“One does not act rightly toward one\\\'s fellows if one does not know how to act rightly towards the earth.”

The Holy Earth

Installing Ubuntu/Kubuntu

n

Until today I’ve been using a WUBI based installation of Kubuntu on my resurrected laptop. WUBI was very promising when I first encountered it, but now I believe it is not a reliable solution. For some reason (I suspect it’s a hardware issue) my computer sometimes freezes – and all I can do is brutally shut it off. Sometimes it reboots just fine, numerous time it has stopped at a GRUB error and other times nothing could be done to rescue it. From what I’ve been able to gather this is a vulnerability that is unique to WUBI (which is actually one huge file in the Windows operating system). So this time I decided to do away with the Windows and create a clean Kubuntu Installation.

I would have preferred to install Ubuntu (which I have installed on a desktop computer) but I found that the Ubuntu graphic engine doesn’t perform well on the old display adapter in my notebook. Kubuntu is much faster and more responsive.

This time I documented my installation process for future reference and I wrote it up in the hope others may find it useful too. Where possible I’ve added the terminal commands I used:

Core Operating System

  1. Install from CD (Ubuntu, Kubuntu)
  2. Check for updates over the internet (Ubuntu, Kubuntu)
  3. Add hebrew keyboard layout and set time zone.
  4. Install Dropbox
  5. Instal KeepNote
  6. Install the Ubuntuzilla repository (instructions) – required for Thunderbird and Firefox
    sudo echo -e “\ndeb http://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/ubuntuzilla/mozilla/apt all main” | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list > /dev/null
    sudo apt-key adv –recv-keys –keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com C1289A29
    sudo apt-get update
  7. Install Firefox
    sudo apt-get install firefox-mozilla-build
  8. Install Firefox Add-ons (using the Firefox addo-n manager):
    • Weave: brilliant & private & secure plugin/service by Mozilla for syncronizing bookmarks, open tabs, browsing history & passwords between computers.
    • Charamel – a theme I like to for Firefox.
    • Firebug – helps me take apart and play around with HTML/CSS
    • ColorZilla – helps me select colors
    • MeasureIt – an on screen ruler
  9. Install Thunderbird
    sudo apt-get install thunderbird-mozilla-build
  10. Install Thunderbird Add-ons (using the Thunderbird add-on manager):
    • Charamel – same theme I like to use in Firefox works great for Thunderbird too.
    • Foxclocks – international clocks
    • Bidi – support for bi-directional texts, makes it possible for me to write hebrew emails from right to left.
  11. Install the GetDeb repository which makes it easy to install other useful programs.
  12. Install Adobe Reader (instructions)
    sudo apt-get install acroread
  13. Install Adobe AIR (instructions)
  14. Install Skype (which isn’t offered in the spirit of open source freedom and I hope to replace in the near future).

Multimedia Applications

  1. Install VLC Media Player
    sudo apt-get install vlc
  2. Install Songbird (music management – an open source alternative to iTunes)
    sudo apt-get install libgstreamer0.10-0 gstreamer0.10-x gstreamer0.10-gnomevfs gstreamer0.10-plugins-base gstreamer0.10-pulseaudio libgstreamer-plugins-base0.10-dev libgstreamer0.10-dev
    sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-plugins-good gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg gstreamer0.10-fluendo-mp3
    sudo apt-get install songbird
  3. Install Ruby Ripper (for copying music CD’s) – requires additional packages:
    sudo apt-get install cd-discid cdparanoia flac lame mp3gain normalize-audio ruby-gnome2 ruby vorbisgain
  4. Install Audacity (for sound editing)
    sudo apt-get install audacity
  5. Install GIMP (an open source alternative to Photoshop)
    sudo apt-get install gimp
  6. Install Vuze (my favorite torrent client so far)
    sudo apt-get install vuze

Web Development Tools

  1. Install LAMP Stack (Apache, MySQL & PHP)
    sudo tasksel
  2. Install PHPMyAdmin
    sudo apt-get install phpmyadmin
  3. Install Filezilla (for FTP file transfers)
    sudo apt-get install filezilla
  4. On Ubuntu I will also install the Screem code-editor
    sudo apt-get install screem
Posted in Open Source, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Coldplay, Cocker, Collins, Kravitz, Connick, Costello, Cougar, Croce

n

I am selling my CD collection. Why? I want to free up physical space in my life, getting rid of physical goods I don’t need, making space for movement.  I’m gradually ripping my collection to a computer and listing the CD’s here. You are welcome to checkout the complete list and let me know if you want anything.

