Putting the Horse Before the Cart: Music Technology and John Hampton Edition

I’m a big fan of the recording magazine Tape Op. It has been around about a decade and is all about DIY music. They were maker before maker was cool. (Plus, the physical mag is beautiful and U.S. subscriptions are free!)

A couple of months ago, they ran an interview with John Hampton, Grammy winning engineer and producer of folks like Alex Chilton, the Gin Blossoms, The White Stripes, Travis Tritt, and Jimmy Vaughn. Musing on his experience of working as an engineer vs. a producer, he remarked:

I was driving home one day from work and heard “Honky Tonk Women” on the radio for the very first time. I heard that cowbell and then Charlie [Watts] come in – I pulled over and rocked out to the whole thing. When I started working here I got engineer ears; I started nitpicking everything. Slowly, but surely, the nitpicking became the captain of that ship. After working in the studio for a while I heard “Honky Tonk Women” again and I thought, “That sounds like crap.” I had engineer ears now. Then it hit me one day that I used to love that song and now I don’t like it. Has the song changed? I’ve changed, not the song. So I slowly started what turned into a ten-year venture. I turned that boat around, falling back in love with music instead of in love with technology and how it gets put together. The only way that I’ve been able to do that is by making what I do, the engineering part of it, so easy that I can do it with my eyes shut. Its all in the background.

That should be the goal, right? Do what you do, not what the gadgets let you do.

Focus on life, not on the tools you use to live it.

Happy Easter and World Backup Day

‘Tis been a bit since I’ve posted. A bad cold, piles of papers, and lots of papal news have kept my attention elsewhere. Apologies. But I’ve been thinking about you a lot, and mulling over lots of questions.

But for today, let me wish all of you who celebrate it a blessed and happy Easter. Let me also wish all of you a happy World Backup Day! I couldn’t agree more with Steven Sande at The Unofficial Apple Weblog when he says:

If you haven’t yet lost data on your Mac or iOS device, you will. At some point, whether due to an accidental deletion, a physical glitch in your hardware, a disaster striking your home or office or the terrifying power of bored teenagers, you’ll find that some precious family photos or important documents are gone forever. You cant go back in time to retrieve that information, so make sure it is backed up now.

I’ve lost lots of data over the past 30 years, and I am pretty good at backing up. Always seems like drives crash just when I get comfortable. When it happens, I end up spending weeks trying to recreate what I’ve lost or find copies that I’ve stashed in different places. I’ve been able to get some stuff back by recovering drives, but resurrection of that kind is rare.

If you don’t have a good backup strategy, take a bit of time on Easter Monday and check out some of the tips and tricks that folks are offering. Lots of good advice to make your corner of the virtual world not quite so fleeting.

Hacking Your Machine, 1910 Style

Mac OS 7 Startup Screen

Mac OS 7 Startup Screen (via operating-system.org)

I spend way less time these days tweaking and fixing my computer than I used to. Back in the early-90s, I spent hours each week messing around with on my Macs trying to find the optimal configuration for the control panels and extensions.   I gathered custom system software that optimized my machine for home and work, but it was always a challenge figuring out how to get rid of conflicts and make sure that I still had enough ram to run things.  Watching those icons scroll across the bottom of the screen as they loaded during startup. And when they went to a second row, I was in heaven!

I always figured that I just grew out of that “tweaker” phase. These days, I like stuff that just works. (That’s not code for Apple. I let our temperamental Jetta go and have a much less fun Honda now.)

So I was intrigued by a fascinating account at the MIT Technology Review of a “Turn-of-the-Century Road Trip” from Newton, Massachusetts to Portland, Oregon in an Oldsmobile. And by turn-of-the-century, I mean the 20th century.  1910, to be specific!

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Netflix, Closed-Captioning, and a Legal Settlement

Back in July, I posted about Netflix’s lost bid to have the a lawsuit against it thrown out of court. A class action lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Deaf asserted that Netflix violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because Netflix when it failed to provide closed-captioning for many of its streaming videos. My post reflected a bit on how the right thing to do can sometimes be very complicated. There are times, I think, when people/groups that demonstrate generally good will get (themselves) into questionable situations because they either didn’t think through their plans entirely, or they through it so late that changing course is so difficult, they are stopped in their tracks. Doing justice (a virtue) thing requires bravery (another virtue), but it also requires prudence (a third virtue) to figure out the right course of action to achieve justice.  For publicly traded companies seeking to do the right thing while both staying in business and—most importantly—keeping major shareholders happy, that’s no mean feat. Putting yourself out of business is not necessarily the most morally laudable course of action.

Well, it looks like the legal process worked its magic.  According to Joe Mullin at Ars Technica:

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We Need To Gamify Common Sense?

From the “wow . . . just, wow” files:

An Ohio woman has confiscated the Xbox of her 15-year-old son who was hospitalized for dehydration after spending at least four days in his bedroom playing the Modern Warfare 3 video game, WCMH TV reports.

Jesse Rawlins tells the NBC affiliate in Columbus that her son, Tyler Rigsby, emerged from his bedroom Tuesday morning after a marathon round of game-playing, and collapsed three times. She says he became very pale and his lips turned blue.

Via Douglas Stanglin at USA Today.

I am both a gamer and parent. I get that when you are gaming, you can lose perspective on time. I also get that it can be a challenge to get your kids to back away from the console, especially as they get older.

But “hard choices” doesn’t seem to capture what happened here. And it certainly transcends the “parent’s responsibility” vs. “individual choices” debate. Central to parenthood–or friendship for that matter–is knowing what is going on in someone else’s life. Cental to a dignified life–much less the developed life–is caring for one’s own basic needs (to the extent that one is able to do so). This fails on both accounts.

Perhaps there are good reasons to explain what happened, but I can’t imagine what they would be.

Man, I hope Snopes figures out this is an urban legend.

Netflix, Closed-Captioning, and the Difficulty of Means

A couple of weeks ago, Chris Morran at The Consumerist reported on an unexpected, but reasonable, legal decision against Netflix.

Netflix recently asked a court to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the National Association for the Deaf that alleges the company violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by not including closed-captioning on many of its streaming videos. But earlier this week, the judge in the case ruled against Netflix, allowing the suit to move forward.

Since the early 1990s, televisions have been required to be able to display closed captions in programming.  It wasn’t until the mid 2000s that programs were required to carry the captioning. Clearly, allowing the suit to proceed makes sense. Netflix argued (in Thomas’ terms) “that the ADA doesn’t apply to Internet-only businesses or to services that people use at home rather than in public places.” The judge called that “irrational.”

The tricky bit here, as June Thomas at Slate summarizes well, is the technical side of things.

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