Monday, December 31, 2012


It's been a year, but I still miss you every day, Dad.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Fiscal Cliff" My Ass!

Personally, I think this entire "fiscal cliff" thing is a load of bullshit that's designed to raise taxes and do other unpopular economic things -- mostly to the poor / lower class and middle class -- while attempting to cover up the identities of exactly who did what.

I thought this was a very interesting article:


"Proponents of trickle-downism will argue that the little-taxed corporate executive will in fact share his wealth by spending it, and that his purchase of goods and services will drive economic growth more efficaciously than mere giveaways would. But it turns out that the executive doesn't spend more, or not enough more for his increased spending to be helpful to the economy $(Ofo (Br the simple reason that he doesn't need to. In the hands of rich people, money moves slowly. That's what it means to be rich: you have more money than the cost of all the things you need or want. A poor person, by contrast, needs more than he can afford. The poor therefore spend money faster."

[added emphasis is mine]

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Full "Possessed By Evil" Mode

This weekend, for no especially good reason, I was reading the IMDB Parents Guide to the movie Crossroads -- the one with Ralph "Karate Kid" Macchio and Joe Seneca, not that ... thing ... with Britney Spears -- and was surprised to find that the movie had been rated R in the USA. This is a movie with no violence, no drugs, no nudity, less sexual innuendo than you'll find in any random primetime sitcom, and exactly two "F-bombs" -- even in 1986, I can't see how it got more than a PG rating.

Except maybe for this:

Under "Frightening / Intense Scenes": "Steve Vai playing guitar in full 'possessed by evil' mode ... likely to be too much for real young kids."

Hmmmm ... maybe so. As the 'face' of Evil Blues / Rock'n'Roll "Debbil Music", Vai is amazingly effective.

"Jack Butler's gonna like you."

Thursday, November 29, 2012



Thursday, November 1, 2012


For a long time now I've considered Windows 8 to be something of a joke. It's certainly unattractive (to *my* sensibilities, anyway) and almost everything I've read about it seems to indicate that it's going to be a disaster.

But -- a couple of days ago I came across this article:

Jordan Rudess plays MorphWiz on Windows 8 PC and Surface tablet
Here's the relevent video:

Jordan Rudess (aka "the bald guy with the funny beard") is the keyboard player for the band Dream Theatre and he's been involved in music app development for iOS from the beginning. I think it says something -- I'm not precisely sure what -- that he's chosen to port his apps to Win8 and expand into this new territory. And I'm pretty sure MS is happy to have him on-board: he was part of the "keynote" for MS's Build 2012 conference this week.

It's interesting to note that Rudess has conspicuously chosen to jump into Win8 while almost entirely ignoring the Android market.

When I saw the video above that shows him "playing" a 27" Lenovo A720, it made me think that Apple missed a bet in their recent announcement of the next-gen iMac by not including a touch-screen surface. Maybe they will -- but that would mean that for the first time in a long time, Apple is following Microsoft's lead. Speaking purely for myself, a 27" touchscreen / music controller is at the top of my Christmas list. I would really love dual 3-octave "Animoog-style" keyboards with large keys where in addition to simply pressing each key, it has pressure sensitivity *and* you can use the X and Y motion of your fingertip to control a couple of parameters.

My takeaway on this: despite of all the fun that's been poked at Win8, I need to take it more seriously because it's beginning to show some really interesting strengths. I'm not going to ditch all of my Mac stuff and switch to Windows 8 -- but I'm kinda sorry I sold all of my Microsoft stock.

My Friend Cliff / New Science Fiction

I've known Cliff Pickover (his home page - his Wikipedia entry - his Twitter feed - his corporate page - his Amazon page - his Reality Carnival blog) for, sheesh, I think 25 years now? I got to know him via the "SFIDEAS FORUM" when I joined Big Blue, and over the years he and I have collaborated on a number of patents and stuff. It's nice to have old (as in "long time") friends. The strange thing, though, is that during all of that time, I've only met him face-to-face twice.

Still, I classify him as one of my oldest and best friends. In case it's not obvious, Cliff has a fairly substantial writing career going alongside his day job, and of late he's been making a pretty big splash with his "science" series of books: The Medical Book, The Physics Book, and The Math Book. I'd love to see these as interactive eBooks someday.

