Archive for February, 2006

Progress and reality

Progress was made today on the road to understanding how to deal with “struct” in order to extract the track numbers and genre numbers from ID31.0 and ID31.1 tags. My feeling is we are nearly there, just have to learn a little more about types of variable that struct can deal with (aka contacting a C programmer I know!) and the snowball effect to success should start.

The db schema needs a little tweaking, but isn’t far off. I picked up some handy tips in todays DB11 lecture which I hope to apply in some small way to make our database that little bit more refined.

GUI wise, despite recent success with the basics, it has become apparent that the going only gets tougher from here with wxPython due to the distinct lack of documentation. Although slightly more limiting for our desire to acheieve true cross-platform compatability, we have decided to run with GTK the 2.0 version of which is reasonably well supported on Windows, and for which there is a vast amount of useful documentation and example files.

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DRM Worries

Was browsing around some blogs I read regularly, and noticed a link to this posting concerning DRM and the new HD technology for high quality video storage. If it’s all to be believed its worrying stuff, and I for one would be agreeing with the post.

While content authors have a right to protect their content, their revenue is based on payments made by consumers for acceptable access to it. If the access is not acceptable, people don’t buy. Its that simple. I think the movie and music industry need to wise up to this fact. I love my music, and spend far too much on it, but I would never buy a DRM’d CD, even if it was music I really wanted. I want my music on CD that will play in my wide variety of players, I want to rip it to my PC so I can play it in amaroK with my other music, I want to carry it around on my MP3 player and copy it to tapes for the few times I end up driving around in a car with no CD player. DRM sucks as it prevents you doing all or most of this, and bringing in a new technology that has even more support for it and even less for non-DRM’d content? No thanks, I’ll pass.

Read the original blog posting here

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The rise of “flash” websites

Arghhhh!! Is my response as my browser crashes yet again because I clicked on a link to a website using flash. Ok, I know I need to fix my browser, but thats not the point. When I finally came back to the site that used the offending flash, I find they could have quite easily made the thing without going within 100 miles of flash!

Flash, I will admit, has its uses, but only in animation and such puposes. A navigation bar, images or textual content does not, under any circumstances need to be in flash, in fact it would be much better if it were not. What about people who don’t have the plugin? Worse, what if they are blind and need the screen read to them, but the readers don’t understand flash? It’s the bane of the web it really is.

I admit my rant is purely initiated by my browser crashing when viewing flash, but it is also fueled by the increasing number of sites I am seeing online using unecesary flash, and the usuability issues I am acutely aware of as a result. Web designers should stop and think. Don’t just take the easy way out. Learn your code; HTML and CSS can do a lot more than most people give them credit for, and they are readable by most anyone or anything.

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Neil Yates Quintet at Matt & Phred’s

Neil YatesMatt & Phred’s jazz club in Manchester was a new one for me, so as ever with a new place I always look forward top checking it out. As an aside, when I got home one of my flatmates (who I don’t know all that well) said he lives not far from the centre of Manchester and has been wanting to go to the club for ages and has just never got round to it! Small world.

Anyhow, onto the night in question. Venue wise, it’s what you would expect from a real jazz club. Full of jazz lovers of all ages, a reasonably priced bar, great atmosphere and great gigs almost every night. Although you have to queue on the door to get in if you arrive a little later in the evening, it’s well worth it and you won’t be disappointed.

I had never heard of Neil Yate’s Quintet before, but they wowed me with a superb performance, especially some of their covers of other artists work, inlcuding one of my favorite artists, Mile Davis. Their musical style was modern and fresh, but keeping the spirit of the older jazz tracks that they themesleves and their audience were clearly familiar with.

Audience interaction was permantly on a high, and the way they got everyone to join in with typical Manchester phrases instead of the one songs original spanish vocals was great fun! The way they carried themseleves on stage was very laid back, which I love in a live performance. All of the band sported pints of beer on the sidelines, and the bass player had to be called back to the stage from the bar after a break in the set.

Overall this live performance was impressive, and although the quintet are obviously a small-time group, they are welll worth the entrance fee to any club in which they might be playing :)

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Going GUI

Recent dablings in Python have yeilded some rather nice looking results in the form of GUI’s. WxPython seems to be quite easily manipulated, and it was only a matter of time before I was able to get methods to be called upon activating a particular part of the interface. “Tool Tips” telling the user what an option does when the mouse moves over it is almost included by default in the syntax structure and so it was working from the word go.

