downloads, media, music comments edit

IMPORTANT NOTE: hymn, which I use with the below script for unlocking protected music, is no longer being updated. The new version, JHymn, is a Java-based GUI app that performs the same function and handles the iTunes 4.7.1 issues. It also provides the ability to back up your music (when you unlock it) to a new location. As it does not have a command-line interface, it is not usable with this script. If a command-line interface comes, I’ll update this script. Until then, use JHymn. I’ve posted my JHymn settings here.

I’m a user of iTunes, and I have purchased music through the iTunes Music Store. I’m also a big believer in fair use, and while I don’t condone anything illegal, I’m irritated by the FairPlay DRM system, particularly the five-computer authorization limit. I’m not spreading my purchased music around, but the need to remember what’s been authorized and what hasn’t, to authorize and deauthorize machines… it’s a pain.

I got hymn and FairKeys to download a copy of my FairPlay authorization keys and then un-DRM my purchased music. Then I made backups of both the protected and unprotected versions of the songs.

The problem then ended up being that I didn’t want to have to manually do that every time I bought something on iTunes. As such, I figured I needed a script that would do exactly that: Make a backup copy of the protected (*.m4p) files, decrypt any that didn’t have a corresponding decrypted version (*.m4a), and then make backup copies of the decrypted versions. “M4P Backup.vbs” was born.

The script will, for each *.m4p file found in your music library:

  1. XCopy the file into a backup folder for you. (By using XCopy, you get a folder tree for your protected music files mimicked from your original music library folder.)
  2. Check for a corresponding .m4a file in the same library folder.
  3. If a .m4a isn’t found, the script calls “hymn.exe” to create one.
  4. The decrypted .m4a file is backed up alongside the corresponding .m4p.

Below is a sample console session of the “M4P Backup.vbs” script. Click the image to enlarge it.

Sample backup session - click to
enlarge.

Installation/Configuration:

  1. Download hymn at http://hymn-project.org/. Get that working - I cannot offer technical support on hymn. You may also need to get FairKeys from http://www.nanocrew.net/software/ if hymn is unable to find your FairPlay keys. Check the hymn forums for information on using FairKeys with hymn.
  2. Download “M4P Backup.vbs,” below. Unzip the script into a known location (i.e., your desktop).
  3. Open your unzipped “M4P Backup.vbs” file in a text editor. At the top of the script, in a section marked “CONFIGURATION,” set the configuration variables as specified. Examples are provided in the script.

That’s it! Once you’re set, you can either double-click the script to execute it, or you can explicitly call the console script host to run the backup script in console mode (as shown in the screen shot): cscript "M4P Backup.vbs"

Download M4PBackup 1.0

Version History: 1.0: First release. Tested with hymn 0.7.1.

General Ramblings comments edit

I figure I should probably spew the details of Christmas this year so folks are up to speed, plus I’m gonna forget if I don’t dump it, so here goes.

Christmas Eve was the more hectic of the two days. About 2-ish in the afternoon we hauled over to Jenn’s maternal grandparents’ house on the other side of town. I won’t lie; it felt a little awkward. There wasn’t a lot of talking or anything, there was a small amount of gift opening, but generally that was it.

Jenn’s dad had taken an antihistamine or something before he got there, so he was a little tired. He ended up crashing on the couch not an hour into it.

Jenn's dad, passed out on the
couch.

After that, we headed over to my parents’ condo, but we didn’t stay there long before we then, as a group, went over to my grandparents’ apartment. That was great fun, as evidenced by my dad.

Dad, showing the fun we're
having.

Actually, it wasn’t that bad, Dad was just having some fun with me because I was being a little overzealous with the camera. Heh. We stayed there a while, then went back to my parents’ place and opened stocking gifts.

Jenn and I finally returned home by, I dunno, probably 10:00p.