Basically, he's got that Stephen King "If I don't write I'll die!" thing going on. I'm slightly jealous: I've always figured I had a good novel or two in me. But I find it difficult just to get motivated to write a blog post like this, much less a 500 page book (or a 1500 page trilogy)(my understanding is that these days a lot of publishers won't even talk to you unless you're willing to do a trilogy).

Oh well, I'll live. These days I have no idea how one would go about getting published. All of the free stuff on the web, plus Amazon and other self-publishing options, eBooks ... the business has changed a lot, and it's not done yet, either.

All that said, both Cliff and I like Science Fiction a lot. This morning we were talking about some new writers and swapping some URLs and I thought I'd share a few of them here.

The Fluted Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi - This is from his short story collection Pump Six And Other Stories, which I highly recommend. Be forwarned, Bacigalupi's visions of the future are not entirely pleasant.

Hell Is The Absence Of God by Ted Chiang - Hugo and Nebula winner, 2002.

Exhalationby Ted Chiang - Hugo winner, 2009.

Understand by Ted Chiang - Hugo nominee, 1992.

What's Expected Of Us by Ted Chiang

((Lots of Ted Chiang, I know, but damn he's good. These stories and more by Ted Chiang are in his collection Stories Of Your Life And Others, also highly recommended).

That's all for now. Hope you enjoy the stories!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Call Him Maynard

The latest incarnation of my synth rig, Maynard.

Roberta became unhappy with Maynard camping out in the living room, so I moved him into the office. It's pretty sweet: I mounted the big Apple Cinema display on a swingarm so I can move it up / down / around as needed. You can see the misc hardware; software includes NI Komplete 8, Camel Audio Alchemy, Spectrasonics Omnisphere and Trilian, Logic 9, and a bunch of other stuff - I never met a piece of music software that I didn't like.

Do a Google Image search on "synth porn" and you'll find rigs 10x or more as big as mine. But I'm pretty happy with Maynard -- he's not too big, and he's not too small -- he's just right. I confess that someday I'd like to add a few rows of Doepfer modular (or other Eurorack) components, but for now I'm really happy.

Random Movies and Videos

For no particular reason, brief summaries of a few movies and videos that I've watched recently.

I'll start with the really good stuff: If you aren't familiar with Khameleon808's music montage videos, you're in for a definite treat:

The Apple Tree (featuring
The Glitch Mob)

DubWars: First

He takes the "music video" to places its never been before. Honestly, I think he's invented a new art form. I fully expect this fellow to be snatched up by some major film or music studio any minute.

I've also managed to catch a few rather bleak post-apocalypse movies:

The Day


The Divide

Don't watch these if you're depressed. Two of the movies deal with cannibalism, and all three are explorations of the darker side of humanity. The Day and The Divide were especially memorable -- highly recommended if you've been procrastinating about putting together a cache of emergency supplies.

I also saw a couple of high-quality / low-budget science fiction films of the non-apocalytic variety:

Sound Of My Voice

Another Earth

Both of these movies star Brit Marling (who also shares writing credit). These movies would probably be considered "indie" or "arthouse" films, so they're not for everybody. WIthout giving anything away, both of these films manage to portray a science-fictional world with an absolute minimum of SFX; that is, the emphasis is on the story, and they do a remarkable job of building a world by narrative only. And both of these films have endings that will leave you thinking. Put another way, if you enjoyed Paolo Bacigalupi's short story The Fluted Girl, you'll probably enjoy these movies.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mine All Mine!

Yes! It's a Moog Voyager with Mahogany frame and Electric Blue backlighting.

This may be hard to believe, but I think I'm done with the "hardware acquisition phase". Next step is "system integration".

Just for fun: my current rig (sans Voyager):

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Amon Tobin : ISAM 2.0 Live - 25 Sept 2012

Aidan and I saw Amon Tobin and it was awesome. A pity it was in the worst music venue in Austin (the Austin Music Hall) but it was still mindblowing. Pictures don't do it justice, but I took a bunch anyhow:

Amon Tobin : ISAM 2.0 Live

Friday, August 17, 2012

Amon Tobin ISAM 2.0 - Austin Music Hall - September 25

Amon Tobin : ISAM Live 2.0 from Ninja Tune on Vimeo.

Woot! Aidan and I are going! Have I ever told you what a great kid he is?

