Best Music of Q4 2018

For many years now, I’ve made one music playlist for every quarter of the year. Today, I’d like to share with you a subset of my Q4 2018 playlist. The subset list is titled “2018 Q4 – Best of the Best”, and it consists of my favorite music that I’ve discovered or rediscovered during the final quarter of 2018.

Here’s “2018 Q4 – Best of the Best” on Spotify!

Here’s “2018 Q4 – Best of the Best” on Google Play Music!

It’s the best playlist I’ve come up with in recent memory. There’s something for everyone: Rock, chiptunes, oldies, drum ‘n’ bass, game soundtracks, EDM, and Bill Wurtz.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

On Learning, Language, and Psychology…

Within the past six months, I somehow stumbled upon LESSWRONG and added its feed of posts to my RSS reader of choice. Recently, I came across the following post, and it deeply moved me:

Mark Eichenlaub: How to develop scientific intuition

This post itself is a beautiful gem, but I found the real treasure trove in Mr. Eichenlaub’s answer to this Quora question:

Do grad school students remember everything they were taught in college all the time?

His highly upvoted answer is long, but well worth the read. It eloquently relays concepts about learning, language, and psychology that deeply resonate with me. I hope reading the answer will make you smile and think as much as it did for me.

My parents have done an outstanding job of instilling in me the importance of developing intuition rather than memorizing facts and formulas. When I become a parent, or otherwise have the opportunity to mentor a young learner, I hope to be able to do the same thing.

Intuition, Computers, and User Experience…

In his email quoted on Lesswrong, Mark mentions that he thinks of intuition “as the ability to quickly coordinate a large number of small heuristics”, and that those heuristics “are often pretty local and small in scope.” I love how this applies so clearly to the way I subconsciously think about using computers after having used them for so many years. More broadly, I love how this applies to design and user experience.

When I use a computer running Windows, here are just a few of the small and local heuristics I regularly apply without thinking:

  • Left-clicking inside an editable text field will bring focus to that text field, enabling me to use my keyboard to type
  • Pressing a hotkey combination that involves the Windows key will apply to the OS, not necessarily to the window that’s currently in focus
    • For example, if I press Windows+1, it’ll open the first application pinned to the Taskbar, even if I’m in a full-screen application
  • Right-clicking most anything will bring up a context menu related to the thing I clicked
  • When running a tabbed application like Chrome, if I press CTRL+TAB on my keyboard, I’ll cycle through open tabs

Perhaps none of these heuristics would be immediately obvious to anyone using a Windows computer for the first time. At this point, I apply them without thinking.

The articles linked above encouraged me to be mindful of the heuristics that I regularly apply to computing. They also encouraged me to carefully consider what heuristics others apply when using computing devices. This will undoubtedly make me a more competent designer moving forward.


There is more to say on this buzzing around in my head, but I’ve already delayed pressing the Publish button on this post for far too long. Perhaps I will return later…

Perfecting your Audio Input/Output Settings for VR and Beyond

It’s quite difficult to settle on comfortable audio input/output settings from within Windows. All audio hardware is different, and there are many factors that play into how audio playback sounds to your ears and how your microphone input sounds to others. This is a guide to setting up your audio devices to achieve maximum comfort for you and your listeners.

I work at a VR company called High Fidelity, where audio I/O is critical to a powerful experience. Our audio spatialization technology is designed for maximum immersion and realism. If one person is speaking so loudly that they are causing audio distortion, while another person’s microphone is set such that they are extremely quiet, everyone in the virtual space will find themselves in an uncomfortable and unpleasant situation.

While this guide is focused on making sure High Fidelity on Windows sounds good, these concepts can be used to tune your I/O settings for maximum comfort across all applications.

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Five Steps for Successfully Photographing the Milky Way

This past weekend, I went on a camping trip to Ocean Cove, a gorgeous campground just north of Jenner, CA. It gets very dark there at night, especially when the moon is new. Just after midnight, I set up my tripod and camera on a big rock overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Milky Way, and Mars. My girlfriend Liv perched herself on another rock in the corner of the frame. I readied my camera, took a few photos, and ended up with this:

The Milky Way, Mars, and my girlfriend from Ocean Cove Campground, CA.

I’d like to share with you how I created this composition in five steps – please join me in this photographic journey!

