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On Sunday, I hosted a circuit bending workshop called "Haywire" with Dorkdbot Portland at PNCA.

haywire

There is some more detailed information over here and I have posted some pictures over here and added them to the DorkbotPDX flickr pool.

Overall, things went really well! There was a sizable turnout (35 or 40ish benders) and most seemed to really be enjoying the workshop. We encountered a hitch at the start involving lack of power and fire marshals, but things got rolling and people got into it. Although I forgot to start the recorder for my 30 minute introduction talk, I did record a couple hours of silly and chaotic ambient audio from the event. I hope to convert it to mp3 sometime soon and make it available online.

This was my first time putting on a workshop, and I certainly stood to learn a few things. Like:

  1. Arrive earlier than you want to. I showed up about 15 minutes early, which was right around the time everybody else showed up. It was nice to have the help carrying equipment, but I would have been less overwhelmed with more time.
  2. Check power before the workshop starts.
  3. Set clear ground rules about taking toys to hack. That is -- if you take it from the bin, you take it out of the building. I ended up hauling away a seizable tote full of half hacked or otherwise busted items. Ug!
  4. Have dedicated helpers on-hand to answer questions and run errands. If 40 or so people want to pick your brain, you're going to have a hard time...helpers can, uh, help!
  5. Try not to span a mealtime or schedule a break or provide food. If people leave, it can break up the momentum and worse, they might not come back.

I also probably should have prepared a few simple diagrams/tutorials that showed some basics, such as adding a line-out. Hopefully there will be a next time, and hopefully lessons learned will lead to a smoother workshop! Thanks again to everybody who signed!

This is what the internet is really all about -- collaboration! A really generous German guy named Stefan fixed a deficiency (bug?!) in my NRPN abstractions. Thanks Stefan!

nrpn patches

Previous versions wouldn't allow for controller numbers greater than 127...which is like half the point of even having NRPN (the other half being data values > 127). In any case, his modifications were somewhat simple and necessary and I incorporated them into and updated my pd abstractions page.

In order for me to confirm that the abstractions do what they claim, I used my BCR2000 control surface. I stumbled for quite some time with the nrpn_out.pd code, because the BCR200 was just absolutely refusing to recognize NRPN for a controller above 127. I hooked up a software midi dump (amidi -p hw:2,0 -d) to confirm that the bytes coming out of pd were as expected, and they were.

I feared that my controller was maybe shot or in a funky mode (everything else was working fine tho), and I tracked down a firmware update on the Behringer website. As is usual with this kind of firmware upgrade, it is a miserable Windows-only application, and I ended up resorting to using my wife's laptop to run it. Just once I'd like a manufacturer to properly support Linux...and if that's asking too much, just release the source and let people know how they can write their own. Trust me, given the code or at least a description of how to get the bytes into the device (protocol anyone!), the community will friggin build it for you!

Once the firmware was upgraded, the BCR2000 instantly started recognizing its incoming NRPN messages for controllers above 127. Goodie!

Thanks again for Stefan for helping out and contributing back to a community. It's exactly that kind of thing that helps make things better for us all.

There are certain circumstances (like an office job) that might force you to wallow in the disgust of using Windows on a daily basis. If you're anything like me, you get quickly annoyed by the lack of certain usability features that exist in other superior environments.

At least for me, AutoHotKey to the rescue.

AutoHotKey

Apparently I wasn't the only one who missed the super important alt-drag move/resize features that exist in KDE and other windowing systems. This kind geek has hacked up a script for AutoHotKey that, when activated, allows alt-drag functionality to start working again.

And work it does! The install was simple, straightforward, and it worked on the first try. I was even able to drag the shortcut into my startup folder, and so I now have proper window functionality without even thinking about it. Major kudos to the author!

I haven't yet found the need/desire to monkey around much with any other scripts for or features of AutoHotKey, but it certainly seems like a powerful and free tool. Getting this hack going in Windows has been a real help at work, so I thought I'd share the success story.

Ok, so I'm really really not a media blog. But I had this amazing nostalgic experience, and I thought it was worth sharing. Of course, there's youtube involved:

pixies-velouria

You see, the Pixies are probably my favorite traditional 4-piece rock band, and there was this clip that I recorded (on videotape) way back when I was in college. The tape is long gone, but my memories of this performance certainly are not. Like so many of us rapidly aging thirtysomething fools, I've been hoping to track down this clip, and once again, youtube came to the rescue.

In spite of all its flaws (censorship, terrible quality, advertising), it really is a genuinely amazing resource.

This clip is, quite possibly, to me anyway, the epitome of pre century original rock based perfection. It is sheer beauty. It is a postmodern mishmash and hee haw of amazement. Yes, Kurt wanted to sound like the Pixies, and this is exactly fucking why. What year was it when YOU heard of a band called Nirvana?

