Older blog entries for dto (starting at number 83)

Project status!! Here is a reply I sent to an inquisitive Octal watcher, who wanted to know if the recent quietness of the project meant it wasn't being worked on anymore. I explained:

Basically the delay is a result of 2 things:

1. Starting graduate school in C.S. and moving to a different city 2. Design revisions + freakouts :-)

The project is not in any danger of being abandoned, and is still very much at the forefront of my mind.

I mention this in the log at one point: I'd begun to get very frustrated with doing certain things in C that would be trivial in a language like Objective-C (part of the GCC suite) and spent a good deal of time investigating the decision to begin coding parts of the system in that dialect. (I dislike C++ and don't think it's a good idea to base new work on it.) I wanted to make sure that nobody would notice my using Objective-C, i.e. no build problems on GNU systems, no re-entrancy problems with the runtime libs, and that sort of thing. At this point it looks 100% safe to use for GNU systems, and I really look forward to cleaning up the code.

In addition, the OCTAL api has had some new (minor) changes inspired by the latest incarnations of some of the other audio plugin API's on linux, as well as standards like DLS.

The two main parts to finish are the sequencer and the GUI. By all means the GUI is the lion's share of the work, even the partial GUI is larger than the core audio engine in code size.

I'm quite prepared to start off by giving patches to you. I've been coding for years and have a CS degree from Rice University (i.e. I know what I'm doing, more or less).

Excellent! Unfortunately this is an awkward time to start someone off on the main system, especially considering that what's currently in CVS is about to undergo some big restructuring. (I *looove* refactoring.) This is one of the reasons why I tend to steer people toward writing plugins---its interface is already defined, and doesn't require any of the paperwork involved in contributing significant code to a GNU project.

I've got design documents and such for the parts of the main system that aren't implemented fully yet (i.e. remainder of the GUI, and the sequencer) stored in a Wiki but they're in rather raw form mostly. I got involved with collaborative software design thru a wiki before, and frankly I found that a lot of Wiki pages got written instead of code :-).

There are two main priorities now:

1. For myself to finish that last 30% that needs finishing, and to document the code. That way people will have an idea of how things are organized and the architecture will be basically stable---things that will make it easier for folks to contribute on the core in the future.

2. For folks to write plugins and fool with them. Unfortunately the API is still under minor revisions, and some troubles with the C++ plugins have made me consider dropping the C++ wrapper (linking problems, and it's a hack anyway.) But the API is pretty close to final, and I feel that the documentation we've got for it is pretty good.

Shopping Report, Music Review, Bitchfest, and More

More shopping, more clothes and CD's. I'm entranced by Stereolab's Peng: the sequence of tracks 1-4 really gives me chills. Here and there the production reminds me of sounds Radiohead would use nearly a decade later on Kid A and Amnesiac. I found it hard to believe Peng was from 1992. And I love the weirdness of Mars Audiac Quintet.

I also picked up the latest full-length from Aphex Twin. Unfortunately, post-millennium, he has done exactly what Autechre did: gone from being one of the major innovating electronic artists of the 1990's to being a complete joke. There are precious few tracks worth listening to on this record, and none of them equal the melodic skill or production quality of his "middle period". Aggressive sample reuse gives the "ambient" tracks a very samey feel (vaguely oriental chimes in the vein of "Nannou", a B-Side from Windowlicker) and the orchestral piano pieces just fall flat.

The rest of the album is tired, mediocre drum-and-bass. The originality in drum arrangement, rhythmic composition, and sample creation that graced most previous efforts is gone here---the drum sounds are ripped from some old tracker's sample pack you might find on an obscure Scandinavian FTP site. And that shrill, dissonant "sample-rate conversion" effect is everywhere, hanging like a pall of smoke over the melodies---the obsession with certain facile, sonically homogenizing DSP effects that killed Autechre circa LP5 has finally snuffed out the last of 90's IDM's original megastars.

The awful truth for the elites who shunned melodists like Boards of Canada in favor of more "difficult" music: the glitch disease was terminal, the patient has died with the release of this album. Glitch-fetish and DSP-fuckery sapped attention from the first commandment of what we do---the idea that melody is music---and led the greatest electronic artists of a generation into the sorriest work of their careers. Bouncing-ball percussion is as worn-out as The Cher Vocal Effect.

