Sunday, December 13, 2009

Can't we all just PLAY???

In an effort to help people enjoy the play side of Max for Live, I've started a second themed set of videos. These are labeled "PLAY" (as opposed to "PROGRAM" for the programming videos), and I've started off with a little 20 minute dance with Loop Shifter. I hope this can help somebody have a little fun (since posting on the forum seems to really tick people off...).

PLAY: Using the Loop Shifter instrument from darwin grosse on Vimeo.

Rock out!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The 100% Successful Anti-Darwin Technology

Do you want to make sure that I stay completely clear of your web site forever and ever? Do you want to make sure that it is completely foolproof? Do you want to earn money (maybe) while you do it?

Scatter those incredibly stupid Bing psuedo-searches throughout the text on your site. I'm sure there are people that want pop-up screens to appear whenever they accidentally hover over a word while reading a site; I'm also sure these people don't have jobs, money or are part of any demographic that would be worth enumerating.

Maybe the only thing worse than this is the new generation of Vibrant ads, most recently seen on TG Daily. What a horrifying eyesore. TG Daily must not want many eyeballs - an opinion reinforced by their (re-)printing of the Enderle Group's spume. I know Rob Enderle has been around since S-100 systems roamed the earth, but I think he has sucked too much NyQuil in the last few decades to be a reliable visionary.

Yeah, so Vibrant and Enderle spell the end of TG Daily for me. At this rate, The Boulder Daily Camera may soon be my only remaining online text source. Too bad it is the slowest piece-of-goo website on the face of the earth. Please, Camera, include more YouTube videos on the damned site. I'm sure there is a sneezing panda story out there somewhere.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Videos on MfL programming

I put together a couple of videos on sequencer programming in Max for Live. Please, check them out. And yes, I do sound like a very serious beet farmer...

PROGRAM: Create a simple sequencer in Max for Live from darwin grosse on Vimeo.

... and ...

PROGRAM: Altering SimpleSeq to create an audio effect from darwin grosse on Vimeo.

Later this evening, I'll be posting up a "PLAY" video on using the Loop Shifter device that comes with Max for Live. I think you'll be surprised by what it can do.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

To celebrate the release of Max for Live...

... I provide a reminder of where we all come from. RIP Hybrid Arts, and where is that sexy Compusonics DSP-1000 screen when I need it most? And, oh, that Axel F theme - who could possibly get enough of that?

I am totally in love with digging around This is such a great example of where we came from; when I read the Ableton forum with people squalling about the limits of one thing or the high price of another, I'm just going to rewatch this video and grin.

And, yes, I started my electronic music-making in this environment. How did anyone every complete anything? Oh yeah, nobody really every completed anything at all. Nevermind.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Darren Richardson saves the day!


He's the author of "Foundation ActionScript 3.0 for Flash and Flex", and he saved my bacon this weekend in dealing with a Flash project. For our Technical Foundations class at school, we have a significant project to accomplish, little in the way of preparatory information, and no high-level overview of the AS3 object model, interaction with the timeline/library or general coding procedures. I was suffering from the lack of inspiration that comes from being in the dark, so I headed over to B&N to see what they might have.

The answer is "One Million Flash/ActionScript Books". Too much, overwhelming and impossible to choose. More stalemate. However, I was quickly able to decode some of the issues: about 70% of the books are "hey, just copy this code and you will be Very Cool". Another 20% are about specific Flash/AS3 techniques, like multiplayer gaming, or Flash gaming, or something else about games. The remaining 10% are explanatory texts, and spend time on the concepts behind the environment as well as the groovy components.

Richardson's book stood out by having well-titled chapters, a good text-to-example mix, and the fact that I learned something 10 seconds into reading it! (For those following along, I was pissed because I couldn't figure out how to print something to the output window. Every ECMA-based language on the planet uses print() and println(). Of course, Flash uses trace()...). I spent the afternoon skimming the text, and in the evening I was able to deal with all of the video display issues that had stymied me - as well as adding some cool additions to the second-level scenes. As you can tell, my life was made whole.

Oh, and the Packers beat the Cowboys yesterday, too. How much better can a day be?


Monday, November 9, 2009

Top 10 List: Gear that I use...

Despite the fact that I've become almost completely virtual, there is still a requirement for gear of one sort or another. Not all of it is in daily use; in fact, some of it doesn't get used more often than once a quarter. But these are the things that either make my life easier or make me smile:

10. Bose L1 Mark II Personal Amplification System

This was a rather silly purchase for me: I'm not a singer/songwriter, which seems to be the target audience for this thing. But I do host singer/songwriters occasionally for gigs, and it meets the need exactly. It also turns out to be a great way to do one-off DJ gigs, larger scale installation bits and laptoppery. Sounds great, disburses sound nicely, and is a non-backbreaker. I love it.

9. AKG C-214 microphone pair

I was never a fan of the 414, and when I got these in for a review, I was less than overjoyed. A cheap version of a mic I don't care for? Why bother? Well, it turns out that these things sound good no matter what I put in front of them. I'm not sure about the difference between them and the 414, or maybe my ears have changed since I last used this series - I don't know. But the bottom line is that they are my go-to microphones, and I don't know what I'm going to do when AKG remembers I've got 'em and they want 'em back.

8. Apogee Duet audio interface

Simple, elegant, works perfectly and sounds a dream. I've recommended this to so many people I should have angled for a royalty. Dead-on favorite audio interface in the world.

7. Native Instruments Maschine

I bought this out of my habit of buying anything that is an attempt at an MPC upgrade. In many ways, it is much more than that - the library functions are wonderful, and the hardware/software integration kicks butt. However, what has me really excited about it is the hardware itself: it feels better than any of the drum pad things that I've gotten in the past several years, and completely out-classes the current generation of MPC's. Handles a light touch with grace, but is still willing to take a pounding.

6. Sennheiser PX100 Collapsible Headphones

I move around a lot, and having something easy to carry (meaning, not my HD280's) and good sounding (meaning not earbuds) is important. I also need something that won't hurt my ears and won't overwhelm with ear fatigue. The PX100's fit the spot, and I do use these daily - in fact, probably hourly. I've been working on a big modular system in Max/MSP, and try to squeeze in 10 or 15 minutes wherever I happen to be at. The internal speakers of the Mac won't pull off the frequency range necessary, and the PX100's get popped out and used constantly. Wonderful headphones, very comfortable and not completely unsightly.

5. Korg Nanopad

I've written about this thing before. It doesn't feel that great, and it's probably quite fragile. But it goes everywhere with me. It is the "controller that I actually have on my person", which makes it the controller I actually use. It's right here next to me, see? Oh, you can't see. Well - take my word for it - I always have it on me.

4. Synderphonics Manta

I've written about this one, too - especially on the O'Reilly blog. This is the only playable controller I've ever used, and anytime I have a chance to settle back and work with it, I always end up overjoyed. It has a Monome-like hand-built lovely quality, but somehow feels like using an instrument in a way that no button pack does. Love it, love it, love it. I have some Max patches that work with it, but Vlad Spears' Honeycomb interface is what I use most. In fact, I'm having a hard time finishing up this blog given that the Manta is *right*there*...

