playing with Volumio and organizing my music

Without really intending to, I would up spending a bunch of time today organizing my music collection and copying stuff over to my little Volumio box. I set up Volumio about a year ago, and still haven’t quite finished copying music over to it. But I’m now all the way through to the letter “P”, so that’s pretty good. I don’t use the thing too often, but I use it enough to justify the time I spent setting it up, I think.

My adventures today started out with a desire to listen to the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach last night. I was pretty sure I had it on CD, but I couldn’t find it anywhere, nor did I have it ripped on my Mac or PC. After spending too much time looking around for it this morning, I decided to just buy a new copy of the CD. So I wouldn’t have two copies of exactly the same thing, I bought a used copy of the “experience edition” version on eBay, which should include a bonus DVD. (I’m really not sure if I ever actually had a copy, but I think I did.)

That got me interested in getting back to organizing my MP3s and CDs a bit more, and copying more stuff over to the Volumio box. I got through the letters “O” and “P” today. There’s wasn’t much under “O”, but there was a lot under “P”, including Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, and Phish!

My McCartney collection was a little disorganized, so I tried to fix that up. I found that I had exactly one song in there that was a DRM’d iTunes file. I thought I had replaced all of those with the DRM-free versions quite some time ago, but I guess I missed this one somehow. Normally, this wouldn’t bug me at all, since I can listen to it on my Mac, PC, and iPhone, no problem. But Volumio, of course, can’t handle DRM’d files. There’s supposed to be a way now to delete and re-download a track in iTunes, in such a way that you replace the DRM’d file with a DRM-free version. But I couldn’t get that to work. I just kept getting the same DRM’d file. I thought about just buying a new MP3 copy of the song from Amazon for $1.29, but decided to just live with it for now. I get the feeling that it’s going to bug me enough that I’ll eventually do something about it, though I’m not sure what.

And, when I got to Phish, I remembered that I had a copy of the Live Phish 01 two-CD set that got ruined by spending too much time in the trunk of my car. The “Live Phish” series of CDs were packaged in a weird way; the CDs are in a folded plastic page that can be inserted in a binder. It’s kind of nifty, but if you leave it in the heat for too long, the plastic melts a bit and adheres to the CDs, rendering them useless. And I’d never ripped those CDs. So, today, I decided to just go ahead and buy the FLACs for that concert from So now I have those CDs back, but in FLAC form. And FLACs play fine through Volumio, so that’s good. (I’m listening to it right now, and it sounds nice.) If I want to listen to it in my car, though, I need to figure out how to press FLACs to CD, or convert them to MP3 or something like that. It’s been a while since I was on a FLAC kick. I did a little research on that, to refresh my memory, but decided that I didn’t want to go too far down that particular rabbit hole today. Maybe tomorrow!

paying my bills. (or not.)

I’ve moved almost entirely to paying my monthly bills online, and receiving the bills online. I’ve been doing it slowly and carefully though. I only just recently gave my electric company the OK to send my bill electronically. I just went online to download the first one, though, and I got a message saying “Error: Injection found.” Well, that’s not very reassuring! I assume the “injection” they’re referring to is SQL injection. If I try to log in via their home page, it says they’re “making some upgrades.” I hope that’s true and it’s not that they’re madly scrambling away trying to clean up after a successful SQL injection attack. Either way, if I’d just kept receiving my bills on paper, I’d have paid that one by now, instead of having to defer it until tomorrow or Monday.


A few months ago, I had an incident where my vision went all wonky for about 15 minutes, then I got a fairly bad headache right afterward. The vision problem was pretty scary, since I’m at risk for some serious eye problems, but since it cleared up on its own, I knew it wasn’t that. So I figured it was just some kind of weird headache, and forgot about it. Then, it happened again about a month later, then again a month after that. So I went ahead and saw my doctor.

To make a long story short, I guess I have migraines now. Initially, we thought it might be something else, because there’s no history of migraines in my family, and I’m a bit old to start getting migraines out of the blue with no previous experience. But I went for an MRI, and they didn’t find anything else, and said the MRI was consistent with migraines.

It’s been almost a month since my last one, so either I’m due for another one soon, or maybe I’m going to get lucky and they’ll go away on their own. (Yeah, I know that’s not likely.)

I didn’t really know much about migraines before I started getting them. Apparently, what I’m getting is called migraine with aura, and it’s pretty common.

I mentioned the migraines on Facebook, and I’ve gotten a lot of advice, some of which is probably good, and some of which is probably nonsense, but of course it’s hard to tell which is which.

For drugs, my doctor prescribed Imitrex, which appears to be a fairly well-established and safe medicine.  Some friends have recommended Excedrin Migraine, which also sounds like a reasonable thing to try. As long as I’m getting only one migraine a month, I imagine that I should be able to manage things with an occasional Imitrex or Excedrin.

