Blather | Thursday, August 18th, 2011 | 3 years, 1 month ago

I sure miss blogging.

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Don’t be that guy

Writing | Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 | 4 years, 5 months ago

So yeah, you know how back in high school you had a good friend with whom you hung out with all the time and you could always rely on for a ride to the mall or to go mini-golfing?  And one day that friend found a boy or girlfriend and suddenly became as scarce as a prawn in the Sahara?  And you hated that friend for it?  And a couple of years later you did the exact same thing to your friends?

That’d be me, the fairweather friend.  My blog is my longtime buddy.  Twitter is “that chick I met at Sam the Record Man“.

A couple of my favourite bloggers (namely Shawn Elliott and Jeff Green) all but abandoned their blogs in lieu of Twitter’s seductive brevity.  These two are professional writers, tasked with filling pages with prolific verbiage on a strict deadline, who so enjoyed their craft that their cups runneth over into blog form; a haven where they cast away any shackles of limitation imposed by their respective professional voices.  Like any of us, some of what they’d post was pap, and some of it was self-righteous, but these are personalities I’ve grown to respect and so I actively seek out their opinions whether or not I expect to agree with them.  What’s significant is that they took the time to flesh out their musings into cohesive works, providing proofs and counterpoints and purple prose to papier-maché it all together into something complete and cohesive.

So what are these things, blogging and twittering?  Why does it matter which medium we choose to express ourselves?

I’ve blogged before on this topic, before the advent of Twitter.  ‘Twas a simpler time where if you had something to say, you’d create a blog and weave your verbal tapestry in your personal segregated vacuum. Or you wouldn’t.  I stand by my comments from 3 years ago that there is no right or wrong way to blog, and that creative diversity only strengthens and validates the medium.

Between blogging and twittering there are internet forums.  You’d sign up on a message board and chisel out your notoriety into an existing community, coaxing responses from other opinionated souls, surprising no one with your philosophical rigidity.  This all takes place in the public eye, or in a walled garden, but your comments are intended to be read and replied to directly.  A message board is someone else’s domain where you must abide by their rules if you want to remain welcome.

So then, Twitter.  What is it?  What isn’t it?

Maybe a more important question is, if I resent it why did I succumb to trying it?  Hell, I don’t know.  Morbid fascination?  I think I wanted to tour that elephant graveyard where my favourite bloggers went to die.

In my dabbling I’ve found Twitter to be rather infectious.  I described it once as being akin to “IMing nobody”.  If I chance upon something amusing on the web and I think to myself “I’d love to show this to… oh, he’s not online..” there’s always good ol’ Twitter to field my input.  That’s how it started – as little more than a repository for my bookmarks.  Those sneaky bastards at Twitter just knew that this would be the gateway drug.  What allows Twitter to transcend this meagre description is the ability to add just a few short words along with your hyperlinks, elevating mere parroting of references to the merest opportunity for commentary; for personality.

It’s through this tiny opportunity that I’ve been motivated to reach out to other Twitterers (I prefer to refer to us as “twats”, though it’s not catching on). Despite my (probably true) preconceptions about people who use social media services like these, I’ve chanced upon some nice, well-spoken people whose interests overlap heavily with my own.  Goodness help me, I’ve even *interacted* with these people – VERBALLY – and sometimes they even wrote me back!

Who knows what could come of such a concept!  Friendship?  Isn’t that the thing where you can amicably exchange ideas with another warm body and be satisfied to do it again some time?

As much as I felt like a lost fry in a convulsing concerto of a trillion glimmering minnows, I decided to press my luck and follow (née subscribe) a few of my respected celebrity idols (Douglas Coupland, Introversion Games, and Jonathan Mak, to name a few).  Lo and behold, I enjoy having these people’s musings delivered to me!  Sometimes I’ll brave traipsing the frozen Twitter pond and, be still my heart, actually get a reply from one of these incandescent stars!

