October 21, 2005

Remapping Key Combos for X-Tunes

It took me the entire morning to figure this out. I had started a post about it, but after I couldn’t duplicate the process I was convinced I had lost my mind, and I quit writing. However, I just replicated the problem on my PowerBook and fixed it to a rolicking success.

Both X-Tunes and Quicksilver need to be mapped to keyboard shortcuts to be of any use at all. I find Quicksilver to be handiest when mapped to “command + spacebar”, which is unfortunately the same key combo that X-Tunes uses by default. As fate would have it, “command + spacebar” is also the default shortcut for summoning Spotlight, but that is easily disabled under Spotlight Preferences.

I wanted to keep Quicksilver right where it was and remap X-Tunes to something else (say, “option + spacebar” would be nice), but something is really wonky in X-Tunes Preferences country. Every time I would get set up to enter my new hotkeys on the X-Tunes preference pane, the focus would shift to the Spotlight input field in the upper right corner of the window. Everything I typed would be ignored by X-Tunes and captured by Spotlight. At its best it was terribly annoying, but at its worst Spotlight would start searching within System Preferences, and bail out of the X-Tunes preference pane entirely.

No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep the focus off that darned input field. Now, no fault to the creator of X-Tunes, who kindly offers this little app free of charge. Indeed, X-Tunes was last updated two years ago, far before Spotlight even existed, so the great difficulties I’m experiencing certainly couldn’t have been anticipated. By pure chance, I was mashing buttons and pitching a fit about this, and eventually I ended up in the Mouse & Keyboard pane. Lo and behold, I had inadvertantly stumbled on the solution.

Here’s how you do it. And here’s why I thought I had gone crazy.

1. Go to the Mouse & Keyboard pane under System Preferences, and hit Keyboard Shortcuts.

2. Scroll to the bottom of the list. Make sure the Spotlight shortcuts are unchecked (or remapped) to keep them from colliding with Quicksilver, X-Tunes and the whole mess.

3. Locate the Input Menu shortcuts and uncheck them. They are typically located right above the Dictionary shortcuts.

4. Go back to the X-Tunes preference pane and click the button to change the key combos. Hit your desired keys. They should work, by golly.

Now, here’s the kicker, and why I thought I had gone mad earlier today. If you go back to Keyboard Shortcuts, the Input Menu shortcuts have completely disappeared. They’re not ghosted out or anything, they are just plain gone. Certainly I’m baffled, but I can’t say that I miss them too much.

^raving (fan|lunatic)$

Whoo-whee. The last couple days have been busy, what with clients and redesigns and kiteboarding and ten-mile jogs and learning RegEx and far more tea than a normal human should be able to consume while still remaining healthy. These days I blow off steam by pulling muscles and watching Invader Zim, the combination of which seems to be quite effective. Jhonen Vasquez is quite possibly the most insane person alive, and thus he has been catapulted to one of my all-time personal heroes.

Today I needed to check out a few websites in Internet Explorer and I made the mistake of firing up my Windows XP box to do some testing. I hardly spent half an hour in that environment, and already I was ready to weep I missed my Mac(s) so much. OS X has so drastically streamlined my workflow that diving into Windows makes me feel like I’m bloodying my head against a brick wall. Geez, what could Apple be doing so well, that makes even the latest version of Windows feel so blindingly miserable?

Exposé – Holy crap, I don’t know how I ever got anything done without this. For those who are non-Mac, Exposé (not nearly as obscene as it sounds) is a feature that, when you hit a key, instantly shows you every window you have open, shrunk down in such a manner that they all fit on your screen. I seriously use Exposé every fifteen seconds, summoned by my middle mouse button.

iTunes – iTunes is iTunes. There is no other program out there for managing your music collection. None. Competitors would do well to realize this. Speaking of which, what the hell is up with the competition? Sony’s new MP3 player looks like a Rabbit, for cryin’ out loud.

iCal – Every concert that I want to see gets dumped in here.

Address Book – I’ve never before had an address book that actual worked. Usually I end up with four cards for the same person, no cards for the people I really need, and cards that get replaced every time I receive an email from someone who has their mail client set up wrong. This one has yet to let me down.

Mail – The email program for OS X is beautiful (at least after you cagefight it). Smart Folders are a gift from heaven.

iPhoto – iPhoto is photo organization finally done right, which is fortunate considering I have 4,000 photographs.

