Week of 23 February 2009
Update: Sunday, 1 March 2009 09:18 -0500
Costco run with Paul and Mary yesterday, followed by dinner. The poor
waitress. Every time she approached our booth, we were discussing
something outrageous. We finally told her to pull up a chair.
Over the weekend, I got started re-ripping Barbara's audio CD
collection. I'd lost the original set when I built my new system over
Thanksgiving. I forgot to transfer it from the hard drive of my old
main system, and it wasn't backed up to any of the other hard drives.
(Because these are all rips of Barbara's original CDs, I'd classified
this material as not requiring backup; I'll not make that mistake
As it turns out, it probably wasn't a bad idea to re-rip
the collection anyway. The original rips were compressed at various
settings, many of them as low as 160 kb/s or 192 kb/s, and re-ripping
them gave me the opportunity to produce high-quality MP3s of all of
Barbara's tracks. I decided to do it this time using LAME's "alt-preset
insane" setting, which produces 320 kb/s variable bit rate files. I
can't tell any difference between a 320 kb/s VBR MP3 and the original
CD tracks, even on a good system with excellent speakers, so this is
the last time I'll need to rip these CDs. The 320 kb/s VBR MP3 files
are two or three times the size of some of the older versions, but in
these days of terabyte hard drives and multi-gigabyte flash players,
there's no real difference between a 5 MB music file and a 12 MB file.
first thought was to use kaudiocreator, but it wasn't in the Ubuntu
8.10 repository. Presumably, the current version of kaudiocreator is
incompatible with the current version of KDE. So I looked at some of
the Gnome tools, all of which sucked. I remembered that K3b, the
application I use to burn CDs and DVDs, also has a CD ripping function,
so I decided to fire it up and give it a try. My first attempt failed,
but I soon figured out that I needed to mark the two checkboxes in the
LAME configuration screen, one of which enabled passing the WAV file
header and the other of which enabled reverse byte order. I'm not sure
why those boxes weren't checked by default, but checking
them fixed the problem.
K3b rips CDs and encodes MP3s
several times faster than the Gnome apps like grip, about four or five
minutes per CD, and the resulting MP3 files sound fine. I'm now at
around 50 discs down and only several hundred left to go.
time I rip CDs, I can't help but think how pointless are the music
industry's efforts to hold back the tide. I've never used P2P
music trading software, and I don't understand why anyone else would,
either. With the hundreds and hundreds of audio CDs that Barbara owns,
about the last thing we need is more music, but if we did we certainly
have many friends who have also ripped their audio CD collections. And,
chances are, most people's friends' taste in music is pretty similar to
their own. F2F music trading via darknet is completely untraceable.
There's zero chance of getting caught. So why would anyone trade music
in public on a P2P network?
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
I'm up over 100 CDs ripped and encoded to MP3. Barbara has checked, and
they play fine on all of her MP3 players. Someone asked what command
line I was using in K3b. Here it is.
/usr/bin/lame --preset insane --tt %t --ta %a --tl %m --ty %y --tc %c - %f
far, I've ripped and encoded just over 1,500 tracks, which occupy about
13.8 GB of disk space. Call it 9 MB/track, which means about 450 tracks
fit on the 4 GB flash player that Barbara uses in the car and 225
tracks on the 2 GB player she uses at the gym.
I'm still working on a proposal for my next project as well as other administrative stuff.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
I've been playing with our thermostat. We normally keep it set at 68 °F
(20 °C) during heating season. That's a compromise, because Barbara's
preferred temperature is 65 °F and mine is 71 °F.
had dinner with Mary and Paul the other night, I asked them what they
preferred. Paul agrees with Barbara that 65 °F is perfect. Mary, who as
a Marathon runner is in the best shape of any of us, prefers 72 °F
to 75 °F. But they keep their house at 65 °F, even though Mary
works at home and Paul doesn't. Not because of Paul's preference, but
simply because they don't want to consume any more energy than
necessary or put any more money in the pockets of the gas company.
since Barbara prefers it cooler and I don't mind wearing more clothes,
I decided to start bumping the thermostat down a notch at a time until
it gets too cool for me, which'll be when my hands start to feel cold.
