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151  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Do You Freelance? on: October 29, 2011, 05:27:54 PM
I used to. Still take the occasional one-off, but really just as favors. I donate more of my computer "consulting" time than anything. I might get back into it in a couple years if my current projects don't pan out though. cheesy

- Oshyan
152  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: I don't understand relative volume on a PC at all. on: October 29, 2011, 04:55:39 PM
Deo, your headset is USB, it's not terribly surprising (to me) that the volume controls don't work the same or quite right. It probably even has its own separate volume control as a separate audio device. That being said, doesn't it have in-line (on cord) controls?

Audio volume settings can indeed be quite confusing as there are many things that affect them. With Windows 7's new per-app volume control, you now have more flexibility but also potentially more confusion with volume. I'll try to break down how all this works, maybe it will help you understand, if not solve, these issues.

First, a quick run down of the major factors that could come into play:

  • Original recorded audio volume
  • Effects applied during playback (e.g. compression, normalization)
  • Individual *in-app* audio levels
  • Codec-specific audio levels and effects (e.g. AC3 decoder)
  • Sound driver levels and effects
  • Individual *Windows* audio levels (Win 7 only)
  • Main Windows volume
  • Volume of the output device (speakers, headphones)

I think the first step is to determine if there actually is a real difference *when playing the same audio file*. So maybe take an MP3, play it locally in your audio player of choice, then upload it to e.g. Amazon Music, Google Music, etc. and play it back through the browser. Is the volume different? If so, then you check all the various volume settings described above to make sure they're the same, and only then can you really be sure that somehow the browser is treating audio differently. My guess is that one of the above factors is involved.

If you care to dig deeper, read on....

Recorded sound is complicated in general. Here's a good reference from Audacity's documentation. And More info from Wikipedia. Now the reason I'm starting at such a basic level is that it's important to realize sound is not an absolute, especially recorded sound. A recording is encoding differing pressures detected by a measurement device (microphone usually) that itself has limitations on the amount of pressure it can actually detect before it breaks or faults. So basically a recorded sound ends up being from 0 (silence) to the maximum sound pressure level the recording device can handle, and that can be encoded in digital recording as say a floating point value from 0 to 1, with 1 being the maximum volume. It's not nearly as simple as that in actuality because frequency is also encoded, but we're considering volume alone here for the moment.

With that out of the way let's consider the computer-specific elements. Start with the base audio file/stream itself. The recorded range in the audio file mentioned above (0-1) is translated into actual sound by the output device - speakers, headphones - which essentially moderates the ultimate sound volume, but the absolute volume of the source still has a big effect and can have a huge impact on the relative "loudness". This is why for example TV commercials tend to be louder than TV shows, even though you're not changing the volume of your TV speakers.

So if you were to take a look at the wave form of an audio file, a normal audio segment might look something like this:



There are two wave forms because this is a stereo track (left/right). Note the scale on the left (ignore the lines across) and how there is both positive and negative measurement from a baseline of 0. Now, you can see that the audio here seldom - if ever - reaches the maximum on the scale, and likewise it's seldom at 0 either. Now imagine what happens if you amplify the recorded values in this audio file. You might get something more like:



Notice there are still some dynamics - variable highs and lows - but the overall wave form is "taller", getting closer to the max/min more of the time.

Now, here's where it hopefully starts getting interesting. A lot of audio and video players have "normalize" options which are set to on by default in some cases. Likewise a lot of audio content *sources* are normalized before they get to you. Normalizing essentially takes an audio file and adjusts the amplitude (volume) such that the maximum and minimum are within a certain range. Note that normalizing shouldn't change the *dynamics* of the audio, just its relative volume. This can make a quieter recording into one with more normal volume.