3. Seagate FreeAgent Go portable hard drive

Much more than a memory stick or other portable bit of hardware, I use the FreeAgent to carry my life around with me. I have a massive number of samples on this thing, the current 5 or 6 projects I'm mixing or mastering and a pile of personal music and video project that are in the mix. It is never my sole location for data (since there have been reports of reliability problems), but it is the way that things move with me. It fits in the camera pocket of my laptop bag, and gets popped out anytime I've got a free minute.

2. M-Audio Axiom-49 and -25 keyboards

I've had issues with M-Audio keyboards over the years, but the Axiom series works for me, feels right and has enough controls to make my life easy. I never use the transport controls, but the pads, knobs and (on the -49) sliders are really handy when working with bot Max and Ableton Live. There are other keyboards that have tried to entrance me (especially, lately, the Novation stuff), but they don't have a chance because I've found something that feels and looks right, and doesn't make a damned sound while doing it.

1. Apple MacBook Pro

What do you call something that you use 10+ hours a day? Does it cease to be gear and become a limb? I can't imagine not having this thing under my fingers, and it is more than my constant companion - it is also my cubicle-mate, confessional and writing partner all in one. I know there was a time when I didn't have this sort of attachment to a laptop, but I don't like thinking about it that much. The best gear I own.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Free (open source?) storyboard paper

After striking out at the school bookstore, I decided to dig online for someone willing to sell me some storyboard paper. How silly. Our friends at Konigi are more than willing to let me make my own, preventing me from ever having to leave my stinking fat-boy chair.

Have I mentioned how much I love the intertubes?


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Top 10 List: Microsoft Wins...

I'm a big-time Machead, and tend to only use Windows when I'm required to. Recently, though, I've been using it more; using it with Sound Forge 10 for sample editing, doing Processing development there and generally enjoying the system. It helps that my (now operational) HP Pavilion dv3 system is pretty sexy, and I bought an additional battery pack that will work for a reasonable period of time.

Anyway, in celebration of Windows 7 (which I'm going to pick up today, I think), I thought it would be fun to do a Top 10 list of Microsoft Wins. They get beat up for not being innovative, but some of their decisions have made modern computing the Good Thing that it is today. So here goes...

Top 10 Microsoft Wins (from my perspective):

10. Bing. I know, I know - it's an also-ran in the search department. But have you actually used it? It is so much superior to the Google "I paid for top spot, so you are going to get my link jammed into your face" results that it's ridiculous. Getting out of the habit of ""'ing is a little tough, but the Bing results page is exactly what I want. Oh, and it came complete with a great set of ads!

9. DirectX. There are a lot of anti-DirectX sentiments out there, but the only real competition is from a hodge-podge of OpenGL and other BS interfaces - none of them coordinated, and none of them particularly stable. By creating a system that is able to embrace all of the various media types, Microsoft has create a beast that not other system can match. Yeah, and don't talk to me about Apple's Core Whatever systems. Zzzzz....

8. Gaming for Adults. I hate to even mention this, because grown-up gaming is one of those things that nobody wants to talk about. A lot of people (including, for example, my wife) claim to hate computer games and all they stand for. But, of course, getting a chance to play FreeCell along with the morning cuppa coffee is acceptable. The fact is that the basic games that come with Windows are commercial quality monsters, and the Mah Jongg game that shipped with Vista makes me tear up. Just don't tell anyone I'm spending hours on the thing.

7. Super-broad hardware support. You know what? Sometimes I just need to use a touch-screen display. Or maybe a crazy new audio interface, bar code reading device or Blu-ray DVD burner. As much as I love Apple, I hate having to choose from their list of 20 printers or 3 display devices. When I have to do bleeding-edge hardware, I'm almost always using a Windows box.

6. SQL Server. I've got some friends that are running a development business that works with large document storage and support. They've used a number of database systems, and they now swear by SQL Server. The developer support is great, the database is super-stable and deployment is easy enough (once you get used to it). I remember the rocky roads with database development, and it is great to see a company like Microsoft take on this mundane utility. Also, it's nice to see someone give Oracle a run for their money.

5. Third party software vendor support. Any platform that can support Sony/Sonic Foundry, Cakewalk, Image-Line Software and other killer companies - and do so over a long period of time - is, by default, a winner. Think about Mac-only companies for a minute: Opcode, Casady & Greene and others suffered for hitching their wagon to the Mac OS. Makes me very worried for MOTU (a company with some of the nicest - and smartest - people in the world).

4. Corporate Determination. One thing that I really appreciate about Microsoft is their determination to stick with something, even when it doesn't seem to be working out. What (for the broadsheet press) seems like failure may be exactly what a vertical market needs - and Microsoft isn't willing to abandon this market on a whim. A good example is Windows Mobile. Right now, it is being written off as dead meat. But my wife's book business is built around this unit, and she has been able to continue upgrading over the years with very little pain. Imagine if she had built her business around a Newton, Go or other Superior Technology. Thanks, Microsoft, for sticking with the hard stuff.

3. Microsoft Office. I can hear the moans from here. Sure, it is pretty bloated, and 90% of the stuff you get is unneeded. For you. What about me? I use this package several hours a day, every day of my life. I have for the past many, many years. You will pry MS Office out of my cold dead hands, baby. This software rocks!

2. Scalable product development. Any co2pany that creates software to support server farms while still supporting Netbooks gets a tip of my cap. The Netbooks phenomena is really exciting, and there are a lot of people that are computer-mobile using teeny-tiny Windows boxes that can fit in their purses or glove boxes. Anything that gets more people using gear is OK by me.

1. The Visual Studio development environment. By creating a development system that empowers the programmer, they've created an environment that allows third-party developers succeed - no matter how they prefer to work. Visual Studio has defined the de facto work environment for programmers, and has forced XCode, Eclipse and others to chase their overwhelmingly useful environment.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Digital Resistance examined.

For our Tech Foundations class...:

In the time since Digital Resistance was published (in 2000), much has changed regarding the possibility of a digitally-based civil disobedience. Much of what was proposed by the CAE would now be characterized as “cyber-terrorism”, and has become the fodder for overwrought news reports and countless new security groups, both governmental and private. The process of having a person’s records be more valuable than their physical body is now complete, with illicit data capture now named “identity theft”.

As the global economy has become more centered around the Internet as a marketing and commerce center, governmental agencies have reacted by further criminalizing actions outside the norm. This has the effect of reducing the opportunities to mount effective (while still quasi-legal) resistance using computer- or network-based means.

As a result, the public face of digital resistance has changed – largely as a result of the crackdown on “hacker” behavior and the widespread theft/fraud present in E-commerce. Since this system is seen to be fragile, CD efforts that target the movement of goods or money are considered too intimidating to be effective. One area where CD has thrived – despite the CAE’s skepticism toward the media – is the movement toward presenting user-created media on public channels.

Recently, after a particularly corrupt election in Iran, local residents were able to shape global public opinion using updated versions of classic resistance techniques. With makeshift media tools (like cellphone video and photo captures) and homespun communications (including blog entries, YouTube videos and Twitter messages), the Iranian public burst forth with information that would otherwise have been unattainable.

