Outstreched arm

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tangerine awakening

Tangerine is a trendy new Mac app with a simple and useful premise: generate "mood-based" iTunes playlists. This is done by analyzing the iTunes library and picking songs in the user-selected BPM and intensity ranges. If I want a rock-out or exercise playlist, I pick high BPMs and intense beats; for chill-out time, I would pick the opposite.

Most non-Mac users will mock our appreciation of nice application icons, but I honestly don't care - let me profess my love for the Tangerine icon here and now. It's superb. The app itself looks pretty swanky too, though for my taste, it mimics too many iTunes features I might as well use in iTunes (if Tangerine were, say, a plug-in instead of a standalone app). But that's not really a complaint, just a side note.

Analysis of my 3,800-song library took about an hour and a half on a PowerBook G4. That's not stellar, but it's also not like I needed that punk playlist immediately. After this I went to create my first playlist - something fast and intense, my weapon of choice for dishwashing, dusting, and other household chores. I went for a BPM range of 130-200bpm and above-average intensity. I was surprised to find only these two settings (including a distribution curve).

The results were sorely disappointing. Included were a number of scratchy 1930s jazz cuts, and some of the mellowest tracks by Tricky, Can, and Beck (trust me, they were pretty darn mellow). I pushed both the BPM and the intensity up and got similar results - while some of the tracks were what I would put in the "fast and intense" category using my cerebral analyzer, they made up 10-20% of the generated mix.

Just about the only way I was able to create playlists that matched my expectations of fast/slow and mellow/intense was by picking from one of my carefully assembled iTunes Smart playlists. Which had me wondering why I was using Tangerine at all - a quick comparison of purely random iTunes lists using a somewhat selective playlist and Tangerine playlists seeded from the same pool with the added BPM and intensity revealed no appreciable difference between the two.

Maybe I was doing something wrong. Or maybe my music library is wacky somehow. In any case I found that Tangerine, while pleasant to use, did next to nothing for me - and not because I'm not in its target market. I have dozens of Smart playlists I regularly use. They were one of the things that impressed me the most about iTunes.

Sorry, you sexy citrus - maybe next time.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Answer THIS!

The people behind BoingBoing, that directory of wonderful and kvetchy and dumb things, often let their hatred of intellectual property rights blur their vision of what makes for an interesting post. One such rant posted today complains (not without justification) about the MPAA's push-polling, but then proceeds to quote a ridiculous list of counter-questions. Check it out for yourself.

Now, I feel that IP is a legally, ethically, and even mentally very complex issue, so I don't side with either the MPAA or the free-freakin'-everything crowd. But the following "gotchas" by MattyMatt are simply dumb by any standard:

If creative ideas are owned like physical objects, just like furniture, can I buy them at Ikea?

You can buy them directly from the makers (thinkers), or packaged in another way - from iTunes, Target, Barnes & Noble... And yes, when you buy furniture from IKEA, part of your payment goes to whoever came up with the creative ideas for their furniture, as compensation for their mental work.

And is it expensive for me to think of new ideas, because I have to pay for thought-materials and thought-warehouses and thought-customer-service?

Of course! Just try thinking creatively without making an investment of research, experience, and storage devices (they could be just pen and paper, or even simply your brain, which requires tangible and costly substances to function - namely, food).

If people should be compensated for their creative works, and creative works are the same as ideas, why isn't anyone paying me for all the ideas that I have every day?

Because you usually have non-marketable ideas, or you don't market them. Nobody pays all furniture-makers for all the furniture they make either.

I wouldn't have blogged about this if it didn't scream half-assed half-wit so loudly.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ugliest DVD menu ever?

The Navigator is a genuinely original and entertaining movie coming to us from New Zealand. It's a time travel fantasy that wastes no time on paradoxes, philosophy, or cautionary messages - it uses its premise much like Stephen King did in his best days, as a springboard ex machina (King's worst moments are those in which he attempts to "tie it all together". The man is (was?) good at conveying and terrible at synthesis.)

So, given the choice between Netflixing this and making turtle soup, I recommend The Navigator wholeheartedly. Netflixing is probably the only way you'll ever get it, and when you do, do yourself a favor of clicking hastily through the menu. Or perhaps invite some friends over and have a good, bonding laugh.

Here it is:

Keep in mind, this is not some indie film student or Warhammer fan production. The DVD transfer is atrocious overall, but to create that menu took a lack of taste unmatched since the Commodore 64 couldn't do any better (if you were really lazy and could live with yourself after creating such a monstrosity).

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