This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

February 2002 Archives

February 28, 2002

The Prokofiev Page. The complete catalog includes links to where to buy sheet music and recommended (and other) recordings. Do other composers have web sites like this? This appears to be the work of a web design firm and is, alas, not part of a series.

Does anyone have copyright control over Prokofiev's work? Is there an estate that controls his work? He's modern enough that I suspect his work is under some kind of copyright control, but I don't know what form it would take, if any. Or is his work public domain now?

Appeals Court Orders FCC to Revisit Broadcast Limit. The current cap says no broadcast company can reach more than 35% of the country; Viacom and Fox are already in violation.

The three judges -- in a decision written by Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg -- said the FCC had not put forth a "single valid reason" why the ownership cap is needed to protect competition or boost diversity. But the court refused to scrap the cap because "we cannot say it is unlikely the Commission will be able to justify a future decision to retain the rule."

Philips asks European customs officials to seize unlicensed DVD players.

Anarchy Online, a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game with a sci-fi setting and a concurrent animated story.

In my neverending quest for a decent, free web message board package, I've been made aware of phpBB. PHP+MySQL, all the good features, free, and it hasn't been sold to some stupid company like some other board I know.

February 27, 2002

Supreme Court to review the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Whoa!

In a case initiated by an Internet publisher, the Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to review whether Congress has exercised too much authority in copyright protection. The outcome could affect the availability of books, music and movies online.

The nonprofit publisher and other plaintiffs argue that Congress sided too heavily with writers and other creators when it passed a law in 1998 retroactively extending copyright terms by 20 years.

This article does a nice job with supplementary background information on copyright and its repeated extensions. See also more info on this appeal.

Via rebecca: Creative Commons seeks to develop flexible, customizable intellectual property licenses-- free for anyone to use-- to legally define what constitutes acceptable uses of a work. The goal is to establish a middle ground between full copyright control and the unprotected public domain. SFGate article.

U.S. v. Microsoft: Comments Provided to the Court.

FAQ about DMCA Safe Harbor Provisions, from Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. Do you know your on-line rights?

ClearType, a Microsoft-branded font innovation, smooths edges of text by taking advantage of fine control over red, green and blue vertical stripes in each pixel of a flat-screen monitor (such as on a laptop or color handheld computer); regular CRT monitors will supposedly also see some improvement. Those of us without Windows XP will have to settle for the fakey-fake anti-aliased demo pictures and extreme close-ups. I notice, however, that the close-up demo images on Microsoft's pages cause my 5-year-old CRT monitor to do weird stuff, as if Windows 2000 or IE 6 is trying to special things with these web pages (and perhaps failing). The promise of a feature like this is almost enough to get me to upgrade to WinXP. Almost.

February 26, 2002

Crossed Nauts. (David is silly.)

We still want our HDTV.

A few years ago I had the privilege of seeing a demo of HDTV over Internet2 at the University of Washington. (Remember Internet2?) Several consumer-sized HDTV showed the HDTV broadcast signal from KING-5, which at the time mostly broadcasted footage of Husky football training because only a few shows had HDTV equivalents (the local news, a few primetime shows and Jay Leno). The HDTV signal over Internet2 was splayed up on a giant HDTV video wall, about 12 feet high. The image was a live picture from Stanford-- of a graduate student sitting in his office. The world's largest webcam, in glorious high-definition.

However, HDTV's purchased before 2002 may be obsolete already. Slashdot predicts that this new HDTV encryption standard combined with the DMCA may very well eliminate TiVo-like devices from our future.

Mena rules: Which Biff is your favorite Biff? Can I get a 5-foot poster of that chart for my wall?

The Alphabet Synthesis Machine uses a 'seed glyph' that you draw to generate a new alphabet. Tweak some parameters and 'evolve' to your liking, then download your new alien alphabet as a TrueType font.

The ReAct Theater opens its ninth season with Schoolhouse Rock Live!, a musical review of songs from Schoolhouse Rock. Opens March 14.

February 25, 2002

Today I'm all about digital pianos. Dare you to guess why.