Coldplay
A Rush of Blood to the Head
Parachutes

Joe Cocker – the Best of

Phil Collins
But Seriously
Both Sides
Face Value
Serious Hits – Live

Lenny Kravitz
Mama Said
5

Harry Connick Jr
To See You
She
Blue Light, Red Light
Forever For Now
Star Turtle

Elvis Costello
North
Extreme Honey – The Very Best of the Warner Bros. Years
The Very Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Painted from Memory (with Burt Bacharach)

John Cougar Mellencamp – American Fool

Jim Croce – the 50th Anniversary Collection

Posted in CD's for Sale | You are welcome to add your comment

Goats

n

Our house overlooks a valley that is frequented by herds of cow, sheep and goats. Today a huge herd of 600 goats appeared and we went down for a closer look.

… this is Andreea who makes me into a we:

Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Yoga Readiness

n

Sometimes getting on the Yoga mat is not as appealing as I’d like or imagined it to be. Especially after years of practice, superficially rewarding changes in the practice are rare and replaced by subtle & intimate revelations.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to get to the mat, but feels good to be on it. Sometimes it’s difficult to get to the mat, and wrong to stay on it. Sometimes it’s impossible to even approach the mat. Sometimes it’s impossible to read my readiness to practice – so there are times I may not practice when I could have or practice when I really shouldn’t.

This morning I stumbled on to another tool to clear my clouded perception. I asked myself “Do you appreciate being here, in this moment, on this Yoga mat?”. I looked down and found my feet bathed in a warm beam of morning sunlight – and the answer was “yes, I do”. Asking the question sent me on a path of introspection and observation. If I can’t answer with a clear “yes” I shouldn’t be on the mat, I should probably be doing something else, creating space, allowing appreciation to resurface.

There’s a good chance that asking the question not only reflects on my present consciousness but also alters it, in which case it is not just a readiness-test but a great opening posture for my practice.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-21

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  • Knitting, Shakuhachi, Yoga, Fatherhood & Failing http://bit.ly/dnjLKw #
  • yesterday, something magical happened between Shakuhachi & I, resulted in a special recording: http://bit.ly/bRrClZ #
  • open source projects could benefit greatly from opening to software designers, but they are as yet too developer-centric #
  • what if Google did nothing wrong (with Buzz): http://bit.ly/bTfOXe #
  • I will participating in an upcoming performance in Tel-Aviv, u r invited: http://bit.ly/ac3iYV #
  • התאריך ידוע – השאר לא ידוע – הופעה בתיאטרון תמונע ב- 13 למרץ – בואו 🙂 http://bit.ly/ac3iYV #
  • when death is present importance is absent #
  • just moved someone from twitter (unfollow) to my RSS list … what a relief… good posts … cumbersome stream #
  • twitching between yoga postures: http://bit.ly/b02H81 #
  • teaching yoga one-on-one http://bit.ly/chmNIO #
  • "I'd like to become a person I would enjoy hearing my children describe as a good father" #

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Posted in About, Twitter Updates | You are welcome to add your comment

Beck, Bowie, Buckley, Cale, Cave, Clapton, Cohen

n

I am selling my CD collection. Why? I want to free up physical space in my life, getting rid of physical goods I don’t need, making space for movement.  I’m gradually ripping my collection to a computer and listing the CD’s here. You are welcome to checkout the complete list and let me know if you want anything.

Beck
Sea Change
Guero

Jeff Buckley
Grace
Mystery White Boy (+bonus CD)
Live at Sin-e (2cd + DVD)
Sketches of my Sweetheart the Drunk

David Bowie
Hours
Heathen

John Cale – Fragments of a Rainy Season

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Let Love In
No More Shall We Part
The Good Son
Nocturama
Where the Wild Roses Grow (single)
The Wonderful World of Nick Cave (collection)
What a Wonderful World (single)
Tender Prey
Murder Ballads
The Boatman’s Call

Eric Clapton
Just One Night (2 cd)
The Cream of Clapton
Unplugged
Pilgrim
From the Cradle
Rainbow Concert
Rush – Movie Soundtrack

Leonard Cohen
Songs of Love & Hate
Recent Songs
The Future
Death of a Ladies Man
New Skin for Old Ceremony
Live In Concert
Dear Heather
Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979
I’m Your Man
Various Positions
Greatest Hits
Ten New Songs

Posted in CD's for Sale | You are welcome to add your comment

Teaching Yoga One on One

n

My preferred setting to teach Yoga is one-on-one. In my first years practicing yoga I attended weekly group-classes. Later, soon after I met my teacher, I began studying one-on-one, practicing on a daily basis and left the weekly classes behind. I believe that one-on-one creates opportunities for deeper and more personalized teachings.

