Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Holiday Gift to You: Remove Audible DRM!

I found these instructions in pieces across the net, but mostly here.  Just thought I'd repost it in a short, concise format for your holiday usage.  I want to give you back the files that you already bought.  This conversion method requires the use of two Windows computers.
  1. Using the first computer, get an Audible account and the latest version of Audible Manager.  Make sure your account is set to download .aa files in Format 4.
  2. Download some books!
  3. Download an older version of Audible Manager.  Version 3.5 seems to work pretty well.  Install the old version on the second computer.
  4. Download dbpoweramp.  You'll also need to download the dbpoweramp DirectShow codecs.  Install both on the second computer, where the old version of Audible Manager resides.
  5. Transfer the .aa book files from the first computer (new Audible Manager) to the second computer (dbpoweramp & old Audible Manager).  Open Audible Manager on the second computer and import the files into that computer's library.
  6. Open dbpoweramp music converter or batch converter.  Select the files to be converted and click the big "Convert" button.  Choose to convert the files to mp3 (LAME), CBR, 32 kbps.
That's it!  dbpoweramp should start converting those horrible aa, DRMed files into non-DRM mp3s.  It will most likely take a while, but it will work at 14-30 times the play speed.  That's a LOT better than many of the other solutions I found - most of those will only work at 1-1.5x, which would make the conversion of a four-hour audio book take four hours.

Here's hoping this helps you enjoy your files!  Happy holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Road-Trip `08!

V., E. and I usually make a road trip to Americus, GA to see my family at Christmastime.  This year, we also brought along V.'s older kids, Britches and Stiney.  I worried about how the trip would go - it's a long way and we're not used to having all three kids in the car for more than an hour.  We prepared as best we could, using a lot of the ideas and print-outs from Mom's Minivan and finding all of our audiobook CDs.  We gave each kid $5 with which to buy their own snacks for the trip.

In the end, what Google estimates as a 12.5-hour drive took us 17 hours.  Surprisingly and thankfully, most of it wasn't because of the kids.  We consolidated all rest stops (save a short one that I requested near the end) and really only halted once for food.  (The short trip to Krystal, then trip back because my order wasn't right don't count.  Because that's what I say and I'm writing the blog post.)

Here are a couple of tweets from yesterday that summarize our biggest hold-up:


The folks at NTB were very friendly, as always.  Our other major stop was when the end of the trip was in sight, in Phenix City, AL:


I couldn't tell you the cause, but Stiney got carsick for whatever reason.  Even that wasn't as bad as it could have been.  She gave us warning and we stopped in time to get her out of the car before she unwillingly redecorated the interior.  It did add time, though: we waited for her to feel better, stopped at a drugstore to get some chewable Tylenol for her, and then made the ill-fated Krystal stop to make me feel better after losing so much time (which, in turn, cost us more time than anticipated).

Today, we're here.  We  all slept well last night, and today is a nice, relaxing day.  My dad even went in with me on a wireless router so we can all benefit from the DSL modem in the den.  There's generally not a lot of stress here at my grandparents' house, so it counts as a real, honest vacation.  It was just rough getting here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Yippies!

Check it out!  This is my first attempt at a video blog, and it's all about the Youth International Party, better known as Yippies!

VIDEO GOES HERE WHEN I CAN GET IT ON A BETTER HOST WITHOUT AUDIO ISSUES


More about Yippies:

Online copy of Steal This Book
Yippies Colorado, and details of their protest at 2008's Democratic National Convention

Domains.

I'm pretty lucky. About nine or ten years ago (good God) I created an interesting, unique name to use online. Aside from sharing it around as a surname with a select few people, no one else uses or has ever used it. If you search for "thraeryn" on the net, I can tell you something about every result. If you message "thraeryn" on an instant messenger (and the user exists), you'll get me. It's so much my second name that if someone in a crowd shouted "Hey, Thraeryn!" I'd immediately respond - no momentary lag as the recognition dawns that "oh, that's me they're calling".  

