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    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012

    Hey dudes, thanks for all the really useful responses. That's really helpful.

    Although I'd like to be one of those cool kids around campus with a Macbook Air (I looked around my lecture theatre last week and everyone taking notes on a laptop was using a Mac), in my heart of hearts I'm a PC. Sob. What sways me here is that I'd quite like to catch up on the last five years' worth of video games. My other uses would be to write, research, internet, and edit photographs. I'm aware that Mac does all those functional things, but not the games, which leaves my choice as Mac + TV + Xbox, or PC. Plus I can recycle my keyboard, monitor, tablet, etc, which will save a hundred pound or so.

    @ Morac - I've delved into a couple of specialist forums, and you're not wrong about the time it will take to research. That's why I asked here, really - I don't even know where to start asking questions in the more computery forums. When I bought my first PC (hemhem 8 years ago), it was all single-core, so it seemed simpler to judge performance: higher clock speed + more RAM + decent gfx = faster computer. I haven't got my head around multi-core specifications, so I'm finding that quite difficult to judge. And obviously the numbers have got much bigger for memory and disc capacity, and all the grafix cards are new. So, yeah. Might come back with more n00b questions!
  1.  (10478.22)
    "I'm aware that Mac does all those functional things, but not the games, which leaves my choice as Mac + TV + Xbox, or PC. Plus I can recycle my keyboard, monitor, tablet, etc, which will save a hundred pound or so."

    You could also reuse your keyboard, monitor, and mouse (and most tablets) with a Mac Mini. The Mini is basically the guts of an iMac (except the screen) folded up into a brick, sold for not much more than an iPad. It'll run Windows if you've got a copy. It doesn't make a lot of sense if you just want to run Windows (or Linux) because you're also paying for OS X and Apple's bundled software, and if you really like building your own gear you'll hate it. But if you have any interest in playing for both teams, and are OK with buying off the shelf, it's a practical and fairly affordable option.
  2.  (10478.23)

    A Mac Mini has a limited amount of upgradability however due to the small form factor and Apple's paranoid control freak tendencies. I've got one and I do play some games on it but it's never going to be great shakes.
  3.  (10478.24)

    If I make a replica of a famous copyrighted work and include it as part of the background in one of my own works, am I safe in claiming fair usage?

    I'm doing another subway painting, and my plan is to replace the windows of the subway train with famous paintings both historical and contemporary; a tribute to the artists whose work influenced my own. My aim is to make the replicas accurate enough to be easily recognisable at a size of a few square inches, without breaching copyright law.
  4.  (10478.25)
    #FairUsage -- What country will you be doing this in? (That can make a difference.)
  5.  (10478.26)

    The only way to answer this definitively is to get sued, because it's decided on a case-by-case basis. Under US law there are four factors that the courts consider:
    • the purpose and character of your use
    • the nature of the copyrighted work
    • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
    • the effect of the use upon the potential market.

    For a more thorough explanation, see
  6.  (10478.27)
    I'm trying to remember the who what why about a scifi short story I read ages ago. It's set in suburban America and involves a guy encountering counterfeits of everyday objects (Cereal boxes etx), that are not quite perfect. Various people have been disappearing from the housing estate and it turns out the objects are the alien version of fishing flies but to catch humans.

    My brain says Ray Bradbury, but so far the interweb says no. Does it ring any bells?

  7.  (10478.28)

    @Warped Savant - I'm in Canada right now, but I'll be returning to Australia at some point in the future.

    @Jason - thanks, I'll check out the overview.
    • CommentAuthor256
    • CommentTimeFeb 14th 2012
    @Steve - sounds like Philip K Dick to me. He has a story called "Fair Game" that I read just the other day where a man is fished for by aliens with various lures. It doesn't include any imperfect counterfit objects, but that sort of thing is right up his street. It could be that yr merging bits of two stories by him, or that Dick wrote another similar alien-fishing story. He did churn them out.

    Dunno if that helps - might be a direction to look in.
  8.  (10478.30)
    Hi @256. Strangely I read Fair Game recently in The Father Thing. Nope not that one, but I'll have a look through his other shorts. Cheers anyway ;)
  9.  (10478.31)

    Okay, I'm pretty sure it's been discussed on here but apparently it was too long ago and I can't find it.
    I've recently decided to grow a beard and it's come in rather thick. I'm trying to figure out how to keep it looking decent and I know that a fair amount of you great gentlemen on here are rather hirsute. So, what's your advice? How do you keep your great facial appendage well groomed?

