The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe Review

I posted a review of the movie over at NarniaWeb. I was slightly less than satisfied, but I need to see it again before making final judgement. From the review:

I can’t decide about the film score. I will say that the use of electronic drums, electronic pianos and harpsichords throughout didn’t fit at all. It sounded like Mannheim Steamroller in spots, and like a Hans Zimmer action movie at other times. You’re dealing with 1940s London, and Narnia, a whole different world that one could argue was based on a mixture of Greek and medieval England. A full classic symphony would have worked better, with the addition of various eclectic instruments (old world, NOT digital) that fit the scene or character. There were no strong themes, except for Tumnus’ lulluby. The end credit music was a horrid joke.

Not quite Lewis, as I expected, but not quite a good movie either. They hired all the right actors and found the perfect scenery, and got the best CG team on the job for the animals, and still the screenplay, directing, and soundtrack really brought it down a level. It could’ve been my favorite movie of all time, (or at least the first movie in my favorite series of all time). I will go see it a second time and try to pretend I don’t know anything about Narnia. We’ll see how it goes.

Read the whole article: http://www.narniaweb.com/reviewShow.asp?id=775

Kubuntu Isn’t Making the Grade

I haven’t touched my Kubuntu desktop in about 2 weeks (about the time I ceased being an IT administrator), and it is taking some will power to try and convince myself to get back into it.

Here exist 3 MAJOR shortcomings of Linux in general, not just Kubuntu/Ubuntu/Debian.

  • No truly professional, responsive office suite. OpenOffice.org2 is sluggish on even fast machines, and it still isn’t quite where it needs to be. I disable Java, because I detest it, so I’m probably missing a few key features that depend on it. Hint to developers: just say NO to Java. KOffice, I hate to admit, is a joke. KWord is actually pretty cool and useful for people who’ve never used Microsoft Word. It is fast, and it does basic stuff. But it doesn’t support Microsoft fortmat files. Sorry, but that has been and will be a requirement for a long time. I can’t convince JoeWindows User at work to send me an OASIS format file, when he is using and always will use Microsoft Word. Oh yeah, and GNOME Office. Cute attempt. At this point I’m left with an unstable, nasty looking Microsoft Office running under Wine.
  • Cross-desktop look, feel and function. I understand this is the Linux Holy Grail Nirvana, but it hasn’t been acheived. Firefox is my favorite web browser. I use KDE. I should be able to have a Firefox in KDE that looks the same (I use Lipstik, so Plastikfox doesn’t work), feel the same (GTK-Qt Engine causes some instability in presentation, especially when drawing menus), and function the same (at least KDE Open/Save/Print dialogues, if not also KDE Bookmark/History/Wallet integration).
  • Drivers, drivers, drivers. I was so excited when I found out that my iPod Shuffle worked in Linux. A little too excited, because I couldn’t get amaroK to recognize it properly. I tried to compile the latest amaroK SVN, but it has damned too many dependencies. And good luck to those who’ve bought the latest iPod (with video). I am glad to see that there is usually always a start of a driver project whenever I buy a new toy (PODxt), but the projects are rarely complete, and you’ll often find that they’ve been abandoned for years. The beauty of open source is that someone can indeed come along and finish it, but I’m in the “It has to just work” department, not the “I can make it work” department.
  • In addition to those frustrations, Kubuntu Breezy 5.10 has a dash of salt for the open wounds. It crashes incessantly. Rather, the Konqueror binary does. I haven’t installed the latest System Setting update, but at least previously it liked to crash as well. I never had crash problems using Hoary 5.04. Although, I can’t say my computer isn’t entirely devoid of blame. It is quite the hunk of junk. My plan is to eventually build a really nice Intel-based desktop, slap on Kubuntu, use it for my casual computing, and then buy a PowerBook G4 for my audio, video and photo needs.

And the winner is… PODxt Live!