In this case, the Iranian citizen-reporters found a willing audience for their information, and received worldwide attention for their cause. Because this resistance didn’t interfere with first-world commerce, because it was inexpensive to produce and display, and because it was directed at an already vilified governmental entity, the resistance movement was greeted with open arms and great praise.

This new form of resistance is flexing its muscles by “showing” revealing examples of systemic misuse and forcing transparency. A good example is the China Channel add-on for the Firefox browser. This tool allows a user to experience the level of censorship found among the Chinese populace. This provides an opportunity to see that the “borderless, nationless” Internet it limited by a government attempting to control data flow. China’s “Golden Shield” content blocking system is a constant overlord of incoming data, and will target users that search for or access “inappropriate” data.

Another example of forced transparency is the creation, by the Electronic Freedom Foundation of a TOS tracker. User advocates had been disturbed with the secretive way that Facebook, YouTube and other large companies could change their terms of service without any notification to end-users, and how this could easily lead to privacy concerns. By creating a program that would keep track of policies and user agreements, the EFF forced an improvement in transparency – without support or acknowledgement by the companies in their sights.

Recently, I was forwarded a link to an ACLU-based Facebook application that would show how a simple quiz could reveal much of my personal data to the quiz creator. I was shocked – not only my available personal data, but by how much of my friend’s data was also provided to the quiz creator. This forced me to change many of the privacy settings, mostly using the information on this site:

So, while digital resistance – especially against large-scale entities (both governmental and corporate) – has changed, there are still ways to cause change using digital means. By either co-opting the media (ala Iran) or making systems more transparent (ala China Channel, the EFF and ACLU), there are opportunities for cause change through digital means.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Design project - of a sort...

For our first design project, we were required to make something that wanted to be touched. I immediately know what I wanted to do - I'd seen some sorority girls wearing these funny antennae headpieces, and I wanted to do something similar that would also have sonification.

I decided on balls perched on top of bass guitar strings. Why that? Because I'd always liked the action of bass strings, and I thought that ball could provide an interesting bouncing action. My first prototype used little "superballs", with the bass strings poked into an eraser as a temporary base. It bounced around interestingly, but the superballs didn't really provide any sort of interesting sound.

What I really thought I would like is ping-pong balls, but wasn't sure how I would perch them on top of the bass strings. Finally, I found an answer using my Dremel tool and a steady hand. The balls made a nice popping sound when impacted, and they also made an interesting swishing sound when they rubbed together.

The base was the harder part. I wanted something that would transmit the sound well, but that I could manage to work with limited tools. Initially, I tried different types of tile, but they were almost impossible to drill mounting holes into. Finally, I settled on a sandwich of two cedar closet hangers. This was easy to work, and provided a way to route them to place the pickup and run the cable.

I tried a number of transducers, and settled on using a mini-speaker as a microphone. This picked up the sound transported by the cedar base, and I ran that into a mini-amp for amplification. I also made a little Max patch to create an augemented sound. The whole thing is called "Cloud Formation", with a weather-like audio output from the Max patch. It may look kind of crude, but it is really cool.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Many future Max-heads germinated today...

I had a chance to do a quick intro class on Max today. The Tech Foundations class at DU opened the door to me and let me do a quick patching introduction (with lots of participation). Everyone seemed to get it, and by the end of the class they were pointing out ways to improve the test patch, automate some of its functions and reduce the complexity of subpatches without any prompting on my part. I couldn't be happier. Thanks to Chris and the boyz for the opportunity.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

OMG!!! BoingBoing strikes a Hit!

Normally, a troll through BoingBoing is done for the sake of keeping up with the proto-Joneses, trying to see what ideas I shouldn't bother having anymore and watching the wacky world of Etsy without actually having to grace the site. Today, I was doing my slide-through when I happened on an entry about some hand-printed calendars with the artwork of Jim Flora.

Money flowed frictionlessly from my Paypal account to the Jim Flora Studios. The memories behind these pictures is so visceral I can taste it, and the artwork is to die for. He combines some of the twitchy visuals of Joan Miro with the vitality of 40's and 50's jazz and pop music to create the ultimate "Of A Time" album covers - ones that I would be happy to display anywhere I happen to be squatting.

Must see visuals.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fingers dirty with hardware

People that know me will know how weird this was...


Snake head eating the snake on the opposite side...

You know, it really had to happen. One of the hot button design items is the sketching process, where you draw (on paper, you know? with a pencil?) ideas quickly and crudely in an attempt to understand systems before you commit resources to development. It has become widely recognized as The Right Thing, primarily due to Bill Buxton's relentless support and PR. It is a formalization of work most people have done, but never really thought through, and is responsible for keeping designerly activity relevant in the age of RAD development and speed-to-market nervousness.

So you know that someone had to come up with a product that would eliminate the "ooooh, scary" drawing part of the equation while maintaining the low-fidelity output of the sketch. Welcome Balsamiq Mockups, a program that is about as user-friendly as the UI for Visual Basic, but with the scratchy output of a hand-drawn sketch. It's delightful to watch the company spokesman pop off an iTunes clone sketch in a manner of minutes, but watching the video also gave me pause.

How does sketching change when you have a toolbar/palette with 75 items? Will all of your sketches use standard interface tools (maybe with the addition of the occasional Cover Flow)? Isn't the point of the sketch that you might want to break out of the mold of conventional software design and do something radical? Somehow, I can't see Buxton buying into this product.

In trying to remember the sitename for Balsamiq, I had to Google it again this morning. Of course, one of the Google ads is for a new competitor, called Protoshare, that is a Web 2.0 version of roughly the same thing. I'm sure these guys would get in a fistfight over me saying that, but you've got to wonder about software that is designed to remove the user's fear of a pencil...


(title thanks to I Palindrome I from They Might Be Giants, the greatest band in the world...)

Friday, October 2, 2009

I recently had a discussion about how many young people have a desire to be famous, but don't want to be singled out. Maybe this movie should be required viewing for everyone that aches to be on a reality TV show, wants to become a YouTube star or really needs to see the flash bulbs in their eyes.

Good luck to the bunch of you.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's all about Sketching...

In my design class, we've mostly been reading ACM documents on design. Last week, we got a number of new documents, with one by Bill Buxton (it's at this link) that sort of blew me away. What was fantastic was not only that they used sketching for user interface design (which is something that I've been doing naturally for a while), but that they studied how sketching interfaces informed people about a direction, and how sketches from one set of proto-designers influenced the next. It was a fascinating article, and made me hunger for more.

So I picked up a copy of Bill Buxton's book "Sketching User Experiences", and am blown away. This book is very different from the article I read, but is inspiring in a completely different way. It describes the difference between people that think they design, and actual designers. It describes the difference between a sketch and a composition. In short, it describes differences that are hard to put into words, but that we all have been sure existed. This is a sort of business-lite version of what the guy seems to be thinking, but it is lucid and thought-provoking.

The dude is pretty brilliant.


p.s.: After scrapping with Google over finding the article for 15 minutes, I decided to try Worked immediately, and gave me a like that was actually useful (vs. the POS that Google tried to get me to use). Maybe Microsoft has something there...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fire bad, Flash good...

