Posts tagged: Music

Goodbye XBMC! You shall be missed!

I had never heard of the Freecycle online service, although I knew some sort of community based on giving away your old items existed. It was my sister, Samantha that mentioned the website to me back in April. I had just moved into my flat in Slough and had an old TV combi unit to get rid of. Her friend Kirsty had used the site before and been able to kit out a flat in next to no time! I posted on the site and within a few minutes, the item was taken. Great! I have now used the site on many occasions to get rid of items no longer required. It was particularly useful in the summer when my parents were re-decorating their lounge and needed to get rid of an old TV and home cinema system. Gone in seconds! Yes, I know I could have put them on eBay and perhaps made a few quid but it was just not worth the hassle and with any commercial sale, the buyer will always have a recourse to come back to you if anything goes wrong. Do you really need the extra hassle? I did not!

I have had an original XBox since 2003, when my sisters bought me the console as a Christmas present. I believe the console was discontinued a few months later. Do I play video games? No, so why did I request such a console? Well I had heard about the media centre software, XBMC through my dearest friend Hussein. With his expert help in August 2004, I was able to mod my XBox to install the custom media centre. I now had the media player I craved in the lounge, not only to play music video, movies and games but for so much more besides. I could view movie trailers direct from the Apple website. Hussein had provided me with an optical audio output lead, which fed directly into my home cinema system. Movies looked and sounded awesome! Not bad for a CRT based television that was coming up to six years old. The software was constantly being tweaked by a friendly band of users online. A plugin repository was also created to include a number of features such as, Last.fm audio scrobblers, YouTube and weather applications. Remember this is the time before “App Store” became a trademark of the Apple Corporation. With the launch of BBC iPlayer, a plugin was soon made available, which meant you did not have to watch episodes from Albert Square you had missed on the small computer screen but on the biggest screen in the house. I know this may sound rather old school, if you already have a PVR. We did not get Sky+ until 2009, and even though we had Sky, the majority of the television we watched was from the Beeb. Even though Aunty did constantly try to block the service and add in additional security to their streams, someone out in the XBMC Community would put together a new release of the plugin with a workaround. This included a complete rebuild of the XBMC software at one stage but the plugin worked a dream for both radio and television streams. It had started off as a download service of the iPod / iPhone feed, which had to be downloaded before being played. A few months later, an instant stream option was added which worked a treat. The quality being close to broadcast television, not bad on our Sky Broadband pipe of 1.5 meg at the time!

The XBOX was the media centre for my family home and in 2008, I had moved out to my flat in Newbury. At one stage I was considering building my own media centre from an old PC donated by Pav. In the end, I was gifted an old crystal XBox by Pav’s younger brother Rav (he had been given a 360 by his parents for his birthday in March 2009). It was late March when I finally had the time to set it up and install the latest version of XBMC. This device had already been modded with a custom dashboard. Two days later I was downloading and watching a music video by Keri Hilson.

With the advent of high definition services, the place for the XBOX was limited. It could show limited 720p video and to date there were only one HD video I had watched on the device. The first high definition video I ever saw (would not actually play on the device) All Night Long by Alexandra Burke and featuring Pitbull. Unfortunately the music video in question is Knockout by Lil Wayne featuring Nicki Minaj. Hardly outstanding contributions to the art of music videos and perhaps a poor reflection on my music video collection, which is close to the one thousand mark. (For reference the majority of music videos I download now are in HD, with only older archive or live performances in standard definition). As time went by fewer videos would play on the device which is a shame because up to that point in time, the software was extremely versatile and would download any codecs it did not have stored locally from the web.

When I moved back in wtih my parents in October 2009, I had two XBoxes and decided to gift one away to my dear friend Sippy. I met up with him for the first time since I had left Uni in 2004, some six years ago! I do hope he appreciated the gift. I had driven all the way up to Birmingham to deliver by hand myself. I wonder if he is still using it? I know he had an older XBox but was that on it’s way out?

My parents now have a 50″ HD plasma TV and the XBox is surplus to their requirements. I brought it back to Slough yesterday afternoon, on my return from seeing Mission Impossible with my Dad. I then spend today clearing the personal photographs and video before giving the device away on Freecycle. I did have to make it clear this was the original XBox from 2001, not a 360! (Who in their right minds would give a working one of those away?). It went to a good home in Slough, to a younger brother who was trying to get a game on his older brother’s 360! Just a shame I could not find the original DVD remote and will have to list that separately on Freecycle another time! It was emotionally moment for me, giving the device away. I know it has gone on to an extended life with another family but for the past seven years it had served my family extremely well. Every dog has his day and the time has come to move on. I suppose this gives me a chance to appreciate my new media centre (the Humax HDR-Fox-T2) but also plan the media centre for my family in the near future. Subscription satellite will have to go!

Tuesday 27th July 2004

Planning and management is important. Even for some of the straightforward of tasks, you would think that a small degree of thought would go a long way. In my personal experience, this is never the case. Although I forever, dream of that Hannibal moment. I am forever waiting for the moment to say, “I love it when a plan comes together“. Everything always appears painless in theory but becomes much more complicated in practice. It is also strange how the ideas you have can, may initially sound fantastic, refreshing and fully workable. Then, a few hours later, they appear completely stupid. Am I the only person to notice this pattern? Or shall I stop making such insignificant observations?

Passing comments, which appear quite harmless and unworthy at the time they are made. However, they stick with you for days, even weeks on end. Does this happen to you? It has happened to me, as long as I can remember. A comment is made, in a situation which appears quite friendly and trusting. Often accused of looking far too deep into things (and I am not alone, this one comment can later surface, and be played on constant repeat in my head. Usually on the way home. A case in point, is yesterday afternoon. A colleague made the idle comment, “let someone walk over you once, they will be doing it for the rest of your life…”. Taking this out of context means, it lacks any specific meaning. Not wishing to explain, in any detail the circumstances surrounding this conclusion, I shall say only a few words. Yes, the advice was dispelled to me. Something said in jest, which I frankly took as a joke, was misinterpreted by others as a possible example of verbal abuse. I rewinded the moment and played it back, as I drifted off to sleep on the train home. Was I really allowing myself to be used in such a way? I think not. But the comment had sprung out from somewhere and there was a need to evaluate, no only the situation, but my own policy, should such an occasion present itself again. My conclusion? We only let people walk all over us, if they know they can get away with it. If they are aware that all everyone has a limit and that eventually, giving an inch and taking a mile. You will run out of road. The moral of the story is of course, to never let anyone use you as a doormat. I agree, but I think sometimes, we need to know our place. There are times, when being used as a doormat, is acceptable, and at other times, when people begin taking your good human nature, for a ride. When you really need to start considering who are your true friends and enemies.

What is the true power of MP3? No, I am not talking about the taking on the capitalist greed of the major record labels. I am not even talking about the ability to share your music collection with a great number of people. I am talking about being exposed to new genres of music. New artists and sounds, which without the digital music format, you would never have heard. I commented on this topic, in detail in my entry from April 2003. Greg, a colleague, who also works on the support desk, started work a week before I did. I pointed him the direction of my website, and he eagerly download my mp3 database. After converted it to a ‘print friendly format’, he scanned the listing. Far down the list, he came across a collection of three songs by an American band, exclaiming that they were a ‘great band’. I agreed. To my surprise, he commented on how, I was the first person in the UK to share his appreciation for the Gainesville, Florida group. My reply, was to explain, what I have already explained to my regular readers. Sister Hazel have their own very distinct and unique signature sound. Instantly recognizable as, from any of their tracks, no matter how obscure, that this is ‘that’ group. Very few bands ever achieve such unique radio friendly status, Duran Duran comes to mind as having successfully achieved the uphill task. Looking on his iPod, he showed me the few albums he had, and there was a pause. I had to ask for them on CD. Consider it done. It was. I now have a full CD, with an assortment of albums, including a live selection of tracks. Also, taking on Greg’s recommendation, he included, material from Matchbox 20. A band, I was sure to like, if I liked the type of music that Sister Hazel produced. Although I have not listened to many of the tracks, I know that they are a band, I will enjoy listening to. Right, now where is that old, portable CD player?