A core idea in my teaching tradition is that at the heart of Yoga is a practitioner (rather then a practice). I was given an extensive set of practice tools which can be methodically applied in many forms and variations. As a teacher I make choices about which tools are best suitable for a student. Group teaching is a setting that requires compromise, an average choice that caters to the needs of a group of individuals. One-on-one teaching is a setting in which tools are selected and tailored specifically for the needs of one individual. It gives me an opportunity to get familiar with a student, to develop a practice over a period of time and to respond to the ever-changing life settings into which Yoga practices are introduced.

Ultimately, when teaching one-on-one, my intention is to provide a student with a practice that can be introduced into day-to-day life. This may take on different meanings and forms for different people – but it is the best way to go deeper into Yoga and experience reflections of practice in life.

Usually, the first few sessions are dedicated to acquiring basic skills of breath and movement – which are the basics of practice. From the end of the first session a student is given a daily practice – usually a short and accessible practice. As basic skills are acquired, I get better acquainted with a student, a student gets better acquainted with me and with Yoga and I am able to offer a relevant practice. For some people one practice is enough, other people may require two options (for example: a short practice for weekdays and a longer practice for weekends).

The first few sessions are most effective when they are close together – to sustain a substantial learning experience. Then a student is free to explore. Some people come back after a few weeks for a review and possible modification of the process. Some people don’t come back for months (some people don’t come back at all). Some people stay in touch via phone or email. Sometimes I refer people to a Yoga teacher near their homes for additional support.

It is up to a student to choose Yoga, to maintain a practice, to constantly seek inspiration and new knowledge.

Posted in Getting Started, Yoga | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitching Between Yoga Postures

n

I was taught, practice & teach Yoga asana sequences with stops between postures and groups of postures. Stops are an opportunity for me to observe what is happening in my body, to recollect into awareness my experience of postures I just completed, to let my breath settle and to make a conscious choice when to move into the next postures. Stops can be peaceful waits and they can be disturbing.

I gained more insight to these stops as a Yoga teacher. As a teacher I am privileged to be dominantly in a role of observer. Observing a group of practitioners who have just stopped moving is amusing and inspiring time and again. I see people scratching, organizing their clothes, looking around … it’s as if there is a group effort to avoid stillness. Pointing this out affects people differently. Some people will collect themselves and become still, others will switch to other, more subtle twitching movements. In some cases the twitching is so subtle that people don’t notice it at all. I’ve stood next to a practitioner who’s entire body is still – but the fingertips are moving nervously – as if playing on some invisible instrument – while they were convinced they were perfectly still.

Some disturbances, such as straightening a shirt are rooted in habit, others are an indication of nervous energy in the body (which can be expected after energetic practices). Either way, they can be very slippery and difficult to catch. Trying to catch them is also a disturbing activity which can actually make them worse. This is an opportunity to a soft and gradual learning process:

  1. Notice your movements – be curious about them, this is a big first step – and will usually have a short term tempering affect.
  2. Observe their fruits – though you may not be conscious of it, your movements satisfy something – it can be a shyness about your body, deeply rooted mannerisms, physical discomfort, an agitated mind … ask yourself what your movements have achieved for you.
  3. Notice your impulses to move – movement is preceded by an impulse to move – there is an impulse for straightening your shirt that comes before you actually do it.
  4. Recognize an option for choice – there is a window of opportunity between and impulse and an action to make a choice. Usually there is a default choice that is to act on an impulse, but you may come to realize that there is an opportunity to make another choice.

These “disturbances” are expressions of deeper patterns – their physical manifestation is an ending of a process that is rooted in deep motivations. Instead of insisting on subduing them you can try and stay with them until some more information about their true nature appears before you. Follow them patiently and they will lead you into deeper learning and subtle change. Stillness can be much more then an absence of disturbances.

I recall reading a speech given by Sting in which he suggests that silence between sounds is as much a part of music as the sounds themselves. Similarly, to experience and appreciate the melody of Yoga we need to develop stillness as well as movement.

