Older blog entries for highgeek (starting at number 58)

28 Jul 2003 (updated 28 Jul 2003 at 22:25 UTC) »

College vs. No College

As someone who dropped out of college in the early days of the internet boom, I always wondered if I would go back to school. I have had many thoughts about returning to school and getting an MBA, Law or Music degree on top of my computer science experience.

I found my experience as a founding engineer of MP3.com to have taught me a lot about the field. Especially things that I didn't learn in school. Aaron Swartz is another person for whom school didn't seem to work. College is a place where people learn how to learn. After a few years of college, I wanted to practice what I had learned. so I could learn even more by actually doing what we got taught. It seemed to get to a point where I learned much faster and had a deeper understanding that way. There are times where I need to go back and look at old books, because I don't understand why certain things work a certain way, but all I know is that it does. The different perspectives have helped me on numerous occasions, since I questioned things, rather then taking the things in the books for granted. Sometimes things were designed a certain way for a good reason, but the reasons behind the designs no longer seem valid and could be simplified.

I am always intrigued to see articles, such as this one, in top magazines such as Forbes that show that we aren't the only ones. There is hope for those who do not fit the mold.

26 Jul 2003 (updated 27 Jul 2003 at 00:04 UTC) »

Getting Married

After about 8 months of filing passports, birth certificates, not-married certificates and affidavits with the state of california apostille stamps, Thanh and I are now allowed to be married this September 5th, 2003 in the Netherlands. Through this lengthy process our marriage will now be internationally recognized and we will receive an international marriage certificate. Maybe one of these days, I will write down the exact procedure, since there are a fair amount of not-so-obvious hoops to jump through.

Our main issues were related to the fact that three different countries from different continents were involved. All the different documents from Cambodia, the Netherlands and the United States of America needed to be recognized by all three countries or at least by dutch government officials in the Hague. I needed some documents from the city hall of the city that I left when moving to the California and they only provide those documents in person at the city hall. We also had to make payment to the resident affairs department in the Hague, where the only means of payment accepted was the dutch giro wire transfer. Thankfully, my mother had previously planned to visit my grandparents in the Netherlands and was able to take care of it in person after I provided her with a copy of my passport and a letter giving her permission to extract the information from the archive. Similarly we were almost required to make a trip to Bangkok, Thailand to have Thanhs birth certificate verified by the Cambodian Embassy and Dutch Embassy of Bangkok.

The procedure is long and confusing. The main part that makes it confusing is that each country only knows their part of the puzzle and you have to make your own conclusions as to how to get the document in the foreign country. We even got told that we needed the Secretary of State to sign one of documents. That, obviously, wasn't going to happen. It turned out that it needed to be signed by the State of California, Secretary which was much easier and had a well documented procedure.

We got our banns of marriage published by the Hague and we need to wait for that to complete. It is interesting to note how much religion is still integrated into government documents and procedures. I personally feel that religion and government are totally separate identities and they should not discriminate based on citizenship or faiths, but we still have a while to go before they are truly separate entities.

So, we have only a little more then a month to go. I can't wait. I am pretty excited about it. I'll try to provide updates on other happenings such as the San Diego Comic-Con and geeky findings in a later Journal entry.

20 May 2003 (updated 20 May 2003 at 09:30 UTC) »

Roxio, Pressplay and Napster

As rumored last week, Roxio has acquired the remains of the music subscription service Pressplay. A fair amount of the technology we developed at MP3.com (bought by Vivendi Universal) was a foundation for Pressplay. So now it looks like Roxio is going to give it a shot with the Napster brand. The brand they acquired last November.

After RealNetworks bought Listen.com and the launch of the new iTunes. I think it is about time that we update David Weekly's graph of record companies (first posted on the pho music list). Who would have thought that the online music subscription services would get this hot. Summer is definitely here.

