Author Archives: Vlad

What’s new in CrystalWolf Player

What’s new in 1.7 (2016/03/22)

  • Added support for OPUS, AIX, ADX, DSD codecs / formats.
  • Added a new interface language: Norwegian.
  • Sound engine update.
  • Improved support for CUE sheets.
  • Quick jump and lyrics windows are now not modal.

What’s new in 1.6 (2011/09/24)

  • Sound engine update.
  • An option to disable the spectrum analyzer.

What’s new in 1.5 (2011/01/05)

  • Improved support for CUE sheets.
  • Close on stop. The program can close itself after playing all items in the playlist (if repeat is not active).

What’s new in 1.4 (2010/10/21)

  • Updated language files.
  • Fixed bugs.

What’s new in 1.3 (2010/09/26)

  • Support for new lossless formats: True Audio (.tta) and OptimFROG (.ofr)
  • Associate with folders
  • Lyrics3 support, view lyrics stored inside MP3 files
  • New interface languages: Polish.
  • Improved information about hotkeys.

What’s new in 1.2 (2010/09/19)

  • Jump to file – quick search for files in the current playlist.
  • Hotkeys for easy control. E – empty playlist, L – toggle playlist, F – show favorites, ESC – minimize the program, and more.
  • Minimize to tray is now optional.
  • Arabic interface language.
  • Some improvements.

What’s new in 1.1 (2010/07/16)

  • File type associations. Now you can associate CrystalWolf Player with all supported formats and start it by double-clicking music files in Windows Explorer. Haven’t added support/workaround for UAC yet, though, so if UAC (User Account Control) is active on your Vista or Windows 7 machine, you will need to run the program as administrator in order to register file types.
  • New interface languages are supported, thanks to contributors. So, now CrystalWolf Player is available in 10 languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, Ukrainian.
  • Several improvements and bug fixes.

What’s new in 1.0 (2009/11/09)

  • Support for extended M3U playlists.
  • Bookmarks for favorite music folders (easily add or replace playlists).
  • Minimize to tray on launch option.
  • Play on launch option.
  • Duration of files can be shown in the playlist.
  • Total duration and number of tracks in the playlist.
  • Playlists containing CUE can be sorted properly.
  • Many improvements.
  • Some bugs fixed.

What’s new in 0.19 (2009/11/04)

  • Open and save M3U playlists.
  • Edit playlists: move and delete items.
  • Sort playlists. Playlists containing CUE sheets cannot be sorted yet.
  • Spanish and Romanian interface languages.
  • Volume control.
  • Various improvements
  • Several bugs fixed.

What’s new in 0.18 (2009/10/31)

  • Improved adding folders that contain CUE sheets.
  • Improved setup.
  • Alternate global hotkeys.
  • Minor interface improvements.
  • Added Swedish language.
  • Minor bugs fixed.

What’s new in 0.17 (2009/09/27)

  • CUE sheet support. Now big files can be played conveniently.

What’s new in 0.16

  • ID3 tags can be shown in the playlist.
  • Customizable format for ID3 tags.
  • Last playlist is saved (M3U).
  • Several improvements.

What’s new in 0.12

  • Reduced setup package size
  • Added support for multimedia keys (Play/Pause, Stop, Previous track, Next track)
  • Fixed a minor bug

Changes under 0.12 weren’t logged.

On reading

Do you enjoy reading?

Of course, literacy is still required and appreciated in the modern world, but most people limit themselves to reading newspapers and special literature (books on business, health, educational stuff etc.). Some people don’t read anything at all for years, except for signs and titles on the TV.

You are surely not among them, as you read this.

But the word “reading” itself often refers to fiction. And that’s how I mean it here, too.


Our ability to transform simple typographic characters into images, emotions, feelings is fascinating. A text doesn’t contain any of that. Only our mind, our experience, and our agreement with others together do the trick.

Imagine that someday in the future the humanity has vanished. Alien travelers come to Earth and find only a big storage of texts, without any images or other reference objects. Are they able to decode all those texts, even having the most advanced technologies that allow them to travel from one star to another?

I doubt it. Sure, they will know instantly that the texts have some meaning, but without any reference they won’t be able to decipher the meaning. They will lack our experience and our mutual agreement.

Of course, something can be done with the help of supercomputers and superior knowledge of semantic modeling (whatever that means). But even if such a modeling is applicable, the aliens will read in our texts something completely different – something that refers to their experience. Weird, unthinkable, crazy for us.

That reminds me of the excellent SF-novel by Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon The Deep. An alien from a faraway planet tries to understand news about catastrophic events in the human sector of the galaxy. He has only text messages translated by intelligent machinery from one language to another several times (that’s how the messages travel on the galactic network). Trying to figure out why it all happens that way, the alien makes an obvious (for him) decision that humans must have eight legs, as it explains some parts that otherwise are incomprehensible.