This is so awesome I'm not even cheesed off that it's at one of the worst concert venues in the city.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Television *Finally* Begins To Converge (or Goodbye TwonkyServer)

Yesterday, Mr. UPS delivered the following:

A little history: if you're read this blog before, you know that one of my big hobbies of late has been my home "video tank", that is, I've been accumulating lots of video on disk and using DLNA to play movies and etc back on our Sony bigscreen or on the iPad.

R has been wanting a new television for the bedroom for quite awhile, and up until now I've been unable to find a model that meets with (what I thought were pretty simple) requirements: basically, it has to play media (especially MP4 and M4V formats) via DLNA and it has to connect to my home LAN. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently so -- it's only this past weekend that I became aware of the new Samsung UN32EH5300 "Smart TV":

It has built-in Wifi and support DLNA (they call it "All-Share") and the picture is great, too. I realize that snagging the first version of a product can be hit-or-miss, but so far this Smart TV is pretty much perfect.

(Yes, I know I could just use a Roku box or something to do the DLNA / rendering, but I rather like the idea of having everything packaged together into one relatively compact, energy-efficient unit).

For instance, a bonus feature is that all of the "vanilla" features (volume control, changing channels, on / off, etc) are all compatible with our U-Verse remote: there's none of this fumbling about for another remote just because we want to mute the audio. (And that's another problem with the "Roku" solution mentioned above: if I went with a set-top DLNA box, I'd have to deal with three remote controls).

Using the Samsung remote, however, opens up a whole bunch of "Smart TV" functions, most of which I'll never use: there's some kind of Samsung PPV, all kinds of "apps", it'll play NetFlix and VUDU and all kinds of other stuff, there's a web browser, yadda yadda. It's also extremely power-efficient, which is kinda getting to be a "thing" with me of late. But the most important part is the All-Share aka DLNA feature.

Again, as some of you may recall, I have several terabytes worth of video on a couple of Western Digital MyBook Live NAS drives (2TB and 3TB). I'm a little bit embarrassed to say that I'm running out of space. Which leads us to the aforementioned Western Digital My Book Live Duo 6 TB Personal Cloud Storage drive. Yeah, 6 terabytes. It's actually 2 3TB drives that are mapped to act as a single drive. Optionally you can set it up in RAID1 to do content mirroring between the two drives -- but I'm going for maximal storage space since (insane and distrustful person that I am) I do my mirrored backups "manually".

So now I've got 3 NAS drives online, code-named "BabyBear", "MamaBear", and "DaddyBear".

And here's where I've got Good News and I've got Bad News. I'll start with the Bad News:

I've been relying on TwonkyServer 5.1.9 for awhile now, mostly because it was pre-installed on the 2TB and 3TB NAS drives. Path of lease resistance and so forth. But even with tweaks, it was still kinda glitchy. In fact, it was so glitchy that attempting to use TwonkyServer with the new Samsung tended to drive the teevee firmware off into la-la land: it'd lock up so tight that I literally had to pull the plug on it to get it to "reset". That's the Bad News.

The Good News is that the new PapaBear 6TB drive comes with a new, improved DLNA server. At this point I don't know much about it: where it comes from, how to configure it, etc. But the one thing I do know is that it works flawlessly with the new television. It streams MP4 and (unDRMed) M4V files like a champ. I need to do some digging and testing to see how well it works on MKV, AVI, MOV, and other popular formats. But since the vast majority of my video collection is in MP4 and M4V, I'm pretty happy with things at the moment.

Oh, one last thing: the television also has a USB input, and you can plug in a USB thumb drive (or, reportedly, a USB external disk drive) and play movies from that, too. Although it only shows files with an MP4 suffix. I found that changing the suffix from M4V to MP4 makes the files appear, and they play just fine.

I hope that I don't appear to be shilling for either Samsung or Western Digital. Really, the reason I'm posting this is in hopes of helping other people -- and I'm pretty sure they're out there -- find compatible components. Lemme tellya, that is a non-trivial exercise. I don't know why, but there appears to be a rather large "hobbyist" crowd out there who are looking to push the bleeding edge of Audio / Video, and they seem to be almost completely ignored by whoever does the marketing for Sony, Panasonic, LG, etc.

So I hope this proves helpful to people "out there". I'll likely be posting more as I learn more and get more familiar with the hardware. But so far, I'm extremelyl happy -- this is as near perfect a setup as I've managed to build so far.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

We See "The Hunger Games"

Saturday I took the family to see The Hunger Games at the local cinema.

I give it a "meh".

