Laptop Shopping...

Blows monkey snot (or insert your own, more vulgar version of "sucks" here). When you're going to look at a store instead of online, of course you have to deal with salespeople who know less about laptops than you do. You can't tell them exactly what you're going to be using it for, because it won't help them decide what model you need, and you already have in mind that you want a "business" laptop. Not something for games, or something with eighteen card readers on it. Definitely not something that comes preinstalled with Windows Vista.

I'm trying to tell the guy, "I don't need HDMI, card readers, Bluetooth, photo album software, MS Office, built in web cam... I have a Mac" :D I just need a good CPU, a fast hard drive, and decent amount of RAM. Wireless is optional. Before I let him in on the little secret that I know a slow mother f@#%@$ing hard drive when I see it, he was trying to push 4800 RPM drives on me.

When he was trying to sell me anti-virus software and MS Office, I sorta just smiled at him and said "I won't be running Windows", in a smart ass type of way that only a true geek can do.

What I ended up with was a Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (as "business" as it gets, and what I have been eyeing online for weeks), with a 14.1" screen (which is running at 1280x800 on Gnome on my FreeBSD, so I'm fine with it), 2.1 GHz Core 2 Duo, 1 GB RAM (but I put in another GB when I got it home), a 100GB 7200 RPM hard drive, and an NVidia basic video card, and tons of ThinkPad goodness (which means nothing!). Minimal but is absolutely awesome. It's 5.3 lbs. It kicks the f%#@ out of my previous laptop's ass. So fast.

Compare to my other laptop (which I'm fuzzy on now):
1.5 GHz single core Centrino, I upped it to 1GB ram, 4800 RPM 60GB hard drive, ATI video card.

A hard drive's speed will make or break productivity in programming. I also just needed an upgrade in CPU speed, and RAM never hurts :)

There's just one thing though that I wish I had noticed about this laptop before I bought it, but I think I can deal with it. Most laptops today have a touch version of a mouse's "scroll wheel" on their pads. My previous laptop has it. This one doesn't :( I can use page up / down, or go old school and use the scroll bar. I'm used to it though, since I had Gentoo Linux on my other laptop for so long, nothing f%@#$ing worked anyway :)

So, I'm installing FreeBSD, getting my development environment set up, and will be creating features for this website, and new websites and software in the near future.

The Guitar Player

I threw out any attempts to act like a musician on this latest song (and I got rid of most of the buzzing! Thanks Todd, I just moved the amp away from the laptop and network of wires by my bed and it took care of most of it... the ground trick will probably take care of the rest, so if it gets unbearable, that's what I'll do). Instead of being crafty, I just decided to wail on my Gretsch. The rhythm guitar is still top notch though :) It's a slow blues back beat with some hard clean soloing. You'll hear the Gretsch's signature piece of hardware, the Bigsby (TM) somewhere in there. Keep an ear open for it. I don't really put it at a hugely inventive or creative spot, I just throw it in there on a G chord :P (it's at 1:03).

It's here... the filename is "SoBad.mp3" but I didn't come up with the name of the song until after I uploaded it and my laziness rivals any in history. So after you download it, just rename the file to "TheGuitarPlayer.mp3", which of course is named that after I attempted to be a musician for a few songs, instead of a guitar player... being a musician is hard, but I've been playing guitar for almost 13 years now. Even though I still suck... :(

More upbeat stuff coming soon

I like rap and stuff with good beats that can make you dance. My next few songs will be like that. My favorite thing about guitar is its percussion. Particularly about my Gretsch going through the Blues Deluxe and my microphone to my computer etc. I love the sound of it. Before I start recording, I usually sit there for a good hour with my eyes closed just listening to the output of the microphone through my headphones. It just sounds so f#%@#$ing good. Compared to my old way of recording, you hardly got any percussive variations no matter how much you tried. Now, just hammer on that B and roll a bass line in E, and it just sounds incredible. No more old way for me!