But I digress.  I’m a selfish sod and so I tweet to my own selfish ends.  I tweet for me, and Twitter is the tool du jour for the modern publishing narcissist.

Here’s how it boils down.

I love blogging.  Doing so for the first time in 2 months reminds me of this undeniable truth.  However, I’m lazy and disorganized.  Many times I’ll find myself out in the unincorporated hinterlands of AFK, and an idea will feign formulation.  “Why, I ought to blog about that,” says I to meself.  Never happens.  Either I haven’t got enough to say about it or the fleeting figment has flitted by the time I find myself in front of a keyboard.

Not so with Twitter.  I think, I tweet, I’m done.  No proofs, no counterpoints, no purple prose.  Just the facts, ma’am.

Should another soul chance upon my tweets, all the merrier.  I’ll admit to being delighted to having as many as 8 followers, but those coattail riders will bear the brunt of my honesty because I’m tweetin’ for one.

Check me out or don’t, but try it out yourself.  Twitter is pretty damn great.  It’s no replacement for blogging (as Shawn Elliott and Jeff Green would also attest, as they do still blog intermittently), but it’s a hearty supplement for when you’re peckish for prose between blog meals.


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Going from gargle to warble

Music | Saturday, February 6th, 2010 | 4 years, 7 months ago

I got an email from Good Old Games advertising a well-beloved old Sierra game of mine, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.  I’ve played all the way through this game several times and have even read the novelization, so a little reminder is as much coaxing I need to give this gem another play-through.

This game, as much as any other Sierra game, deserves to be explored thoroughly and slowly.  Every line of dialogue yearns to be heard; every object and cranny begs to be inspected.  No less important, the wonderful soundtrack deserves to be orchestrated with the finest clarity one can bestow.

That’s why I set out to look for a nice soundfont – a bank of MIDI instruments of a higher quality than the paltry one that comes with Windows 7.

The nicest I’ve found so far, with the best compatibility for DOS games, is this General MIDI soundfont by David Shan.  It’s about 250MB unzipped and likely requires a fancier soundcard than an onboard Realtek.  My Creative X-Fi Titanium does the trick nicely.

Unfortunately, getting this sucker installed and applied was no easy task.

After first downloading the above soundfont to a permanent location on my hard drive, I downloaded and installed the Creative Soundfont Bank Manager (which probably only works on Creative sound cards).  I then increased the cache to 250MB and changed the mode to static since I have 4GB of RAM to play with.

soundfontbankmanagercacheI then clicked the Bank button, navigated to the soundfont file, and applied.  Using the virtual piano in the application I immediately heard the improved sounds of the new soundfont.

soundfontbankmanager Unfortunately I couldn’t get the new soundfont to work in Windows, as was evidenced by my attempts to play MIDI files in Windows Media Player.  My reference song, chosen for its instruments and its overall cheesiness, is All That She Wants by Ace of Base.

It seems Microsoft, in all its wisdom, removed the MIDI Mapper from Windows versions Vista and up.  The MIDI Mapper was the application that allowed you to choose which device you wanted to play MIDI songs with.  I couldn’t find this option in the Creative Soundfont Bank Manager, nor anywhere else in Windows 7.  A few Bing searches directed me to this page which appeared to host the precise solution I was looking for: a Windows Control Panel module that mimicked the old MIDI Mapper.

Here’s an alternative download for the Putzlowitschs Vista-MIDIMapper utility, hosted on my server, in case the original goes down.  This is a binary file which seems to work for me, but I can’t attest to whether it is a secure or safe file.

I saved this file to my desktop and double-clicked it which brought up the window you see in the screenshot below.


I chose Synth A, which is the synth I had mapped the David Shan soundfont to, clicked Apply, and loaded up my Ace of Base reference file.  Here are samples of what I heard:

default MS GS Wavetable Synth:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

David Shan General MIDI soundfont bank:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The Gabriel Knight soundtrack never sounded so good.  The unfortunate side-effect is that the sharp music stands in stark contrast with the decidedly low-fi voiceover recordings.

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