It's quite subtle, but there are some serious gems in this short clip. It's shot in beautiful B&W, and the camerawork and direction are beautiful and intimate. You see, even in 1990, this kind of real artistic expression, even on MTV, was starting to become hard to come by...but the sound here is very loud and tinny abrasive surfy chord progressions juxtaposed with Joey's brilliant vibrato and Kim's haunting flat chants. There is real discomfort, and there is opposition. The camera shots are SO SUPER CLOSE and what seems impossibly intimate only goes on to PULL IN TIGHTER. The head shots are generally way too high and the drum shots are downright OVERHEAD. It seems like sometimes the focus is on the instruments themselves and, in several cases, the lights themselves.

The real gem for me, though, is Charles's off-timed expression between phrases ("finally through the roof") around 1:40 ("and how does lemur skin...?"). It struck me as a thing of perfection in 1990, and it has stuck with me now for almost 20 years.

Charles has commented that this was internally referred to as the "Led Zepplin" song...but once again, this performance goes to show exactly why it is so much more. So many Pixies fans have talked down the later albums, including "Bossa Nova", but I think that this simple clip should serve as redemption!!! This really is a noteworthy piece of perfect rock music history!!!

Late last night I posted a first version of my Perl-based serial packet app for talking with the CrystalFontz 635:

crystalfontz in perl

It's not rocket science, but there just really aren't very many working implementations out there, let alone working implementations that allow one to save the LCD state as the boot state. It's certainly not feature complete, but it does what it does and it actually works.

The app was built with the express purpose of configuring the CF-635 in my audiopint before LCDProc is able to take over. It certainly makes the startup/boot sequence nicer, and it allows me to start LCDProc later in the boot sequence, maybe even asynchronously.

The next step now is to build a small set of puredata (Pd) abstractions to talk directly to LCDproc via the netsend socket abstractions.

After more than a year, Infiltration Lab has released a new 3" CDR.

incisor

As always, mp3 audio is freely available for download from from archive.org. (Although apparently right now there's a problem with the post, ug. Will update later when the dust settles...sorry).

This little abstract recording is a 22 minute trek into the insufferable human psyche. It was composed mostly for several pure data (pd) patches and instruments (like the cracklebox and atari punk console) that I built earlier this year. The foldout covers are printed in full color, and the CD labels were each individually hand drawn and painted.

All things considered, I'm pleased with the final recording product. I do wish I would have spent more time on the final mix (the sound/range is a bit low, so crank it up loud!) and made things a bit louder, but the end result is a rich dynamic range balanced on a lofi string of radio and electromush.

Noisybox blog, software updated
Friday, November 23rd 2007 11:23pm
Tags: blogging url rss tagging web

After some digging, I determined that it's been just about 3 years since I really updated the blog software on noisybox.net. I've long been kicking around the idea of making things better by replacing the cryptic ampersand-get-query-parameter syntax with something a little easier on the eyes (and fingers)...but I kept pushing it back and calling that effort worthless or kinda silly and unnecessary. But a few weeks ago at a Dorkbot meeting, my friend David enthusiastically asserted the opposite: This wasn't an unimportant undertaking. By his assertion, constructing meaningful URLs is fundamental to how the web works.

The more I started looking around, the more I discovered that damn near every modern, frequently-updated site was using URL path syntax for permalinks. There was certainly a trend afoot, and it seemed that only the aging and decrepit sites (like mine!?) still used the kooky HTTP GET syntax. I needed to bring the site up to snuff...something had to be done.

So I put in the time, made the code more modular, made it better, and after fighting PHP and Apache...viola...we now have nicely scoped and well defined URLs that correspond to blog entries.

I've also implemented a first pass at tagging my (new) entries with categories. This also includes having categories in the RSS feed that get populated with the tags. You see, once again, I'm late jump on the bandwagon, but I've been thoroughly convinced now that tagging is a workable, useful, and important (if not critical) way to help define a taxonomy for the web.

Maybe now I'll be more inclined to post more often and provide better content!? Hah...we've heard that before.

I've concluded that although my approach to blogging (yes, I've finally allowed myself to *say* the word) has changed over the years, it hasn't changed enough. Part of my lack of posting can be attributed to some weird sense of pressure, or a need to "get caught back up" and to somehow capture all that's been going on. Although it was my intention at the time, far too many of my past entries have been imprecise and just jump around two or three recent happenings. That's fine -- but I'm now making a clear attempt to focus. I'm starting to understand the value in having 3 separate posts about 3 topics rather than lumping them all into one single, often hurried whammy.

Gone are the days of non sequitur irrelevant subjects. Long live the new order. The theme is now this: More frequent, more relevant.

There are two key nice-to-have features that I haven't yet built. The first is tag-based filtering, or the ability to filter by one or more tags. This also implies the ability to create dynamic RSS feeds for any tags that exist on the site. Powerful powerful stuff. The second is date-based selection, so that blog entries can be viewed based on their year, month, day. I'm saving those for another day, likely after I rework the photo gallery sections.