Digital audio primer

The New York Times today has a great overview of various digital music formats. iTunes, WMA, their respective portable players, and more. Very useful for anybody who is confused about all the different options out there. I’m a little surprised they talk about jHymn, a program used for stripping copyright protection from iTunes songs, given its dubious legality.

My one big question remains: how is it possible to sync an iTunes song to more than one iPod? I’ve heard anecdotal stories of libraries allowing patrons to load songs or audio books onto iPods, and don’t understand how this is possible – to my knowledge each iPod is linked to one, and only one, computer.

Top 10 multiplayer video game countdown: #8

Secret of Mana
My eighth favorite multiplayer video game of all time:
Secret of Mana (SNES)

Secret of Mana was unique in two ways. Not only did it have real-time combat, but it supported three-player simultaneous gaming. Few other role playing games can compete.

The story is pretty standard stuff: You’re the regular joe guy in a medieval village – until you learn of your destiny to pull the sword from the stone and save the world.

Thankfully, Mana’s responsive controls, smooth menu system, extensive options, and collaborative strategies help elevate it to the stuff of legend. I’m generally not a big proponent of RPGs, but this one managed to suck me in.

A couple of summers ago, two friends and I dusted off the old SNES, rustled up an adapter for multiple controllers, and played through it again. Despite being somewhat cliched, the story does have its heartrending moments, and kept me interested all the way through. Secret of Mana stands the test of time, and even twelve years later maintains a used selling price close to its original point.

Top 10 multiplayer video game countdown: #9

tekkenMy ninth favorite multiplayer video game of all time:
Tekken 3 (PS1)

Tekken 3 is one of the few fighting games I’ve ever played to any great extent. Its simple, and playable without extensive knowledge of 27-button combo attacks. Those attacks are there if you desire to learn them, but are not essential to victory. The pace of battles is quick, so a number of players can be rotated in and out in a short block of time.

Meanwhile, crazy characters like the diminutive dinosaur Gon, space ninja Yoshimitsu and his buddy the drunken doc keep you coming back and goofing around. However, prepare to be frustrated when your buddy masters the ‘knee to the groin’ move belonging to one of the female fighters.

For an added bonus, play the game on DDR pads. Your ‘dance’ moves translate into fighting moves on the screen. After a few minutes of hilarity, 99% of games in this fashion devolve into a real shoving match as you try to push your opponent off their dance pad and thus ensure victory.

Reverse engineering Flickr

As part of a puzzle for the Last Call Poker game I mentioned before, I managed to look up and trace back a Flickr picture to its poster’s account. I didn’t run into a guide on how to do it, despite searching for one. So now I set out to create what I wish I’d found.

Flickr photos can be posted around the web with URLs in this format:

Looking at the numbers, there’s no obvious way to tell whose account it came from. For the puzzle, a picture with a URL in this format appeared on the game’s website. Our goal was to discover the full name of the character who took the photo, which I assumed was located in his Flickr account page.

After researching Flickr’s URL structure a bit, I discovered that the the first portion of the last chunk of the address (in this case ‘31607655’) is a unique ID number for the photo.

Flickr themselves provide a method to look up the owner of the ID in the Flickr API. It isn’t well publicized, but is located here.

Plug in ‘31607655’, and it returns an XML file full of all kinds of info on the photo. The account, tags, description, notes, etc. From there its just a matter of copying and pasting the account holder’s URL.

Simple in retrospect, but it took a bit of digging to uncover. As an added lesson, I now know not to assume my flickr pictures are anonymous just because I post the scrambled URL.

Top 10 multiplayer video game countdown: #10

My tenth favorite multiplayer video game of all time:
Worms Armageddon (PC)

There’s a certain simple madness to this game that I can’t resist. You control a team of cute anthropomorphic cartoon worms with a vast aresnal at their disposal. In a twist on the old “gorilla throwing bananas at another gorilla” QBasic game, you have to take many factors into account in your destruction of the opposing team: Wind, distance, barriers, timing, crazy explosion shapes, etc.

I first encountered this game freshman year of college, when it was about all our bare-bones laptops could handle. It broke the ice between a lot of us on the hall, and we wiled away many a happy hour.

As an added bonus, I appreciate the game for taking a surprising amount of brainpower. Crafting that perfect grenade toss to come from behind and win takes both a keen mind and steady hand. And how can you resist the exploding, flying SuperSheep?

New librarian tip #3: Visit your competition

As a new librarian, I thought it might be interesting to share things that are helping me to get acclimated to the working world. This is the third in an occasional series.