While I was never very good at the piano, I took it fairly seriously through junior high and high school. I made a hobby out of visiting piano stores and pretending to be seriously interested in buying one, wasting countless hours of piano salesman hours. I was particularly obsessed with the potential of digital pianos, which offered the keyboard action and sampled sound of a grand piano with the privacy of headphones and multi-instrument capabilities of other musical keyboards (much like the tiny little toy Casio keyboards most of us had at one point-- rhumba beat!-- but on a much grander scale). Eventually, high-end digital pianos were elaborate enough to create reasonable simulations of large orchestrations in a wide variety of genres and styles, for the novice with auto-accompaniment, or for advanced recording musicians and composers with computer sequencing equipment and software. Modern day digital pianos are so sophisticated that the technology on which they're based threatens the use of genuine instruments in areas with tight production budgets, such as television incidental music. (I was worried for TV for a while, but nowadays it seems the better producers still see the value in hiring an ensemble of musicians over hiring just the one with the fancy equipment, at least for the title themes.)

I repeatedly considered getting a digital piano through college, acoustic pianos being essentially not an option for dorm or apartment use. Of course, I couldn't afford even the cheaper models while I was a student. Having managed some success as a software engineer in the last few years, however, I decided to reinitiate my quest, this time with an intent to buy. The digital piano world has advanced greatly since I was in high school. Even the less expensive models are considered by many to have action as good or better than an acoustic upright piano, especially with regard to speed, the ability to play an already-played note without bringing the key all the way up to its original position. The sampled sounds are fantastic; digital pianos have had great piano sounds for a while, but in many cases other instruments have caught up; even difficult-to-reproduce instruments now have satisfying equivalents.

After several trips to piano stores over the course of the last year, I concurred with general consensus on the Internet that pretty much the best all-in-one non-stage-style pianos are the Yamaha Clavinova series, specifically the CVP line. The latest series (the 201, 203, 205, 207 and 209) came out just last year, leaving the previous series (101, 103, 105, 107 and 109) on the clearance market. They're cleverly priced such that the 207 is the most cost-effective, feature-wise, and anyone who has played a 207 swears the feature differences between it and lower models make a huge difference. I know I do.

While considering the CVP's, I was pleased to discover the CVP User's Group, a club of over 800 people worldwide that trade purchasing advice and operating tips on Clavinovas. Especially nice is the CVP FAQ, which is far more up to date than the somewhat stale FAQs. Wally does an excellent job of keeping the group active and interesting. (See also the group, which still has a few signs of life.)

Half the conversation on the CVPUG mailing list is about pricing. Dealers in the United States have a reputation for being the most expensive way to acquire Clavinovas thanks in part to exclusive dealership contracts with Yamaha that restrict dealers to sell only in their service area in exchange for a monopoly (for Yamaha pianos) in that area. Even after negotiated discounts (talked down from sticker price like you would a car), US prices are very high compared to prices in Canada or overseas. A CVP-207's sticker price in a US store is around $7500. Given the newness of the 200's, a typical dealer might not be willing to go any lower than $6000, though CVPUG reports a Philadelphia dealer that goes as low as $4600. A Calgary (Canada) dealer is reported to be selling for $4600 US as well, but buying outside the States means no warranty. Some don't consider the warranty a big issue; as long as you get the piano home in one piece, they rarely break, and do-it-yourselfers can buy a service manual for $40. Particularly disappointing right now is the price of the older 100 series; only floor models are available, but they're still priced to push the new ones. When the 100's clear out, the post-negotiation price of the 200's will probably drop, probably about a year from now.

The cheapest option is to buy from overseas. Piano Depot in Belgium sells CVP-207's for under $3000, plus $700 shipping and import fees. (The thing is 200 lbs, I'd expect it to be difficult to get across the pond.) Given the incredible hassle of returning a piano if it arrives busted, breaching a communication barrier, and other risks associated with sending thousands of dollars over a web site, dealer communication is a big deal, and I wouldn't have even considered this option if Piano Depot didn't try so hard to have a good, active relationship with the CVPUG. Musician's Gear, in Germany, is another favorite (though you may have to pick up your piano at the airport). CVPUG'ers report success with buying from overseas, though you also have to worry about power converters (usually included with the piano by these dealers) and minor differences between US and non-US models. Subscribers to the group can access a small database of purchase experience stories.