PODxt Live Modeling Pedalboard

So here’s what I just spent $$$ on:

  • 36 amp models (vintage & modern, Fenders, Marshalls, Vox, etc.)
  • 24 cabinet models with 4 mic models
  • 80+ stompbox and studio effects, including everything from my DL-4 Delay Modeler (we’re talking distortion pedals, fuzz, chorus, synth, flangers, phasers, compressors, reverbs, and stuff I can’t even describe)
  • Built-in tuner
  • Built-in expression pedal, plus a jack for a second expression pedal
  • Way too many options and combinations. If you do the math, you’ll find that there isn’t enough time in a person’s life to play with every single possible combination of models in the PODxt. That’s a little depressing.

Already I’ve configured custom presets for my Yamaha AEX500, including a schweet sounding acoustic patch using the piezo pickup. I’ve also slowly begun the work of finding distortions that fit my tastes using the Gibson Les Paul. I made a couple patches based on the guitar sounds from Polaris by Jimmy Eat World, and that wasn’t too hard. It was pretty cool actually.

I’m just glad I don’t have a Variax Guitar (yet), otherwise I would be having to set a guitar model for each preset, and not just gate, compression, stompbox model, delay model, modulation model, amp model, cab model, mic model, EQ model and reverb model. If I did eventually get a Variax, I could choose a preset on the PODxt Live, and I could suddenly be playing a ’72 Fender Tele through a ’58 tweed Fender Bassman (which was a combo with a 4×10 cab), mic’d up with an off-axis Shure 57, and on the floor would be a Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble pedal, a Big Muff Pi, and a Deluxe Memory Man delay pedal. The very next second, I could be using a ’52 Gibson Les Paul through a ’66 Marshall JTM-45 (you know, before the Marshall scroll logo), a ’67 Marshall 4×12 Basketweave cab mic’d up with a Neumann U-67, and on the floor would be a ProCo Rat, a Vox Wah pedal, and a Uni-Vibe.

Even without the guitar model change, that’s just sick. Speaking of, I’m gonna go play with that Rat.

PODful Birthday

My birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, and I’m now having a decision nightmare. Here’s a little background first: the only mp3 player I own is a 512MB iPod Shuffle, and I haven’t bought any guitar gear in almost 4 years!

I can’t decide what I want for my birthday. I really want one of those new 60GB iPods (with video). But, I recently discovered a piece of guitar gear that could potentially retire all of my current pedals, and would prevent me from having to upgrade my horrid practice amp, a 50w solidstate Fender Princeton Chorus. This amazing device is the Line 6 PODxt Live. It models amps, it models the same delays as my DL-4 Delay Modeler, it models cabinets, it models synth and phasing and reverb. It would even retire my tuner and volume pedal.

So – I need help deciding. The funny thing is that I’m deciding between two totally unrelated “pods.”

The Contendors:

Apple iPodhttp://www.apple.com/ipod/ipod.html

GOOD
– I could carry around my 6GB+ of music, instead of only 100 songs with the shuffle
– I could download movies and watch them on the go
– I could bring my entire CD collection on road trips
– I could bring Jenny’s entire photo collection on road trips
– I really feel the need for a portable audio player that has all of my music readily available
– It would help with my career as a recording engineer
– I would be the coolest guy for about 2 weeks

BAD
– It is very expensive for an mp3 player
– I will never have 60GB of music
– I will struggle with not wanting to upgrade it to the next generation iPod, so it could be very expensive

****

Line 6 PODxt Livehttp://line6.com/podxtlive/

GOOD
– One pedalboard, instead of separate delay, distortion, volume and tuner pedals
– I could easily bring excellent effects along for any practice, not just important gigs
– It would work with my Peavey Ultra rig, but also my Fender Princeton combo
– I could plug it directly into a system and not even use an amp
– I could record directly into the computer, via a USB connection
– It would give me the opportunity to bring out my other axes (Yamaha AEX500, Godin SDXT) so I wouldn’t feel bad about owning useless, but expensive guitars
– It is a fair price for a floorboard version of the PODxt, and a fair price for a modeling pedal with that many options
– It would help with my career as a musician
– I would be the coolest guitar player for a while