It was an admittedly decent book-to-movie adaptation, which was likely made quite difficult by knowing that 99.99% of the people who will see the movie have read the book at least once (and probably more than once), and if you get any little thing wrong, it'll be all over the blogosphere. I especially thought they did a good job of keeping things moving. For instance, there's a long, nausea-inducing section of the book where Katniss and Peeta make relationship talk that was excised, and that helped a lot.

On the downside: the production design was awful. A lot of the architecture and room interiors seem to have been taken from the ST:TOS school of design: lots of bare flat concrete surfaces, etc. Not a lot of pictures are available online yet, but look at this one of Donald Sutherland as the Evil President Snow:

Is that a cheap set or what?

Also, I've been reading misc stuff talking about all of the fashion design that went into this movie, and -- I just don't see it. First off, the decadent Capitol socialites just looked silly: it was like somebody's 'vision' of The Future was "everybody wears odd-colored hair, eyeshade, and eyelashes". I'm sorry, I'm a huge Science Fiction geek, and I've seen futuristic decadent socialites done well. On Fhloston Paradise in The Fifth Element, for example. Or check out this recent vodka commercial. I could go on, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that, fashion-wise, the movie seemed about as inspired as an episode of Space: 1999.

Secondly: as much as the book and the movie made a Big Effing D out of how Katniss was "The Girl On Fire!", the fire SFX were laughably bad; I was reminded of the "Stonehenge" scene in This Is Spinal Tap. I was expecting something more like Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four. What was the director thinking?

I also had "issues" with the control room design:

I'm sorry, but you don't put displays flat on a desktop surface. Or maybe the government of Panem was so irredeemably evil that they wanted their tech people to have permanent aching necks and backs.

Sadly, the one piece of production design that I really liked got less than 5 seconds of screen-time, and that was the "hovercraft". It was awesome. Unsurprisingly I can't seem to find a single decent picture of it.

In summary: "meh". It's not a bad movie, and I'm sure that most fans of the book will enjoy it. But it doesn't achieve "classic" status like, say, Titanic or The Matrix or Alien or even Harry Potter. In twenty years it'll probably be as well-remembered as, say, the first Fletch movie.

Friday, March 23, 2012

New iPad - Week One

So I've had a week with my New iPad (64GB black w/ Verizon 4G LTE). I wish I could say that it's rocked my world, but the truth is, New iPad is more "evolutionary" than "revolutionary". I hope that doesn't sound negative, because it's certainly not meant that way: fitting 4x as many pixels into the screen and not raising the price or diminishing the battery life is a pretty darned amazing feat. It's just that the higher resolution in and of itself is probably not going to significantly raise your pulse rate. Maybe an app or apps will appear that truly take advantage of the resolution, but I haven't seen one yet.

My family's reception to the New iPad was pretty much what I expected: they all think it's pretty but the kids are still in love with their new iPhone 4S's and R wants to wait for the smaller form factor iPad rumored to be released later this year.

I was somewhat surprised that the high resolution display -- the one thing I'd really been waiting for -- didn't just amaze and astonish me. I thought it would have me huddled on the couch, speechless save for uttering the occasional Neo-like "woah!", for at least a week. But no.

Don't get me wrong, I like the high resolution, but the new processor is perhaps the most noticable improvement over my original iPad. The device is simply a lot more responsive, and while I used to suffer occasional "stutters" when streaming video, that's no longer an issue.

The 4G LTE / Wifi hotspot is nice, too: I dropped $50 on some bandwidth this weekend while R was driving the family around. Setup was painless (well, the $50 hurt a bit) and the kids were able to connect easily and surf the web on their iPhones as we drove around town. Data speed varied quite a lot (1.0 Mbps to 10Mbps) as we drove around; just sitting here at home I ran a set of speed tests and got latencies running from 57 to 70ms, downloads of 9.3 to 18.0Mbps, and uploads of 1.0 to 4.0Mbps. All in all, better than my home Wifi. I just wish it weren't so darned expensive. I hate metered plans. It reminds me of when I was a kid, and long distance telephone calls were charged by the minute.

(People have asked me why I don't just get a dedicated mobile Wifi hotspot. YMMV, but when my family travels, we tend to carry waaay to much electronic stuff around: computers, phones, games, etc, and of course each device has at least one cable or charger associated with it. So a combo iPad / Wifi hotspot equates to two or three fewer things to carry around and possibly lose or leave in the hotel room)

I'm also pretty happy about going with the 64GB model -- I can always find more stuff to load onto the device. Perhaps my one major unhappiness with New iPad is that they didn't offer 128GB or 256GB models.

