Tidying up the songs in my Music Library

I woke up this morning with this song in my head but wanted to have a version of it that I could listen to any time either on my home stereo (via iTunes through SoundBridge) or on my iPod.

A quick search turned up ListenToYouTube.com where all I needed to do was provide the YouTube URL for the video and they’ll rip it and provide you with an MP3 file of it, no charge(!). The resulting file is encoded at 128 bps but, for the quality on the YouTube video that’s more than enough for my purposes.

But there was a lead-in section explaining the purpose for the video which is nice in the video context but was a bit distracting for just straight listening. So another search yielded MP3Trim which is a freeware version of the software that can handle files of up to about 9.7 MBytes. The software nicely trims leading and trailing stuff off of MP3s and so was perfect for removing the distracting piece.

Using iTunes’ seek bar I figure out at what point I want the trim to take place, decide if I need it to be abrupt or a fast or slow fade in/out and *presto*. New MP3 with only the parts that I want.

So I’m walking through my collection now removing annoying guitar solos, that annoying guy at the end of the Fugee’s “Killing Me Softly” song and Dolly Parton (yes I have a couple of Dolly Parton songs) yakking away at the end of “Star Spangled Banner”.

I’ve only stumbled so far trying to trim Guns N’ Roses “Knockin’ on Heavean’s Door”. At 10.2 MBytes it’s about 5% too big for the Freeware MP3Trim to handle. Registering the software would resolve this for me. But it’s a little pricey for the use that I would make of it. I’ll just get something that can split the file grossly near where I want to trim and *then* trim it. And if that doesn’t work I don’t think I’ll worry about it.

Of course, if I were only listening to this music on my iTunes or my iPod platforms I could just alter the properties so that the portions of the song that I don’t want are simply not played, but this ONLY works on those platforms. Playing through my Soundbridge or directly off of an SD card on my BlackBerry or car stereo would still have the annoying bits.

The little things in life – Hershey’s Chocolate Milk Mix

It’s been getting harder and harder lately to find Hershey’s Chocolate Milk Mix. I could wax all poetic about how it is the best out there but this blog entry does a great job of it.

So, as I approach the mid-point of my current container, I put on the grocery list to pick up some more. Michelle came home yesterday and mentioned that our local Publix does not have any. “No Worries”  I say, “I’ll just check on line to see where it can be found or maybe even ordered.”.

These folks kind of describe my feelings here. Only since this was over a year ago, I think my own quest will be in vain. I’m going to put out a feeler to my friends in Canada in case Hershey’s up there is not quite so cruel, but you can only carry so much of this stuff on a plane.

One of the great things about living in this day and age is that you can see new wonders appear on virtually a daily basis. I remember when Sony Walkmans were a groundbreaking idea and now we have solid state devices that can hold many orders of magnitude more entertainment and last many times longer on a charge (or set of batteries back then).

The downside of this is that, where folks of the previous generation may have been able to rely on products and institutions remaining virtually unchanged for their entire lives, I find that I have to continue to rethink things that I heretofore regarded as sacrosanct.

Something as innocuous as chocolate milk mix is only unimportant if you’re satisfied with it. There are plenty of options out there that I tried in years gone by. Quik was more sugar than chocolate, the syrups just don’t seem to blend all that well so you end up with gobs and hunks floating around in your cup. Only the finely powdered Hershey’s Mix with it’s pleasing chocolate-to-sugar ratio made the cut.

So, I have a can of ovaltine here – what I regard as “The Shawshank Redemption” of chocolate powders since, like the move, the product name does nothing to enlighten you as to it’s purpose – that I will be sampling shortly.

Can you think of a product that you use regularly that you don’t even think about that would cause you to stumble and have to rethink and reevaluate a bunch of different options before you were comfortable again? It can be anything from toothpaste to a brand of flour or detergent to that motor oil that you use whenever you overhaul your motorcycle engine.

RosaMia Restaurant Alpharetta

I’ve been to RosaMia 3 times now and each time have been very pleasantly impressed.

A little on the large side, their lasagna is spectacular. Gastronomic athletes may be willing to finish it but I find it much more satisfying to share it or take some home with me. Equally good has been their pizza and their Panini sandwiches (with a salad) which are exactly the right size and surprisingly tasty.

The service has always been pleasant, timely and efficient and the price is exactly in line with what I am willing to pay for a lunch trek to a restaurant.

Definitely a keeper, I have yet to be disappointed here.

