Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Google Wave

I managed to get my hands on a Google Wave account yesterday. It's tons of fun - but waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too overwhelming. I don't think I'm allowed to reveal any screenshots as such, but what I can say is that it's still buggy.

So how would I put Google Wave as? Let's say Facebook + IM + Email + Wikis + Collaborations + widgets/apps... not sure, but I think it pretty much redefines "social".

So far, it's slow as well, but that's probably because it's using HTTPS.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Webmail: I R TEH WIN

Sometime back (I don't know when, it just popped in front of me today), Lifehacker conducted a poll with it's readers, asking them whether they use a desktop-based email client or web-based.

Result? 54% like web-based.

Surprising? I don't think so. I know if I use Outlook express, I won't get the conversation view in Gmail, I'll have to reconfigure it everytime I reinstall Windows (which is - well - whenever it's half-life has reached)

See this Lifehacker post for more.


Of multiband compressors and sound

There are so many people who hate multiband processing on their audio (just check out the internet forums - they all say that unprocessed music is brill) but I think otherwise - only if you can get the right sound.

It's tough to say how to get the right sound, because it involves ALOT of patience, and a good ear. If you don't have either, then ask someone else to do it for you.

In my previous posts, you've seen I've mentioned Izotope Ozone and Cakewalk Sonitus:FX as two multiband compressors. Both are great in their own sense (Ozone has a bunch of tools integrated into one interface, while Sonitus:FX has separate plugins for different tools - not integrated).
 Izotope Ozone 4 - you can see 6 modules in one, but there are more features than meets the eye.

Both are professional, and not for free (though personally, I prefer Ozone for it's ease of use and sound quality, but Sonitus:FX because they have a 5-band compressor... Ozone has 4 bands)

The Cakewalk Sonitus:FX suite (note - you can use one plugin at a time instead of having to use all modules)

Anyway, I've literally wasted ALOT of time trying to get the best sound for my compressor, but in vain each time. One of the local stations sounds very nice and sweet (heard Absolute Radio and BBC's Radio 1? Some TV channels sound as sweet and sharp too) and I've been trying to get a preset like that, but for a very long time, I guess I was either looking in the wrong direction, or did something miserably wrong!

I searched the net continuously, and eventually came across posts saying the big commercial stations used a product from Optimod. Now I can't pay to get something like that, so I came across another multiband compressor called Sound Solution (make sure you get version 1.3, and NOT 2).

Does it look ugly? Well... let's say - that's one place where it could improve, but it's got a more logical layout than other plugins, and definitely delivers.

The site has TONS of user-contributed presets, and a quick start: put the DLL in Winamp's Plugins folder, and the presets in Winamp's main folder.

I spent a whole day yesterday figuring out which preset to use, and I came across one. It doesn't sound exactly like an Optimod (and I don't know how they sound) but it comes pretty close to a commercial radio station... if you want more treble, you can tweak it further, but this has an appropriate amount of gain, sweetness, bass, ideal amplification (the volume doesn't fluctuate too much, and something that's quiet should stay quiet - you'll probably like this preset if you're very constantly-changing-volume-conscious - something many stations continuously do and sounds awful in terms of consistency).

While I try to figure out a way to upload the preset, I hope this blog post serves you some usefulness.

Preset uploaded - http://shaheer.a.khan.googlepages.com/ss3.dat should be downloaded, and put in the Program Files\Winamp folder)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

MP3 Repository(ies)

Okay - not exactly an MP3 repository, but it's one of those streaming sites on the net that not only have good quality songs (as in, audio quality) but also have a fairly decent library. Grooveshark is one website that I'll stick to even though Imeem seems to be getting more users now and then. Reason being

1) Grooveshark's got a more simplistic, easy to navigate interface
2) The sound quality on Grooveshark is generally good (as you have the option to report certain songs that have bad quality, thereby ensuring consistency and quality)
3) Unlike Imeem, where you're bound by a 30 second restriction on some files, Grooveshark doesn't have that limitation.

There are stream rippers available on the internet (which will be in another review) and you could use them for both websites, but if you've heard a few songs on Grooveshark and Imeem, you'll know which is the clear winner.

As far as the interface is concerned, I took a screencap of the two sites as of this blog post. See which is more streamlined

Wednesday, July 15, 2009



Tasks in Gmail

Many are familiar with the popular Tasks lab feature in Gmail. Well - news is that it's graduated from the Labs and is now a standard feature of Gmail.

As the Gmail Blog states,

We've been continually improving Tasks since it first launched in Labs. We believe simple and fast is best, so we've been working to make Tasks more responsive and get basic interactions working better: we've added mobile and gadget views, made improvements to task editing and management, launched in more languages, and integrated with Google Calendar. We've also added a printable view for those people compelled to do things away from their computers or mobile devices.

Personally, I never used Tasks, but since this is now a standard add-on for all Gmail accounts, doesn't look like I have a choice, eh? But oh well - atleast we now know that there will be more graduates from the Gmail Labs. Good going, Tasks! Well done!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Great Britain - Greater!

I'm not going to say anything. It's obvious, isn't it? :P

Did you know it was sinful to steal electricity?

So here we have this news, coming from Pakistan, that the Islamic clerics made a religious ruling (fatwa) that it is a "sin to steal electricity".

I don't think I'll comment any further, but here's an article from Reuters. What I will say is that a Pakistan power company got this decree made.

A Pakistani power utility has obtained a decree from top Islamic scholars condemning electricity theft, which it says is costing it millions of dollars a year.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

DNS... which one?

So many times have I searched for a decent, fast-resolving DNS server. It's tough to find one that fits all these qualities. But before you ask what DNS is, why not head over here and familiarize yourself (or if you're too lazy, a small explanation is as follows: when you enter "google.com", it goes to a server that translate the ABCs to 123s i.e. IP addresses, which are the REAL way of communicating).