The voice dictation feature (also available on the iPhone 4S and maybe elsewhere) is surprisingly nice. I'm beginning to get into the habit of using it for web searches, and I like it a lot.

I've been seeing numerous articles about "consumer complaints" about the New iPad, and perhaps I'm biased, but most of them are really stretching:

  • "It breaks more easily than previous iPads" -- Until someone does a rigorous test and drops 10 or 20 of each model, I consider this complete BS.
  • "It gets hot" -- Well, yeah, quad-core GPUs will do that. As long as it's within tolerances and doesn't cause thermal shutdowns and / or damage the device, I don't see the problem. And, frankly, every serious iPad user I know has a case wrapped around theirs, which acts as an insulator and also protects the device when you drop it. Not "if" -- "when".
  • "It takes longer to charge" -- Debatable, and even if it's true, you can still get 10+ hours of battery life on a full charge, which is pretty freaking amazing.
  • "My Wifi doesn't work right" -- The only legitimate complaint I've heard so far. Personally I've had no problem with it, but if people have Wifi issues, they need to exchange their devices and Apple needs to address the issue.
  • "I use up too much data streaming movies through 4G" -- Well, *duh*!
  • "It's heavier than previous iPads" -- Yes, by 0.1lbs. Give me a break.

I could go on, but I won't. With the exception of the possible Wifi issue, these all remind me of a whining spoiled child: "... but I wanted a white pony, daddy! This one is tan!" A real "consumer complaint" is "the device won't turn on" or "I've got a bunch of dead pixels" or "the touchscreen doesn't work".

My final verdict: it's a definite win. I mean, they added all this new stuff and kept the price the same. That's pretty frikkin' awesome. Realistically, though: it was a pretty easy "buy" decision for me as an original iPad owner. But if I'd had an iPad 2 ... unless I saw New iPad in person and just fell head-over-heels in love with the display, I'd probably wait for "iPad 4".

Any regrets? Just one: I wish I'd gone for white instead of black. I'll live.

(So what will I do with my original iPad? I'm not sure, but I'm thinking that I might hook it up to my synthesizer rig and use it as a dedicated music device).

Monday, March 12, 2012


There seem to be a number of prime-time "adult fantasies" airing of late:

Touch ("A father who's a cop; a boy who can predict the future. Together they FIGHT CRIME!");

Grimm ("A cop who kills supernatural creatures; A werewolf who's gone vegetarian. Together they FIGHT CRIME!");

A Gifted Man ("He's a talented surgeon; she's his dead ex-wife. Together they ... " Umm, I'm not real sure, I've never watched it);

Once Upon A Time ("An evil queen; a fairytale princess. Together ..." They confuse the hell out of me. I've watched the show several times and I think there's giant plot-arc that pulls the series together but I'll be damned if I know what it is).

As I said above: I've watched Once Upon A Time and I have no clue what's going on. And I used to like Grimm but I'm getting a little tired of it: every week it's basically a variation on the same plot. Apparently some of the people who worked on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel work on Grimm; I sure wish the show had more of an "ensemble" cast (ala Buffy) so every episode didn't revolve around the same two guys.

All that said, I'd like to mention an "adult fantasy" that has great writing, an intelligent premise, and solid, deep characters who hit on every level. That show is NBC's Awake. Wait, I'm afraid the show will get lost in this sea of text I've cranked out. Sooo ... I strongly recommend NBC's


(Thursdays at 10pm EST / 9pm CST).

Seriously, it's a great show, one that really pulls you in: Jason Isaacs (aka "Lucius Malfoy") plays a cop who survives a terrible auto accident, only to find himself living in two parallel post-accident worlds, one where only his wife is alive, the other where only his son survived.

Only two episodes have aired so far, but the plot is beginning to unfold and I don't know what's going on, but it looks like it's going to be fun finding out.

(WARNING: television shows that I like have this tendency to go off the air, so catch Awake while you can)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Drinkin' The Kool-Aid

So today I pre-ordered a "new iPad": this time I'm going 64GB so I'll be able to fit my entire music collection plus apps plus books plus even some videos.