People that aren’t used to reading tend to believe that movies deliver far better means to experience a story. By watching a movie you see and hear what happens directly. You see wonderful landscapes, beautiful women, strong and healthy men, you hear thunder, and roar of the surf, and music, and sweet voices (or maybe the other way around). You are there, you witness the whole thing. It’s just a few steps away.

How a book can deliver anything even close to such an experience?

At this point, I should emphasize that watching a movie is quite different from participating in it (I mean the story itself, not the movie like a product of playing). You witness the thing, sure. But you are separated from it by the screen, although surround speakers greatly contribute to the “presence effect”.

Opposite to this, a book makes everything happen directly inside your head. You make it happen – by employing your own experience, imagination, text-processing skills. You can read quicker or slower, you can stop altogether and think about it for a while. However, as you stop reading and put aside the book, the story doesn’t stop itself. It continues to live in your head, to develop itself, to evolve.

That’s how people start to write books.

The trick is, of course, that with a movie you are a passive observer, while a book makes you participate in creating images and personalities. It’s just impossible to witness a novel. Chains of letters are merely a static artifact with no meaning. Even a cat can watch movies, but no cat is able to read books.

That perfectly answers another question. Why movies are generally more popular than books? Well, that’s just because they don’t require any action from their audience. You can watch a movie and empathize with its characters, or you can quietly sleep on your sofa. No need to exercise your brain by transforming chains of symbols into ideas, images, emotions. No need to turn pages. Relax and enjoy.

Now, I’m not saying that watching a movie is in some sense inferior to reading a book. Driving a car is not inferior to riding a horse, and eating is not inferior to drinking (although some people may think so). Those are simply different things.

I love watching movies, especially good ones. It’s a pleasure to see breath-taking landscapes, like those in The Lord of the Rings, to hear excellent music (Gladiator, Crimson Tide, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Time Machine and many others), to enjoy ultimate power of special effects (Star Wars, Transformers). The above things don’t have anything to do with the story itself, but they contribute to our perception of the story.

Another pleasure is to watch how actors are playing their parts. It isn’t easy to pretend being somebody else, and it’s especially difficult to mimic emotions that you have never experienced. Some do it better than others, the very best ones make your forget about movies and techniques, which is amazing.

Finally, the story itself, one of the most ancient arts of communication. We enjoy stories, but as humans we also seem to need them. It is a part of our social evolution, if you want. Stories had existed long before books and cinema appeared. Stories about dragons, mysterious places, about the neighbor that got drunk and crushed his table while trying to dance. We know thousands of them, but we always want more.

However, that’s where movies can’t compete with books. The latter invariably contain more details (more of the story), and, as I have already mentioned, from passive observers they turn us into co-creators.


It is often said and believed that reading will eventually disappear. Movies, computer games, virtual reality, traveling, and many other things become more available, and all of us have limited time in this world. Why bother ourselves with the archaic way of entertainment?

But then, what kind of entertainment is not archaic? Games had existed long before the written history began. Traveling is also not that new and it doesn’t really stop anybody from reading or writing (quite the contrary). Virtual reality is merely an extension pack to the real world, sooner or later it will become a part of reality, so is it that different from what we have now (cities, cars, mobile phones, GPS)? Movies continue the tradition of on-stage performance, storytelling through showing, the tradition so ancient that it existed probably thousands of years before the very first book, starting with shaman’s dancing or similar things.

Reading is in many ways close to philosophy, and to writing. It teaches to examine relations, to look for reasons and goals, to see consequences. It gives interesting insights and ideas. There is probably no other kind of activity that combines entertainment with education so effectively.

Obviously, reading is interesting for the people that value such things as self-education, self-improvement, personal development.

Which inevitably means that most people don’t care about it.

And still many people do read. Fiction, science fiction, sword and sorcery books, mysteries, fairy tales. The internet has made books even more available than before. For example, Project Gutenberg offers countless well-known works in many languages for free. You can choose from thousands of famous books without going out and inspecting nearby bookstores and libraries.

I have recently purchased a device that is somewhat similar to Amazon’s Kindle. It’s a reading device with paper-like display that uses e-ink technology. The resulting image looks pretty much like an ordinary page, which makes reading of electronic books more enjoyable. E-ink displays are considered to be good for human eyes as they don’t refresh their picture constantly (like the traditional computer displays do) and aren’t illuminated from the inside (human eyes have evolved to deal with reflected light, and modern displays are themselves sources of light).

What do I think about the device? Well, it seems to me that paper books may finally become history. The whole thing is so handy that you just can’t compare it to a book. No need to switch it on and off, just put it aside as an ordinary book. Freely adjustable font size. You can carry a whole library in your pocket and easily switch between different books. More choice: for example, in our country books in English are limited and quite expensive (say, $15 for a used book), and Project Gutenberg offers excellent classics for free. The reading device doesn’t close itself, as books tend to do, which is also convenient.

