bookmark_borderA is for “ailanthus,” Z is for “zoom”

RIP Driveway Ailanthus ~2005 – 2019

Here’s a word from Zoom, letting us know that they are taking things “extremely seriously…”

Overall, this is a good message. Zoom appears to be taking the right steps to fix both their existing problems and the mistakes they have made in developing/marketing their product.

Nobody could have forseen the huge increase in volume that Zoom has had to deal with in the last few weeks. They found themselves in the coveted position of “easiest option that currently sucks the least” for a service a lot of people have suddenly needed. That’s as good as it gets.

Performance and support issues are understandable in explosive growth situations like this, and honestly, Zoom has done a much better job at both than I would have given them credit for. They must be paddling like mad, struggling with the best and most daunting problem a tech company can have.

So kudos–and all the patience you can muster–go to them for that.

It’s important to keep in mind however, that the majority of the security and privacy issues that they are now rushing to correct were baked into the product BEFORE this increase in volume, and that increase in volume in no way caused those issues.

They did not underthink the use of the FB SDK, nor fudge the definition of “end-to-end,” nor include the spooky attention tracker, nor release a buggy, insecure Mac OS version because they suddenly had millions more users. In fact, those things were exposed in part because they suddenly had millions of users, and their product came under much more scrutiny as a result.

Zoom built something that had some serious problems, millions of people used it anyway, and the suckage was exposed. Now they are trying to make it right.

I really hope they do. I really hope Zoom ends up with a secure, solid, kick-ass product that does what is supposed to and maintains the ease of access, usability, and low cost of use that attracted people to it in the first place.

But keep in mind that most people did not choose the best possible solution when they chose Zoom–they chose the easy option that sucked least. Most people continued to use it while it was doing things they didn’t want it to do, because it was too much work to change to something else.

If Zoom ends up a solid, kick-ass secure product that does what it is supposed to do and respects privacy and leaves a lemony-fresh scent, it won’t be because people chose that product.

It will be because people are willing to use a worse product.

bookmark_borderCan you remove the default screen savers in Mac OS?

Spoiler: Don’t.

This applies to Mac OS 10.15.3

By default, Mac OS comes with the execrable “Album Artwork” screen saver. When activated, this thing tiles any album artwork that it finds in your Apple Music (formerly iTunes) folder across your screen. That’s fine, but if you happen to click on your mouse while it is running, it starts Apple Music and tries to play something from whatever album you clicked on.

I usually click the mouse to deactivate my screen saver, and I don’t want to open Music all the time, so this behavior completely sucks. You can not disable this behavior in the screen saver settings, which also completely sucks.

Because I’m an exciting devil-may-care kinda fellow who lives on the edge, I like to set my Mac to use a random screen saver. But I don’t want the Album Artwork screen saver to run, and Apple doesn’t let you choose which of the default screen savers are randomly used. You either use one screen saver, or all of them. This also completely sucks.

All that suckage lead me to the question “Can you remove a default screen saver from your Mac?”

The shortest absolute answer is “Yeah, but it’s not simple.”

The shortest workable answer for most people is “Nah.”

The best answer is “If you want to use a screen saver, use Xscreensaver.”

The actual answer is “You can, but I decided not to, and you probably will too.”

Everything from here on pertains to bad decisions. Your life will be better and simpler if you just leave this page now and go learn how to make cheese.

But if you are determined, here is what you need to know in order to make a bad decision about the default screen savers on your Mac.

I warn you now that I am not going to explain how to do each step. Knowing what you are doing is the cost of entry here.

If you don’t understand what you are reading, I STRONGLY suggest you stop doing it and either go learn more or give up entirely.*:

The default screen savers are located in /System/Library/Screen Savers.

Doing things in Terminal

  • CD /System/Library/Screen Savers
    You will need to tab-complete or escape the space in “Screen Savers.”
  • ls or ls -la to see all the screen savers. Yep, they are directories.
  • You can then nuke the directory of the screen saver you hate.

I recommend you copy it somewhere else first, in case your plan to delete a system file doesn’t work out as smoothly as you’d planned. Because you planned this, right?

Doing things in Finder

  • Open Finder, hit CMD+shift+g and type in the location of the screen saver folders.

The directory will show up as empty. That’s because it contains system files, which are hidden by default.

  • Hit CMD+shift+. and you can see the hidden files.
  • You can then nuke the directory of the screen saver you hate.

I recommend you copy it somewhere else first, in case your plan to delete a system file doesn’t work out as smoothly as you’d planned. Because you planned this, right?

If you are now asking yourself “Why can’t I just right click and move the directory to the trash?” then you have more research to do. I do hope that dissuades you from continuing.

