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22Oct2014 1930: Sound Effects

Whooooops didn't post last week. I have an okay excuse: my computer upgrade didn't go 100% well and I've been alternately experimenting and fighting my new graphics card. The GTX 970 is supposed to be some magical price/performance ratio; it's definitely a major upgrade from the 570 I was rocking. But for once in my life things didn't go according to blind luck meticulous plan and my card mangled all the audio that went through it. Every time the card woke up to do anything heftier than an inert Windows desktop I'd start getting static (last week) or losing audio entirely (last weekend). Since I'm historically a cheapskate I don't have external speakers or a TV with an alternate audio input; the video card was my only option. How am I supposed to review shitty music when the music is being artificially shitified?

So the 970 is winging its way back to an RMA center to get replaced, and I already donated the 570 to a friend in dire need of upgrading, so right this very second I'm running off an ancient 260. I'm surprised it still fit on this motherboard. But I have sound! And Guild Wars 2 runs, so that covers 90% of my use cases.

[SOS - Youth in Decline] starts out like those "Pop Song Slowed Down 800%" videos, then picks up the pace to become a generic electronic soundscape. And then Satan shows up for the rap bridge, earning this a tiny "explicit" tag in Google Music.

What's with all the doom-and-gloom music today? [Sea Oleena - If I'm] is another slow warbly song, more piano than keyboard but otherwise as dour as SOS. It's a Disney princess covering the B-est of B-sides from Portishead.

Okay. Okay great. Let's just fill this whole week with ghosty music. [Ibeyi - River] turns Sinead O'Connor loose on a world beat and records the whole thing from the other side of vibrating sheet metal. It's almost annoying enough to be hilarious, and there is the added benefit of being a Not Cover of River, but I can't keep it.

[Greensky Bluegrass - Burn Them] also sounds like it's coming through a long tunnel. That can't be -- wait. I'll be right back.

Goddammit. In the process of wrangling all these audio problems, I had left the Realtek Audio Manager in "sewer pipe" mode. Like there is literally a setting to cause all Windows audio to sound like it's coming from a mile down a metal pipe. Why the fuck would you ever want that? Anyway, that setting has been fixed and my verdict on all previous songs stands barring any "ghosty" comments. Greensky Bluegrass went from "Halloween Hillbilly" to just "hillbilly". It's a pretty good example of the form but it's not singing about robots or Cthulhu so I'll pass.

[Allah-Las - Had It All] is early-60s dude rock, a serene Paul Revere or Zombies tune. I'm not sure there's a market for this except as a backlash to the surfeit of beeps and boops we've been getting.

Ah, here's something solidly in my nostalgia. [Braid - Bang] is a throwback to all the weird radio rock we got as the mid-90s cast about for something to succeed grunge. You could schedule this right after you finish counting blue cars and not notice anything amiss.

08Oct2014 1900: The Long Conn

First post -- first usage entirely -- of my new Rosewill clackity keyboard and it feels (and sounds) amazing. Faithful stalkers will remember that I purchased a clackity keyboard once before. That keyboard was NOT produced to the standards of the original Model M tank I had been using. Within a couple months keys started to get mushy and unresponsive, and I started to hear a rattling noise from inside the case. Evenutally I switched back to my ancient behemoth and cracked the new guy open. At that point, dozens of tiny plastic circles fell out. It looked like somebody had emptied a hole punch into my keyboard. While the keys and springs themselves were successors to the Model M patent, the plastic backboard they were mounted onto was decidedly not. Over time my frantic stabbings had driven the springs through the plastic, disabling that particular key and dislodging a perfect circle of imperfect plastic. Rosewill has good reviews everywhere I've looked and their website doesn't look like a GeoCities page, so I'm hopeful that the build quality on this guy is just a mite higher.

The keyboard is just the first piece of my computer upgrade to arrive. It was shipped from a different NewEgg warehouse on a different coast and took a very sensible direct path to Fargo. Not like the guts of the computer, which are currently engaged on a week-long journey across the Great West:

I've never seen a ground shipment on such a whistlestop tour. I want to believe that this package is not getting off the UPS truck, being scanned, sitting, being scanned again, and getting loaded back onto a different UPS truck...but I don't know how else to reconcile all these entries.

In all the excitement about Legend of Korra and SHIELD and Mordor last week, it completely slipped my mind to talk about Windows 10. Not about the actual OS, of course. Just the name and the reason why. My first instinct is not that they're trying to put that much distance between themselves and Windows 8. It's not that there's a problem with checking version strings for "Windows 9*". As someone in a Microsoft town, with lots of ex-Microsoft coworkers and neighbors, there is no more necessary explanation than "marketing". Somebody in Marketing thought this was a great idea and was able to shout down anybody who tried to oppose it. Microsoft (more than most) has a history of cooking up bizarre ideas deep within their labyrinthine corporate structure and getting blindsided by their failure. The XBox One Original might have followed that same trajectory if it wasn't for Halo 1 and piracy, and the XBox One really got off on the wrong foot last year. You hear about companies "losing touch", and usually it's a stupid cliché that precedes mass layoffs. Microsoft is one of the few that phrase truly seems to apply to; they literally cannot speak coherently on a topic to consumers or press.

