Archive for March, 2009

2009-03-23

Bloat Warning

On my system, iTunes and QuickTime take up a combined space of over 180 MiB. That. Is. Crazy.

For a piece of software that I use for nothing else than transferring my songs from one place to another, 180 MiB is an astronomical length. iTunes takes up 106 MiB. The rest is accredited to QuickTime. I don’t even use QuickTime! But iTunes refuses to start without it! I use other free and open-source software to play media than iTunes:

On Ubuntu/Linux:

  • Rhythmbox
  • MPlayer
  • Totem

On Windows XP:

  • Winamp
  • VLC
  • XBMC

That covers all of my media-playing needs. Combined, these players, on each system respectively, play just about every format in existence. And MPlayer, VLC and XBMC are available for multiple platforms, it’s just that they run smoother/more gracefully in my experience on the respective platforms mentioned above that I use.

Back to the matter at hand: As I mentioned, I use iTunes for one reason and only one reason — to transfer songs to my iPod. That task does include fetching album cover art, but I count those two as one task. I don’t play any media in iTunes; no music, no podcasts, no videos or movies, nothing! If I have that kind of setup and needs, why shouldn’t I be able to uninstall the unnecessary modules of the software and save some space? I mean I can understand iTunes. It has quite a lot of features, and I assume that all drivers for every single product that iTunes supports comes with the installation of iTunes, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

Alternative #1

Imagine that you just bought a device from Apple. Let’s say it’s a new iPhone.

As soon as you plug in the iPhone for the first time after installing iTunes, iTunes recognizes that you have a new device and suggests to download the necessary drivers, or whatever it needs, to be able to work with your iPhone. Perhaps installing them as plugins, or integrating it with the software in some other way. BRILLIANT. Now, for any other features I like to use in iTunes, enabling them as I go.

Alternative #2

You just bought a new iPod Nano 16 GB (like I have), for example, and you go to the download page for iTunes to download and install the necessary software.

Upon installing iTunes, you are given — oh, I don’t know — OPTIONS REGARDING WHAT YOU WANT TO ACTUALLY INSTALL, as so many other installers do for other software. Then in those options it might say something like “I would like to be able to play music and video”, perhaps separating music and video into two options, and selecting those options would install QuickTime as well (although it’s ~75 MiB is inexplicable to me).

Alternative #3

Release the module that transfers content between hard disk drive and device as a stand-alone application! I understand that you need some type of technology to recognize which types of media can be transferred and played on the actual device, but that doesn’t imply that you also need the technology to play the media before you transfer it to where you actually want to play it.

That was a little messy, so let’s illustrate with a helpful and suitable analogy: You don’t need to take a bite out of the apple to realize it’s an apple! Otherwise I assume people would look at you strangely whenever you go to the grocery store for example. Sampling all the apples before you pick them up.

At the very least, iTunes should include some install-time options. I’m not really sure, but as far as I can remember, I couldn’t even select where I wanted to install it.

2009-03-23

The Horror of YouTube

If you’ve watched a video on YouTube in the last few months, you must have noticed the new advertising system they integrated into their Flash-based player a while ago.

My guess is that the advertisement isn’t added to videos that were uploaded before it was enabled. So if you watch a fairly new video you’ll see it. For your convenience, here’s a picture of what it looks like.

YouTube advertisement.

YouTube advertisement.

See that? That thing slides up from the lower edge of the video – not immediately after you start the video, no no, but after a few seconds, right when you’ve let go of the mouse and started to sit back and relax as you watch the video. That’s when it comes up. And sometimes it covers a lot of what you’re trying to watch, for example if the video has captions or subtitles. So not only does it catch you off guard, but it makes you rewind videos! WHAT A STUPID THING.

I loved Google Video when it came out, and I love it today because the player and the whole thing is just a lot cleaner, and the player itself works better, than YouTube. Then YouTube was acquired by Google. Things started to change, and YouTube got a lot of enhancements, not only the obvious changes to the player in terms of style, buttons and recently the different choices of quality of the videos, but also more subtle things like (dis)agreeing with text comments by giving it a thumbs up or down, and other things that make the loading of content in general run smoother than before.

