Vim – next level in text editing

As someone who spends considerable time in front of a computer screen (or two), I knew that there were two groups of people, supporting two text editing systems – Vi/Vim and Emacs. The relations between these two is like the relation between Windows and Linux – both are considered superior by their supporters. I knew that both are supposed to take text editing, particularly for coders, to the next level in speed and possibilities, and that both are supposedly harder to learn, because most people are used to “classic” style of working with text using arrows and ctrl-arrows, shift for selecting, home/end, etc.

I also knew that this style of text editing is very limited – getting the cursor to the right place on a page full of text takes numerous arrow- and ctrl-arrow key presses, or requires you to grab the mouse. For a large group of computer users, this is no problem. However, if you’re using your computer for programming, and are interested in seriously boosting your productivity (not to mention other advantages, like being able to switch between platforms), everyone who’s made the jump will tell you that it’s worth it.

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Internet Marketing Resources For Musicians And Labels (Draft)

This post is meant to provide a collection of resources and concepts and basic ideas about how the Internet can be used in music marketing. It is meant for musicians, producers, DJs and labels, hopefully without too many genre-specific things. However, the general ideas about Internet marketing mentioned and linked to in this article may be useful to people in other fields besides music too. Currently, it’s a draft, so if you encounter errors, or if you think we should expand on some sections, if you have any questions, or ideas, tips, links etc. which we didn’t mention, please tell us, or feel free to leave you’re note in the comments. If some of the points aren’t anything new for you, good – because there still seems to be a lot of artists and labels big and small, for whom most of this will be new. You don’t have to care about the bleeding edge of IT to be able to make use of the excellent (and often free) marketing opportunities of the Internet. However, this post is just for you if you do understand that there is a lot of potential in the Internet, but you could use some help finding out some inspiration and also practical tips about what can be done and how. We’ll offer you some general concepts of marketing on the Internet, and we’ll talk about how to make yourself present at the places where people could be looking for you and how to make the most of them. Read on…

Read moreInternet Marketing Resources For Musicians And Labels (Draft)

Flight mode in Google Earth

Just a little tip for your next Google Earth visit. Besides the normal Google Earth navigation mode (Ctrl-T) there’s a “flight mode”, which can be turned on by pressing Ctrl-Alt-A or just Ctrl-A to start from current position.

You can control your plane using arrows, but usually you’ll need more precision. In flight simulator mode, when you click the left mouse button, your mouse cursor will take the shape of a cross, and every mouse movement now controls the plane. Another left click will switch the control mode off – the cursor will be an arrow again.

It takes a while to get hold of the controls, because even with the mouse everything is really sensitive, and you have to count with certain inertia. Basically, first you’ll want to make your plane fly straight. Using Ctrl-A to start from a flat angle, and then levelling the plane using just up and down arrows is a safe way to start, although in order not to loose height you might also want to increase throttle (using Page Up), close flaps (using Shift-F), and retract landing gear (using G). You can then use Ctrl and arrows to just look around instead of changing direction.

Use Ctrl-H to reach the complete help for GE flight simulator. There you can find more help and all the keyboard shortcuts. Enjoy!

UPDATE: With the release of Google Earth browser plugin, more interesting “simulators” are available – for example, you can visit http://www.paraglidingearth.com/ for a worldwide directory of paragliding sites, and use Google Earth as a paragliding simulator by clicking on “Fly this site”!

Another interesting use of the GE browser plugin, not a simulator, but a rather interesting visualization of various statistics, can be found at http://www.earthatlas.info/

Need more help with Google Earth? Visit Video tutorials for Google Earth at Google Earth Blog or Google Earth Basics page 

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Orb – accessing your media from anywhere

