Tag Archives: coldplay

Back On The Radar

It’s scary how Twitter has really become my primary way of squirting infomation out into the world. Sadly, it usually means that information is squirted out in ephemeral chunks of 140 characters, which is hardly ideal.

Anyways, stuff what I’ve been doing.

We did indeed figure out somewhere new to live, a flat near Acton Town tube station with a living room. It’s pretty much the furthest out I’ve lived so far, but the good tube links makes it not exactly onerous to zip into central London.

I’ve somehow filled time with a bunch of activities: finished up the new Fencing Club website which I encourage you to visit and join because it’s awesome, went go-karting (which I guess Dickie won? I forget), signed up for Spotify Premium so that I can use the iPhone app, went to see Coldplay, Jay-Z and Girls Aloud at Wembley, met friends for drinks (many times), moved down to London, sorted out phone and Internet, finished my Literature Review, bought my own fencing gear, fenced in a proper competition against another university, etc.

It’s weird because it’s the like the second week of term and I already feel sort of rushed. Haven’t quite gotten around to properly tidying my clothes away, so I’m still sort of living out of a suitcase. If I don’t do it soon entropy is just going to take over.

Reading:

Started a whole bunch of things, not sure when I’ll finish them. Half-way through Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, started on Naomi Klein’s No Logo, a chilling account of the power of brands, and I’m really getting into the Sandman graphic novels, written by Neil Gaiman. They’re dark and twisted, wrapping themes and motifs around events; although as one of the writers of Lost puts it, “when we run out of ideas and do the same things over and over, it’s a motif”. I’m mostly reading it on the tube, but it’s bloody hard to resist the urge to just go read it now.

Anyways, see you later all.

My Trouble With All Music Software

Recently I’ve had a bit of a go at iTunes. I was mad, and I said some mean things, and I meant all of them. Recently, they released iTunes 8, which adds a Grid view that lays out your music in a grid of album art. Which is exactly what Windows Media Player has done for yonks, but that’s a good thing! Everybody should rip off their competitors best features without being ashamed, I say. As long as the side getting copied from doesn’t get cocky about it (I’m looking at you, Apple!).

They also added Genius, which generates a list of songs that go well with a song of your choice. This is a brilliant feature! Well done Apple, I like it. It means I don’t really have to screw around with the rest of the crappy interface to listen to just start listening to a particular kind of thing. Yay?!

Anyways, as I was looking through the grid of albums, I came across Soviet Kitsch by Regina Spektor. I didn’t realise I had this album, and so I looked closer: turned out it only contained one song: “Us”. That’s the trouble, right there. One song does NOT an album make! I do not have a copy of Regina Spektor’s album Soviet Kitsch, I have Regina Spektor’s song Us. Yet no media player I have ever seen makes this crucial distinction.

I think the problem is that engineers and computer scientists love their neat little hierarchies. Artists “contain” albums, albums “contain” tracks, and that’s just the way things are. Isn’t it neat? This leads to those cute little absurdities where if the album name is missing from the track’s tags, it ends up clustered in this neat little “Unknown Album” pseudo-album with all that artist’s other poor orphaned songs. Even worse, in iTunes albums with multiple different artists listed in the tracks’ tags get automatically fragmented into multiple copies of the same album, each with the same album art; there’s a special “Compilation album” setting you have to tick to make them stick back together. Not to mention the Soviet Kitsch fiasco.

This is just absolutely stark-raving bonkers, in my opinion. I can kind of understand the neat little hierarchy when it makes sense; I have bought all four Coldplay studio albums, so clicking through Coldplay –> Rush of Blood to the Head –> The Scientist makes sense (on many levels, it’s a really good song). But I’ve also got an album listed called Death Will Never Conquer. It’s a little ditty they released for free on their website, and it’s stylistically close to Viva La Vida. That’s creating a spurious “album”. It’s no such thing, nor will it ever be. It’s not even an album fragment.

Essentially, our music software is built with 20th century assumptions about music in a 21st century world. Maybe a friend wrote and performed some music, recorded it and sent it to me. It’s not an album, it’s just a few songs here and there, but apparently it’s from her album “Unknown Album”. There’s just that ever-present assumption that songs come bundled in albums. That’s not the world we live in.

The other major issue I have is the assumption that if it comes packaged in a music file, if it has tags, if it came on a CD – it’s music, and should go into the Artist->Album->Track hierarchy. This isn’t true, either. What about say, learn-to-speak language CDs? Podcasts? Sound effects? All my media players say I have an artist called Jasper Carrot, who has an album Jasper Carrot Live, with the track Dangerous Sports. It’s not music, it’s a actually quite funny little comedy routine about Australian car insurance forms. Can I tell any of my music manager programs it isn’t music, that it should be still there and still indexed and still playable, just not treated like music? You bet I can’t.

There’s very little that bothers me more than when things are built on faulty assumptions, and seemingly every piece of music software out there is built on these huge great ones.

I don’t know what the solution is, exactly. But I have the feeling it revolves somewhere roundabouts working out what the real fundamentals here are – like what exactly the primary identity of a track is. Common wisdom (ha!) seems to be that the primary identity is the Artist/Album/Track name triad, but I would say it was the actual sound of the music. I mean, Under the Bridge is the same recording on Greatest Hits as it is on Blood Sugar Sex Magic, for instance. Conventional reckoning of the identity would have those two being separate, which is obviously wrong! I’d say a tougher question would be if it shares an identity with Under the Bridge from Live in Hyde Park, or that hideous All Saints cover.