Thanks to those folks that I let share the name, the top three "thraeryn" TLDs (com, net, and org) have almost always been in "The Family"'s possession. They have pointed at various things over the years, from a family information page to a KoL wiki to a personal gallery, etc. A couple of days ago, I asked for control of all of them and pointed them all at this blog, The Pizza Box Dilemma. We don't have a server set up at our house currently for other projects, but when we do again, I'll be able to pick one of the domains and point it there. That's a damned nice luxury to have.  

Being able to say that you are pretty much the only person on the net using a certain name is a very cool feeling. Owning all three of the best-known top level domains for that name is a rarity. Big thanks to Jim for keeping them alive at times when I couldn't (and getting .com back), and to Bill for giving me the first space at which they were ever pointed. Huge hugs and well-wishes to everyone that was ever part of The Family. Whatever happened between us, know that there was a time I was happy to have every last one of you share my name.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Where IS Everyone? Oh, Right, It's Cold.

For  several days, E. pestered me to go to the zoo.  I finally decided that we would go yesterday, Wednesday.  (Didn't change the pestering much; little girl has very little time sense yet.)  Of course, yesterday was one of the coldest days we had this winter season.  Regardless, E. was still dead-set on going, so I obligingly dressed us warmly, put on our snappy gloves, hopped in the car and headed out.

This was the scene when we arrived:

It's Empty!
Something about this picture seems a little odd, no?

That's right.  Aside from a smattering of zoo employees, we were the only people in sight.  Granted, the temperature was damn near freezing, and that usually sends Houstonians running for cover, scrambling to cover all outdoor pipes with insulation.  The zoo has plenty of heated buildings, though, and to a properly-bundled father and daughter, the walks between weren't a problem.

Despite the camera's battery dying on arrival, I made sure to take several cell phone pictures:

The Aquarium
Natural Encounters
Natural Encounters 2
Lonely Girl
We didn't really see any other patrons until we got to the lizard building, where two guys were inside talking.  (There was one guy who thought about entering the Natural Encounters building, but he decided against it when he saw us making a beeline for the place.)  I may never see the zoo that empty again, but it was a lot of fun to have the run of the place that once.  

Most amazing part?  As we were on our way out, it began snowing.  Not much fun for the man who moved away from Winnipeg, but a ton of fun for his Houston-born daughter.

Sad Dream.

I had a very, very sad dream at some point last night.  That's pretty unusual for me.  First, I don't regularly remember my dreams.  Second, my nighttime mental ramblings routinely fall into the "weird" category, with plots revolving around my being able to fly and back in high school, etc.  I can only remember one other dream that really, truly fits the "sad" bill, and in that one I died.

I didn't die in this one, thankfully.  In the dream, I had another daughter older than E. by a few years, which would make her seven or eight.  She was slightly overweight and I knew she wasn't the most popular girl in her class at school.  She came to me hesitantly while we were out at what I think was a bar or restaurant and asked if I could keep a secret.

I told her that I loved her; of course I'd keep a secret for my girl.  She nodded and quietly pulled her shirt up a little to show her tummy.  What I saw there threw me into a rage: there was a healing cut in the shape of a small "K" on her side.  I looked closer and it was surrounded by words and little pictures drawn and written in pencil.  They were notes, the sort of nonsense an eight year old would write on the back of a notebook or inside a bathroom stall.  My daughter had let herself become a sort of graffitti wall for her classmates in order to gain a little popularity, and one of them had even gone so far as to begin CUTTING HIS NAME into my little girl's stomach.

"Rage" is a very small word for the big, big emotion my dream-self felt.  I asked her who cut her, and she quietly replied "Kyle."  I nodded and not-so-quietly said that tomorrow, I was going to school with her, she would show me who Kyle was, and I would kill him.  I spent most of the rest of the dream hugging Dream Daughter, trying to find V., and verbally ranting that anyone who tried to cut their name into my little girl would meet a painful, terrifying end.

