Tag: webstuff

Move Over iTunes Music Store, You’ve Got Company

It appears Amazon.com has entered the mp3 sales biz, with over 2 million tracks available for purchase (covering ~180,000 artists represented by over 20,000 major and independent labels).

All songs sold are free of DRM (copy protection), using the .mp3 format, at a 256kbps bit rate (variable bit rate used in some cases).  This means not only are you assured that these tracks will work on your current portable player and music software, but will continue to work on future players you purchase, no matter what kind you decide to own.  Plus, at 256 kbps, you get high quality (CD quality) audio that will sound just as good playing through your headphones as through your stereo.

Prices are also excellent, with most individual tracks mostly priced $0.89 to $0.99. Albums are usually $5.99 to $9.99.  As an extra feature, the "top 100 tracks" are $0.89 and the "top 100 albums" are $8.99.

You do not need to use any special software to purchase/download individual tracks, but in order to purchase an album, you need to download and install the "Amazon Music Downloader" (Windows and Mac OSX only).  You can only download the music once, so make sure to make backups of anything you purchase.

It's unclear from what I could read as to whether these are available for international purchase, so your mileage may vary if you're outside of the US.

Press release here, thanks to BoingBoing's notification.

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Never Leave Home Without Your Monkey Gun

Ian: Matt.
Matt: Yes?
Ian: Get the monkey gun.
Matt: Is that a gun for shooting monkeys, or a gun that shoots monkeys out of it?
Ian: Uh…
Matt: Because we don't have either.

Mac Hall webcomic, February 19, 2004

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I, For One, Welcome Our New Theremin and Drum-Playing Robotic Overlords

Via MAKE Magazine, I found this gem.  Kevin's gonna love this.

Yeah, yeah, so it's not quite as good* as that other theremin version….but that just means they need more practice.  Or programming.  Or something.

*"Good" here is a relative term describing the accuracy and skill of the instrumentalists.  I'm sure Mr. Wolf will tell you there is no "good" version of this song.

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Heisenberg, Physics, and Relationships (and more)

Found another really funny webcomic at www.basicinstructions.net.  The general premise is that each strip is a "How to" do something that usually results in snarky and comical dialog as the individual(s) follow the instructions.

They range in subject matter from things like "How to Remember the Name of that Song…You Know, That One" to "How to Explain Sex to Your Child".  Pretty much every single one of them (and there are a decent number in the archives) made me laugh, but the following two were just geeky enough for me to want to share:

First, following close behind one of my recent posts about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle as it relates to know-it-alls being right, wrong, or "Ross-right", the infamous Heisenberg rears his head again:


And for one of Scott Meyer's regular style comics, here's a set of great physics joke that I only wish I could have made:

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Facebook – Stalking For Dummies, or a Match Made in Heaven?

If you didn't catch the genius that is xkcd in my last webcomic repost about Fixed Width, maybe you'll savor the wit Randall Munroe can muster about Facebook:

Seriously, if you enjoyed this comic or the previous one I posted, check out xkcd on your own.  You (probably) won't be sorry.

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BlogBackupOnline… Because Really, Who Wants to Lose Their Posts?

Recently, I've been trying out a free online service from Techrigy called BlogBackupOnline.  Up until now, I wouldn't have recommended it for Vox users due to a bug that wouldn't let them back up my posts past a certain date in history.  However, now they've fixed that and I feel comfortable recommending them here on my blog.

What It Is
What BlogBackupOnline claims to be is "an effortless way to backup, restore, and export your blog".  Supporting more than 10 different blog sites (including the big ones of LiveJournal, Vox, Blogger, Movable Type, Typepad, and WordPress), BlogBackupOnline crawls a specified blog for all your posts and comments, and creates a backup on their third-party servers.  Once the blog undergoes one full backup, you can then turn on daily update scans, that will record changes made to your entries, new comments, and back up any entries made from that point on.

How It Works
Once you sign up for a free account (50 Mb storage per account), you can register one or more blogs to be backed up using this "full scan" crawl.  After the scan is completed (took me about 7 minutes for ~200 entries in my blog history), you can enable the daily scans.  From that point on, all the existing entries, are scanned daily for changes and new comments, which are then added to the blog's backup.  New entries are also backed up the same way.

The Backup
Once your entries are backed up, you can go check it out using the dashboard provided at the BlogBackupOnline website.  The "Content" tab shows you all of the individual entries, and selecting any one of them will show you the full HTML backup of that page, as well as all the comments that have been backed up.  Although some people may only want the text portions of their posts backed up, I like having the HTML because it includes all hyperlinks, text formatting, etc.  Plus, if you ever want to restore/transfer your posts in the future, you're probably going to want this info.  There's no way to turn off the backup of all HTML, though, so for now it's like-it-or-lump-it.

Restoring Your Blog
Although BlogBackupOnline claims to restore blogs, there is NO option yet for restoring a Vox blog.  Although this may be due to the nature of the Vox platform, I hope that at one point in the near future, BlogBackupOnline will have a means to restore individual posts or full blogs to Vox blogs.  In the meantime, you can restore/transfer your posts to Blogger, LiveJournal, WordPress, or Windows Live Spaces.  You can, of course, copy/paste an individual entry from the backup into the Vox compose screen, but that defeats the real purpose of the restore feature and would be tiresome for someone with a large number of posts.

Exporting Your Blog
Are you one of those untrusting souls who can't stand not to do it yourself?  You can always export the entire backup's contents to a single .xml file (in RSS 2.0 format) via the export tab on the dashboard.  You can do whatever you like with it, including burning a copy to CD in case you want a hard-copy backup.  (Theoretically, you could try doing a Vox import off of this file if you hosted it somewhere, and see if Vox was able to pull it all in – that might get around the "restore" issue, but I can't vouch that this works.  If someone would like to test this and let me know, I'll update the review to let everyone know how it works.)

Other Features
The dashboard also contains a "log" tab that lets you view status of recent full/daily update scans (helpful, but not necessary unless you're paranoid about ensuring your backups took place).  There is also the option to back up "media files" (currently images), but this doesn't seem to apply to Vox blogs, as checking this box made no change to the backup content of my blog.  With a 50 Mb storage limit, I'm not sure you'd really want to back up media anyways – you might be constantly pushing the limit if you tend to post a lot of photos on your blog.  A better way would be to post your photos on flickr and link to them via Vox, if they're that important to you.

In Summary
BlogBackupOnline provides a quick-and-easy means to back up your blog.  I like the ease of signing up and setting up an account.  Tech support was very courteous and quickly responded when I had issues with my backup, and worked to fix the actual bug I discovered, rather than just putting it on a "to-do list" for a future rev of the site. 

While the site DOES say that "backups are free during the beta period" and gives no indication as to when this beta period will end or what the fees will be after that point, it IS a free service for use right now, and does a good job of doing what it is supposed to do.  At the very least, it provides a modicum of protection for your blog in case of catastrophic loss of posts/comments.  I'd recommend anyone without a backup solution in place currently to look into signing up.  It only takes a couple of minutes of your time, and can't hurt you to try it out.  Because really, who wants to lose their posts?

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