BAD
– Although I love my Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeler, I’m a bit wary of using modeled distortions and amps. In many cases, there’s nothing quite like the real thing.
– I might end up using it only for the effects, and not the amp modeling
– Line 6 is a great brandname in the prosumer world, but I prefer to have authentic pro gear (although I do understand that many pro recording artists like John Mayer’s guitarist use Line 6 gear). I might be tempted to put tape over the POD logo. Silly me.
– The sounds would no doubt be great, but will they be usable on each of different setups (live, practice, direct for recording, headphones for personal practice)? The POD is supposed to accomadate and adjust tone for those types of differences, but I would actually need to hear it.

Well, I’ve not made up my mind. You may think I being materialistic, but keep in mind that both gadgets have features that would help my career, as well as help me serve God. (Although I don’t think I’ll go as far as to say that I bought an iPod to serve God – I would be able to say that about the PODxt Live). PLEASE HELP!

New Job and New Chapter in Life

I’ve been hired as the assistant audio engineer at Pantano Christian Church, one of Tucson’s semi-mega-churches. There will be good times ahead. Currently, I’m responsible for running the monitor console, as well as front-of-house when I’m needed. I have a lot of goals for the future of the sound ministry at PCC, and this is one church that will move and jump on changes and improvements.

One major goal I have is to get professional recording equipment installed at the monitor console. Audio recording is my lot in life. And with professional recordings (as in, a MOTU 24i/o system hooked into a PowerMac Dual G5), PCC will be able to distribute videos with much better sound quality, and they will also be able to offer CDs for a nominal fee.

“Sounds” like fun!

Diary of a Dead Computer

My primary desktop, an Athlon running Kubuntu, died last night. Specifically, I was in the middle of doing something, when all of sudden everything froze up. I could CTRL-ALT to other terminals, so I did. The password prompt took longer than usual. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself, “that looks like the kernel is having a difficult time accessing the disk.”

I spoke too soon. Mere seconds later, the terminal was flooded with disk IO errors, which is not a pretty sight to see. I tried to CTRL-ALT-F7 back to KDE and X, but it was ugly. I could work with running apps (albeit slowly), but they kept complaining about no write access. Hmm. I switched back to the terminal and decided it was time for a restart.

philip@philip~$ sudo shutdown -r now
IO Error
By the way, I hate YOU!

So I hit the reset button. Now, I was obviously expecting that fsck would have to do its thing because I did a dirty boot. Fsck complained, and hell began to break loose. I rebooted again, and this time GRUB wouldn’t load. All I got was an “error 17.” After trying several things in vain, I called my dad to get back the Ubuntu Live CD I had given him a few weeks before.

Booting into Ubuntu Live was interesting. I had never seen Gnome run on that computer. It was alright. I went to gparted, and “oh crap. Why does it say it doesn’t recognize /dev/hdb1?” (/dev/hdb1 is the problem disk). It couldn’t read the filesystem but could tell how large the volume was. I opened a terminal:

ubuntu@ubuntu~$ fsck -cy /dev/hdb1
Bad superblock on hdb1
Warning: ext3 journal is corrupt, clear (Y)? Y
ext3 journal cleared; filesystem is now ext2.

(I paraphrased this one because I couldn’t remember the exact wording.)

Basically, my disk was fsck’d. I tried mounting it to no avail, even after virtual mounts, forced mounts and wrongly declared filesystem mounts. So I decided to see if formatting would work (By this point I had accepted that my data was long gone). Using mkfs, I was able to format hdb1 back to ext3. I mounted it and… it worked.

So I had an empty drive and it was just hours away from the Ubuntu release announcement, which would surely entertain Slashdot media, meaning that the apt servers were going to be hurting. My only connection to this machine is a Linksys WUSB11 Wireless Adapter. Needless to say, things are going to be slow going.