Posted in Energy, Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

Upcoming Artness Performance

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I will be joining a group of talented, inspiring and free spirited performers on stage. Saturday – Mar 13th Tmuna Theatre Tel-Aviv. Tickets are 55 NIS. You are invited 🙂

Posted in Photography | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

What if Google did nothing wrong?

n

Dave Winer pitched in to the recent wave of negative buzz on Google’s recently launched “Buzz”. I have stopped visiting most tech-blogs, but I have great respect for Dave so I do occasionally visit & read his blog. This time I also participated in the comment thread – and I was quickly asked, in a surprisingly unpleasant manner, to go away because I was writing off-topic. I found myself facing a choice – either to insist on pursuing my point and demonstrating it’s relevancy or to respect Dave’s wishes and walk-away. I  chose to respect Dave’s wishes and that choice continued to resonate within me into this post. Choosing respect. Respect Google

  • What if Google has some really smart people working on Buzz?
  • What if some of those people realized there would be consequences for their choices (including privacy infringement)?
  • What if Google’s team came to the conclusion that the overall benefits of Buzz outweighed it’s potential less-popular consequences?
  • What if Google’s team believes that privacy is not a strategic issue – that the future of the Web is about divulging personal information in return for a personalized experience?
  • What if Google’s team is actively pursuing that strategy and laying down an infrastructure to realize it?
  • What if Google’s team is exceedingly tech-centric, powerful and driven?
  • What if Google’s team isn’t naturally geared to respecting people ,their freedom’s and their privacy?
  • What if Google’s moral charter “Do no evil” leaves to much wriggle room to highlight & force them into tight moral corners?
  • What if Google is simply doing what it does best?
  • What if Google did nothing wrong?

Respect People

  • What if every one of us know what’s best?
  • What if we are gradually becoming more driven, caring about and in pursuit of personal freedom – for ourselves and others?
  • What if we actually developed some really advanced ideas such as capitalism and democracy in an attempt to achieve personal freedom?
  • What if we are beginning to realize that some of those very ideas compromise personal freedom?
  • What if we are beginning to realize that some core ideas (like capitalism & democracy) that shape our lives are actually outdated and that they may need to evolve or be replaced by newer and better ideas?
  • What if we don’t know how to move forward?
  • What if many of our current efforts are an exploration into unknown territories?
  • What if we do recognize that some, if not most, of our explorations will fail and only a rare few will be sustained for longer and carry us forward?
  • What if, in this process of discovery, we encounter false-truths that take time to unveil and set aside?
  • What if those false-truths are there to temper our progress?
  • What if some of those false-truths have caused us to lose touch with a notion of personal freedom – to a point that we give it away in exchange for small comforts?
  • What if realizing this is  away for us to reclaim appreciation of personal freedoms?
  • What if we were able to appreciate that resistance & enmity is an indication that we have changed and are aspiring to share that with others?
  • What if we were able to transform enmity into respect?
  • What if we were to recognize that personal freedom is a heavier burden when others don’t carry it for you and you are required to carry it on your own?

Respect Journalism

  • Sorry journalists and journalism – I did not find motivation or energy to explore your place in my life…

In reading Dave’s article I encountered:

  • Dave’s personal views – which I consider to be evolved, aware & passionate.
  • Resentment (which I share) towards Google
  • Resentment (which I don’t share) towards journalism (which hasn’t been a part of my life for years)
  • Misplaced blame (in my life – I find that if I follow blame far enough I will arrive back at myself… and I tend to point that out to others when they place blame)
  • An unpleasant dismissal
  • A rich reading and contemplating experience
Posted in Expanding, inside, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to add your comment

Failing

n

I have become a student again, in two very diverse disciplines – playing Shakuhachi and knitting. In both cases I have a recurring opportunity to experience failure.

In Shakuhachi playing I am getting comfortable playing the in the first register – sounds that are first experienced when blowing the instrument. I am still only an occasional visitor in the second register – which requires changing the flow of air into a more condensed stream which is key to reaching higher notes. I am usually a welcome visitor in the higher register when I arrive softly, and I am greeted by nice and steady sounds – which catch me by surprise. When I try too hard I can make the sounds, but they are not sounds I would wish to listen to or play.

In knitting I am not actually making anything – I am simply knitting to practice getting a flowing technique and consistent quality of work (like any new experience, you need to actually be there to meet subtle qualities which are difficult to describe). I find myself straining too much, I am definitely not consistent and I miss a stitch now and again. But I am getting a sense of flow and ease of movement as I practice.

In both cases I have thought, experienced and felt “failing”. I have failed to play a steady high-register note. I have failed to create consistent stitches in knitting.

Luckily I can draw a deeper perspective on “failing” from two different and persistent areas in my life – Yoga & fatherhood.

