Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Steve, 1999

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  • linger,

    I tried listing my Mac machines, and was shocked to realise I still have ten of them. (Almost all were second-hand; I'm a late adopter.)
    There's the SE I started writing my thesis on, and the Centris I finished it on, both still in working order (for decades-old definitions of "working");
    a black PowerBook running System 7.5 - the last surviving of three (the software was OK, but the hardware was quite another thing -- one of its forerunners went through 3 screens in as many months, and the case on this one cracks when looked at in the wrong way);
    two Wall Street model G3 laptops, which do not appreciate the yearly temperature range in Tokyo -- it's a lottery whether or not the OS will be found on startup. (They're only a year and one OS9 version apart but, irritatingly, nothing is interchangeable except the power trains);
    a G4 desktop (which shipped, in 1999, with OS9.0 and only 64MB RAM);
    a G3 iBook (ca. 2003) -- still my favourite laptop, despite mild hard-drive damage that has impaired some functions and threatens to curtail future use (the drive cannot be reformatted, the OS cannot be reinstalled, so any further damage will be fatal);
    a G4 iBook (ca.2005) -- too big and heavy to be a truly convenient portable;
    an iMac desktop in my office;
    and finally, a MacBook I got last year (solely for conference presentations, where I have to pretend to be technologically up-to-date).

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1930 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    My thoughts pretty much exactly – and frankly, even though eMusic didn’t kill my account (although no new accounts are available), its value has really become questionable. The major-label catalogues aren’t available here, and the Beggars Group catalogue disappearing altogether was a serious downer.

    Beggars is the most alert music company of any real size in the world. They’re smart and reasonable and they have an incredible roster. If eMusic couldn’t keep them in the tent, I think eMusic was getting it wrong.

    And I regard Bandcamp as nearly equivalent to buying direct from the band. It adds a lot of value for its commission – including the ability to send redemption codes to people you want to hear your record for free, so they can tell other people.

    I’m sort of torn between wanting a jazzier storefront on Bandcamp and liking the fact that it’s presented as a service, not a player.

    Tbh, if I was making music and wanted to sell it independently, I'd use Bandcamp.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    My bugbear with iTMS is that music can only be purchased at 256kbps. Not good enough for serious listening IMHO.

    I'll download an album as an audition, and if I really like it, I'll still buy the CD for the richer sound. But I'm a dinosaur.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to James Butler,

    But the core PC getting-stuff-done market still exists, and is still a significant (and, I suspect, increasing) percentage of the population; and I think it will be some time before we see a better input device than a keyboard for those uses.

    Smartphones still can't play MMOs or edit videos yet. It's probably only a matter of time though.

    And holographic UI's à la Johnny Mnemonic are already here... they're just not very practical yet.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew E, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Smartphones still can't play MMOs or edit videos yet. It's probably only a matter of time though

    You can edit a video on your iPhone. Don't know about other phones though.

    174.77 x 41.28 • Since Sep 2008 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Smartphones still can’t play MMOs or edit videos yet. It’s probably only a matter of time though.

    And yet, one of the great things about PC gaming is its hackability. It's hard to see that happening in a mobile application.

    And the iPhone 4 can edit video to some degree.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    I filmed an awful lot of video on the iPad at the last party. The only thing stopping me from editing it on the iPad is how awful my singing is. Video editing on iOS is delightfully easy, though.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite,

    If it matters (or even if it doesn’t, and the fact that it doesn’t, but people act as if it does, which is often the point of their satire, but I digress…), The Onion has something to say about it. Apple will survive or not based on the culture that it has engendered.

    I’m not an early adopter myself, and often think of computers as ‘bureaucracy in a box’: No. Not today. We’re closed. Someone’s on sick leave. You submitted a form that was the wrong shade of green (this happened to me for real at Massey McUniversity), we lost the paperwork. You have not followed the correct procedure and all of the information has been lost – was it important?… and so on.