First shot, thanks to my friends for the image contents. It's all fun, right?

I could get used to this thing...


Summer Snow...

Yeah, this was yesterday. Last day of summer.

Doesn't make sense to me, either.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dr. D, I presume?

OK, this is going to be a rather pointless blog entry, but I need to do something to cheer myself up after a horrible, horrible Packers Experience today. Luckily, my kids came to the rescue - with a great new episode of Phineas and Ferb. Among the many shows they watch, few are favorites for all three, and no other show can consistently make me gut-laugh.

In addition to it just being funny, it features one of the best evil character names ever: Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. It's impossible to say "Doofenscmirtz" without giggling, and it's been the thing that has kept me from jumping off the roof this evening.

Thanks Disney!


Friday, September 18, 2009

My Life With Zork

In addition to getting some background on HCI in yesterday's class, we also discussed early computer gaming. Our assignment was to find an online version of Zork and play/map it for an hour or two. I made an off-hand remark something like "I've put more hours into Zork than some of you have been alive!", which got a few chuckles and some patronizing glances.

But I was just being truthful!

When I first started computing (with an Apple //e), Zork was among my first purchases. I had seen Adventure/Dungeon on minicomputers (DEC systems) in the past, but had never played one personally. I was hooked, spending hours upon hours mapping my progress, trying different flavors of verbiage and trying to get through those "twisty little passages" to finish up the game. I got a hint from a local Apple bulletin board (does anyone remember those anymore?), and finally put it to rest. Of course, that led to the purchase of Zork 2, Zork 3 and a ton of other Infocom games - all text based, and all very, very difficult.

Often, when people talk about the Zork series, they talk about the primitive user interface and the fact that it seemed to be "stolen" from the public game "Adventure". What they don't understand is that the innovation in these games wasn't about the story (although Zork 2 and 3 extended the story extensively); rather, it was about improvements in the text parser, and trying to get to the point of natural language commands.

At the time, everyone thought that natural language would be the be-all and end-all of computing. If we could only talk to the computer like they did in Star Trek NG, we would be saved! Each version of Zork had a better parsing engine, and the computer mags would breathlessly proclaim the vast language and syntax that each new version contained. Alas, the result of this effort was Infocom's Cornerstone database, which tried to put a natural (Zork-influenced) language in front of a database system. I was one of the four people that bought that thing (which led to Infocom's demise, really), and I never was able to make sense of it. Perhaps the most useful thing it its (very attractive) box was a "Don't Panic!" button that told of the software's heritage. It was good advice.

Alas, at some point the natural language front-end was proven to be pointless, leading instead to visually-accessible databases (led by Reflex, one of my favorite software packages ever) and proto-programming interfaces for databases (SQL, primarily). But an interesting stage of computer history, that's for sure!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

¡Hola DMS!

Well, I've gone and done it. I'm now a grad student, which means I automatically have a craving for Ramen Noodles In A Cup, beer from a funnel and women that can recite poetry from memory. Or something like that.

Actually, I'm a week in and already I'm finding it a mind-expanding experience. Last night, in a design class, we ended up chattering about semantics - and specifically the verbage used to communicate the expansion of meaning for an idea. Hard to explain in a blog, but it was inspiring and fun - thanks mostly to the interesting and embracing style of the professor (Rafael Fajardo).

Today, in our Introduction to Technical Foundations (!) class, there was a discussion about the origins of HCI (Human Computer Interface), going back to the dark ages of Douglas Engelbart and the original mouse. It's hard to believe how close I am in age to that group of Big Brains, but it was great to get the review. Also, it was interesting to see how many of the original "gestures" obviously resonated with the human brain, leading us to embrace the very first methods for graphical selection, movement and alteration.

I leave you there, but beg that you take the opportunity to check out The Demo, a page dedicated to the original demo of the mouse (and some other, not so successful bits) on this Stanford page.


Monday, August 31, 2009

So I'm all over the site today...

Today seems to be Darwin Grosse day on the ol' Cycling '74 site. In addition to (still) being at the top of the front page articles list, Lilli has posted my Jitter Sketching tutorial.

This is a story that I'm pretty serious about, since I want to do more with text-based language constructs, and not all systems have useful text editors. Hence, we roll our own into a nice little OpenGL sandbox. Since more and more of my Jitter work includes interfaces with the Real World, this shows a decent way of providing messagebox-like replaceable parameters with a sensible text-editing environment. Much fun.

This is a total Max-Geek post, but I hope you can enjoy it no matter where you come from...


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just what I needed...

I spent most of last week in San Francisco, working with Andrew Pask on a bunch of secret sauce for an upcoming Max-based product. I couldn't stand the idea of staying in a hotel anymore this summer, so I begged and weaseled my way into staying with co-worker Lilli in Castro Valley. It's a bit of a drive, and I was blazing in early every day to have Andrew lay some clarinet tracks for a production gig I'm doing.

I was leaving every day at 6:30 am. Anyone that knows me will tell you that it is more likely that I'd still be awake at 6:30 than it is for me to be waking up then. Nevertheless, I made the daily trek into the city, braved my way across the Bay Bridge and set up shop at the office for the duration.

If you know where the Cycling office is in San Francisco, you'll also know that it isn't the center of the universe for lively early-morning eats. The office has a coffee/espresso machine, but you know how that goes (coffee that is made for you always taste 10x better than coffee you make for yourself). Luckily, the co-workers clued me into a hole-in-the-wall kiosk for Blue Bottle Coffee at 315 Linden - a half-block away.

Man, was it sweet.

It's basically a garage door that opens to the street, and it features all of the charm of a recycling center. But the staff was extraordinarily friendly, and the drinks they made were perfection. They obviously know what they are doing, and are rewarded with a steady stream of thankful and happy customers.

If you ever find yourself on Linden between 8th and 9th - and I really don't know why in the world you might - you should stop, enjoy one of the best Au Lait's on the planet, and give them your business.

I suspect they'll own the whole block within a year.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

App Store Bloat Monkeys - Part II

Somehow, deep within my secret lair, I had not received word that my favorite App Store Bloat Monkeys (iLike) were bought by MySpace. I am so pleased with this. First of all, it means that they will be dropping turd applications on the Apple App Store by the millions, giving each user of MySpace a chance to irritate Apple into putting forward a more diabolical App Approval process.

But most of all, it teams up two very strong players in the Horribly Eye-Piercing User Interface business. iLike seems to go out of its way to create crap that offends the senses, but they are rank amateurs compared to the MySpace crew; these folks seem to be able to make a graphic UI that only blind people could love. MySpace pages don't really load up on my Mac (I think that the MacBook is attempting to be thoughtful in doing this), so I have to use the Windows box whenever I have to check out some nobody band that dropped me an email.

Designed by aliens to be used by the tasteless.

Ah well, enough of that. Back to coding...