Yoga first – it’s easier. No matter how much I practice, I can never achieve a sense of completion with any of my practices. There is always room for refinement and introduction of additional subtle elements. My theoretical knowledge exceeds my physical knowledge – which means I know that I haven’t arrived and I know I never will. I have been given enough teachings to realize this and to continue to developer my practice indefinitely. In the first years of my practice I can recall a sense of conquering some intermediate challenges,only to find myself facing new and distant challenges (at best) or, more likely, a length period of repeated, uneventful practice. My teacher would remind us that practice is about “succeeding in trying rather then trying to succeed”.

I recall a story (I have no idea of it’s true) that flowed around the internet about Picasso – that as he was sitting in a park a woman came up to him and asked him to draw her portrait. He agreed, and with one continuous motion that lasted only a few seconds drew a portrait she loved. She asked him how much it would cost for her to purchase the drawing and he names a ridiculous sum, to which she replies “but it only took you a few seconds”. To which he replies “yes, but I’ve been practicing for it my whole life”.

Though we are expecting, we are not yet parents and Andreea is not yet biologically pregnant. Andreea teaches women (Romanian, Hebrew) about femininity-related issues including fertility, pregnancy & birth. Once in a while she encounters skeptics who claim that she can’t possibly be serious about teaching these things because she herself has not given birth. Even amongst family and friends there is a notion that we have “failed’ to get pregnant. We understand this and have experienced our own doubts and confusions. Yet our experience is that we are and have been pregnant for a long time, it has not yet manifested in body. We have been making and continue to make changes to our lifestyle, to our perception and to our relationship with the world around us. We feel that we are in many ways preparing for a time when a spirit will choose to manifest in our lives through pregnancy. Yoga teachings suggest that pregnancy is first experienced in heart and mind of two people – usually a mother and father – and only later becomes a physical reality.

In the end…

My teacher once told us about studying chanting in India. Chanting is usually taught by listening and repetition. A teacher chants (a sound, a word, a phrase… depending on the practice) and students repeat… over and over again – until eventually you get it. There are no mistakes, the very idea of a mistake is not a conscious part of the practice – you simply move on. In this way there is no marker in memory of it, and therefor also no expectation for it to happen again – “here comes that difficult word again, I hope I don’t mess it up again”. You stay in your practice, remain attentive, repeat … over and over again.

I can honestly recognize only one failure in my practices and in my life – forgetting that I am in endless process of practice & exploration.

Posted in Expanding, inside, Shakuhachi, Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

I Shakuhachi – February 13, 2010: Trap

n

Choice to Trap
Trap to Struggle
Struggle to Awareness
Awareness to Patience
Patience to Playfulness
Playfulness to Freedom

Posted in inside, My Shakuhachi Recordings, Shakuhachi | You are welcome to read 3 comments and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-14

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Posted in About, Twitter Updates | You are welcome to add your comment

I Shakuhachi – February 11, 2010

n

… a theme I have visited in the past, it came to me again… so I let it play out

Posted in inside, My Shakuhachi Recordings, Shakuhachi | You are welcome to add your comment

I Shakuhachi – February 4, 2010: Transition

n

This Shakuhachi recording seemed to go from peaceful to stormy…

Posted in inside, My Shakuhachi Recordings, Shakuhachi | You are welcome to add your comment

Not Getting an iPod

n

For some months I’ve been planning/working to eliminate my physical CD collection. A key ingredient in this endeavor is a media player which can be used to store and playback music. When I started out I was planning on using an iPod to fill this role, assuming it would be both fun and functional. Boy was I wrong.

Actually the problem didn’t start with the iPod itself, but rather with iTunes. I have been gradually and successfully switching from Windows based computers to Ubuntu and open source solutions. iTunes is Apple’s software for managing your music collection and loading it onto the iPod and though it is distributed freely (even if you don’t have an iPod) it does not run on Ubuntu (or any other Linux distribution for that matter) – it is only available for Windows and OSX.

I began looking for an alternative to iTunes and my favorite so far is Songbird. But there is a hitch, Songbird cannot load music onto an iPod. It seems Apple doesn’t want any other software to be able to load music onto an iPod (and they are adamant about it). This doesn’t feel right does it? So I begin to inquire some more and quickly find myself immersed in what seems like no less then a culture war. Yes a culture War.

If you just want the technical bottom line then you skip to the end and read about my choices. If you want to understand my motivations – then I invite you to read on.

Do you own your music files?

For many people “mp3” files is synonymous with music files . This is more of a “commercial business truth” then a “technical truth”. There are numerous types and structures of files that can be used to store digital sound information. MP3 is one of the commercially popular formats but it’s not the only one and not the best one. What you may not realize, is that it is a patented commercial product – it was invented by a company and anyone that wants to use it needs to purchase a license to use it. That means that every (legal) software application or hardware device (such as media players) has purchased the right to create and play MP3 files.

