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September 1st, 2004

There are a lot of different music formats drifting around on the net, mainly developed to get around the patent encumbrance of MP3 - though some are designed to offer lossless compression, and can deliver excellent quality.

One of the more common formats is Musepack's derivative of MP2, MPC. While there are player plug-ins for XMMS and WinAmp, my regular player iTunes doesn't support MPC. I recently needed to convert a selection of MPC files to MP3, and had some difficulty tracking down an appropriate tool. After a while I came across Foobar 2000, which supports many of the more obscure formats - and (with the addition of a copy of LAME) will quickly and cleanly converth them to MP3, automatically transferring tagging information. It may not have the best UI of any music tool, but it certainly does exactly what I wanted.

It's a tool that turns what was a pig of a task, involving crafting command lines for Musepack's tools and moving from MPC to WAV and then to MP3 into a single click of the mouse.

Highly recommended. A Ronseal tool if there ever was one!

HHGTTG Game to be on BBC web site...

The BBC is going to put an updated and illustrated version of the classic Infocom Hitch-hikers game on their web site - illustrated by the man who did the graphics for the TV series...

Rar!

Neat new toy...

Yesterday I finally gave into temptation and bought myself an Emtac Bluetooth GPS.



I've already got it working with MapPoint on the new tablet (so that'll be fun for San Francisco next week). I'm very impressed with the Toshiba Bluetooth utilities, which made connecting the GPS trivial. I just had to remember the default passkey for Emtac GPS systems - it's 0183 if I ever forget in the future!

The next task is to get it working with my iPaq - at least when it's not using the iPaq's power supply!
Here are my notes from Paula Ledieu's talk on the Creative Archive at Euro Foo 2004.

There's a dilemma for the BBC and content creators. While this move by BBC is seen as a threat it is not one to be dismissed lightly, it highlights a range of issues in the relationship between independent producers and the BBC.

While the currently BBC has limited rights over independent content, this is nowhere near what the Creative Archives need - especially as the trend is for BBC to have less and less rights. This is completely in the opposite direction of what is needed.

The Creative Archive wants all nights in perpetuity, and this should also include the associated moral rights, as it is intended to be the fuel for its users' own creative endeavours.

This is part of a shift in the BBC's role from that of broadcaster to content maker. This shift implies a change in relationship, with the charter a useful tool here...

In the charter is a clause that the BBC will provide access to its archives... This is difficult for the BBC to do sustainably, but the development of peer to peer distribution tools has given the BBC the key to delivery.

It's important to note that there will be no DRM in the Creative Archive. This means that there is a lot of thinking about the licence model. As creative licences are the key to the use of the Archive, it's not surprising that there is work ongoing with Creative Commons and other similar organisations.

Metadata is going to be important, and the BBC's priorities for metadata are at the very least to make it usable and to encourage returns. The aim is that content created from the Archives should return to the archives...
       
The first content is due to be released in October 2004.

The joy of Moth!

Four pairs of catseyes.
Four swishing tails beat wild time.
Moth loose in the hall.

Scene from an unwritten space opera

The roiling plasmas of the photosphere hid our ship from the Endtimer's. We weren't ready for this, fighting a guerilla war in the hot, hot fringes of a dying star. One miscalculation, one misstep and we would be lost.

Both our ship and the Endtimer were bundles of nano wrapped in miles-thick balls of ice, artificial comets tethered to the coolness of space by the radiant cord of laser beams. Refrigerated by lines of light, we danced a dance of death in the heat of the sun. Our lifelines were our chief weapons, venting our heat into the sun's - while aiming to overwhelm our enemy's cooling systems. Sailing the contorted magnetic fields around a sun spot the size of a world, we rose and fell, bobbing up and down, trying to catch a glimpse of the Endtimer vessel in the angry gases that surrounded us both.

It was a deadly game of hide and seek, a game where position mattered more than anything.

A matter of weeks ago we'd been nothing more than a scientific expedition. Then our transcendent Superbright friends had asked us to examine something for them. We'd come in from the coolness of the outer system, chasing what they described as a transient event, a hole in space time. We'd thought it was only another anomaly, a wonder in a galaxy full of wonders, a puzzle for their endless explorations.

We were wrong, and now we were fighting for our lives.

[A semi-dream I've been having for the last few weeks, as I drop off to sleep. It's a picture of silver globes in the hot fringes of a red-giant star, ducking and diving as they try to find just the right place to meet - or to gain advantage in a long slow battle. I have a feeling it follows on from a piece I posted a while back, but it gives me an opportunity to put a human viewpoint into a story that's about a war between gods for the future of the universe.]