Archive for June, 2009

No data with my iPhone

This is NOT cool.

I just realized today that upgrading to firmware 3.0 with my iPhone 1st Gen, it killed my data connection with AT&T. I am on a PayAsYouGo plan since I use my phone very rarely. I don’t need to be paying a full contract when I do 1-2 calls per month (sometimes not even that). What I do a lot though, is use WiFi for my various data needs.

Not that I was using their EDGE connection much, which costs $10 per 1 MB (I am not that rich to throw away money at that pricing rate), but it was nice to know that it was there if I needed it. My iPhone was originally an unlocked device, but since AT&T doesn’t require activation anymore for its PayAsYouGo customers, I don’t bother unlocking it or otherwise hack it. I just use it, locked to AT&T’s service.

But this is not enough for AT&T it seems. They now disable the GPRS service altogether to those who don’t have an iPhone-specific account. They try to do what they do with Blackberry: if you don’t have a Blackberry-specific account, you can’t use their data service (and T-Mobile does the same shit as well btw), not even if you do want to pay them the crazy $10 per 1 MB rate.

The iPhone is a fully capable phone and this restriction is simply artificial and unnecessary. I find all this very disturbing, and I can’t wait for a time when people will be able to buy unlocked phones by default, like in many European countries.

There is a workaround to re-enable EDGE, but I don’t want to have anything to do with their stinky service anymore, so I won’t even bother. I will just use my phone even less now.

Upgraded WordPress

After years of running an old version, WordPress was updated today to the latest version with the amazing help of Adam Scheinberg, the OSNews webmaster. I was afraid that my custom theme/plugins would stop working, but everything went very smoothly! I will be keeping WordPress up to date now.

In the suggestion of Adam, I also installed the WPTouch plugin, which offers a mobile interface to the iPhone, iPod Touch, HTC Dream G1 & some few Blackberries, and I manually added support for the Palm Pre and more Android phones. Looks great! If you own such a device, check it out by simply loading up this blog on your browser.

Right now, WordPress is such a joy! I even disabled two plugins I used to use since the functionality is now built-in! And for a third plugin, I didn’t have to hack it, since the functionality is now built-in! Finally, the loading of the front page feels snappier! Much happy!

Update: If you are also using WPTouch and you would like more mobile support, do this: open with a text editor the wptouch.php file, search for the word “agent”, and change this:

“iPhone”,
“iPod”,
“aspen”,
“dream”,
“incognito”,

to this:

“iPhone”,
“iPod”,
“aspen”,
“dream”,
“Android”,
“WebOS”,
“Series60/3”,
“Series60/5”,
“incognito”,

This will add support for all Android phones, Palm Pre, and the specific Nokia smartphones that use webkit. Please convert the smart quotes above to plain double quotes before you insert the text to your script.

Regarding ringtones

I was just reading the ludicrous news about “ASCAP Wants To Be Paid When Your Phone Rings” at Slashdot. We obviously living in some very restrictive times, and I am more liberal than that I am afraid.

But after the initial shock, I kind of liked the idea of not using popular copyrighted songs as a ringtone. In Greece, a lot of people are using some of this terrible pop-bouzouki music as a ringtone. Not only it’s terrible to hear such music over a small speaker when you happen to be next to one such cellphone ringing (it just sounds like noise), but there’s a “feature” where you can enable that ringtone to be head on the OTHER side of the line, while you’re waiting for someone to pick up the damn phone. Basically, having moved to the US, thousands of miles away, doesn’t spare me of the torture of having to listen to that crap.

In fact, the last time I was in Greece (this past May), my cellphone rang using the default Nokia ringtone (which was properly designed to have the right volume/crispiness/frequency to be easily heard). When my mother heard it, she said, “Oy! What is that? What is that stupid sound? Put a good song in there, something from Elena Paparizou.

ASCAP of the world, do save us from pop song ringtones! Don’t let anyone use them!

Get to know The Rosebuds

My new favorite band, The Rosebuds (a married couple from Raleigh, NC). I bought most of their music last night. If you like what you hear, support the band too!

Legal mp3 downloads from the band, to taste more of their great music:
Life Like (my rating: 5/5)
Leaves Do Fall (5/5)
Get Up Get Out (5/5)
Blue Bird (4.5/5)
Kicks in the Schoolyard (4/5)

Mirror, Mirror

A visualization of obsession with human body. An amazing Canon HV30 experimental film.

Also from the same filmmaker, “Khomus”:

Babel

I watched “Babel” tonight. All I can say is “wow”.

This is one of the best movies I have ever watched in my life. It kept me on the edge of my seat — and it’s one of the very few movies that are able to put me in that mode. The cinematography was amazing, the performances, direction, and storyline too. I found the depiction of the various places extremely authentic — and that was the key for me.

If there was one thing that should have been done better, was the Japanese story and its loose connection to the other stories (while a great story in itself, it felt a bit out of place in conjunction to the others). But other than that, the movie is thrilling! Rent it!

Is Rock all said and done?

There was an article the other day about the majority of the most influential rock bands being mostly British: Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Sex Pistols, Iron Maiden, Oasis and of course, U2 (actually Irish). The US has only Nirvana, Metallica, and to a lesser degree, Pearl Jam and Guns’n’Roses, to show off at that level. US has many more big bands collectively, but few stand out as much as the British ones.