Hi-Tech Fashion

Since the days of Mondo 2000 Magazine, the hi-tech fashions created out of their unique textiles, space age fabrics and slick plastics, have always been an interest of mine. They represent a unique twist on wearable gear and the "new edge" fashion trends. The futuristic cyberpunk world displayed in many noir sci-fi films are taking some of these counterculture ideas to the screen. Not because they are the latest designs shown on the catwalk by famous fashion designers, but more through the visions represented by the movies themselves. The fashion that normally was isolated in the world of erotic and fetish balls is making its way to your general population. A few years ago, I distinctly remember seeing a PVC jacket hanging in a department store in the mall. I wasn't browsing at Syren, Stormy Leather or Skin Two. No, this was just at the local, Fashion Valley Mall, here in San Diego.

In the recently released Matrix Reloaded, costume designer Kym Barrett continued the trend and brought some great new designs to the big screen. A priest-like coat for Neo and the mixture of leather for close-ups, and PVC for Trinity and some alligator and reptilian for Niobe and Morpheus. Costume Cutter Roger Tait talks about his experience of cutting Persephone's nude latex dress. A dress that brings a more 40s formal, business-like cut to latex, but is right along the designs of Libidex and Inner Sanctum. I still would like to see someone create me that silver latex/PVC business suit that I have always dreamt of having. The days of my staple silver pants are over. Of course the sunglasses are still a big part of the costumes as well. I would like to check out a Première Vision fabric show one of these days. It would be neat to see what they would have for sale.

9 May 2003 (updated 9 May 2003 at 10:44 UTC) »

MacOS X A/V Software

MPlayer is a great little media player that plays a lot of the codecs that aren't part of the default QuickTime player. It is a port from the Linux version. There is a fair amount of work done on Quicktime Components for new codecs such as DivX Video and Ogg Vorbis. It is nice to see some progress here. I wish I could find the time to help out. I have always enjoyed working with codecs and audio in general. On a related front, I am seeing more and more clues towards Akai supporting Ak.Sys on MacOS X sometime in the future. Akai is working on a Virtual Z8 Sampler for the AudioUnit and VSTi plug-in formats, which, naturally, needs similar functionality as Ak.Sys provides to the hardware samplers. So, it looks like the days of MacOS 9 are coming to an end.

Valid Music Metadata

Every time I talk to anyone about building an online music service, they always state that their service is better because they provide more accurate metadata. Real Networks tracked user habits with RealJukebox to gather metadata. MP3.com had a whole staff dedicated to entering album covers into a database. Now, Apple seems to have spend a lot of time on this as well. The biggest issue with P2P File Sharing networks is that you really have to know the name of the artist and song you want to be able to download it. Even when you get it to download, it might not even be what it was advertised as. There are a few companies and projects that specialize are attempting to resolve this problem. Companies such as AgentArts, All Music Guide and Bitzi provide different relationships and data to find new tunes of interest. RealNetworks buying Listen.com might have been a metadata play as well. Listen.com's directory was quite large before they launched Rhapsody. So there has to be a fair amount of demand. I really hope we can get MusicBrainz off the ground, since this would help everyone down the line. The labels apparently do not seem to have this information readily available and if they did, they most likely wouldn't be giving it out for free. If this information is available in some open form, then everyone would benefit and it would make it a lot easier to catalog our collections and share our experiences.

DRM: Everyone is doing it. Even consumers?

There will always be attempts to beat the system when you put such a large quantity of music online. That shows that people are interested in better quality and ease of use then they are finding through the P2P File Sharing clients. Or they are looking for content that isn't as readily available through them such as new releases. To get a good understanding of what the Apple Music Store provides, you might want to hop over to TidBits and read their comprehensive review. So far, on the surface, it looks pretty good. I haven't seen any reports of anyone looking under the hood, though. And I haven't had the time to look at how secure the process is myself. Security was of high priority for My.MP3.com. I can't imagine it being any different here. I don't recall many reports on spoofing MusicNet, Rhapsody or PressPlay either. I am not sure how much you can restrict consumers rights on content that they legally obtained. I have a hard time finding a proper balance. Michael, on the other hand, seems to have an opinion on the subject. You might be interested in this comparison between the Apple Music Store and Emusic as well.