Currently we have a simpl window, with tool-tips, an about option, ability to close the program from the menu, and an option calling a method that loads a diaolgue to load a group of files from a directory. This we should be able to combine with our tag reading code (when it is finished) and database access code, to enable our first test of indexing a group of files and storing their contents in the database all from a GUI. Fun fun fun! :)

Here are some screenies for those who like the eye candy….

About box

Main window

In other python project news, the progression for reading the tags is quite slow, even for ID3v1.0. Although we can read in the Strings ok, the numbers stored as binary are causing us some issues. We are getting these slowly though, and with other parts of the project seemingly going ok, we’re not overly concerned about it. When you spend an hour on a few lines though and get few results, it can be a little frustrating!

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Work and missed gigs

I have run up against a large amount of coursework lately, but managed to blast through a large quantity of it yesterday, which has given me a little free time to blog a bit, and dabble a little more in the realms of python (see my python project blog!). In fact the work must be taking an unexpected toll on me (at least the large quantity yesterday anyhow) as I went to bed before midnight last night; a first for me in lord only knows how many weeks.

I also seem to have missed a few social events lately; firstly was Fabiano’s birthday dinner on Monday (but that was due to illness), but more importantly was two possible courtney pine gigs, neither of which I went to (wednesdays because it was in York and it’s too expensive to keep getting trains, thursdays in Leeds because the tickets had sold out before I could get any). Apparently I didn’t miss much from CourtneyΒ  though as his act was similar to the last time I saw him live, but I did miss some good guitar work from Cameron Piere. I may be able to catch him in London when I am home though, which will be cool.

Hopefully the music scene for me will look up soon. Incognitio in April is still very much a go, and I am trying to decide if to spend Β£40 on a ticket to see BB King live in the same month (its his last tour). Problem is I have no one to go with…. should I still go? Bearing in mind I have never seen him live and his music is awesome – comments please!

I got a text just today from James saying a friend of his is interested in hitting Leeds for some live jazz in the coming week, and with some good gigs coming up at the Wardrobe (of which I am now a member :) ) it could well spell a good night of jazz on the horizon.

Still unsure if I am going to Manchester tomorrow night….. guess I will have to wait and see if anything comes up.

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Changing times

Watching the news today, I saw a story covering a recent compilation of data from the office of national statistics indicating several interesting, and in my opinion worrying facts about people’s lifestyles.

The one I focused on in particular was the rise in the number of children born into families with unmarried parents. I have always been aware that the number is on the rise, but when I realised today that it is well over 40% of all children born in Britain, it was a surprise and a shock to me. This figure seems to go hand in hand with the number of people single between the ages of 25 and 45 being on the rise too.

What this seems to indicate to me, is people are increasingly focusing on careers over family, and there is also a growing lack of commitment for people in relationships. The question I ask is this; if you are deciding you are committed enough to a relationship to bring up a child in a stable environment as a couple, why are you not committed enough to get married? After all married couples still get more legal benefits than non-married couples, which can only be of assistance when brining up a child. This is only the start. What about the impression you make on your child? Do you want your child to end up getting married some day, or do you want them to do as you are doing? Most parents have some dreamy mental image of their year old daughter one day growing up and walking down the isle, it’s almost an instinct. The number of hypocrites is worrying though; do as I say don’t do as I do. Well, in my humble opinion (and it is a humble opinion, I admit I’m not the authority on the matter) its not good enough!
It is at this point that people will start flaming me for dragging down single parents, but this isn’t my gripe at all.

Although these figures take single parents into account, its the ones that are still together and doing well I have issues with! Single parents have many reasons for their situation, sadly many are to do with a lack of commitment and relationship breakdown (I won’t discuss my views on having children in an unstable relationship, it would take all day), but if you are in a loving, family orientated relationship, and you want children, for christs sake get married.

