Online Music, Deleted Files

I find it diffcult to be certain whether the scenario in the article is an entirely accurate account of what happened, and if it is, whether it’s due to a mistake or a misunderstanding on the part of the author. Working in tech support, my experience tells me that is as likely, as if the scenario would be the result of nefarious practices by Apple. Still, it raises important questions about the services we use, what we use them for, and how we approach them.



Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously.

By James Pinkstone, May 4, 2016

“The software is functioning as intended,” said Amber.
“Wait,” I asked, “so it’s supposed to delete my personal files from my internal hard drive without asking my permission?”
“Yes,” she replied.

People laugh at me for still preferring to buy music on actual CDs, and movies on actual DVDs and BluRays, especially when I say that I have a 900+ movie library built up over the last decade and a half (my music CD collection is somewhat more modest), all physical copies.

My first reason for doing so is that I prefer the feel of handling the physical medium. Like old vinyl records, though I never gathered a great many of those before compact discs took over. A music album to me is a thing, an object, not just an intangible jumble of tracks on a pocket-sized jukebox. It just feels different, and better that way. I know this is a dinosaur’s point of view in an age when music listening is done one song at a time, picked at random from a virtually endless mountain pile of individual songs, and the idea of an actual ‘album’ is something children of today would have to ask their parents or even their grandparents about.

My second reason for buying music CDs is that, although I usually end up ‘ripping’ the songs onto my computer, in order to play it on, yes, my iPhone, the audio on the CD is still pristine, uncompressed. It’s as straight as a WAV file, with its original quality intact. If I prefer a different ‘ripped’ format, I can just ‘rip’ it again from the original — whereas if I bought an MP3, which through lossy compression has lost some of that original quality, and re-compress it to another format, that recompression will introduce more quality loss. Like making a tape recording of a tape recording, if you like, and if you’re old enough to remember doing that.

Back in the when, I bought most of my music on vinyl, and later on CD, but recorded over to tapes to play in my car or on my walkman. If I needed a second copy of an album, or I wanted a mixtape of individual tracks, I would make another tape recording from the vinyl or CD original, rather than copying the already copied tape. Why? Because every time you copy something, the new copy sounds inferior to the original. Not extremely so in the first copy, but a copy of a copied tape would always have more noise and less dynamic sound. Same thing with a recompressed copy of, say, an MP3 file. Until online music is generally available as uncompressed or lossless-compressed files, I’m not buying downloadable albums.

But that’s me nitpicking. Others may not care as much.

My third and possibly most important reason for buying physical media is summed up in this quote from the article:

“One day, you won’t buy a movie. You’ll buy the right to watch a movie, and that movie will be served to you. If the companies serving the movie don’t want you to see it, or they want to change something, they will have the power to do so.”

This is already very real! The “one day” in question is now. Music and movies regularly get pulled from online services on the whims of artists, studios and lawyers, and the service provider has no choice other than remove those pieces from their streaming libraries, rendering them as inaccessible as if you’d never bought and paid for them, unless you happened to also download and keep a copy for yourself. “One day” this may apply to something you bought.

If a lawyer or other representative for the entertainment industry comes knocking on my door, demanding that I hand over any number of items that I have bought on physical media, on the grounds that the RIAA or MPAA no longer want me to watch or listen to them, they’re going to have something of a hard time, and would they please get off my property before I kindly help them off it.

On the other foot, once you buy a song, an album or a movie, and download to your computer, you are responsible for keeping those files safe. You may be able to re-download at need or leisure as long as the items are still available with your provider, but if they decide to or are forced to remove them, that access is gone. As with everything else, if it’s important to you, back it up!

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Amiga: Happy 30th Anniversary!

Sometimes nostalgia comes up from nowhere and smacks you up the head. I only realized moments ago that today is the Commodore Amiga’s 30th anniversary! And by ‘realized’ I mean it just suddenly appeared in my Facebook news feed from someone else who found out about it in much the same way. As a general rule I don’t remember things; instead I have reminders unexpectedly thrust at me out of the blue.