Photo Gallery Screensaver – The zoom and fade features turn my photography into the best screensavers ever.

Fan Speed – I often fear that my Dual 2.3GHz Processor G5 PowerMac Tower isn’t on, it runs so quietly.

Anti-Aliased Screen Fonts – Especially on the interweb. Seriously, looking at websites on my PC makes me want to vomit.

Target Disk Mode – Geez, booting my PowerBook as an external FireWire drive on my G5 just makes syncronizations happen that much faster.

Terminal – I’m still geekin’ out over Terminal. I love being able to dig domains and do whois lookups like it ain’t no thang. SSH and MySQL are other favorites.

Apache – I love my localhost. I run virtual hosts for every site I’m working on, which makes development and testing so painless it’s ridiculous.

PHP – Running PHP locally is so, so, so hot, especially in tandem with virtual hosts.

Perl – Writing and executing my own local Perl files on a Mac is like being able to build my own executable files on a PC. I’ve hardly begun to realize the full potential of this.

Quicksilver – I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll mention it again. Quicksilver is a program launcher that eats its Wheaties, and makes launching programs so quick an’ easy that there’s now no reason to have anything appear in your Dock. It’s great at finding files, too, and internet bookmarks and recently used documents, effectively crowning Quicksilver as everything that Spotlight should have been.

X-Tunes – This is a tiny app that lets me control iTunes without breaking from whatever I’m doing. A quick keystroke summons the interface, from which I can instantly pause Radiohead (good) or skip Béla Fleck’s “Polka on the Banjo” (better).

BBEdit – It ain’t nothing but a text editor to me, but for one thing: Grep. The more I learn about RegEx, the more it’s becoming integral to the way I code (and recode) websites. Being able to capture and pass replacement patterns with \1, \2 is simply incredible. Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with being just a text editor. That’s why I bought BBEdit in the first place, and it’s by far one of the best editors I’ve ever used.

October 19, 2005

it’s goin’ off in rural minnesota

It’s a creepy, chilly October night. The night air is blowing like crazy, sending dead leaves skittering across the pavement. The porch door keeps slamming shut in the wind. If I was evil and undead (or rather, if I was evil and undead and unemployed) I would totally be out tonight, munching on live flesh. As it is, I’ve got work to do, and the freezer is full, so it’s tough to justify a night on the town.

Today was 75 degrees. Yesterday was 65 and windy, so I drove out to Waconia for a killer kiteboarding session. I haven’t gone kiting since last spring when I was living in Hood River, and holy geez did it feel great to get on the water again. The launch is a bit tricky and the weather is a bit gusty at Lake Waconia, but it’s a huge lake with a reach measured in miles, so you can get a heck of a lot of kiting in once you’re out on the water.

I was out for a couple hours, just smilin’ and slicin’ back and forth. At one point I caught a huge gust and nearly ate it, but I dug in my heelside edge like crazy and held on for dear life. With teeth clenched I waited for the gust to taper off, but it kept blowing and I kept accelerating to insane speeds. I rode that gust forever, driving across my two-mile reach in record time, and I never got railed by it.

I should have taken my victory as an indication to get off the water, but now I was greedy and would do whatever it took to get whatever I could. Sure enough, the wind absolutely died on me while out in the middle of the lake. My kite Hindenberged and there wasn’t enough wind to get it relaunched, so I began the slow and arduous process of swimming back to shore. After a spell I emerged from a drainage ditch with my kite, and hiked half a mile back to the launch site to grab my car and drive back for the rest of my gear.

All in all, it was a great session. I got a ton of kiteboarding in, notwithstanding my Walk of Shame. It wasn’t the first, and it certainly won’t be the last. I absolutely love this sport, even though she can be a harsh mistress. Afterwards a bunch of us smelly kiters went out for beers, hittin’ up Floyd’s in Victoria, Minnesota, a one-horse town if I’ve ever seen one. Once I got home, I spent three hours untangling my kite lines.

