Friday, December 07, 2007

Quality of classical MP3s

There have been a bunch of recent articles and blog posts about the sound quality of MP3 files on iPods, some related to the opening of the Deutsche Grammophon (DG) Web Shop. It is disheartening how little evidence is presented regarding the claims of relative quality of MP3s versus CDs. Given how passionate some of the authors are about audiophile equipment and the like, they could have at least done some ABX testing to see how well they could distinguish between the formats. I'd especially like to see Fred Kaplan claim that lossless formats like FLAC only sound "very close to CD-quality" after such a test; give me a break. I'm also curious which of the authors could distinguish the 320kbps MP3s from the DG store from 192kpbs VBR MP3s properly encoded by LAME, the format long used by eMusic. On my decent equipment, I can't tell the difference between the 192kbps VBR MP3s and CDs, and that's good enough for me.

On the other hand, it seems that DG made a good choice with 320kpbs MP3s. The files easily work on all kinds of devices and players, and they seem to satisfy people who usually complain about MP3 sound quality (rationally or otherwise). Personally, until I can get lossless tracks for reasonable prices (around $10 an album), I'm sticking with CDs and eMusic.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Metropolitan Opera and Rhapsody

I just saw that the Metropolitan Opera has has just made available 100 past radio broadcasts on Rhapsody. I'm listening to a great 1958 Otello right now. With this, the theater broadcasts, and the satellite radio station, the Met is really doing amazing things these days.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

using Gmail IMAP access for email backup

Gmail recently enabled free IMAP access, an extremely useful feature for many reasons. For me, perhaps the best feature of IMAP access is an easier and better method for backing up old email to a Gmail account. Now, email backup is a simple process:
  1. Import the old email into Thunderbird. (Other clients may also work.)
  2. Enable IMAP access to your Gmail account in Thunderbird.
  3. Drag and drop the old email folders into your Gmail account.
That's it! Your folder names will show up as labels in the Gmail web interface. The copying process in Thunderbird takes some time, but you can safely let it run and go do something else.

Previously, one could backup email into Gmail using a program like GMail Loader. A key advantage of the IMAP technique is that the original email dates are preserved in the Gmail database. With GMail Loader, the date when a message was imported shows up during search (though the original email date remains in the headers). Use of the import date messes up both search and Gmail's threading features.

Generally, importing email into Thunderbird is a pretty easy process. I successfully imported and backed up some old Eudora email and mail in the MH format (by converting to mbox format with the packf command). The only downside of this whole process is the time one inevitably wastes reading ancient emails :).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

"Long-Form" News Aggregators

I've had a lot of spare time recently, and one thing I've been doing even more than usual is reading in-depth newspaper and magazine articles. There are a bunch of good aggregators for these kinds of articles on the web, and I thought I'd point out my favorites:
If you needed help procrastinating, I hope this does the trick. Let me know if I'm missing out on some other similar aggregator.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wire Season 5 teaser / Wire with a laugh track?

There's a promo up for Season 5 of The Wire: I can't wait. I also found this clip pretty funny, in a sort of disturbing way:

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Vegetarian Frosted Mini-Wheats

We were recently told that 365 brand Bite-Size Frosted Shredded Wheat, the Whole Foods generic version of Frosted Mini-Wheats, is free of gelatin and hence vegetarian. We've been eating them like mad ever since. Apparently Organic Frosted Mini-Wheats are also vegetarian; sweet!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

comparing renting and buying

David posted a nice analysis of whether to rent or buy a house, along with a handy spreadsheet to do your own calculation. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Feed for Josh Marshall's posts on Talking Points Memo

Finally, full text feeds are available for Talking Points Memo. I've wanted a feed just for Josh Marshall's posts on the blog for a while. Now that these full feeds are available, creating such a feed was easily done using Yahoo! Pipes. The pipe for Josh Marshall's posts is here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Toshiba Portege M200 and Dell 2407WFP

Warning: This post has specific technical tips that you probably won't find interesting unless you have hardware similar to that mentioned in the title.

I just got a new 24" monitor (the Dell 2407WFP-HC), and I had to set it up as an external display for my Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet PC. Unfortunately, the video drivers on my laptop didn't support the native 1920x1200 resolution of the monitor, even though the video card (an NVIDIA GeForce FX Go 5200) could do so. Furthermore, Toshiba is quite lax about updating the official video drivers for the laptop, and NVIDIA artificially cripples their official drivers so they don't work on older cards by default.