One friend recommended Migravent, which is a supplement containing butterbur, which sounds like something out of a Harry Potter novel, but is actually a plant that might help with both allergies and migraines. The supplement industry, in general, is a poorly-regulated mess, and I take any claims about supplements with a grain of salt. But there does seem to be some indication that butterbur is actually useful. So, eh, maybe I’ll get a bottle of this stuff and give it a try.

There’s a lot of talk online about migraine triggers. So far, if I had to guess what’s triggering my migraines, I’d say exercise and bright light might have something to do with it. All of them happened on days when it was sunny out and I’d done a fair bit of walking outside during the day. The NYT had an article about this recently which indicates that exercise might indeed be a trigger but light probably isn’t. But it doesn’t seem like there’s really enough evidence either way.

I’ve been logging my migraines in Day One, which adds weather info and step count to journal entries, so that’s how I know my migraines happened on sunny days when I’d done a lot of walking. So, if nothing else, I guess this validates my use of Day One.

Oliver Sacks was a migraineur for most of his life, and wrote a book on migraines. I’m not sure I need to read a whole book on the subject, but Sacks is a great writer, so I went ahead and ordered a copy. He also wrote an interesting piece called Patterns, for the NY Times, about the patterns that people see in their migraine auras. It’s fascinating, though I’m hoping I don’t have to deal with these things too often. And that article is part of a blog on migraines at the NYT, which hasn’t been updated in a long time, but which contains a number of other interesting articles.


I’m a long-time user of Instapaper, going back to when the original creator, Marco Arment, still owned it. He sold it to a company called Betaworks a few years ago. They’ve done a good job of keeping it going without screwing up the base functionality. They’re now selling it to Pinterest though, which seemed kind of weird, but makes sense when you think about it. Pinterest is all about saving images from the internet, and Instapaper is all about saving text from the internet, so I guess the two products complement each other.

I’m hoping Pinterest continues maintaining the product without ruining it (or shutting it down). I know some people are already jumping ship, but I don’t see any reason to do that just yet. (Now if Yahoo had bought them, I’d be looking for alternatives right now…)

If they do shut down or screw up the product, I’ll probably either move to Pocket or maybe try to use Evernote for this.

The Good Old Days

Remember the good old days, when SDCC selling out before the first day of the show was a big deal, and a surprise? Yeah, me neither. (OK, I do remember those days. I even remember when you could buy tickets at the door!)

I just stumbled across this ad while reading an issue of CBG from June 2008. So the issue would only have been published a couple of months before the con. And there still would have been tickets available. And you could just go on the web site and buy them. Imagine that!



I just started reading Warren Ellis’ comic Transmetropolitan. I bought the whole series (60 issues plus a couple of specials) on Comixology a few years ago, when they had it on sale. I’ve been wanting to read it, but I kept putting it off. Starting into it seemed like a daunting task, given its reputation.

I’ve gotten through the first nine issues this weekend, and I’m really enjoying it. In some ways, it’s a bit dated, but in others it’s quite topical and relevant. The Guardian ran an article recently, in fact, on how relevant it is to the current presidential election here in the US. (And here’s another recent article, from Comics Alliance.)

I’ve also been reading Ellis’ current blog, at (yeah, that’s a weird address, but it works). Lately, he’s been posting a lot of random stuff there, nothing earth-shattering, but often interesting or insightful. And he often links to good books and good ambient music. (Though I think some of the music links only get posted to his tumblr page.)

Spider Jerusalem is based somewhat loosely on Hunter S. Thompson. I’ve always liked his work too. I just read about how Thompson’s widow recently returned a stolen set of antlers to Ernest Hemingway’s family. Fun stuff.

Trevor Von Eeden and Christopher Priest

Once in a while, I get nostalgic for the heyday of comics journalism, when magazines like The Comics Journal, Comics Interview, and Amazing Heroes were being published regularly. There’s not much left in the way of (print) comic book journalism, though TwoMorrows publishes some interesting stuff.

Some good interviews show up on the web now and then, though. For instance, I recently came across good interviews with Trevor Von Eeden and Christopher Priest. Von Eeden and Priest are both black, and they were both working in mainstream comics at a time when comics writers, artists, and editors were almost exclusively white men. So their perspective on the culture at Marvel and DC in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s is interesting.

I was a big fan of Von Eeden’s work at DC in the 80s, particularly Thriller and his Green Arrow mini-series. (In fact, I own a page of original art from that Green Arrow series.) At the time, I didn’t really know much about the creators working on the comics I read, so I didn’t even know that Von Eeden was black. I just knew he was good. And I really didn’t know what happened to him after he stopped working for DC. I just assumed that he (like many comics creators) moved into another field, like animation or commercial art or something.

I never read the original Black Lightning run by Tony Isabella and Von Eeden. I’ve followed Isabella for years (mostly via his writing for CBG and his blog), so I knew about Black Lightning from Isabella’s perspective. That whole situation seems to be a mess, and I don’t really have any particular opinion on it, but I’m curious about the series. I see that it’s now been reprinted in a trade paperback (see here and here for some info from Tony). So it’s great that there’s a collection out, and that Isabella and Von Eeden will both get some money out of it. (I should probably buy a copy.)