The Five Steps

I’d like to break up my process for capturing this image into five steps:

  1. Planning: Ensuring that conditions will be optimal for the shoot
  2. Composing: Placing the camera and framing the shot
  3. Directing: Telling another human being where to go
  4. Capturing: Modifying the camera’s settings and capturing enough frames
  5. Processing: Using photo editing software to create the final result

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Set the Date of VX8300 & enV Touch Photos from Filename

Before I continue explaining what this is for: If you know exactly what this utility does and you’d like a download link to the Python script, here it is:
LG_Photos_Filename_To_Date.zip

Introduction

A long time ago, I used an LG VX8300 flip phone. I still maintain it’s the best flip phone I’ve ever used. After that, I used an LG enV Touch, which was also an excellent device.

Both of these phones took perfectly fine images and videos, which I still have on my hard drive years later. The problem is, as I’ve modified my PC’s hard drive setup and touched the files with various utilities, the file’s time attributes have become incorrect. Here’s an example of the file attributes from a photo I took in early 2009:

Old Photo

As you can see, the date created, date modified, and date accessed file attributes are all incorrect. I wrote a Python script for Windows machines to modify these values based upon the file’s name.

Older LG phones take photos and videos whose filename have the following pattern:

<month><day><year without century><hour, in 24-hour time><minute>.<file extension>

For example, the file above (which has filename “0119090103.jpg”) was taken on January 19th, 2009 at 1:03 AM.

The Script

Here’s a download link to the script I wrote. It only works on Windows. To use it, unzip it and then double click it. You must have Python and Pywin32 installed. Next, supply the directory where your images are located and press enter. Don’t put quotes around the directory.

The features of this script include:

  • Operates on .jpg, .3gp, and .3g2 files
  • Only operates on files that start with the 10-digit date format used by LG’s pre-smartphone devices
  • Changes the date created, date modified, and date accessed file attributes to the time from the filename

Known bug: This script has issues with daylight savings time. You might notice that your “Date Created” attribute gets changed to a value that’s one hour before the correct time. I’ll work on that at some point, but it’s not a critical bug.

Here’s a screenshot of the file properties of the same file as above, taken after running this script:

After

Please be careful when using this script! It modifies attributes of files on your system. I’ve used this script on my own filesystem without any issues, but I make no guarantees that it’ll work with yours. Feel free to modify the script as you see fit.t

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The Best Trap, Electrohouse, and Electronic Music of March 2014

Electronic Music

I rate all of the electronic music in my library on a five-star scale, and only the best of the best get the coveted five-star rating. Here’s a list of my five-star trap, electrohouse, trance, and electronic music tracks of March 2014.

Here’s a Soundcloud playlist of all of the tracks below.

You could click on any one of these tracks and enjoy it. Listen to a few and tell me what you think!

I’ll be making one of these posts at the end of every month. Enjoy!
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It’s My 22nd Birthday!

What a fun birthday celebration. That's me in the green.

What a fun birthday celebration! That’s me in the green.

How very exciting. I turn 22 today.

A Friendly Fox has been up since November 17, 2012. That’s exactly one year and four months ago. There was a waxing crescent moon that night, and daylight lasted for 9 hours and 42 minutes that day.

I started this site after a friend encouraged me to have a place where I could write tutorials and lists and helpful tech hints.

Since then, people have pointed their browsers at this site 117,980 times, and you friendly people have posted 385 comments to the site. That’s about 243.25 views and 0.793 comments per day. I hope those numbers keeps increasing as I keep writing posts. Even more, I hope that my posts have been informative and helpful to all of you.

Thank you for helping A Friendly Fox be successful!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone! I hope you all enjoy the rest of your week.

-Zach

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20 Essential Windows Applications You Should Install

Windows Applications

There are a few Windows applications I use that I couldn’t live without. I install many of these programs on my personal Windows computers immediately upon a fresh install of the OS, and I urge you to do the same. Here is an alphabetical list of 20 Windows applications that I find incredibly useful.

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Instagram Direct is Much Better Than Snapchat

Instagram Logo

With Instagram 5.0 (Google Play Store, Apple App Store), released earlier today, you can now send photos to specific people with a feature called “Instagram Direct.” It’s obvious that Instagram developed this feature to compete with Snapchat. I’d like to weigh the pros and cons of Instagram Direct, and hopefully steer you away from using Snapchat when you want to share a normal picture with a friend. I also want to discuss Instagram as a photo sharing platform by itself and when compared to email or MMS, the old standards.

Instagram Direct is going to disrupt the “sending pictures to your friends” space, just like Snapchat did.

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Build an Awesome Custom PC on Any Budget

Arctic

I’ve been building custom PCs for nearly 10 years now, and I greatly enjoy helping others build their own computers. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers often approach me, asking for advice on their next custom PC build. Every time I part out a new custom PC for someone, something I have done hundreds of times in the past, I will update this post. I hope it comes in handy when you’re building a PC of your own!

Please feel free to contact me if you’d like me to design a custom PC for you!

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