For the latter, I would definitely say no. I would hope you, dear reader, would too, otherwise I’m not sure we can get along.

I guess my point is that this is tough messy problem currently being solved in a simplistic and ham-handed manner, and that everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves and try and work together to do better. Maybe just baby steps at first – like if you have less than say, 50% of an album, just don’t show it up in a list of albums. If someone searches for that album specifically, show it. Easy. Practically trivial to implement too. Sadly though, I doubt anyone from Apple or Microsoft will ever read this.

Anyways, if you have other suggestions, or know of media players which work in the way I’ve described, leave a comment!

Now the exams have let up a little…

Finally getting on top of things. I only have one more exam, Applications of Quantum mechanics and Electrons in Solids on Thursday morning, then I’m free, free like a bird! So far I think the exams have gone pretty well, but we’ll see how things stack up in the summer!

The Steven Moffat-penned Doctor Who two-parter was as good as his previous work would suggest i.e. excellent, so I’m really happy with the fact he’s going to be in charge of the show for series 5. Shame that won’t be until the year after next! I do wonder what he has lined up for River Song in future – the fact that she’s a character the Doctor will know in his own personal future suggests we’ll see her again down the line.

I recently picked up Buffy Season 8 #15, and it’s possibly one of the best issues yet! Mecha-Dawn vs. Giant Dawn on the streets of Tokyo; can you really ask for more?

I also picked up (at the same time, oddly enough) Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and Charles Stross’ Singularity Sky, the latter of which has a sequel, Iron Sunrise, that I’ve already read, courtesy of my sister buying it for me as a birthday present. So far I’m really enjoying both of them – the best sci fi doesn’t just have character and plot, it has wonderful ideas around which those plots and characters can wind until you have a rich world that at once is both fantastic and believable.

Snow Crash follows the fantastically named Hiro Protagonist: hacker, sword-fighter, pizza delivery boy, in a wonderfully neo-corporate future where a computer technology called the Metaverse allows you to walk around in a virtual-reality version of the Internet. I can’t quite believe it was written in 1992, as some of the ideas contained within are actually starting to come true in parts. The technological vision in here seems like an inspired extrapolation in the Internet-saturated world of today; from 1992, it’s visionary. This is of course one of the other functions of science fiction – to serve as a technological prophet of things to come.

Singularity Sky is different again – set in a future where a hyper-intelligent AI, the Eschaton, has bootstrapped itself into sentience on the Internet, and then distributed humanity across 3000 light-years of space, sending them back in time one year for each light year out, so the civilisations at the edge are 3000 years older than those in the centre. One of the most brilliant things is that real physical ideas are found in abundance – faster than light travel exists, but it’s also a means of time-travel, as such a thing would also be in the real world. Relativity is a fact, not something ignored as too complex to include.

However time travel is not unrestricted; any attempts to violate causality (the principle that events must occur after whatever causes them) are thwarted by the intervention of the Eschaton, which preserves causality for its own ends. This is just the thin end of the idea-wedge in here! The others include mediations on a post-scarcity society, and further ideas on post-human intelligences. Great stuff.

In a public service announcement, you can hear the whole new Coldplay album here: http://www.myspace.com/387267497 Alas, you have to sign up for that insidious hive, MySpace. I’m not sure what I think right now – it’s certainly growing on me, and some songs on here are instant classics, like Lost, and Violet Hill.

Right now I’m also trying to work out what I’m going to do with my time over the summer. I have a handful of ideas, including giving this site the overhaul it’s needed for a while now, and possibly figuring out some way of skewing a satellite map of London so that it matches the distortion of the Tube map. And possibly a good way of managing music. I’m not sure yet…

I’ll leave you with one of the works of the excellent Team Roomba. Best keep your volume turned down…


TF2 Karaoke: Bohemian Rhapsody from FLOOR MASTER on Vimeo

Random Stuff: Coldplay And Live Mesh

Oh, apparently Coldplay will be playing a free show in Brixton on June 16th to promote their new album. I want to go, but I doubt anyone will come with me. Regardless, I will attempt to score tickets. If you do want to (try to) come with, please get in touch.

Also, have a look at the new announcement out of Microsoft, Live Mesh. It looks extremely interesting, and the hardest part about it is actually saying what it does. In a nutshell, it provides a platform that automatically pushes data around between endpoints, be they devices or some kind of service.

It sounds kinda dull said like that, but the implications are pretty huge. Basically, it’s a tool for keeping your data in sync. If you have a desktop computer and a Laptop, for instance, you can set up Live Mesh to share the folders. When you add a photo to the folder on the laptop, it’s automatically replicated to the computer. What makes it even more useful is that Microsoft provides a large (5 GB-ish, I think) glob of storage, so even if your desktop is turned off, the photo will replicate up to the service, then down to your desktop when you switch it on.

You can also access all the data stored on the service straight from a browser. And it’s not hard to create your own kinds of custom endpoints. One example is creating an interface to Facebook, so the moment you load photos onto your computer they could start replicating up to Facebook, automatically, in the background. And vice-versa, any pictures of you that appear on Facebook are automatically grabbed into your mesh.

Absolute tip of the iceberg. The platform is pretty much completely general. This is going to be huge. Sadly, it’s in private beta right now, so it’s not so much possible to use it unless you get invited, and then only with some difficulties (there’s a silly country lock) but I’m itching to get my hands on it.