I've been very busy with work lately (a contract with a fairly short schedule and a lot of work) and a squeezing in bit of music around the edges of work. I'm in two bands that are making good progress and I expect that it'll only be a few weeks more before at least one is performing a full set.
I've also been trying to figure out what to do on the techie work side after this contract ends. I though it was going to last all summer but it turned out to be a 2 week gig, which ends in the next couple of days (depending on when I get all the bugs squashed). I've been talking to a number of companies, from household names to small companies, startups to staffing companies. Day by day it becomes more obvious that a full time job with a commute and a salary and a cubicle would really get in the way of music. So, I'm going to try the opposite, which is really not that far from what I'm doing now: freelancing. Since late 2002 I've been a part time contractor, but for only one company at a time and with an indefinite contract each time.
Does it count as freelancing if you work for only one client for two years? I don't think so, because there's no business development, and marketing, and networking, and handing out of business cards, and lurking in online communities trying to find work, in what I've been doing. I'm going to have to start doing that. I have a bunch of very exciting (to me, anyway) ideas for how to be successful as a freelancer so I'm eager to get started when my current contract runs out.
I just got a MacBook Pro on the 15th. I needed it (or some kind of PC capable of running Windows at a reasonable pace) in order to do my current contract and to do some of the stuff I hope to do as a freelancer, as many of the tools are Windows-only. (The rackmounted PC server I had used previously was just too annoying and loud for me to want to keep using it.)
Performance is excellent on x86 apps like Firefox, Thunderbird, and all the built-in stuff. Parallels Desktop is at least as polished as Virtual PC or VMWare Workstation 4.0, and works just fine. The difference of course is that it's running Intel code (a bunch of developer applications on top of Windows XP, in my case) on a smokin' fast Intel processor, so it's hella fast. It's the fastest PC I've ever used; it's definitely faster than the 1.5GHz P4 desktop I used at Planitax, and I only told Parallels to give it 128MB of RAM. The Core Duo processor is just a beast. The best part is that it can be running the PalmOS Simulator (which has a 68K emulator in it) and the other development tools I'm using inside Parallels, and I can be watching a DVD and have a couple dozen applications open on the Mac side, and it's still super fast, and has idle CPU cycles left over. Parallels doesn't clobber the machine for any other uses when you're running it, unlike VirtualPC.
Photoshop is fast enough; here's a benchmark: MacBook Pro Photoshop benchmarks. If you use Photoshop all day on a quad G5, you will be disappointed by Photoshop CS2 performance under Rosetta. If you have a 1.33 GHz G4 laptop as I did, it's hard to tell the difference in performance without running a benchmark and busting out a calculator. I forget who said it, but they were right: with computer performance, what matters is factors (2x faster, 5x slower, etc.), not fractions (15% higher frame rate running Unreal or whatever). Maybe it's 30% slower, who cares? Everything else is shockingly faster. Safari launches in a half second, for cryin' out loud, and Firefox takes about one and a half seconds. I mean, damn that's a lot faster than my old 12" PB G4.
Rosetta is entirely unlike using VirtualPC. It's seamless and stuff is quite fast - just not any faster than it was on my old laptop. I use Photoshop, Palm Desktop, Chmox, and Sibelius which are all PowerPC applications that use Rosetta and they're fine.
The only thing that wasn't fine was Eclipse. It uses a PowerPC native library that is linked to the Java VM (an x86 application) so it fails to launch and complains with a hideously cryptic error message. Fortunately Google is great with hideously cryptic error messages so I found the solution:
How to get Eclipse 3.1.2 working on an Intel Mac:
(Fix found in comment #45 of this Eclipse bug)
Rumor has it that there are some "whining" issues with the MacBook Pro and that it runs really hot. Yeah, it's pretty hot, but no whining so far. I'm very happy with it and with the fact that I don't have to use VirtualPC (or Remote Desktop client to a real PC) anymore. (If you have a white MacBook with the commonly bemoaned discoloration problem, try this tip.)
Awesomely super cool: Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006. (via Shawn) I recompressed this mofo with iSquint and it's on my new (bundled with the MBP at a discount) iPod now. iSquint has successfully recompressed everything I've thrown at it. Love it.
My rebuttal to In Offense of Classical Music:
Cute: Scuba diving cat (video).
Flippin' round the dial and what did I see? Gnarls Barkley on the 2006 MTV Movie Awards in a live Star Wars themed performance. Awesome. YouTube has the video. Here's a music video version that looks really amazing.