Revival is approaching. I’m making this entry from Konqueror 3.4.2, because the release candidate CD missed the KDE 3.4.3 upgrade. The final release CD is finally in the drive, and Adept is working like a hog to install all my universe packages, plus the upgrades from the release CD.

See what packages I install from the apt repositories.

Oxygen vs. Tango, Round 1

Icons - Oxygen or Tango?
These are samples of two icon themes for Linux desktops with the same goal in mind: usability and breathtaking beauty. The problem is, Oxygen (the bottom two icons) is being created by David Vignoni for the KDE Appeal Project, which will appear in KDE 4 (and most likely Kubuntu and SuSE, since David has a SuSE contract). Not sure if Linspire will pick them up or continue to hire Everaldo to work on Crystal icons. Although, he might involve himself in Oxygen anyway.

Tango (the top two icons) on the other hand, is being created by Novell Developers and is in a very loose collaboration with the freedesktop.org folks. Their idea is to create a unified desktop across platforms that is both usable and breathtaking (BlueCurve, anyone?). They expect Gnome and KDE to just pick up these icons and sing the la-la-la-la-la happy desktop song.

Of course this is what RedHat tried way back in RedHat Linux 9, with the BlueCurve theme for KDE and Gnome. Didn’t work then, and won’t work now. Gnome wants to have its own unique, beautiful icons. KDE wants to have its own unique, beautiful icons. Distributions want unique icons (“ubuntify icons” was a priority goal for the Ubuntu Breezy 5.10 release).

Nice try Novell, but merging the Gnome and KDE projects would probably be easier than declaring a universal icon theme for all to use.

I think Oxygen looks better so far, in case you’re wondering.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out that Tango isn’t being forced on distributions. Of course I understand that. But I still interpret the goal of the project as attempting yet another Desktop Linux unification “strategery”. You can consider that good or bad. Opinions welcome.

Ubuntu Packages (or a web GUI for Ubuntu repos)

Ubuntu Packages Mockup

Here is the preview as promised. A web-based frontend for Ubuntu Repositories. Similar in function to packages.ubuntu.com, but similar in style to Download.com and Linspire’s CNR.

Whaddya think? Do we need something like this, or is Synaptic/Adept/apt-get/packages.ubuntu.com enough? I think it is a great to explore the endless software possibilities available to Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Edubuntu users.

Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger)

I didn’t have any time to make contributions to this Ubuntu release. Oh well, maybe next time. There have been some excellent improvements over 5.04, and I’ll just give a preview of what I know so far.

I ran the Ubuntu 5.10 Preview Release Live CD (which is a few weeks old) on my Sager 3760, and I almost cried at the fact that all of my hardware was recognized. My volume keys worked. My screen brightness keys worked. This being GNOME, I had to check out all the apps. Now included in Ubuntu: Gnome 2.12, Linux 2.6.12, Smeg (simple menu editor) and Bluetooth support. I’m not a GNOME fan, but I was very impressed. I hope that the default artwork is updated before the final release, because the initial desktop still looked exactly like a Hoary installation.

Next, I created a Qemu setup within Windows XP to which I installed Kubuntu 5.10 Daily Build 20050927, which was just snapped yesterday. Yay! Aside from KDE 3.4.2 (darn, wish 3.5 had made it in), it now includes amaroK 1.3.2, Kaffeine 0.7, and Gstreamer engines by default for both of those players. The artwork has had a makeover, with a matching bootsplash, KDM login screen, KSplash, and background. I do believe the default icon size for the KMenu is now 22 rather than 16, which makes it much more readable.

I’ll have more on this when I upgrade. I’m waiting till the final release.

Oh, and be ready for a sneak preview of what I’ve been cooking in Photoshop: a redesign of packages.ubuntu.com (or it could serve as a separate site), and it looks like Download.com infected with the Ubuntu Human theme. I got the idea from Linspire having their silly CNR store. Ubuntu/Debian has a repository of thousands of programs, so I wanted to somehow figure out how to advertise them better. Coming soon!