Fortunately, there's a web site dedicated to solving these problems: Laptop Video 2 Go. The site provides various versions of NVIDIA drivers along with modified INF files to enable those drivers to work on older hardware. I got things working with driver version 97.44 and this INF file, following these installation instructions. My INF file differed from that provided by the site in two ways:
  1. I added the appropriate resolutions for the 24" monitor and for my laptop screen (1400x1050), as in this post.
  2. I added support for Tablet PC features like rotating the laptop screen, as in this post.
After updating the driver, I also disabled the NVIDIA Driver Helper Service, as suggested here. The service was causing constant 20% CPU utilization (mostly in the RPC service under svchost.exe), and it doesn't seem to do anything critical.

Anyway, things seem to be working nicely now. Hopefully this post will help others in a similar situation.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Insane Tetris Video

I'm not sure if this is real, but in any case, it's pretty awesome:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Mad Men

We started watching Mad Men a few weeks ago, and now we are addicted. Matthew Weiner, who wrote for The Sopranos, is the executive producer, and as one would expect the writing on Mad Men is amazing. The show is also richly detailed in terms of props, costumes, etc., and the acting is fantastic. There was a nice interview with Weiner on NPR this past weekend about the show. Anyway, it's definitely worth a look, and if you do start watching, be sure to stick with it until Episode 4, which in my opinion was the first great episode (Episode 7 from last week was the second).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Playing With Prediction Markets

David writes about our weekend toying with prediction markets like Intrade. Apart from the clearly false assertion that I'm smarter than him, it's a good read.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Two Quick Recommendations

1. I've listened to Björk's new album Volta a few times now, and it's fantastic. It's easily her best album since Homogenic.

2. I just watched the first episode of 30 Rock online, and it had me laughing out loud in places. I'll post again if the show holds up.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Wire on Wikipedia

Today's featured article on Wikipedia is the entry on The Wire. I watch for changes on the entry (correcting sabotage, inaccuracies, etc.), and it's gratifying to see that people think it's an especially good article. Check it out if you haven't already.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Remnick on "The Sopranos"

I enjoyed reading this David Remnick article from 2001 on "The Sopranos." I especially enjoyed the end (the piece ran during the third season):

And, as Chase told me, there’s probably only one more season left in him before “The Sopranos” gets stale. He wants out. His next planned project is a feature, backed by HBO and distributed by Warner Brothers. And it is not about the Mafia. It’s about the Christian-rock scene.

Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Rico?

Heh. With the show really ending soon, I guess we have a Christian-rock movie to look forward to.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Multi-Column Article View Greasemonkey Script

I'm finally ready to reveal to the world my procrastination tool of the past few weeks, a Greasemonkey script that creates a multi-column, multi-page view of long articles. A screenshot will probably do much more than that description:

The view is obviously inspired by the New York Times Reader (which I've previously written about). Usage should be fairly straightforward. For most sites, using the script simply requires navigating to the printer-friendly version of an article (the original article is modified for sites like that don't provide printer-friendly pages). The pages can be navigated with the left and right arrow keys or with the buttons.

Some aspects of the script are not entirely debugged. In particular, sometimes the text alignment on a page is slightly off. I've found that slightly resizing the window often fixes this problem. If there are any Javascript experts out there, I'd welcome a patch to make the script more robust. Also note that I've primarily used the script along with Adblock, and it's possible that if ads are present the viewer will misbehave.

The viewer works on the printer-friendly version of an article, or the main article if no printer-friendly view exists. The following sites are currently supported:I also welcome patches to support more sites; hopefully it shouldn't be too difficult. You can get the script from this page on Let me know if you like it or if you have problems / suggestions.

Update (5/22): I updated the screen shot to show the aesthetic changes in version 0.1.3 contributed by Dave.

Update (6/27): Instead of updating things in two places, I'm only going to keep the page up-to-date with a complete list of supported sites and a change log from now on. So go there to see the latest news.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Moyers on the Media and Iraq

I wanted to recommend Buying the War, a documentary by Bill Moyers that aired last night on PBS (you can watch it online). It's really amazing to re-watch some of the media coverage preceding the Iraq war and to see how unbelievably wrong it was. Glenn Greenwald has a nice post on the topic.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Waiting Game

There haven't been many posts for a while, due to a good deal of traveling for job interviews. Now that I'm done with the traveling, all I can do is wait until the decisions come in. The waiting is fairly miserable; I've managed to be somewhat productive research-wise, but I can't help but glance at my email and phone a bit too frequently to make sure I don't miss any news. Even though the waiting is hard, I'm also slightly dreading the end of waiting, since at that point if I have multiple offers I'll have to make a decision. I know that all my options will probably be good, but I'm sure I'll agonize to no end over minutiae in trying to make the best possible choice anyway.

