F**tbo**d

For those of you using WordPress, you are probably as grateful as I am for Akismet, a terrific comment spam filter built into the application. Most comment spam just gets swept away, with only a very few being sent up for moderation due to some trouble detecting the true nature of the comment.

Now here is the bizarro-world hole in Akismet that I have discovered these past few months. Probably 99% of the comment spam that got passed along for moderation instead of being automatically removed by Akismet involved one post: Nicolas versus the f**tbo**d. I finally got sick of it and turned off comments on that post.

And where did the comment spam immediately begin slipping through again? You guessed it: New H**dbo**d for Abigail’s Bed. What the heck?!? I get comment spam all over the site, but somehow entries with a f**tbo**d or h**dbo**d just slip right through. I’m shutting down the comments on the h**dbo**d post as well, a simple enough solution, but this is just weird.

Now you know why I used ** throughout this post. Didn’t want to offer the comment spam another hole in Akismet.

Quality MP3s

Several years ago I ripped every CD I owned and converted them all to MP3. At the time I was dealing with, oh, about 300 CDs, so the process took some time. Then I trashed all those MP3s and started over.

Why would I do such a thing? My goal was to acquire very high quality MP3s. I wanted quality over size, MP3s that could be converted back to WAVs with more or less no audible degredation (okay, if you did this over and over, no MP3 would provide good quality… I was looking for a one pass WAV -> MP3 -> WAV type quality). An easy test of the MP3 quality is to pick some music that has nature sounds of some sort in it and listen to it on quality equipment (headphones, speakers, whatever). As the codecs that create MP3s are generally optimized for speech and music, cricket sounds, water, or whatever are an easy way to find their limits. That or a quality jazz recording with lots of airy cymbals.

In my first attempt, I bought a package (I think it was MusicMatch) that ripped the CDs and created the MP3s and added the tags, all in one package. The MP3s were fine, but they were not what I would call high quality. After a bit of research, I redid the whole thing addressing quality at each step. Here’s a summary of what I learned (and subsequently did).

1) Ensure an accurate rip. If the CD player reads a grease smudge off your disc, that noise will be encoded right into the MP3. If there is a scratch, you’ll probably hear that scratch in the MP3. The solution? Use Exact Audio Copy (EAC). It reads the CD tracks over and over, comparing them until it gets an exact match, thus enabling it to rip a perfectly accurate WAV file (unless, of course, the disc is unreadable). EAC is free, so go get it.

2) Use the LAME encoder to convert from WAV to MP3. There are numerous download sites like this one. It has a “lame” interface, but once configured, EAC can drive it for you.

3) Make sure your ID3 tags are done well. ID3 tags are the extra bits of data stored with the MP3 file such as Title, Artist, Genre, etc. EAC will usually be able to look up the tags for you when you load a CD using freedb.org, but always make sure the tags are accurate and complete.

If you Google “eac lame tutorial”, you can find a bunch of great step-by-step info on setting up the whole shootin’ match. I use the “insane” setting for the LAME codec, which is basically a VBR encoding scheme meant to match the quality of a 320 kbs CBR MP3, but the files average around 230 kbs. I use a much lower setting (around 64 kbs VBR) for audio books that I rip.

Once you get your collection set up, it’s easy to keep it up to date by converting CDs as you acquire them. Then the fun begins. I’ve got MP3s driving my music in my living room stereo and my car, and will post the details another time.

Top Ten Technological Treasures

(Ok, Treasures may be a bit overdone, but I was looking for another “T” word!!)

As we are dealing with illness in the family this week it occurs to me just how much easier our lives are in many ways due to the advances in technology over the last century. I am very thankful for tons of little things that I know I take for granted every day but which truly do enhance and simplify our day to day life. Here are a few examples of those common graces for which I am today grateful as we here in the Horne household battle various manifestations of bronchial/upper respiratory infections:

1. A cozy, centrally-heated home despite the 22 degree temps outside
2. Disposable kleenex, diapers, wipes, and dinnerware
3. Tylenol to suit every age and body size
4. Refrigerator/freezer to keep our food fresh for many days
5. Microwave to warm leftovers
6. A wireless connection and laptop so my poor sick husband can work a bit from home
7. Antibacterial soap and Clorox wipes
8. A phone which makes communication with doctors, friends and family feasible
9. TV and computer games to help entertain and comfort sick children
10. The Blog, of course!!

New Digital Camera

We have finally replaced the durable camera I’ve used since my freshman year in college with a Canon PowerShot G2. When we put up a new album, we’ll link it with an entry here. Use the “Photos” category link to the right to access older albums.

Why blog?

Well, here it is: my first attempt at a blog. Jay has been suggesting I try setting up a web log for several months now in order to keep friends/family updated on the goings-on around here. I do spend a decent amount of time emailing and I suppose Jay figured that a blog would be a good way to add some efficiency to my time spent. Every time he would bring up the topic of a blog I had some new reason why I did not want to pursue such an activity. Over the course of the last few months I’ve come up with quite a bunch. So, here is my top ten list of reasons why not to blog.

1. So impersonal: I like to write deep, meaningful and sensitive emails to my close friends and family.
2. No time: I cannot possibly make room for one more thing in my schedule. After all, the laundry is never folded!
3. Who will want to read it?
4. Blogs are for intellectuals with wise, earth-shattering insights they need to share with others. I am a mother to three children aged three and under; my version of intellectual stimulation is learning a new song on today’s Barney show. ;-)
5. Why would I want total strangers in cyberspace to know what is going on in my life?
6. None of my friends keep blogs. (Ok, well Susan Peck took care of this one!)
7. Blogs are just generally stupid.
8. People who keep blogs update them all the time; there is no way I will be consistent enough to make frequent entries, and then my blog would look just like one more project in my life that has been left unfinished.
9. What’s with the word “blog” anyway, and who wants to be known as a “blogger”??
10. Ok, there were only nine. ;-)

Despite all my misgivings, I do hope to be able to post on here from time to time. Thanks for reading!

Speech!

I’ve been playing around with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It is really quite remarkable. After only about 5 minutes of training, it is able to track with my voice extremely accurately. I’m trying to learn to use a mix of my mouse and voice to create text very rapidly. The only trick is learning all the voice commands. Though they’re very intuitive, there are about a million of them and it is taking some time.

As you might have guessed, I “wrote” this entry with a microphone.

802.11b

802.11b rocks! I’m posting this from a friend’s house who recently added an access point. I had to bring my laptop to work on some stuff with him, and here I am, on the net using his cable modem after all of, oh, 20 seconds of setup.

UDMA

Wouldn’t you know it. DMA is not enabled in a windows operating system unless explicitly invoked for a particular drive. So my fancy ATA100 HD I bought a year ago has gained me exactly jack squat until tonight when I checked the little DMA box under its properties.

If I hadn’t been trying to capture some scenes from my dv camcorder (and failing), I may have never realized I was running at a whopping 2 MB/s… checking that box increased it well over an order of magnitude.

Blog hits

103 / 20 Dec, Thu, 2001. Good grief. The hits on my humble blog have shot up in the past three days.

I suppose that cron job I set up that started running Tuesday night is working… ;-}