technology, tips

Quickly convert .doc to .rtf

The Mac OS has a lot of neat things built in that we never see. One of those neat things is something called textutil which does quite a few things. In this case I only wanted it to do one thing: convert my .doc files to .rtf files.

Why? Because I don’t trust that .doc is an archival format. Some older versions of .doc are barely supported by Microsoft. What’s to say that my files will open in another ten years? Nothing as far as I can tell. I ‘m a writer so I need my files to last. When I paint, draw, or print photos I use acid free paper because I want those things to last. Using .doc files is like using acidic paper. I don’t use the format anymore but I did and had almost a thousand .doc files to convert. That was daunting.

Mac OS Hints shared a clever terminal command using find and textutil to batch convert files, I took that and built an applescript out of it so that my friends could use it easily. This applescript asks for a folder, gives the option to convert or convert & delete the original, and then converts every file in the folder. It will even convert files in subfolders. I might build it up at some point to use more of textutil, but for now I am offering this simple applescript.

doc2rtf applescript

tips, whatnot

Batch Converting to MP3 with Lame

I had a folder of .wav files that I wanted to convert to mp3 using lame. I thought I remembered an easy way to have it convert the entire folder but I couldn’t make anything happen. So I came up with an easy system using the mac’s terminal. All I have to do is go into a folder and type mp3ed and I get mp3 conversion just how I like it.

Here is how to do it:

  1. open the terminal and type “nano .bash_profile”
  2. type or paste to the end of the file (or as the first line if it’s a new file):

    alias mp3ed=”find *.wav -exec //usr/local/bin/lame –vbr-new -V0 ‘{}’ \;”

    (If you have a lame setting you like better you can change the “–vbr-new -V0” part of course.)

  3. hit control-x, then y at the prompt, then return at the last prompt.
  4. restart the terminal

Now, all you need to do to convert a folder of wav files is go into that folder (cd myfolder) and type mp3ed.

Of course for this to work you’ll need lame installed. If you are even just a tiny bit comfortable with the terminal that is easy enough (hint: decompress and paste cd ~/desktop/lame-3.97; ./configure; make; make install). To install lame you’ll also need apple’s free xcode, which you can download or install from the disks that came with your mac.


Ride the Apple Wave

Even champions of Microsoft Windows are switching over to the Mac. But that isn’t news anymore, what is interesting about this MIT Technology Review article is what caused Erika Jonietz to leave the PC behind. In her own words:

Ironically, playing around with Vista for more than a month has done what years of experience and exhortations from Mac-loving friends could not: it has converted me into a Mac fan.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again— Vista might be the best thing that ever happened to Apple. Vista’s high cost (in terms of both the OS, the hardware upgrades needed, and the inability to use many older peripherals— like a printer) coupled with increased limitations to counter “piracy” make it unappealing. Add to that the fact that many of the tauted “innovations” in Vista are already built into Mac’s OS X 10.4, which will be soon be replaced by OS X 10.5 (full of new features for Microsoft to add to the next version of their own OS due out sometime between 2015-2050).

People don’t want to monkey around with their computer just to get it to print, or spend hours removing adware, malware, viruses only to have their computer crash— as Erika puts it they “just want things to work, and with [the] Mac, they do.”

[tags]mac os x, microsoft vista, mit, switchers, vista reviewer[/tags]


On Pandora Online Radio

So I haven’t had time to play with tuneDNA. What I have had time to play with is Pandora Internet Radio, since I can use it online independent of my Mac or iTunes. So far so good. I like it much better than though I can’t say if it really is better since was such a sort trial.

Selection: Pandora reports having over 20,000 artists and 400,000 songs. I’ve found just about all the indie and indie-ish music I’ve looked for, so I’ve been happy with that. Blues also seems to be pretty well stocked. I’ve yet to try other genres but I did read that they have no classical music just yet, so there’s that. My guess is that they aren’t hurting for major artist either since they have licenses with SoundExchange, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Having worked a lot with college radio years ago I’d say this has to be pretty expensive for them.

Pandora Online RadioInterface & interaction: The interface is pretty simple and intuitive. It shows cd cover images, the title of the artist, song, and album. You can skip tracks it suggests (though there is a limit due to license restrictions) and pause songs. You can’t go back, again because of license restrictions. You can create multiple stations rename them and add artists and songs to those stations. You can also bookmark artists or songs. You can do more too but I’m getting bored just writing this much— if you want know more you should go see the site for yourself. While there are nice things I should also add that the interface is also boxy, with a brushed metal theme… or put another way, it is ugly.

The music suggestions are pretty okay. Nothing blew my mind though I did find some interesting things. More often than not I was at least okay with what was playing, though there was the occasion that I raced to the “skip track” button.

A warning: right now there are no ads, but there will be soon. As it stands I would recommend trying Pandora Online Radio, but that recommendation may be revoked if the ads are done poorly. From their website:

Q: What about advertising?
The free version of Pandora is supported with advertising, which we’ll ramp up over the next few months. If you don’t like ads, you can banish them altogether by subscribing.