I’m forever optimistic, but it’s possible that our unseasonable warmth is drawing to a close, and with it the kiteboarding season. Fortunately, as soon as the snow flies we can start thinking about the snowkiting season, which is supposed to be absolutely epic in this neck of the woods. Lake Minnetonka is the big hang in this area, kiting out of the wind shadow formed by Spirit Island and Wayzata Bay. It’s a shame that Wayzata is five minutes down the road. I’m so used to living in Hood River, where Kite Beach is only three minutes away. Yes, I’m a spoiled brat, and I deserve to be punched in the gut. I would have it no other way.

The contact form is fixed.

October 12, 2005

Button Mashing

A few notes from across the multiverse.

Today I picked up my ticket to see Ben Folds at First Ave on the 25th. I went to Down in the Valley, as they’re an indie shop that has this remarkable deal where you can actually buy a concert ticket for the price of a concert ticket. They don’t do any of that “$6.00 convenience fee” or “$3.00 processing fee” crap, and you can avoid dealing with the soulless twerps at TicketBastard.

The new video iPod is kinda cool, but I’m still waiting until they give it WiFi. It’s only a matter of time until you won’t need your computer at all. Of course, by that point we’ll probably all have iPods injected under our skin or something, but hey, such is the price of progress. I’ll willingly give up a shred of my humanity, if it means I can listen to the new Halloween, Alaska album through wires that vibrate the bones in my skull, bypassing the ears entirely.

Geez. There’s a new My Morning Jacket, a new matt pond PA, a new Blackalicious, a new Nada Surf, a new Atmosphere, a new Death Cab for Cutie, a new Arcade Fire… come on, people! I love each and every one of you, but I can’t afford to feed myself if ya’ll are gonna demand so much attention all the time!

Speaking of ringtones, why do they all suck so bad? My new phone has at least 30 different tones, and every one of them makes me want to leap out of a second story window onto a wrought iron fence. If the art of excellence is too much to ask, how about the art of simply not sucking?

Quicksilver is one of the most useful apps in existence for OS X. I’d describe it as a program launcher on steroids, that silently listens and adapts to the way you use your system. Invoke it, type a few letters, and instantly launch a program, visit a favorite website, view a photo album, open a document or browse a folder. I’m still learning how to use it, but Quicksilver is so fast it’s stupifying, and it sure beats clicking through Finder.

I need to adjust my biological time zone. I’m rockin’ in the Central, yo, but I’ve been living as though I’m Left Coastin’ it. Sleeping, eating or working, I’m consistently two hours behind what any normal person is doing.

You learn a lot about government when you start your own business, mostly that there’s far too much of it. Take government websites, for instance. I am of the belief that a government website needs only one button:


…with another, similar button, right beside it:


That should simplify things greatly.

October 9, 2005

Urban Renewal

My most recent reentry to civilization has been more graceful than the last, and I’ve been working hard on a little something I call The Brainside Out Urban Renewal Project. I won’t go so far as to say that our infrastructure was in shambles when I came back from the border country, but after four months of neglect there was definitely a lot of work that needed to be done to get things running smoothly again.

Two years of nomadic lifestyle, coupled with a season of abandonment, has definitely taken its toll. Fortunately, we’re reaching the tail end of this new phase of modernization, and with any luck things will start settling into a more comfortable rhythm over the next couple weeks.

You may be wondering what The Brainside Out Urban Renewal Project entails, exactly. In short, it’s a multi-pronged effort to modernize the existing technological infrastructure of Brainside Out proper, with the primary goals of outfitting it with the technical and socioeconomic frameworks necessary to compete effectively in an increasingly global market.

Whoa. I can see why marketers write junk like that, because I just got a serious head rush while doing it. Sheesh. The straight dope is this, yo:

I’ve got crap that sucks. It needs to be replaced by new and better crap.

This is done, for the most part. The new computers arrived and have been hitched to the wagon. The new software is installed. My Windows machine has been hurled off an overpass into traffic. I got a sweet neoprene sleeve and an awesome shoulder bag for my laptop. I resampled and imported the vast majority of my music collection (more than 400 albums, at last count) at 256 kbps, putting to shame my old sample rate of 192.

I wish that CDs were a far more archival type of media, as many of my CDs are scratched to hell and won’t import, and some won’t even play for that matter. Besides scratches, my entire Bob Dylan collection suffers from an affliction that I call ‘CD leprosy’, where the surface of the disc is intact but the foil itself has flaked off horribly over the years. Great sad hunks of rhythm and song are missing.