20 Apr 2003 (updated 21 Apr 2003 at 00:01 UTC) »

What the !$#?& do you think you are doing?

As reported by Seattle PI, BillBoard and MTV, P2P networks are being flooded by short clips of Madonna saying "What the f*ck do you think you are doing?". These fans are being greeted with silence and this small personal message. I guess Madonna feels that these people aren't fans looking for a taste of Madonna's new album. She would rather disappoint them, by having them buy her album, only to discover that they just paid for ten filler tracks in addition the one or two they enjoy. Madonna doesn't want them to use P2P Networks to find out if the album is actually worth buying. They need to find an alternative method of discovering new music, online listening booths are much different then those at your local music store. What ever happened to being able to sample music in the comfort of your own home?

Meanwhile, the message is a great new sample that can be remixed into new tracks. Now since this willfully got put online by the artist, do we have to worry about copyrights in regards to this message?

Thanks to a few crackers, the fans could have gotten the MP3s from Madonna.com. It displayed links to MP3s of her new album entitled American Life.

15 Apr 2003 (updated 15 Apr 2003 at 08:22 UTC) »

Cog: The way it goes...after 606 tries.

My brother pointed me to a nifty Honda Ad [large mirror] which apparently took 606 takes to put together. It reminds me of when we would setup dominos around the house with all sorts of little bridges, see-saws and flippers. It was a game of patience and luck. It was always sad to think that someone could open the front door and cause the cold winter wind to come in and blow it all down. We were practicing for a chance to attend Domino Day. If you like the ad, you might also enjoy Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go) by Peter Fischli and David Weiss.

12 Apr 2003 (updated 12 Apr 2003 at 01:29 UTC) »

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

This week we went to go see Cowboy Bebop at the Ken. I am always amazed how great of a series Cowboy Bebop is. The movie's plot was abruptly resolved, but it was entertaining none the less. It is also one of the few Anime's that has a sound track made up of a wide variety of genres of music.

NAMM 2003

Lots of great new tools coming out this year. You can tell that we are moving to a more of a component rack system, where the filters, oscillators, knobs and faders can be combined with a USB/IEEE 1394 interface to create a virtual patch bay with custom hardware. The most exciting pieces are the new Nord Modular G2 Engine and the Waldorf AFB16. Combine that some of the generic MIDI controller interfaces and you got a very flexible setup.

Apple to buy Universal Music

It is an interesting move, I am just hoping that Apple will use it to try to bring a consumer friendly online music service. There have been many that tried and failed, let's just hope that it doesn't take the rest of apple with it. Dan Gillmor has some valid concerns on the subject as well. Lots of discussion and speculation going around with some good points by these pholks, such as Jobs' deal with Disney is up and the thought that with DRM Apple might not be a platform the music industry will cater towards. I am actually pretty thrilled with Apple's stance on DRM.

VoiceXML 2.0 Grammars

Building an extensive front end interface with VoiceXML has been a great experience and is a giant leap forward from the old IVR systems. The main thing right now that bothers me is the trouble it takes to make the SRGS grammars handle both DTMF and voice input. Something as simple as "Please enter your phone number or press star for more options" seems to be pretty difficult to do. It seems that with most systems either want to use the <grammar mode="voice" /> where the query string will actually contain the words/numbers matched by the grammar. Or you would use <grammar mode="dtmf" /> and you would get everything entered but with the dtmf-* keywords (such as ?num=dtmf-1+dtmf-8+dtmf-0" , etc). With the voice mode it is very hard to match dtmf-star, where when I use the dmtf mode, I need to strip dtmf- from the keys entered. I haven't found a better way, which is really a bummer, since it seems to me that a lot of people would have expected this to work similarly to how the default types (such as 'digits') work.