My local dealer, of course, had a few "horror stories" in his back pocket about buying from overseas. Such a transaction is certainly not for the faint of heart or for anyone who might need assistance using their piano. Despite all the discussed advantages and disadvantages of buying from a local dealer, the biggest advantage for the local dealer for me is the ability to trade up to newer models practically at my first purchase price. While acoustic pianos can be usable and servicable for over a century, digital pianos are far more computer than they are piano and as such could become unservicable in 15-20 years. While I'm sure I could get something for a trade-in of an overseas model, buying from and trading in to the same dealer earns a much better price.

So, did I buy one or didn't I? Would I spend seven paragraphs on the subject if I didn't? (Well, probably... :) My locally purchased CVP-207 arrives tomorrow. I spent hours at the dealership playing with the thing yesterday, it's an amazing machine. No doubt I'll be mentioning it repeatedly at least for the next few months.

February 22, 2002

Back to the Future coming soon to DVD.

The groundbreaking Back to the Future Trilogy DVD starring Michael J. Fox and from the Academy Award ® - winning powerhouse team of Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis will feature an incredible array of all-new, never-before-seen bonus materials such as feature commentaries, outtakes and deleted scenes. Experience firsthand the exhilarating magic and unbelievable action scenes that set a new standard for adventure comedy films.

But when? (Thanks Brad.)

Phase 3 Studios' new immersive 3D Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy PC game will be released May 2002, to coincide with the publication of Adams's final novel, The Salmon of Doubt. A few screenshots are available.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 for GameBoy Advance will be released on March 8.

Losing the war on patents. (A conflict of interest between and BountyQuest? Never!)

WinImage lets Windows users conveniently create, write and manage disk images. I haven't needed a floppy disk image in a long time, but I wouldn't want to get stuck needing to manipulate one without a tool.

I really hope I never have to learn C#, but if I do, at least I can do so without buying Visual Studio .NET.

February 21, 2002

Portable Monopoly is about to release an internal lighting kit for your Game Boy Advance. Cost: $35. Yes.

Microsoft's lobbying efforts eclipse Enron. Political donations in the 2000 election exceeded $6 million. Also:

Microsoft's direct lobbying has also grown out of all proportion, so that it now retains more lobbyists than the handful of companies with more than 300,000 employees. Microsoft has just 30,000 employees. Part of the reasoning for extensive use of retainers, says Roeder, citing a Business Week article, is to "suck all the oxygen out". In Washington State, Microsoft has hired many law firms with antitrust expertise to work in unrelated areas.

The strategy was extended to other key states, with the dual benefits of starving the opposition of experienced lobbyists, and achieving political results that have benefited the company's case.

How to get your certified birth certificate.

One of many reasons why I'm not a consultant is my fear of having to personally deal with the fundamental problem of software management:

If there's one thing every junior consultant needs to have injected into their head with a heavy duty 2500 RPM DeWalt Drill, it's this: Customers Don't Know What They Want. Stop Expecting Customers to Know What They Want. It's just never going to happen. Get over it.

I like to satisfy people, and if people aren't satisfied, I'm not satisfied. But I need a manager between me and my customer to keep that from getting horribly out of control.

Pokey the Penguin has been around since 1998. And it's still here! I don't know if any of these are new (probably not), but, it's Pokey the Penguin! SYMPATHY IS FOR THE WEAK!

February 20, 2002

Anita writes that Blockbuster has stopped carrying widescreen DVDs, and has asked manufacturers to supply them with only pan-and-scan versions of movies. The only mention she can find online beyond this online petition is a mention by Roger Ebert (somewhere down the page): "This takes me back to a day years ago when I had one of the founders of Blockbuster in my home and was proudly showing off a letterboxed laserdisk. To my disbelief, he did not understand the format and I had to explain it to him. He was a retailer, not a movie lover. The company follows in the same tradition." (Also via


Boingo is giving away free Wi-Fi PC cards at SeaTac airport with sign-up for Boingo Wireless service. Gate B4. Note that this isn't wireless as in cellular, this is wireless as in 802.11b hotspots in a variety of locations. I could use another Wi-Fi card, but I don't need service right now, thanks. Great idea, though, at an attention-getting location; and if I frequented wireless locations with my laptop in hand, I might spring for the $25/mo.