Christmas Day Jenn and I woke up around 8-ish and opened the presents we got for each other. Jenn got a sweet deal on a GameCube bundle, so now a whole new world of gaming has been opened up to me in the form of Nintendo. This is actually the first Nintendo I’ve owned (not counting the GameBoy SP), and it’s an interesting thing. I’m really starting to notice the different approaches the consoles take as far as what gaming is/should be. In particular, Sony seems to have a lot of individual and network titles for PS2, implying a more one-or-two-person-per-console attitude, whereas Nintendo games have a more “party” atmosphere to them, allowing for four players simultaneously on one console more often. It’s an interesting approach, and one I sort of like - Jenn enjoys playing games with me, and with more “party” oriented games, it’s a more fun experience.

Trav and his
GameCube

My parents and sisters were supposed to be at our place by 10:00a. They had other places to be later that day, so they were going to be out by 2:00p. They showed up a little after noon, which put a damper on any plans we had to play board games together and chat. Instead, we got straight to the gift opening, which didn’t last long (money’s tight this year since almost everyone in our family moved, which, for me, included the purchase of the house) because we did a “Secret Santa” style of giving, each person only buying for one other family member.

After that, we proceeded to play a few minutes of Dance Dance Revolution, which just reminded me how fun it is and how much I need a hard dance pad.

Trav's dad playing Dance Dance
Revolution

They took off, then an hour or two later Jenn’s family (the same crew that was at the Christmas Eve gathering) showed up for a lasagna dinner.

I already ranted about how I’m not a big “family dinner” person, and this was no exception. It wasn’t a bad experience, but I wasn’t having the time of my life, either. It all got better when, after dinner, we gathered ‘round the movie Elf and had some laughs.

They left around 8:30p or so, and that left Jenn and I to duke it out, GameCube style.

All in all, not a bad holiday, though I won’t lie: The entire season this year has not felt at all like Christmas. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of growing up, changing times, the chaos of life, or something else. Maybe a combination of all of the above.

Regardless, I hope everyone else out there had a happy holiday. On to the new year!

Jenn and Trav wish you a happy holiday
season!

media, movies, tv comments edit

I’ve spent some serious time watching movies in the last couple of days, so I figured I’d fill you in.

24, Season Three: I spent the entirety of Monday, from 8:00a to Tuesday at 1:00a, watching the third season of 24, marathon style. My dad and Jenn also took part in the festivities and things went much like the last marathon (for season two) - lots of fun with lots of fattening food.

I thought the third season of 24 was good. Maybe not quite as good as the second season, but good nonetheless. I felt more connected to the characters in the second season, and while the third season had the same good writing and acting that I’ve come to expect, I felt there was just something missing. A couple of the characters really irritated me in the third season, while I wasn’t irritated by anyone in the second season. (I think they were supposed to be irritating, so the effect was right on.)

I still find it amazing that we got through supposedly 24 hours of real-time action in 17 hours. That means if you watch this thing on TV, you’re losing 29% of your time in commercials. That’s absolutely unacceptable, and for that reason alone it’s worth buying (or renting) the DVDs to watch it that way. My time is worth more than the networks would like to allow for.

One interesting item of note: There’s a considerable overlap of talent between 24 and La Femme Nikita. I liked both of those shows. Significant?

Do check out the third season of 24 if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: I’m a huge Will Ferrell fan. He was great on Saturday Night Live, I thought Elf was hilarious, and I even had a good time with A Night at the Roxbury, lame as it was. I anticipated good things when I saw the previews for Anchorman, which made me laugh out loud.

I am actually dumber for having watched Anchorman. Not only was the entire story generally without focus, the jokes were stupid and the characters were totally unmemorable. I read the reviews at Amazon on this and folks compared this favorably to his other movies, saying that if you liked Ferrell’s other work, you’ll like this. I disagree: I feel that Ferrell’s other work has been reasonably clever and funny; this is just garbage. It’s almost like the writers couldn’t figure out what would be funny, so they held a contest and took joke submissions, then pasted the random jokes into a storyboard (regardless of whether they made any sense) and started shooting.

Not only that, but they did the one unforgivable thing when it comes to movies: They showed really funny scenes in the preview that didn’t even make it to the final film.