Another process that is sometimes applied dynamically in audio/video players, and even more often applied in audio processing for music and other things, is Dynamic Range Compression, and this is really where you'll hear some big changes. The intention of audio compression is to bring all the sound levels to a similar amplitude, giving you much more even volume through the recording, and removing a lot of the "dynamics". Unlike the previous wave forms with clear highs and lows, a compressed file might look something more like this:



Now compression usually removes both significant highs and significant lows, but depending on the setting it's not going to result in *louder* maximum audio levels, just more even volume. If you compress and normalize to max volume, *then* you end up with something that is uniformly loud, and about as loud as can be encoded in an audio file. Something more like this:



As I said, these are effects that are often applied to audio, both music and TV, as well as elsewhere. Now are these factors in a browser-vs-desktop-player volume difference? Obviously not if you are playing the same audio. However it's important to be aware that certain audio sources *do* have normalization and/or compression applied as a general rule. As I mentioned your audio player may also have one of these effects enabled (KMPlayer for example tends to have Normalize enabled by default for some audio types).

When you take those complexities into account, along with the original list of possible factors, you can see how complicated it can be to really figure out what the output level will be for even a specific audio file, let alone "audio in general". Since you've probably checked all the basic stuff like system volume vs. app-specific volume, I'd dig deeper into stuff like audio codec effects and whatnot. But first, as I said at the beginning, you'd want to verify that there is indeed a difference using the same exact files. If you're talking about something more like playing back a movie (encoded with e.g. AC3 or DTS audio) on your computer is quieter than playing, say, a Youtube video, well that's not at all surprising. AC3 and DTS decoders will tend to produce much quieter output and are generally intended to be fed into a multi-channel amplifier. When that output just goes through stereo speakers, it loses a lot in the translation, so to speak.

In short, it's important to know the specifics of what you're comparing and to make sure you're comparing apples to apples.

- Oshyan
153  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Post Your Funny Videos Here [NSFW] on: October 20, 2011, 01:35:16 PM
Apparently it's made of around a ton of gold, so it might be hard to get it out down the stairs/elevator and out the door. Wink

- Oshyan
154  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Finally made it to Windows 7 -- looking for partitioning reccomendations on: October 20, 2011, 01:34:44 PM
I've never understood why people go crazy with disk partitions. Some people seem to use them like one would use folders. There's no good reason I can think of to have a "movies" partition, a "music" partition, etc. 2 partitions, as 40hz said, boot and data, or at most 3, with boot, data, recovery/images. Of course keeping recovery/images on the same physical drive limits its applicability in the case of disaster. *Some* system problems can be recoverable that way (i.e. something that doesn't involve physical issues with the whole drive), but it's really better to keep sys images and recovery partitions on a separate drive IMO.

- Oshyan
155  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal on: October 20, 2011, 01:29:44 PM
Yes, YouTube is a great example! I find tons of stuff I like on YouTube every day with minimal effort. Why? Because the system has rating, tagging, categories, etc. all of which help me find good stuff easily. It simply doesn't matter that how much crap there is (and I agree there will be more crap published if you lower the bar). It's possible to create systems that reward quality, or at least mass appeal, and they don't require a publisher, an A&R guy, etc.

The issues that occurred with Amazon's app store seem to me to be more "sour grapes" than anything. Amazon made perfectly clear what would happen with the featured (free for the day) apps, as far as I've read. People chose to participate because they thought it would help their app earn money through increased popularity, when all it tended to do was load down their servers with free requests. Bummer, but the terms were clear, none of them should have been under any illusion that they would make tons of money off of it unless they had a really good plan for upgrading free users to pay (in-app purchases, etc.). This is a lot like small companies who do Groupons and the like and then get overwhelmed by demand and can't fulfill it all. Too bad, take the time to think through the promotion you're agreeing to participate in before going through with it.

As for the business side and "writers want to write", of course they do. I'm not suggesting every writer buy 500 copies of their book and hawk them on the streets. What I'm saying is you have a range of options, all the way from that base level, up through contracting with individual experts to handle particular aspects of your publishing project (i.e. you hire an editor and a sales rep directly), up to contracting with a full-service publishing house. It's more options, not less.

