A few of us are getting peeved again at the amount of time ModBlog has been down lately. I’ve been toying with the idea of moving my entire blog over to my own drupal installation and offering blog space to friends too.
The positives of Modblog are many. I think the gallery is the most impressive thing about it, but there’s also the sense of community generated from the automatic links to other users as they browse your blog. You have a feeling that there is an audience of some sort out there. But I have to say it’s a pretty non-vocal one. The only comments that are ever posted here really are from my own IRL friends.
The other features here are nice, but there are mostly equivalents in a drupal world. So really the only major negative of moving to this new blogspace would be the lack of a really good gallery management system. There are drupal-based gallery mods, but they suck by comparison with the one here.
The big upside of moving would be the ability to limit access. No anonymous browsing (unless we want it). This would mean that the audience for the blogs would be limited in size, but the idea would be that it would become a more close and vocal sub-community that we would all feel free to participate in just outside of the public gaze. More of an invitation-only party than a public event.
Yesterday I took delivery of my new iMac G5 (20 inch). It’s a heck of an improvement on my 17 inch iMac G4, with a 1.8GHz G5 processor and 1Gb of RAM. Now I don’t want to sound like I was disappointed, but I was alarmed to read this article from ThinkSecret while I was browsing the day before I took delivery. It predicted that Apple would be revising the 20-inch iMacG5 up to 2GHz and a dual-layer Superdrive. The extra few GHz isn’t such a big deal but I would have loved to get a dual layer DVD burner. Well, the news now is that the predicted hardware announcements didn’t include any iMac updates anyway, so I can rest easy in the knowledge that my shiny new machine will not be outdated in its first week of ownership. It may last two.
The two big Apple update stories in Australia this week aren’t hardware related, though, they have to do with OSX Tiger being released, and the expansion of the iTunes music store to Australia. Regular readers may know that I have been keenly awaiting both. Apparently there are Australians who are already successfully registering and downloading from iTMS today. However I suspect there will be a release of iTunes 4.8 to coincide with Tiger’s release in a few hours when we will be able to see an Australian storefront for the first time. I plan to join, even though songs are likely to be about $US0.45 more expensive in the Australian store. I don’t know how the cost difference is justified. There really is no choice if you want to be legal and buy from the store. Why be fair when you can screw people for a few extra million bucks I guess? Multinational companies win again.
My content management software of choice, Drupal, just underwent a major update to 4.6. Naturally I wanted to try it out, so when Lotte had an assignment that required the quick set up of a website, I assisted by installing it and giving it a whirl. A fresh install was painless and rewarding. We spent about an hour sitting in the sun on Saturday morning outside A Minor Place (our favourite cafÈ) configuring the website on their wifi network. It’s much nicer to set up a website when you are being served French toast and coffee.
So today I decided to upgrade eRoleplay.net to 4.6 (from 4.5.2) and met a few hurdles. Quite a few really. The update documentation is less than complete, it seems, and webmaster Joel was kind enough to help me track down the problems. Turns out we had to manually update the database in several places (making me wonder if the update script is really complete) and remove a couple of blocks that I had set up myself. After that Joel stepped back through the update process (there’s a date-selector thingy on the update page) and things started working again. Phew, the database is intact and all my stuff is right where it should be. Now to re-install a few extra modules and we should be away.
If you’re reading this as a content-management novice, Modblog is an example of a type of content management system. Drupal is one of a bunch of freely available systems that you can install on your own server (if you have access to a server). The advantage of this is that you have control over the features and the presentation of your stuff. You also have total control over your own data. Let’s just say Modblog disappeared tomorrow — where would your blogs entries be? The disadvantage is that they do take a bit of technical know how.
The Mac rumour sites have carried plenty of stories about it before, but recently the stories about an Australian iTunes Music Store have been coming from other sources as well. I always wonder how these stories get started, because in my experience even Apple employees are kept in the dark until the last minute these days. The tantalising nugget of info in the most recent story that may give a clue is that Apple has supposedly been booking space in music magazines. I suppose someone might be putting 2 and 2 together, but there’s always a chance they are coming up with 5. A mid-June launch would put the Oz iTMS after WWDC, which seems likely to me — but why not announce it at WWDC? Maybe they’d prefer to time it with some local event for maximum coverage. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve actually been using iTMS since it was announced, with the help of a friend stateside. I pay him $US20 with PayPal and he lets me buy another 20 songs. I realise I’m going to have a problem when it comes to exercising my right to use these tunes into the future (specifically when I register for iTMS Oz) but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. This is another reason why DRM generally sucks — we get told we can’t buy things based on geography because that suits companies, not individuals. Why should we not get the right to use something in different countries — after all even nation-states recognise that people move for legitimate reasons. Multinationals generally don’t have to answer to moral questions, however. There’s no authority big enough to make them.