Terrible, terrible, terrible. Don’t waste your time or your money.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse: This movie got panned by critics, and I see why: There’s really a very weak plot and the whole thing revolves around action and action alone. I say there’s a time and place for movies like that. I thought the first Resident Evil movie was not bad, implying that it wasn’t award-winningly good, but I didn’t necessarily feel my time was totally wasted. I left it entertained. The same is true here. Weak plot, nonexistant acting (though I do love Milla Jovovich, and have found a new affinity for Sienna Guillory)… but entertaining. I think there’s something to be said for that.

Not a masterful piece of moviemaking, and I definitely think they need to improve the quality of video-game-based movies (and movie-based video games), but it was worth the rental.

General Ramblings comments edit

I figured I should get my rant out of the way before Christmas so I can sit back and relax, having vented about the holiday and the trauma it inflicts.

I have a feeling this is going to be a long one, so here’s a picture of the Christmas Tub Cat for those not interested in the rant.

The Christmas
Tub

The rest I’ll put in the extended text of the entry. Just for reference, here’s a picture of our Christmas tree. So you can see about how big the Tub Cat really is.

The Christmas
Tree

So. Christmas time as come again and even though I vow every year to minimize the hassle and turmoil it generates, somehow it never quite works out the way I was hoping.

Each year we try to split the “festivities” between Jenn’s family and my family. Christmas Eve is done at one family’s house; Christmas Day is at the other family’s house.

This year, having a home of our very own, we thought it would be a nice turn if people came to our place instead of us going there. Sounds great, right?

So now you’re probably thinking that the plan is just like every other Christmas, but at our place: Christmas Eve one family comes over, then Christmas Day the other family comes over.

Somehow that’s not how it worked out.

Normally it’s Jenn’s family on Christmas Day. Breakfast at her parents’ place. This year, though, Jenn’s mom is working Christmas Day, and Jenn’s niece is at her father’s house instead of with Jenn’s family. Again, it sounds pretty clear to me: Christmas Eve, then, is for Jenn’s family and Christmas Day is for mine.

Again, somehow that’s not how it worked out.

Here’s how it ended up working out (omitting the domestic dispute that led to this end decision): Christmas Eve afternoon, we’re going to Jenn’s parents’ place (or grandparents’ or something); Christmas Even night, we’re going to my parents’ house. Christmas Day morning my parents are coming over; Christmas Day night her family (grandparents et al) is coming over for a lasagna dinner.

This sounds to me like, rather than minimize the hassle, it’s been maximized.

Here’s the thing, and it’s important to remember throughout all of my rants, particularly about holidays: I am not a social person.

I hate getting together with people. I do. More specifically, I hate “mingling.” I hate small talk. I mean, I like going to parties where I know all the people (or most of the people), and once I’m there I don’t have to talk to any of them.

Yes, that’s antisocial. That’s what I’m trying to convey here.

The social obligation of holidays implicitly makes it not a holiday, but a hassle. It’s pressure I don’t need. Thanksgiving this year: Jenn went to her parents’ house, and my family didn’t get together. That left me with an entire day where I didn’t have to entertain anyone, didn’t have to eat food I didn’t like, and didn’t have to deal with people. That’s the best Thanksgiving yet!

Christmas, though… Oh, boy.

Friends you haven’t seen for months somehow crawl their way out of the woodwork and this is the time to get together. The rest of the year, they’re impossible to get in touch with. Their email box is full, deactivated, or they just don’t check it; they don’t answer voicemail messages; they work nights while you work days; they work weekends but have, like, Wednesday and Thursday off; they live several hours away and don’t have transportation to come visit but also don’t have anywhere for you to stay if you go visit them; and so on. There’s just no scheduling to get together.

The rest of the year, the only time you get to talk to them is via instant messenger, right when you’re in the middle of presenting in a meeting at work and forgot to sign out during your presentation. It usually goes something like this:

friend42: whassup? travis: i’m working right now, man. in a presentation. friend42: want to get together the third friday after next tuesday? travis: working - send me email. gotta go. friend42: i won’t be on email again ever. travis: then call me. i don’t have anything to write on right now and i’m working. friend42: okay, l8r.

Of course, three weeks later I’ll get an email asking what I’m doing the next day. I’ll have it open, so I’ll schedule a time and place to meet. The next morning I’ll get an email (and I don’t check email on weekends or holidays, generally) telling me that they’re sick and will have to reschedule.

