Winamp, Setpoint, Logitech S510, Delta 66, and Volume

I have a Logitech S510 keyboard/mouse setup. It’s pretty nice. It has all sorts of fancy pants multimedia keys and reprogrammable keys. I like it.

But, I also have a fancy pants soundcard– an M-audio Delta 66 to be precise. This soundcard doesn’t use the normal Windows audio mixer. It instead uses a special audio mixer provided as part of the drivers.

For some reason, the M-audio mixer doesn’t respond to standard multimedia keys, probably because the mixer is a bit more complicated than a simple level slider. So, getting the volume controls on the keyboard to control the volume on my system was an impossibility.

I decided to go for the next best solution: Reprogram the keyboard to control WinAmp directly. Here’s how I did it.

I assume you have Setpoint (the Logitech drivers) installed and functioning. Now you need to install a program called UberOptions, which allows you a lot of flexibility to reprogram the multimedia keys. Hear over to this page and download and install UberOptions.

Once that is installed, head into Setpoint. Click My Keyboard and then scroll to the bottom of the list of available keys. You will see a Plus, a Minus, and a Mute key.

Click on the Plus key, and then on the right side click Other and then Select Function. Scroll to Keys:F15. Repeat the process for the Minus key, assigning it to Keys:F13. Repeat one more time for Mute, assigning it to Keys:F14. Apply the changes and you’re done with Setpoint.

Now we have to setup Winamp. First, we have to add mute hotkey functionality to Winamp (can you believe it’s not included?), so click here to download the Winamp Mute Hotkey.

Now open up Winamp, and click Options -> Preferences -> Global Hotkeys. I like to delete all of the extra hotkeys that I don’t specifically program myself, so go ahead and do that if you want.

Now it is just a matter of using your multimedia keys as the global hotkey commands in Winamp. Select Playback: Volume Up and click in the hotkey field. Push the Volume Up key on your keyboard, and then Add. It should assign it keystroke 0×660000. Repeat for Playback: Volume Down (0×640000) and Playback: Mute (0×650000).

Close the preferences, and you should be all set. Your volume keys on your keyboard will now control the volume in Winamp.

Mike

Vanilla Beans

I like cooking. Anyone who knows me knows that I like cooking. Don’t ask me why, but I do. I don’t have any formal training, and can’t say I’ve ever even been to a restaurant where the food is served in courses instead of all at one time, but I do know what I like and what I don’t like. I started preparing meals for myself when I was around thirteen years old or so.

I like experimenting with all sorts of ingredients and preparations. Today’s ingredient is real vanilla bean.

I know I know, vanilla is not an exotic ingredient, nor is it really that rare. It seems vanilla is in everything, although I suspect that most is artificial vanilla.

For years now, I’ve been using vanilla extract. It’s basically vanilla bean soaked in alcohol. It tastes pretty good and smells ok. In the grand scheme of things, though, adding enough alcohol-based extract to satisfy my cravings can change the texture of a recipe.

So I was searching my deal sites last week, and I came across a link for a deal on real vanilla beans. For $7.95, you will receive seven Premium Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans. Shipping is free. Click this link to order through Amazon.

The beans are from JR Mushrooms and Specialties. The ones they sent me were moist and plump, and quite long as well. They have an amazing scent and a very mellow, smooth flavor. These things are amazing.

The vanilla beans came with a creme brulee recipe, so over the weekend Jaime and I headed off to the store to get ingredients. As we walked through the store, I could still smell the vanilla that had infused into the recipe during shipping. It is that strong.

We made the recipe, which turned out to be very good and quite a bit like Alton Brown’s recipe for creme brulee. The recipe called for dark brown sugar to be caramelized on the top, but my torch was having none of that. Dark brown sugar became very, very burnt very, very quickly. I tried light brown sugar. No go on that one, either. Instant carbon.

I settled on plain white table sugar. I have lots of experience melting it with a torch, so it was a piece of cake. I was able to achieve a nice, glass-like sheet of caramel on top of the brulees.

The texture of the brulee was amazing. I think I cooked it perfectly. It was incredibly light and fluffy, but very rich at the same time. The texture was the same throughout the dish, and it stuck to the spoon when turned upside down. It was nothing like the creme caramel that I made a couple years ago, which was more spongy and firm (and probably overcooked). The vanilla flavor was in perfect balance with the cream. Mmm.

Is that how creme brulee is supposed to be? No clue, I’ve never had it at a restaurant. But let me tell you, it was damn good.

Next time I make it, I’ll use vanilla sugar, and I’m thinking about trying turbinado sugar (vanilla infused).

If you like to cook and haven’t tried real vanilla bean, I highly recommend ordering some and giving it a shot. For $8, you have nothing to lose.

Mike

Mitt Romney: No shot at the presidency

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, is running for president. He is going to lose, and I am going to tell you why.

I have a new theory for presidential politics. It goes something like this:

“If I haven’t met someone with the same first name as a candidate, the candidate will not win.”

It’s that simple.

I have never met anyone named “Mitt,” and my money says that you haven’t either.

Heading over to the Baby Name Voyager and plugging in “Mitt,” you’ll note a few things:

- The name “Mitt” does not register for boys.
- The name “Mittie,” as a girls name, peaked in popularity in or before the 1880s.
- The name “Mittie,” as a girls name, practically disappeared prior to the end of the 1940s.

“But his name is ‘Willard,’ not ‘Mitt’,” you say.

Who cares?!

He calls himself Mitt. His friends call him Mitt. His family calls him Mitt. His constituents call him Mitt. His colleagues call him Mitt.

His name is Mitt.

And he is going to lose because of it.

Mike

John McCain: No shot at the presidency

So John McCain is again running for president.

For those of you politics junkies (like me), you will recall that McCain lost the 2000 Republican nomination to our current president, then mostly unknown except to sports fans and reformed hard drinkers. McCain did fairly well, but second place is the same as last place in terms of a presidential nomination.

Now McCain again thinks he has a shot at winning the Republican nomination for president. For some reason he has convinced himself that enough people think he best represents the Republican party. Well, McCain is going to lose, and I’m going to tell you why.

I can sum it up with one word: AGE.

John McCain was born on August 29, 1936. That means that he is currently 70 years old. If he were to win the presidency, he would be 72 when he theoretically took office. That means that he would be 80 when he leaves office, or earlier if mother nature were to intervene. 80!

At the time of his inauguration he would be the oldest president ever to take the oath of office, beating Reagan by 3 years.

I think that America is well past the age of geriatric presidents.

We don’t want a president who is old enough to have grandchildren who are old enough to be president.

We don’t want a president who is one slip-and-fall, hip replacement, and infection away from Amendment the 25th.

We don’t want a president who has spent over two and a half decades in Washington with no breaks to live as a private citizen under the laws he has created.

Senator McCain, give it up. It is time to allow the sunset provision on your political career to take effect. Retire and enjoy the years you have left.

And do it now, while you still have a chance at retiring with dignity.

Mike

Biased climate change scientists

Since the beginning of the latest climate change “discussion” that is going on in the media, I have contended that the “scientists” who are most vocal about climate change are those who had already determined their positions well before any real research had been done.

An article from RedOrbit (I’ve never heard of it either) serves to prove my point. The article contains extensive quotations by Anthony Leiserowitz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Oregon, speaking at a talk during the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

Professor Lieserowitz discusses the contents of a book, Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change – Facilitating Social Change, of which he was a contributor.

Just read the title. I think we already know the conclusions the professor has drawn. And now, through this book and consensual science, he is disregarding science and allowing emotion to skew any shadow of accuracy that may be contained in both his book and his comments.

Here is a quotation from the article:

RedOrbit.com – Americans Believe Global Warming is Real, But Not a Top Priority

“We found no references, no associations, of the impacts of climate change on either human health or extreme weather events. Yet these are, arguably, among the most important potential impacts, because, ultimately, the consequences are going hurt people.

See what he did there? He assumed unproven consequences backed up by unproven science, and he assumed that those unproven consequences are definitively negative.

He says that certain potential impacts are arguabley going to cause consequences that will definitely hurt people. He didn’t say “the consequences have the potential to hurt people.” He said “the consequences ARE going to hurt people.

Professor, I have two words for you: Prove it.

Thank you.

Kmart.com

So we ordered some clothes for Jaime from Kmart.com. It was on clearance, so why not, right?

Here’s the experience:

One pair of pants was canceled off the order, even though it was listed as in stock. This is 2007. Can we please get accurate stocking? I don’t want to advocate some sort of federal law requiring truth-in-stocking, and luckily I don’t need to. We already have truth-in-advertising laws, and those laws need to be enforced against companies that accept orders on items of which they do not have adequate stock to fill the order.

Shipping was going to be the same even with the canceled pair of pants, which made no sense, so I emailed the company telling them that I expected adjusted shipping for the now smaller order. They never responded, but did reduce the shipping by 75 cents. OK fine. An email stating that they adjusted it would have been nice, but I’d rather have an adjustment with no email than an email with no adjustment.