Sadly, I could see something like this happening in real life.  Kids are still pretty cruel, and while it's pretty tough to write on skin with a pencil, Sharpie makes tiny keychain markers that would work perfectly.  The idea of some unpopular child letting their classmates scrawl on them as a desperate attempt to be accepted makes me want to cry even now.  If you have children, let them know how excellent you think they are.  If you know friends that have kids, show those kids respect.  Don't ever make a child work for acceptance - simply accept them.  They are who they are, and your respect will only help them figure out just who that is.

(A note: I'm pretty sure my dream was influenced by a recent episode of House, MD.  The episode featured an overweight, unpopular girl, but one with a different problem.  My brain gets 3 out of 5 for originality.  Also, this morning I had a second dream in which I told my mom about the first dream over the phone.  That was a bit odd.)

Addendum: A brief discussion regarding this post, from Twitter:
KeviKev @thraeryn On the plus side your reaction in the dream was a healthy Protective Dad reaction.
@KeviKev Yeah, any dad would've done the same. "I'm gonna KILL that little shit!" is the Gold Standard of fatherly responses.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Technology BITES.

Apparently, all of my technology is deciding to take the holidays off.  What a fun time of year for this to happen!

The phone I borrow from a friend of ours has been on the fritz for a long while now.  Its battery is particularly fussy, and if it's nudged just a bit out of whack it turns the phone off.  Remove the back cover, reseat the battery, and all is fine again.  It's not a big problem . . . until you find yourself missing texts regularly, and frequently reseating the battery four or five times a day.  Just now, the phone turned off after sitting not in my cramped pocket, but ON MY LAP.  If anyone has an old BlackBerry that's unlocked or AT&T branded that they want to get rid of, let's work something out.

My seven-year-old desktop computer, Bloodslick, bit the dust for the moment.  A breaker blew, causing Bloodslick and everything else to shut off momentarily.  The frustrating thing is that everything else turned on again, while Bloodslick didn't.  I took a can of compressed air to his insides to no avail.  He's dead for now; won't even load BIOS.  I'm thankful that we have the kid computer and the laptop, Thraepokolips.

Thraepokolips's "a" key is funny.  There was a rock under it minutes ago; I removed that.  I can't get the plastic key on the right way, though, so trying to type is still a little wonky and frustrating.  "A" is a pretty common letter in most English texts.  No one wants to buy me an MSI Wind netbook from Microcenter or NewEgg, do they?

The One-Glove Dilemma.

I lose so many gloves. 

Every year, I buy at least one pair of gloves.  Sometimes they're cheap, knit wool gloves.  Other years, they're sexy (and cheap) Thinsulate driving gloves.  While I was in Canada, I found myself the not-so-proud owner of a thick pair of lobster-claw mittens.  With the exception of the black lobster claws, I always face the same problem: one glove somehow becomes separated from the other and is never seen again.  My daughter, of course, has the same problem, except her gloves remain a pair for less time than mine.

This year, I vowed to keep our gloves together as pairs.  It won't stop us from losing them, but we will avoid the frustration of finding just one glove, goddammit.  (Even thinking of it makes me grumpy!)  Gentle readers, I give you . . . SNAPS!!!
Yes, this year I installed half of a snap in one glove and half in another, providing a convenient way to keep `em together.  I'm quite proud of myself, too - normally I waste a lot of the little snap pieces, squeezing too hard and smushing them.  This time, I didn't smush a single one!  Go, me!

[10:56] V.: make it snappy!
[10:57] Me: I did!
I turned a minor mistake into a "feature" with E.'s gloves.  When I realized I installed one of the snaps "backwards", I made sure to do the other side the same way.  I call the result "butterfly gloves", a moniker that E. really likes.