*This is some pretty solid general life advice

bookmark_borderSemi-pro tips for musical people

1) Do regular room recordings of rehearsals so you can hear what you sound like, and what you need to fix.

2) These recordings are for you to hear what you are doing badly, so you can fix that. They are not the same as the recordings you do for other people to hear what you are doing well.

3) Recording quality does not matter, as long as you can hear what you are doing and what needs to be fixed. Record it using anything you have.

4) In order for these to have any value, you are probably going to have to hate yourself a bit when you hear them. FEEL THE BURN SO OTHERS DON’T HAVE TO.

5) Send your rehearsal recordings to your bandmates as an MP3, medium quality. Yeah yeah– you are all using the the same chip jewelry and yeah yeah they should all be able to play the same files and LOL MP3 jeez that’s so old-school, grampy! Send it as MP3.

6) Oh, you don’t know anything about that stuff and that mp4 file works fine on your chip jewelry and gosh you’re so busy being creative and windswept and interesting that you can’t learn all that tech stuff? Don’t bother then. You’re doing terrific.

7) I honestly hope these recordings sound great and you are happy and you have nothing you think needs fixin’. But neither of us are you a month from now, and I will bet you a nickel that you a month from now will not be happy with these recordings. Do not post your rehearsal recordings anywhere, ever.

8) If 50% of your bandmates actually listen to these recordings, you are doing way better than average. If one of them actually fixes something that needs fixing, you are KILLING IT. This bit sounds particularly cynical and cranky, but these results are WAY better than what you’d get if you didn’t do this at all.

4) White vinegar on pizza. Seriously. Try it.

bookmark_borderI don’t even know what’s real any more

8_bit_heartAs a part-time IT crank, people ask me a lot of questions. One of the questions I get asked a lot is “What’s the difference between ‘emulation‘ and ‘virtualization?'”

This is a good question–both are ways of using one type of computer to do things as if it was some other type of computer. They are different in how they work, but is that what matters to the basic end user?

I’ll answer that question first: No. It is not.

Here then, is the best working distinction between the two, as far as users are concerned:

Emulation means that someone has figured out how to make games from some other system work on a computer that currently has a resale value greater than $1000. So when someone says “Have you tried the Intellivision emulator?” they actually mean “You should have your childhood destroyed by realizing how crap Body Slam Super Pro Wrestling actually was!”

Virtualization means that someone has figured out how to make a computer that currently has a resale value over $1000 pretend that it is a computer that you didn’t actually want to buy, except that it won’t play any of the really good games that you would have played on that other computer. So when someone says “You can do all the work you would normally do in Windows in this virtualized environment on your Mac.”  they actually mean “We really REALLY don’t want you to play games on this computer.”

bookmark_borderNobody asked about my guitar rig.

Since I’m probably going to be writing a bunch of stuff about guitar gear, I thought I would start with what I use right now.  As long as it is, this is mostly just an overview of what’s where, what isn’t, and why.  Seriously.  I can nerd right out on this stuff.

I’ve played bass since just after the Magna Carta was signed, and currently, I’m not playing bass in any bands at all.  Weird.  I AM playing guitar in three bands right now, each of which have different styles.  This makes things interesting gear-wise. Despite certain fixations, I’m someone who likes to keep things as simple as I can onstage.  I go through a bunch of stuff when rehearsing, and then only bring stuff I’m going to use to shows.  A lot of good stuff ends up sitting in tubs at home, but I only have to hit buttons I need to live.

My band, 24 Hour Cardlock (http://www.24hourcardlock.com), does trucker music.  There are two versions of the band, one in Vancouver, and one here in Omaha.  In Vancouver, I play rhythm and sing lead, because we usually have about ten people onstage (keys and horns and guitars and cigar box guitar and harmonicas and whatnot).  In Omaha, we are currently a three-piece, so I have to do a lot more guitar-picking.

In Fino*, I am really playing second guitar.  Because the band was a three-piece based around a really good guitar-player for a long time, the singer-guitarist has some very clever parts (heh).  My job is to either take some of those or write complementary parts.  There is no two-dudes-playing-the-same-thing-at-the-same-time kind of behavior.

In the Second One*, it’s kind of the same thing in reverse.  Two guitarists, but I tend to be the more out-front one.

I’m quite effect-y in the two rock bands, and have a very simple chain in Cardlock.  As a result, I use the same pedalboard for all three bands, and just don’t hit many buttons in Cardlock.