Also a word on guitar. Again. I noticed that when someone who doesn't play guitar listens to my song from last week (here), they usually judge it based on my soloing ability. Whereas when I listen to it (over and over for hours), I listen to it for the rhythm guitar. Just a thing I noticed when my coworker, the smercenary, and I were on our way back to the office after a client meeting in Exton, and we had to take a back way because it was around 5pm and the Schuylkill Express was jam packed. I decided to put on Jimi Hendrix' "BBC Sessions", a two disk album, which got us through, and "Driving South" made me easily do 90. I didn't know the area that he was taking me, and we were coming up on a turn and he almost missed telling me to take it, and he said "I almost missed the turn there because Jimi's guitar playing is so f%@$ing good." It was just rhythm playing :P Scott's a musician too. But I typically love Jimi's rhythm playing too.

When I practice, lately, I'm practicing my rhythm, so my soloing skill has been declining. I don't wonder if it's because I'm getting better at rhythm that I tend to favorite it and practice it more, getting even better in the process. It's my favorite whether I suck at it or not.

In totally unrelated, totally geeky news, I saw an article about a moon on slashdot that was tagged with the most hilarious tag ever: thatsnomoonitsagasstation. Be sure to read the article.

New Song

I actually recorded this over the weekend. I wasn't going for a melody, since I really don't do that in most songs. I usually just try to screw around over the chord progression, oftentimes forgetting what chord I was playing at a certain part of the song. Especially when it gets a little complex like this song. It's called Sexy :) Happy Valentine's Day!

(I know, I have to fix that buzzing in the background...)

Firefox 3 beta 3 is top notch

I had beta 2 installed for a while, and scrolling certain websites was a bit slow. Today the update was released, and it's a whole new browser. It looks a lot different, it's fast, and the last thing I have to check is if it stops working after a while like beta 2 did. But I mean, a while as in a few days. Check out the release notes here.

Rocking It "Flat Style"

Means I went after work to the Flat Rock Saloon with my coworkers. I tried to sell the motto to the bouncer :D He liked it.

Finally, The Audio Interface Arrives

Hooked it up and played around with everything for a few hours last night. It's crazy how sensitive that mic is. I could play my guitar with my amp off and the mic picked it up a few feet away and facing the other direction (it's a flat mic where one side really has the recording capability).

The headphones I got are way better than the laptop speakers :P But I didn't want the output getting picked up again by the mic, so it was good that I got them, plus these are great headphones. Crazy thing about the mic sensitivity... I could hear clear as day when I used the computer, like clicking the button or typing. First I thought that it was a mouse clicking sound effect in Logic Express, until I clicked around outside of that program.

I threw together a quick test song for your listening pleasure. I used a total of one chord! It's all based around an E or somewhere in the vicinity. Check it out here. It's great that my guitar and amp sound so good through all the equipment I bought! Couldn't be happier. Can't wait to record more!

Open Source is so inexpensive

Keeping with my 'money' theme from the last few posts, here we have something on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. Not including donations, I've paid $0 for all of the software on my other laptop, and it does everything.

Now, I've been thinking about doing something drastic. Since I installed Ubuntu Linux, my development time on that laptop has actually diminished about 100%. I haven't done any development on it. This is because it's so f@#$@#ing slow. I do a lot of ANT builds and they just take forever. The drastic thing I've been thinking of is upgrading my laptop to a new one. Preferably a Lenovo ThinkPad or something. Customizing one of those for a Linux installation (everything except picking Linux, since they only offer Vista Home Basic) is a lot cheaper than configuring it for even Vista Home Basic. All I need is 2GHz Core 2 Duo (the minimum CPU option), 1GB RAM (although I've been bumping it up to 2GB in the "Customize" section), 1Gbps LAN, and integrated graphics. I could opt to have Wireless, but that's extra. It's not that expensive, although I can't afford it now.

So, instead of getting a beefier laptop to run a slow operating system (Gentoo ran super fast on the same exact old crappy laptop), I was looking into some other operating system that's just as powerful and fast as Gentoo, but not the hardest thing to set up. In my search, I decided to go with something that I've been eyeing ever since I got into free software. FreeBSD.