Last night, I turned the thermostat down to 65.5 °F. I just checked,
and it's currently 18.2 °C (64.8 °F) in my office. I'm quite
comfortable, wearing flannel pajamas and a robe. When I get around to
getting dressed, I'll wear a sweatshirt with a heavy chamois shirt over
it, which should suffice. Tonight, I'll bump it down to 64 °F and see
how we do. If the dogs start shivering, I'll know I've gone too far.
Thursday, 26 February 2009
- Yuck. FoxNews ran a story about racist music on iTunes and Amazon.
Why would they carry this stuff, not to mention the rap crap that talks
about abusing women and shooting cops? I suppose their justification is
that someone is going to sell it so they might as well do so and make
the profit. But if I were running their businesses, I'd draw a line.
If customers want this crap, let them buy it somewhere else.
of music, I finished ripping and encoding the audio CDs in Barbara's
office yesterday. There were 201 discs, which surprised me. I'd have
guessed more like 300 or 350. Of course, that's only the popular music.
I haven't started on the classical/baroque CDs out in the den yet, so I
probably have another 100 or 150 discs to go.
- I'm still working on a proposal for my next project. I'm taking some serious time on it, because I want to get it right.
people have asked if I'll be at Maker Faire this spring, and the answer
is probably not. I'm still recovering from my encounter last May with
the airlines. Speaking of which, I see that US Air has announced
they'll stop charging for soft drinks starting in March, and RyanAir
has announced they're considering installing pay toilets in their
airplanes. Let's hope they don't get together.
And the Islamics are at it again. The UN has now passed a measure that makes it illegal to criticize Islam. It's time and past time that the US withdraw from the UN and expel it from US soil.
Saturday, 28 February
Our local newspaper finally got around to running an article about
"miracle water" AKA "electrolyzed water" this morning. I missed it, but
Barbara pointed it out to me. This scam is an excellent example of why
it's important that people have at least a basic understanding of
science. I was surprised to see that even Jerry Pournelle, whom I'd
have expected to know better, was taken in by this fairy tale.
so-called miracle water is produced by running an electric current
through a dilute aqueous solution of sodium chloride, common table
salt. As anyone who remembers high-school chemistry knows, this
produces a dilute solution of sodium hypochlorite, AKA chlorine bleach.
Or it does if you don't isolate the two electrodes from each other. If
you do isolate the electrodes (typically done via a salt bridge), you
end up with aqueous sodium hydroxide at one electrode and chlorine
being evolved at the other. In aqueous solution, chlorine is in
equilibrium with hypochlorous acid.
According to the articles,
you end up with "miracle cleaner" at one electrode, which cleans
without foaming. That's the electrode where dilute sodium hydroxide
(lye) solution forms. Of course, a dilute base solution, whether it's
sodium hydroxide or aqueous ammonia, is well known as a grease-cutting
cleaner, because the base reacts with fatty dirt by saponification to
produce ... soap. As to the "miracle disinfectant" produced at the
other electrode, it's chlorine water. And, according to Le Chatelier's
principle, the concentrations of the chlorine and hypochlorous acid
that exist in equilibrium can be forced in one direction or the other
by altering the pH of the solution. So, adding some of the "miracle
cleaner" (sodium hydroxide) to the chlorine water raises the pH and
forces the equilibrium toward the hypochlorite ion, while lowering the
pH by adding acid forces the equilibrium to the other side, favoring
Apparently, some people have been taken in by this, buying very
expensive apparatus to produce this "miracle water", when they could
instead just buy gallon bottles of chlorine bleach at the supermarket
and dilute them with tap water. Geez.
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