8 Apr 2003 (updated 9 Apr 2003 at 00:26 UTC) »

Personal Site Update.

As I mentioned in my last entry, I have been looking into what would be the best way to provide content on my personal website, so that it would integrate with most journal/blog systems. It also required that it would work with XSLT, XML and general goodness. I thought there was no point updating my site unless I practiced what I preached. The site uses a lot of CSS2, which apparently isn't liked by IE, so I am not sure what I am going to do about that. Feel free to ping me if you got any ideas. I have taken some layout and artistic cues from the late 1920s movement of De Stijl. I have always enjoyed the works of Gerrit Rietveld, Piet Mondriaan and Theo van Doesburg so it seemed like a good fit.

Life after Yahoo!.

Thing have been extremely busy as of late. I have been working hard at the first alpha release for a young startup in San Diego that is providing a phone and web ordering service to small restaurants. Since this is designed from scratch we were able to use some new technologies such as VoiceXML 2.0, SRGS 1.0, XSLT 1.0 and SOAP 1.1. I will be taking another look at Matt Sergeant's ApacheCon SOAP Talk notes, to make sure we are still on track there. I'll try to get more detailed about what we are doing after we launch.

Luckly, I still found some time to wrap up some of the code I had laying around and published the perl wrapper around the MusicBrainz Client SDK. It still needs some I18N work, but I want to make sure it works with perl 5.8.0 and above, with potential backwards compatibility, rather then slapping on Unicode::String.

I also got around to installing ProTools 6.0.1 for MacOS X. Now the only thing that keeps MacOS 9 installed is Ak.Sys for my Akai sampler. The CoreAudio drivers do not seem to like it when there is more then one access, which can be really annoying on a multi-threaded platform. Regardless, I am happy to have it available next to a couple of shells and Camino. The OMS/FreeMIDI replacement CoreMIDI, is a work of art. Apple did the right thing by hiring the developer of OMS rather then licensing the defunct OMS from Gibson Guitar (who acquired Opcode Systems in 1998). It allows much better integration between programs using MIDI, to a point where I can use sfront and MIDI monitor next to ProTools. Not much time spend on RTSP/RTP lately, but SIP seems to come up more often then ever now these days.

Lack of Entries explained!

Since I have been doing web architecture for years now, I never seem to be satisfied with how things work. So, one of the things I am working on is a way for me to have a categorized journal that can interact with Advogato, LiveJournal, Blogs and some of my own thoughts thrown in for got measure.

You know what this means? This means I haven't updated this journal for almost 4 months and have been writing specs and ideas on how to accmplish the ultimate interactive way of keeping track of my interests and what is going on with me without having to keep getting stuck in a system where my journal software changes drasticly every 6 months.

If everything goes well, I will hopefully will have a way to interact with everyones blog, journals, RDF/RSS feeds and mailing lists and being able to contribute to the goodness that some of you call the Semantic Web.

I will try to keep you all posted on the progress.


Wow!, if you haven't ready noticed I have been pretty busy and keeping myself away from the journal. I currently spend most of my time cleaning up our home network, reviewing books, random coding projects and spending time at the office. Yahoo! has been great! Great people. Great technology. Great projects. It is close to home with the occasional trip to the bay area. What more would someone want from a job. It is good to be back home.

Online Music

Lots of interesting developments in the online music world, but we are mostly still in licensing and political nightmare land with events such as the CDBTPA Bill and KaZaA's battles with the world. I have been spending some more time looking at RTP and XML engines, but nothing concrete yet. I have been working on a perl XS module for MusicBrainz for a while now, I really should get around to putting an alpha copy on CPAN.

Apache HTTPd

To my surprise Apache HTTPd 2.0 seems to have been released to general audiences. This is very good news! I can't wait for the day FreeBSD's threading is solid enough for production use. Great work being done, I am going to have to find some time to help out. Right now I am just too busy with other things to find things to contribute, but I am sure I will come across things soon enough.

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