At that point, I really started to think about whether I actually favoured YouTube over Google Video… But, no. Forget that. Never. The player is still junk (seeking is HORRIBLE among other things, not to mention the ads), the pages are waaaay to over-loaded with moving images and content with different styles and colors, and there’s no intuitive way to download the videos to your own hard disk drive to view later or to put on your portable player for instance. And what are those stupid, annoying annotations anyway? Just put it in the description box, will you? If I’m not interested in reading your “LOL”s and your “LMAO”s inside the video, I shouldn’t have to! “But you can turn off the annotations by just by cli…” I KNOW THAT, but it’s ENABLED BY DEFAULT. And if you reload the page, IT COMES BACK ON. AND SOMETIMES YOUTUBE’S PAGE RELOADS AT RANDOM.

Google Video’s player, however, seeks beautifully, the pages are clean and contain barely anything but the video in a large window and the comments and other things to the right of the video neatly ordered in tabs, and you can download the videos. Even to iPod formats, so you won’t have to convert them yourself! Yet there are more features(!), such as choosing any size of the video by resizing the browser window itself, with the lower limit of the original size of the video. You can choose Original Size, Double Size, Fit to Window and Full Screen. There’s even a “Smooth Video” option if the quality of the video is too poor for the size at which it is being displayed! The latter in my opinion is a much better solution to the quality problem than “HQ” (High Quality) and “HD” (High Definition) options at YouTube.

And now I hear that Google Video is about to stop accepting new videos and Google is focusing all of its video efforts on YouTube. What a waste!

There are still great options for people who want to upload content to Google, and we invite them to explore YouTube’s dynamic global community or Picasa Web Albums.

HAHAHA.

We’re confident this decision is the right one for our users,

Not for me.

and we’re looking forward to making Google Video an even better place for you to search and find videos from all over the web.

Yeah maybe, if I could watch them using the Google Video player, that’d be AWESOME. Then I’d have all the videos from YouTube but in the format of Google Video’s player.

A man can dream.

Thank God for brilliant software solutions such as the YouTube plugin for Totem (the video player of GNOME).

2009-03-22

Slashes

This, “\”, is the BACKSLASH. This “/”? That’s the FORWARD SLASH mark, or SLASH. If you say BACKSLASH when talking about “/” in URLs and so forth, DON’T. That’s the FORWARD SLASH.

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2009-03-9

Project Euler

I’ve become an active member of Project Euler (PE) again. Project Euler (www.projecteuler.net) is a collection of (around 300 or so) mathematical and programmatical problems. I’m not sure when I started the first time, but it’s been a couple of years, I think. Now I’m back again with a bit more knowledge and feeling a bit more comfortable with programming, several programming and math courses later.

When I first joined, I was mostly only comfortable with Java as my programming language of choice, but I’m very interested in learning to program comfortably in C for a few reasons:

  • It is the traditional language in Unix/Linux applications.
  • I like GNU/Linux and Free and Open-Source Software.
  • It is a lot faster than Java… but still has very similar syntax!
  • I like handling pointers for some reason. I feel like I’m much more in contact with the data as I have full control of everything. It’s just so gratifying to get Segmentation Fault after Segmentation Fault and then, after some debugging and messing around with my pointers, finally getting the sought output from the program.

I don’t believe it’s mandatory to join Project Euler to take part in the problems, but I recommend you sign up for an account, because if you do:

  • you can provide answers to the problems and Project Euler will keep track of the problems you’ve solved.
  • you may participate in the forum thread for a particular problem upon solving it, allowing you to discuss your solution with fellow members. (It’s incredible to find solutions written in the J and K programming languages, which afford extremely concise programming.) Note that only relatively recent forum threads are open to new posts, but all threads are open to read (upon solving the corresponding problem, as I already mentioned).

Project Euler is a very fine tool to learn a programming language. If you’re not a programmer by profession and you don’t really have any software needs that aren’t fulfilled, Project Euler provides you with a great environment to experiment with a programming language’s syntax and libraries with problems and tasks to solve and complete.

My goal right now is to solve as many problems as I can using only the standard libraries in the GNU Library (glibc), namely stdlib, stdio and occasionally string (so far I’ve used string only for the strlen function, which I felt was unnecessary to write myself). It’s going pretty well, and it’s kind of fun to have to figure out solutions on your own instead of relying on already-written functions to do the job for you.

Some of the problems at PE can be solved only with the help of pen and paper, but most of them require up to thousands of iterations to find the solution and isn’t feasible without some computational aid. However, according to the site’s FAQ section, which they call “About”, all the problems are designed in a way that a well-constructed algorithm should take no more than 1 minute to output the solution to the problem. I’m very proud of C. Most problems finish in milliseconds, even on the super-slow laptop I use sometimes.