I also went with Verizon 4G LTE capability. This is kind've an experiment, since I've been totally happy with WIFI-only on my first-gen iPad. But given that the "new iPad" -- they have got to do something about that name -- will act as a mobile hotspot, I figure the family can use it when we go on road-trips, etc (lack of Internet has been a problem in the past).

Choosing between AT&T and Verizon was a tough call. In the end I went with Verizon because their coverage seemed better, and reportedly they don't charge extra to use the iPad as a hotspot. And also AT&T already gets waaaay too much of my money -- I want to try the competition.

I only bought one device this time. We'll see how well that goes. FWIW, yesterday R and I got the kids iPhones, so I think their thirst for new gadgetry is satisfied (for now, anyway). R says she doesn't want a new iPad -- in fact, she doesn't use hers much anymore since I got her a Kindle Fire. The Fire has its share of "issues", most notably the battery life is abysmal, but R likes the smaller form factor for reading e-books, which is a lot of what she did with her iPad. So we'll see how that goes. She may see the "new iPad" and change her mind. Or -- what I expect -- she'll hold out until Apple releases the rumored "small form-factor iPad" sometime later this year. I wonder what they'll call that one? "iPad Mini"? "iPad Nano"? "Li'l iPad"? "newer iPad"?

Maybe this is just me, but after Apple's Official Announcement, it seemed like people were ... well, not sad, not unhappy, but ... not happy and elated and stuff. I think this is because many of us had been watching the rumor websites for months before the event, and so -- just like kids who found their parents' stash of Christmas presents -- when Apple finally made the big announcement, it was mostly stuff we already expected. It's our own damn fault, of course, but still ... they could have at least come up with a spiffy name.

All that said, the high-rez screen is the one thing I've been waiting for, and they delivered on that, and so I'm fairly happy. On the other hand: I was hoping for a 128GB version. And it ticked me off that I had to choose between AT&T and Verizon at purchase time. I confess that I am not knowledgable in the area of wireless communications, but -- they couldn't make it one-size-fits-all?

I'll have more in the next week or so after the device arrives and I've had a chance to play with it.

But I really do question their choice (or, non-choice) of name. Calling it "new iPad" begs comparisons with "New Coke". iPad 3 or iPad HD were both fine choices, it beats the hell out of me why they didn't go that way.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Moment

I had a really nice "father-son moment" last night with my son Aidan, who is turning into quite the talented guitarist.

The musical landscape is a lot different today than it was when I was a kid. For one thing, there's simply a LOT more music out there: one of the promises that the Internet made good on is the widespread distribution of music by any band or musician, no matter how small. When I was a kid circa 1973, the music you were exposed to was largely determined by the local radio stations and your friends. Nowadays that sounds like a bad, restrictive thing, but it made things simpler, and despite the hate that the recording industry gets nowadays, they actually did a reasonably good job of promoting bands that were actually good: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Yes, Jethro Tull ... I could go on, but if you were a teen in the 70s, you know what I mean.

(Oh, there were some losers in there, too: I grew up in the midwest and heard waaaaay too much REO Speedwagon and Lynyrd Skynyrd and ... well, maybe it's just a matter of my personal taste)(just reminiscing, one of the first concerts I went to was a big outdoor thing sponsored by a local radio station, the "KSHE Kite-Fly", and the headliner was the Charlie Daniels Band. And opening for them was Rush. Which is hilarious to me today).

But I digress ... when Aidan started playing guitar, I went out and bought him a nice collection of Led Zeppelin and Rush CDs: IMNSHO, these are two of the seminal "classic rock" bands that every teenaged guitar player needs to hear. And my son did indeed listen to them -- but it was only last night that he actually listened them.

My wife and daughter had gone to bed, but somehow I got to talking with Aidan about Rush's _2112_, and he pulled out the CD and we dropped it into the disc player and listened to the Overture and The Temples of Syrinx and he had his guitar and did a pretty decent job of picking up the chords and playing along.

We are the priests
Of the temple of Syrinx.
Our great computers
Fill the hallowed halls.
We are the priests
Of the temple of Syrinx.
All the gifts of life
Are held within our walls.

(I don't think there is a 15yo boy in the entire world who can hear that and not fall in love with it>

And then we pulled out Led Zeppelin IV and listened to Black Dog and Rock and Roll and When The Levee Breaks and it was great fun for all. Well, okay, my daughter was trying to sleep and she was pissed, and I feel a bit badly about that. But it was a truly wonderful moment for me as a father, and I'm pretty sure my son felt the same way.