- Oshyan
156  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Smart Response Technology and partitioning on: October 19, 2011, 11:32:46 PM
All I want to know is will SRT work and make a difference in the case where you have a primary SSD and a secondary spinning disk, and want to cache the 2nd disk (which is not the boot drive). Anyone know? SSDs are still too expensive to use for large amounts of primary storage but if I can get improved data access speed to my mass storage hard drive using SRT that would still be worthwhile, even in addition to a main SSD.

Here's an example usage scenario where I could see the caching actually working, despite large file sizes: I'm an amateur photographer, I shoot in RAW and use Lightroom to rate, select, edit, and publish my photos. Usually I spend several days - sometimes even a week or more - on a set of shots, depending on how big the set is, how much free time I have to work on it, and how much editing each shot requires. Now a set is never larger than 32GB (the size of my memory card), and generally much smaller, averaging 5-10GB. I load up Lightroom and import the folder, all images are loaded, previews and thumbnails are generated, etc. Now I leave Lightroom open and every time I switch between images it should be noticing the increased use of these files and caching them. In a given start-to-finish selection and editing process I may look at a single image 100 times, from the start where I do a quick pass to select likely good ones, to the 2nd pass where I select the cream of the crop, to the editing phase, and then the final pass where I weed out any edits that didn't work out, through to the meta data editing phase, and finally publishing where I upload to Picasa and Facebook. In all those stages the large image files need to be accessed multiple times. So I reiterate the question, would SRT help at all in such a scenario? I'm getting a Z68 motherboard and tempted to test it...

- Oshyan
157  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Wow: Google insider explains why Big G may lose the Internet wars on: October 19, 2011, 11:23:42 PM
G+ is frankly still in early stages I'd say. Where is the Events system (integrated with Google Calendar)? Where are company pages? As soon as these and a few other major features of FB make it onto G+, there will be another big surge. Surprisingly, FB's event system still pretty much sucks (can I have it email me a reminder of events? no. is there a simple calendar view of events I'm invited to? no. etc.). Google can leverage the power of existing GCalendar for this, just as an example. For businesses, Google already has "Places", integrate that with G+ and you have a powerful platform for companies to relate to their customers.  I'm honestly surprised Hangouts haven't gotten more attention actually, especially as it gains features. It's more powerful as a business tool than a personal tool now actually. They should introduce shared photo album viewing like the new Flickr feature and then promote Hangouts as a killer feature (because it is). Now I'm not saying Google will do all this, but they're sensible steps with powerful potential.

Basically I think it's foolish to compare G+ now to FB now (yes, even though they are theoretically competing in the same market already). All it takes is one or two "must have" new features and a few more related population explosions to gain critical mass. Many people use FB primarily for photo sharing and event organizing. Right now G+ only has 1 of those functions. Introduce the other and it makes a big difference, people no longer have to split their attention. This is especially true since G+, unlike FB, can optionally share with people by email address only, so it can be an excellent event organizer even if your friends aren't on it.

So bring on the new features Google! Let's hope you have a better "platform vision" than Mr. Yegge fears.

- Oshyan
158  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Post Your Funny Videos Here [NSFW] on: October 19, 2011, 11:02:15 PM
Not funny, but interesting... am I the only one who thinks this would make for an awesome locale for a heist movie?

Yeah, they should steal the golden cow!

- Oshyan
159  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal on: October 19, 2011, 10:47:33 PM
Let me clarify that when I said "outdated dead tree publishers" (admittedly with the charged "dead tree" term), I was not so much saying that physical, printed material should or will die, rather than the monolithic industries built around traditional print publishing systems should. On-demand printing is but one example of a potentially good way forward for independent authors. Or simple printing houses, which aren't going away. An author buys, say, 500 copies of their book and hires a local sales rep to hawk them to local book stores, or sells them easily through an online portal. They can choose to deal with shipping themselves or pay a service to deal with it for them. Dismantling the mainstream publishing empires into component pieces that people can deal with as they need (and as they please) makes the industry more flexible, more diverse, potentially more capable, certainly leaner and meaner, lower costs, less overhead.

In short, I am not dreaming of an exclusively digital future. Just one without huge companies having their way with every bit of media and art I want to enjoy.