I live in Pakistan, and the DNS servers here are only useful for their low latency, but their reliability tends to wander waaaaaaay off the median. Even my ISP's resolver is quite flaky.

Then I decided to check out the foreign providers. It's not an easy job, mind you, but I managed to get a few (read: two)

One of them is DNS Advantage.

This company boasts 15 different locations for their DNS servers - which is amazing, I'd say. They aren't popular, and they don't have a proper control panel for flexibility - you're stuck with what they give you. No ads, no frills, it's a pretty good service so far, and considering there are 15 other locations (you get routed to the shortest/quickest), you'll probably be happy.

OpenDNS is another service, and much more popular than DNS Advantage (or any other service that is out there). They've got a DNS service customizable, and used by many (head over to their website to see their clients - it's too long a list to mention here). For the customized DNS service to work, you need to have a static IP otherwise install a program on your PC that will sync their records with your current IP address. They have 9 different DNS servers, mostly located in the USA. One server is on the UK, and they have plans for introducing a server in Asia (so that our pings are reduced).

Which would you pick? It's up to you. If you want customization, OpenDNS is the way to go. If you want a no-frills service, DNS Advantage may be more helpful. I'm using DNS Advantage as my secondary service for the following reasons
  • If a web page doesn't resolve, I don't get a huge search page - OpenDNS has a search page, with Yahoo results. Not my type
  • DNS Advantage gives me a lower ping - from anywhere between 50ms to 100ms!
  • OpenDNS has/had an issue with the domain www.google.com - something related with the Google Toolbar and a malfunctioning search page. You can head over to their blog and read more details. A small issue, nevertheless.
So what do you prefer? Comments open.

Friday, July 10, 2009

SqrSoft Advance Crossfader

I've been using this plugin for Winamp off and on, and have to say it's slick! In short, it helps make amateurs sound like professional radio jockeys with the crossfading etc.

This isn't a beat-mixing program, but merely a program that helps crossfade one song into another at the right time. The program is called Advance Crossfade (try http://www.sqrsoft.com.ar/ if the link doesn't work, and then navigate from here... or if you'd like me to upload a copy of the file, then post back).

I like the Radio preset but with a small tweak in the settings - turn off the pop ups, and reduce the minimum crossfade amount to 50ms (and not the default 500ms).

Anyone got reviews? I'm all eyes.

Radio automation, anyone?

In my previous post, I mentioned about using Izotope Ozone - well, I've found an alternative. For some reason, Ozone seems to leech my CPU power (it's a hyperthreading-based CPU, not a duo-core). Sonitus:FX seems to do a MUCH better job - I'll post more in another post.

But what I'm looking for is - does anyone know of any good radio automation softwares? No, I don't work at a radio station, but I find it very surprising that stations use Winamp for on-air playback... and if that's the case, how do they crossfade etc? Running multiple instances of Winamp can hog your PC down, and unless you run playback on multiple PCs, I don't think it's that easy to have one PC dedicated for on-air broadcast.

I know there are a few useful plugins for Winamp for crossfading (such as SQR Crossfader) but they haven't really been updated in ages and are buggy with Winamp's latest version (at the time of writing this post). But a drawback of radio schedulers is that you can't use your DSPs for on-the-fly audio processing - something I really like about Winamp.

So - does anyone have an idea which radio automation software is
1) easy to use, and
2) available for demos? (I know of only one software - Zara Radio - that's free, but it's a little more complicated to use)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Partying like whack!

So you've probably read from my previous blog that I'm through with my bachelors degree, eh? I guess it's time to party on and on and on. Yesterday, we watched Transformers 2 (a few friends of mine and I), and today, I went to a hotel (a friend of mine treated me for his birthday, in advance). Insane partying, but hey - I have a reason. Do you?

Speaking of partying, does anyone know the use of multiband compressors in music? Anyone got a sweet setting that I could use?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Gmail's Labels

While I was on me exam break (the "me" was intentional), I did notice that Gmail changed it's labels layout (too many Ls in those two words). This time, it's nicer, and more convenient to hide the labels that we actually don't use!

According to the Gmail Blog,

1) New location for labels
You'll notice your labels in a new location on the left of your inbox (or on the right, for those of you using the Arabic, Hebrew, or Urdu versions of Gmail)

2) Label hiding and showing
You now have control over which of your labels show.

Now that is radical! It was actually a pain trying to fit both the labels and the "inbox" tag on my small 15" ancient CRT-based screen - this only makes life easier!

One drawback though: no right-side labels labs feature... except I never used that :P

Image source: The Gmail Blog


I finished my last exam of my bachelors degree yesterday. Who cares how the exams went when you're through with your degree?! I mean - c'mon! Who talks about studies when you're through with university... almost?

Now I have 6 weeks to spend before starting my MBA degree. Not that I'm looking forward to it, but hey - 6 weeks is still a break. I'm trying to be happy while I can LOL.

And today, I got this joke from a mailing list, entitled "Celebate"


A young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to helping the other monks in
copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand.

He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies,
not from the original manuscript. So, the new monk goes to the head abbot to
question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy,
it would never be picked up! In fact, that error would be continued in all of the
subsequent copies.

The head monk, says, "We have been copying from the copies for centuries,
but you make a good point, my son."

He goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original
manuscripts are held as archives in a locked vault that hasn't been opened for hundreds
of years. Hours go by and nobody sees the old abbot.

So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him.
He sees him banging his head against the wall and wailing.

"We missed the R!
We missed the R!
We missed the R!"

His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying
uncontrollably. The young monk asks the old abbot, "What's wrong, father?"
With A choking voice, the old abbot replies, "The word was..