American Idol Switcheroo on iTunes

If you watched Idol last week, you were treated to a bunch of mediocre renditions of classic Motown songs, plus a stunningly beautiful re-imagining of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears.” Adam Lambert is the one who pulled off that coup. He sang with an acoustic guitar, upright bass and slapboard-drum-type-thing, and it was so tender and gorgeous and moving. If he continues with performances like that and his brilliant reworking of “Ring of Fire,” he’s going to go all the way.

Ryan Seacrest makes a point of saying that you can buy recordings of the contestants’ performances on iTunes, so I tried to do just that last Thursday. Unfortunately, last week’s performances weren’t available yet. I tried again this morning and they were. But what they are selling is not what you heard on the show. I went directly to the link for Adam’s “Tracks Of My Tears” and when I previewed it… WTF?!? Gone is the simple rhythm section and Adam’s tender vocals. Instead, you get Adam doing karaoke vocals over the original recording’s instrumentals. That is not what I wanted in the song, and given the comments from 587 other fans, not what most people want. Idol pulled this same switcheroo last year with Jason Castro‘s performance of Brudda Iz‘s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” In Jason’s case, however, the tenderness of his singing and his ukulele playing were left intact and you couldn’t really tell it was not the same performance that you saw on the show.

The people who are really upset are those who prepaid for the song. I know I would be too. This should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone who is thinking of preordering any Idol performances in the future. There’s no way I’d pay in advance for anything from Idol now.

By the way, if you’re technically inclined, you can buy the video of his performance that was so beautiful and then rip the audio track into its own mp3 file. That’s what I’m going to do. But you shouldn’t have to do this. Idol should be selling what we heard on the show, not a studio do-over. I don’t have a problem with them also selling the studio do-over, but what people want and expect to get is what they heard on the show.

Help Me With iPhone Dev Graphics Question, Please

Usually when I learn a new programming language or framework, I am plagued by the fact that I can’t think of anything to build with it, or I can only think of things that are too difficult. With iPhone development, I have two ideas for apps, both of which should be fairly easy to write. I’ve gotten a good start on the first app, but now I’ve hit a roadblock, and I’ve been stuck here for a while. I thought I’d ask for help.

Obviously I can’t disclose too much of what the app does, since I do eventually want to sell it in the App Store. Essentially, it allows for a very specific type of photo manipulation. I’ve got the basic UI built, and I’ve hooked into the camera framework, so you can either take a new photo, or use one you already took. I am displaying the photo in the main window, currently scaled to fit, but I will eventually add zoom and pan. I have the code written that allows the user to define a region of the photo to work on, by drawing a rectangle or ellipse. I draw the shape using Quartz 2D, which results in a red rectangle or ellipe drawn on top of the photo. So far, so good.

This is where I’m stuck. I need to do “something” to the bits in the photo in the region defined by the rectangle or ellipse and, at some point, a freehand shape. (Obviously I can’t reveal what the “something” is.) So, I have looked through the Quartz 2D docs and am trying to figure out how I can

  1. get the bits in the region defined by the user’s drawing
  2. swizzle the bits with my secret sauce to produce the desired effect
  3. get the swizzled bits back into the photo for display to the user

And here I sit. I have never done anything with graphics before, so this is all completely foreign to me. I can’t see how to do any of those three steps.

The next question, then, is should I be using OpenGL ES instead of Quartz 2D? The iPhone dev book I have taught a little bit of both, and the OpenGL stuff looked far more complicated than Quartz, which seemed like overkill for my situation. I don’t know.

I think I can accomplish what I want by creating an image mask, applying that to my original image, and then displaying the new image, but the mask creation function, CGImageMaskCreate, has me confused. I get most of the parameters, but I don’t understand the CGDataProviderRef parameter. Can anyone offer any sort of pointers to get me moving again? Are there any really in-depth Quartz 2D tutorials? The Apple docs on Quartz that I’ve read are very basic, and don’t really give examples.

Thanks for any help or pointers. I know I haven’t given you much to work with.

ExportToArchive *Does* Work With iPhoto ’09

I just installed the iLife ’09 suite, which includes version 8.0 of iPhoto. While I haven’t had time to try out any of the new features, I did check to see if my ExportToArchive plugin still worked. I’m happy to report that it does still work. If you already had it installed, you don’t have to do anything; it will just work. If you don’t have it installed, the installer works with the latest version of iPhoto just fine.

If you encounter any problems using ExportToArchive with iPhoto ’09, please let me know.

My favorite line from ‘They Live’

This is a horribly cheesy, yet oddly fun movie starring the wrestler Roddy Piper. It boasts one of the longest, most tedious, fight scenes *ever* in a film. My favorite line features Roddy walking into a bank full of concealed aliens. He walks in and to get everyone's attention, he utters this classic line:

I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I'm all out of bubblegum.

Thomas Interviews Me Using Our New Flip HD Camcorder

We got a new Flip Video MinoHD Camcorder yesterday from Amazon. It’s a very neat little device. It records in HD and holds up to 60 minutes of video on its solid state storage. It attaches to your computer, Mac or PC, using a built-in USB connection, and the first time you attach it to a machine, it installs its software. The above video was shot by Thomas about an hour after we opened the box. I imported the video into iMovie and poked around until I figured out how to add the title cards. Not an Oscar-worthy production, to be sure! Still, it was fun making it. I look awful in it, so please be kind with your comments. 🙂

Huzzah! MiddleClickClose Working In Safari 4!

08/31/2009 Update: For Snow Leopard compatibility, see here.

08/13/2009 Update: It should now work with all future versions of Safari without having to update it again. Read about the change here.

06/09/2009 Update: Apple released the production version of Safari 4 yesterday at WWDC. I have just updated the plugin distribution, so if you download it now, it should work. If you already have it installed, follow the directions below for changing the version number to 5530.17 and your old installation should work. If you don’t yet have it installed, follow the directions here.

Thanks to Sylvain FrĂ©bourg, MiddleClickClose is now working with Safari 4. The fix is quite simple: change the MaxBundleVersion in the Info.plist file from what it was, to 5528.16. I know that I tried that, because I could see warnings about an incorrect version whilst watching Safari start up on the console. I must have changed something else at the same time and not realized it, because no matter what I set the version to, it wouldn’t load. Anyway, I reverted my SIMBL install and my SIMBL plugin directory from back in January using Time Machine, made the version number change, and now it works. It helps to be methodical, and I was not.

So, there are two ways you can go about getting it working for you. You can edit ~/Library/Application Support/SIMBL/Plugins/MiddleClickClose.bundle/Contents/Info.plist, changing 5525.13 to 5528.16 5530.17, or you can download a new zip file and re-install. Either way should work.

If only Apple would build this functionality into Safari itself…

Snow In Georgia 2009

3323035810_c7fa482cdd_oOn March 1, 2009, we here in the South finally got some snow. In fact, at my house, we got loads of snow. I took a bunch of photos at three different times during the day to document it. The first four photos were taken after it had been snowing for about one hour. The rest of the daylight pictures were taken after about five hours of constant show. The nighttime pictures were taken around 8:00 PM, when it was still snowing, though it had just about stopped.

View the entire set here.