I've witnessed this firsthand as well: at a local "innovator's conference" or some such wankery, a lot of local businessmen got up and presented slides about growing their business through software and how great Fargo is. The best presentation was done by Jake Joraanstad of Myriad Mobile. His slides were concise, 90% of them were large simple graphics, and 0% of them functioned as a teleprompter for his speech. On the other end of the spectrum, a well-coiffed Microsoft marketing lady stood up and told us that she didn't want to give just another speech to us. So she brought another Microsoft marketing guy up on stage, they both sat down on barstools, and for the next forty-five minutes had a painfully scripted "dialogue" in front of us. All about how great Microsoft was for employees and the Fargo area, and all delivered in a smooth-toned after school special voice. It was fascinating in all the wrong ways. It was like watching a tweaker on the bus, but instead of muttering about lizard people they're muttering about Office 360. Microsoft's problem is not software -- Windows 7 is great, and 10 probably will be, and maybe even 8.1 has its moments. Their problem is not hardware -- the lessons of the XBox 360 were taken to heart, I haven't heard of a single XBox One red-ringing. Their problem is that they are trying to sell their products to crazy people.

Microsoft still has an absolutely staggering share of the PC market. They basically control computers, controlling the discussion for hundreds of millions of users. In order to do so, they had to be one of the biggest companies on Earth. Any company that size, with that many different software and hardware divisions, becomes a nation unto itself and begins a long slow process of infighting to death. We saw it in the Carpocalypse, as rebadges and entire brands were shuttered because they competed with the main company's main cars. We see it at Sony, as the media-producing arm of the company pushes for DRM that the computer-producing side tries to resist. Microsoft just seems to have the most, and most public, messaging meltdowns, and nobody in the company has enough clout on their own to stop it because every department hates every other all the time.

And a small, secret part of me hopes this is all a years-long gag, as Windows 10 and Windows 11 are succeeded by Windows 100 and 101. Shit like that is why programmers and marketers don't get along. I would absolutely involve my trillion-dollar company's flagship product in a decade-long punchline about binary numbers. Damn the torpedos! Full nerd ahead!

Man, I just can't stop typing on this thing! Let's type some more! [S - Vampires] remembers when Tegan and Sara were good. I can't type any more about this without getting unbearably sad.

[Like Swimming - Go Buffalo] is modern pop music with lots of synth and the standard key changes and a quiet bridge before the outro. Just like the new Tegan and Sara *breaks down sobbing*

[Cymbals Eat Guitars - Warning] evokes the spirit of early-80s punk, just like a lot of songs that roll through here, but for once these guys bought some decent amps and got some studio time. Maybe that's contrary to the punk aesthetic, but it sure does a lot in terms of hearing what's going on. The singer's Clash impression is a little overdone but this is an okay song overall.

An appropriate band name for the topic this week: [PC Worship - Rust]. This sounds a lot like Butthole Surfers but without any of that crazy 90s fun. Monotony is only good when Daft Punk does it, okay?

01Oct2014 1915: Swords and Shields

Public service reminder: Legend of Korra begins its final season on Friday. Marvel Agents of SHIELD has begun what may be its final season; the ratings say yes, but the Disney coffers say no. Catch them both before they're gone!

Today on Monty's Behind the Curve: the Internet is going relatively apeshit for Shadow of Mordor, a game that should by all rights be a cheap movie cash-in attempt. It seems to de-emphasize the "story missions" portion of open-world games in favor of the "randomly do things while running around". That's where developers should have been focussing all along. Those reviews reminded me that I hadn't touched Arrrrrsassin's Creed: Pirates! in nearly seven months. AC:P is taking up 40 gigs of my precious SSD space and is a mental roadblock to playing other games like it, but it's not a game I can just mainline either. Every time I try to reach a story mission I just end up hunting whales for an hour. But I will persevere! Through this great burden! I will put this game to rest so that yea, I might play another.

The Year of the Goat continues with [GOAT - Hide from the Sun]. If you took the sitars from Paint It Black and then removed everything else you'd end up with GOAT. It's the Bollywood knockoff of a classic spy thriller theme.

[Yung Lean - Yoshi City] opens with spaced-out 70s synth but almost immediately collapses into Yet Another Rap Song. I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana just to shut down the laziest 30% of all rap lyrics. Don't you understand, old white people? They only do it because you made it cool!

[Xeno & Oaklander - Sheen] is even more synth. Synthtember was last month, guys. Anyway, this one sounds like a DJ slapped a videogame soundtrack under a Sinead O'Connor B-side. It was probably a really rad videogame, that part is fast-paced and fun, but then you have this ghost lady wailing over the top. You can't just pair a club beat with any old singer-songwriter and expect to set the world on fire. Lightning rarely strikes twice.

No synth! If you had told me last week that I'd have to make the comparison to Mojo Nixon twice in two weeks, I'd have pierced my own eardrums in self-defense. Yet here we are. [Iceage - The Lord's Favorite] is an amateur hillbilly orchestra fronted by a jerk doing his best Mojo impression. He's never smoked a day in his life so he can't quite get the rasp.