Taming a Mammoth Music Collection

Whether you’re talking about LPs or MP3s, people have really different ideas about what constitutes “the ultimate music collection.” For some, it means a process of endless refinement, boiling down a set of music to the purest essentials: All signal, no noise. For others, it’s an archival process (“Why have one Bix Biederbeck CD when you could have 23?”)

record-collection

It’s possible to have the best of both worlds: Maintain a large collection so you have access to everything, but create a playback system so you only end up hearing what you truly love.

I’ve been an eMusic subscriber for nearly a decade. I’ve spent a good deal of my spare time over the past four years digitizing my entire record collection, followed by my entire CD collection, followed by the large CD collections of six record-collecting friends (one of which alone was basically the Musical Library of Alexandria). All told, I’ve managed to amass a collection of ~120,000 tracks spanning ~9,100 albums, mostly in lossless format, and all with high-quality album art.

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The accreted set now weighs around  2.25 terabytes  – large enough to have “special needs.” Over the past four years of building the collection, I’ve  picked up a few tips. Thought I’d share some of the most useful bits here,  in case anyone finds them helpful.

Love it or hate it, iTunes has enough traction to be considered the “default” music player for almost everyone, so I’m going on the assumption that it’s your player too. If you use something else, power to you! Everything below assumes you use iTunes 11 or 12.

This guide is split up into four major sections:

  • Remote Control (Playback techniques)
  • Miscellaneous iTunes Tips (Rare B-sides)
  • Digitization Notes
  • Building a Server

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How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive

Adjusting your own valves will not only change your relationship with your car, it will change your  relationship with yourself.

Muir Volkswagen - 1 - CoverThis book kind of changed my life. In the early 90s, I spent all my money in the world on a 1974 air-cooled VW Squareback, similar to the one I grew up in. A few weeks later, cylinder #3 seized up (cyl. 3 was famous for that). While I was kind of freaking out, my Harley-riding/building housemate calmly urged me to “Quit complaining. Drop the engine and fix the damn thing.”

That sounded impossible at the time, but what choice did I have? Went and got a copy of John Muir’s classic How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot and got lost in its pages for a week. With its Robert Crumb-style drawings and groovy prose style, it sucked me into a world of mechanical competence I previously couldn’t have imagined for myself.

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What astounded me about the process was the power of incremental demystification. It’s not until you remove the valve cover and see for yourself how the throw rods connect to the rocker arms connect to the valve springs that you have that “Ah ha!” moment, and all of the mystery of internal combustion suddenly starts to make sense. Every part you remove strips away one more layer of skin from the onion, revealing previous mysteries as simple mechanical truths. It’s an amazing experience.

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The process of fixing that car ushered in a few years of wrenching around for fun – first on the Squareback, and later on a 1964 bus that became the love of my life. I don’t do that anymore – I never took it beyond the simple mechanics of the air-cooled engine and into modern computer-controlled stuff. But the sense of empowerment that came from having gone through it lasted my entire life.

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For my 50th birthday, bought myself a used copy of the original book, and have been leafing through it at random, reliving great memories from that period of my life. So grateful.

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Blocking Malicious Bots

Over the past few months, we’ve watched as customer sites at Birdhouse Hosting seemed to hit their monthly bandwidth allotments sooner and sooner. At a certain point, it became obvious that this could not be explained by upticks in popularity – upon closer study of awstats logs, it became apparent that a great deal of that traffic was coming from malicious bots.

And the traffic was not just attempts to post spam into weblog comment forms either – this was traffic on images, random pages, RSS feeds, PDFs, everything.

A few days ago, a new suite of ModSecurity rule management tools landed in cPanel (cPanel is the hosting platform I use to run Birdhouse). I went looking for mod_sec rules intended to curb bad bot traffic, and seem to have hit the jackpot with a rule that consults the spamhaus Malicious Bot RBL. And because it’s installed globally, it protects all of my customer sites simultaneously. Here’s the rule I used (all on one line of course):

SecRule REMOTE_ADDR "@rbl sbl-xbl.spamhaus.org" "phase:1,id:'981138',t:none,pass,nolog,auditlog,msg:'RBL Match for SPAM Source',tag:'AUTOMATION/MALICIOUS',severity:'2',setvar:'tx.msg=%{rule.msg}',setvar:tx.automation_score=+%{tx.warning_anomaly_score},setvar:tx.anomaly_score=+%{tx.warning_anomaly_score},setvar:tx.%{rule.id}-AUTOMATION/MALICIOUS-%{matched_var_name}=%{matched_var},setvar:ip.spammer=1,expirevar:ip.spammer=86400,setvar:ip.previous_rbl_check=1,expirevar:ip.previous_rbl_check=86400,skipAfter:END_RBL_CHECK"

Over the past 24 hours it’s blocked  over 150,000 requests by bad bots to all of my customer sites. Absolutely incredible.

