Monday, May 15, 2006

Doctor Who?

I finally got around to renting the new Doctor Who series. I'll admit to having been a huge fan back in my teens. I used to make my poor mum hold off dinner until after the show because I couldn't bear to miss an episode. I was a bit surprised to find that my better-half had also been a Dr Who fan. Back on topic... the new series is surprisingly good. I've only watched the first 2 episodes so far, but I can't waite to watch more.

It seems that BBC has some sort of copy-protection on it, because none of the programs I normally use to watch European movies work with this DVD. I had to use up one of the prescious region-code changes allowed by my powerbook's DVDPlayer app. I tried using various software that I have used to watch region-2 DVDs before, but none could read the DVD. I tried a package which claims to be able to de-macrovision DVDs, but that also failed. It is sad because this forces me to BitTorrent the shows... I don't have cable because I just don't watch enough tv to justify the cost, and with this I can't rent it on DVD (since it isn't out in Region-1 NTSC, at least not as far as I can tell), so BBC is forcing me to BitTorrent it... when I'm perfectly willing to give my money. This is an example of why copy protection is so problematic.

Thanks MSDN Team!

One of the best things about Microsoft is that despite it's middling management, it really does have a lot of great people there. After MiniMicrosoft linked to my Visual Studio rant, I was contacted by some people who helped me track down the problem, and asked for some constructive advice on how to improve the documentation. This wasn't just a PR stunt... this was people who really want to improve the product.

I've known a few documentation writers at Microsoft, and bumped into one this weekend. I've been honestly impressed by almost all of them... I honestly don't even know why they stay at their jobs (and some of them haven't). The 'user-education' teams at MS are horribly understaffed, and typically spending a huge amount of time dealing with ridiculous busy work (updating old documentation to new file formats, dealing with buggy, unfinished new tools, etc). Like much of the rest of Microsoft, I think the documentation teams are suffering from middle management that is more interested in building empires and getting a raise than bulding good documentation.

So what was the problem that caused MSDN to crash for me? Embarasingly, I had acquires some malware. I honestly have no idea how I managed to pick up this particular evilness. I'm generally careful about what I install, and believe it or not.. I have never had a virus infection on any of my machines. I know when this hit me, because I noticed something using CPU on my machine and had killed that process and run Windows Defender which had supposedly found and removed the infection. What I found most interesting was that Microsoft actually has 2 malware clean-up tools! Apparently there is also something called Windows Live Safety Center. I don't get what the difference is... It appears that Windows Live Safety Center actually removed whatever it was that had infected my machine. phew. Much as part of me wants to clean my machine, it is embarasing that I feel the need to reinstall the OS on a machine I've only had for 3-4 months. I'll just keep praying for some benevolent deity to drop a lovely 2nd-generation intel Mac laptop... one that won't roast my lap. I still think that a Mac laptop with good PC virtualization would be my ideal platform.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rane rocks...

A friend of mine who uses Serato Scratch Live pointed me to an open house Rane was having for their new mixer which integrates the Scratch Live hardware into a basic 2 channel mixer. I popped up there for the event yesterday. I've always liked Rane gear, but I had no idea that they were located so close! I've got an ancient Rane MP22 mixer that I love. The Rane folk were outside welcoming people as they arrive, and any company reps that great you with, "you know, the last to arrive pays for the beer..." is good in my book. The event was simple, direct, fun, and unpretentious. And if you are a DJ, look at Scratch Live. This is the future of DJing.