Monday, August 3, 2009

App Store Bloat Monkeys

So, I'm about to send off the SpaceBox app to the Apple Folks, and took a tour through the App Store Music area. It appears the app bot monkeys are alive and at work: the efforts of our friends at iLike inc. They've found some way to snooker money out of artists by making churning out fake "Official Artist" apps that just put up a picture of the artist then overlays it with some junk buttons. Check out this attractive screen shot for "Antje Duvekot" (... yeah, me either ...) as an example:

Um, if I'm really that into Antje, I'd really like to see her face, you know? It's clear that either a sub- or a non-human is churning these things out - they are totally bloating the Music section of the app store - and are notable for all having the same description copy ("This is the official XYZ app for the iPhone or iPod Touch. This app is a must-have for XYZ fans and concert-goers. It helps you keep up with XYZ while you're on the go..."). It also helpfully points out that each of its hundreds of artists are Rated 12+ for:

- Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes,
- Infrequent/Mild Horror/Fear Themes,
- Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor, and
- Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco or Drug Use

Shame, shame, Ms. Duvekot (et. al.).


Friday, July 31, 2009

The Other Kindle

Now that I'm a Kindle Geek, I'm finding that most of my needs are met with the basic device. However, there are a few times when I'd prefer something a little different. Most of these involve either a) I don't want to carry the device with me, or b) I want to use it in the dark.

Along comes the Amazon Kindle for iPhone app, which happens to run just nicely on my iPod Touch.

Slides into my T-shirt pocket, lights up brightly when I'm putting the kids to bed, and downloads effortlessly via the wireless connection. Brilliant work, Amazon - and thanks! Now I can read oPtion$ wherever I want...


Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Last Mapple Watcher...

Yeah, I am apparently the last person in the world to have peed on myself over this bit:

(...embedded here just in case I missed the memo and *you* are the one remaining person to have not seen it...)


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The iPhone-ist

Well, it would appear that I'm on track to become the local iPhone-ist. During my vacations (which inevitably involved a lot of travel to/from family haunts), I normally take on a technical challenge. Last vacation, I learned enough Objective-C to be able to create an OSC-based controller that had buttons, sliders and other goop, all wirelessly connected to my Max patches. Big fun, but nothing ever became of it because it was an example of programming rather than a useful program.

Alas, on my most recent vacation, I decided to go a little further. This time, I had an application in mind: I wanted to make a theremin-like device that would provide either finger or accelerometer control, lock to a user-selected scale (so I could actually, like, play it), and have produce audio. Oh, and have a nice digital delay, since a Theremin without a delay is like Shredded Wheat without milk. Vacation came and went, and I implemented about 80% of the thing. I've been putting in a few weekend hours and now have a feature-complete version of it ready to go. It looks like this:

My wife and all three of my kids are totally into it - they strap on the iPod Touch and the headphones and jam like banchees. I think that is the extent of the market research I need. As for the graphic design, all my iPhone Programming Buddies tell me that I just can't do a default-looking application like this - I need to get a graphic designer involved. My tendency is to say "I want it to work, not to be eye candy", but I think I'm being naive.

Hopefully I'll have the preference done soon and the app on the App Store Real Soon Now. I'll post here (and on FaceBook, and anyplace else that'll have me) when it is done. At least I'll feel like I've made a real instrument here...


Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Useful Economic Indicator...

We've got a dripping faucet in the kitchen, and it has given me a chance to formulate a useful economic indicator for our times. This indicator is:

"What Is The Right Question For The Guy At The Hardware Store?"

Stop 1: Suburban Home Depot.

Go to the plumbing area, act confused, wait for someone to say "Can I help you?". Takes about 15 minutes, giving me ample time to check the use-by dates on plumbing tape and such. Finally a guy comes up and hits me with the question. He's about my age. Grey, sallow complexion, appears to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. I spend a few minutes chatting him up, at which time the Right Question becomes clear:

"What would be the best way to normalize a database of all the part number in my kitchen faucet, assuming a modest sized network and a corporate commitment to Oracle?"

Dude was a 20-year veteran of corporate database administration, and obviously still carried the stunned look of "How the hell did I lose my job?". Asked me if I knew anything available, at which point I pretended I only understood the Dutch language. IT job networking, when you have a "HI, MY NAME IS BOB" badge on your chest is NOT a good idea.

Economic Indicator Reading: It is a real bad time to be a non-specialized IT guy.

Stop 2: Large Ace Hardware

Go to the plumbing area, act confused, wait for someone to say "Can I help you?". Takes about 4 minutes, giving my kids time to find the economy-sized boxes of Nerds near the cash registers. About 5 years older than me, also with a grey, sallow complexion. Also appears to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. After about five minutes of chat, the Right Question becomes clear:

"What is the percentage of customers to your store that are deferring complete kitchen overhauls, preferring instead to replace the 49-cent washer in their faucet?"

The owner of the store is working the floor, but is close to pulling his fingers free of his knuckles from dread. It's clear that this independently-owned store was seeing Death By Small Purchases, as everyone in line in front of me was ringing up orders totaling under $5.

Economic Indicator Reading: People have their purse-strings pulled tight right now, making the retail business a nightmare.

Stop 3: Little mountain-side Ace Hardware

Go to the plumbing area, act confused, wait for someone to say "Can I help you?". Takes about 2 minutes, giving Kristin time to add 15 things to her list of crap to buy. About 10 years younger than me, fit and well-tanned, seeming to hold the world in his palm. After a few minutes, the Right Question became clear:

"You got one of these washers?"

He found it and sent me on my way in about 20 seconds. He had plenty of other people that wanted his help, and he kept it all under control through some secret Jedi Mind Manipulation. People waited quietly for their turn, then got them on their way, too. It was clear that he'd been doing this for 10 years, knew the answer to everything, and was up for a Left Hand Brew as soon as work was done. He didn't hold any expectations, preferring instead to be helpful - and to save his worry for that wicked section of the mountain bike trail that had been kicking his butt for the last two weeks. Saving it up for snowboarding season. No worries.

Economic Indicator: If your life isn't about worry, than now is no better time to worry than any other...

A radical thought.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Father's Day comes early

We are going to be on the road for a summer trip next week, so we celebrated Father's Day early at our house. While the standard holidays and birthdays are big deals for the kids, we make Mother's and Father's Day big deals for the grups; nice presents are given and much pampering ensues.

Daddy (me) got a Kindle 2 for Father's Day this year. I've been desiring one, and it showed up complete with a nice pleather case. It took me about 10 minutes to set it up and order $100 worth of programming manuals and such - I'd been dying to find out how this would work for technical manuals.

It is brilliant, but for a reason that I'd not anticipated. It's nice to be able to get a book in seconds (although, for me, this mostly happens when I'm tethered, since I don't get cell service at my house). It's also nice that the prices are somewhat lower, and that the eInk is easy on the eyes. But there are two things I'd not really considered that make this My New Favorite Gadget: portability and usability.

Portability: Sure, everybody talks about having your library with you as a major selling point. I'd just not realized how much I've suffered until the Kindle. To me, the only thing worse than not having an important book or reference file is having it but not being able to access it. I'm constantly finding myself wanting to reference, for example, the OpenGL SuperBible - only to remember I left it at my office. Or I'm trying to think through a programming problem while I'm on the road, but I don't want to have to crack open the computer, log into the Apple developer site and download Yet Another PDF Reference Guide to remember how something works. Having all of this in a package the size of a journal book (along with my latest Pop Fiction and Pop Economics texts) has been an immediate benefit.

