heard on the wire

I love iTunes

I love iTunes. OK, it has many annoying quirks and a truly dreadful icon, but it I could only have one application on my Mac, it would my “digital jukebox”.

iTunes is home to 14,309 (and counting) music files, dozens of ebooks, videos PDFs and apps, all of which it handles with aplomb. I can sync two iPhones, and iPad an two iPods with five completely different selections of music, with scarcely a moment’s thought. I can ensure that, despite our shared library, no Fall, Mary Chain or Pains of Being Pure at Heart finds its way onto The Becster’s iPhone, while keeping mine free of Abba, ELO and Nutini.

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Wishful Drinking

I am deeply fond of the Star Wars movies*. Like many of my generation I was whelmed by the heady mix of good versus evil, cute aliens, even cuter robots, handsome, swashbuckling heroes, the best baddie ever and the foxiest leading lady.

So it was with some excitement that, in March 2008, The Becster and I took the BART train from San Francisco, under the Bay to Berkeley to see Princess Leia’s, I mean Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking.

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Lentil, pumpkin and apple soup

Lentil, pumpkin (squash) and apple soup

A happy marriage of a piece of pumpkin and some leftover lentils with apple that I cooked last week, this soup could equally be made from scratch.

This recipe serves four.

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“Let’s drive together, forever through the rain…”

Back when he was a good DJ — before he fell head over heels in love with the sound of his own voice — Huw Stephens played this record on his Radio 1 show’s “Unsigned” slot.

I know nothing about Two Men in a Boat, who released several tracks through a website that has since disappeared. Now there is only scant evidence that the band ever existed.

But what a record they made while they did. And it mentions Venice.

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Farfalle with cime di rapa

Farfalla with mozarella and cime di rapa

I love simple pasta dishes like this, comprising two or three handfuls of pasta, a ball of mozarella and a bunch of green leaves, be they kale, cabbage or, in this case, cime di rapa.

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Hooked on Classics

The obituaries have been written, the crematoria fired up, but it seems there is life yet in the classic, the venerable elder statesman of the iPod family.

According to NPD, a market research firm, the 160GB classic in a fetching shade of black was the fifth biggest selling iPod model in 2010, beaten only by various incarnations of the iPod touch. (And Amazon’s best-sellers lists show it’s still selling well.)

Now the touch has obvious advantages over its siblings, not least as a mobile gaming device of repute, but the classic has none of the speak-your-tune wizardry of the shuffle or touch tomfoolery of the iPod nano.

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Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz opens Stereolab’s 1995 EP Music for the Amorphous Body Study Center, released in collaboration with New York sculptor Charles Long [wikipedia].

The song was subsequently released on a Stereolab compilation, Aluminum Tunes: Switched On, Vol. 3, but both that LP and the EP are no longer available.

Listen and download Stereolab :: Pop Quiz

A decade at MacUser

It was November 2000: Apple has just released the public beta of Mac OS X; George W Bush defeated Al Gore, a future Apple board member, in the US presidential election; Netscape Navigator 6 is released; and I sat down in front of a “tangerine” iMac G3 for my first day as online editor for MacUser.

A few things have changed since then: OS X is old, George “Dubya” daren’t travel to Europe in case he’s arrested; Netscape is makes ageing geeks wistful; and the iMac G3 is a museum piece.

But in my life one thing has been constant — a seat in front of a Mac to populate and curate the news pages of macuser.co.uk. Yesterday that came to an end. The website passes to an old hand and I set out in search of pastures new.

Time then, for reflection on the past decade and the almighty changes that I had the fortune to report. So, cue At The Sign of the Swinging Cymbal, these are my top 10 tech developments of the last 10 years.

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heard on the wire is a blog about music old and new, but mostly new. It occasionally uses 21st century file formats that may not be supported by 20th century web browsers. For best results use Safari or Chrome. And If you like the music posted here, please think of the effort and expense that has gone into making it and consider buying a copy of your own.


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All the music on this site is posted to encourage listeners to enjoy it and then rush out and buy as many songs by the artist as they possibly can. Any artist, record label boss, publisher or other rightsholder who doesn't want their works featured here only needs to get in touch and the offending file(s) will be removed at the earliest opportunity.