These events seem to happen so rarely in my life. But that makes me appreciate them and love them all the more.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Interesting Times

The news has been very "interesting" of late.

I've been a Computer Geek for the vast majority of my life (learned to program when I was 13yo, started using the Internet in 1980, yadda) and as you might surmise, I'm one of those crazy liberal anti-censorship "the internet wants to be free!" kind of people. So I've been watching with interest as the "War For The Internet" heats up, with the (apparently successful) "blackout" protest of SOPA / PIPA:

SOPA / PIPA stalled

Which (I can only hope) may have backfired into the MPAA's face:

Online Petition Targets SOPA Comments from MPAA Chief Chris Dodd on Fox News

(And I'd urge you to join the fun by signing the petition yourself. I like the idea of us "free Internetters" going on the offensive versus simply responding to threats as they appear.)

That said, it looks like the government is fighting back:

MegaUpload raided, founder arrested; Anonymous launches mass DDoS against entertainment companies and US law enforcement

And it's got some people running scared:

Cyberlocker Ecosystem Shocked As Big Players Take Drastic Action

But on the bright side, there's been some good news in the Civil Rights arena:

Supreme Court rules warrant needed for GPS tracking

And there's this not-overly-reported tidbit:

DOJ urges judge to side with plaintiff in Baltimore police taping case

"The right to record police officers while performing duties in a public place as well as the right to be protected from the warrantless seizure and destruction of those recordings, are not only required by the Constitution," Justice Department attorneys wrote in a "statement of interest" filed Jan. 10 in the case. "They are consistent with our fundamental notions of liberty, promote the accountability of our governmental officers, and instill public confidence in the police officers who serve us daily."

Hell yes!

And finally:

US Senator Rand Paul refused a TSA pat-down

I would dearly love to see the TSA get their wrist slapped. Hard.

Alas, SOPA and PIPA are just two of a number of pieces of legislation that threaten the freedom of the 'net. ACTA is yet another, and you could do worse than sign the petition against it. And H.R. 1981, the deceptively-named "Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011" is yet another.

But I'm happy to see Things Happening. And some of them are even Good Things. I'm keeping my fingers crossed about the future, it might be bright.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Favorite iOS Synthesizers

I've spent a somewhat embarrassing amount of money on music and synthesis apps for my iPad. Not all of them are jewels. I won't name any names here, but I'll warn that it pays to shop carefully, and to look at the app developer: is the app developed by one person who's just kinda futzing around with an idea, or by an actual company? The latter is preferable if you are hoping for any kind of support / bug fixes / feature updates.
The exception is, of course, free or $0.99 apps. For $0.99, who cares if the developer lives in his mom's basement in Belarus? (although it's sad to run across a $0.99 app that's *almost* perfect, which you know will never be updated or fixed).
Having said all that, I'd like to attempt to steer you, dear reader, towards the exceptional synthesizer and sound generator apps that I've encountered. Many of these cost $4.99 and up -- but they're worth it. (note: after one buys an app, it can be a bit difficult to determine the current price of the app -- some of my prices might be off.

Animoog for iPad $9.99 - A subtly seductive little synthesizer that didn't really impress me until I'd noodled with it awhile. It has an interesting synthesis paradigm, kind've like vector synthesis over a set of wavetables -- I suspect Moog will continue to add voices to this and really expand the kinds of sounds it can make. Also of note: it has a really charming kind of retro-Buchla keyboard that (among other things) registers the position of your finger along the length of the key, thus offering another control parameter on a per-note basis.

Animoog for iPhone $0.99 - If you just want to stick your toes in the water first, the iPhone version is cheaper and has all the same featurers, just the misc control panels are organized differently for the smaller form factor. This version also runs on the iPad, BTW.

Alchemy free / $14.99 upgrade to Pro - This offering comes from Camel Audio, who have a very solid reputation in the VST and soft-synth biz. It doesn't look like much at first, but if you start playing with it, it "comes alive". I haven't upgraded to Pro (yet) -- the app has a storefront that you can purchase additional waves / sounds for $4.99 a pop. This may sound like a lot but so far I've been impressed: some very high-quality sound design goes into these voices. Mac/PC/VST versions available.