I have not seen Thunderbirds, yet! I was hoping to catch it on Sunday evening, but unfortunately the early evening showing was booked. I will try and catch it this coming weekend. A confession if I may. I am looking forward to more, taking a step back into my childhood more than anything else, when I step into the dark theatre screen. Twelve again, for two hours! Yes please! But reality sets in and my dream world comes tumbling down. I am not on summer holiday and I have work to go to in the morning. Next time, next time the dream will last forever. – taking a giant leap back into my childhood. Do I have to leave the cinema? For the fantasy that is born there, shall live with me forever, but the reality that arrives, the second you walk out of the cinema screen. Do we ever, escape our childhood? I don’t think so, but then there must come a point when our childhood becomes less important. I remember, during my placement, a colleague, said to me that they no longer remember anything from their school days or anything beyond their early twenties. “All that doesn’t matter, anymore, Andrew”, I was sturdily told. But if that is the case, then what actually
matters
?

It is getting late, I really want to get a good nights sleep. The next entry will include my obsession, with Pure Pop! New music from Twen2y4Se7en and a Royal chance meeting. I wish I could include these topics now, but I just do not have the time, so you will have to wait for my next installment, later in the week.

Thursday 20th May 2004

A topic that I have covered on several times on my blog and will always continue to discuss. Music. What has the biggest influences in shaping the types of music we like? Our childhood, our friends? Our experiences? Or purely the radio stations and music video channels we watch? My answer would be all of the above. The biggest influences on my musical tastes have been my family and friends. My sister, particularly opened my eyes or rather ears to many artist in my younger days. Samantha, just tends to listen to more commercial radio than I do and has always had a finger on the pulse of the modern scene. In the mid to late 1990s, I too listen to a heavy dose of commercial radio. Capital FM and Kiss 100 were always on in our house. Back then the quality of the music was of a much higher standard than today. Perhaps because those days, reality pop stars manufacturing was just an idea in Simon Fuller’s head. Also the DJs at the time, played a fantastic blend of old and new music and actually had something to say, rather than just fill in the gaps between the tracks with idle chat. There was even a point, when I was such a regular listener to the radio, that I new the play lists so well I could predict with some accuracy the next track to be played. Then towards the end of the decade, as I began to amass my own musical collection, I became more and more disillusioned with commercial radio. It began to become very repetitive and the presenters began to lose their individual personalities in favour of factory output. I never really listened to BBC Radio 1 and preferred the Hit 40 UK, which was sponsored by a famous carbonated beverage and broadcast across several radio stations. I also came familiar with idea of ‘radio kill’. A song being played too many times on the radio and consequently destroying the credibility of the song. This was another of the reasons, why I stopped listening to the radio. So, with the decline in my radio listening, how and more importantly who would be influencing my musical tastes? Well, it would be my best friend at school and subsequently college. Without him, many of the songs I now listen to on a regular basis, would not be in my collection. Overall, our musical tastes were the same, but it he gave favour for bands such as Then Jerico and the fantastic Marillion. Although I had Sky, I only rarely watched the music channels, referring to watch out for classic tracks from the 80s on VH1. My college friend had also the astonishing gift, to be able to recall dates of singles and albums by almost any artist. A walking, Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, if you may. When he didn’t know the date of a release, a rare occurrence mind, we would dash across to WH Smith in Henley-upon-Thames. That was some four years ago. He has moved and I have nothing but the memories of those events.

So who in recent times has influenced my musical preferences? Well, it has to be my housemate Paul. He likes a broad range of material, from the classic timeless masterpieces by The Smiths to the sleek soulful RnB of Jaheim. You only need to go back to last month to discover how is song selection had such an overwhelming impact. On the return from an unscheduled trip to ASDA, he made a selection, describing the track as cheesy but catchy pop. Never wanting to doubt, someone who has never been wrong in the past, I listened to the opening, surprised to hear the vocals in Spanish. Azul means ‘blue’, I was quietly informed and then told the large female fan base for the latino artist born in Mexico. I was hooked. I was hooked from the first few seconds of the song. I never could imagine Paul letting me down. I found the song, and patiently waiting for it download, on our return home. I have been listening to it ever since and it has grown on me, with a passion. Why? I suppose it is my love for pure pop. For music that is both easy to listen to and has a catchy chorus. Being a child of 1980s and still loving that era for music, may go someway to explain this sometimes ridiculed love of mainstream popular music. You just have to read the reviews for the album, which shares the name of the title track to find out more. Cristián Castro, has tried to include every possible cliché, with regards to American 1980s Rock/Pop. I do not have a problem with this, because the finished product is of such high quality production.