You probably take it for granted that you can play “MP3” files – you may even think that the files are yours. But nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing that is yours is the information contained in the files (assuming you acquired the files in a legal way). But you can’t play the files unless someone has paid for that right. If you have an iPod then Apple has conducted some kind of business transaction on your behalf to enable you to play MP3 files using iTunes and the iPod itself. You depend on a business agreement between Apple and the owners of the MP3 format which gives you the right to play these files. If at any time in the future, for whatever reason, their business interests do not align, you may find yourself owning a large collection of music files which you can’t playback.

You don’t need to be at the mercy of any company or business agreement because there is an alternative. A group of people in the open-source software community has created an alternative (actually numerous alternatives) file format which is freely licensed (a freedom that is legally enforced!) for anyone to use – including you. The open-source alternative to MP3 files is OGG – which contains equally sized files with a similar audio quality (there are suggestions it may even be better).

Once you have an OGG music file you will forever be able to play it back – no one can legally revoke that freedom (assuming you have a software or device that can play it – more on that in a bit). If you doubt the relevancy of this implication in your personal consider this. If you have a record collection – can you still play your records? It’s not as trivial as it used to be. There aren’t as many audio manufacturers who are interested in manufacturing or selling you record-players. You may have even invested money in purchasing CD copies of many of your favorite records so you can keep on listening and enjoying them. When you purchased your records it seemed like they would be yours forever didn’t it?

The inventors of MP3 files intended to make a profit from it by making you and many millions of others) used to and dependent on it. The inventors of OGG are a non-profit organization, they offer their invention freely for anyone to use with the intention of assuring your freedom to playback your music files. The very freedom to choose between the MP3 and OGG is a gift to you from the inventors of OGG.

Can you playback your music files?

Playing back your music files requires a software application then understands and can read your music files (decode them). Such software applications run on personal computers and inside portable media players.

Remember when you were a kid and were taught to correctly use “can” and “may”. Well the question “can this media player play mp3 files?” is an adults manifestation of your childhood error. The answer is “of-course it can” – any media player can playback any kind of music file. The more pertinent question you should be asking (but is kept strategically hidden from you) is “may the media player play mp3 files?”. This is again a licensing issue. A software manufacturer that wants to playback (or create) mp3 files is required to acquire a license from the owners of the mp3 file format. A software manufacturer that wants to playback (or create) OGG files is free to do so.

So where does Apple stand?

  • Apple’s iTunes software and iPod can playback and create mp3 files.
  • Apple’s iTunes software and iPod can also playback and create file formats that are owned by Apple.
  • Apple’s iTunes software and iPod do not playback and record OGG (or any other open source audio format) files – even though they can.

There is no legal prohibition, there is no technical prohibition – they simply choose not to. Many (if not most!) other media players on the market do play OGG (and other open-source audio format) files. Apple’s interests, it seems, do not include granting me the freedom to playback my music files. It’s so easy to do that I can’t help but feel that they may actually be against it.

Sound Quality

Can you guess what is the one, most important user interface in cameras? In film and to this day in professional cameras it is the eye-piece – the small hole you look through to frame a picture. The most basic function in taking a picture is framing it, choosing what goes into the frame – and yet this is so basic, it often gets overlooked. Because it gets overlooked it was historically one of the areas where the camera industry cheated. In many (most!) cameras the eye-piece offered sometimes as little as 90% of the actual frame that was captured on film (or sensor). To compensate for this, most photo-processing and printing machines also avoided printing the entire image. To photographers this meant that you could not precisely frame a picture. Cameras had many other features (some useful some less) but you couldn’t frame a picture properly.

In a similar way Apple have compromised sound quality. If you ask audiophiles (people who care about the quality of sound they listen to) they won’t even consider an iPod as an option for a music player. There are many similar devices who offer far better sound quality. Yet there is such a huge hype around the Apple brand and iPods that the fact that it is has compromised sound quality has gone undetected. For me this came as a surprise. I took it for granted that Apple, a world leader in media players, with their devotion to quality, innovative devices, exhilarating user interfaces would obviously sound good. I was wrong, they don’t.

Linux , iTunes, Apple?

Linux is an operating system – an open-source alternative to commercial operating systems like Microsoft Windows and Apple OSX. Since Linux is open-source software (free to use and modify!), there are actually many operating systems based on it – one of them, one that I have been using is Ubuntu.

