make you sound hip or hard or what­ev­er.

There is one accept­able use out­side the rap game: are you a preg­nant woman dis­cussing the date your kid is due to be born? Then that’s… actu­al­ly total­ly cool.

Lil’ shorty drops Novem­ber 7th. Yeah.”
–Expec­tant moth­er


Oh, hey guys — I just invent­ed a new word.

tool­bogged /ˈtulˌbɒgged/
(v. intr; past par­tici­ple of tool­bog)

To become so con­sumed by the process of research­ing and select­ing gear (often soft­ware) for a giv­en task that one nev­er actu­al­ly com­pletes the task itself

I’ve been com­plete­ly tool­bogged try­ing to auto­mate fix­ing the date and time on hun­dreds of RAW files from vaca­tion last fall… that I nev­er even sort­ed the pics them­selves!1

  1. Based on a true sto­ry, sad­ly.

Cooties: they’re back

Ages ago, we thought we had a cure for cooties in the youth pop­u­la­tion: the cootie shot.

The dis­ease itself could usu­al­ly go untreat­ed with­out ill effect; the real prob­lem was the sec­ondary social stig­ma that came with being a car­ri­er. Once the oth­er kids found out that you had cooties, your social life would be roast­ed, toast­ed… burnt to a crisp. Play dates? Can­celed. Sleep­overs? In your dreams. And, hon­est­ly, who would want to go to your birth­day par­ty?

Yes, it was that bad.

From this cul­ture the cootie shot was born, and fear of cooties could make even the biggest wimp for­get he was afraid of shots — this was a seri­ous prob­lem for which there was no oth­er treat­ment. Even the chil­dren whose par­ents’ ques­tion­able sci­en­tif­ic beliefs kept them far away from vac­ci­na­tions could be found seek­ing treat­ment in the dark alleys of the school­yard, because cooties — not chick­en pox or what­ev­er — was the one ill­ness that could keep you up at night, wor­ry­ing well past your bed­time.

The cootie shot was sup­posed to be a bul­let­proof defense against every known strain. It was sup­posed to offer a sec­ond chance at child­hood.

Get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed worked like this: a typ­i­cal­ly unli­censed prac­ti­tion­er with ques­tion­able med­ical train­ing would admin­is­ter the shot by speak­ing the fol­low­ing incan­ta­tion in a singsong voice, while using their fin­ger to trace the not­ed shapes on your body.

Cir­cle cir­cle, dot dot
Now you’ve got the cootie shot

But that’s just the first stage of the vac­cine cock­tail. Per­haps your fore­arm would be pro­tect­ed, but what about every oth­er part? If you didn’t con­tin­ue the full course of treat­ment, cooties would like­ly gain a foothold and basi­cal­ly ruin your entire life.

Cir­cle cir­cle, square square
Now you’ve got it every­where

At this point, you’d be safe until the shot wore off… which by the way, it would do almost instant­ly. Kids were still get­ting infect­ed left and right, so the great­est med­ical minds on the play­ground came up with what seemed like a sil­ver bul­let for this pub­lic health cri­sis.

Cir­cle cir­cle, knife knife
Now you’ve got it for your life

Only now could you breathe easy — you were final­ly immune. Not even the yuck­i­est girl1  could cause you harm.

At least that’s how it used to work. Once a panacea, a hope for a bet­ter tomor­row, cootie shots have become scarce. This easily-preventable ail­ment joins measles, polio and whoop­ing cough as again some­thing we must once again wor­ry about.

What hap­pened? Make-believe med­ical pro­fes­sion­als today — with their hands tied by a well-known ene­my of healthy and hap­py pop­u­la­tion — can be heard all too often singing a very dif­fer­ent song:

Cir­cle cir­cle, shame shame
Your HMO denied your claim

  1. Every­one knows that females are the main car­ri­ers of cooties, and those bitch­es are every­where.

This is cool. Slash get off my lawn.

Slash: Not Just a Punc­tu­a­tion Mark Any­more

Two weeks ago, one stu­dent brought up the word slash as an exam­ple of new slang, and it quick­ly became clear to me that many stu­dents are using slash in ways unfa­mil­iar to me.


6. I need to go home and write my essay slash take a nap.


12. JUST SAW ALEX! Slash I just chubbed on oat­meal raisin cook­ies at north quad and i miss you

via Boing­Bo­ing