The 1980s theme continues, with a quick visit to eBay. I was e-mailed by my other housemate Nav, last night. All the e-mail included was a website URL and the comment in the subject line, “I bidded on it for you mate”. This was strange? Placing bids on my behalf? I followed the link, to be greeted with the famous image from my childhood. Showing all my dreams in a single piece of metal. My dreams remain and shall forever, for the auction was for a vehicle. Not any vehicle, but the creation of Doctor Emmett Brown. One day I hope to live the dream. But for the time being, I am a member of DeLorean Owners Club. Yes, I know I do not own one (yet), but the club is open to enthusiasts, as well as owners of the gull wing automobile. I joined in May 2001, following a visit to Belfast, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the cars manufacture. Find out more by visiting the fantastic resource if you dare to Enter My World.

So my final exam beckons. With it my time at university comes to an end. I feel strange. Time as a student has flown by so quickly and the real world is knocking on my door. As I head back to Wycombe at the end of this month, I see friendships drawing to a close. No, I should not think like that at all. There is no closure, just a change in direction. Some will continue on this journey with me. Others will find a different path. I wish them well. The certainty of the big bad world, only begins to come home as I make job applications. I just hope this job search is more successful than my hunt for placement, two years ago. Obviously much more critical now, I need a job! :)

The FA Cup takes place this weekend. Of course, it should be Arsenal in the final and not Man Yoo. Oh well, never mind, there is always next year and we should be more than happy with the Premiership crown. One of the highlights of all the coverage on the BBC has been the use of Don King as a marketing guru. Read his Philosophy of Champology to convert our cup competition into a FA Mega Bowl, with all the razzmatazz that only the Americans can bring! :D

Monday 13th October 2003

The broadband connection finally went live at Sheffield Street, at around 5pm on Wednesday 8th October. Two souls had been waiting patiently, for the big, “switch on”. For one, it would just be a case of normal service resumed, for the other, it would be an brand new experience, unlike no other. Once the configuration had all be set correctly, thanks to those lovely people down at technical support, we were up and running. I had received an e-mail from my housemate, over six weeks ago and it had suddenly become a reality, “we’ll be setting up a home network and broadband connection, if you are interested…” Of course, I was. The benefits of having an internet connection on your doorstep, are too obvious and dull to waste noting on my blog, but not having to trek to the Queens building just to check my Hotmail, is of immense benefit.

Music wise, I’ve listening to a variety of music over the past two weeks. Of course, Kazaa-Lite was downloaded, before I had a chance to breathe, and eMule followed quite swiftly behind. A song, I had heard several times, during Fresher’s week, was known to me only by the title, “Turn Me On”. I was soon informed, by my dear friend Sippy, that the artist was Kevin Lyttle, with the help of Alison Hinds. I downloaded about four different versions of the song, by 5.15pm. The song is released today and it is hoped that it makes the top ten. In total, I’ve downloaded some twenty songs and four albums since the broadband pipe went ‘live’ and the downloading continues…

Audio page updated to reflect the changes to my music database.

Erasure, whom I mentioned in my blog, early last year around 19th January, are releasing a single this week. Well I should be clear and declare, re-releasing, but “Oh L’amour” has been remixed and rehashed for a modern pop audience. To date, I have not heard it played on the radio. To be honest, I have not been listening to that much commercial / music orientated radio stations in the past few weeks. The only time I would do such a thing, was if I was commuting some 600 miles a week. (I don’t think so…!) I am looking forward to seeing how well the electronic duo, do on Sunday in the Top 40.

Some of my dreams lately have been edging on the level of completely bizarre. I’m not sure if my new surrounding have anything to do with my dreams, but the content has been extremely peculiar. Mixed up images of friends from primary school, people I hadn’t seen in over ten years, and strange meetings with the Terminator. Not sure what has been happening. Maybe my diet has something to do with?