When I began my “CD elimination” project I started using iTunes on a Windows XP machine. At the same time I continued my transition into Ubuntu until it became my main operating system. I still considered the iPod as the best media player for what I needed, but I couldn’t find a way to use it on Linux. It seemed ridiculous to have to keep working on Windows just for a music management application – and that’s when I began to inquire and question Apple and the iPod.

I believe that the fact that Linux opened my eyes to Apple’s dubious practices and infringements on my personal freedom to be an irony. Apple’s very own OSX and Linux have ancestral ties – they share a philosophical legacy and approach to what an operating system should be. They are both evolved from Unix – a historical operating system that was mostly unknown to the consumer computer industry… that is until Apple released OSX.

I have a feeling that Apple could have easily made the iTunes application available for Linux – and that again (like OGG) it chose not to. I also have a feeling that the fact that Linux is a leading achievement of open-source software and inherently a symbol of personal (computing) freedom, had something to do with it. There is an irony and subtle justice in this story.

Compromise

When I first thought about this post, as I was considering alternatives to an iPod, I was conflicted. I could not find a media player that had everything I wanted, each alternative was a compromise next to the iPod. Until finally my ever so grounded Andreea suggested that I get the iPod and in a couple of years I could replace it with a comfortable alternative once they caught up. This solved my predicament, I intended to start over ripping my CD collection into OGG source files which I would then convert into MP3 files for iTunes and iPod until at a later time I could revert to using the OGG files.

But I still wasn’t content and settled – I don’t appreciate Apple’s approach and did not want to lend a hand to it. So I again started searching for and reading about alternative devices and I realized that there are alternatives and that the one obstacle they share in common was their capacity. Both alternatives (more on that soon) are available with a maximum 32GB capacity while the iPod has a model with 64GB. 32GB won’t hold my entire music collection… until I realized that I don’t actually need (though it would be nice) my entire music collection on a media player. There are many albums I don’t listen to for long periods of time… 32GB is definitely enough to hold all the music I could possible listen to at any given time (some of the files will be on the computer but not on the media player).

I found a compromise (this is an interesting and recurring theme I intend to write more about in the future) I could live with happily and now I had options!

Personal Media Players

One of the most helpful resources in seeking an alternative to an iPod was AnythingButiPod.com. I was relieved and amused to find the website which offers truly useful information about media players that helped me make my decision.

The first option that came to mind was an Archos5 device – which has both a flash-memory and a hard-drive (which has much more capacity) versions and would have catered to some additional video-related needs. Two things put me off Archos – I was unimpressed with their user interface and there are too many signs of buggy behavior which is met with terrible customer service. I was disappointed to find that the Archos can be an unreliable device.

Then I was left with three relevant options – Sony, Samsung and Cowon. All three are functionally similar to an iPod. All three support OGG (and other open-source file formats). All three can connect as a standard USB drive making it easy to load files into them using Songbird (and many other music management applications). I do not have access to handling and feeling them so I am relying on information I was able to gather from the internet.

Sony X Series Walkman (and it seems all of their other models) is noticeably more expensive then other manufacturers. Some say Sony offer the best sound quality – but this is not significant enough for me to justify the price difference.

Samsung P3 seems like a good device but I read about and had mixed impressions about their user interface. The touch screen behavior seems to be a bit coarse and the overall graphic appearance seems childish and messy. I have handled a few Samsung phones and I got a similar feeling from them – the user interface is unpleasant.

Last on the list, and my personal choice is the Cowon S9. It too seems to have some quirks in the UI that take getting used to, but overall it looks better and more mature to me. It has a screen that is much better then Samsng and iPod. Cowon devices seem to be recognized across the board as having good sound quality. It also seems easy to connect the device to a TV with a fairly standard $10 cable (Apple charges $50 dollars for a tv-out cable for iPods) – so it may even be useful in that department. Other Cowon devices have an expansion slot for SD memory cards – it is a bit disappointing that the S9 does not.

Summary

This is the setup I will be using:

  • Device: Cowon S9
  • Operating System: Ubuntu/Kubuntu
  • Music Player & Manager: Songbird
  • CD Ripping: Ruby Ripper
  • File Format: OGG
  • Personal Freedom

Update: Bricking

As I was recollecting and inserting the links in this post I came across a few forum threads which indicate that the Cowon S9 doesn’t work with Linux (though the problems seem to have occurred with other operating systems as well). The problem occurs when transferring files to the device and the end result is a dead device that you can send back for replacement or, if you are technically proficient, can try to bring it back to life on your own. This is affectionately termed “bricking” – the device becomes a paper-weight (and not good one at that either, because it’s weighs less then other devices).