Usability: This is the thing I'd not considered at all: the Kindle is simply easier to read than most of the programming tomes I reference, and is far better than reading a PDF off the damned screen. Let's talk about that OpenGL SuperBible again - it is over 1200 pages, about two inches thick, and literally hurts to hold and read. I plopped this on my Kindle and am reading it much easier than I ever would read the paper text. The search functions are also great, as are the bookmarking and notation features.

It's also nice to be able to have a lot of reference books without a shelf dedicated to them. Frankly, since my wife is a bookseller, we are choking on books. They are everywhere, and we are constantly looking for new places to stash them. Being able to get new books without having to chuck out the old (or build another shelf) is an extra bonus to me.

I'm not sure if the Kindle really represents the future of books, but it certainly is the future of books for me. I just want more of the current programming catalog to make it into this format - because I want to eliminate a few more shelves full of books (even though I'll have to pay again...).


Thursday, June 11, 2009

An iApp worth its hype.

I've been doing a lot of OpenGL programming using Max and Jitter, and I needed something to create some interesting textures. In the past I've used Photoshop, but it was always when someone else was paying for it. I just can't (or don't want to) afford it.

I tried some OS X programs, and never found what I wanted. So often, you are prevented from controlling the size of the canvas you are working on - and that is one of the main things I want to control. Alas, I thought I was stuck.

Then, in a recent article in some advertising-focused newsletter I get, I read a discussion about an iPhone app used to create a recent New Yorker cover. Then I read about it in the New York Times. Geez. All this hype can't be good...

Man, I couldn't have been more wrong. This is a simple app, but one that has a depth that is useful. The drawing is easy, the brush selection is limited (but cool) and the color handling is direct. But the coolest thing? It has a mini web server built in that allows you to log into the device and download any of the images you've created. They don't talk about this much in the articles, but it makes the whole "sync" issue a non-issue.

I run it on my iPod Touch, and couldn't be happier. Brushes Away!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Perfect Sequencer

When I was in Minneapolis (at IPR) doing a bit of Max/MSP teaching, I had a long conversation with a talented and insightful LA-based film/TV composer. We were talking about how we got into Max, and I mentioned that I bought it in 1995 (or so) with the plan of making the ultimate step sequencer. I was obsessed with step sequencers at the time, and couldn't find any software option that could help me.

I'm sure you are wondering why I didn't get me some hardware. Well, nothing new had come out in a while, and while I had a bunch of analog sequencers, they were expensive and not necessarily very flexible.

I bought the Max (and later MSP and Jitter) software, and slowly started working away. Over the years, I had probably have built 100 different step sequencer, and used them for creating a mass of music. It turned out to be a step that informed my whole career.

So, this composer asks me: "Did you find the perfect step sequencer?"

My response was not what he expected. The answer was: "Yes, it is a new sequencer for every use." Frankly, I never found a sequencer that was perfect for every use. But I did find that, by building a lot of reusable pieces that could be easily bolted together, I created a "sequencer toolbox" that could be used to create a custom device for each performance or recording situation that I faced. In doing this, I developed the perfect sequencer for me. I've used it under Wii control, under Manta control, for quickly creating creepy haunted house music and creating jumping dance tracks. This modular approach to step sequencing has also helped me understand the subtle nature of performance interface, and has helped me be a lot more thoughtful about software that I purchase for my own use.

YMMV, but this journey has contained some very valuable rewards.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Overthinking (not Overthinking)

After ignoring the OpenGL parts of Jitter (an extension to Max/MSP) for far too long, I've been putting in some considerable time into it. I'm also doing a lot of reading about critical theory (I'm going to be going to graduate school this fall, and want to bone up), with the result that I'm starting to think about my work from the psychological, Marxist, femininist or whatever critical angle.

So I've done a dozen or so OpenGL patches, and I found that my favorite of the bunch doesn't really have a Marxist viewpoint. Or a femininist, or even postmodernist viewpoint (as far as I can tell). See, I wanted to move stuff around a 3-D grid, and I remembered the crazy looking chess game that Spock was always playing in the original TV show. My end result doesn't look anything like that game - it is really more of a Teutonic structure with marching balls. But I recognize it as stemming from the purest Vulcanic school, beamed to me from the deep recesses of my inner Trekkie.

In otherwords, it seemed most interesting because the only real inner meaning it has is a little joke to myself. Maybe that lack of deep thought is what helped something interesting really come outta me.

And maybe someone's gonna come along and kick my tailfin for being such ignorant peasant.

Darwin Grosse

Saturday, May 2, 2009

An HP Computer + Vista x64 Grrr-ola

Oh My God.

I recently bought a mini-laptop for live music and audio software testing purposes. Normally I'm pretty Mac focused, but a small Windows laptop for on-the-road Acid, Maschine and FL Studio use seemed to be in order. Since most online reviews of laptops tend toward "How Well This Thing Runs Photoshop And Microsoft Word", there was little help for me in finding a good machine at a cheap price.

So, I went trolling the retail outlets. A lot of inexpensive machines either had too-small hard drives, too-ugly screens or too-heavy bodies. Also, most of them felt like crap in my hands. If the machine isn't going to inspire me in any way, why would I bother.

Also, since everything at retail runs Vista, I didn't think I had much to say about the subject. This is where I was wrong. The machine I ended up selecting was an HP Pavilion DV3-1075us: a nifty little machine with tasty looking graphics, a sizeable drive and an OK chipset. The thing I didn't notice at purchase time was the real killer: Microsoft Vista 64-bit Version.

When I got it home, I found the graphics compelling, but the speed rather, um, crappy. A quick peak at the Task Manager told me why: with no applications running, I was using about 40% of the CPU power. Opening any app would immediately spike the CPU usage, and you could literally hear the machine whimper when I put NI's Maschine on it. Two drums sounding (with no effects) was about the limit of its capability. Unacceptable.

So, using the myriad of posts about the subject, I started peeling stuff off the machine. First, it was the zillions of bloatware pieces HP put on it. I realize that this keeps the price low(-ish), but what a pain in the neck. Doing this work made me feel like buying that old Geek Squad shirt I saw at the Goodwill store.

That got me back a little CPU and a lot of disk space, and much more CPU was returned by getting rid of the 30-day Norton Hellhole. I know that viruses are scary and all, but this wasn't going to be a net-machine, so I didn't want to give up a quarter of the functionality to that pigpen. Dumping a lot of HP-specific services (like the one that says "I'm going to eat a whole bunch of CPU - and generate a whole bunch of heat - waiting breathlessly for you to put a DVD in the drive so I can give you a 13" version of a cinema screen") gave me a bunch back as well. I tried dumping the Aero graphics, but geez that looked ugly in comparison.

I got to the point where Maschine, Acid, Sound Forge and other goodies was running reliably. However, this machine has some pretty crap audio stuff going on (again with the "focused on DVD playing" approach), and I wanted to use a higher-quality audio interface. Not a single interface I have - and I've got ten or twelve - would work on this machine. No matter what I did, there either crackling or freezing (or sometimes both), and I was steaming. Add to this being under deadline for reviews on Acid and the Waldorf Blofeld, and you can imagine that I was ready to return the machine (even though the return window was already gone, I suspected I could threaten to throw it through the front window and get at least half my money back).

