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 winamp.com:

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

Toolbogged

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