Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

8 March, 2012

Luddism Vindicated

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

As I believe I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of George R.R. Martin’s book series, A Song of Ice and Fire. In that same mention, I said that I also enjoyed the HBO adaptation of those books, Game of Thrones. The second season starts in April, and I am all a-jitter with excitement for it, but what concerns me right now is the first season, which has just been released on DVD and blu-ray.

Now, I knew damn well that I’d end up getting this anyway, so I saw no reason to wait. Since I am currently suffering a bad cold, I thought I’d buy the set and spend the evening vegetating in front of the screen consuming commentaries and extra features. The question was: DVD or blu-ray?

Up until now, I have stuck with DVDs. My old DVD player still functions, my laptop has a DVD and no blu-ray drive, and it’s not like I have a TV that shows high definition anyway. In this case, however, I thought it might be time to take the first step into the future everybody else seems to have joined three years ago. The blu-ray set had more extra content than the DVD, people who notice such things say the image quality is markedly better on the blu-ray, and the price difference between the two was only 40 kroner (presently about 7 US dollars, or 5 euros, or 54 rand). Although I have no blu-ray player myself, there is a Playstation 3 in this apartment, which I understand can quite adequately perform the function.

So, overcoming my Luddite instincts, I strode boldly into the technological present, purchased the kind of disappointingly slim box and marched home through the wind and rain, coughing all the way, imagining the fun to come.

Unfortunately, the TV in this apartment remains steadfastly in the technological past.

Now, I’m not a complete idiot, I knew I wasn’t going to get the full HD blu-ray experience on an old SDTV, but I figured I’d at least get the same level as I get from DVDs. And indeed, my googling these past thirty minutes support me in this notion, but the actual experience says otherwise. The disc played, all right, but it played in black and white, all colour drained from it.

I’m not sure where the fault is here. This is a localized edition of the box, so I assume any NTSC/PAL-discrepancies have already been sorted. The Playstation menu displays colour normally; until the actual disk is activated, there’s no problem at all. The various wires and cables are all thoroughly plugged in, I have made sure of that, at least. I’ve fiddled around with various settings, and tried to adjust every variable I found, but to no avail, there’s just simply no colour.

Guess I should have gone with Casablanca.

I suspect the problem lies somewhere in the Playstation, as I dragged out my own little TV from its storage and tested that with the same result, but in truth it could as easily be a problem the two TVs share; neither of them are exactly fresh off the conveyor belt. I’d have to try with a different player to be sure, and I don’t, as previously mentioned, have one.

So do I regret getting the blu-ray over the DVD?  No, not really. All my reasons for going with it still stand, and in the long-term I think it will work out. Sooner or later I’ll end up buying an actual player for the darned things, and at some point after that I’ll probably own a TV of a more recent make, and live happily until the format changes again.

But it did spoil my plans for the evening.

2 February, 2012

I Am Not a Computer Guy: Technicalities

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

So far, the image of me presented here has been one of a hopeless Luddite, and I feel I should try to shake that off ever so slightly. I am actually kind of a fan of technology. I think gadgets are cool, like bow ties. Liking technology isn’t the same as knowing technology, a distinction I think I ought to make right away; I am only computer savvy when compared to my parents. On the Izzard technology spectrum, I am much closer to joy than to fear, though I do occasionally consult manuals. Sure, my desktop computer is currently not actually working, but I’m sure that wasn’t really my fault!

As a kid, I experimented a bit, learning very basic html, which I suppose has stayed with me. I’ve kept that up, and learned equally basic css, but never enough to be really good at it. I’m the kind of guy who knows just enough to be dangerous – I know how to go in and change things until it’s all messed up.

I’ve gotten better at balancing on that edge, though. With sufficient instructions, I’ve managed to make this blog look more or less how I want it, even though it required some messing about in code to do it. I managed to get the blockquote, seen in use in the previous post, to look good, at any rate. For the most part, though, I was happy to let the theme and WordPress do most of the work for me.

WordPress has changed a bit since the last time I tried blogging, gotten quite a bit more advanced. There’s all sorts of nifty new features I want to play with – like the whole widget set-up. So much simpler than fiddling about in codes. The standard set is fairly simple, but I think there are plenty of plugins providing extra functionality, and I am greatly looking forwards to experimenting with them and I have just become the Luddite lurching parodically into the present again, haven’t I?

Well, never mind. I still find the whole thing cool. I bet there are loads of interesting features I haven’t even found yet, and good uses for the ones I have found which I haven’t figured out yet. Even if I do share Patrick Rothfuss’s vague disappointment in the Omega button.

Beyond the world of websites, I am, as I said, fond of gadgets. My enthusiasm for my new phone a few posts back should prove that. I don’t have an iPad or some other kind of tablet, but it is mainly because I cannot justify the expense compared to the need. I already have a phone and a laptop, and unless they both break at the same time, I doubt I’ll get a tablet. Unless I win one. But give me a gadget, and I will find it cool.

So there, I am not opposed to technology. Not all of it anyway. I have techno joy. Now, if I could just find a twitter widget that filtered out replies, I would be all set.

30 January, 2012

Mourning the Printed Page

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

A home without books is like a body without a soul.