Having this Mac, and having nothing to work on when I got a side job doing .NET with SQL Server for one of the local schools (Episcopal Academy, which isn't exactly 'one of the local schools'), and the Mac being Intel, I found out about that program called "Parallels", which can run virtual machines of multiple operating systems. I have a Windows one installed for all of that development I did for EA, and I have an Ubuntu Linux one for when I tried it out (much like now) before I installed it on my laptop. So, I did the same thing with FreeBSD. I think I'm going to give it a shot on the laptop.

It's a lot easier than Gentoo, that's a plus. It's as well documented as Gentoo (just visit and see for yourself), it's *almost* as fast as Gentoo, and it runs Gnome. The only thing that I was wondering was "Will it run everything?" Yes it will.

FreeBSD is Unix, not Linux. While they are similar in some areas, there's others where they are just very very different. Like, FreeBSD and Linux use different threading models, which Sun depends on in its Linux implementation of Java and Sun does not provide a native implementation of Java for FreeBSD, yet. However, you can get "Linux compatibility mode" running on FreeBSD which will make the Linux implementation work on FreeBSD. The down side of that is that FreeBSD has to build the source for Java to install it, and the source is released under an incompatible license. So, when you install it, it fails, and asks you to download certain files before it can continue. And still, after you do that, you're contractually obligated (through the license) to NOT distribute the resulting built Java binaries. It's weird. There is hope, though, as most believe that Java 7 (it's at 6 right now) will be released under the GPL, since Sun completely open sourced Java recently.

So, I'll give FreeBSD a shot, and if it doesn't work out, then I'll download and try out another one!

Interesting side story. FreeBSD offers its ISOs in "torrent" format. I've known what BitTorrent was since about 7 years ago, but never got into it. It's a giant legal mess since it's also used to distribute "pirated" material. But there are very legal, morally good ways of using BitTorrent. Anyway, I downloaded it through that (a BitTorrent client called "Transmission" for Mac, also free open source software), and it's just neat seeing all the people you're downloading the same file from simultaneously. It's really brilliant software, BitTorrent is.

In light of the MS - Yahoo! News

Me: i'm gonna have to ditch my yahoo im account
Me: you have to get me on AIM or google talk
Jared (on AIM): hello
Me: for some reason i thought you only had a yahoo account
Jared: nope, i have gmail, yahoo, aim
Me: i have no one else on my friend's list in yahoo :P
Jared: hahaha
Jared: you're my only yahoo account too!!
Me: good, i can get rid of that account
Me: hahaahah
Me: man, we shoulda just said something years ago

Everything is almost here

I'm just missing the audio interface now. I have everything else. I got an email from the seller of the interface that they will get it in stock in 3-5 days, so that blows. I'm gonna have to complain to someone about that. said it was in stock. At least the place is close, so that when it does get to their store, it will definitely be here the next day.

I already installed Logic Express 8 and today it was updated over the internets. The mic is sitting on my bed, the mic cable on top of my amp, the mic boom stand leaning against my wall next to all of my guitars, the headphones also on my bed. They are awesome headphones though, I should use them a lot.

When I get home, I play guitar. Today the Flyers are on, so I only played for an hour, but I can easily play until I go to bed. And I'm not playing anything I already know, and I'm also not playing songs that have been written. I'm just experimenting. Like, hmm... if I finger pick the bass note then pluck the bottom three with my fingers in order... that sounds alri... but if I try to finger pick different bass notes simultaneously with playing the fingers, it doesn't sound that great but it's awesome practice that'll get me pretty good at finger picking. Plus I might find some new sounds out of it.

That's all, Flyers are on.

