Go Greens!

Im not a very political person, but I just read this new report, saying that Australian Senator Rachel Siewert will spend a week experiencing what it is like to live on unemployment benefits.

Its fantastic to know that there are at least one or two politicians in Australia that want to pull their head out of the sand and see what is really going on in this country.

The Centrelink payments here are a joke.  I pay more in rent than my total weekly payment, leaving me to cover ALL other costs with my own life savings which are now nearly gone.  Hopefully something good will come of this.

Drum Practice – I’ve Nearly Nailed ‘The Unforgiven’

It’s funny… I get more nervous doing a recording of my drum playing than I do when playing in front of someone?!  I think it’s because a recording can be scrutinized, rewound, etc.  Whereas a live performance isn’t as liable….

I didn’t realise how long a song it was – 6:27 … so much fun to play

Anyway, here is my latest attempt at Metallica’s The Unforgiven.

Performance Problems? And I mean your PC ;)

Having trouble with your PC just not being as fast as it used to be?  Personally, I reinstall the whole OS every 6-12 months, but I have a few friends who are a little daunted by that task, so Ive suggested a few things that might help clean up their computer.  It’s a fairly regular question too, so for anyone stumbling upon this, here are a few good, cheap/free applications that should make your system run better without any (or little) out-of-pocket expense.

Also, I have tried many other applications, some of which have not helped, and others which have made things worse.  These tend to be reliable and do what they say.  BUT, of course make your your system is backed up to a memory stick, hard drive, or burnt DVD, before running these sorts of applications just in case the unforeseen happens.  When was the last time you backed up your PC?  (Now that I think about it, its been a few months for me…)

First things first, head into the Control Panel, and uninstall any programs you don’t use anymore… after that, try these to finish off the cleanup process:

With all of that, the machine should be a little snappier.  After that, you could always overclock it!  Once your PC is out of warranty (as overclocking can void warranties) then its a relatively easy way of getting 10-20% more power with very little, or no cost.  Think of it like boosting the performance of the engine in your car…

Oh, one last word of advice, if you want to know more about how to do things Ive mentioned then just type it in to Google.  Don’t forget, Google is Your Friend!

Drumming Update

If anyone is interested, I did another recording to track my progress with learning the drums. I have been making myself go back and redo any sections I stuff up, but that doesn’t make for a fun listen, so I did a single run straight through the two songs Ive started learning (The Unforgiven and Nothing Else Matters). Oh, the stuff up at about 2 minutes in was because Miki (one of my dogs) decided to jump up onto my lap 😛 The rest (as always) are mine.

The Unforgiven [5mb]
Nothing Else Matters [5mb]

Let me know what you think 🙂

Setting Up for Media Center Part #2 More on Metadata

Okay – so I got the tv shows’ metadata updated with Media Center Master, and have now started work on the movies.  The time consuming part is getting the folders structured correctly so the metadata can be saved properly.  It makes sense to me to do it this way, but its a little painful.  For anyone else stumbling across this article, the folder structures basically need to be:

TV Shows:

X:\My TV Shows\TV Show X\Season 01\xxxx.avi

Movies:

X:\My Movies\Movie X\xxxxx.avi

Where X: is the drive letter (not important for this exercise).  My TV Shows / My Movies are the folders that contain all of your collection. Each TV show needs to have a folder for each season, even if it only has one season.  Just a quirk of how it all works.  For the few shows that go over 10 seasons, its easier to just get in the habit of making all the season numbers prefixed by zero if its less than ten.  Ie. Season 01 instead of Season 1.  Both do work though. The xxxx.avi is the actualy video file.  If its a movie, it should be the title, and preferrably the year (ie. MyMovie (2010).avi).  If its a TV show then it should be Season + Episode codes.  To hard to describe, but obvious once you see it.  Ie. S01E01 – MyMovie Premier.avi).  Dont worry too much about anything after the SxxExx part as Media Center Master can fix up the filenames as long as it know which one its looking at.

I found this brief guide on getting metadata set up if anyone needs more info. Another guide here for using Media Center Master.

Setting Up for Media Center Part #1 The Metadata

After visting a mate and seeing how well he set up Media Center with metadata, I decided to look into it myself.

The process is to basically get an application to look through your TV / Movie folders and grab all the pertinent information about the show, the actors, ratings, description of episodes, artwork (poster etc), and so on.  Once the application has set up your folders with the extra info (metadata) then Media Center can look at it and display it nicely for you.

There is a popular tool to do this called MetaBrowser, which now requires registration and a fee to use.  The old version works, but is far from user friendly.  But, in looking around to find instructions on setting up metabrowser, I came across Media Center Master.

So far it looks promising.   Looks like it does a decent job, and even has facility to download shows / keep them up to date via torrents.  Im yet to test out Media Center to see the final result.

If you are interested, grab version 1.25 as its completely free and unlimited.  The later versions have a free/paid option with a number of restrictions on the free one of course.

Worth a look anyway 🙂

Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns

Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns Album Cover“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odeous, that you’re so sick at heart, that you cant take part, you cant even passively take part. And youve got to put your bodies upon the gears, and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the aparatus, and youve got to make it stop.  And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless your free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”
Mario Savio

If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one.” … “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds
J. Robert Oppenheimer
(recalling the Bhagavad Gita)

Im really liking the new Linkin Park album, A Thousand Suns. It has taken a few goes, but it has now grown on me greatly.

