21 July 2010

Return of the Tech Weblog

A recent incident involving a hacker on Deviantart (and the journal entry I wrote regarding that matter) has got me thinking about computers, so I just want to give a brief overview of computers as they pertain to me, my daily life, and my various creative activities.

*I hate computers. I really do. I'm not even being ironic. It may seem ironic given I use one near-daily, I've built at least two and performed upgrades on at least two others, not to mention also learning the three main operating systems of Mac, Windows, and Debian-based Linux. My favorite line from the Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who is always, "I hate computers and refuse to be bullied by them!" hence my apparent immersion and relatively extensive know-how of them.

*I do not own a laptop, and I probably never will. The biggest reason for this is essentially two-fold: the cost and what I get for said cost. Desktops can be upgraded essentially forever; every component can be swapped out and upgraded, the only major headache being either the processor (which typically requires swapping out the whole motherboard) or the case (in which everything gets moved around). In the end, laptops sacrifice viability for portability, which is a bit detrimental to me because of the video and audio editing I like to do. I have edited a few short films on my Dad's old Vaio in the past, but it doesn't exactly suit them all the same.

*Another reason I won't get a laptop is, because of said lack of versatility and viability, the things I would do with a laptop can (and have been) approximated by the various mobile devices I've used, especially my old Blackberry. Reading e-mails, Instant Messaging, simple web-browsing, and updating weblogs can all be done with any decent smartphone capable of running a mobile version of Opera. Hell, I even used to use my PSP's wi-fi to update my old Yahoo!360 page once upon a time. I get a little sickened by people's dependency on their laptops, the way they take them virtually everywhere and ask it to do damn near everything for them. I figure, "I've already got an assortment of devices like a cell phone, a few cameras, and quite a few digital voice recorders that a laptop would be bulky and inefficient versus a few dedicated devices." It's a meditation on the whole philosophy of never doing two things at once because one will never do justice to either. Why learn Audacity or Pro Tools when Tascam makes the PortaStudio?

*The cost thing is a bit of a lie because I currently have two desktops with a third in a kind of limbo. It's a bit of a long story, the short version of which is I have a computer I bought when I graduated college in 2005 (named Pres), a computer I built last year as a project to build a small, cheap computer (named Sophia), and a computer a friend of the family gave to my roommate to use while I built her a gaming rig. The temporary computer (named Big Black) used while I selected parts for the gaming rig (named Big Blue) is presently in pieces on an entertainment center's lower shelf due to what can best be described as a "cursed case," one that ventilates poorly and holds up to being turned off and on about half as well. Still, it's light-years ahead of Pres (which has recently developed a weird habit of randomly resetting itself for no apparent reason), and all it really needs is a good case, which I'm still shopping for. I've got a thing against towers and wanted to get one of those Home Theater PC cases that lies flat and looks like something you put on an entertainment center next to your various game consoles. The one I got, unfortunately, did not allow me to use the original power supply and the graphics card at the same time, which went totally against my intention, so the case had to be sent back and the parts returned to the shelf.

*I am platform agnostic, though I predominantly use Windows. I grew up in a Mac household, however, and used an iMac all through college. I learned to use Windows machines through school and my Dad's office. I got used to how both systems work and learned Linux about a year ago by dual-booting Ubuntu on Pres and equipping Sophia with Linux Mint exclusively. Despite these various exposures, I have ultimately found myself leaning towards the Windows side of things for a small handful of reasons:
1) Windows XP fixed every complaint I ever had about 95/98.
2) Mac OS is a good operating system with a lot of really good applications. The problem is it's wedded to the hardware and the hardware is overpriced, over-engineered, and borderline inaccessible to even the most skilled modder.
3) Linux is good, but fundamentally flawed in that, because everything is produced gratis by volunteers outside the big businesses, there's no quality assurance of any kind and, despite Linux being around for over 20 years, it has yet to offer a video editing application that can rise to the level of iMovie or MovieMaker.
Of course, there have been a few changes, but nothing particularly optimistic:
A) Vista and 7 are a joke and unnecessary, respectively, and I'm almost convinced Microsoft is sabotaging XP through updates as part of some planned obsolescence paradigm.
B) I've been reading more and more about Hackintoshes and companies like Psystar, but everything is a gamble and Apple is defending its "hardware/software" marriage with a rabid fervor that betrays their otherwise friendly image.
C) I did learn recently that Blender, a 3D animation program, actually has a rather good video editing component that's gone strangely unheralded by Linux users who otherwise insist on programs like KinoDV or KDEnLive.

I've probably re-tread more old ground than new, but hopefully it's shed some light on some of my computer habits, especially regarding laptops, which quite a few people like to ask me about as they think it's rather strange I've never owned one and don't care all that much for them.

Okay, now it's time for bed. I'm not going to bother reading over this again, so it's probably full of typos and run-on sentences and maybe even a few fragments.

11 July 2010

Old YouTube Wound Re-Opened... and then some

So, apparently America's Got Talent is in season. I don't watch television and I'm not really one to keep up with trends, but I know the show is on because YouTube is once again flooded with everyone and their dog's favorite clips, nevermind that NBC has a YouTube channel in addition to streaming available through NBC.com and Hulu. I've always found this very annoying, and for a time I thought it was simply because it leads to my roommate tapping me on the shoulder every few minutes to get me to look at something. However, I've come to realize this time around that my problem with the whole affair isn't so much with people reposting clips, effectively wasting bandwidth with redundant data, but with the show's format. Reality television, in general, is well-known for hardly living up to its name; between casting and editing, the producers of the show are showing the audience exactly what they are intended to see, regardless of the entrants' actual talents. It's almost a perfect echo of the old MTV criticism of having to look good without necessarily sounding good. Finding talent and creating an entertaining television show are not always one in the same goal. Bad acts get to go on to further performances for their audacity and good acts get the ax for their banality.

*Prince Poppycock is a very good opera singer (in fact, he's probably my favorite act), but I can't help but feel like he wouldn't have even gotten past the cattle calls (the auditions that take place before they get to perform for the celebrity judges) without his flamboyancy.

*At times, it feels like the judges want the contestants to beg for their own audition. Q: Why should we give you a place? A: (through tears) This means everything to us.

*The show sidelines its own contestants by occasionally cutting to their host in the wings. Showing the other contestants at least offers something of interest. Either way, it's upstaging, whether the contestants-in-the-wings are the type or not.

*I know these performers aren't necessarily actors, but between their pre-show interviews and backstage chatter, I'm convinced they couldn't sound more rehearsed if they had a dialogue coach who specialized in "Ham."

Conclusion: Cruelty. The entire show is a grand, epic-scale lesson, study, experiment, and meditation on cruelty. I don't want to elaborate on what exactly I mean by cruelty, except to say that I feel like a lofty and pretentious wastrel for every critical thought that passes through my mind as I watch these people be manipulated for the vague promise of fame that is just as likely to backfire as it is to bear no fruit. I really and truly hope each and every one of those contestants thinks it is all worth it, because I don't think I would.