The whole Napster story is set to repeat itself in the digital video world. With the proliferation of broadband and peer to peer network technology like eMule and Bittorrent, the cat is out of the bag. With digital video services now providing simple, consumer level products that allow video content to be captured instantly, it’s not difficult to imagine the revolution that is now taking shape. What is called TV Piracy today is an opportunity for someone to make a killing tomorrow.
Apple Computer was the big winner in the original Napster story, with the development of the iPod and iTunes Music Store. Despite the fact that there are significant questions about the way Apple has introduced its Digital Rights Management system, there’s no doubting the successful introduction of ITMS has changed the music industry forever. A profitable music on demand industry was born.
There seems no doubt that the video on demand industry will follow, but what remains to be seen is what shape a really tenable digital video download service will take. Personally, I’d have no problem at all with paying a reasonable fee for the convenience of downloading video on demand. Providing the DRM is not too restrictive, of course. Following the music example, I much prefer the DRM-free subscription service offered by eMusic.com, but Apple certainly has the better range of choice from the main labels on the ITMS. My wish is that someone would come up with a really forward-thinking download service that has minimal DRM (maybe hooked up to a set top box solution like TIVO) that makes it more worthwhile to use the legitimate service than resort to peer to peer networks.
Yesterday was maintenance day at Chez Zot. With less than 1.5% of my disk space available, my Powerbook’s hard drive was running on borrowed time. I have been strict about what gets onto it for a long time — there are no games except BF 1942, which I play almost daily, a very limited selection of Lindy Hop clips for teaching, and no pr0n! But with disk space at a critical low I needed to do something drastic. I can’t move my music (which takes >50% of the space) off the laptop because it’s my primary machine and I need it for DJing. So I needed to archive something else. I decided it had to be my iPhoto library — now including something like 3-4 years of snapshots from various trips. It’s grown to over 3.6 Gb in size in that time.
At the same time I needed to do a full backup. So to achieve this goal I decided to use the highly recommended and simple shareware tool, Carbon Copy Cloner. Good choice. After an hour or so I had backed up all user files onto an external drive painlessly. I also decided it would be a good idea to perform some routine maintenance and downloaded MacJanitor. This Freeware app runs a range of unix maintenance scripts that usually only get executed automatically late at night. Laptops like my Powerbook don’t usually run these scripts because they’re off at night, so every now and again it’s a good idea to run something like this.
As a result of these two things, I now have an extra 8% of hard disk space so that I can at least keep going for a while. In the long term I need an upgrade, but for now I’m happy.
After a couple of days’ searching, I am beginning to get some idea of what’s available for MacOSX in the way of qualitative analysis tools. I downloaded the freeware application TAMS Analyzer, which seems like a fairly simple app for marking up text with codes in curly brackets. As far as analysis goes it’s light on, but it does come with a graphing tool that I haven’t investigated. Today’s tip was that Leximancer is one of the best tools around, and it’s cross platform. That’s appealing because we could get it at my department — and it turns out that someone here has been using it already. So I’ll investigate that tomorrow.
Endnote 7 sucks a bit less than Endnote 6, but it’s a close call. I got myself set up with my old installation of Word X and Endnote 7, so I can now use the Cite While You Write feature (by the way, who comes up with their snappy product titles anyway?). The very best feature of Endnote that I’ve found so far is that it has a Palm conduit that works flawlessly, meaning I can carry my references with me to the library, make notes, and sync them back to my Mac. Huzzah.
But what I don’t understand is why they haven’t twigged to the idea that people these days are using more than one computer regularly. I use at least 3 — my office machine, my laptop and my home desktop — and I can only assume that most people use a similar number. Not to mention that as a student you’re probably going to be spending quite a bit of time in a library using public machines. So if you’re off in a lab somewhere and you want to make an update to your Endnote database, presumably you’ve got to either edit a local copy (USB key anyone?) or log into your desktop and edit it remotely.
Both are problematic. The first means you pretty much have to manage the data synching yourself, and the second requires you to have remote access to a fileserver everywhere you want to edit. It would be more easy if you could (preferably) just sync automatically somehow or access your Endnote database over the web.