As someone who has actually helped publish a book through on-demand publishers as well as Amazon, I can tell you it's actually quite easy to straddle the digital/real-world divide and utilize Amazon for what it's good for and book stores for what they're good for. Amazon may not want to deal with book stores, but I believe they do offer (and certainly other on-demand book publishers do) a service that can put your book into the main catalogs that book stores reference and buy from. Actually getting a store to buy it is another matter, that's where a sales agent and/or PR come in. I'm certainly not saying that doing things yourself should be the only way or that it will be easier or more successful than traditional methods. However the average author stands to benefit more from self-publishing *provided they take advantage of additional services like editing and sales agents* than they do in a traditional publishing model. This is because they know the actual cost of materials and services and can price their product however they want and, critically, they reap all profits. It's potentially riskier, but more rewarding (percentage-wise at least) as well if they succeed. The chances of success are also higher, though again "success" generally doesn't mean "millionaire author" (it very seldom does in the current publishing world either, but the chance is there, just like in music, which puts stars in the eyes of some writers).

I also take issue with the idea that digital-only/self-published music is unnoticed and consists mostly of crap. There's tons of crap, of course, just as there is in any artistic/expressive medium. But to say that only record execs or publishing houses or whatever can properly decide what should actually get attention is silly. It's easy to create systems that fairly rank and reward quality, or at least popularity. There are many modern examples of quality winning popularity contests and I would in fact argue that much of the trashy pulp, both in print and in music (and elsewhere) is actually promoted and made successful by the industries I'm pointing the finger at here, by the A&R people, the publishing reps, etc. "Ooo, sparkly teenage vampires? We'll sell millions!". Going independent isn't going to ruin our chances of finding good material and more than it already is, and it stands a good chance of improving it. It's democratization of publishing and promotion, essentially.

- Oshyan
160  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: A rant against the SmartPhone ecosystem. on: October 19, 2011, 10:40:32 PM
The walled garden isn't much like the FedEx example because it's being done for completely different reasons in a different business/client relationship. In the case of FedEx, they are a homogeneous business purchasing a device for specific purposes, requesting the vendor to implement this "lock down". It is the customer asking for that control, not the vendor, or their hardware or software provider, or even their service provider. In the case of the mobile phone market you have at least 2 major entities vying for control, the hardware/software manufacturer (not always the same, but often essentially so) and the carrier/service provider. Usually the service provider wins, at least in the US, because they are the main way to get the hardware/software manufacturer's product into the hands of consumers. But one look at how this stuff works in other countries shows that this has nothing to do with the hardware or software or even the fundamental nature of the cell phone business. It has everything to do with how the USA treats businesses and the skewed balance it allows in business vs. customer.

- Oshyan
161  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: A rant against the SmartPhone ecosystem. on: October 17, 2011, 07:57:18 PM
Do you all actually agree with what this person is saying? It's retarded. ARM is a generalized CPU architecture, based on RISC, that essentially has as much flexibility as x86. All the components that go into your average smart phone or tablet are no less capable of end-user update/modification/whatever than their PC counterparts *except* when it comes to *physical* upgrade. But in this sense they are much like a laptop. Few laptops let you switch out the graphics card or CPU, for example.

This person seems to be making the argument that because ARM CPUs and the related hardware used to be used almost exclusively in embedded devices that were entirely "managed" (i.e. the end user is not in control), that this is the way it *must* be. That this is somehow intrinsic to the hardware, or even the software/OS. iOS as one example, yes it's built with "lock down" in mind, but this is a conscious choice, and the mere fact you can jail break shows that the fundamental underlying OS is not so deeply locked down that it's not relatively easy to bypass. In other words the lock down is a layer on top of the OS. True "locked down" systems are embedded and actually have only the minimal functions necessary to support their intended purpose. iOS is relatively general-purpose, as is Android (also running on ARM).