I have to resist calling this a "stroke of genius" because I know it's totally not.  I do hold out some increased hope that I might keep a full pair of gloves from this year to the next.  E.'s are just slightly too long in the fingers, and mine are a very nice pair of knit work gloves (with Thinsulate!) that only cost me $3.  Keeping both pairs and using them next year would be great.  I eliminated the problem of losing one glove; now I just need to install a $50 RF locator in each pair.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Moved!

This blog has successfully moved!  It's on its own domain now, http://www.thraeryn.com.  Blogger tries to make this sort of thing easy, but it was still full of sucktastic little errors and pitfalls.  I have triumphed, however, and not only does www.thraeryn.com redirect here, but so does thraeryn.org!  (The method is a little different, but it works.)

I encourage everyone reading to do two things to celebrate:
  1. Join the site using the Google Friend Connect widget on the sidebar.
  2. Plug your blog in the comments.  If I know you or if it seems halfway interesting, I'll add it to my list!
Get crackin'!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Charity.

There shouldn't be a season involved with charity.  Seems like the current one is, though, so it's on my mind lately.

I donated $10 earlier this week to Child's Play via the Desert Bus for Hope crew.  Those folks really have their hearts in the right places: they realized that together, they could do something silly and (reasonably) painless that would make life happier for many children in hospitals.  All it took was their getting a few days off work so they could hang out together, and a willingness to put themselves through minor, temporary hardships or embarrassments.  Their simple act of ridiculous, self-imposed "torture" earned around $24,000 for charity last year.  It may have earned over $70,000 this year.  That's a LOT of Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii consoles.  That's a lot of video games.  The best part is that it's part of an even larger total given by people who think that children with serious illnesses already have it hard enough, people that want to try and make those kids smile.

FOX has recently adapted a UK show called "Secret Millionaire" for audiences here in the States.  The premise is that a millionaire spends a week living in a very tough, impoverished urban area.  They have none of their possessions and only a welfare budget (which came out to $150/week in the first episode).  At the end of the week, they help the people who helped them by doling out at least $100,000 of their own money.  It's a good show; you can watch the first episode on Hulu.  I imagine it'll be a little frustrating for the folks that were helped when tax season comes around; a $25,000 check will probably bump any one of them into a higher tax bracket for the year (even if only $12,000 of it is taxable).  It's nothing like the property tax they'd  to pay on an extreme home makeover, though.  The cash can do a lot of good in the meantime.

V. and I don't have a lot, but I happily put a little bit toward a cause I appreciate.  Don't just think about giving to a worthy charity sometime soon.  Give a little bit now.  Give a little bit later.  Give a little after that.  Volunteer, too, or just call and ask how you can help.  These are groups founded by, run by, and staffed by the people who will be there for you if you ever need them.

A flipside note: The Slackmistress was (fairly mildly) harrassed by a door-to-door charity worker today.  If someone says they don't have money to give you at the moment, don't go and call them a bad person.  A little statement like that makes a damned lot of assumptions, especially when life happens to all of us.  Also, if you're volunteering for (or being paid by) a charity, aren't you supposed to understand being down on one's luck, and shouldn't you want to help?  Gah.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Things!

The holidays are a wonderful time.  Not because I like turkey or fellowship (Psh!), but because Child's Play starts their annual charity push, and that means . . . Desert Bus for Hope!  Watch people play the most boring video game ever created in order to raise money for charity!  If you donate, they keep playing!  They are also dancing monkeys for the donations.  All manner of tomfoolery can be brokered in the chat.  Tune in around 3 AM Pacific Standard for some of the most drained, low-energy webcam torture you'll ever see.

Also, apparently I am a cool enough kid now on Twitter that I get invited to events (before they happen, even).  It gives me the warm fuzzies.  I don't really drink coffee, but you know I'll show up just in case I can stalkmeet The Bloggess.

I wish we could remove all of the carpet in our house.  It is smelly and makes me sad.  I want to enjoy entertaining again without worrying that the house is stinky.