Over the weekend I made my first and, for the foreseeable future, last purchase from Audible.co.uk.

It seemed like such a good idea; I was doing some work for Distributed Proofreaders and needed some background noise; I didn’t fancy listening to music and couldn’t find a film that I fancied either. I decided to purchase one of the Doctor Who audiobooks that had been recommended to me recently and listen to that instead.

I headed over to Audible, which had also been recommended to me, checked that my MP3 device (an iPod) was compatible, checked that I could access the free samples on the website and then selected the book I wanted (The Stone Rose, by Jaqueline Rayner, read by David Tennant). I signed up for an account and paid for the book.

Then the fun started.

It turns out that all Audible downloads are protected by a form of DRM (Digital Rights Management). This means that you need to use software supplied by Audible in order to “unlock” the files. Since they only supply software that will run on either Microsoft Windows or Apple operating systems, I had now purchased a file that I couldn’t even download to my PC since I use Ubuntu, which is a Linux-based system.

A bit of web-searching and hunting through the Audible support forum confirmed that when they said that all iPods were compatible with their audiobooks, what they actually meant was “all iPods whose owners use iTunes” which is not the same thing at all. In fact, the only way I managed to listen to my newly purchased audiobook at all was to download it via iTunes on Steven’s Mac and burn it to a CD. From there, I can now re-rip it and load it on my iPod if I want to listen to it while I’m on the move.

Suffice to say this is less than convenient and I won’t be doing it again.

DRM doesn’t stop piracy; it just pisses off people who want to use items they’ve purchased in they want that they want to use them rather than the way that the seller wants. There’s a further issue with Audible’s DRM in that they won’t publish audiobooks without DRM even when the book’s author and publisher want them to.

There is one silver lining though, while researching all this, I discovered that emusic (a site I’ve used before for non-DRM music downloads) now does audiobooks as well. I’m off to renew my subscription now.

What’s in a name?

I was thinking over the weekend about the implications of changing my name when Steven and I get married later in the year. Over time I have gone backwards and forwards about whether I would take my husband’s name when I got married or not. By the time we finally got around to getting married, I had pretty much decided that while I am happy to go against societal conventions, I do get fed up explaining why I am doing so to people. Hence, mainly out of laziness, I decided that I would change my name. It saves any confusion when we have children and means that I won’t have to get into complicated discussions about why I’m not Mrs. Hanlon.

One of the considerations was the fact that I don’t yet have a professional reputation to worry about. If I was more established in my career, I might have considered keeping my name professionally but at this point, it is unlikely that I will confuse anyone by changing it.

What occurred to me over the weekend though was that I have established a reputation under my maiden name, it is just an online one rather than a professional one. I am registered just about everywhere under my full maiden name: Distributed Proofreaders, Ravelry, Flickr, Facebook, Yahoo, Googlemail. Even the texts that I have submitted to Project Gutenberg are credited to my maiden name. Hundreds of people know me under a variety of usernames, all based on my maiden name. Some of these sites will let me change my userid, so I could change my name but some won’t. I also know that if I only “know” someone online, I struggle if they change their username because I have difficulty transferring the associations to the new name.

Given all this, it looks like I am going to be keeping my maiden name after all, even if only virtually!

An upgrade

(Click the image for the full version of the cartoon.)

Fortunately, my upgrading of this blog didn’t end with sharks. It has ended with some new features that don’t appear to be working, some new features that are working but I don’t know what to do with them and some old features that don’t work as well as they used to.

Oh well, at least I don’t have to feel like the rest of the world is leaving me behind, in blog terms anyway.

(And I highly recommend xkcd.com to anyone who is a maths or technology geek.)

We moved!

We finally moved in to the new flat and are currently living surrounded by cardboard boxes. Staying true to our natures however, we now have both computers up and running and connected to the internet and the webserver running again, which means the blog is back!

More updates to follow.

His Dark Materials – find your daemon

If you’re a fan of the Philip Pulman His Dark Materials trilogy, did you know that at the Golden Compass film site you can take a quiz to choose what your daemon would be? It’s at http://www.goldencompassmovie.com/ (Warning! The site is all flash and plays music. Bad website!) Go to Daemons and click ‘Choose your daemon’ and answer 20 questions to have your personality analysed.

Picture removed since embedding an object really messed everything else up!

Apparently, I’m solitary, assertive, modest, dependable and flexible and, therefore, matched with a chimpanzee! Not exactly what I was expecting for my personality type but the description is spot on so I guess they know what they’re talking about.

It’s all very silly but made me smile so I thought I’d share.

Edited to add that I’m now in the huff as Steven’s daemon came out as a snow leopard which is much cooler than a chimpanzee.