England played with great resilience in Istanbul at the weekend. As always, when in mattered, they put in the performance to answer their doubters and prove that England are still a force to be reckoned with on the international stage. Hopefully, all the uncertainty regarded Sven can be discarded and the Swede, left to make plans for Portugal, 2004. I’m looking forward to the tournament, as always, they come at a crucial point in my academic life:

  • SATs – Euro ’96
  • GSCEs – France ’98
  • A Levels – Euro 2000
  • Finals – Euro 2004
  • I’ve quickly adjusted back to University life and am enjoying being back in Leicester. Of course, I miss home, High Wycombe does tend to hold some happy memories for me, and as much I miss my family and friends, I know there is a job to complete here. The culmination of four years of good work, needs to be seen through to the end and I’m not going to start letting people down, as perhaps, I have done in the past.

    Tuesday 15th July 2003

    Again I apologise for the long delay in updating my website. I have to confess that I have been making the most of the hot weather, now that my Placement has finished. I still have loads of things to do, and loads of bits and pieces to check up on. I want to get this site sorted and my Placement page, finished before August, if I can.

    As always, something that seems too good to be true, often is just that. Or in the case of BraveNet, just doesn’t last. I am extremely disappointed that BraveNet have decided to suspend their free counter service, with a standardised button, text and graphics. I was considering upgrading to the Pro version of the counter service, but was shocked to find that the cost of this is $99.99 per a year. That is far far far too expensive. So I am also on the search for a quality new counter, which again, has full visitor statistics. I may have to program one myself if my search does not provide a worthy replacement.

    I have been downloaded several albums over the last few weeks. This has been mainly due to the fact, I have found a fantastic new peer-to-peer file sharing/swapping service. My friend, Darren, recommended Emule to me. It uses the eDonkey network and is great. Most users, share albums has compressed, zip or rar files, so there is no desperate searching around for that elusive final track on an album. I have downloaded a handful of albums, mostly recent news and I will be updating my Audio page to reflect this. The only problem is that most warez / mp3 groups enjoy placing their signature on the albums they are downloading. So you have to go and rename files and ID3 Tags, however, that is a small price to pay.

    Most of you out there, will be unaware of the phenomenon which is the Bollywood movie. I am not a fan of this genre of cinema at all. Long gone have the days when I was seven, or eight and watched these movies, with an awe and twinkle in my eye, mesmerized by the action on the screen. But now, the fact that our hero, always seems to win, against unbelievable odds, get the girl and wins the heart of the family, all appears to be very superficial. There is no way, that our hero, only armed with a knife and defeat 23 villains all armed with sub-machine guns, pistols and grenades. It just simply, isn’t possible. When will these Indians learn? Another lesson, which they are far from heeding is that of their choice in songs. Well perhaps not so much, songs but rather backing track. As far as I can remember, Indian films have never had an original soundtrack. Quite funny, when you look at Western soundtracks which are always labelled, “OST – Original Soundtrack”. Bollywood films, also borrow something from western songs. It could only be explained that Indians, feel that Copyright, is having the right to COPY! On my search on the internet, I found a site by Nehal Sangeet, where it takes this subject that provides a list of songs and their western counterpart on which they are based. The website is aptly called, “Hindi Copied Songs”. I contacted Nehal and explained how grateful I was that someone had finally come around not to ask the question but also carry out the research. The research to link, western score song, to a Bollywood hit song. He mentioned that there is a much more comprehensive resource out there on the web, which also includes Real Audio of some songs. The site is I2FS – Inspired Indian Film Songs

    I am working on getting some new photos on the site. Please bear with me. Hopefully, I will update the site later in the week. Take care for now everyone and enjoy the sunshine.

    Sunday 11th May 2003

    People often ask me about my tastes in music and who my favourite artists are and which music genre’s I prefer to listen to. This is a extremely difficult question to answer. I purely base this on my mood, there are times, I enjoy my heavy trance (not too heavy mind!) and then there are times for some soulful classics from the 60s. If you were to base it on my now, “world-famous MP3 collection”, the most popular artist, is or rather are, the fantastic Temptations, with no less than 21 tracks is my collection. And although, I have listened to the majority of 2300 plus songs in my collection, there are always surprises, and I have to at times, double-check: “Did I really download that?” Audio page updated, with the HTML versions of my database updated also.

