Archive for November 1st, 2006

USB 2.0 woes

For those who remember my woes with USB and WinXP on this Dell PC… Apparently only USB 2.0 hubs have the problem. If I use a USB 1.1 hub or connect the device directly there are no problems. I tried 3 different USB 2.0 hubs with external power and without with the same result: most USB devices won’t work with them.

The problem started only a few months ago (I have this PC for almost 2 years now), so I am pretty sure it’s either a third party driver problem or it could be a voltage problem in the motherboard. I am just so lazy to re-install XP. So much data that I need to re-install and take care of, it’s just not fun.

‘Jelly bellies’ memo costs police chief his job

“Police Chief Paul Goward was tired of looking around his department and seeing blubber hanging over the belts of some of his officers. So he sent out a memo exhorting the “jelly bellies” to shape up. In the end, the department lost 190 pounds — all of them belonging to Goward. He was forced out as chief because some of his officers took offense at the memo.”

I am overweight. And if I had such a chief around, I would be very glad. This guy should not have lost his job. He should be given a medal instead.

A preview for The West Exit’s new album

The West Exit is one of my most favorite groups in the indie scene. While the indie scene in USA is mostly about alternative rock, The West Exit is a breath of fresh air with their jazz-y electro pop. If this doesn’t help you define their music style in your mind, think of the UK scene in the late ’80s: Swing Out Sister, Everything But the Girl, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Jamiroquai and Simply Red. Mash up all these together and add a pinch of modern electro-sound and you got something that resembles The West Exit sound.

Kevin, the vocalist of The West Exit, was very kind to give me exclusive preview access to their new and upcoming album, “Modern Interiors”. The album has 10 songs in it and it will most probably be distributed by Magnatune, just like their first album was.

The West Exit’s sound continues to have sweet, catchy melodies that don’t get in the way. For example, I find it a bit distructing programming and listening to most music, but The West Exit provide such easy-listening and at the same time high-quality music and vocals that blend with your mood. The lyrics are very well constructed too. My favorite songs in the album are “Where ever you are”, “The long count”, “The wrong way” and “Thirty Years”.

Some might ask “what it would take for the group to hit it big?”. I believe that the group already has the right stuff regarding technique, sound and quality. What’s missing is a big-time producer to remaster some of the songs to sound “more commercial”. For example, while I am no musician, I can think of some ways that the “Where ever you are” song could be remixed/constructed to sound more catchy and more commercial. But then again, this probably is not the artistic goal of the group.

I hope they consider make a music video clip for 2-3 of their songs (and then uploading it to YouTube and MySpace). As I wrote a few days ago, these days is pretty cheap shooting a clip. Check Magnatune or their site regularly to find out when this new album is getting released. In the meantime, listen to their first album to get to know the group.

Rating: 7.5/10

Opera Mini 3.0 Beta

Pretty nice update, although not exactly the features I wanted to see. The 3.0 beta of Opera Mini supports SSL, RSS feeds and it has content folding (when there’s a large menu it will fold it down similarly to how Google Transcoder does it to save scrolling time).

What I wanted to see is Opera Mini using its own font for western languages so they can display bold and italics (currently these are only displayed if the handset’s Java font engine supports them). Also, I would have liked to see Opera Mini respect form input fields sizes (so the “search” button on the screenshot below doesn’t have to render below the input field and make the page look ugly).

Opera Mini 3

Overall a good upgrade, but not a 3.0 release. More like a v2.5 one.