    It's much too early to get a decent picture going, so all you get is the beard:

    Some of my friends say to let it grow at the chin and tapper it down going back towards my neck but I have no freaking clue on how to do that...
  10.  (10478.32) has everything you ever wanted to know about growing and caring for beards.
  11.  (10478.33)

    @Osmosis - this is going to sound very not-me, sir, because (as we discussed once...I think:) I'm a Linux man now but I swear by HP Desktops: affordable and solid as a rock.

    I've had the same one for 12 years and I've upgraded the graphics card.
    Yup, just the graphics card. It came with ample storage and RAM for what I used/use it for [initially games, media, and writing; now server & storage] and I think I got it off of eBay at a better price than the HP site.

    Hope that helps.
  12.  (10478.34)

    My request goes to all of our photographers.

    I'm considering buying the Photojojo 3-pack of lenses but I'm unsure whether or not it's worth it. Anyone used these?

    I want to be able to take better pictures and video with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus and am hoping that the Telephoto lens will just clear things up and make them more akin to the human eye. Don't get me wrong, I know I can't get an amazing shot without good light, etc but I'd just like to be able to take a good, steady shot that has a good level of detail that won't then look pixelated or weird when used on a website.

    Any and all advice appreciated.
  13.  (10478.35)
    So several months ago, I helped fund a kickstarter project. Honestly, I forgot all about it. The project was funded and I had given them my address to receive my reward. Win!

    Early January, I received this message:
    We shipped your Kickstarter reward to you in early October and it was just returned to us after several weeks. They said no one ever claimed it and the package is pretty beat up. Did we send it to the correct address?

    I sent them my address again, and I got this response:
    We're willing to mail you another package (and track it) on the condition that if it's not delivered, you pay for the UPS/FED EX shipping for the 3rd attempt.
    We'll mail it to the following address once we hear your approval on this.

    So, far, all extremely reasonable. Shit happens, they say they resent my package.

    So, last week, I asked them where the package was, still no tracking number.

    They respond with the tracking number, USPS says it will arrive in one more day.

    That day comes and goes, no package. Then I check tracking, it says they left a notice, but no notice was left, I was home, no delivery attempt was actually made.

    The next day, I get home from work, and tracking says package was delivered. Didn't happen. I e-mailed usps customer service basically asking wtf?

    Today, I check tracking and it says:
    Your item was forwarded to a different address at 3:36 am on February 17, 2012 in HOUSTON, TX 77006. This was because of forwarding instructions or because the address or ZIP Code on the label was incorrect. Information, if available, is updated periodically throughout the day. Please check again later.

    Am I being scammed or wtf?

    They have communicated with me fairly well, but I have no idea how 5 delivery attempts could be made with no notice left on my door. I get packages delivered by USPS all the time, I kinda know my mail carrier, and haven't really had any issues before. I haven't seen her delivering mail recently, otherwise I'd ask her about the package.
    • CommentAuthorbadbear
    • CommentTimeFeb 20th 2012
    I was given a guitar years ago by a friend and had recently resolved to finally learn to play the darn thing. However when I returned to my parents house to pick it up I discovered that my grandma had fallen over it and broken it beyond repair. That or she threw a rock tantrum and smashed it.

    So now I have resolved to buy one but of course I don't really know what I'm looking for beyond something with a nice sound. Any advice or pointers?

    I am by no means an expert in such things. But...

    I know if you send a package with fedex (and I assume UPS is the same) then you always keep the top copy of their shipping form for whatever you send. It might be worth asking the kickstarter people if they could send you a scan of the documentation so that you can chase the issue with UPS more easily?
    • CommentTimeFeb 20th 2012

    Generally speaking you should buy the best instument you can possibly afford, as that will definitely affect the amount of time you'll want to spend actually playing it. That said...

    (The following applies to acoustics, too, but I'm mostly familiar with electrics.)

    You should -- if possible -- have a chance to try the potential instrument out before buying it. Things to look for are:
    - straight neck
    - smooth ends on the frets (even a slightly jagged one will be quite nasty when playing)
    - good intonation (i.e. that the strings are in tune all along the neck on all frets, or can at least be adjusted thus)
    - good tuners
    - appropriate action (i.e. the height of the string from the fretboard; low for speedy playing/tapping, high for slide work etc.)