I’d  like to thank the fine folks  at spamhaus for doing what they do, and for helping to make the internet a better place – for free!

The Spamhaus Project is an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to track the Internet’s spam operations and sources, to provide dependable realtime anti-spam protection for Internet networks, to work with Law Enforcement Agencies to identify and pursue spam and malware gangs worldwide, and to lobby governments for effective anti-spam legislation.

 

Hatari

This version of tUnE-yArDs “Hatari” doesn’t get nearly enough love. Better than the version recorded on BiRd-BraInS, IMO. Just the right mix of low-tech avante and sophisticated. Merril Garbus, as always, a force of nature.

Rider creates massive bike on Strava

I’ve seen some of these done by hiking geocachers, but this is the first I’ve encountered at this scale (done by a cyclist, not a geocacher): Completely astonishing – from Cycling Weekly:

Salisbury rider David Taylor has created a stunning piece of Strava Artwork – a massive bicycle mapped out around the New Forest, Bournemouth and surrounding area. Taylor carefully plotted out a route in the shape of the bike and then undertook the mammoth 212-mile (341 kilometre) ride on September 20 that also took in 7,201 feet (2,195 metres) of climbing.

big-bike-strava

On that note, I’m a big user of MapMyRide, but am curious – do you prefer MMR or Strava? What are their comparative advantages? Likes/dislikes? I hear Strava is more conservative with battery usage, but that may just be anecdotal.

Earthquake Preparedness Kit

in the Bay Area, we live under the constant threat of a devastating earthquake happening at any time. There is no way to know exactly what to prepare for, but we wanted to create a “rolling survival kit” – something we could pack into a trash can on wheels, to be towed to some nearby location if our house were to be leveled. There’s no way to cover every possible contingency, but this is our shot at three days worth of survival gear for a family of three.

Earthquake Kit - 1

  • Twelve gallons of clean, sealed water
  • Four days worth of Coast Guard/Homeland Security-approved emergency rations
  • Canned beans and soup
  • Leatherman multi-tool (pliers, knife, screwdriver, wire cutter, can/bottle openers)
  • First-aid kit
  • Mylar emergency blankets (10-pack)
  • Hand-crank/solar-powered radio/flashlight
  • Mini camp stove with extra fuel
  • Water filtration system
  • Lightweight cooking pot
  • Plastic cups, bowls, utensils
  • Dust masks
  • Solar-powered USB charger for phones
  • Fint-and-steel fire starter
  • Drinkable vitamin C
  • Toilet paper, maxi pads, toothpaste/toothbrush
  • Moist baby wipes
  • Cotton swabs (for fire starters, in place of tampons)
  • Prescription medication
  • Misc plastic trash bags
  • Towel
  • Duct tape

There’s always more that can be added, but this covers most of the bases, fits into the rolling trash can pictured below, and gives us a lot of peace of mind should a worst-case scenario ever come to pass.

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Tour de Fat

Just back from Tour de Fat 2014 @ Golden Gate Park, SF.

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New Belgium (who make Fat Tire Ale) is an eco-friendly brewery that gets all their power from the wind, and who issue free commuting bicycles to all of their employees.

And they’re famous for throwing these huge annual bicycle parties all over the country. Starting with an anything-goes bike parade, followed by a full day of great food, music, stage performances, and bike stuff.

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Hand-painted tent wall.

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Me gazing out on the festivities through a steampunk periscope.

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More images in this Flickr Set

End of a (Short) Era

commits 13 months, 675 personal commits to the Yeti repo. Nearly a quarter million lines of code added or touched. It was an… interesting run, CIR. Sorry it had to draw to a close so soon (and before we had even fully launched). I’m proud of the work I accomplished there, but also frustrated, for reasons I won’t go into here.

As of tonight, I am temporarily a free agent. Another chapter begins after Labor Day, this time at the California College of Arts in Oakland and SF. Looking forward to a green fields opportunity in a new environment.

“To infinity and beyond!”

Bohemian Diary – Adventures in the Czech Republic

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Just returned from an amazing two weeks in the Czech Republic with family – one week in and around Prague, and another to the South in the medieval village of Česky-Krumlov, tucked in against the base of the Bohemian forest. From those two rental apartments, we fanned out to neighboring areas on side trips. So many adventures packed into a short stay – different / amazing experiences packed into every day. Will try to keep my notes short, but more is told in the photos than in these words – be sure to check out the slideshow (full-screen please!).

Fresh squeezed

Ever-present Trdelník

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