This option is more relevant if you’re starting a job in a new town that you’re not familiar with. If you work in an academic library, check out the public. If you work in public, check the local academic.

There are things each will provide better than the other. For example, we don’t maintain a stock of leisure movies. Someone asked if we did the other day, and I was able to answer “No, but the public library has a really good selection you can try.” Its just nice to know what’s out there, and I learned a bit about my new community in the process.

I have yet to visit the other local academic libraries, but they’re on my to-do list.

Previous tips:
#1: Do someone else’s homework
#2: Work a weekend

Top ten multiplayer video games

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be running down my list of top ten multiplayer video games.

I’ve always had a natural affinity for top ten lists, and their organized absolutism. So this is my random contribution 🙂

I’m aiming to post about one each day, but that may slip a bit.

E-reading Update

I’ve been discovering a bunch of quality net-published fiction recently. Here’s a couple worthy of your time.

David Wellington’s Monster Planet is on track to wrap up this Friday. Wellington started the ambitious blog-based trilogy in April of ’04 with Monster Island, a story of a zombie-infected Manhattan a few months after the outbreak.

He followed it up with Monster Nation, the prequel of just how the zombie outbreak progressed across the United States.

Monster Planet brings everything to a head – grand fantasy, horror and characterization on a global scale. The pentultimate chapter hits on Wednesday, and the finale on Friday.

You might think that zombie stories = mindless crap. And in some cases, you’re right. But Wellington wisely focuses on his characters, and just how the situation affects the ensemble cast. He’s got a couple of “big ideas” that play with the genre conventions too, which I won’t spoil.

Half of the fun has been following the comments readers leave after each chapter. In some cases Wellington has subtlely shifted his story arc thanks to audience input. Not an entirely collaborative story, but there are elements. In perhaps the most obvious one, the main villain of Planet is named after a very frequent and loyal commenter. Elsewhere, when fans felt that it was left up in the air whether a particular character survivied, the author made sure to spell out in a later chapter just what fate had befallen the man. One reader was having a rough time with his relationship, and Wellington obliged him in a cathartic bit of fun by making the girl a zombie-ized background character. The list goes on.

The serialized, ‘cliffhangerized’ format is addictive. I plowed through the first two novels in just a few days after discovering them. And hey, its free!

In other options, there’s Cory Doctorow. I’m a bit of a latecomer to the BoingBoing founder’s fiction, but he’s got a pretty decent archive up on

Currently, Themepunks updates with a new chapter every Monday. This is a story of Doctorow’s vision of the 21st century economy, and where collaborative technologies and abundance of raw tech materials will eventually take us. There’s a thousand and one points in here where I paused to think about the implications of the astonishingly realistic setting.

If you’re at all interested in the development of societies in massively multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft, 2004’s Anda’s Game is fascinating. You have to trudge through Salon’s somewhat clunky ‘sitepass’ system to read these stories without subscribing, but the result is worth it.

In other news, Harvey Danger released their newest album (for free!) in MP3 format today.

Library Journal Bloggers’ Roundtable

The roundtable discussion/article I took part in at ALA in June is now up on Library Journal’s website!

Here’s what I wrote immediately after the event itself.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the print edition (October 1st issue) and see what it looks like. Especially anxious to see if there’s any pictures. Extra thanks to Michael Stephens and Brian Kenney for putting it all together.

10/3/05 update: We made the cover! I didn’t expect this at all, and am thrilled! (I’m the head just to the right of ‘talkin’) Must find print copy now!

I’d also like to echo what Meredith said, in that there was oodles of insight from the discussion that didn’t make it into the article. Going to ALA was worth it for that conversation alone.

New librarian tip #2: Work a weekend

As a new librarian, I thought it might be interesting to share things that are helping me to get acclimated to the working world. This is the second in an occasional series.

One of my first weeks of working at UAH, I came in as a ‘backup’ librarian on Saturday. There’s a thousand and one things to be done on a Saturday that don’t pop up during the week.

On weekdays, our building opens before the reference desk does. So by the time I come in, all the “setting up” tasks for the day are already done. But on a weekend, I was forced to learn how to do them myself.

There were doors to unlock and gates to raise. I learned where lightswitches are, how to check to make sure the print server is up, passwords for the desk PCs, and plenty of other smaller items. These are the things I’ll need to know at some point, but might not be covered in the standard procedure of starting a new job.

Now of course I wouldn’t recommend stumbling through this process by yourself the first time. Being there as an extra librarian worked out well – I had someone to bounce questions off of and show me the ropes. Thanks, Linda!

Previous tips:
#1: Do someone else’s homework