I'm a sucker for free stuff. When I heard that Radio Shack was going to be giving away a free barcode scanner (you know, the same technology they use to scan your groceries) called the :CueCat I ran right out and picked one up. I assumed, correctly as it turns out, that once the hardware hackers got their hands on them, there would be a lot of interesting things happening. The makers of the :CueCat, Digital Convergence, have been issuing warning letters from lawyers to hackers saying that messing with the free hardware they are giving away, or writing software that talks to that hardware, is somehow breaking the law. Most of the hackers are giving the company the big middle finger they deserve.
So, go to your local Radio Shack and pick up a free :CueCat or two. Don't install the software that comes with the scanner -- it allows Digital Convergence to track what you scan. Instead, head to some of the websites that follow.
The webpage on Dissecting the :CueCat at http://air-soldier.com/~cuecat/ is pretty interesting. Included at this site are pictures of how to take your cat apart and mess with the circuitry to disable or modify the tracking number. There is also a few links to other programs that will work with the scanner.
Another site with a tutorial on "How to Neuter your :Cat" by taking it apart and messing with the circuitry is http://cexx.org/cuecat.htm . This site also has a fairly good set of links, which includes one to Azalea QTools at http://www.azalea.com/QTools/ which has a program that will let you make your own barcodes. The implications of this are interesting. If I created a barcode with information (such as a web address) in it, I could stick it in this article and you could scan the barcode and end up on a page full of related links or whatever. Kinda cool, huh?
The final :CueCat site I'm going to mention is FlyingButtMonkeys (http://www.flyingbuttmonkeys.com/) which is a repository for news and information on both the cat and the site owners legal hassles with Digital Convergence. Take a look.
In the past I've mentioned foreign websites that I checked out but couldn't get much of an impression of because I couldn't read the language. All that may be over now that I've discovered Babelfish by the internet portal Altavista. Check out http://babelfish.altavista.digital.com/ . This utility will translate a website to and from English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. It actually doesn't do a great job, but it translates well enough that you can usually figure out what a webpage means.
You may have noticed that I've not mentioned one single punk rock website so far, so for the rest of the column that is all I will mention. I got e-mail from the guy at http://punkasfuck.com/ . He's looking for geeky punks who know html, SQL, or PHP to help him build his website into a resource for the punk community. Give his site a look and give him a shout if you think you can help.
I ran across the website of the Virginia band Strike Anywhere (http://www.strikeanywhere.org/), probably due to a posting I read on the punk-list. This is your standard band website, with photos, a discography, upcoming shows, etc. The best part of the site is the free mp3 files, which are CD quality (which also means they are huge and take forever to download). Raging melodic punk / hardcore, better if not played through your shitty computer speakers, but oh well...
All of the same sort of stuff is at the website for the SoCal band Third Try. And again, the best thing about their site is the mp3's, though their photo page is pretty cool too. Spend a few hours downloading their brand of pop punk at http://www.thirdtry.com/ .
Break My Face is a site that at first appears devoid of content. A quick visit to http://www.breakmyface.com/ would lead you to think that all that is there is a want list of rare records, a handful of links, and a short list of historic punk bands. It is the list of bands that should provide you with interesting reading. Included are scans of rare records and bios of the bands in question. Also, be sure to visit the section on Dangerhouse records. Worthwhile.
Okay, I'm going to wrap up this month by mentioning some online radio shows. I've mentioned some of these before, but with more people getting faster modems and with increases in audio technology, these are worth mentioning again.
Antenna Internet Radio has made it to this column before, and with good reason. They put out new shows every week in a variety of styles. Worthy of note in this mag are Dirtnap Radio and Gift Wrapped Crap, both of which are punk shows, as well as Japan-O-Rama, which ranges from Japanese noise to pop, and Sonic Attack, which plays everything from old psychedelic to the Misfits. Get to the shows via http://antennaradio.com .
Another rocking radio show is RNR Punk Rock Radio at http://punkradio.cjb.net/ . You'll hear stuff from Ramones, Templars, Quincy Punks, Antidote, Slaughter and the Dogs, and more -- and that's just in one weeks worth of stuff. Their archives of old shows are up as well.
And finally, I might as well plug my own streaming music stuff at http://music.diehippiedie.com/~hanford/ where you'll find shit from my record collection including The Chiefs, Iron Cross, Jackshit, The Freeze, Decry, Shattered Faith, Wipers, and more. Enjoy.
Okay, that's gonna have to do it for this month. I've gotta go do some real work. Don't forget to check out these columns at http://www.diehippiedie.com/netpunk/ or send e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Have fun with your :CueCat until next time around... See ya.