What’s an Amiga? Well, the name is Spanish for ‘girlfriend’, which might lead to interesting misinterpretations. In this case, however, it’s not an actual girlfriend, but perhaps as close as many geeks back in the Eighties (such as myself) were to getting one: She’s a computer, and not just any computer, but a quite specific kind, or brand, of computer.
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Asus S56CB Laptop – Windows 8 Reinstallation

(tl;dr at the bottom)

My daughter’s beloved laptop decided to crash on Friday, not 24 hours after we’d made a full backup of her personal files. That’s a little too close to comfort. The backup was because several of her programs as well as Windows Update had begun to misbehave, so we figured a full reinstall was more or less imminent. Not this imminent, though. There’s some difference between “mild hiccups” and “knock-out”, but apparently not enough.

The laptop is an Asus S56CB, which came with Windows 8 pre-installed. There were no installation discs in the box, no user manual, nada. You reinstall from a recovery partition, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. If it works. It didn’t.

The prescribed procedure runs as thus:

  1. Press the power button to start the PC.
  2. Immediately press F9.
  3. When the menu appears, press Troubleshooting.
  4. Select Reset your PC.
  5. Lean back for about an hour and watch the computer restore itself.

Or rather, it should run as thus. This is what happened:

  1. Press the power button to start the PC.
  2. Immediately press F9.
  3. When the menu appears, press Troubleshooting.
  4. Select Reset your PC.
  5. “Insert Recovery Media”.

That was odd and undexpected. There was no separate recovery media included in the box. I know for a fact that the laptop has a recovery partition, full of files with one single purpose: to recover the computer to factory defaults without requiring a separate disc. Didn’t matter, the laptop wouldn’t have it.

Long story short (as if it wasn’t long already), I decided to bypass this silliness and downloaded (legally) a recovery disc (that is, an ISO file containing the recovery files which I burned to a blank DVD). So now the procedure ran as thus:

  1. Press the power button to start the PC.
  2. Immediately press F9.
  3. When the menu appears, press Troubleshooting.
  4. Select Reset your PC.
  5. “Insert Recovery Media”.
  6. I Insert the freshly burned Windows 8.1 Recovery DVD.
  7. I lean back for about an hour and watch the computer restore itself.

If only this had been in the manual, inasfar as there was a manual, which there wasn’t, I could have saved five hours on a Friday night. At least my daughter is pleased with the result.

 

The TL;DR

Windows 8.1 on my daughter’s Asus S56CB laptop crashed. Like many others, I got the “Insert Recovery Media” request when trying to run recovery from the recovery partition, although there was no other installation/recovery media included in the box.

  • On another computer, I downloaded the Windows 8.1 installation ISO (not OEM) from Microsoft and burned to DVD.
  • I booted the laptop, pressed F9, selected ‘Troubleshoot’ and then ‘Reset your PC’.
  • When it prompted “Insert Recovery Media” I inserted the freshly burned Windows 8.1 DVD.
  • Recovery continued as hoped, and the computer was done, up and running in less than an hour.

Though the ISO was not OEM, there was no asking for Windows licence key, and everything looked the same as when it was new.

Neither the ASUS user manual nor their support pages were much help at all, and online forums were largely confusing. I finally ended up fixing it by trial and error, and after about five hours my daughter and her laptop were playing happily again. I leave this here in case anyone else is looking for a possible simple solution to the same issue.

Relevant links:

Battlefield 1942: Not Dead Yet!

Life took an abrupt and uncomfortable turn when the game tracking service GameSpy was retired, which effectively punctured the gaming experience for Battlefield 1942 enthusiasts. Suddenly our games would go hang, and it was no longer possible to find servers to play on.

Fortunately someone had the initiative and the means to do something about it. The link below goes to a forum thread which tells of a new master list server, and what you can do to connect to it.

forum.bf1942.sk/gamespy

The solution I went for, and which works beautifully, was to modify my HOSTS file, which forces the game to contact the new server instead of GameSpy’s old one. Simply add the following line to the HOST file:

109.71.69.254 master.gamespy.com

And this is how you do that:

  • Right-click on the Notepad icon and select “Run as administrator”.
  • When asked “Do you want to allow the following program to make changes to this computer?”, answer “Yes”.
  • Go to the “File” menu and select “Open”.
  • Copy and paste the following line in the “File name” box and press “Open”.
    c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts
  • Add the following line to the bottom of the text and save the file.
    109.71.69.254 master.gamespy.com
  • You’re good to go!