Cicero said that, with his customary artful understatement. Horace Mann apparently said that “A house without books is like a room without windows,” but I think the points go to Cicero on this one.

I don’t care for e-books. The news inform me that e-books are marching ahead, while the printed page is in decline – the hopelessly old fashioned book stores going out of business while purveyors of e-books grow and grow. Like the music and film industry before it, the publishing world must now adapt to a primarily digital model. That’s just the way the world turns.

I will get an e-book reader when they are physically indistinguishable from regular books.

I am not opposed to e-books on philosophical grounds; I actually think it’s a good thing that more obscure books become more easily available, and I can well see that an e-reader is practical on trips and plane rides. I just find the notion of reading off a screen profoundly unsatisfying. I know that many, if not most, e-readers do not have screens in the way that a laptop or a tablet does, but use e-paper instead. That is indeed nifty technology, and makes reading on them much less of a strain, but it is still a very different thing from actual paper – something I’m sure they’re working on.

A book is more than the text inside it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the text is the most important part, but a proper book is something more. It is texture and weight and smell and the sound of the pages turning and the immense satisfaction of cracking it open. There is something magical about a room full of books, a big and beautiful library, that a tiny e-reader with all its storage space cannot match. Foolishly sentimental, perhaps, but I embrace that part of my personality wholeheartedly. And yes, paper books are heavy and require storage space, but I consider that a very good bargain. I am currently moving, and lugging boxes of books up and down stairs may be tiresome, but I would not trade satisfaction for a slight increase in convenience. As for storage space, I have no greater ambition than one day owning a house with a room that can properly be called “the library”.

Anyway, there are practical reasons why I don’t want e-books as well. I object to the idea of leasing books, paying for access, and that the access can be revoked again should the seller so decide, as when Amazon pulled back a book without warning. I think they don’t do that too much any more, and maybe the trend is towards my kind of model, where a file, once bought, is yours to do with as you please, but I would rather not jump into any risky sort of situation in this. I have not really gotten into the stream music services for the same reason; if I buy a copy of a song, I want to keep it and use it as I choose. I also scoff at DRM nonsense. I appreciate that piracy is a problem, but I will not meekly subscribe to solutions which only punish the lawful consumer. Paper books, I can read however and whenever I like.

So there. Through hopeless romanticism and stubbornness, I shall cling to my shelves and books, and not get an e-reader. It’s a matter of principle.

And we’ve seen how well I’ve stood on principle in the past.

23 January, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Ever since I first got a mobile phone as a young boy – a giant Motorola monstrosity that in no way fit in my pockets – I have been a curmudgeon when it comes to getting new ones. I scoffed at polyphonic ring tones and coloured screens. “Not for me, this modern nonsense,” I sneered. “I want a good, solid phone I can just call people with!” Operating systems and touch screens? Forget it! Such frivolity would never penetrate my armour of sensibility and austerity!

But when I needed a new mobile over Christmas, I realized that we had now reached the point where I’d basically need to choose between a smartphone and a Jitterbug, so I threw that particular set of principles out the window and ended up getting an Xperia arc S. And dang it all, I love the thing.

It’s just so much fun! There are apps! Games! E-mail, and a good Twitter client and even a good version of Opera! Yeah, yeah, I know, welcome this Luddite to the present day. I acknowledge that I have been pretty silly about the whole thing. I’ll just have to catch up to the rest of the world in a while.

The thing that I have been having the most fun with, strange as it may seem, is the barcode scanner. This probably gives you an insight into the kind of geek I am. Being an avid LibraryThing user, I have already used it to catalogue some new books to great effect. Regular barcodes, though great for numerical codes like ISBNs, aren’t all that fun in the long run, however. Enter QR codes.

QR code

These things.

Yes, I know, Luddite to the present etc. These codes fascinate me. I’m not even sure why. Encoding messages and numbers and URLs and other information to be decoded later – it sings to my inner six year old! I want to find one of those scavenger hunt using these and follow the trail all the way to Narnia.

Deprived of that opportunity, however, I am left casting my mind about for some way to use these things. And I do want to use them. Because they’re cool. I understand they’re widely used in marketing, but I unfortunately don’t really have much of a product to market. Well, there is this blog, I suppose, but I’m not sure it is ready for a media blitz.

QR code

Still, spread the word!

While I was playing with the scanner, I got very excited about using it to mark my books. I could encode tags, collection information, and all sorts of detail right there in the cover! And decode it right there with my phone at any time! I was excited about this plan for at least twenty minutes before I realised that all that information would be much more usefully accessible to me if I just put it on a sticker in plain text.

Having had this otherwise admirable plan shattered by common sense, I’m back at square one. To cheer myself up, I did make some QR codes with some identification codes for my few books that do not have an ISBN, so I could easily look them up in my catalogue with my phone, but it’s not the same. I’ve thought about incorporating a code into some sort of Ex Libris, but I think that runs into the same problem of plain text just being better.

So, I have a marvellously fun new toy, and no earthly idea what to use it for. Googling around for ideas hasn’t been fruitful yet, but I hold out hope. The tech geeks out there have surely cracked this nut many times already. Still, do tell me if you have any ideas, and I’ll give an update somewhere down the line if I figure out a good one.

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