It is unique, but the album has some of their old sounds. There is a wide variety of influences that seem to have made their way onto the alum. There are more elements of their previous works, more like Hybrid Theory and Meteora, especially compared to their previous album, Minutes to Midnight. Though they have tied in the softer elements from that album, they move forward into a new sound that is distinctly theirs. A couple of tracks are even a bit tribal with elements of eastern music, and a few songs have even taken from the current electronica sound.

After the first listen, it seemed disjointed.  I could take or leave it, but after a few runs through the album I realise there are many levels, there is a message or a story to this collection of songs.  The album is like a journey. Taking the listener into a political and social commentary, hopefully pointing out some of humanities high and low points.  There are excerpts from speeches which help to draw the listener into the messages they are conveying.  These “joining tracks” which appear between the true songs really emphasise the ideas being conveyed, and enhance the journey.

Starting out fairly soft and introspective with tracks like Burning in the Skies, which is reminiscent of songs from Minutes to Midnight (particularly like Shadow of the Day), the album jarrs you with heavy tribal beats in When They Come For Me.  Drawing you in to their creation, the album moves into a political commentary and a personal one about how people can stand up and fight when they need to (IMHO). Ive always been a fan of slower anthems, and Robot Boy is a classic.  I was initially a little dissapointed to hear these soft tracks, as I had missed the harder “nu-metal” sound of their older works.  But I was not to be left wanting.

Waiting for the End starts, and I found myself starting to breath a sigh of relief.  Here is a song that illustrates what these guys are about, and even the title is a reminder of previous tracks they have written. Its a build-up song, hinting at the tracks following.

Blackout IS classic Linkin Park.  It takes us another step into their harder sound and message. This song will get people moving.  Again – Mr Hahn has woven his magic into the track, taking scratching, mixing, electronica, and blended them together into something new, something that works.

Wretches and Kings is a cornerstone of the album, and continues with this direction, mixing a huge number of elements together to make a heavy sound that is quite unique.  The quote I put at the start is highlighted in this song.  IMHO this song is telling us to stand up and fight for whats important, even if we are worn out from all the conflict.

I really like what they did with the “joining track” called Wisdom, Justice, And Love.  You’ll just have to hear it.    It slows things back down, giving us a breather between some energetic tracks, before leading into Iridescent.  This is another anthemic buildup song which I quite enjoy.  The build-up takes us to The Catalyst.  Another classic Linkin Park song.  Referencing the Bhagvad Gita, this track has the lyrics which gave the album its title, and with good reason.

The final song on A Thousand Suns is The Messenger.  A slower and rather touching song.   Not exactly a romantic track when you listen to the lyrics, but it is about love.  It finishes the album off, leaves us feeling introspective and thoughful.  At first I thought this track was a bit of an odd ending to the set, but its a good message to leave the listener with, and it frames the intent behind the other tracks nicely.

Overall, I feel they have managed to leverage off the style that made them famous, and have even created their own new sounds with some of the tracks.  Mike Shinoda has a bigger singing / rapping part, something I also feel was missing from Minutes to Midnight.  As mentioned before, it was great to hear Joe Hahn also has a bigger role in this album.  Chester’s singing and playing are as always excellent, and the Dave, Rob, and Brad provide solid ingredients to the mix, finding new ground for their performances.

Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns works. The album has more of a flow to it, and listening to the tracks in order is a definite.  To over emhasise this point, do not put this album on random order until you get to know the songs.  They really have created a journey in music.  I suppose I had pretty mixed expectations after Transformers soundtrack, which I was a little dissapointed in.  But this album is growing on me by the fourth listen,  and Im wanting to keep playing it, so its defintely worth the money.

🙂

Terragen 2 – Where Art Meets Maths

I finally had some time to start learning how to use Planetside’s Terragen 2.  Its an amazingly realistic landscape / scenery renderer that excels at creating realistic lanscapes and skies.  Best of all, its free!

Here are a couple of my first scenes that Im fairly happy with – enjoy!

Cloudscape over mountains
Above The Clouds – 2010

Lakeside – 2010

Your own Handwriting in a Font – FREE!

Have you ever wanted to put your own handwriting into a font?  Well, I hadn’t really thought about it myself, but I saw this site and had to give it a try: http://www.yourfonts.com/

The kind people at yourfonts.com have a FREE process to convert your handwriting to a typeable font.

I did some exeprimentation and I learned a few things, including just how messy and bad my handwriting is!  We are in the age of the computer I suppose…

When you create your font, you need to print out their provided sheet, and fill it in.   If you look closely there are markers on them:

 The 4 markers are in each section.  Think about characters like a Y as opposed to y.  The capitals should fit from the top markers to the third marker down.  The lower case letters like a, e, c, s etc should fit from the second to the third marker.  Letters like y will fit from the second to the 4th marker.  Im sure you get the idea!

Well, I didnt get the idea initially when I generated the font, as I am sure you will see:

 So, I went back to the worksheets and started a fresh one.  This time I used a sheet of paper to act as a ruler to make sure I didnt go outside the markers (too much).  Version 2 was a little better:

The difference isnt major, but it does make a difference.  You will notice the sample text “This is my own handwriting!” sits neater on the line.

So, then I decided to have some fun with the font and just do one more messy / child like font with a texta:

The great thing is that I can now personalise cards etc when I want to give them to people.  If they dont look too closely they may even think I actually wrote it.  Also, if you are after a handwriting style of font, then you can have some fun and create your own!