Big thanks to the people at –=[ aX ]=– for taking the initiative to keep the Battlefield 1942 gaming community running!

Edit: I’ve heard that users of Avira antivirus may not be able to edit the HOSTS file due to security restrictions.

For Origin players, although Battlefield 1942 was removed from the game shop, I’ve been informed that those who purchased the free edition will still keep that in their library.

Related links:

CanoScan 8400F on Windows 8.1

Using the Canon CanoScan 8400F scanner on Windows 8.1 directly is not possible, as there are no matching drivers, neither for the 32bit nor the 64bit version, or in fact for anything newer than Windows 7, and I don’t really see an updated version coming. However, all is not lost … but the solution is slightly technical.

The obvious solution is to keep your old computer, if still in working condition, for use with your scanner and any other hardware that has been left behind by computer evolution. You may however not have your old computer; the very reason why you got a new one might simply be that the old one died.

What I’ve done is to use the scanner via a virtual machine, in essence installing on your Windows 8.1 computer a program which thinks it is a separate computer altogether, which may be running Windows 7, or any other operating system required to use your hardware or software that doesn’t work on Windows 8.1.

I used Oracle’s VirtualBox, which is free and, as far as this sort of thing goes, reasonably easy to use, though if you are a novice at computers you may want to have a slightly more tech-savvy friend help you set it up.

You also need to install a VirtualBox Extension Pack in order to get full access to the physical computer’s USB ports. This one worked with mine, which at time of writing is version 4.3.14.

Then you need a copy of Windows 7 to install on the virtual machine. Most likely you’ll have to make do with a 32bit version, but that’s really all you need. If you happen to have a copy lying around, you can probably use that, as long as it comes with a valid licence number, and isn’t locked to any one computer. There are cracked versions, but they may come with all sorts of risks of viruses and other malware, so pursue those if you will at your own peril. The trick here is to know what you’re doing, or have someone who knows do it for you.

Once Windows 7 is completely installed and configured, it’s time to install the drivers for the Canon CanoScan 8400F scanner. They’re available at Canon U.S.A. (I noted that, for example, the Norwegian Canon support page lists the Canon Toolbox software, but no longer carries the actual driver, making the Toolbox pretty much useless). When the driver is installed, it’s time to connect the scanner to the computer, then in the VirtualBox Devices menu select “USB Devices”, then “Canon CanoScan [xxxx]” (where “xxxx” is a number identifying the scanner).

Also install your favourite software for scanning and saving images (I prefer Irfanview for the simple jobs). Once saved, you may transfer the images to the physical computer by way of shared folders.

So, in short:

  • Install Oracle VirtualBox.
  • Install the VirtualBox Extension Pack.
  • Create a Virtual Machine in VirtualBox suitable for running Windows 7.
  • Install Windows 7 on said Virtual Machine.
  • Download and install the Canon CanoScan 8400F driver software.
  • Connect the scanner to the computer and turn it on.
  • Go to the “Devices” menu, select “USB Devices” and “Canon CanoScan”. The driver should now self-install.
  • Install your favourite scanning software.
  • Start scanning.

That was the installation for first time use. Now that it’s all set up, next time you start up the Virtual Machine the process of using it is as follows:

  • Keep the scanner disconnected or turned off.
  • Start VirtualBox and the Windows 7 virtual machine.
  • Once Windows 7 has finished starting up, turn on or plug in the scanner.
  • Go to the “Devices” menu at the top, select “USB Devices” and then “Canon CanoScan”
  • The scanner should now be ready to use, and you may start scanning.

Disclaimer: I give no guarantees for the information here provided, neither as to whether it is safe, nor that it will even work on your computer, although I can state with certainty that it did on mine. I also do not provide support, whether technical, moral, emotional or spiritual, for any of the software or solutions above. No, I can’t and won’t send you a cracked copy of Windows 7. Be as cautious with the software listed here as you would be with any other software, with regard to malware, virus or compatibility, and don’t consider me any more reliable than you would any other semi-anonymous source of information on the Internet.

This blog post is based on a few hours’ extensive Googling, but mainly on this forum thread along with the need for the VirtualBox Extension Pack in order to properly use the USB 2.0 drivers.

Links:

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