As far as I know, Kindle has even more features, as it takes advantage of online connectivity: you can purchase an electronic book directly from the device, no matter where you are (as long as there is wireless network). However, although this kind of integration is interesting, the device itself isn’t available in our country yet.

Did I say that paper books might disappear in the near future? No, they won’t. They may become rare and expensive, as electronic books may press them off the general market. But it will have nothing to do with people abandoning fiction.

In fact, I believe that the number of people that enjoy reading will grow.

Being Human

How did you comprehend the very moment of your birth, when you came into this big and sparkling world from the dark and warm nothing? Do you remember your first breath, and how the air tasted? What did you think about strange buildings outside, about your room, about funny creatures that kept coming in and going out, comforting or disturbing you?

Most people have little memories about those first years of their lives. It’s not only our forgetfulness. It’s simply a very strange thing to recall.

Continue reading


(based on the story by Stephen King)

Mike Enslin is a writer. But not an ordinary novelist. Mike writes about ghosts and other paranormal phenomena.

Well, the market is obviously tough enough. There are plenty of ghost stories, so it should be hard to do something really catching, and without public attention you won’t last too long. Mr. Enslin has found his source of financial welfare. He does a lot of research, finds real places that are believed to be haunted, and stays there for one night. Then he writes so called Ghost Survival Guides that supposedly include colorful stories about those haunted places mixed with his personal experience.

According to the guy from the bookstore, those books are bestselling Ghost Survival Guides, so Mike should be a pretty successful writer.

Of course, he doesn’t really believe in ghosts and in the stuff like that. When he finds a notice about another haunted room, he decides that it would make a perfect final chapter in his current book. Mike calls the hotel (Dolphin, New York) and tries to book the room. But 1408 reported as unavailable. For the next week, the next month, even for the next summer.

Maybe that’s exactly the moment when Mike gets really excited. He has already visited so many haunted places that he knows for sure: it’s all a superstition. Local people may be scared to death, but there is nothing to fear.

So, Mr. Enslin pushes harder. He finds a law saying that if nobody occupies a hotel room, he can have it. And that’s the argument hotel’s administration isn’t able to reject.

Mr. Olin, the hotel’s manager, uses his last resort. He tries to talk Mike out of this. The room is really evil, many people have killed themselves there, still more have simply died, but their ‘natural deaths’ don’t seem that natural because of the shocking numbers (22). In fact, everyone who stayed in the room for more than one hour didn’t ever come back. At least, not sane.

However, Mike doesn’t change his mind that easy. He can feel that the manager is really frightened, but why should that stop an experienced ghost hunter? Mr. Enslin has made a fortune by being stubborn and skeptical. Besides, he is wearing his lucky Hawaiian shirt with the ghost repellent.

He enters the haunted room, and that’s where the nightmare begins.


A few years ago I got a collection of Stephen King’s stories named Everything’s Eventual. Of course, I enjoyed every word of it. Stephen King is a pretty good storyteller. But guess what story really frightened me?

Yes, it was “1408”.

Stephen King claims that he never intended to finish the story, it was written as an example for his On Writing book. However, something in the story attracted the author, and he “ended up writing all of it”. He also claims that the story scared him while he was working on it, and I can easily believe this. Why?

In the book, Mike Enslin himself gives us the answer. “It was never human. <…> Ghosts… at least ghosts were once human. The thing in the walls, though… that thing…”

As you read the short story, you can feel something big and completely alien approaching you… well, not you. Mike Enslin. However, for the time being you are Mike Enslin, and you perceive all that weird changing that will eventually swallow you.

This kind of association works much better for books, than for movies. There is a barrier between us and fictional characters in a movie. It’s the screen. From the other hand, a book unfolds itself in our imagination, inside our heads, and the barrier is much more subtle.

I liked the movie. It was different, yes. There was no daughter in the short story, and there was no brilliant first book followed by the bestselling crap. Mr. Enslin was using a Sony recorder, not Sanyo (but maybe Sony wasn’t interested in paying for the product placement?). There were no ghosts in the room, and Mike didn’t injure his hand.

But is it possible to recreate that strange and scary feeling of something evil approaching and touching you in a movie? I guess, the answer is “no”. Not to the extent it is used in the story.

Maybe being aware of that, the screenplay writers slightly changed emphasis and made the situation look different while keeping lots of details from the original short story. It worked good for the movie. It is intense, and alive, and a bit scary too. The characters are good written and performed, John Cusack as Mike Enslin is quite convincing. Samuel L. Jackson adds even more charm.

I like more the way the short story ends, but the movie is surely still worth of watching.

1408 (Widescreen Edition)
1408 (Two-Disc Collector’s Edition)
Everything’s Eventual : 14 Dark Tales