Cabernet Restaurant Alpharetta

I’ve been to Cabernet Restaurant for lunch a few times in my 5 plus years working in Alpharetta and it’s usually been just OK. That atmosphere  and pricing has always been a little higher-end than I tend to favor. But it seemed like it should be worthwhile as a treat.

Today I suggested to the group I was with that we should try Cabernet to see how it’s doing these days.

I have to say I was somewhat disappointed.

The service was just slow. From arriving at the front and waiting for someone to show up to seat us to every interaction with the waiter it just all took too long.  I think the situation was, even though the dining room was not even half full, there were simply not enough wait staff to host even that small a lunch crowd.

I was going to order their Filet mignon but waiting for the waiter to show up to take our order made me rethink trusting them to cook a steak. I figure that a restaurant that cannot manage its dining room probably isn’t doing so well managing the kitchen either.

I ended up ordering a Turkey Wrap which was the best thing on my plate but still pretty bland. It came with “hand cut potato chips” that were among the most tasteless I’ve ever come across. If I had been able to find a server I’d have asked for ketchup to at least give them some semblance of vitality. Also included was coleslaw – I’m more a fan of vinegar rather than creamy coleslaw – this had the distinction of being neither one nor the other and still retaining its ability to be unappetizing.

For the occasions when my drink glass was not empty it was half the time filled with the wrong drink.

One of my party did comment that the waiter knew how to deliver the menu recitation and, when he had made his way to our table I must admit he was effective at making choice items on the menu sound appealing. But that, alas, had to be the only really good thing I can say.

I will not be returning.

My BlackBerry Software

I was exchanging messages with King and thought I’d post my thoughts on the software that I currently use on the BlackBerry.

Hey King,

I don’t use a lot of apps on my 9000 Bold BlackBerry, but I swear by Pocket Informant. It’s great for getting tasks on your calendar and I like its presentation for contacts as well.

I haven’t used the “keyboardless” version of it yet. I used to use it on my iPaq and the BlackBerry version is up to par.

I don’t have any recommendation for a calculator as I pretty much use only the 4 functions these days, but other software I use frequently:

– BerryWeather – my favorite feature is setting my “home” screen to my GPS coordinates so it is always showing me the current and forecast weather for wherever I happen to be. I keep 3 other permanent locations set as well so I can always check home, Toronto and my airport’s weather.

– Profile Scheduler – I use profiles heavily (along with filters) and the scheduler automatically puts it into phone only mode for night time. So I don’t get woken up when a friend sends me some funny message at 1 in the morning…

– I often have used google maps on my device – haven’t had much cause to lately since I’m always near a computer or my gps.

– Something that has potential but IMHO isn’t quite there yet is drivesafe.ly  (yep that’s spelled correctly). It can detect when you’re driving (by gps speed) and will auto respond to email and text if you wish and will read you your incoming email and texts. Pretty cool to know whether or not that new incoming message is something to deal with at the next light or not.

– Besides those products I regularly use the Blackberry Facebook App, Enterprise Messenger (with our corporate SameTime IM system), Viigo and UberTwitter. All are OK but none are drop dead gorgeous apps.

I synch wirelessly via BlackBerry Enterprise Server to my Lotus Notes for mail, calendar and journal/memo/notebook. But I synch manually to Lotus Notes at work and to Outlook at Home (outlook is my master) and am able to take advantage of outlook’s superior print and formatting capabilities with no major issues.

I have tried several flavors of synching contacts, calendars, etc. with google-centric products but I have found all of them lacking.

There is a product that you can search for that you would pay some modest monthly fee for that will wirelessly synch your outlook with the BlackBerry that I researched somewhat for one of our SLT folks who was leaving the company and I would definitely give it a try over any of the other solutions I’ve seen to date if I didn’t have a work-provided wireless solution.


On Fri, May 7, 2010 at 7:43 PM, King wrote:

I have taken the plunge, and gone for the BB Storm 2.

Any recommendations for ‘must have’ software?

a Calculator?  The one that comes with it is just basic +-*/ and I use the
more ‘impressive’ functions a fair bit on my treo.

A contact list?  I was able to import the contacts from my trio, but it
has not converted as cleanly as I would like.

Also, what do you use on the desktop to sync to, Outlook? Google service,
Lotus notes?  What I would really like is a full address book, from which
I could print mailing labels on the PC side as well as maintain all
contact info.


On Access Scanners Killing App Performance

At work I’m wrestling with McAfee’s on access scanner absolutely crippling Lotus Notes latest client R8.5.1.  By killing the mcshield process you can realize a dramatic improvement in the startup time and overall performance of the Lotus client. A side benefit is that the omnipresent crashes I was facing have virtually disappeared.