Marriage is still romantic, valued and respected by society, and something most people who play the dating game secretly aspire to at somepoint in the future. Less we forget; we owe a lot to our upbringings, and you don’t need to look very far to find statistics to show that children born to married parents have a better chance in life as a whole. Also why not reward yourself and your partner? You’ve taken all that time, or had a lot of luck in finding that special someone for you; you had girlfriends / boyfriends at high school, surely the person you are with now and having a child with is worth more to you than that?

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Great party & delayed trains!

Well, after a mostly computer free weekend it’s time to play blog catch up! First and foremost I went back home over the weekend, with the main intention of seeing family and going to Tom and David’s 21st birthday party. All I can say is the party was an awesome night; was great to see so many people there who I hadn’t seen in ages, and the organisation was top notch (I think I have Tom to mostly thank for that!). Met some great people from both Keele and Manchester unis, including someone I originally met at Jamie Cullam in Manchester, who introduced me to someone else from Manchester, Elena, who is really cool and who I will hopefully be able to meet up with again sometime soon :)

Had a meal out with my family on Saturady night, and generally used the weekend to catch up with a load of people which is always a good thing. Also got a belated 21st birthday present from Lib, a replacement for my long lost Van Morrison Poetic Champions Compose CD – THANKS!!

Headed back to Leeds on Sunday afternoon, only to find when I arrived at Stevenage station to start my journey that there had been a fatality further down the line (New Barnet for those who know the area) and so all trains to and from London were at a standstill. Anyhow, I bumped into someone else who is at Leeds uni, turned out she had gone to the High School and knew a load of people I knew there (second small world moment!), but we both randomly got on this train heading north that had been turned back from London, with no one on it so we had pick of seats! We got off at Doncaster, and then hopped on this tin-pot northern train that terminated in Leeds, although it stopped pretty much everywhere before getting into Leeds; I think I can safely say I know most of this part of the country by train stations now! Anyhow, 1 and a bit hours later than planned I finally made the station and trudged home, at least it wasn’t raining this time ;)

Overall though it was an awesome weekend, the highlight being Tom and David’s party. I’m very glad I made the effort and took the time to go! :)

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Dada at the Wardrobe

Dada live at the WardrobeOn Wednesday night I went out to see African jazz group Dada at the Wardrobe. Their style is influenced heavily by traditional African music, and in a live setting is most enjoyable to listen, and dance to! Like much music of its type, it is very expressive and contains many messages, although these are easily glossed over due to the danceable quality of the music and the fact the vocals are in Ga, the native language of the people of southern Ghana.

For me it has been a while since I have heard music of this type, several years in fact, and it was very enjoyable to take a trip though this arena once more. Many qualities seen in other types of music, especially blues, shone through in their performance, and the precussion was excellent. Many of the pieces reminded me of “jazzed up” versions of tracks by Paul Simon. I’m not entirely sure why, but possibly because Paul seems to have a leaning in his music to the African culture.

I would certainly recommend seeing this group live if you see them advertised at a venue. As far as the Wardrobe goes as a venue, the club is excellent, combining plenty of seating and a large dancefloor, the latter close to the bar which is always good when you work up a thirst after dancing to a number. I shall certainly be heading back there for other gigs and events in the near future!

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Drenched, but good show

My stand in for James on URY for Jazz Blues Fusion went very well, and I got through some really good music, some of which I have always wanted to get out on air, just have never had the chance. Fabiano joined me for the duration of the show, and we finally got the phone working and had a live phone-in with James, which was pretty cool.

Music wise we went accross the board, but focused mainly on blues for the first half, and then smoother music for the second. If you weren’t listening in on the night, it’s well worth catching it again on URY’s listen again feature. Enjoy :)

While the show went fine, my journey home was less than perfect. I stopped off at a campus bar to have a drink with Fabiano before heading to the station. While I was on my way, it started raining, hard. I arrived at the station drenched only to find that the 11:20 had just gone and I had to wait for the 00:26. After a cold hours wait on the platform, still soaked to the skin (the waiting rooms were all shut) the train arrived and I slowly dried out on the way to Leeds. I stepped off the train in Leeds just about dry, when I hear the drumming of rain on the stations tin roof. You guessed it, another soaking for me as a spashed though town and waded ankle deep in muddy puddles along the canal tow-path on my way home. Very soggy I ended up getting to bed at around 1:40. All in a nights work ‘eh.

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