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Archived Ramblings - 2003

05-17-03

A bit of a rant: The success of the Apple iTunes Music Store has brought about many subsequent debates about compressed audio quality - more specifically the quality of Apple's offered AAC (128kbps) versus MP3 (256kbps or better). I'm not a professional audio engineer by day, but I majored in audio production & music in general in college and have produced my own sound projects in my small but evolving "bedroom" studio for half of my 29 years.

I'm able to discern the quality in audiophile gear over the standard consumer gear, my ears are pretty good and I'm not a "casual" listener. My take on this (like it or not) is that MP3 has always sounded flatter even at high bit rates from a decently mastered CD or live music et al. Until Apple appeared with their Music Store, I was mostly familiar with AAC from watching DVDs (it's "legacy" use). They both sound good enough to me for the current post Red Book CD consumer market (as cassettes did before that). Still AAC seems to have some high-end issues with certain tracks. Basically some tracks from my CD library sound like they need a de-esser run on them when high-hats kick in. But it varies and if anything the encoder provided by Apple is probably going to get some revisions. AAC isn't perfect, but hmm, well neither is MP3 - granted encoders vary and such so many different factors can flood the issue. Is this good enough for the bulk of people who don't care or can't hear the difference. Yeah, it probably is.

Because of the format debates it seems that if people pay for audio they want the best quality possible - which to me the digital music world hasn't settled on yet. There is too competition from WMA or Real in this and if Apple continues to dominate this business than there is going to be some heated business. The big record companies may have found a way to get revenue out of the digital music that's finally worked - at least for now. It's an experiment, and it's for consumers that are used to downloading badly encoded MP3 files already. The record companies will figure it out or run it into the ground. I support it and so far haven't bought a single track (nothing I need is there - yet).

I know that others are jumping on the warwagon now that Apple has sold 2 million tracks in two weeks at a dollar a pop to a supposed 3% or 5% market (the stats for Mac users are pretty hard to be accurate about but that's another story). And in a recession at that. iTunes is a slick musical application. No fluff or crap, and the store's implementation follows that. It's just too easy and goes along with the "don't make me think" user motif that I try hard to implement as much as I can as a designer. That's why it works, it's almost easier than P2P services, and definitly more reliable. So really the only problem has been availability to Windows users (even though the iPod is a Windows-compatible device) and the sound quality of AAC - things that from the look of it are hasitly being addressed.

A big turning point in the music business perhaps.

04-12-03

After around 200 scans I'm still many hours away from launching the changes and update to this site. I'm adding old work - history - so I wan't to do it all at once. One seems to learn a lot when evaluating their own creations after ignoring them for many years.

Impatience.

03-23-03

My big 2003 update to this site has begun. While that happens these live pages have begun to languish. There isn't much I can do about that with all that is going on (I'd rather be focused). The new look is really where this was supposed to go before, but I guess I needed the time to think about it after moving everything to XHTML and table-free CSS layouts.

There will be a cluster of proper new content, mostly in the paper collage arena, but I may finally start putting my video samples online as well. Time for a real host.

More to come.

02-21-03

During some hazy post-nap moments I began to sketch out some heavy new designs for these pages. All very unexpected as I'm planning content revisions and fixes, not new designs. I may use them too...

Oddly this new superflous designing is on top of working out a handful of other sites for varied clients. Odd again is that this site languishes and is constantly broken and fixed over and over again while I build client sites better than my own - so they don't break (unless tampered with by someone not in the know). In the real world portfolio this is not, unless you can appreciate that my nested floats with layered backgrounds actually work in all the browsers that can handle the CSS float property as they should

I was once proud of all those floats and layered graphics. But the mistakes and needed changes have caught up with me again. I still feel like I should reduce bandwidth (i.e. say goodbye to the layered backgrounds and designer fluff) and continue adding and updating the content that is still missing the boat. It was interesting following a link from IA/ (Information Architecture News) to a page with patterns for personal web sites (author: Mark Irons). I got a bit of perspective from that.

Catch that groovy new update of both the W3C CSS guide and Netscape's own DevEdge (Eric Meyer strikes again). Keen stuff. Wish I'd had those at least two years ago.

