Recently I bought all the bits and pieces to build a new PC for home. My old one is a few years old now, and isn’t up for all the video transcoding I throw at it these days (mainly converting Xvid and Divx TV shows into MP4 for use on Xbox). I’m not a real hardware guru, but every few years I read enough to know what the state of the art is and roll up my sleeves for a few weeks. This time I had one small snafu which was that nothing powered on after I put it together. It turned out that the problem was the CPU was not completely seated. I had to twist it off of its heatsink, straighten a bent pin, and re-seat it. Wow, it worked!

So far I’ve installed Vista, and a few basic apps. Next I need to move all my hard drives over, but since for some reason I installed my biggest drive as Raid 0 (with just itself in the array), I have to move the files off and reformat it on the new system. To help with that, I purchased an external USB hard drive that will also help me store completed iMovie projects so that I an keep one Greer movie at a time on my Powerbook.

Ars Technica is a wonderful tech news site that’s fast becoming more and more like a real news source, with journalists and investigation and everything!

Anyway, recently they reviewed Amazon’s new MP3 store. It sounded very positive because they sell straight MP3 files with no rights management, and so the files will play on my iPod.

So yesterday I went to the store and browsed. The top 100 albums are all on sale for $8.99, and I saw a new They Might Be Giants album in the list that I didn’t know about, so I bought it. It was a great experience. You first download a little downloader app that fetches all the songs and adds them directly to the iTunes library. Because they’re MP3, they will be playable on Tivo, Xbox, or any other home media device. We’re growing increasingly dependent on these sorts of devices around the house, so this is important. Plus the 256kbps encoding is of a very high quality, the highest of any store (tied with Apple’s own DRM-free music). And the prices is cheaper than iTunes.

One moral is that the iTunes-iPod ecosystem is not so “sticky” for me. I left the iTunes music store to use Amazon with no internal debate at all. Now whenever I want new music, I’ll check Amazon first, then fall back to iTunes.

Oh, one disadvantage of Amazon: they only have 2 million songs compared to iTunes’ 6 million. But surely that’s temporary and soon all the stores will have all the same stuff.

A while back I wanted to read The Lord of the Rings aloud with my wife. We’ve read lots of books together this way, and I’m a huge LOTR fan, so I really wanted to share it. The problem is it’s very long and many people consider lots of it boring. So, I took a clever (if I do say so myself) shortcut! I went through the books and dog-eared ranges of pages where the plot differed from the movies in a way I thought significant or noteworthy. For example, I read the entire chapter “The scouring of the shire” because this was left out of the movie. I highlighted the differences in Denethor’s character as much as I could, as well as Faramir’s. Both were substantially diminished in moral quality in the movies.

I want to go back through what I did, and post it here with annotations, so that others can read the same portions of the books in tandem with the movies to get a much more accurate picture of what the books are all about. The problem is that before I had this great idea, I had already read half of Fellowship, so I’ll have to make some decisions about what parts of that to keep.