The girl’s still got IT

Having been out of IT for the grand total of three months now, I had an opportunity to stretch my technical muscles again recently. Nothing too complicated; I just tweaked the template for this blog so that the number of posts per month was displayed (to make it easier to track my NaBloPoMo progress) and added some Ravelry progress bars. The progress bars weren’t much of a challenge since they just involved copying the code that Ravelry provided to the right place (although working out what the right place was took a little brain power). However, at that magical point in the future “when-I-have-some-spare-time”, I plan to customise them at least a little to match the rest of the template better. It was also reasonably straightforward to add the code to display the number of posts per month but still strangely satisfying. It’s nice to know that my skills in that area haven’t disappeared completely already and that I can still find uses for them.

My current employer asked me last week would I like to go on a course to learn to program in VB. I think they thought I was kidding when I said “Not this year.” I think changing career, sitting 5 exams, buying and renovating a house, and getting married, all within the space of 15 months is enough to be going on with. The idea of being taught a programming language does appeal somewhat, having worked with them for seven years without much by way of formal teaching. Part of me wonders though if it wouldn’t just be better to persuade them to let me buy an O’Reilly book and spend a couple of days teaching myself. Of course, I’m still having to restrain the urge to tell them that writing VB macros to manipulate data held in Excel spreadsheets is a really bad way to handle the amount of data that we’re trying to work with. That might be a good reason for not doing the course. I can just see a VB instructor cursing me under his breath as I put my hand to ask once again “Would it not be better to do that using (insert name of almost any other language here)?”

My name is Guybrush Threepwood and I’m a mighty pirate!

Thanks to a wonderful project, ScummVM, pirate Steven and I are now reliving the days of our youth by playing the LucasArts Monkey Island games. To quote Wikipedia: “The games follow the misadventures of the hapless Guybrush Threepwood as he struggles to become the most notorious pirate in the Caribbean, defeat the plans of the evil undead pirate LeChuck and win the heart of governor Elaine Marley.”

ScummVM allows (legal) copies of many of the original LucasArts games, among others, to be played on modern technology. For instance, we’re playing the PC CD version of the games on Steven’s iMac. There are also far more exotic ports including the PSP and iPhone. (I’m not entirely sure why we’re playing on the Mac when the games play perfectly well on my PC without the need for an interpreter but that’s beside the point!)

The games have a fantastic sense of humour, cover every pirate cliche I’ve ever come across and, unlike some of the other games of that era, don’t kill the main character just for walking around the wrong corner. (Space Quest, anyone?) The aspect that they’re probably best known for is the trading insults method of sword-fighting. As well as trading blows, you have to select the most cutting insult to deliver to your opponent at key moments. Examples will undoubtedly follow when we reach that section of the game!

And in an example of interesting synchronicity, the writing credit for the insults in the first game was Orson Scott Card, the author of “Ender’s Game” that the iKnit Kniterati were discussing this evening.

I love Ravelry!

For those not “in the know” (which is probably most of the world, given that Ravelry currently only has 41,000 members) Ravelry is an internet community site for knitters and crocheters. It’s still in beta testing so you can’t see much yet without signing up as a beta tester, although you will be able to browse the entire site without signing up once it goes live.

It’s difficult to describe Ravelry succinctly. I can list what it has: patterns database, yarn database, individual notebooks and project pages where users can post details of what they’re working on as well as finished items. There are also forums and a private messaging system. The big thing though is the feeling of community. Being able to look at what other people are working on, reading their comments on particular patterns or yarns and having them comment on your items is just great. It’s like having access to a huge knitting circle without having to move away from the computer.

It was actually people’s comments on my projects that sparked this post. One of Ravelry’s features is the ability to mark something as a ‘favourite’. I noticed today that two of my projects have been marked as favourites by people, one of them by two different people, and it made my day!

What’s even better is that those two projects are also favourites of mine. One was Steven’s Avast jumper, which I was really pleased with and which, since he wears it a lot, I guess he was really pleased with too! The other was my beaded napkin rings (a variation on the Venezia pattern from Knitty). These turned out really pretty, even though I omitted the final, fiddly step of turning them into actual rings. The ultimate compliment on these so far though has been a friend who, upon being told that they were hand-made, commented that he had assumed they were shop-bought and spent the rest of the evening peering at them intently. I can only assume he was looking for some method of telling that they were hand-made.

Pictures below, since I don’t often have an excuse to post pictures to my blog.

In other knitting news, Henry is now 57% done but feels like it’s slowing down again. I still believe I can finish it by Christmas though.

Avast napkin ring