I've wittered on about the difficulty of finding the ideal digital music player before, though I'm too lazy to find the link. I recently picked up a cheap 8Gig refurbed player since it was on offer, and the headphone connector on my current model is going again. Unlike the various models that I've owned previously, this one is based on ID3 tags.

Who thinks that this is a good idea? Even assuming that you have got your entire music collection all tagged up nicely via CDDB or similar resource, how is that any way to navigate your files? The whole folders approach has worked reasonably well on computers for the last few decades. It gives a nice flexibility for people to arrange things how they like, according to whatever idiosyncratic hierarchy and arrangement happens to appeal to them. In particular, it's particularly terrible when it comes to audiobooks and radio recordings: I want to listen to one of these at a time. But under the tag system, it's just horrible to navigate through these. Not least because the tags on these things are inevitably buggered, and it doesn't seem worth the fuss to try to fix them.

So I'm not all that thrilled with ID3 tag browsing. Unless anyone can suggest a sensible way to get them to behave, I think I'll stick to file browsing in future.


The internet alphabet

If you have a copy of Firefox, it comes with a google search bar built in. Start typing in this search bar, and "suggestions" pop up -- presumably, the first of these is the most frequent. This changes over time. I didn't pay much attention to this, until I started typing something beginning with 's', and the first suggestion was "Sarah Palin". That's scary. So, here is the "Internet Alphabet" of top suggestions for each letter. Your results may vary based on country, time, history, and other randomness.

A is for Amazon
B is for Bebo
C is for Craigslist
D is for Dictionary
E is for Ebay
F is for Facebook
G is for Google
H is for Hotmail
I is for IMDB
J is for Jennifer Hudson
K is for Kelly Blue Book
L is for Limewire
M is for MySpace
N is for Next
O is for Obama
P is for Photobucket
Q is for Quotes
R is for Runescape
S is for Sarah Palin
T is for Target
U is for utube
V is for Verizon Wireless
W is for Wikipedia
X is for X Factor
Y is for YouTube
Z is for Zip Codes


Van Buren!

I noticed that since Monday evening, I've been getting lots of hits on "Van Buren" "Lowest place in hell". I think it's because at about that time Dorris Kearns-Goodwin sang a little snatch of that song. (Hulu embed probably doesn't work outside the US Empire).

So, yeah, here's where you can get the lyrics, and find out how to get hold of a copy.

More PDF font embedding hijinks

I've complained bitterly before about the stupid requirement of many publishers (IEEE, ACM) to embed all fonts in a PDF document -- including the "base fonts", which any compliant reader must be able to render. Because of this, it's actually quite hard to persuade many pieces of software to embed base fonts, because, why would you ever need to do this? This can lead to quite a stalemate, and a lot of frustration.

I had a nice system all working, but in my latest work I've been using Gnuplot with the PDF terminal. This outputs directly to PDF, and avoids a bug in Gnuplot when generating bar charts. All well and good, except that the resultant PDF does not embed the base fonts. And there's virtually no documentation on the Gnuplot PDF terminal, certainly nothing that talks about this.

So, after a lot of frustration and swearing, I came up with the following ugly hack: run the pdf through gnuplot ghostscript with the pre-press option, and output to pdf. Here's the command line I came up with, though it might be more complex than it needs to be:

gs -q -dSAFER -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=tmp.pdf -dCompatibilityLevel=1.3 -dPDFSETTINGS=/prepress -c .setpdfwrite -f $1

Where $1 is the name of the input file, and tmp.pdf is the name of the output.

The ironically named "PDF Express" system has yet to verify that the resulting compiled file does the necessary thing, but I'm reasonably confident that it will work now.


Things that continue to annoy me

People who use "epsfig". It's 2008, folks! Use \includegraphics, for goodness sake.


Abs' Hen Party

More from the "mail sent to my email account that was clearly intended for someone else" file. Today's missive seems to concern the planning for a party for some hens, or chickens, or something. Anyway, here it is in case the proper recipient happens to be reading:

Abs' hen party December 6 2008

Hi everyone

Just an update on the hen party front - at this stage we're thinking the day
(Saturday December 6) will go something like this:

Afternoon ice skating at Somerset House (with mulled wine first)

Drinks then dinner at a private room - venue to be decided. We'll make sure
there's somewhere for us to get changed out of our skating threads.

Dancing at the Pigalle Club near Piccadilly, there will be a show and then
live music all night long. It's meant to be loads of fun and we'll all need
to dress up 50s-style!

Remember, all of this is a big secret from the hen!

If you could all let me know asap whether you can make it, and if you would
like to come for the whole thing or only certain parts let me know too, as
we'll need to book and buy tickets etc quite soon.

I'll get back to you with costs etc before locking anything in.

Looking forward to it! Sophie and Hannah xx