    PCs, Windoze? Bah, I’d rather have HAL 9000. For all rather rigid methods of Apple’s interfaces, their devotion to making things work more or less how actual people might want to use things and even the haptics of their keyboards make them the choice for me.

    Again, I hope that the culture that does that endures.

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 982 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    I've just got home from TechEd (drinking the microsoft kool aid). I was twittering in the front row of a demo of Win7 slates, tablets & skinny lappies when the news about Jobs hit the wires.

    About 25 mins later, the two Microsofters doing the demo showed some device off by bringing up a live news feed - big headline "Steve Jobs Retires". The demo stopped absolutely dead for seconds on end as they processed that, then they said something to the effect of they hoped he was alright and wished him the best. Then they carried on comparing their hardware to iPads and macbooks without mentioning ipads and macbooks.

    The samsung skinny lappie was nice though, and the rugged tablet was impressive as the bloke threw it roughly to the floor.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Andrew E,

    According to XKCD, you wouldn't be far off the pace if you did choose that as your password.

    That meme has been going around for a while now. It sounds attractive, but it's not actually true - if you think of the individual words as units (which dictionary attacks allow) then the security of a string of words is pretty low, especially considering most people's active vocabulary (well under 40,000 words, and picking words that aren't part of your vocabulary defeats the purpose.)

    A much safer tactic is something like picking the first letter of every word in the verse of a song you know well - it produces what is essentially a random* string of letters up to 30-40 characters long, and it's easily memorable. Chuck in a couple of numbers and capitals, and you're good.

    All that said, it depends what you're using the password for; your bank account is a lot more of a concern than a news website, as long as you're not reusing the same password everywhere, which is probably the real main password security concern.

    *Not actually random, because fewer letters start words, and languages have recognisable word patterns, but not the sort of non-random that's easy to discern.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew E, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    That meme has been going around for a while now. It sounds attractive, but it's not actually true

    I'll take your word for it. I use a different method myself.

    174.77 x 41.28 • Since Sep 2008 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    A polyglot's question: If the words in the 'random' string were each from a different language, with preferably each language unrelated, would that beat, or at least delay, the dictionary attacks?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    A polyglot's question: If the words in the 'random' string were each from a different language, with preferably each language unrelated, would that beat, or at least delay, the dictionary attacks?

    Oh, sure. The more languages you use, the more difficult it gets. English has a large enough vocab that if you picked from the entire available vocabulary - which is more like 100,000 words - it'd be much more secure. If you picked, say, one word from Tagalog, Fijian, Swahili, and Russian, it wouldn't be cracked quickly. (And quick cracking does require a guess that this is the method you're using.)

    But the whole premise behind the method is that it creates passwords that are easy to remember while still being secure. Using multiple languages or really obscure words, unless you're a polyglot and/or have an excellent memory, takes you right back to the original problem - secure password, hell to remember.

    In all honesty, there are multiple methods of creating secure passwords and the trick is to pick the one that works for *your* memory. This one is just not as secure as presented, for the method presented.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Simon Bennett,

    I’ll still buy the CD for the richer sound.

    There's this nifty device if you have an outboard DAC as part of your music setup. To listen to other music stored on your computer.
    I hope your not using the headphone out to connect to a stereo. At least buy a usb adapter.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett, in reply to andin,

    I'm using an Apple TV synced with my laptop to play music through the stereo via RCA leads. Therein probably lies part of the problem - the DAC in the Apple TV is probably pretty rudimentary.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Simon Bennett,

    the DAC in the Apple TV

    If you can afford it...They're too not expensive
    one of these ...they're highly thought of, for a "blue collar" DAC.
    Or if you know someone handy with a soldering iron I use one of these

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Graham, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    That meme has been going around for a while now. It sounds attractive, but it’s not actually true – if you think of the individual words as units (which dictionary attacks allow) then the security of a string of words is pretty low, especially considering most people’s active vocabulary (well under 40,000 words

    If you choose a five word password from a 40,000 word vocabulary you get ~10^23 total passwords. To get the same security from an ascii password you'd have to have to remember 12 random characters.