Well, that's about all I have to say for now. I just finished reading Bleak House after several fits and starts, and I hope to write a bit about it soon.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Suppressing a line number with the listings LaTeX package

Don't bother reading this post unless you are using the LaTeX listings package, have a code listing with line numbers, and want to suppress a line number in the listing.

By suppressing a line number, I mean something like the following:

Line 16 is split across two lines in the figure, but it's really one code statement, and I didn't want to have to refer to the statement using multiple line numbers in the text. Here is the LaTeX source for the key line:

String firstName = /*@\\@*/ /*@\underline{fullName.substring(0,spaceInd-1)};@*/

Note that since this snippet is used within the listings environment, the whitespace and the lack of a newline are significant. I used \lstset{escapeinside={/*@}{@*/}} before this listing to declare the escape sequence for adding other formatting. The {\*@\\@*/} inserts a linebreak, and then the spaces before the next characters appear as indentation in the figure.

Anyway, I googled around and couldn't find this trick, so hopefully this writeup will be useful to someone.

UPDATE (10/27/2008): In response to a request in a comment below, here is a minimal-ish full example that uses the technique. I've confirmed that this example works with the MacTex 2008 distribution (pdfTeXk, Version 3.1415926-1.40.9 and version 1.4 of the listings package).




String firstName = /*@\\@*/ /*@\underline{fullName.substring(0,spaceInd-1)};@*/
\caption{Example illustrating suppression of line numbers.}


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Snitches in Baltimore

I read this article on witnesses being harassed and murdered in The Atlantic yesterday, and was absolutely infuriated. Everyone knows The Wire is a realistic show, but for some reason it was only after reading this article that it hit home for me how horrible that is. Is there any vaguely practical path to a sane drug policy in this country? Please let me know if one exists, as I'm eager to support it. Also, email me if you're not an Atlantic subscriber, and I'll email you access to the article.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Rice and Keats

Just wanted to plug Rice and Keats, a blog well worth visiting; and I'm only a little biased :)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Times Reader again

I just wanted to recommend the New York Times reader again. They just updated it so that you can read any issue of the Times from the past week, a really useful feature. I've used the reader extensively on flights by syncing the articles before I leave, and it's been great.

Update (3/16): It looks like the Times reader will soon not be free, and for me, it's definitely not worth the price they are asking. On the other hand, Times Select is now free for students and faculty.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

News War

I wanted to recommend News War, a great Frontline documentary on the evolving role of the media that has been airing recently. You can watch it online, and the extended interviews are also really interesting.

Pipe for all my posts

Just for kicks, I made a pipe (as discussed previously) for all my posts here, on NewsDog, and on, and added a link to the feed.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Great David Milch video

I highly recommend this video of an interview / Q&A with David Milch (hosted by David Thorburn, who taught a lit. class that I took my freshman year). Milch talks about Deadwood, NYPD Blue, his own life, and the writing process. Perhaps the most interesting factoid: the role of Al Swearengen was originally written for Ed O'Neill (the father in Married with Children), but HBO wouldn't cast him; crazy.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Yahoo! Pipes

I messed around a bit with Yahoo! Pipes a few days ago, and it seems like a very cool tool (if a bit hard to use). I made a pipe for my brother's columns in the Stanford Daily, and it works nicely. I also recommend this Freakonomics pipe that only includes Levitt's posts from the blog. There are pipes that do all kinds of crazy mashups, but even the basic filtering functionality is quite useful.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hacking a felony?

I just saw this article in The Tech about three students being charged with a felony for getting caught in the middle of a hack. It seems a bit overboard to me; you would think that the MIT Police would be able to figure out that no harm was intended in a case like this one. Hopefully the charges will be dropped.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A visit to Philadelphia

I wanted to write briefly about what we did and ate during our recent visit to Philadelphia, which was a lot of fun. We took some recommendations from this Times article. In no real order:
  • Kingdom of Vegetarians: We ate here on our first night. Good food, but very large quantities; one appetizer and a main dish is probably enough for two. I was impressed with the number of vegetarian places in center city Philly; we had lunch at a vegetarian falafel place once, and there were plenty of other options.
  • La Colombe Torrefaction: Recommended in the Times article, this place does in fact have amazing coffee.
  • The Rosenbach Museum: A small, cozy museum showcasing the rare books collection of Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach and some antiques. Lots of neat stuff here, and you can see everything in under 2 hours.
  • Porcini Restaurant: A friend took us to this friendly Italian restaurant, where the owner typically mingles with the diners. It was a bit cramped, but the food was quite tasty.
  • Pietro's Pizza: The coal oven pizza was good, but stay away from the salad.
  • Naked Chocolate Cafe: Go here for some intense hot chocolate, very dense and served like an espresso shot; wow.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun we had during the trip; Philly is a place worth visiting.