Also, if you use the designer client you will see at least one order of magnitude increase in performance. I went from being amazed that such a terrible designer client had been released to being horrified that a relatively capable designer client had been so crippled by on access anti malware software as to render it useless.

Obviously our security folks are not going to be satisfied with simply disabling the scanner so the challenge is now to find some way to make these crappy security products ignore the right files so that the business applications can get on with being useful.

Today I was working at home with Quicken 2010 and I was miffed by how sluggishly it was behaving. I’ve got an i7-920 computer chip overclocked to 3 GHz, 12 Gigabytes of RAM and 64-Bit Windows 7 Professional pushing Quicken along. In theory it should be screaming.  Pulling up the task manager, what do I see but for pretty much every mouse click the MsMpEng executable (Microsoft Security Essentials Anti Malware scanner) is sucking up 10-30 percent of my CPU.

I’ve tried configuring the scanner to ignore my executable (C:\Program Files (x86)\Quicken\qw.exe), the Quicken QDF data file type (QDF extension) and even the entire dedicated drive on which the Quicken data files reside. But nothing has any effect. I’m pretty sure that those options are provided for the same reason as “Close” buttons on elevators exist: to give you something to do while things proceed at their normal pace.

Now killing the MsMpEng process absolutely fixes the issue. Quicken takes off like there is no tomorrow. Again, this is not an appropriate answer. You need to have rather sophisticated protections in place to work in today’s sophisticated cyber world. But it does point a finger directly at the resource hogging culprit.

So tell me, why does our protection software have to be so crude and bloated that this is even an issue? Does anybody have any suggestions or alternatives that you are happy with? Until this issue I thought I was VERY happy with Microsoft Security Essentials. But I’ve never needed to tweak it before. Now I want something effective. Symantec’s products have proven themselves to be monstrous resource hogs in the past. My McAfee experience at work is leading me away from that direction. Suggestions are very welcome and even more so if you’ve worked with Quicken in a Windows 7 64 bit environment!

Staying Abreast of Latest Books

My taste in books spans from the serious (such as “The God Delusion”)  through to the fantastic (pick anything by “Peter F Hamilton” or “John Scalzi”)  through to comics (such as Dilbert, FoxTrot and XKCD).

An issue I’m facing right now is how to easily stay on top of new releases by authors that I favor.

For news and most notifications these days I can take advantage of RSS feeds and aggregate them in a single place – I use Google Reader – this lets me stay on top of the latest and greatest from a wide variety of sources without having to constantly be visiting and revisiting sites checking for changes.

I believe I now own every one of the non-anthology Dilbert books available (the anthologies IMHO are just a waste of time since they just rehash comics but collect them together in a theme). So I went to Amazon expecting to find some kind of Dilbert or Scott Adams RSS feed that I could just plug into my aggregator and when a new book becomes available it would pop up for me and then I could choose whether it was something I wanted to pick up or not.

Imagine my surprise to find that this kind of service is remarkably rarer than I thought. Amazon doesn’t appear to offer anything like this, although some older message board postings I saw indicate that you used to be able to subscribe to email alerts for new Author publications.

In the case of Dilbert, I went specifically to the website to see if something was available there. Scott Adam’s is a tech savvy kind of guy – he was publishing his email address and not-so-regular newsletters at a time when most authors were still viewing the internet with fear and suspicion. But even he doesn’t seem to have this seemingly obvious sales tool available.

Has anybody found a solution to this issue? I’d prefer to have some kind of consistent centralized solution rather than having to track  down every individual author’s web site and then try to fashion something from the content therein.

I *did* find this tracker based off the Amazon site which is exactly what I want but it doesn’t appear to be functional. Probably the API on which it depends is no longer functional / available? It’s a great idea though. Free for you and me, the provider gets a modest kickback from Amazon for directing book purchasing traffic to them.

Any ideas or suggestions would be welcome!

Karaoke Party Pictures

Karaoke Party 2010 0051Had a great time at Michelle’s office party on Saturday. We did a quasi-Karaoke theme this time. “Quasi” since we realized none of us could sing so we didn’t bother with the monitor with words or silencing the actual singing on the music tracks. This works out MUCH better than regular karaoke!

We even had an “American Idol” themed judge panel with past and present judges Simon, Randy, Kara, Ellen and Paula.

Special kudos to “Ellen” who bleached her hair and wore blue contact lenses to fit the bill.

Peruse through and enjoy!