In short, there is noting intrinsic to the hardware or software that makes things this way. In the case of Android that is especially so. Look at "Google Experience" devices and you see they're pretty open; look at the Cyanogen ROMs and similar Android OS branch releases and you can see it even more so. There is tremendous power, flexibility, and openness possible. It's the carriers and, I think to a somewhat lesser extent, the hardware manufacturers that demand lock-down. This is a business problem, not a technical one.

The whole quote seems painfully ignorant to me. Am I missing something?

- Oshyna
162  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal on: October 17, 2011, 07:36:44 PM
Or, optimistically speaking, the editors will go freelance or have editing companies of their own, the outdated and unnecessary dead tree publishers will die over the next 15 years, and we'll be left with a leaner, meaner system that's just as good at creating quality work but is also higher bandwidth. Mass voting and review output from readers will decide what succeeds. Yes, this means absolute bullshit could well be the most popular and make the most money. That's just down to the nature of modern society, possibly even human nature, but the underlying systems are - in my opinion - still better. Potential for less restriction, less bureaucracy, etc, etc. Then again it could all go to crap. Wink

- Oshyan
163  DonationCoder.com Software / Find And Run Robot / Re: FARR not a commonly downloaded program? on: October 16, 2011, 12:32:22 PM
I wonder if certificate signing really is the solution, do we have any definitive knowledge that it is? If so, I understand the intention, but really don't agree with the methodology. As the recent rash of compromised CAs has shown, this is hardly an effective security measure. What good is "trust" when the trusted parties don't care enough to implement proper security on their trust-granting systems?!

The idea of offering certification assistance to freeware authors who host their stuff here is interesting and worth further consideration I think.

Btw wraith, I do think they flag exes specifically with this, so your downloads probably weren't triggered precisely because they're zips. This is not an antivirus scan being run by IE, it's pattern matching, with exe as a likely component that increases risk assessment. Scanning inside ZIPs probably isn't done. That job is really up to your antivirus.

Edit: Ran some tests, interesting results. A download of one of Skwire's programs from here in ZIP format did not show the same message. A download of Terragen in MSI (installable) form from planetside.co.uk also did *not* trigger the message. To the best of my knowledge the Terragen installer is not signed, but it's also not an EXE. It may also be more popular than FARR, though that's debatable.

- Oshyan
164  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: ScraperWiki on: October 13, 2011, 03:40:27 PM
I haven't had a chance to look closely at this but the quoted description sounds quite promising, similar to something I was looking for a while back. Thanks for posting, I'll check it out!

- Oshyan
165  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Real life version of a Half Life 2 map on: October 13, 2011, 03:13:08 PM
FTFY (Fixed That For You) is quite common on Slashdot and I'm familiar with it as a result. Same use as IFYP.

- Oshyan
166  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Real life version of a Half Life 2 map on: October 13, 2011, 01:32:42 AM
I started feeling hungry half-way through. What's wrong with me? cheesy

Seriously though, crazy stuff. I don't get why he's stepping next to the holes in the concrete, I would be stepping on the metal sides at those parts. Oh well, he survived...

- Oshyan
167  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Wow: Google insider explains why Big G may lose the Internet wars on: October 12, 2011, 10:15:54 PM
This is a really amazing post by a Google employee, supposedly intended originally for a private Google audience but "accidentally" posted publicly and now, apparently, allowed to remain public. Read it while it lasts!
https://plus.google.com/1...1889851/posts/eVeouesvaVX
Some choice quotes:
Quote
I was at Amazon for about six and a half years, and now I've been at Google for that long. One thing that struck me immediately about the two companies -- an impression that has been reinforced almost daily -- is that Amazon does everything wrong, and Google does everything right... But there's one thing [Amazon] do really really well that pretty much makes up for ALL of their political, philosophical and technical screw-ups.
Quote
That one last thing that Google doesn't do well is Platforms. We don't understand platforms. We don't "get" platforms. Some of you do, but you are the minority. This has become painfully clear to me over the past six years. I was kind of hoping that competitive pressure from Microsoft and Amazon and more recently Facebook would make us wake up collectively and start doing universal services. Not in some sort of ad-hoc, half-assed way, but in more or less the same way Amazon did it: all at once, for real, no cheating, and treating it as our top priority from now on. But no. No, it's like our tenth or eleventh priority. Or fifteenth, I don't know. It's pretty low.