Everything is so expensive

I thought I was done with the expensive stuff following my guitar and amplifier purchases. Not so. I couldn't be happier with those two though. The guitar plays so, so nicely, it's made me better; with just how easy it plays. And the amplifier couldn't sound better. Unfortunately, lately I've been getting around to playing too late that I can't turn it up, since I live in a row house :P

But with a great guitar, and awesome amplifier, I've been playing more regardless of what time I play. This, naturally, gets you warmed up. When I'm all done playing all the stuff I know, which happened within the first thirty minutes of when I got my new guitar, the only thing I can do is try to learn other stuff. So, I've been playing, improving, improv, jazz, and blues, and now I want to record!

The last purchase consists of a Yamaha Go46 FireWire recording interface, a Sennheiser guitar microphone and headphones (don't want echo recorded from the computer through the mic and into the computer again), a boom microphone stand, microphone cable, and Logic Express 8. These are costly items, but I was able to save a bunch going through, as I usually am able to do. They'll all be here before the weekend, but I'll be heading up to Zatko's this weekend to play video games, so I won't be able to record anything until Sunday or so. Maybe look for stuff then. If not, the latest will probably be Tuesday.

But, part of my improving has been playing chords that I've never played before. Like, the C# maj dim (usually diminished chords are noted with a o, but I don't know how that's going to look :P ), which goes nicely in between a D9 and a Bm. Then trying to come up with solos between those chords is always a challenge, and I'll know if I can do it once I start recording some background music to solo over. There's always a chicken and egg scenario.

Like, for instance (and this is BRUTAL), I want to start copying all of my DVDs to a hard drive, but I need a computer with a ton of space. I might as well throw Linux on there and also do my development on it as well, so it should be a pretty powerful machine with like 2 TB of space (that's 2000 gigabytes). Of course, then to watch them on a TV, I'd get an Apple TV. But, to really get the most out of that, I'd need to get an HDTV, preferably the 40" Sony Bravia that I've been eyeing. And if I'm going HD, then I have to upgrade my cable plan to get HD channels.

Brutal, I tell ya. F@%#@$ing brutal.

This made me laugh

It's interesting, the role that the RIAA believes they play

"It's commonly known as piracy, but it's a too benign term that doesn't even begin to adequately describe the toll that music theft takes on the many artists, songwriters, musicians, record label employees and others whose hard work and great talent make music possible."

Including "record label employees" along with the implication of music not existing without them is just absurd. I can't imagine buying a guitar and not being able to make somewhat arranged sounds of different tones and percussive intensities without the RIAA.

Cool old stuff

On Saturday, we had to go over our grandmom's house and empty it out so they can sell it. They moved in there in December of 1966, and lived there until my grandmom's untimely death in 2007. My grandfather had passed over the summer of 96. They've saved tons of stuff in their 83 (Pop-pop) and 86 ("Nanny") years. Clearing all that stuff out was a history lesson, as well as a lot of good memories.

Pop-pop had a close-knit group of friends, and he was actually the last one of all of them to go. They were all drinkers and cigar smokers. He had actually built a bar in his basement, decorated with posters and little gag things he'd gathered over the years. He was the musician in the family, and he also had a piano down there, and he'd play and sing, all from memory. He sang for us a few times. A lot of the stuff he collected was just hilarious little things, maybe a little bit bigger than a post card, but with hilarious sayings. Like the one, which is definitely my favorite... no drawings, just some text: "Put it off until tomorrow, you've made enough mistakes for one day" !! That's just marvelous.

Of course, there were plenty of newspaper clippings, and whole newspapers. One from 1970, which looking through it, I found ads for technicians wanted to go over to Vietnam to assist. A newspaper from 1963, which headlined "Kennedy Shot to Death", and one from 1969, "MAN WALKS ON THE MOON". Yes, actual papers, some almost 40 years old, others a bit older. Yellow with age, but the ink on them still brightly showing historical events. Steve was going to take them and get them framed, and let the kids take them to school when they study about those things. Kira's eight now, so she's learning history (or will be soon) and other fun stuff.