Last weekend, as I visited my parents’ house in Brno, I asked my brother, if he has heard a recent mix by Scratch Pervertz. He didn’t have it, so I went on the net to find it. Before I even typed in the name, I realized that there should be an easier solution. I connected to my computer in Prague with VNC, in ten minutes I had set up my Apache server so that it allowed access to my music directories, and we could listen to the mix in question. However, I thought, perhaps there will be some better solution. Something that would go beyond simply accessing files as they are – something that would for example convert them to different bitrates, so that it would be possible to listen to them on mobile phones. And what about videos? It would definitely be nice, if it would work with videos too – I could use the same approach, simply use a HTTP server to access my files, but that is even more impractical then accessing music, because of the need for bandwidth. I googled up one or two solutions for Windows, but I didn’t find one that would be powerful and yet simple enough. And as I already had access to my music that night, I didn’t pursue this matter further. Next morning however, a new post was out on Lifehacker, covering exactly this topic. And there it was – Orb. A service, that allows you to access media on your computer from anywhere, and when I installed it on my home computer, I found out that it is actually better then I would have hoped. It allows you to browse your media, catalogue them, tag them, create playlists, etc. It can also convert and resample your media to several format and bandwidths. And it allows you to access not only music files and movies, but also pictures and documents. And it works – not only can I listen to music and watch anything I have on my home computer at work (where it works flawlessly even behind a very restrictive, port 80 through SOCKS proxy), but practically anywhere where I can get a decent GSM connection on my Nokia N70. And while the movies don’t look like much, for the small mobile display it is actually pretty good, and in places where the mobile bandwidth is less occupied, there is no problem increasing the quality. Now this is something I didn’t know I wanted until a few days ago, and I’m already wondering how did I manage to live before that :) Not that I would need to fill my head with “media” all the time, but in the times when I do want some entertainment, this is very comfortable. There’s no need to recode movies, if I want to watch them “on the road”, there’s no need to copy stuff, or carry it with myself… and it just works. Great. You need to have a decent upstream on your home computer, of course, and it needs to be running, but mine is running most of the time anyway and my connection is 1.5 Mbps, so no problem there. Actually, I could see something like this replacing portable players in the future. I mean, I’m already used to having net access everywhere I go, and even though it is just Opera on a small mobile phone screen, it is still better then nothing when you need information, or when you want to catch up with reading some blog posts you starred with Google Reader. So why should you settle for carrying a few gigabytes of media on yet another gadget, if you can have access to all that is on your computer and on the net? There are limits, of course, the mobile bandwidth often isn’t good enough, and you will also probably reach the FUP data limits (10 gigs on my phone), but still…

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A few recommended books

I’ve been reading quite a lot throughout the summer, and thought I could recommend books that might be worth your time. I’ve been discovering America however, as they are mostly classic ones. Nevertheless, if you haven’t read these, I suggest you do some catching-up too. And, by the way, if you’re not into science fiction, these might be just the right books, as it is good science fiction. I’ve got hold of a few Ursula Le Guin books. I remember trying to read one when I was about twelve, and it didn’t seem to be my cup of tea then. Not this time however – she’s got me so good that I’m preparing to read everything she’s written. I read The Lathe of Heaven first, and I was astonished. It’s about dreams and how little we know about these everyday miracles.

The Word for World is Forest is a bit more moralistic, or how to put it, but it reflects Le Guin’s understanding of human nature woven in a classical topic, the clash of technology and nature.

The last book worth recommending so far is called The Dispossessed. Again, it’s a book with interesting and quite utopian ideas, as a large part of it takes place in an anarchistic society, which is being contrasted with a depiction of capitalistic system.

The second author is John Wyndham I loved his Day of the Triffids when I read it years ago, but I never got to read anything else from him – until now. Chocky has been a surprise, I definitely didn’t expect the kind of plot it puts in front of you – family and relationship issues, parents raising their kids… but throw one unusual thing into the mix, in this case a kid’s imaginary friend, and you have an interesting story with a message.

Last author I’ve been catching up with is Neal Stephenson. I’ve read The Baroque Cycle Series a while ago, and now I got to his older works, The Diamond Age and Snow Crash. While Snow Crash seemed like it is trying too hard to be a cyberpunk novel, it turned out as very interesting, since the cyberpunk world (which I got used to in no time anyway) serves as a background for topics like memes, human mind and Sumerian civilization, which I wouldn’t expect. The Diamond Age takes place in a more advanced world where nanotechnology is the common way of producing everything, and where there are no nation-states – people can belong to different organisations with different possibilities, goals and power structures. The world is depicted in utterly convincing and believable manner, and for me, the actual storyline was less of a priority – and while I had that with other Stephenson’s books, I don’t think it matters at all. They are simply incredible.