Sunrizer $4.99 - If you can find a better iOS synthesizer for $4.99 -- buy it! But seriously -- you won't find such a thing. Sunrizer has a really great synth "feel" with great sounds for a great low price -- it's one of the best values on this list.

Addictive Synth $9.99 - A bit pricier than Sunrizer -- think of it as Sunrizer's twin brother who's kept in the attic. Great sounds, great feel.

Sylo Synth free / $3.99 upgrade to Pro - An inexpensive app that uses "granular synthesis" to produce sounds. The free version has advertising and lacks a few features, but it'll give you a taste of what you'll get if you go "pro". Not as nuanced as some of the other synths listed here, but one of the better / simpler implementation of granular synthesis I've seen.

Argon $1.99 - A good basic synth that will surprise you with the number of parameters it offers. Not really my favorite but it's a steal at $1.99.

The apps above are all kind've "standard" in that they have keyboards and relatively low learning curves. The apps listed below are "paradigm breakers" that can make some marvelously twisted, complex sounds, but you need to throw caution to the wind and experiment and *gasp* perhaps even read some documentation before you'll feel comfy with them:

Moog Filtatron $4.99 - If the VCS3 was a synthesizer, then I suppose one can call the Filtatron a synthesizer, too. Maybe. The name doesn't matter -- Filtatron is great for making all manner of "soundscapes" - it's difficult to describe. Musical toy or Pro SFX generator? I think it's both.

Jasuto Pro $4.99 - Here's where we really begin to leave planet Earth. Jasuto is a bit like a modular synth in that it allows you to connect miscellaneous sound functions together in an arbitrary manner ... but then it gets weird. One nice feature is that it connects to a user repository where people share their creations. Not for beginners.
Also available as a VST module.

CrystalSynthXT $4.99 - I'm still not really sure what to think of CrystalSynth. It's got a lot of "standard" synthesizer controls, but the controls can be automated and -- well, in the end, you can make all kinds of cools sounds with it. It also has a "morph" function that allows you to "marry" two different patches and listen to what their children sound like.
Also available as a VST module.

Reactable $9.99 - This one is a bit like Jasuto Pro (above) but a bit easier to comprehend. You build small 'systems' out of samples and oscillators and other components, and then let it play. If you do it right, you can build a system that's interactive, ie, where you really can play it by turning the shapes and moving them around. Also like Jasuto Pro: not for beginners.

So far, these are my favorites. There are many many other music apps out there: MIDI utilities, micro-studios, sequencers, alternative controllers, etc. But today I'm limiting myself to synthesizers and sound generation apps.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA / PIPA Blackout Day

“The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.”

- Voltaire

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

AJB, 1924 - 2011

So 2012 has been kinda sucking so far.

Long story short: my father went into the hospital in mid-December and passed away early on new year's eve. Yes, this is Major Suckitude. I -- and my family, and my sister and her family -- loved my Dad a LOT. He had 87 really good years, and over the course of his career he did a lot of good work and had a big influence on many people. So I'm left feeling sad, yes, but also in a strange way, proud of my father. He was a good man. I hope I die as well as him.

Still, it's one helluva cloud under which to start the new year. Work's beginning to start moving, which is something of a relief -- it gives me something to do, something to focus on. But I'm still sleeping a lot more than normal, which I'm going to assume is my own idiosyncratic method for coping with stress / depression. I'll snap out of it, sooner or later. Hopefully sooner.

The rest of my family is, I think, taking it somewhat better than I -- perhaps in part because they stayed in Texas while I hung out with Dad in the hospital in Illinois. This was not an easy decision to make: should I fly my wife and kids out to Illinois? Should my wife drive the kids out? In the end R and the kids stayed home until my father passed, I flew back to Texas, then we all drove back to Illinois for the funeral service. I won't even start to get into all of the thought and argument that went into doing it this way, but we had just visited Dad over Thanksgiving. I wasn't sure there was much value in dragging everyone off to Illinois so they could hang out in an ICU waiting room for 2-3 weeks (Dad agreed, BTW). As it is, through the internet the kids got to talk to Dad, even sent him a video postcard they made, and Aidan played some music for him. It was a tough call, but I think it worked out okay. The kids miss him, and are sad, but not to a pathological degree. Which is, frankly, probably about the way my father would have wanted it.

Yeah, I'm proud of my father, but I miss him a lot. It's going to take some time getting past this -- but isn't that how it's supposed to be?

Love you, Dad.