So the order arrives here in Savannah after a few days via UPS, coming from Virginia. We take the box upstairs and Jaime opens it so she can check out the clothes.

First shirt, nice. It’s a little black sweater that apparently I had picked out. Jaime doesn’t like the beads (she wouldn’t have ordered it if she knew it had beads), but hey, it was $5.

Second shirt, a white stretchy thing. It’s nice as well. It looks good on her, and she likes it.

Third and final item, a pair of pants. She picks them up out of the box, and immediately knows they are the wrong size. How does she know? Well, Jaime is like a size 6. These pants are a size 14! Holy crap. She could fit her whole body in one leg of these pants.

So I call Kmart’s toll free. I explain the situation to the lady who answered the phone, and she then transferred me to the right department. Oddly, though, she kept saying “Thank you for calling Sears” something something. Strange.

Well, the next lady I talk to is Brenda. She says we have two options. One is to take the pants to a store, which I shot down before she finished. I bought these online and paid for shipping. I am not covering the cost of gas, eating up my free time, and taking the risk that is involved in driving to Kmart and back. I paid for shipping.

The other option is to wait 8-10 days for a UPS pickup. Then, once they receive the giganti-pants, there would be another period of waiting– I think she said up to 10 days– for a credit. If I wanted a replacement, I would have to re-order and pay a full shipping charge instead of a pro-rated shipping charge.

What kind of an option is that? I explained that they have an obligation to correct the mistake. I placed an order and they took the money out of my account. If I am to be required to place a new order, pay full shipping, and wait up to 4 weeks (surely they meant business days) to get my money back, I am going to send back the whole order and not place any more orders in the future. I told her as much, and told her that I didn’t appreciate the way they handle their own mistakes.

She put me on hold and came back on the line and said that they would credit the pants, shipping, and tax. OK, fine, no pants, but no huge delay in getting my money back and no temporary double-payment so I can reorder to compensate for the fact that whoever or whatever packed our box cannot distinguish the difference between a size 6 and a size 14 by look and feel.

Overall, I’m still disappointed. Jaime wanted these pants, we ordered them, paid for them. Kmart has them, shipped the wrong ones, and won’t ship the right ones unless I pay them a second time, and then loan them the original amount for up to a month.

I’m not planning on any more purchases from Kmart.com in the future, and I would recommend the same to my friends and family.

Don’t you hate pants?

Unjustified threat letters from SESAC

So, for the past several months I have been receiving letters from SESAC regarding music licensing.

For any of you who are not aware, I am one of the co-hosts of America’s Debate Radio, and online political call-in show. The show airs once per week on Wednesdays. During each show, we usually take two breaks that last about 10 minutes each. During these breaks, we play music.

Now, before we started broadcasting I personally contacted every single music licensing agency for pricing and usage information: ASCAP, SESAC, BMI, SoundExchange, the Harry Fox agency. I contacted everyone. Some took months to respond, some never responded.

According to many of the agencies, we would need two separate licenses in order to broadcast music from their respective catalogs: One for the podcast since the music contained within a podcast is downloadable, and a separate license for the streaming broadcast.

The general summary of each licensing agency that responded is that the licensing costs per year were well above our total annual operating budget for the radio program– $200– and even above our entire annual operating budget — about $2,000– for America’s Debate in its entirety. Obviously, we could not afford to use commercially licensed music, and needed an alternative.

That alternative came in two forms: Music licensed under the Creative Commons license, and music released by independent artists and used only with permission.

The Creative Commons music that we use on America’s Debate Radio — ALL of it– is from GarageBand.com. Garageband allows artists to release their music to the public under several different licenses, one of which is the Creative Commons license. That license allows us to play and distribute that music within our broadcasts provided proper attribution is given. So, Jaime and I spent two days hunting through GarageBand.com for music released under that license. We saved every song we found, and we reviewed it for airworthiness at a later date.

The music released by independent artists is really music from one guy, his old band, and another band from right here in Georgia. Dirk Lind, formerly of Baaba Seth and currently a staffer from America’s Debate, gave me permission to use music from his old band. Not only did he give me that permission, but he also gave me permission to use the new music he has composed and listed at his website. The Georgia band is The Robbie Ducey Band, a blues band from Georgia. Robbie Ducey himself gave me permission via email to use his music, provided proper attribution is made.

So, that is the music we play. Free music used under its license, or music that has been given to us by bands who are unsigned and not under contract with any of the major music licensing agencies.

Back to SESAC. For the past several months, SESAC has been sending me letters accompanied by payment envelopes. These letters don’t so much as state that I have used their music in violation of their license, but it is certainly implied. Here is the letter I received today:

SESAC Letter

As you can see, it is quite threatening in nature.

“The unauthorized performance of copyrighted music represents an infringement of copyright and is a violation of Federal Law.”

Yeah, no joke. That is why we don’t use any copyrighted music. That fact won’t change, no matter how many implications of infringement you assert.

“Despite several notices of your need to obtain permission to perform the copyrighted compositions of our affiliates, we have not heard from you nor have we received the signed license agreement that would authorize such performances.”

Right, I ignored most of the notices since we do not play music owned by SESAC, and therefore we are under no obligation to pay licensing fees for music that we have not used. I did respond to the most recent letter stating that we only use Creative Commons music, and asking that I be removed from their mailing list.

“Enclosed is additional information regarding SESAC and the requirements placed upon music users under the United States Copyright Act. It makes good business sense to obtain a SESAC blanket license and avoid infringing the copyrights of our affiliated music composers and publishers.”

There was no enclosure. Regardless, I know the law, and nowhere in the law does it place any requirements upon me to license music I have not used.

“If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 928-757-5326, by facsimile at 952-674-1910 or by email at music.ross@starband.net.”

I did contact him. The results will be my next blog post.

“Please complete, sign and return the SESAC Performance License together with your license fee payment. Upon receipt of the signed license agreement and payment, an executed copy of the document will be returned to you for your records.”

Again, we don’t need to license music we don’t use. Just as the federal government requires a license before, oh, say, opening up a strip mine, that does not mean I must obtain a license just because I own a shovel and that shovel could be used to illegally strip mine without a license. Yeah, I’m capable of broadcasting your music. That doesn’t mean I have broadcast it, nor does it mean I need a license to broadcast it as long as I– you guessed it– don’t broadcast it.

“Additional information about SESAC and our licensing service is available at www.sesac.com.”

Great, I have a website too.

As you can tell, this letter is meant to scare me into paying for licensing I do not need.

If I had used their music without a license, all they would need to do is send a certified cease and desist letter to our Registered Agent as is on file with the Georgia Secretary of State. The letter would come from an attorney and not a Music Licensing Consultant. And the letter would specifically list the materials upon which I have infringed and the date and time of the infringement.

This appears to be nothing more than a bullying tactic based on a poorly-researched hunch, and backed up by federal law that they have interpreted as having granted them the right to bully and harass legitimate and legally-operated organizations.

I called the number listed. I will post the summary of the conversation as my next blog post.

Mike

More Global Warming Lies

Article: Valentine bouquets ‘are bad for the planet’
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/02/10/nbouquet10.xml

Latest Government figures show that the flowers that make up the average bunch have flown 33,800 miles to reach Britain.

33,800 miles? Oh yeah?

About: Geography – What is the circumference of the earth?
http://geography.about.com/library/faq/blqzcircumference.htm

The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901.55 miles (40,075.16 kilometers).

Seems odd to me that they would grow flowers, and fly them the equivalent of nearly 1.4 times around the entire planet.

Does this seem odd to anyone else*?

Mike

*Note: If it doesn’t seem odd to you, please stop reading my blog. I don’t have many requirements for readership, but if I did, one would be the ability to exercise common sense, and another would be the ability to exercise simple grade school mathematics.

Self-Disaccreditation

No change in political climate by Ellen Goodman.

I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.

Ellen Goodman’s self-disaccreditation comes in the form of two laws of online debate.

First, Benford’s Law of Controversy, which states “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.

Ms. Goodman is very, very passionate.

Second, Godwin’s Law, which states that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one“.

We’ve hit that point. Those, like Ms. Goodman, who have fallen victim to Benford’s Law of Controversy are now venturing into Godwin’s Law territory. This is demonstrated through the insane emotion-over-reason accusations of those who insist that scientific evidence consist of indisputable fact as opposed to simple and assumptive consensus.

Ms. Goodman should be ashamed at the parallels she has attempted to draw between people who literally murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people and those who insist that fact should be provable.

Ms. Goodman should also be upfront on her own credentials: She has a degree in modern European history– not climatology, not meteorology, not anything that even remotely solidifies her abilities to evaluate or consider scientific evidence.

And that, my friends, brings us right back Ms. Goodman’s violation of Benford’s Law of Controversy.

Mike