And then I’ve read Clive Barker‘s Imajica once again. Its often described as a monumental epic, and it really is monumental. While Barker is renowned for horrors and weird stories, Imajica is more of a fantasy/alternative reality thing (there, I’ve said it…). It’s got nothing to do with sci-fi, but it still is connected to the previous books with a red line – it is again a book which points out how little we actually know about ourselves and our own perception of the world, and what other possibilities there might be – now, or in the future – without us actualyl noticing anything, our perception caged by seemingly relevant pieces of information, fed to us first from the outside and later hungrily sought after by ourselves, when we’ve shaped our perception accordingly.

Read moreA few recommended books

Last.fm

is quite an interesting service, which follows what music you’re playing, and uploads the results so that a lot of classic data and Web 2.0 magic can be done. Other people can see what music you’re playing, you can see what they’re playing, you can get recommendations, tag and comment on tracks, artist, etc. I’ve known last.fm for quite some time but never actually began using it, since I had trouble running the plugin. I’ve finally overcome that trouble (I needed to switch off a setting in Winamp that decoded all mp3s with the mp3pro input plugin) and so my last.fm statistics (not really representative right now as I’ve just started) are available. And as I know you too have an interesting taste for music, please let me know your last.fm id in the comments :) I’ve also noticed (after who knows how long) that half of the site doesn’t work with Internet Explorer. Some things should be fixed now, however YouTube playlists still cause the main column to be too wide and disappear on the right. Well, sorry, you should use Firefox anyway. I’ve also fixed the blog RSS feed, added feeds for last links and music production, and redirected all feeds to FeedBurner.

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Alan Watts

I’ve known and listened to the lectures by Alan Watts for some time now, spreading them among people who know English enough to understand them. However, since mp3 it’s a very practical format to use as an argument in online discussion, I started looking for some transcriptions or fulltext books, and I want to share what I found.

So, who is Alan Watts and why should you care?Alan Watts is said to have brought the ideas of (zen) buddhism, taoism and eastern philosophies in general closer to our “western” way of thinking. His lectures however are far away from what one would consider as “religious”. He doesn’t operate with hazy concepts and construct philosophical structures – he keeps it really simple, providing at the same time deep insights of mostly psychological nature. Strongly recommended for everyone who consider themself, or would like to become, open-minded. And for everyone else too.

http://deoxy.org/watts.htm – lots of materials
The Relevance of Oriental Philosophy – lecture
UPDATE: Alan Watts Podcast – lectures

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Discovering Google Earth

I finally got to install this thing, and I’m overwhelmed. The feeling you get when you look at a place where you were standing a year ago (a cliff above a botanical garden near Cape Town, 34°20’42.52″S, 18°55’39.40″E) is nothing but godlike. It is like an upgraded view from a plane, except that while sitting in a plane you can’t zoom and rotate. I can see myself driving in a car somewhere in SA (I’m going again this Christmas I hope), pausing to take a look at my notebook, and seeing – now this valley nearby looks pretty, let’s have a small detour… Wow. Strongly recommended.

When I get to process photos from my two previous SA trips, you’ll be probably getting coordinates for every picture :)

Update: I got stuck at it for the whole day, and today I’m getting stuck again. This is a way to make geography an interesting subject in schools. It is a way to fall in love with this planet, if you don’t already love it here. It is a way to understand how it works – you can see the land of India colliding with Asia, and how the Himalaya comes out of that as a drapery on a blanket. You can see the lungs of this planet, the forest of Amazonia, with it’s fields of cloud and the cancer of deforestation – which, seen like this, looks really scary. You can see huge volcanoes in South America. Colors and fractal shapes everywhere. And then the work of humans. Look how huge is Tokyo and it’s surroundings. Look at the amount of smog above Shanghai. Look at the detailed cities of North America and western Europe. Awesome. Google Earth seems to be an amazing achievement. They have done it again. They’ve succeeded in changing the perspective of how we perceive information. I’ll be hungrily awaiting each new detailed place. Thanks, Google! By the way, I started adding some content in Czech rep., which was (until now at least, ha ha) quite poor on information signs.

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