Hard drives and sponges

Platters need more flare!

Hard drives are the under-appreciated workhorses of a standard PC configuration.

Their disks whiz around at breakneck revolutions, heads cushioned by mere molecules of air as they skim over shiny surfaces during feverish read/write operations to store volumes of data to increasingly insatiable users who are all but completely oblivious of their existence — pausing only to curse them when they happen to get busy, fragmented, or full.

They’re never fast or big enough.

And when they do break, oh! When hard drives fail, all hell breaks loose because not only is there downtime until a replacement is installed — no, there is downtime coupled with loss of data that just never seems to want to get backed up often enough.

Whereas in previous years backups were made on floppy or tape and then on optical media, it seems we’ve reverted to using external hard drives to make backups of the workhorse hard drive in your workstation because they’re cheap. They’re ubiquitous.

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Queen + Adam Lambert live: A review

Tour truck: Queen + Adam Lambert

About a month ago a personal dream came true: I got to see my favourite band live.

Friends and followers of this blog should know that Queen has been my favourite band for over thirty years, even before it became cool to admit to being a fan. In fact, their popularity simply surged after Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991, despite the lack of fresh material by the original quartet (not counting 1995’s “Made in Heaven”).

“There is no point carrying on. It’s impossible to replace Freddie,” said bassist John Deacon and retired to wife and brood of kids thereafter.

Despite being reduced to the two active founding members, the band and their music have never quite left the limelight. Excellent live concert videos from the glory days are being output at a rate similar to their original studio album run. There’s a musical, the usual fare of sanctioned remixes and the odd few collaborations: the last Queen + suffix was no less than Paul Rodgers, a testosterone-laden partnership that resulted in a mediocre album in 2008 and a tour which I missed again!

Enter one Adam Lambert, runner-up in the American Idol circus and an established young vocalist in his own right.

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Charlie and the Dirty Thumb

Courtesy of www.charliehebdo.fr

Two rather disturbing events took place last week.

The first one we all know about: 12 people were gunned down by the extremist nitwit Kouachi brothers at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. It’s been widely reported and condemned. For a while everyone became Charlie and marched in solidarity with those dastardly French who dared satirise the relevance of a paedophile prophet who’s been dead for some 1400 years — or indeed any religious figure.

Almost as absurd is the ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspaper Hamevaser; it photoshopped away all females featured in a photo of 40 world leaders at the following Sunday’s demonstration for unity in the French capital as part of their policy to not publish pictures or even names of women.

As an amateur ex-cartoonist with a leaning towards twisted single-panel drawings of the offensive type myself, the mindless murder of the cartoonists felt like a stab into my own heart and an insult to my non-religious convictions.

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Rewind: 2014

Robin Williams, 1951-2014 (image via NBC)

It’s another few days before 2015 officially launches.

Personally, I can’t wait. 2014 was a strenuous year.

In fact, it was a terrifying year — “terrifying” in the sense that it started off by financially fucking me around big time. 2014 was terrifying in that my personal data got mixed up with that of someone else, an assumption that Deutsche Post sold to a notorious company named Unister GmbH (of fluege.de fame).

Of course this is chicken feed compared to “the Fappening”, the publication of some very, very naughty pictures of several (mostly female) celebrities following targeted hacks into their private iCloud accounts. Jennifer Lawrence described the leak as a “sexual violation”.

In late November, Sony Pictures Entertainment was hit on by a group called “the Guardians of Peace” in an unprecedented cyber attack. This led to the exposure of thousands of sensitive emails from Sony executives and physical threats against moviegoers  if the release of the film “The Interview” wasn’t cancelled. Some blame the hack on North Korea who had described the film as an “act of war”.

In December the Pirate Bay was shut down after a raid by Swedish police.

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Modern Media Consumption

There is no spoon, and there is no cloud (image via @FSFEfrance)

Now that I’ve finally gotten rid of that horrid analogue video media format named “VHS”, I’ve been thinking about what comes next.

No, I’m not talking about its obvious successor, DVD, nor am I talking about its own follow-up model, the BD, or the impending 4k/UHD discs – in fact, I’m not referring to physical media at all: what I am talking is an all-digital format — an ethereal one that exists not even as files on your hard drive.

I’m referring to “virtual” media. Perhaps it’s this “Cloud” thing that I’m on about. Truth be told, I’m not really sure — because definitions of “the Cloud” vary.

What I am getting at is much more sinister, and I’m not sure I like what’s coming.

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Demoscene music remembered and remastered

Moby's Amiga wallpaper

When I first got into computers back in 1990, “music” and “IBM computers” were things that simply weren’t synonymous with one another.

In fact, the only real choices available for my first own computer purchase were either an Amiga (games and multimedia) or a beige IBM-compatible clone (widespread use and lots of software). I swallowed the beige pill.

Given the DOS software and the games we played at the time, audio capabilities just weren’t a matter of concern. Star Control, Space Quest, and Duke Nukem had no sound effects other than the rudimentary bleeps and squeaks that a little internal PC speaker could deliver while music, oh! Music on a computer was the stuff of fantasy gone rampant with a stolen credit card. You would never utter the terms “music” and “IBM-clone” in the same breath – until the first sound cards came along!

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Verbal Abuse

Commercialised spelling mistake?

While the ruthless encroachment of the English language (particularly into the media and advertising sectors) continues unabatedly, there is some positive news to report from Germany: The apostrophe is seeing increasing and correct usage.

A few years ago I ranted about a certain “premium snack” manufacturer’s omission of the possessive apostrophe. Combined with a poor choice in kerning and typography over and above the very name and logo, it looked like they were selling ursid excrement.

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Grimm TV

Title card for "Grimm"

I’d like to tell you how fucked up German broadcast television is.

Really, it’s an insult to viewers.

There’s no continuity. Unless it’s some staged “reality show” or “docu-drama” featuring a local wanna-be starlet with big tits or a Promi washed-up celebrity we’ve never heard of, it’s impossible to follow any weekly TV series. Characters’ age, voices, hair styles and relationships change abruptly. The dead can reappear at any given moment.

No, we’re not talking about marathon sessions of “Walking Dead”, this is regular TV programming where an Ashton Kutcher episode of “Two and a Half Men” immediately follows one in which Charlie Sheen is very much alive — as if the producers of an evening’s light entertainment had intended viewers to track parallel universes, alternative time lines and cases of déjà vu. You could, for instance, be sitting down to watch the next three Season 8 episodes of “NCIS” (because we were somewhere in Season 8 last week, right?) but, instead, you’re shown three random episodes from previous seasons where the deceased are back on active duty.

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