The biggest disappointment is the lack of community focus on the site. It seems like a no brainer to try to emphasize community, not only is it nice for the users, but it also builds brand loyalty while adding a service that requires little work (the users are responsible for most for the vast majority of the content).

I’m also aware that there is an exchange going on here, they capture my information (age, area code, gender, and music tastes) which they treat as a commodity. For that I get to listen to music for free online that might be slightly more tailored to my tastes than other free form online stations.

I am also aware of the fact that if I used only Pandora I’d lose the opportunity to be exposed to different music that I might not even be aware of and which Pandora would have no reason to ever play for me. Independent radio still has it’s place, though if there was a community aspect to Pandora this might negate the issue, even if only slightly.
That’s all I have to say about Pandora at the moment.

[tags]music, online music, online radio, pandora, pandora online radio, radio, website review[/tags]


Speaking of Social Software…

I know it is all the rage, there is WPopac, flickr, youTube, etc, etc. I find most of them useful but the list of things I am really excited about is pretty short. I am honestly excited at WPopac, not just because I am friends with Casey, I am also excited about things like wikipedia.

What I am interested in lately is music social software. First I heard about the Music Genome Project. The theory of which is put in practice at Pandora Internet Radio, but it isn’t social so much as technical. You tell it what you like and it tells you more of what you *might* like, using more than 400 attributes to capture the “essence” of music. The project itself isn’t focused on socializing, but it lead me to others.

The first I found was, which sounded interesting but didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. It uses scrobbing to figure out what you might like. Basically scrobbing happens either by listening to music online where you can say if you love or hate a song, or by letting it see all the music and their ratings on your computer. After that it uses some fancy pants algorithm that takes ratings and also play counts to figure out what you like and what you *might* like. Privacy concerns aside I wasn’t very impressed with the outcome. I did get a couple of good suggestions (and some terrible ones), but it seems like to get the real benefits of the service you have to pony up so dough. I’m skeptical of that especially since on my second (and currently last) day of testing I wasn’t able to listen to anything after ten minutes because of server issues. One the first day of testing I found the music often cut out, but at the time that wasn’t a deal killer.

The next thing I am excited to test is TuneDNA, which is currently Mac only (a windows version is forthcoming). I haven’t had time to play with it yet but it uses your iTunes ratings, playcounts, and playlists to connect you to new music and people. The site advertises:

  • One click scoring of iTunes or iPod tracks based on PlayCounts and Ratings
  • Save your Scorecard (Musical Dna) and send it to friends
  • Match your Dna with others to discover Music you like
  • Find your Musical Dna soul-mate and contact him
  • And much much more, its time to listen to Music that’s really you

I suspect you can also find a female musical soul-mate if that is your thing. In theory this sounds pretty okay, we’ll have to see how to turns out.

I am sure there are more of these things out there, but it seems like a surprisingly young idea to try to link things like ratings, play counts, other users, and attributes of music together. More on why I think this is so great at a later date.


Why Microsoft is Dumb

Microsoft’s new operating system is called Vista. From what I’ve read it is going to give pirates a heck of a hard time to steal (for a few months at least), but the real bonus is that it’ll frustrate legitimate users— not only that, it will place all sorts of limits on how legitimate users can use Vista just because Microsoft claims that somehow it will save them money.

Yes, piracy is a problem, especially in some places outside the US. The thing is, people who live in some places outside the US can’t afford a $300 operating system. We can say “tough,” but that is pretty ridiculous considering computers are the only way to participate in a global economy. Computers are a necessity not a luxury.

I don’t think piracy will change because of Microsoft’s new piracy measures, but I’m not even sure that was the genuine intention. When Microsoft puts limits on how many times you can transfer the operating system (only once) from an old computer to a new one, or even outright deny any transfer (for computers shipped with Vista) it rings to me more in the key of greed.

What else is new with Vista? Besides only being able to transfer the OS once? You also won’t be able to use the regular version of Vista as a virtual OS— this means folks using mac will have to the more expensive version (currently set to cost $300-$400). And failure to activate Vista within 30 days results in the computer doing nothing but allowing 30 minutes of internet access.

Fair use seems to dictate that some of these things are illegal, but I am no lawyer, and fair use laws have been weakened thanks to things like the DMCA. That is to say, our rights as consumers to use things we’ve purchased however we like has been, and is being, pulled out from under us inch by inch.

It’s time to go with a Mac everyone, Apple won’t pull things like this anytime soon. Right now you can buy the latest Mac OS for about $100, or buy a family pack (good for five computers) for just $160. That’s a far cry from the adware and virus friendly Microsoft line of products. If you don’t like Apple, that is fine too, but sooner or later people are going to have to consider other options, out with the old in the unix based OS’s like SuSE, Fedora, or Ubuntu. No, they aren’t a Windows replacement, but then again that’s part of what makes them good.