The Big Rig right now is:
Guitar*–>

Gozinta Ernie Ball volume Jr pedal —>tuner out to Boss TU-2

Gozinta old Boss CS-2 compressor, (level at 2 o’clock for slight gain, sustain at about 2 so it’s not really noticeable, attack wide open so it’s really slow)*

Gozinta Loooper dual effects loop pedal
—-> Loop 1 contains an old Boss FT-2 Dynamic Filter, which is a good-sounding, and my least breakable (I have proven this) envelope filter*
–> Loop 2 contains a crappy old DOD Octoplus pedal that is being used strictly as a gnarly boost (octave level all the way off, tone all the way up, clean level at about 3 o’clock)  Sometimes I turn some of the octave effect up, and use the box’s unbelievably poor tracking to create sounds.  That works particularly well with the envelope filter on.

Gozinta Loooper dual effects loop pedal WITH BLEND KNOB option. ( I don’t use the blend knobs.  I rewired one to be a switchable feedback loop*, but I haven’t had the nerve to use that live)
–> Loop 1 contains a Boss RV-3 Reverb/Delay pedal, mostly used as a quick slappy-verb.  Very useful for the Cardlock kinda sound, also nice for a pre-delay into long reverbs. This is also a fall-back pedal in case anything goes funny with my other ‘verb/delay stuff.  I COULD probably use this pedal for everything, but it doesn’t sound great for everything, and it requires a lot of knob-twiddling  between songs.
—> Loop 2 contains an old, old DOD Phasor 201.  Mine’s yellow. It is just fantastic for guitar.  Not swooshy pretend -flange phase, just a nice bit of movement in sounds.  Of course, it would ideal if it didn’t cut highs and lows, had an LED, and was true bypass, but that’s why I have the effects loop pedals, after all.

Gozinta Yamaha Magic Stomp
This is a really great piece. You can deep edit the crap out of patches by hooking it up to a computer.  It has a performance mode that makes sense.  The reverbs and delays are incredibly good.  The downsides are

  • Lack of MIDI interface
  • No Mac software
  • Like a lot of companies, Yamaha acts like this thing stopped existing the second they stopped making it.
  • The reverbs don’t tail off naturally when you switch them off.  BUT the delays do.  So you end up making fake ‘verbs out of multi-tap delays and saying “WTF?”

Live, I just use the MagicStomp for delays and fake reverbs. Usually just one of each.

Gozinta the amp.

I have two amps:  A Traynor YCV40WR*, which is excellent, and a Carlsboro Fatboy*, which is excellent.  I use one or the other. The Fatboy mostly does Cardlock stuff, and the Traynor does everything else.  I’ll probably do proper (read:long) write-ups on each of these, but the biggest difference is that the Fatboy is a single sealed 12″ and that works better for the clean sound I like in Cardlock.  The Traynor is more easily versatile, and has two channels, which makes it easier to get a lot of sounds while playing.  The Fatboy is a single-channel with a gain boost switch. The boosted sound is ferocious, and anything under 45 pounds should be tied down or moved out of range of it.

All the pedals are powered by a Visual Sound 1Spot, except the MagicStomp which uses its own power supply.  Everything is connected with cables I made myself.*

You might notice a few odd things about this set-up:
1) No distortion or overdrive or fuzz pedals!  Whaaaaaat? I use the amps for overdrive, and I love it.  Of course, I am going to have to get some kind of overdrive pedal at some point, or the League Of Guitarists will come and take my fingers away.  I own two fuzz pedals:  A Ronsound Stone Machine and a Roland Double Beat. They are both awesome, but I am only allowed to take them up and down the driveway on Sundays.  They are too scary for the nice people I am playing with now.

2) No wah pedal.  WHAT?  I do fakey-wah using the volume pedal into the envelope filter.  I’ve done that for quite a while, and I like it.  Honestly though, one reason that I do not have a wah on my board is that I don’t have room for it.  I am building another board that will.  I have three possible wahs:  The Double Beat, which will BEAT YOUR ASS, a Korg Mr. Multi, which I hunted for 12 years and MUST get into my rig, and an old Cry-baby which I do not love, and needs something sick done to it.

3) Yes.  I do Delay into phase into reverb.  It is great.  You should do this.  No, I do not do it in stereo. Because if I did, I would probably never leave the basement.  Just keep playing long notes until I drowned in my own drool.  WHOOOOOSSSSSHHHH!  I love it.

4) No Modulation. For a guy who makes a lot of weird noise, this seems odd.  I have a very old EH Clone Theory, and I just love how it sounds.  I don’t have room on this board for it, and even after several hundred bucks in repairs and upgrades, it is still pretty noisey.  I have sick plans for it though.  Flanging pretty much always bugs me.

Sick plans:
– I just got a Nobels ALEX.  It’s a remote effects loop (Jeez, he really likes those things!).  The idea is to use this in the effects loop of the amp, in order to switch a couple of rack units in and out.  It works just dandy, so all that remains is to simplify things so that it travels and sets up quickly.  I’ll still be one of those wanky guitar players with a pedalboard AND a rack, but at least I’ll be a tidy one.

– Longer term I should be looking at some kinda switching system, like the GCX or the Rocktron Patchmate or something*.  But those cost money I don’t have right now.  And I’d go all nuts.  So later.

– I might perhaps, maybe, just use a couple of ALEX boxes–or some more easily accessible equivalent–to do things like switch the Clone Theory into the amp effects loop somewhere.  Used BEFORE a reverb, the noise actually DOES NEAT THINGS.  Or at least, it disappears into the wash.

– I must–I simply MUST–get this Mr. Multi into the working rig.

– Disto pedal.  I dunno which though.  So far, I have hated a few, thought many were OK, and loved a few.  Right now, the main contenders are: Fulltone Fulldrive, Fulltone OCD, Carl Martin Drive n’ Boost, Vox Satcherator (SRSLY. The only Satriani-related product I have not loathed or laughed at), Vox 810 overdrive, modded Boss Blues Driver.  But the list keeps growing*. And I keep just using the amps, because I like how that sounds.

TC Nova Delay.  Holy crap!  I played with one of these when I was last in Vancouver, and it’s like they designed a pedal specifically for me.  Brilliant.

Anyway, there it is. Thrilling, is it not?

I welcome your comments. If you have read this far, you deserve an opinion. Also, you are a nerd.

*More on this at a later date


Spam sez “Mr. cablehead, get super prices. in with

bookmark_borderToday’s hits and yesterday’s gold

My terrible, terrible friend Chris and I have a funny little routine we do when we somehow end up listening to the radio.  I think Chris actually came up with it originally, but we both do it.  It goes something like this:

“Tired of hearing the same old shit?  Hey–neither are we!  Here’s more Led Zepplin on [station]!  Your classic rock SUPERstation!  It’s another Led Zep weekend!  All effin’ Zep!  All effin’ day! All effin’ night!  ALL THE EFFIN’ TIME!”

Now, don’t get me wrong–I think Led Zepplin is just dandy. Just dandy fine.  I like ’em a bunch.  I’ve played some of their songs, and certainly acted like a goof while listening to them.  But you know, I have never owned a Zep album.  Ever.  I’ve never needed to. I can hear at least as much Zep as I ever want to, whenever I want to.  Zep has been everywhere for as long as I have been listening to music. And now that I live in the American Midwest, even moreso.

There is always someone playing Zep.  And there are always other people who, when they hear it, will say “Right on.  Zep.” and bob their heads along with it.

Bloglines is shutting down.  Bloglines is an RSS aggregator site that I, like a few thousand other people, have been using to read RSS feeds on the Web for the past few years.  I have about 55 feeds set up in Bloglines, and go through about 1500-2500 stories a day.

I don’t actually READ every one of those stories. I go through them by headline and just read the stuff that interests me. And there are a lot of duplicate stories in those feeds.  As a matter of fact, the number of duplicate stories seems to be slowly increasing as more and more blogs and conversations tend to revolve around the same topics.

Anyway, Bloglines shutting down is only a bit of bummer for me.  I liked the interface, and I was also familiar with it.  I could get through a lot of things pretty quickly. I could save stories I wanted to come back to later. I liked the fact that it was a Web interface, because it meant that I wasn’t tied to one machine for reading this stuff.

Now I will have to find some other feed aggregator that will do the same things for me.  I’m fiddling around with Google Reader right now, but I’m not crazy about the interface.  And really, the interface is all that differentiates one RSS reader from another–the content is obviously going to be the same.

But here’s the part that I find really silly: In a blog post, ask.com (who acquired Bloglines in 2005) give their reasons for shutting Bloglines down. In a nutshell, the focus of ask.com’s business is elsewhere, and the “push” concept of RSS is not as popular as it used to be. There’s no way to argue with the former–that’s up to ask.com. The latter reason however, is worth looking at.

The blog post contains this interesting quote: “.… As Steve Gillmor pointed out in TechCrunch  last year , being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow. Today RSS is the enabling technology – the infrastructure, the delivery system. RSS is a means to an end, not a consumer experience in and of itself. As a result, RSS aggregator usage has slowed significantly, and Bloglines isn’t the only service to feel the impact.. The writing is on the wall.”

Again, I can’t blame ask.com for not wanting to maintain a site that is not viable.  But I have real problems with the choice of words here, and the underlying mentality.  ask.com is not alone in this line of thought, and in some ways, is merely a victim of it.

Twitter and Facebook are, as anyone trying to make a buck on the oneterweebs will tell you, SOCIAL MEDIA.  It’s where folks just meet, in an informal kinda way, and you know, kick it.  BUT ONLY IF THEY ARE FOOLS! Because, as anyone who is trying to make a buck on the onetrnebs will tell you, the most important thing you can do with social media in today’s modern world of today is make it commercial media.  Get a brand on your ass and get that brand out in front of the peoples.  Step 3: profit.

They are deadly serious. Seriously serious.  1998 serious.

So having a web site for say, potato chips, is a waste unless you have a Twitter account and push 140 character messages about potato chips to people on at least a daily basis.  And having a web site full of information people can look at when and if they want to is vastly inferior to having a Facebook page and posting status updates about potato chips all the time.

Twitter and Facebook have their uses–OK, well, Facebook does anyway–sort of. The problem with them as sources of information however, is that they ARE social. What gets posted on them is modulated by both the poster and the intended audience.  Everything passes through the lens of the poster.  It’s supposed to. And that’s fine, if you want to target messages, or if you want to receive stuff targeted at whatever social group(s) you wish to put yourself in.  As much as they were designed for anything, there were designed for that.

But what if I don’t WANT targeted messages? What if I want the raw feed, so I can choose what I want to read?

What if I don’t want to be social all the time?

Twitter and Facebook may indeed dominate real-time information flow, but what if I want to hear something other than all effin’ Zep, all effin’ day and all effin’ night?

And I just can’t let this sentence go unpunished: “Today RSS is the enabling technology – the infrastructure, the delivery system. RSS is a means to an end, not a consumer experience in and of itself. “

WTF “Today?”  This is what RSS has ALWAYS been. And yes, it is “..a consumer experience in and of itself.”  It may not be one that you can easily monetise, but that doesn’t make it any less an experience, nor any less useful.

I am the sort of person who posts a lot of links with comments and answers a lot of questions, as this blog, and my old Livejournal illustrate.  At least once a week, someone will ask me “Where do you FIND this stuff?”  And the answer is the same every time: “The same place you’d find it if you were looking.”  Back before the Googlopoly, I used to just fire up whatever engine was handy, search for something, and then go merrily sideways across the Weeb, hither and yon, reading whatever interested me, and making mental note of how to find stuff.  And then I might do the same with a different search engine, because back then, the fact that different engines got different results was actually considered useful. I wasn’t trying to get the same results each time.

I used to do this same kind of thing in libraries (pronounced “Lye-berries”) in the dark ages before the tubes, though it was harder to find pr0n there.

The point was not to know everything. The point was seeing how much there was to know, and making better sense of what I did know.

But I can bitch about search engines some other time.

As I said, I find a lot of duplication of stories in the news feeds I read, and this is increasing as time goes on.  The same story about how to set column widths in Windows Explorer will show up in four geek blogs. That stupid story about having your ashes pressed into an LP will show up in a hipster music site, then a couple of nerd blogs, and then filter through more and more popular sources until eventually it ends up on major news sites and finally as a puff piece on television news.  Everyone + dog will have some gabble about famous people having sex, doing drugs, or being arrested for doing so, or going into rehab in order to stop doing so (and hopefully, failing spectacularly).

These same stories show up almost instantly on Facebook, and get Tweeted and re-Tweeted. The same stories with the same comments, over and over.  And that is just dandy.  Just dandy fine.  But I don’t want to just listen to Zepplin, you know?


Spam sez “URGENT RESPONSE NEEDED

bookmark_borderFacebook’s Informal Survey

Well, they asked..

“Why did you provide the answer you did regarding your satisfaction with your Facebook experience?”

I used to like Facebook for the simplicity and the control I had over the entire experience. It was better suited for informal non-realtime communication than LiveJournal, not an annoying Flashball of advertising chokeage like MySpace, offered more depth and was less self-interested and idiotic than Twitter, and allowed me to be selective.  That was a great idea, and I really liked it–in fact, FB was the only “social networking” tool that I DID like for what it was.

And then it just kept changing.

Now, like most people, the overwhelming reason that I use FB is because I know so many people on it.  I’m on it a lot, but it’s been quite a while since it went from something I liked to use to something I just use.  There are a lot of technologies, sites and apps that I adopt early and stay with late, in its earlier form, FB was one of them, and isn’t now.


Spam sez “LETTER!!