I’ve been aware of Christopher Priest’s work on and off, without ever really following him closely. I was aware of his name change from Jim Owsley to Christopher Priest, but had no idea why he’d changed his name. (And I guess I still don’t, though it doesn’t particularly bother me.) I knew that his work on Black Panther was popular and held in high regard, but I’ve never gotten around to reading it myself.

His observations on the Marvel bullpen in the 80s, under Jim Shooter, are interesting. Most of the stuff I’ve read about Shooter’s editorial tenure at Marvel is pretty negative, but Priest casts him in a different light. And his anecdote about being the first guy at Marvel with an answering machine and a PC, and how he paid for that PC, is entertaining. I guess he was ahead of his time on that (and/or Marvel was really behind the times).

So now I’m thinking about maybe picking up some of his Black Panther run. I need to be careful reading all these interviews, or I’m going to wind up with an empty wallet and a huge stack of trade paperbacks that I’m never going to have time to read!

Windows 10 Anniversary Update

I am currently installing the Windows 10 Anniversary Update on my ThinkPad. Surprisingly, it still hasn’t shown up in Windows Updates on my fairly new desktop PC, but it showed up today on my 2011 ThinkPad. I though Microsoft was pushing it out to newer machines first, but maybe there’s something about my desktop PC that’s made them hold it back. (Possibly the fact that I’ve got McAfee on my desktop, while I’ve got no third-party anti-virus on the ThinkPad?) Either way, I’d rather install it to the ThinkPad first, since that machine is a bit more expendable than my desktop, if something goes wrong.

Microsoft is taking a lot of heat for their behavior regarding Windows 10 lately. I agree with a lot of this criticism, but, from a practical standpoint, I still think Windows is a good choice for a desktop operating system, and I’m going to continue using it. (Keep in mind that this opinion is coming from someone who makes his living writing software that runs on Windows…)

ShutUp10 is an interesting utility that allows you to tweak a number of privacy-related settings in Windows 10. I haven’t tried it, but it looks interesting, for anyone who’s concerned about that kind of thing.

I’m pretty enthusiastic about the Bash/Ubuntu on Windows feature, so I’ll likely be installing that as soon as I’ve got the Anniversary Update up and running. I honestly haven’t had much time for side projects lately, but Bash/Ubuntu should make it a bit easier to mess around with stuff like Ruby on Rails on a Windows machine, without setting up full-fledged VMs.

Oh, and I’m hoping the Anniversary Update doesn’t kill Neverwinter Nights (which I haven’t even had time to play in the last few weeks).


I’m currently working on a somewhat oddball project at work. The output of this project is going to be a DLL that will need to get deployed on a bunch of production servers, along with some related support DLLs. These DLLs will need to get deployed to some combination of four different folders, depending on the configuration of the target machine.

The last time I had to do something like this, I put together an installer with WiX. That project got revised in such a way that I wound up not needing the installer anyway. But I remember it as being a bit of a pain to put together, and I’m not even sure if I managed to create an installer that did everything I needed it to.

I looked at WiX again for this, but for now I’m using NSIS, which I’ve used before, in the (distant) past. I actually assumed NSIS was dead (or close to it), but it appears that it’s not. Version 3.0 was just recently released, on July 24, 2016. I’ve actually gotten pretty far with NSIS. It took most of the day, but I now have an installer that does what I need it to do, without too much weirdness.

WiX and NSIS have some similarities, but it’s important to understand the differences. WiX generates MSI files, so those are “official” modern Windows installer files. NSIS generates EXE files that can act as standard installers, in the sense that they can add your program to the Windows “Programs” list, and can implement an uninstaller, but they’re not MSI files. (This can be good and bad; in my case, it’s helpful, as I don’t really want a standard Windows installer or uninstaller.)

There’s another limitation with NSIS: it only produces Windows apps, not console apps. It has support for “silent” installs, so you can run it from the command line with no user interaction. But you can’t (easily) read stdin or write to stdout. I can live with that, but if I knew that when I started, I might have made a different choice.

NSIS is one of those tools that’s been around for a long time and has had a bunch of stuff grafted onto it over the years, so it’s got a lot of peculiarities in its syntax and style, but if you can get past all that, it’s a really useful and powerful tool. (It’s kind of like AutoHotKey in that respect.) There’s an interesting line in the NSIS docs that sums this up well: “The instructions that NSIS uses for scripting are sort of a cross between PHP and assembly.” It’s a weird hybrid of low-level and high-level stuff, and it takes some getting used to.

I’ve also written a couple of PowerShell scripts for this project that act a bit like make files. I could probably use nmake for those, but PowerShell is fine. I briefly considered trying to use Cake and/or Fake for this project, but either one of those would have introduced added complexity for no useful purpose. (Though it would have been fun to play with those tools!)