In fact, if I was to pick the most important bands in the past decades of rock, it would look something like this:
60s: Beatles, Rolling Stones
70s: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd
80s: U2, Iron Maiden
90s: Nirvana, Metallica

Now, here’s the interesting thing: I can’t find for the life of me a single band for the current 2000s decade that I personally find important and influential. Green Day, Coldplay, and The White Stripes are coming close, but no cake. Green Day are just alt.punk (heard it all before), Coldplay are more pop than rock, and The White Stripes sound just like a more modern version of the Led Zeppelin. But none of these bands actually offers a new, fresh, and innovative sound like any of the bands I mentioned above.

Some will say that the decade is not out yet, and so I haven’t felt their impact to new artists just yet. But I don’t believe that this is the case here. I really don’t see any grass root innovation in rock anymore. The last one was in the early ’90s. Since then, the UK hasn’t had any new big bands, and USA just plays the “maintenance game”. I feel that I have heard it all before.

Let me be clear that there are bands out there that ARE innovative, bands like the Cloud Cult. But I can’t outright call them influential, since only few people know their existence. Even MGMT, who do sound different and have a major contract, only have had moderate success in the grand scheme of things.

I would go as far and say that most of the 2000s is governed by that folk indie-rock sound, like the Iron & Wine, The Decemberists, Fleet Foxes. Problem with this is, by being mostly indie (both as a genre, and as a business model), they don’t reach a lot of people — especially not worldwide, like any of the bands of the previous decades have done. Most of Europe couldn’t care less about folk-sounding indie rock, for example. And yet, they were taken as with a storm by the Nirvana!

So, what’s wrong with rock? Why this decade hasn’t produced brand new sounds to inspire the generations to come? There are two schools of thought about this, from two different people that I will indirectly quote below:

1. Eric Earley, the singer/songwriter of Blitzen Trapper (a band that plays ’70s-sounding folk rock), said in an interview a few months ago (on the podcast interview here, and on another similar interview) that everything that can be done with rock is pretty much already been done and that rock might fade away. Also, for him, it doesn’t matter if something sounds modern or not, only thing it matters is if the song is good or not — no matter the sub-genre.

My take: If that’s true, then why people don’t buy old, traditional songs anymore? I know for one, I can’t stand them, even if I realize that some of them are actually good. And, is it enough for an artist to rehash something others did 30 years before him?

2. My husband, Jean-Baptiste, a software engineer, and someone who doesn’t believes in stumbling blocks. He is a problem-solver at Google — that’s his job. JBQ believes that there are always new possibilities, and new things to invent. For him, there will always be that open-minded musician that will surprise us all with a completely new sound, when we least expect it.

My take: if that’s true, why this decade had not had a single major Rock-God band? What if there is indeed a finite number of rock genres and melodies that can sound good to the human ear?

Finally, my opinion: As most of the times when I present controversial food for thought, I think the truth lies somewhere in between. I believe that you can only re-invent something so many times before it still feels old. At the same time though, music software gets more powerful and allows for more experimentation and research: this allows for previously independent genres of music to merge, blurring the limits of what is rock and what is not (e.g. MGMT’s electro sound). Adding to this the upcoming death of the entertainment industry at large, there will be fewer people choosing the profession (although this might prove a good thing, since too many cooks…).

The pessimist in me believes that “rock” (and music as something more important than just a random song playing on the background while eating dinner) had a golden era between 1960 and 2000. We are currently living towards the decline of the multi-billion industry and the highly innovative musical times. I know that for some people this is something that they can’t grasp since they grew up with this status quo, but I can tell you that priorities do change in society faster than you think. Music will never die, but our investment level in it can change dramatically on different times of the human history.

A small iPhone bug

The following “garbage” bug happens once every 20 alerts or so from AT&T after I hang up on a phone call (the bug could totally be AT&T’s of course, but I smell it’s the iPhone’s). It happens both with firmware 2.x and 3.x. I don’t remember it happening with firmware 1.x. English, French and Greek are enabled in the keyboard layouts — if that helps.

Why free mp3 samples work

I just stumbled against a band called Art in Manila, for whom their label give away 2 free mp3 samples. I heard the songs, I liked what I heard, and went to iTunes to check the rest of their songs. I liked 4 more of their songs via the iTunes preview, which I purchased. Looking around for more info, I found that Orenda Fink is their singer. I checked her 2 free promotional mp3 songs, and I also liked what I heard. So I ended up purchasing one additional song from the singer’s solo album (“Blind Asylum”). Snooping a bit more, I am now looking at the O+S band, which is the singer’s latest project and they also have 2 free songs. If I like what I hear again, I will be buying once more tonight.

Moral of the story: 1-2 free mp3 samples (e.g. your 4rd or 5th best song) of your album should be given away for promotional reasons (and make absolutely sure you have tagged them correctly). However, this will only work if your songs are actually good. If you only have 1-2 good songs in the whole album, then you should get another job anyway.

Update: Bought a song from O+S too just now (“Lonely Ghosts”).

Smooth slow motion test

Swedish music video filmmaker and reader of this blog, Matti Nurmilehto, put my “butter smooth slow-motion” tutorial into action with his PAL 50i HV20 camera and Sony Vegas. Here’s the smooth slo-mo footage he got out of it after following the tutorial:

You should expect even smoother slo-mo from a 60i NTSC camera using my tutorial.