Then I got to thinking: this seemed like a rather puny machine to be running Vista x64, but there was really no option to run XP (something that HP and everyone else warns about due to unavailable drivers). But could dropping to Vista x86 (32-bit) work out? I spent some time with my friend and coworker Andrew Pask, and we decided that it was worth the effort. I could either download it from MSDN, order an x86 set of disks from Microsoft or buy a retail package. I chose the latter, since "time = money" right now, and set about upgrading at 10pm last night. At 5am this morning, it was done (along with app installs). All of my software works beautifully. Hardware seems to be fine. NI's Service Center doesn't even blow up on me (a remarkable thing)!

In reviewing the evening with my wife, she remarked on how every new version of Microsoft OS inevitably leads to some number of all-nighters. Whether it was the boned-up Windows 3.0, my initial Win95 debacle, helping my dad with WinME or my sister with WinXP, it all added up to one or more sleepless nights. Now this - what crap.

Alas, I can't blame this on Microsoft (much). HP made a plethora of bad decisions with this machine. 64-bit Vista was a big mistake. Ditto for the 80 lbs. of bloatware included with the machine. I've had good luck with HP machines in the past, and I hope to buy from them in the future. But here is my strong recommendation to HP for future computer systems:

1. Find someone that knows something about OS performance and have them choose the version you will use. Microsoft won't help, nor will whatever salesman buckethead that put x64 on the DV3-1075. This is a technical choice - get a good technical person to do it right.

2. Stop with the crapware already. I'm sure the HP Experience is important to you, but having fifty applications fight for control of the optical drive and the audio card isn't helping. I just wonder what people like my parents (60+ years in age) do when they get a box like this. Well, apparently they call someone like me, or the Geek Squad.

3. Norton is no longer a choice. Not that McAfee and friends are doing that much better, but Norton is neither good for the user nor good for your user experience. Most Norton installs represent a full onslaught of dialog boxes, downloads, flashing dock items and blitzed DSL communications. Is this the experience you want?

I'm sure that I represent a negligible portion of HP's business model, and Accountants Worldwide really wants all of this crap on the computers they buy for their droids. But for me (and the 20-or-so people that ask me about what machine to buy), HP is no longer worth considering. Do I like the 1075? Oh sure I do, but at this point, I've probably done more work on it than HP ever did, so I consider it a "DDG DV3-1075us" rather than anything I bought off the shelf.

And that's a pity.


Saturday, April 25, 2009


What a couple of weeks!

I've had the opportunity to attend or speak at three different events in the last two weeks. It started off with a performance by Noisefold (David Stout and Cory Metcalf) at the Gates Planetarium (at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science). Fantastic waves of sound, beautiful transitions and eye-popping graphics. It was really good to see a live cinema show that showed taste as well as technology. These guys kick it out...

A few days later, it was the CommuniKey Festival of Digital Arts and Electronic Music in Boulder. I did an introduction of Max for Live that was really well received, and got a chance to sit in on a few other people's work. The weekend was messed up by the incredible storms we had: 48" at my house (in the mountains). I couldn't get home that evening, so I stayed with Mike Metlay - who promptly wired me up for a WonderVU live performance on This was one of our best sessions yet, and I hope to make the performance available for download Real Soon Now.

After spending the next few days digging out the family, I buzzed out to San Francisco for Cycling '74's Expo74. This was simply an overwhelming experience. 120 people all buzzing with Max-Love, and I got to do the second presentation of the first day. This introduced me to a lot of people, and made for a very social interaction with people. I also got a really nice reintroduction to Jitter shaders by Mr. Shader (Andrew Benson), and saw a ton of amazing work by other Max users. Also, during the Science Fair portion, I ended up getting sucked into the job of helping to show off Jeff Snyder's Manta device. I'll tell you what I told them - it is simply the best control device I've ever used as an instrument. It doesn't require active touches (like a Monome), but still has enought texture to be instrument-like (unlike, say, a Lemur). Brad Garton was showing off his Eddie Van Halen-like Manta/Max combo, while I did my little autoharp emulation. Eddie vs. Melonie - guess who won.

I'm exhausted, and anxious to get back to the mountains so my boys can jump on my chest for a while. But I'm buzzing with energy right now.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Maybe I found an instrument...

I've had a very difficult background with musical instruments. My first was the piano, coupled with literally the worst piano teacher in the world. How can you take 8 years of piano lessons and not know the three notes of a C chord? Mrs. Kottke, you deserve a swift kick, you stupid hag.

Next was elementary music (with the Flute-o-phone) and beginner band. I really, really wanted to play the saxophone, but my uncle played baritone (basically a mini-tuba); my parents pushed me into that instrument because they wouldn't have to pay the $12/month for an instrument rental. I hated it, it took up the first two seats of the bus ride home (making me Major Hated Man), and the mouthpiece was big enough to fit over my whole head. Not a fan.

Next up was guitar (a Christmas gift - basically, the guitar shown here), and another inept teacher. I wanted to strum like the kids at summer camp, and I had a teacher that wanted me to do classical style guitar. Didn't work out too well on my Eko steel-string guitar. And it made me hate guitar.

The next summer, I was wasting time by reading the classified ads at the back of Popular Mechanics magazine when I ran into an ad for "Learn Bluegrass Guitar". I didn't know what the heck they were talking about, but I thought that maybe it was the stuff I heard on Beverly Hillbillies. Of course, I was thinking about banjo, but the book I bought taught me a ton about playing the instrument in a way I could enjoy. I ended up becoming quite the hot bluegrass guitar player.

Of course, being a decent bluegrass player didn't really fit a 17 year-old man/boy's concept of cool. Bought an electric, spent a lot of time on it and got moderately competent on it. Wasted my early college time playing the instrument, then toured with a group and got twisted up. Once I'd decided I could be better, I decided to go to North Texas State to study jazz.

What a freakin' mistake.

I ended up getting phenominal technique, but I was about as musical as a log. I also developed a horrible case of performance anxiety, leading me to drop out of school, music and a social life. Years later, I started playing again, but it just never spoke to me again. With the "new" MIDI software world, I got entranced by synths, drum machines and effects boxes. It fit my technical nature, but there was just not the visceral playing experience that I craved.

A few years ago, our local church needed a bass player. I decided to chip in, bought a bass rig, and started playing. It was a revelation; I found that I could "hear" the lines I wanted to play (rather than calculating an appropriate scale/chord/mode combo), and directly play them without excessive thinking. I started playing with any band that would take me, and have done a lot of gigs over the last few years. People appreciate my playing in a way they never did on guitar, and I'm a face-full-of-grins every time I play the thing.

Perhaps, after all this dorking around, I finally found an instrument that provide a personal voice, is fun to play, and provides the social "in a band" sort of interaction I'd been looking for. So where was this thing when I was 17?


Monday, April 6, 2009

Why I hit my TiVo unit with a crowbar this evening...

Ah, the finals of the men's NCAA tournament. The culmination of a couple of weeks of stress, all leading to this evening's game. March madness indeed.