Also on the MTV Movie Awards: Samuel L Jackson is optimistic about Snakes on a Plane (video).
Apparently, Microsoft blogger and all-around defender of the faith (we're not perfect but here are 10,000 awesome things we're doing that nobody gives us enough credit for etc. etc.) Robert Scoble is leaving Microsoft.
City CarShare has phased out the original Beetles for various new cars. My opinion on each:
Last week we went to the Skip Interaction launch party (they're my current contract employer; I did the PalmOS port of their mobile client this spring). It was a beautiful day, and I had optimistically reserved a MINI Cooper Convertible for the event, which worked out really well. The party was fun, we met nice people from Skip who I hadn't ever met in person, we had a good time, we saw Metropolis while hearing music selected by Pandora, and then we went to Ritual Coffee Roasters for the book release party of the updated version of The Coffee Book, by Greg Dicum. (Greg was Kim's manager at iSyndicate and is the organizer of the annual Halloween Castro Scarevenger hunt.) Friend and former co-worker Shawn joined us. It was a good time. I think I caught some kind of cold or something because between the long day (with mega caffeine intake) and a strange tickle in my throat, I was absolutely exhausted all day Friday. Kim said she had a similar mysterious sense of slightly feeling sick but being really tired. I think we both were sleep-deprived (possibly due to too much coffee late at night and staying up too late the previous night) and didn't notice it until the caffeine wore off, so we were probably both more susceptible to germs. It's bad to be a caffeine junkie anyway. So over the last week I've backed off of caffeine a lot. I've had decaf only, except for one time this week. When you bury it in a (vanilla soy) latte, I can't taste the difference between decaf and regular coffee anyway. And my new discovery now that I'm not drinking mochas anymore is that brown sugar totally rules for sweetening a latte. Love it. I got Kim hooked on it too, which I'm not sure is a good thing, but it's an endorsement of the brown sugar idea either way.
A few weeks ago, we visited Kim's family in New Jersey and spent some time playing Star Wars: Battlefront II. This is a really fun game that has a split-screen two player mode that makes it a great pick for gamer couples where at least one person in the couple is a Star Wars nerd. (We both are.) Space combat took a while to get used to (and I still can't land the imperial shuttle worth a damn; usually I crash) but now we're blowin' up frigates and fighters and sensor arrays and auto-turret mainframes like nobody's business. I think we went through the whole story as well as Galactic Conquest mode.
Recently we were near the PlayStation Store and picked up the Logitech wireless controllers, which totally rock by the way, and saw that God of War was selling for $19. Since that's been on my wish list for quite a while, we grabbed it. It's spectacular. It sometimes reminds me of Tomb Raider, Devil May Cry, the Final Fantasy series, or even Tekken, but always in a good way. What it doesn't do very much is to slap you in the face with the fact that you're playing a computer game, which I particularly like. Too many games (like all the ones I just mentioned) make a point of the fact that there's a camera that you're looking through at your character, and a controller with buttons that you have to hit in just the right way to get the character to do stuff. Want that really powerful attack move? Gotta hit the buttons in the right order with exactly the right timing or it won't work. Want to block an attack? Gotta hit the block button at just the right instant or you get knifed in the gut, etc. Want to make that complicated run-jump-jump sequence to get to the next part of the map? Too bad, the camera's got a mind of its own, and it's making it impossible to see what you need to see. God of War doesn't do any of that stuff very much. Mostly you're dealing with how you want to attack the enemies in front of you, and how to solve the puzzles in the game. You're not fighting to control the game, you're fighting to win it. And that's kept me interested and involved to the point where I'm still playing it.
The Bronze Age violence and gore of God of War blended well with the new Adult Swim show, Korgoth of Barbaria. It's really funny. It reminds me of Groo the Wanderer (a sort of Conan/Quixote comic book character) and the humorous take on D&D style fantasy pomp as seen in What's New with Phil and Dixie.
Schneier on Security: "Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide."
Chronicle: Home sales drop to 5-year low: Steep decline sparks debate over whether the Bay Area real estate boom is over. Computerworld: Opinion: Why NSA spying puts the U.S. in danger. Time: Blame Mexico: the Mess Starts at Home.
Funny: Firefox privacy bug that caused a couple to break up, a man for whom six strings on a bass obviously wasn't enough, Live Mario Brothers (video), Jobs' glass elevator locks in group customers, 'Da Vinci Code' steals from 'Star Wars' (from Faisal), Buckethead's fictional life story has apparently come true.