    Using random words as a password works better than random characters because people are better at remembering a sequence of random words than a sequence of random characters.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2011 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to andin,

    the DAC in the Apple TV

    If you can afford it…They’re too not expensive
    one of these …they’re highly thought of, for a “blue collar” DAC.
    Or if you know someone handy with a soldering iron I use one of these

    Why isn’t there an entry-level DAC that’s iPod-ready – i.e., an iPod dock with a third-party DAC? That would be good.

    Although I must say, my HDMI Apple TV seems to pass on a good signal to the home theatre receiver if I play my iTunes library throughout it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    nglish has a large enough vocab that if you picked from the entire available vocabulary – which is more like 100,000 word

    Not sure what is meant by "entire available vocabulary."
    Words recorded as being part of English top 1 million (a great number being archaic, dialectual, or specialist terminology.)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Apropos passwords that comprise sequences of real words -- I confess I do that. But I punctuate and use numbers.

    I think something like this:

    Goodness! Swiddening 5 hilltops causes Weltschmerz?

    draws on a pretty big search space.

    I used "swiddening" because it's a word I learned yesterday. I do think that's a reason why working vocabulary limits aren't the problem Lucy thinks they might be. I see no reason why I'll ever use "swiddening" more than once a decade, but it's now a VERY memorable word for me.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to andin,

    If you can afford it…They’re too not expensive one of these …they’re highly thought of, for a “blue collar” DAC.Or if you know someone handy with a soldering iron I use one of these

    And I use one of These
    The Apacer AL670 a snip at less than $100, all your stuff in any room over Cat5.
    Admittedly I use in most for video but the audio is superb to my old ears but then I think any digital file sounds better than those round black plastic things that came in cardboard envelopes.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Russell Brown,

    my HDMI Apple TV seems to pass on a good signal

    I love dem radio waves… but me, I no need it. Small space ‘n all. We’re talking radio and stuff right. HDMI differen plugs of course but I wasnt going to go there.
    And if you got a DAC you could put it after the radio receiver on the stereo?
    Or is it decoded to analogue by then already. Im sure there are ipod, other than apple, DAC’s.
    Not on my radar but I’ll have a look now.

    but the audio is superb to my old ears

    Haha ears age dont they!
    Tho’ I hope I havent blended all sounds together wherever I go. Not that I think anyone does, you understand. One day I may hear what you listen too. Or with more detail of the medium… I could quiz you relentlessly.
    Dont leave out the inner sleeve….

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to andin,

    Dont leave out the inner sleeve….

    And always get the optional plastic cover to protect the artwork when assembling one of these.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Peter Graham,

    If you choose a five word password from a 40,000 word vocabulary you get ~10^23 total passwords. To get the same security from an ascii password you’d have to have to remember 12 random characters.

    Using random words as a password works better than random characters because people are better at remembering a sequence of random words than a sequence of random characters.

    Which would work, if the average person had a 40,000 word vocabulary. They don’t. Most people use well under 10,000 words on a regular basis, and then we’re back to the whole remembering words you aren’t familiar with thing, and the ease-of-use is gone.

    And then you get the real danger, which is the thought “I have a super secret password, I’ll just use it on everything!” In a lot of ways password re-use is actually the biggest problem, arguing about levels of entropy is just rearranging the deck-chairs. Having the most secure password in the entire world is worthless if the website you use it on is selling user credentials, or your computer is compromised.

    I used “swiddening” because it’s a word I learned yesterday. I do think that’s a reason why working vocabulary limits aren’t the problem Lucy thinks they might be. I see no reason why I’ll ever use “swiddening” more than once a decade, but it’s now a VERY memorable word for me.

    But let’s be realistic – you’re hardly likely to be an average person in terms of either common vocabulary or memory. And can you remember a different sentence like that for every important website you have a password for?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Sir are you suggesting I listen to music stoned!
    Oh Ok then.
    Exeter swede anyone……..?

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

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