When I woke up next morning, after discovering the disconcerting news, I was thinking of going back to Andreea’s fall-back plan – of getting an iPod as a temporary solution. It was tempting but by noon I decided not to. I will hold off on getting a device until a good one is available. For the time being I will be using my resurrected laptop (running Kubuntu) and an external hard-drive to manage and listen to my music collection.

So there!

Posted in Open Source, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to read 6 comments and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-07

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  • another Shakuhachi recording: http://bit.ly/bUSRjR #
  • RT @SaraJChipps Social media ruins lives [me: maybe it highlights the parts that are already ruined?] #
  • עשיתי את עמי פוני כוכב, חפשו בגוגל "עמי פוני" ותראו מה קורה 🙂 #
  • I've been getting a lot of email viagra offers, now some retalin is starting to appear to bring me back down! #

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I Shakuhachi – Feb 1, 2010: Begin

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I recorded myself playing Shakuhachi yesterday and today. I wanted to share with you today’s recording.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-01-31

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  • back to Yoga Asana – this time Savasana – a subtly demanding relaxation http://bit.ly/8LvOsQ #
  • beautiful palette of colors – glowing sunshine on green hills with a backdrop of ominous dark gray clouds #
  • @yogawithluc I was subscribed 2 Enlightenment Next 4 a year, encountered many names, including Tolle, over-intellectual and uninteresting in reply to yogawithluc #
  • @yogawithluc as if the mind has outgrown the heart in reply to yogawithluc #
  • RT @ronenk בוקר טוב, אני רונן. #
  • RT 🙂 @ronenk @iamronen 🙂 #
  • having a "family-work-meeting" with @andreea_hl to discuss redesign of http://www.feminitate.org #
  • גשם, רוח, עניים, קור… חורף קומפלט! #
  • לא תאמינו איזה גודל גזע נכנס הרגע לקמין… הכי גדול שאי פעם הכנסתי… ממש חתיכת עץ.. כזה שגודל ביער #
  • והערב – מבשלים על הקמין מרק כרוב!! #
  • working on a laptop with a dead (as in doesn't recharge) battery and a shaky power connection can be … spiritually challenging #
  • @Yogispot and vice-versa … in reply to Yogispot #
  • @NaamaSegal כל מי שבפייסבוק צריך לקרוא את זה http://bit.ly/4TxiUq ולעזוב את פייסבוק in reply to NaamaSegal #
  • מלא זמן לא הקשבתי לכוכב האהבה של ארקדי דוכין, נעים לי ! #
  • @NaamaSegal מזמן מזמן מזמן מזן עזבתי את הפייסבוק (ולא ממש הייתי שם גם כשהייתי) ואני ממליץ על זה בחום בכל הזדמנות 🙂 in reply to NaamaSegal #
  • what is the runner up for an iPod for a media player? Archos? #
  • I now regret burning all my university books, could have used them to light the fireplace, now I know better… there's an education! #
  • @ronenk a while back you mentioned 2 web-based wireframe tools, do you recall what they were? in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk thank you, yes there are many, but I was impressed with one you mentioned… I agree on pen and paper but need to com. with others in reply to ronenk #
  • my woman is in the kitchen mixing, cooking and what not… all sorts of oils, plant abstracts and the like … 20th century witchery #
  • a little something for the weekend – a yoga sequence anyone can practice: http://bit.ly/d6bjMy #
  • playing bamboo leaves: http://bit.ly/i4sGb #shakuhachi #
  • gift your body with some very simple yoga movements to counteract effects of seated meditations http://bit.ly/a43kvz #

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Movement after Meditation

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Yoga asana (physical postures) practices are very helpful in preparing the body for seated meditations in which the body is usually placed in an unnatural static position in which legs are folded to form a base and the back is held erect. Regardless of preparation, static sitting places certain stresses on the body. Such stresses, especially when meditation is practiced regularly, can accumulate and manifest as discomfort, pains and over time even lead to injury.

Fortunately a few simple movements can go a long way to relieve stresses and help in a transition from stillness to movement. Two postures are all it takes to stretch the arms & legs, bend the back and gradually and safely restore movement. It takes at most a minute or two and is a great gift to the body.

Clicking on an image/animation will lead to more details and guidance on each of the postures.

If you can make the time for it you may wish to explore an extended version of this sequence, your body will be grateful for it.

Posted in Asana, Basic Movement, Meditation, Practice Sequences, Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment