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:

What is Winamp? A play­er you say? No, no baby. Winamp is much more than that.

Winamp is a lifestyle. It is freestyle. Give me a word. Ver­sa­til­i­ty? Yeah. Vision­ary? Of course. Com­mu­ni­ty? Now you’re talking.

Winamp lives because it’s users have a life.

Winamp is in the cof­fee house. On the lap­top. Of the guy. Who is writ­ing the screen­play. That you will be watch­ing next year.

Winamp is on the screen. In the club. Where the DJ plays the tracks. That get you through the night.

Winamp is with you. When you take your playlist. Push it to the ether. And share the music that you love. With all of humanity.

Winamp lets you put togeth­er the sound­track. That runs in the back­ground of your mind. And allows you to define your life.

Winamp is your skin. Allow­ing you to look and feel the way you want.

Winamp is what it is and noth­ing more. But you are the one who makes it. Winamp is there for you. It is yours. What hap­pens next? You tell me. Down­load Winamp.

-jonathan “feel the love” ward

Read­ing it back then left me a bit misty, filled with this strange­ly inspired feel­ing. The piece comes to mind every once in a while, at which point I seek out a copy to re-read it. Look, I can’t point to any­thing in par­tic­u­lar that I wrote or cre­at­ed thanks to this inspi­ra­tion. But in some way, it made me think dif­fer­ent­ly not just about the pow­er of music, but the trans­for­ma­tive pow­er of what would oth­er­wise seem like triv­ial soft­ware. Read­ing this made me feel like Winamp did more than just “play music.”

But in real­i­ty, that’s all it did. Or was there more?

Give me a word. Hyper­bole? Maybe. Awe­some? Undeniable.

  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.

Watched the ad above? Note the end­ing. “More Oval­tine, please!” closed all Oval­tine ads of my child­hood. My present-day cyn­i­cal, works-in-marketing self can imag­ine some agency sell­ing this con­cept to the Oval­tine com­pa­ny with “Look, these kids not only love this vitamin-filled drink, but they love it so much they’ll devel­op man­ners and ask for it polite­ly! Par­ents will eat this up!”

But my kid self saw things a lit­tle dif­fer­ent­ly. “Wow, these kids are super-polite. That’s total­ly uncool.1 I don’t want this. Where’s the Nestlé Quik? That rab­bit is cool.”

There’s a mar­ket­ing mes­sage here, and it prob­a­bly goes a lit­tle some­thing like this:

If you have dif­fer­ent tar­gets, your mes­sag­ing needs to speak dif­fer­ent­ly (use “code-switching”) when speak­ing to dif­fer­ent tar­gets — there’s per­il to face when one tar­get receives a mes­sage tai­lored to anoth­er. It may fall on deaf ears, or maybe turn them off, entire­ly. Tell my mom about the vit­a­mins — tell me about the chocolate.

And so on. But there’s also a human mes­sage here:

Look, as you grow you’re encour­aged to “act your age” and as part of that, cast aside things and behav­iors asso­ci­at­ed with peo­ple younger than you, and instead do things that are more becom­ing for some­one as grown as you are. Soci­ety beats the kid out of you.

To be able to act your age is won­der­ful and arguably nec­es­sary… as long as you can still, as they say, “walk a mile” in small­er shoes when the sit­u­a­tion calls for it. And, of course, rec­og­nize why a kid — this kid, kind of grown up now — may not be inter­est­ed in your vit­a­min drink, how­ev­er how rich and choco­latey it might be.

 

  1. Full dis­clo­sure: I was kind of a polite kid, and I def­i­nite­ly thought I was uncool. Shoe fits.

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