The Computer Museum History Center. Yes.

Holidays and Other Dates in the US Secular Calendar, including algorithms for figuring out the tough ones, and links to calendars of religious holidays. Largely based on The Calendar FAQ.

I hate spambots. I never should have put my email address on my website to begin with. Instead, I've had to sacrifice a perfectly good email address because it was getting too much spam. I still have to get around to removing my email address from my online resume, but everything else now goes to a contact form. (There are ways to disguise an email address with JavaScript, but the best way to keep an address out of the clutches of a spambot is to not post it in the first place. I hope at some point to upgrade the "email" field in the comments posting to do automatic JS disguising...)

February 15, 2002

Fox has not renewed Futurama for a 5th season.

And, via Dan: Futurama Season 1 DVD Box Set-- in PAL format, region 2. Dan also mentions a rumored Sifl & Olly DVD but cannot find it. Fate is cruel!

New Space Quest game possibly in development! More at Roger Wilco's Virtual Broomcloset. (The Broomcloset also has information on an aborted attempt at Space Quest 7, which inspired an attempt at a fan-created sequel that also didn't quite happen.)

Hint to developers of new Space Quest games: Get Gary Owens to narrate every one of them.

WorldForge: In Pursuit of Open Source, Massive, Online Games.

Ask Slashdot: Designing Multiplayer Game Engines?.

Be it duly noted that John Di Maggio, who voiced the characters Wakka and Kimahri in Final Fantasy X for the Playstation 2, also plays Bender on Futurama. He also played Dr. Underhill on Chicago Hope (site includes pics and video), if that means anything to anybody.

Billy West, who plays Fry on Futurama, also has an impressive array of voice credits, including Stimpy, and the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee. As if it weren't impressive enough that he also plays Professor Farnsworth and Doctor Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan, all on Futurama.

Breadth vs. Depth and The Myth of "Seven, Plus or Minus 2" in web design.

February 14, 2002

Who else sang Popsicle Toes? Besides Diana Krall, that is. (Michael Franks, for one.)

Speaking of the lovely Diana Krall, her Paris concert will be out on DVD and Video April 2.

Eric Weisstein's Treasure Trove of the Life Cellular Automata. You know, Conway's Game of Life. See also Eric's Treasure Troves of Science and Eric's Excruciatingly Detailed Star Trek (TOS) Plot Summaries.

Do any of these look familiar? Yes indeed, as Eric Weisstein is the same quality Internet author and archivist that runs MathWorld. I wish I had the time to make sites like Eric's-- indeed, this is the kind of thing I'd do if I were rich enough to retire early, at least for the first couple of years.

And the A.M. Turing Award goes to Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard of Norway for their role in the invention of object-oriented programming. Kristen gave a presentation at my workplace recently, and I missed it. (D'oh!)

First Annual Google Programming Contest. $10,000 first prize. What would you do with 900,000 web pages?

An oldie, re-blogged to correct my link on file: This American Car Talk.

February 13, 2002

Tales of microcurrency: how to be your own bank, and why. (Warning: sound in an Intel ad on this page.)

The LED Museum. (Thanks Anita.)

Kate Mulgrew to play Kate Hepburn on stage. (Thanks Brad.)

If my website isn't the first that comes up when you search for my name in a search engine, I'll sue!

Why Not to Build a Proprietary CMS.

PHP-GTK demonstrates that PHP is more than just a web scripting language. This add-on lets you write "client-side" GUI apps in PHP. They've bumped the version number to 0.5.0 to indicate that you can actually use it for cool stuff now. (Of course, I'm just finding out that you can execute PHP from the command line.)