    Nowadays you almost never see guitars with cracks in the wood or anything else that horrible, so I usually focus on the above. It's usually also VERY easy to improve a mediocre guitar by switching in better tuners and pickups, which is really no chore at all. Many manufacturers seem to put in rather underwhelming pickups by default, to get people to buy the more expensive models just for the better pups. Bah. Get a soldering kit, save dollars.

    If you're really on a budget and/or don't have access to a good music store, I've been hearing really good reviews of GFS's Xaviere line and Rondo Music's SX line of electrics, especially considering the prices...
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeFeb 20th 2012

    Do you want an electric or an acoustic?

    An electric is probably easier to learn on, believe it or not. Steel strung acoustics are harsh on your fingers.

    If you do really want an acoustic on a budget, there are plenty of choices. I'd stay away from ebay and find a shop and actually go and try some.

    If you're happy with an electric, get a Squier Telecaster from ebay and a 10watt amp and a tuner and two leads. That's all you need. Don't get anything with a trem arm (or whammy bar). Learn how to use the tuner - I like tuning pedals - and then learn barre chords.

    A squier tele is the simplest and most reliable guitar you can get and even some pros use them. You can get cheaper, but you probably can't get cheaper and better.

    If you've got a decent budget, then a Gibson Les Paul Studio is the best guitar in the world, on a cost/quality basis. They're not cheap, but one of these is all you'd ever need, even up to playing pro, but saying that, they're just as good, although not as pretty, as a Les Paul that costs five grand.
  14.  (10478.39)
    second the comment on "buy the best thing you can afford." musical instruments and equipment are one of the few areas where price is still a reliable indicator of quality. then again, there are always exceptions, as the build quality on even the cheapest guitars right now is the best it's been since the early 60s, with better consistency. my mexican made fender telecaster is one of the best guitars I've ever put my hands on, and is a pickup and tone circuit swap away from being a killer guitar. best thing to do is walk into a shop and handle every guitar that's in your price range. find the ones that are the most comfortable to play on (trust your hands. even if you've never tried to seriously learn before, they'll tell you everything you need to know), test them out, find which one sounds best TO YOU (everybody's got an opinion, and they're all wrong unless they agree exactly with you), and take that one home.

    most of the better guitar guys I know recommend that you start out on acoustic. they are a bit harder to play at first, but once you've learned the basics, it's a lot easier to go from acoustic to electric than the other way around. also, when you factor the cost of a decent amp, going acoustic lets you throw more money at the guitar itself. there's nothing wrong with starting on electric, though. when I decided after a decade of playing bass that I might as well learn a bit of guitar, i picked up an electric and don't regret it.

    As far as brands, generally, if it's a company you've heard of before, it's probably worth owning. fender and gibson didn't become as big as they are by making garbage (although be careful when looking at fender acoustics. some of those aren't worth the match it'd take to burn them). Martin's lower end acoustics are a bit overpriced for the quality, but if you've got the money to burn and want a good acoustic, their US made stuff is legendary for a reason. Taylor does not make a bad guitar, even at the very bottom of their range. Ibanez electrics are fast, easy to play, reliable, relatively cheap, and sound good (their acoustics on the other hand... cheap). As for brands you might not have heard of that are good, Schecter, G&L (the last company Leo Fender founded), Takamine (former maker of low end Martins in the 70s and 80s, started making under their own name after Martin ended the arrangement), Seagull (Canadian firm Godin's acoustic line), and Blueridge (this Chinese manufacturer that popped up not too long ago and is blowing the price/quality continuum to bits).

    that's probably too much information, so I'll shut up now.
    • CommentAuthorMark R
    • CommentTimeFeb 20th 2012

    Try to buy a guitar you can 'put in your hands'.

    When I bought mine, as a total beginner, I was trying out a few hundred dollar guitar for a bit. The guy I was working with brought me a guitar from another room and told me to play it a bit. He asked which I liked better, the few hundred dollar guitar or the one I had in hand. I liked the few hundred dollar guitar better, it just felt better in my hands. It was then that he told me the guitar I was holding was a few thousand dollar guitar. I gently handed it back to him, as I didn't have a few thousand dollars, only a few hundred. Price aside, though, I really did prefer the less expensive guitar and it'd the one I ended up buying.