There were a ton of unopened bottles of stuff by the bar. Wines, liquors, carbonated water. My Dad was like "should we keep these", and my brother and uncle were like "I don't think they're good anymore." And I said "there's only one way to find out." Scott got a kick out of that :) Also, in the back, there were cans of beer unopened. A pounder can of Foster's... we couldn't tell what year it was from, but it was definitely really old. They just don't make cans like that anymore, and you could tell it was really old too, because of the tab that came off, rather than pushing it in like today's aluminum cans. I dumped that one out, and it just didn't look too appetizing. Foggy, disgusting, old beer. I remember my dad had cans like that, where the tab comes off, but that was back in the late eighties.

After about four hours of work, we almost got the whole house empty. There were eight of us working. The front of the house was lined with garbage, as was the entire side of the house. It'll definitely take the garbage truck two or three visits, but we're not even done yet. We were allowed to take anything we wanted, because there is just a ton of history there, and anything that can't be considered trash could be considered treasure. I got two things out of it. Pop-pop had a collection of canes, but I really don't remember him using one. Ever. There was this cool one that I decided I needed. I'll never use it either, but canes are sweet. Also, there was this old coffee mug that was with the bar. Hand made similar to that of pottery. And in a kiln. Glazed or whatever. I'm bringing it into work with me. Work complains that I use too big a mug, and this one probably holds a little bit less. Plus it's brown, so it can't be stained :D

After all of that, we all went to the Ivy Inn, drank, played shuffleboard. I had some awesome shots.

Expensive investments require expensive investments

Damnit. When I bought my guitar for a pretty penny, I thought I could compliment it with a new cheap amplifier. This isn't the case at all! The amp I got sounds like ass (a Hartke 60c or something), which probably isn't the manufacturer's fault at all. It was reboxed and even cheaper than a new one. But an amp that cheap can't sound good, that's all. It was only $160! That's really cheap for a 12" combo tube amp. It only had one tube, a preamp tube.

Now for the new amp. Fender Blues Deluxe! That's right, baby. 5 tubes. 12 inch speaker. Warm bluesy tone. I've read reviews and watched videos. And from talking with my coworker all the time, Fender tube amps are really the way to go. It's not a Twin Reverb or even a Hot Rod Deluxe, and definitely not a Blues Deville (which I've actually owned in High School), or any of those really expensive amps, but it's tweed, and it has tubes, and I couldn't turn up my 4x10 inch Blues Deville past 2.5 (it went up to 12) to enjoy it. Except for the time I played outdoors at our school concert, or in the auditorium, I turned it up to 4 I think. Ooh. I can't imagine turning it all the way up. Plus something like that is just way too big. I remember having a hell of a time carrying that thing around to gigs. It was like 60 pounds, easily.

And a Blues Deville is probably worth $900, and that was for my $400 Epiphone Casino to sound better. I didn't buy it, it was a Christmas present when I was 17 or so, and of course, my Uncle Butch worked at a guitar store (he is an amazing guitarist too), so he probably got 40% off. I ended up giving that amp to my cousin, Bill, who plays and sings at his church, and writes tons of original music. And that Epiphone Casino is a story in and of itself.

I was at the local guitar shop, Todaro's, on Lansdowne Ave one day, and they had this Casino in there. I looked at it, saw the price tag ($400??!?!), and decided to have them hold it for me, and I could pick it up that Saturday. Turns out, it was only three months old, and the previous owner just decided to quit playing. Came with the case and everything. Somehow, I had over $400 in my bank account, which was amazing since I was 16 or 17 at the time (before Christmas and the amp, obviously), and I've hardly had that much money in the bank since.

Check out the new amp here. I'm also looking to invest in some recording equipment, including a microphone, an interface for my Mac (there's actually quite a few that include inputs for mics and 1/4" standard input jacks, which connect to the Mac through FireWire, and of course, the main reason for getting it, higher quality, 24bit recording), and a "Boom" microphone stand, so I can set it up in front of the amp, or adjust it and have it in front of my face. After that purchase, look for tons of junk songs to show up on this website :)

After some looking, this is probably the audio interface that I'll get. Edirol FA66 24 Bit 96kHz. It does six tracks, but if you use only four, which I will, it records at 24 bit, 192khz. That's getting into iTunes Plus, high quality sound :P I don't know what lossless is considered... probably around 1mhz or at least 512khz. The class called "Science of Sound" in college was one that I wanted to take, but was full when I tried to sign up for it. So, ask one of the jerks who signed up for that class ahead of me, if you're that curious. Or just Wikipedia it :P

2008 Predictions and Resolutions

I have seen a lot of 2008 predictions in the areas of business and technology, so I thought I'd add some that I was disappointed to not see.