February 12, 2002

The nominees for the 2001 Academy Awards are... Too many people liked Memento for it to get snubbed for a nomination, especially if LotR gets one. I loved Moulin Rouge and think it deserves a nomination despite its flaws, though it's a little too flawed for a win. I never saw Waking Life, and while it didn't sound like it was necessarily Best Picture worthy, it seems a huge upset that it's not even mentioned in the new-this-year Best Animated Feature category, which is already pretty sparse. (I can't imagine Jimmy Neutron was nomination worthy; weren't there other animated films last year?) Royal Tenenbaums is absent, but that was to be expected. I'm very pleased to see Amelie in more than one category.

What else got unfairly overlooked? What shouldn't be on this list? Any surprises?

February 8, 2002

Like the idea of the Google Toolbar but wish it could search sites other than Google? Want something like Dave's Deskbar without the geekiness of cryptic symbols? Andre has gone and written Nutshell Toolbar v1.0 for IE for PC. Go Andre go!

Andre's Nutshell is exactly what I wanted before I found Dave's Deskbar. I'm sticking with Deskbar only because it's very easy to add extensions to it. Simple Deskbar extensions, the ones that merely involve giving it the name of the website's search form and its search field, can now be specified in an XML file. Andre's Nutshell could very easy be adapted to also support this XML file, and we'd have a little revolution on our hands.

Google's Toolbar still has the nifty hiligher feature, though. :)

I keep meaning to follow up on this: Stephen Sondheim: Songs I Wish I'd Written (at least in part). This list is archived everywhere, but I picked this guy's site because I liked the domain name.

It's nice to see is back in full force these days.

Sesame Street to get major overhaul. The research is discussed in this episode on On the Media (RealAudio link), 19 minutes in. (Thanks Jish.)

Richard Roeper, Roger Ebert's new sidekick, is an idiot, and I love it when he demonstrates it-- especially when Ebert tears into him as a result. Listen to Roeper's review of Metropolis, an anime from last year based on a comic book series by Osamu Tezuka. Roeper clearly has never seen an anime before, and is baffled.

Microsoft stops new work to fix bugs. According to Richard Purcell, head of Microsoft's corporate privacy office, Bill Gates "is really annoyed by the incredible pain we put everyone through in computing."

AmigaOS XL lets you install and run AmigaOS on a PC. Article includes screenshots. I used an Amiga 500 as my sole computer for almost half of my life, but while I'm certainly nostalgic, I don't really have a good reason to go back. I have nothing left from my Amiga years except a bizarre little book from Compute! publishing entitled, "Learning C: Programming Graphics on the Amiga and Atari ST." (The title is a good indication of the book's weirdness. I keep it for nostalgia, and for a couple of chapters on graphics algorithms.)

The brief history of the Amiga at the end of this article is fun.

February 7, 2002

In thinking about practicing, playing and singing music in our townhouse apartment, I thought I'd try to find information on soundproofing an apartment on the Internet. I type "soundproofing an apartment" into Google, and the first link is an article entitled "Soundproofing an apartment," hosted at They apparently sell soundproofing materials through this rather garish website, but there's some information here that might come in handy. Alas, the demo sound files in this rather silly article don't work, and the materials used sound awfully complicated. But a noisy neighbor-- or the threat of being one-- might be enough motivation to consider some of these options.

Alas, our place is so skinny and the space so well shared between me and my fiancee, I don't think I can apply any soundproofing procedures to any room here. I'm sure at some point we'll have a house, where I can possibly have a room of my own to soundproof. In this apartment, I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable playing anything with which I couldn't use headphones, let alone doing voice or recording work. Ideally I'd like a recording studio-like booth with a glass pane and an intercom, mostly for safety. (As much as I'd like to silence the outside world when I'm trying to record, or contain my noises when they're not ready for consumption by others, the idea of being completely isolated in a windowless room makes me uneasy.)


Mathnet and Square One Video Clips.

New Scientist on CopyLeft and Open Source.

February 6, 2002

For nearly a decade now, Billy Joel has devoted himself to writing instrumental classical music. The results heard on Fantasies & Delusions show the "Piano Man" firmly rooted in Romanticism and short, expressive works that cover a range of moods. There are hints of Schumann and Chopin throughout the 10 solo piano compositions; Joel may wear his influences on his sleeve, but at least he has great influences. Some critics may scoff, but this is a solid debut--not a "classical crossover" attempt filled with infectious pop melodies, but an impressive recording of new piano works played solidly by Richard Joo. As with his pop creations, Joel doesn't strive for the cutting-edge and he certainly doesn't traverse the depths of human emotions (though the 11-minute "Soliloquy, Op.1" sounds a little overwrought). This is still a pleasant classical album that's infinitely listenable (and head and shoulders above recent "classical" works penned by Paul McCartney and other pop stars).