Wait three months, rinse and repeat.

Note, of course, that if I attempt to get in contact with them, none of my communications get responded to.

Now, these friends, these are the people who show up at your house on Christmas Day, in the middle of while your whole family is there opening presents and doing the whole “celebration” thing, and they do two things. First, they hand you a gift. You, not planning on seeing them, don’t have anything for them so you find the Blockbuster gift card you won at the company holiday party and quickly write their name on it so you don’t look bad. Second, they come right in, sit down, and proceed to “hang out,” as if your whole family isn’t there and it’s okay to just stop everything to chat while the rest of the family sits politely waiting.

Unbelieveable.

Then there’s the family aspect of it.

I see my family almost weekly. They live half an hour away from me. I go over there, they come over here. We have a good relationship. When we get together we play games and watch movies. When we’re tired of each other, we leave. It works well for everyone.

I don’t see Jenn’s family weekly, but, while I really like them (they’re all very nice people), the truth of the matter is that I don’t have anything to say to them. Again, I like them all very much - we just don’t have anything in common. I can’t explain my work to them because they won’t get it (not many folks do get it; people I work with don’t get it). I don’t know everyone in their extended family, so I don’t understand most of the conversation that goes on (there’s a lot of talking about second cousin twelve times removed Bobo and such - basically family gossip about family members I don’t know… either way, I’m not much for family gossip, so even if I did know them, I don’t have anything to contribute). I don’t plan on joining any Masonic organizations (her dad’s big in the Masons) nor do I have anything to say regarding the goings-on in the local chapter. There’s just not a lot to talk about but small talk, and, as previously mentioned, I’m not too big on small talk.

(At times I really hope my aversion to small talk doesn’t come off as disdain for Jenn’s family; I like seeing them and hanging out, I just don’t have anything to say. “It’s not you, it’s me!”)

My family, though, is not altogether social. For example, at my grandfather’s birthday party recently, the extended family got together to celebrate. If you step back from it, though, it was a high school dance: All of the immediate families hung out around their own tables talking to the people they see all the time anyway. That’s just how it is.

Jenn’s family, on the other hand, is very social. They love large gatherings and whenever we end up at Jenn’s grandma’s house for a holiday it’s a lot like My Big Fat Greek Wedding with tons of people talking and eating and chaos ensuing.

The family dynamics between my family and hers aren’t quite the same. That makes the co-mingling of the families an interesting experience. Sort of like two different types of swimmer - one dips their toe in and slowly comes around to getting in the water, the other dives in immediately. My family members are toe-dippers. We gotta get to know you slowly, then, maybe, we’ll be down with the party. Jenn’s family will get together with anyone and everyone, for any occasion, the more social, the better.

All that adds up to a pain-in-the-ass Christmas. Trying to make sure every family gets their due time in their appropriate environment is, to borrow a phrase from my father, a “goat fuck.”

Let me tell you, I’m looking forward to it.

This… is going… to rock. Or something.

Anyway, needless to say, I’m enjoying the first few days of my vacation here at home immensely. I’m not having to get together with family, Jenn’s not home complaining about how bored she is while I play San Andreas, I can eat what I want when I want… the vacation debauchery has overtaken.

Which is, of course, not to say that Jenn stops me from having fun, just that once she’s off I also have to think about what she wants to do, which usually works into a productive conversation like this:

Jenn: I’m bored. Travis: What do you want to do? J: I dunno. T: We have games, movies, On Demand cable, projects, crafts, and, as always, housework. Discounting the housework option, there are still loads of things to do. Pick one. J: Nothing sounds fun. What do you want to do? T: Well, I was having fun playing my game, and I’d like to continue. J: But I’m bored.

I think you see where that goes.

It’ll all end tomorrow, when Jenn starts her vacation, and, more importantly, the family obligations begin. Until then, I’ll live it up.

Now, slightly off-topic, I was going to put up pictures of the magnificent Taffy Brick I made a couple of weeks back. It’s eight slabs of Laffy Taffy microwaved together into a diabetic plastique. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Taffy Brick:
Width Taffy Brick:
Height Taffy Brick:
Depth

I’m still eating this bad boy.