02-10-03

Don't make him say it again...

Site owners, if your agency or in-house team is sniffing browsers to send them different CSS files, they’re wasting your money and laying the groundwork for compatibility problems that will bite you down the road.

-Zeldman

<site>More tiny tweaks - I'm changing things since we are in a new year, or something like that. However being a Monday night a nap will soon be in order.</site>

Bought some primo new "cans" for my studio last night. Headphone-philes might want to check out Headroom.

02-08-03

I'll be switching the site stylesheets to using ems instead of pixels soon. I think it's time to go that route, at least for text formatting.

In the past I've had a great time designing "liquid" sites with ems, at least before I discovered the issues that can come up. Since I exclude older browsers that can't deal with ems properly by hiding my stylesheets it shouldn't break much of anything for anybody.

Other changes: I've nuked a section and have begun the process of adding one of the largest additions I've ever made – in a few months that is...

01-30-03

Froot Loops cereal is running an ad that features an "Evil Doctor Peacock".

01-29-03

I'm not using PNG graphics on this site because IE Windows can't fully handle it. It's too bad really since I've always liked the freedom of designing with alpha channel transparency. I anticipate this will change sometime soon, though PNG has been fully supported everywhere around the Windows IE world for years.

01-28-03

THE MATRIX is arguably the ultimate “cyberpunk” artifact. Or will be, if the sequels don’t blow. I hope they don’t, and somehow have a hunch they won’t, but I’m glad I’m not the one who has to worry about it.

-William Gibson

Remember "cyberpunk"? He's right you know.

01-26-03

Ironically after my previous rant three of the films of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki have been announced for a release in a few months. Each one is coming out as two-disc special editions including the original Japanese soundtrack and bonus features. It has begun...

I've been working on several DVD video projects, one of which is a fun liberty at the expense of my friends who make up the band Neon Brown. Having previously re-mixed some of their material when they were HeEnd, I've decided to revisit that idea but this time the remix is being done simulaneously with video. It's light and fun stuff and a good break from my own rather serious work.

<site>Updated the copyrights and begin to work in some new treatments to old content – none of which I will link to just yet (if at all). The important thing is that I'm finding time to work on this site.</site>

01-12-03

Matt Groening: As somebody who’s a glutton for entertainment, I’m amazed that I can listen to Indian pop music on the Internet from New Delhi radio stations. Yet there are whole regions of the world that I can’t easily access [when it comes to] DVDs and television shows. I bought myself an all-region DVD player so I can watch British TV shows that aren’t broadcast over here. But you can’t play them here [without it]. I don’t know if that’s a phenomenon, but I think it’s overlooked. Full Article...

I myself have a region-free DVD player just so that I could collect the excellent works of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and his company Studio Ghibli. Currently there are many other films that only exist in other countries like the Twin Peaks pilot. You'd think that a global economy might begin to facilitate a larger trade of media and entertainment. Japan and Britian have both managed decent imports and inspired a lot of American entertainment in the process, but alas, some of the films and shows that I live for (and have bought in to DVD for) aren't high on the release lists. But I'm can't speak for the average Amercian either.

Disney did right with Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke DVD in the US, but only after a large internet petition and campaign to get the film with original Japanese audio and subtitles in addition to the English dub. When presented to Disney representatives they supposedly indicated that they were surprised and had no idea that there was a demand for the film to have it's original version viewable by an American audience. Are we that afraid of anything that isn't English? Disney will hopefully mirror the Mononoke release with the director's follow-up film Spirited Away, and if they do I will buy it here in the US and not from Japan for %30 more money.

I know a handful of people who like myself have spent more money buying the Miyazaki films from Japan to play on our region-free hardware. We will not wait for Disney or other companies to release films here un-modified. There are a lot of people that want this stuff, enough to justify US releases now. Really.

Sure not everyone is going to want to watch this stuff, but when it's not even available under a substantial consumer demand then that's a moot point.

2002 Ramblings

Revision 5 - Updated Sun, Mar 23, 2003
©2002 Eric A. Peacock. All rights reserved.