-- review

And if you enjoyed the album as much as I did, you might be interested in the sheet music.

BTW, according to the official Billy Joel web site, Borders is having a sweepstakes where you can win a Steinway piano autographed by Billy Joel. Visit your local Borders to enter.

How Not to Lie. (Thanks Jessamyn's sidebar.)

Arcade game ringtones for your cell phone. (Thanks usr/bin/girl.)

Linux for Playstation2 v1.0 to release in May.

The Art of Circuit Bending. Tweak your toys to make some noise!

February 5, 2002

Bush administration uses guise of improving prenatal care to promote anti-abortion legislation. Regardless of the abortion debate, this is a terribly underhanded way to implement controversial legislation. If this administration wanted to start a prenatal care program, they would have started a prenatal care program. (This surprisingly civil MeFi discussion spends a lot of time on the abortion debate itself, but also goes into detail about this backdoor approach.)

Apple's Rejected iMac Designs. (Thanks Jish.)

After fretting about a few annoying bugs in Pine v4.21, an older version installed at Dreamhost, superstar Dreamhost tech supporter William not only suggested I just download and build my own copy of the latest version (why didn't I think of that?), but also pointed me to this list of patches for Pine-- especially the fancy threads patch. I can't believe I lived so long without Pine v4.44, let alone the fancy threads feature. See also the excellent Pine FAQ at this site.

I'm still waiting for a patch/new feature to list the number of new messages in each folder in the folder list, so I don't have to go folder diving just to look for new messages. Perhaps it's already there, and I've overlooked it? (I was only recently made aware that the message list is highly customizable by editing the config file.) I'd gladly use tab-to-next-folder-with-new-messages, but I never got it to work for me. Perhaps I just need to switch email programs.


James Newton Howard, Master of MIDI Orchestration appeared in old issue of Keyboard Magazine. This web page includes audio files of one of his pieces for Disney's Dinosaur, one of his MIDI-orchestrated demo, the other the actual orchestral recording. The article includes his equipment list and tips on making computer-controlled gear sound close to the real thing.

I found this article at the library today, but neglected to note which issue it appeared in. While the Keyboard website has a search engine for locating back issues (that you can order directly from the publisher), I can't locate this article with it at all. (Can't find it in InfoTrac, either. Oh well.)

February 4, 2002

Last Saturday was SWUD #5, Seattle Webloggers Unite, Dammit!, at the Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse in Seattle. On Bryan's behalf (it was his napkin), I've taken on the responsibility of posting the attendees list. Please post a comment if I've forgotten anybody. In alphabetical order: Anita, Bryan, Colleen, me, Dan, David, Eric, Erin, Jeremy, Jim, Lisa, Manuel, Morgan, Nina, Rebecca, Sandra, Shawn, SJ, Stacey, and Rose. [Updated: fixed Rose's URL. :]

I didn't get very good pics, I'm afraid, but I brought a few things home that I could scan:

Hello My URL Is

Rose and Eric made these cool "Hello My URL Is" name tags for everyone.

The Napkin

The napkin with almost everyone's names and URLs on it.

A Receipt


February 1, 2002

You've reached that age, Listy. When you're younger you can eat what you like, drink what you like, and still climb into your 26-inch waist trousers and zip them closed. Then you reach that age, 24, 25, your muscles give up, they wave a little white flag, and without any warning at all you're suddenly a fat bastard.

-- Rimmer, Red Dwarf, "Bodyswap"

Amazon Turns Profit, Say Flying Pigs.

Speedpool2. (Thanks Anita.)

The Art of Computer Game Design, by Chris Crawford, 1982. This tome is available online in PDF and HTML form.

Scientific American on Television Addiction. (Thanks Flutterby.)

Mac OS X: Game Developer's Playground.