Muxtape finally came back online so that I could try it out. Here is my muxtape! It’s filled with songs that I have found myself singing in the shower recently.

* Muxtape allows you to upload whatever songs you want, which in comparison to Mixwit makes it better for handling obscure songs. Also, this allows you to better control the sound quality than Mixwit, since Mixwit leaves you reliant on whatever song files are floating around the Web.
* Muxtape doesn’t use Flash or some other silly proprietary technology, yay! It uses javascript to make your browser temporarily download and play each song in the mix automatically.
* Yes, you read that right, Muxtape is already downloading the songs to your computer, just not in a permanent location. That means if you want to save the song permanently, you just need to find each song’s temporary location, rename it to an .mp3, and stick it in your music library. In Firefox, I did this by:
1) viewing the source of the page
2) finding the funky number that identifies each song
3) going to about:cache and searching for the funky number
4) saving that file to my desktop
5) renaming it to .mp3 and sticking it in iTunes
You could also use a Greasemonkey script like this one if you want to make it easy on yourself, I’m told. I don’t use Greasemonkey, so I couldn’t say.

Muxtape is simple to use, if you have the songs that you want to use on your computer. And honestly, how can you make a good mixtape out of songs that you don’t possess?

* Muxtape only allows you to have one mixtape per account. LAME. I have lots of mixtapes I’d like to share, what am I supposed to do with the other ones? Make 50 accounts? What a pain in the ass. (Use another service / method for the others, I guess.)
* Muxtape limits you to 12 songs per mixtape. Most of my old mixes were developed for mix CDs, which can comfortably fit 18-20 songs, if they’re mostly short pop songs. In fact, my shortest old (completed) mix was 13 songs in length. This is a new mix I made specifically for Muxtape to fit in the 12-song limit.
* If you don’t have the song you want to use already, you’ll have to go download it. Fortunately, between stores like the Amazon mp3 store or, p2p networks, and music search engines you should have a pretty easy time finding whatever song you want in mp3 format.
* If you want people to be able to download your playlist and take it with them on their iPod, there is no easy way to do that, not even if the listener pays money and buys all the songs. Seriously, Muxtape has “buy” links next to each song (which go to Amazon), how hard would it be to have a “buy them all” link that saves itself as a playlist in your iTunes library? Hard, I guess, because there is no such feature for sharing playlists in iTunes, but why isn’t there?

RESULT: Muxtape is an excellent solution for exactly one mix of 12 songs or less. That’s not a solution for the general problem of sharing mixes.

Are we now in the “interesting” future of a world without oil?

The alternate reality game A World Without Oil began in a fictional world where gas prices just broke $4/gallon. Everything goes downhill from there. (See the Salon article.)

As you can see at GasBuddy, gas prices in real life have now broken $4/gallon in some parts of the country, especially California.

One interesting thing that A World Without Oil got wrong is it has gas prices significantly higher than diesel, which wasn’t a bad guess a few years ago. Diesel was historically always cheaper than gasoline as far back as my dad can remember. Reality turned out differently, however. The fact that diesel is more expensive in real life means that certain parts of the economy will be hit harder than others, perhaps in a different way than the game predicted. I wonder if it is a significant difference?

Mixwit and mixtapes in the internet age

I’ve been thinking about the future of the music business lately (in the context of my long-distance band Wrong Side of Dawn), and one issue that interests me greatly is the future of the mixtape, which traditionally was a very important way that people shared music with their friends and provided viral marketing. It’s unnecessarily hard to share mixtapes with one another in the internet age! There ought to be an easy way to just save a bunch of songs as a bundle, a playlist which you can just double-click on to load it into iTunes, Songbird or your music player of choice as a playlist, with the songs automatically in the desired order. I have not found a good way to do this. Have you?

At any rate, I decided to try the fancy web 2.0 interfaces for making and sharing mixtapes on the web, to see how well they work. First I wanted to try Muxtape since that’s what my friends seem to be using, but their website is currently down, so I looked in the comments to blog posts about Muxtape for alternatives. Incidentally, I have to agree with the BoingBoing comment “I miss Webjay.” Webjay was nifty when I was playing with it roughly 4-5 years ago. At any rate, the major competitor that I found in the comments was Mixwit, which seems to offer a similar service to Muxtape. Embedded below is the result of my attempt to use Mixwit:

It’s a flash player, so my apologies to free software advocates and Linux users who don’t have a fully functional flash player for whatever reason (Adobe has not released a Flash player for Linux on the PPC architecture, for instance).

PRO: Mixwit does not require you to upload songs. It can find song files for you that are already on the world wide web using music search engines SeeqPod and SkreemR, and it lets you embed those songs in that nifty little flash widget.

CON: It is difficult to find some more unusual or unpopular songs floating around the Web. Of course, an eclectic taste in music is essential to making a good mixtape, and it is slightly disastrous if you cannot put less popular songs on your mixtape to impress people / hawt chix with your musical knowledge. For this mixtape, I was unable to find “Lonesome” by Unwritten Law, “Dance Craze” by Millencolin, shockingly “You’ve Got To Die For The Government” by Anti-Flag (I thought that was a classic), and “Eat The Meek” by NOFX. I replaced “Dance Craze” with “Twenty Two” which is a very similar song that I was actually listening to around the same time, but which I thought was not quite as good… also “Dance Craze” mentions both pinball and dancing, two things which I enjoy greatly. The other three songs had no good replacement, there just weren’t any other songs by those bands that I could find online which impressed me as much and/or fit with this mixtape the way I wanted them to.

The only solution if the songs are not already online is to upload the songs to some other website yourself, perhaps on a music blog or something, so that you can import the hyperlink to the songs into your mix. This is something of a barrier to entry, since many people do not have a personal website where they can upload whatever files they want. It would be better if you could upload the songs directly to Mixwit, but that would dramatically increase hosting/bandwidth costs for Mixwit, and it would be a copyright minefield / death wish. I’m not sure how much I want to host other people’s music on my personal blog without permission, so although I’m not ruling that option out for the future (MP3 blogs have been doing this for years without any ill effects), for now my mixtape remains simply incomplete.

RESULT: I remain dissatisfied with the state of mixtapes in the internet age.

Wanna chill in LA?

Hey everyone, tomorrow Monday May 19 I will be in Los Angeles near LAX starting around 3pm noon PDT until my flight out later that night at 3am midnight PDT. Would anybody in LA like to hang out with me, so that I don’t have to just camp out in the airport?

UPDATE: My calendar was still on east coast time, my flight is 3 hours earlier than I thought, which actually makes sense, leaving at 3am would have been stupid.

pointless lightsaber question

Imagine that Boba Fett is attempting to kill Luke Skywalker. Luke is standing out in the open, and Fett is flying overhead in his spaceship, Slave I. Fett has outfitted his ship with a laser cannon as thick as a man’s thigh, and fires it at Luke. Luke, rather than dodging, brings up his lightsaber to block the bolt.

What happens?

The lightsaber’s blade is thinner than the blaster bolt. Does the lightsaber deflect the entire bolt, or does some of the bolt leak around the edges, frying Luke where he stands? Assume that Luke summons up the Force to strengthen his arms, so that the bolt doesn’t simply knock the lightsaber out of his hands.