#1. There will be a huge boost of business in the area of personal defensive equipment against big cats. Due to the zoo mauling a few weeks ago by a tiger (lion? forget), this will be estimated as a major threat that could happen to anyone anywhere. Marketers will try to push this on anybody who just lives in the same city a zoo is located. Items will include a steak hook that can be worn on the back with sirloin steaks that should be changed every four weeks. Also, a big ball of yarn with sedatives soaked in should be the second top selling item.

#2. Cricket will overtake baseball as the popular "innings" and "runs" based game in the USA. Look for major league franchises to start popping up in major cities throughout the country by around March. Philadelphia will have a team, called "The Philadelphia Phickets" which many Philadelphians will just call "f%@# its", which wouldn't be unheard of with the popularity of the acronym for "First Union Center" before it changed to the Wachovia Center, raising its popularity tremendously in Philly. Also, MLB All Stars like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins will become addicts to the wicket and the 'silly point' and ultimately switch professions.

#3. 30s and 40s style blues will be the thing in 2008. Young kids and old will throw in their Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker albums, some will learn guitar, some will learn harp, all will learn soul, and we'll see around 300 new bands all performing Mississippi River Delta blues into a can recorded onto a phonograph. Eight track digital recording will see a huge dip in profits. As will any electricity based recording equipment and even instruments. Old acoustic guitars are the new gold.

#4. The internet will show its age. People will find a new way to communicate... speaking. Merchants will find a new way to hawk their wares... mainly I see door to door sales (with sales men or women knocking on your door to sell you things and let you try them out before buying) as the main means of income this year. This will inevitably force people to places they haven't been in a long time: outdoors, in order to avoid all of the interruptions during their personal communication time. This will lead to the next method of sale: markets. Also, as a side effect, people will stand by merchant booths and tell you what they think of products that they are selling. This will lead to a kind of "social networking" as I like to call it. People will say "Hey, do you want to be my friend?" Then they will exchange pictures and addresses, and each are welcome to stop by any time. As long as you're not one of those door to door salespeople, you are welcome. To show other people who they're friends with, they'll have a bulletin board of their friends' pictures, along with their addresses and interests, which will no doubt lead to some extra trips to their house by the salespeople, if they are deemed to be in the target market.

So now for some resolutions. Yeah, I never follow them. But this year, I won't either. So, I can basically set any goal and be guaranteed it won't be met.

#1. Make a million dollars. This is pretty easy. I just have to work six to eight jobs simultaneously. Actually, closer to 14 but I figure the interest I can gain from all the extra dough might be enough to put me over the edge.

#2. Make a million friends. If I do this, I can probably ask each of them to give me a dollar and then I'll have two in the bag.

#3. Make a million songs. If I do #2 and make a song about each of them, I can charge them each a dollar for their song so they feel like they're getting something for their money, accomplishing these first three at once.

#4. Make a million enemies. Let's see, I can do #2, make a song for each of them, charge them each a dollar and tell each one of them after they paid me that I gave everyone else their song for free. Then call them a sucker and laugh at them.

#5. Start a war. Do the first three, then make a million enemies that weren't once or are my friends, and start nasty rumors about both sides. My friend Jim once got arrested for inciting a riot, this would definitely win bragging rights.

#6. Travel to outer space. With a million dollars I'm sure I can hook up with one of those X Prize teams and book a flight.

#7. Quit drinking. Ok, that one's ridiculous.

So, pretty reasonable. Let me know what you think in the comments.