I also got a new cell phone, which was long overdue. My old one was nice and small, yes, but it only had enough space to store 12 characters for each person’s name. As my contacts list grew I knew that this would become an unmanageable problem, and before I knew it I had five ‘Brians’ with no distinguishing last names. Fortunately, phone manufacturers learned something in the two years since I got my phone, and my new one holds an unwieldy 32 characters. Also, sometimes when I was trying to manage contacts my old phone would suffer from a sudden bout of Tourett’s and bark cryptic warnings like ‘PHONE NUMBERS ONLY!’ This insensitive UI seems not to have made it into the new phone, about which I am deeply grateful.

This new phone takes miserable pictures, too, which is really exciting! ‘Hey! Hey you girls! Wanna see a really blurry picture of ya’ll? I can do it with this here phone! By some impossible twisting of space and time, this phone can produce a photo that bears no resemblance whatsoever to its subject! No wait. Don’t leave, you gotta see this! What, you’ve got a phone in your purse there? Can I take a look? Hey, that’s no phone, that’s pepper sprAAAUUGGGHHHHH!’

Camera phones are God’s way of telling us that’s he’s still plenty pissed about a lot of things.

Anyway, things are coming back together. In the meanwhile, I’ve been having such a blast down here in the Twin Cities that I’m not even sure I’m going to make it back up to Duluth. I totally dig Duluth and all, but I’m getting totally addicted to Minneapolis. There’s so much going on in this town, so much music and culture, so many friends, that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify a move to Duluth. This has come as a complete surprise for me, and I am continually flabbergasted by how much freakin’ fun I’m having down here.

My calendar for October alone already has 20 shows that I want to get out and see. There’s no way I’ll see all of them (seeing as how most of them overlap), but what results is a fun fun game of prioritizing. Meanwhile, someone needs to announce a kick-ass Halloween party, and I need to get my act together and figure out a costume. Last year’s Zombie Undead Trucker was a stroke of genius, and thus the bar is set pretty high.

Yay for October!

October 4, 2005

tweakin’ out on all this anti-wilderness

The Mates of State show last night was absolutely stellar, despite the fact that an ambiguous something overflowed in the gal’s bathroom and flooded the entire dancefloor with nearly a half-inch of water. Some people ran for higher ground, but a lot of us paid no mind and just kept dancing and splish-splashing. The classic image was one of the guys from the Triple Rock furiously stabbing at the floor with two mops, trying to keep the floodwaters back from a rack of sound equipment.

Mates of State played a bit of stuff off their new EP, plus a bunch of songs that are brand-spankin’ new. Charts from Team Boo had a strong showing as well, and while I would have loved to hear more songs from the older Our Constant Concern, I’m still ecstatic that they played my favorite song from that album.

These guys are a total riot to see live, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard two people make so much noise. Well, come to think of it, there was that one hot summer night while I was living at Lava House, where everyone on the street had their windows wide open and our neighbors were…

Nah. Mates of State were louder. It’s hard to compete with drums and organ.

This explains a lot, and explains why I was getting a hundred messages a day from [email protected] regarding “Ffdsafgfds.” When I disabled my contact form they went away, much to the annoyance of anyone trying to get ahold of me. Apologies. Remember that you can always shuffle through a thick stack of Jacksons and the sound will send me runnin’. Failing that, there’s some RegEx validation I’ll plug into the form to secure it from injections. Until then.

I played a gig with the Como Avenue Jug Band the other night, and I got to play sax (and jug, and hambone) seeing as how they already had a bass player. I wrangled up another musician along the way, the infamous Silent C (also known as Mark the Hot Chick), who played a kickass mandolin solo in the middle of an Irish drinking song. That’s the thing about the Como Avenue Jug Band… it’s all songs about drinking and fighting and crawdad huntin’ and catfish noodlin’ and outright raunchiness, and that’s what makes it so awesome. Plus, playing jug is so much damn fun.

Ahh, jug life is the life for me.

Meanwhile, The Current continues to be the best radio station ever. They play matt pond PA and Junior Senior and Halloween, Alaska and The Bad Plus and Atmosphere and a ton of other stuff I love but have never heard, before.

Oh. And Minnewiki is pretty cool, too, if you’re into that whole "Minnesota music scene" kinda thing.

Na, na, na, na.