    Talking of music, a topic which is often debated, is the cover version. My own personal view on this is on my music page. However, there are some exceptions, particularly as I have noticed, Jennifer Ellision has done a cover of the Transvision Vamp classic rock song, “Baby, I Don’t Care”, having seen the video on Flaunt (from one of the many new Music channels on Sky Digital) I have to admit, its not a great cover, not an amazing original video, but then the jump from soap star (“Brookside”) to the pop world, is such a mountain to climb, and only some specially talent artists can climb. Kylie Minogue, must be the most successful to do so. Long live Peter Waterman and his “Pop Factory”. But do you really think that the pop fat cat, risked everything with Stock, Aitkin and Waterman, to push Kylie into the pop world? Indeed, we shall see how successful, young Miss Ellision fray in the pop world is…

    Not much to report really, extremely busy, as always and forever trying to get 328494929 things done within a extremely tight deadline. We will of course, perservere!

    Saturday 1st March 2003

    As a new month starts, I look back as recently as the night before and discover things that touch my heart in ways, I thought they never would. I was never a big fan of the Manchester boy-band, Take That during the early to mid 90s. However, on VH1, yesterday evening, just before the 8pm showing of Eastenders, I saw a glimpse of an ever memorable music video. When the trumpets and great orchestra instrumental began, I knew, this was one of my favourite songs. As the song continued, “We’ve Gone so far, and we’ve reached so high and we’ve looked each day and night in the eye, and we’re still so young and we hope for more…” The song took be back to July, 1995. I was on a coach driving back to High Wycombe from Wolverhampton, it was nearly 7pm and the coach driver was playing the Top 40 countdown, I can’t recall if it was the BBC Radio One official countdown or the commercial version. However, that is not important. Other songs in the top ten that Sunday evening were, Seal – “Kiss From The Rose” and U2 – “Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” (indeed it was the summer of Batman’s third silver screen appearance, Batman Forever starring Val Kilmer, in his lone outing as the caped crusader) If my memory serves me correctly, it was Sunday 30th July. (Don’t hold me to that though! I can’t afford any law suits at this time!) Take That had reached number one with their last single as a group, and they of course wanted to leave the pop music circle, in style. The single was called, “Never Forget”, and indeed we never do forget, its just a shame that at times we are very selective with memories. Some we allow to freely resurface, others remain forever at the depths of our ocean’s mind.

    You may ask, for the reason I was on a coach travelling back from the East Midlands to the place I call home? It was my cousin, Tony’s wedding day. Looking back it was a day full of joy and happiness for two families joined in unison to celebrate the union of their young children. That was eight years ago, this coming summer. Eight years, an indescribable amount of time, in the lives of us mere mortals. And being mere mortals does have its disadvantages. At times, we all feel that we are invincible, but the hard truth to bear is that we are all far from indestructible. God Bless Tony! May he forever rest in peace and harmony…

    I have been considering some of the ‘categories’ of music I should be working hard to compile, in my now ‘world renowned’ MP3 collection. Obviously, I’ve been considering some of the following:

    Dance Floor Covering – the recent trend to take classic tracks from the 70s, 80s and even early 90s and add a modern dance beat. I, vividly picture some record label suit saying the eternal line: “Don’t worry, the kids will buy it…”
    Covers – 2002 saw the most number of unoriginal material entering the UK Top 40, in its 50 year history. This would be a large 10 disc compilation! That’s one way to fill up my now semi-redundant CD-changer! :)
    Samples – this has been happening for a very long time now, and it would be interesting to discover what great tunes have been sampled by other dance artists. Michael Jackson would be right up there with the best of them! :)

    I do not have any other ideas, so if anyone out there has any other good ideas for possible album material, please e-mail me. For reference, you can check my Audio page for a detail listing of my current collection. However please note, as soon as this page is updated, it is out of date, as I am continuously updating, sorting and re-sampling my collection of over 2200 songs!

    Eastenders had one of the most moving final scenes, I have seen for several months if not years. We have become accustomed to the soap opera concluding on a knife’s edge, with us eagerly anticipating the next installment. However, I think a change of direction was very much needed and the writers, producers and more importantly the directors delivered the goods… I think they realised that, we all do indeed enjoy

    A HAPPY ENDING!

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