see the log of songs Monday, January 26 2004[REDACTED]
As I drove around today helping various people out with their computers, I kept thinking to myself, "If they only knew what an asshole I am in a world they don't know about..." I was feeling guilty, like I had a karmic debt to pay. A consequence of this feeling was that I was unusually charitable when it came to charging for my services.
There are always unsatisfying things about the various software packages I use on a regular basis. Ideally, everything I'd use would be open source, user friendly, powerful, and extremely fast. Sometimes I have to make compromises on one of these parameters to have benefits in others. For example, I'm still willing to use a proprietary operating system (Windows) because its user interface is simply more responsive than the open source alternative (Linux). That doesn't mean I love Windows; indeed, there's a black hole in my soul where the decision to use Windows resides. But until someone fixes the problems with the Linux windowing system, this is where I am. (QNX is as faster than Windows, free for non-commercial use, and extremely stable, but it doesn't support enough applications.)
Some programs work so well that I don't even contemplate replacing them. These include Homesite, Adobe Photoshop, KaZaA Lite, and Mozilla, though of those, only Mozilla is open source.
Recently, my most problematic application has been my media player. I don't use Windows Media player at all because it is bloated and makes inefficient use of screen space. In the past I've used various versions of WinAmp, but I eventually had to abandon WinAmp 3 because of its many quirks and bugs. For a time I tried an open source media player called DelphAmp, but it crashed incessantly. The various proprietary media players had problems that made them unsuitable: RealJukebox sometimes refuses to work unless it is updated.
(I don't use any software that makes such demands.) MusicMatch looks all too much like Las Vegas, a look I've come to associate with adware, spyware, and their intrinsic unreliability. So when heard that WinAmp had come out with version 5, I downloaded it to give it a whirl. So far, I have to say I'm impressed. It runs quickly and reliably on modest hardware, and it has a feature I've been wanting every since I began listening to all my thousands of MP3s on random play: a way to see the log of songs that have been playing. This feature is essential for anyone who has unfamiliar songs in his collection and wishes to find out more about something he just heard.
Tonight I made a massive push on building a Flash component for displaying routes (and other geographical entities) superimposed on arbitrary map image files. This component reads XML data containing a map's URL, longitudes and latitudes of the map's corners, and longitudes and latitudes of a sequence of points, which it can than then connect together with lines of any color and thickness. The only limitation is that the longitudes and latitudes on the map have to be distorted into perfectly straight lines (in other words, it must be a Mercator projection) or else the plotted points will be slightly off. But since the first application for this particular component will be to show the progress of a kayak journey in equatorial Africa, latitude and longitude lines will be among the straightest of any place on Earth. For those interested, I hacked this component together from a soil temperature plotting component I'd built earlier this year for my father. To demonstrate how much the two have diverged, I hereby present them both for your inspection, along with .FLA source code and sample data: