Good Enough... And Getting Better!
by Ken Cotton
It's exactly one week before the next meeting and one week past the newsletter deadline. Well, I just saw a plea from Paul in the newsgroups saying they were short again this month. So here I go. It's getting easier to do it on short notice. I mean to do it every month, but time always slips by and the later I submit one month the less time I have for the next one. Not that that matters.
I do feel good about one thing, though. In the past I'd tried to think of a name for this 'column', but A Few Things and A Few More Things were all I could come up with. Then Paul or Mike tried Ken's Korner and Ken's Kafe, but that's not my style. I bought kencotton.com becuase I couldn't get cotton.com, but I don't feel comfortable using email@example.com and so I've stuck with GOL and Twics. Well, from now on it's going to be Good Enough and Getting Better. That's how I feel about a lot of this stuff that I like to ramble on about..
Enough on me, so what am I going to write about this time? Internet Telephony? Nah, you and I have had enough of that for now and I'm sure I'll be talking about it more soon. So how about some more stuff on MP3s and registering domain names? And maybe something new, like this neat little ftp app that I found called Webdrive. I might even manage a few screen shots. I'm sure Paul would appreciate that. Otherwise he'll be up writing Saturday night and I'm sure he has better things to do, like get ready to leave Japan after so many years here. [Thanks Ken! - Paul :-)]
MP3s - This is something that I've mentioned off and on since last summer when I discovered them. I think it stands for MPEG Layer 3 or something. Let me just grab a quote from a FAQ at MP3.COM:
"Q: What is MP3?
A: MP3 stands for MPEG 1 layer 3, which is a way to store music files on a computer disk in such a way that the file size is relatively small, but the song sounds near perfect. You can identify MP3 files because they will end in .MP3."
Well this stuff is good enough and has been for a while now. So why write about it again now? Because it's getting better. Every few months since discovery I would spend a night downloading songs from ftp sites and web pages, but it seemed like half the songs were already gone. Then a few months back I learned how to get songs from the MP3 newsgroups with Outlook Express by downloading all the pieces as messages and then decoding/combining them. But this took more time than it was worth and if one of the pieces was missing you were left with a song with a gap in it.
Then the other day I read about a site called Scour.net that is "a guide to multimedia on the Internet. Use it to find audio, video, images and animation." You have to first download what's called the Scour Media Agent, which at first I didn't want to do, but was glad I did. You search for a song and then click on it to start the download with the SMA. Sure, many of the songs are already just broken links, but I just click on all the matches and quit the ones that have errors and let one of the successful ones continue. Pretty slick.
I decided it was time to see what was knew with Winamp, my favorite MP3 software player. I thought I'd read at Stroud's that there was a new version out. (2.0) I downloaded it last night and it's a winner. Being a big fan of the Microsoft scrolling Intellimouse since it came out I really like one new feature that let's you control the volume quickly by moving your pointer over the main window. Great when the phone rings, etc. You can also control the volume with the up & down keys on the keyboard, but the window still has to be in focus.
The other day I decided to listen to the Clinton Grand Jury testimony with RealAudio. It was okay since I have a 24-hour connection here with my OCN Economy line, but pausing and "rewinding" take a lot longer when something isn't on your hard drive. I just found the testimony and some jokes in MP3 format at MP3.COM, so that's the way I should have gone.
It may be time to upgrade your PC speakers or considering plugging your stereo system into the line out on your sound card. Both MP3s and RealAudio files - especially one's encoded for the new G2 player - sound excellent!
If you want to listen to MP3s on the road, check out one of the portable players that hold up to an hour of music. I saw them at 3 places in Akihabara a few weeks ago. One is called MPMan. What a name! I bet by now that Sony has heard of MP3. <g> A few months ago my girlfriend had never heard of MP3s now she wants an MPMan. Maybe I can sell her an OCN line so she can spend all the time she wants online downloading songs for it.
Domain Name Registration
I've talked about this stuff off and on since a year and a half ago when I learned how easy and cheap it was too register a domain and get it hosted somewhere. I have yet to find a place cheaper than Pair.com, which was taught to me by David Fiedler, editor of Web Developer Magazine when I met him after he spoke on Web design at the '97 Internet World show.
Go to David's page and you can read about how the guy, Jerry Sumptom of Freeview.com, that bought thousands of domains two years ago, got his. Jerry either sells them or rents mailboxes. No thanks. I called David a few weeks ago to see if he had found a place that was better or cheaper than Pair.com's $5.95 per month account. He said no. I was checking because I had a few that I wanted to register for me and others.
If you're wondering what I mean when I ask if you got your name, I don't mean are you firstname.lastname@example.org or gol.com as some people answer. I mean the .com or .net or .org. Let's face it, this Internet thing is no fad. There are only so many combinations of the 26 letters of the alphabet aand a dash. And I hope that you aren't holding out for one of the new TLDs (Top Level Domains) that will probably eventually be here. .COM will always easier to remember.
Turns out that ol' Jerry, who got all the names by first asking in some genealogy newsgroups how he "might obtain a list of the most common last names, possibly ranked by usage?" wasn't so smart after all. I read that that the billionaire father of Princess Diana's boyfriend Dodi, Mohamed Al Fayed just put up a site at alfayed.com. Interesting to note that al-fayed.com, a name that I thought he would have preferred or wanted to get also was taken two years ago by a name broker in England. Guess Jerry should have looked at the net worth of the people with the names he was buying.
You may not be able to get your last name, but you may still find that firstnamelastname is available or you could get one for a hobby or favorite phrase. Company names, brand names, last names and cool words and phrases went first. Misspelled words and acronyms with no meaning to most people are going, too. If you are thinking of starting your own company some day then now might be a good time to be thinking of names.
I noticed a few weeks ago that people are getting them for one-time events. Check out cat-scan.com to see the results of a contest where people put their cats on a flatbed scanner and sent the images in to enter a competition. And last week when I was home on TV, and in magazine and newspaper ads, I noticed that lots of companies were using domains like GO4-A-THIS.COM and BUY-A-THAT.COM for promotions.
If you still have to ask why you would want to have your own domain, don't bother. Just get it and if you regret in two years I will reimburse you. If you don't regret and are glad that you did it then you can give me... You decide. A beer at Shakey's?
I'm not a programmer, so when I think I'd like to see some software that does something I need I can't just sit down and write it. All I can do is wait. And I love it when it finally appears. Since first uploading a few pages to my homepage at GOL a few years ago with things like CuteFTP and WS-FTP I've thought that there has to be a better way. I was constantly checking Stroud's for new and improved FTP apps that would do one thing and that's let me work with files as if they were on a drive on my machine. I liked the idea of Internet Neighborhood that has an Explorer-like inteface and even registered it, even though it didn't work with my PowerDesk ExplorerPlus utitility. And it wasn't quite what I was looking for.
I registered it ($39.95) and WinAmp ($10) last night. ThumbPlus ($60) I should register soon. All three are good enough. Anything better will be a bonus. Time to go. I'll work on those screen shots later tonight after work. I've got to make sure that I don't snap anything embarassing.
Publisher Paul is leaving Japan soon and as he said online, we have found someone that is going to give publishing the AJ a shot, but they will still need submissions every month, preferrably sooner than a few days before the real deadline. So, come on people. Get with it! If I can do this anyone can. I'm sure whatever you write will be good enough and will get better. <g>
Later: Downloaded SnagIt32 and used it for some screenschots. Let's see what they look like when they get into the newsletter.
[Send comments to Ken at email@example.com or call and leave a message. But be warned, he checks his mail more often than he does his answering machine.]
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