It's a long write-up but well worth reading all of it. Please do!

I don't really have much to add except to say that I've never really understood this issue as clearly as he states it here. I've had some sense of it, but the way he lays it out makes it blindingly obvious. I hope Google learns from this because I like their products and the general way they do things, but it's true that they are slowly losing the platform wars. I honestly thought G+ must have had a strong platform vision internally that was slowly being exposed to the outside world, but it sounds like maybe that's not the case. Eek!

- Oshyan
168  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Multiple printer defs under W7. Anyone have the key to this? on: October 11, 2011, 01:58:39 AM
Does your printer driver not have a built-in preset or setting memory management function? Or do you just want to make it a little quicker to access something like that?

- Oshyan
169  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: App vendors discover a new way to abuse Windows on: October 09, 2011, 02:31:04 AM
Silent updates and EULA changes are separate issues. A new EULA should always notify the user, regardless of whether the app it applies to updates silently. Keep in mind a EULA can be updated without the software being updated and - probably much more the norm anyway - software can be updated without the EULA changing.

- Oshyan
170  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Buying a fast new PC, anyone have a favorite US system builder? on: October 09, 2011, 01:54:04 AM
Looks like I'll be going with Puget Systems for this one. I'll be sure to let you all know how my post-purchase experience goes, but so far the pre-purchase service has been great.

Can't wait to play with this thing. Anyone else looking forward to Battlefield 3? cheesy

- Oshyan
171  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: App vendors discover a new way to abuse Windows on: October 07, 2011, 08:21:12 PM
Chrome did it not because of not wanting admin rights for *install*, but so it could support their silent auto-update feature, something which a lot of Chrome users actually appreciate (some even though they don't know it, hehe). It made me uncomfortable when I found that out, kind of like installing an app accidentally into My Documents or something (which I've done before long ago). Very messy. I do wish there was a better way to achieve what Google is trying to do with Chrome though. If they could sort out a way to establish "trust" for a given exe and then positively determine if a request to change that exe *originated from the exe itself* (or a process spawned by the exe), as in the case of an update, then it could auto-trust that perhaps. Yeah, probably an exploitable security risk. I don't know what the solution is but I think there will be a consistent push to have apps that keep themselves updated more easily and I'm more or less in favor of that.

- Oshyan
172  Other Software / Developer's Corner / Re: Need Partner, Help Me Make PC Gaming Better! on: October 07, 2011, 07:08:52 PM
Excellent. Added to my RSS!

- Oshyan
173  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Buying a fast new PC, anyone have a favorite US system builder? on: October 07, 2011, 03:41:39 PM
Thanks for the input guys. I'm guessing people here tend to either build their own fancy machines, or just get something a bit more stock/standard from a more major vendor. My primary interest was in finding out about people's preferred system builders, but I think I've got a decent handle on my options at this point. Puget is courting me pretty well still, there's a few hundred dollar price premium, but their OC offering combined with incredible ratings and good customer service vs. the major cheap competition of CyberPower and iBuyPower probably means they'll get my business.

I'll be sure to come back and post details of what I actually end up with, especially in terms of the from-the-factory overclock. They promise 30-45% which could be up to 4.9Ghz on the i7 2600k. Sweet!

- Oshyan
174  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Recommendations For PHP 5.3 Shared Web Host Please? on: October 07, 2011, 02:22:22 AM
I've heard surprisingly good things about Host Monster in the past. Supports PostgreSQL, but not sure of PHP 5.x version. http://www.hostmonster.co...cgi/info/hosting_features

- Oshyan
175  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: The Life-Changing $20 Rightward-Facing Cow on: October 07, 2011, 02:09:16 AM
Fascinating! I'm quite interested in the philosophy behind, yet totally repulsed by the reality of addictive, mindless gaming a la Facebook and Zynga. I'm curious to see what Bogost makes of all this after some more thought.

- Oshyan
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