Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Father's Day presents

Gosh, has it been that long since my last post? It's not that I don't have things to post, I just haven't had much time. There was the computer crash, of course. And I've been preparing for a Western roleplaying game "one shot" I'm running on the weekend for the guys in Texarkana. There, you can blame those guys for me not having time to write.

For Father's Day I received a Sandisk Sansa 1GB MP3 player. Yay! It sounds pretty good, and there was a healthy rebate with it! I loaded it (all but 185 MB of it) the day before the laptop's hard drive crashed. I'm still debating what I want to put on it, but for now I have a smattering of albums and Tragically Hip and Rush hits. The player isn't an iPod, but I really can't see how an iPod would be worth the money (particularly since, apparently, you have to jump through hoops to load it with songs from anywhere but iTunes). It doesn't really have its own software, it uses Windows Media Player 10. Loading the device is, thus, a little obtuse (though you can also load it manually by treating it as a disk drive and copying files). Still, it sounds great and is very small. I almost can't wait for my next plane trip. On Saturday we bought a set of JBL speakers for it, half off. I can use it in a hotel room, or in the office I might be getting.

We received some free downloads from Connect.com through a Coca Cola point program, and so Saturday night I downloaded several songs and a Lewis Black CD (none of which are on my MP3 player, but they will soon be). It's funny how much of a pain online music sites can be. First, to buy from iTunes you have to download Apple's software. To buy from Connect.com, Sony's site, you need their software. Why is it that Sony's software takes longer to install and requires a reboot, when Apple can write Windows software that installs without a reboot?

Then there's the music. I went looking for "Optimistic" by Radiohead. It is only available as a track on the whole Kid A album. So much for the idea that you can cherry pick songs online. So, I checked out iTunes. Apparently Radiohead is signed with Sony, because there are only two songs — and no albums — available on iTunes, neither of the songs were "Optimistic". The same two songs were available on Napster. So, you wonder why with "over a million songs" per site and only a buck a track people are still sharing songs? There's a good reason. I'll continue to rip tracks from my CDs for now. (Which, funny enough, is legal in Canada. The music industry got Canada to enforce a royalty on every cassette tape purchased back in the 90s. They may have extended it to blank CDs. This has turned into somewhat of a "deal with the devil", as ripping and burning is now legal in Canada. Hey, music industry, you got the royalties fair and square...)

My other present was Formtool Deluxe. This was one of those $20 software packages you buy in office supply stores. I'm usually pretty wary about these packages, as I was burned about 10 years ago on crappy software. Still, I suggested that I could use this package... and got it! I'm quite impressed. The program allows you to design forms, either for printing or for typing on a computer. I designed a custom character sheet for the Coyote Trail roleplaying game in it. To my surprise, it worked quite well. You can create just about any type of form, with graphics included. Each field on the form has a name, allowing you to create formulae where the value of one field depends on another field. You can even give the form to someone as an executable program, and they can fill it in (but can't change the form itself). It's a little finicky when selecting fields, and there are some features I'd like to see. Otherwise, it's an excellent program. Well worth the money. I intend to use it for other roleplaying game character sheets.

Formtool Deluxe was what I was running when the laptop's hard drive crashed. Of course I lost the form I had been creating. I've since recreated the form and used it to create the character sheets for our game this week. I have copies of the character sheets on my jump drive. I can't risk losing them this close to the game. So far the laptop has been running well, but I don't trust it.

1 comment:

Mark said...

No you can't blame us; we don't even e-mail you back in a timely fashion; just pull up your big girl panties and admit you've been goofing off! The guys in Texarkana.