Unfortunately, I had to watch the kids while my wife got beat up at a soccer game. But it's OK - that's why I have TiVo, right? I watched the first half live, then set the machine to record the second half while I put the boys to bed. After everyone was snoring, I flipped it on, started at the second half, and prepared to beg for the possibility that Michigan State could come back.

They actually made progress, although I hear that they lost. Why don't I know for sure? Because some dumb-head setting the TiVo schedule decided that the game would be a 2:30 match, and my machine dutifully kicked out after two and a half hours. Sadly, there was still 4:27 left on the clock.

I've had this happen in the past for football games and other sporting events - and I just don't understand how they could make this mistake. Given that after the game is done we just have local news and other goop, how about we say the game might last 3 hours? How about 10 hours?

This is a case of a massively screwed up value system that places "sort of correct" ahead of "not stupid". To the idiot at TiVo Central that decided a championship basketball game couldn't go over 2:30, I say this:

There is one game like this every year. One game. There are about 40 evening news broadcasts in the Denver market every day. The David Letterman show has been on continuously since the dawn of time, and is shown every day. Next time you need to make a decision about what is likely to bother me, you can fucking assume that it won't be "Oh no, I didn't get to see the Channel 7 newscast this evening! What about that kittie that got caught in the tree!"

I want to see the game. The whole game. As it stands, I feel within my rights to state that TiVo simply doesn't work if you are a sports fan that needs to time-shift your viewing. Until these chuckleheads can figure out relative value among programs, they are simply going to be targets for the nearest piece of iron I can get my hands on.



Why I love the mountains...

Here's a little picture explaining why I love living in the mountains - despite the limited access to modern conveniences. In the last week, we've gotten about 30" of snow, making things even harder to deal with, but a whole lot more beautiful.

This isn't a great place to live if you don't like snow, or you don't like extreme weather, or you want to live within spitting distance of a Target-anchored mall. But if you like beauty and quiet, it can't be beat.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Chillin' on Saturday Night

I was trolling around my drive this evening, wondering what to listen to while I was typing. Then I remembered that one of my favorite web-transmissions does a live show on Saturday night (in fact, I've actually played live a time or two). provides 24x7 ambient music, with occasional live productions by talented and interesting DJ's. I happened to tune into a show featuring a beautiful performance by my friend Mike Metlay - always a cool treat. In addition to hearing the action, Stillstream has a live chat that includes the DJ, various artists and other ne're-do-wells that keep the evening hopping.

If you enjoy ambient music in its various incarnations, you owe it to yourself to check out Stillstream. When there isn't a live show, Wally the Ambient Robot serves up tracks from various sources, so you always get to hear a treat.

Highly recommended.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

The best $15 I spend each month...

My last post was about something I dislike a lot: Twitter-love. This time, I'm going to talk about something I like for a change, and it is something that most of the pundits have written off as dead. It's clear that I don't line up with said pundits, since I consider the $15 I get charged each month (actually, it's really $13 and change...) to be the best money I spend.

This thing is Rhapsody, the music subscription service.

Steve Jobs has declared the subscription model to be idiotic, while almost every "wired" reporter has pointed out that iTunes proves the pointlessness of any other service on the net. I'm not sure about 14 year-old girls, goatee-toting hipsters or people with unlimited wads of cash, but it works for me. Let me tell you why...

My life is surrounded with music: I work for a music software company, am a journalist covering music and recording techniques, performing and recording artist and recording engineer. I live and breath music and music-making. In addition to doing this stuff, I also spend a lot of time reading and talking about music. Often (and by often, I mean daily), a musical group or genre will come up in conversation, or in a book or magazine, and either I've never heard or can't easily recall.

I could just assume that I know what this sounds like and forget about it, or I could track down the music. It's just not that easy to track it down - especially if you don't want to spend $0.99 everytime someone remembers to burp out a recollection of some band's output. By spending the money on a Rhapsody subscription, I now have unlimited access to everything they have available - and it's a pretty impressive stack.

Some examples:

- I was reading an forum post about engineer Phill Brown, and his work on the Talk Talk album "Laughing Stock". I had a good friend that was a huge Talk Talk fan, and I remember listening to a lot of them - but a long time ago. Popping into Rhapsody had me enjoying this amazing gem of an album in 10 seconds flat.

- Listening to Gregory Taylor's RTQE radio show, I was reminded of an old obsession with Jon Hassell. I needed a fix, and my vinyl collection had been destroyed (in a horrible accident which I will recall sometime later) a long time ago. Checking in with Rhapsody, I found 13 of his 19 albums were available, giving me access to 76 tracks. Hassell marathon!

- I was wondering what my friend Matthew Curry (Safety Scissors) was up to. Since most of his work is on teeny-tiny labels, I was wondering if there would be anything on Rhapsody at all. Checking it out provided only a few tracks (but it did let me listen to his Fridgelife work), but jumping over to the Minimal/Glitch genre listen gave me a re-introduction to Oval's work, and a chance to listen to Thom Yorke' "The Eraser" solo work. I'd heard he did a release, but had never checked it out.

I, like almost everyone else, have the tendency to park myself on a favorite CD or iPod artist and leave it honking for weeks on end. Rhapsody allows me to track trends, catch up with past interests and lend an ear to new artists. Is that worth $15 a month?

Hell, yeah.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All-a-freakin' Twitter

OK, I'll admit it. I don't want to be bothered. I don't want to know when you are about to enter the train, and I don't care that you found the most wonderful scarf at the Goodwill Store.

So please, I beg of you, don't ask me to get Twitter'd.

Anyone that has ever seen my book or record collection (or even gawked at my favorite links on my browser tools bar) will realize one thing - I prefer substance over surface. Hence, there is nothing you can really tell me in 140 characters that is going to interest me in the least.

But for whatever reason, Twitter is getting the buzz. It has already passed my "Aunt Valerie" test: nothing is truly ubiquitous until Aunt Valerie starts using it. As an example, I knew Facebook was going to be worth a zillion bucks when she started Friending every relative I've got, and now shares about 20 pictures (of grandchildren, of course) a day. Now, I get to find out when Aunt Valerie is about to hit the mall, or when she is about to start watching General Hospital.

I get asked about Twitter at least twice a day, always answering: "It's big, people are into it, and I will never do it." Perhaps I'm just a Cranky Geek, but the last thing I need at any given moment is a Virtual Stool Sample of your life. You know what I'd rather have? A nice email, maybe every month or two, letting me know about the important stuff that is going on.

If nothing else, that will remind me that you are an interesting and deep person, and that I'm glad to know you - something no Tweet will ever do.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Initialization - please wait...

Yeah, it's time that I started getting serious about putting my every last stupid thought somewhere into the cloud. I finally got my website ( fired up over the weekend, and will be putting my long-term bloviations there. Technology posts will probably still go on my O'Reilly Digital Media blog (although who knows what they're gonna do with it), and my Max programming writing will continue to get posted at C74.

But I do need someplace to put the everyday neuron firings that don't line up with the above contents, and I can't be bothered with Facebook's goofy blogging thing. The last thing I want is for my Very Important Thoughts to get bunched up with my Aunt Valerie's gushing about her latest great-grandchild.

I'll post something real Real Soon Now.