Sitting in a dark, hollowed-out building somewhere under the Manhattan Bridge last year, at a show where Ariane and I had played a set earlier in the evening, watching kids actually try to dance along to Richard Devine, realizing that he'd been hovering over that PowerBook for more than an hour without producing anything resembling melody, chords, or steady rhythm----I knew, this can't seriously last. Well the iMac has crashed and all our Max patches are lost. Our Metasynth license expired, the Kyma's power supply burnt out, and glitch has imploded----in Helvetica Bold, leaving an angular plume of smoke, rendered in cubist fracture courtesy of The Designer's Republic (with a few symbols of Katakana thrown in for luck). The stench of burnt Atari or Decepticons logo t-shirts hangs over the wreck.

"Drukgs", like Autechre's awful "Confield", will probably have its staunch defenders among the elites. But don't be fooled--- don't waste your time with this flaccid and uninventive record.

How to hack + school at the same time?

My birthday was uneventful. Picked up some new CD's: Saint Etienne, Daft Punk, Boards of Canada, Stereolab, and finally got a copy of Brian Eno's Music for Airports.

I started myself a personal Wiki, to collect and organize all my notes, articles, essays, designs, ideas, and to-do lists. It's actually working quite well.

I've started back some work on Octal, though I still dither over whether to start including Objectove-C components. I feel that it would help speed up development as I spend a lot of time writing and debugging the kind of silly boilerplate that one needs when doing anything object-oriented in C.

Mostly, things are fine. I'm doing better in all my classes, feeling confident. I bet everyone gets off to a rough start in their first month at grad school.

The Sega Dreamcast is finally dead with the cancellation of what was to be its last game: Shenmue II. How awful. The system that was going out with a bang goes out, instead, with the sound of an old lady loosely flatulating into her Craftmatic adjustable bed.


I've adjusted to life in Lowell. I think I'm going to be quite happy here.

I get more homesick than I thought. When Ari moved to Boston and told me how she felt, I never thought I'd get the same way. Well, I do :-).

I'm setting up a Wiki to organize myself, I have been dealing with 800 little text files for too long. . . the front page can have an immediate to-do list, then I can have Projects, Investigations, etc.

I realized this is my first post since the terrorist attacks. Ouch. I got back from breakfast after the second plane had hit---I was almost in the elevator when Grant (a suite-mate who has since left school due to activation by the Armed Forces) grabbed me and brought me into the big-screen TV room to see what was happening. I was absolutely floored, watching the smoke pour out of the tops of the buildings, wondering how the people above those points were going to escape, how long it would take to put out the fire, wondering why it had happened in the first place.

Over the next few minutes, that TV room filled up with students. We were confused when we saw "something" happen to one of the towers---the live coverage of the first collapse was at a funny angle, and it didn't really look like the whole thing had fallen. They said that it looked like part of the building, or the facade, had broken.

There was no confusion about the second one: the top of the building sank into a cloud of smoke and fire, and then everyone in the room gasped as we saw the tower blow itself apart floor by floor. The cloud of smoke traveled downward spreading over the streets, like watching a nuclear explosion in reverse.

At some point everyone had taken a break, and I was the only one in the room. They rapidly cut away from Manhattan covered in smoke, to another unidentifiable scene of devastation. It was the Pentagon on fire.

You know that funny camera trick they use at certain moments in a film, where the person in the foreground seems to move toward the camera but the "depth" of the scene seems to grow, so that the background is moving away at the same time? It's often used to give the effect of reality distorting, disintegrating, twisting into something malevolent, like the scene in the movie Poltergeist when the woman is trying to run down a hall that seems to get longer the more she runs.

That was what it seemed like. Nobody knew how far it would go, how many crashes there would be, what awful disaster was going to happen next.

Several times over the last few years I'd stayed with a friend just 2 blocks away from the World Trade Center, and shopped in that mall underneath the complex. I'd been in Brooklyn in late August, when we had to cancel a show because of equipment problems, and had hours left over to shop in Manhattan or see the sights again---previous trips had almost always been rushed because of the show schedule. But we didn't take advantage of the time, and simply went home. Now I wish I had taken a tour and seen the city from the top of the towers. Ari and I were in Boston together recently, and decided to go to the observation deck of the Hancock tower---she'd done it, but I hadn't, and I wasn't in the mood last time we'd been downtown in the summer. We found out the deck was closed indefinitely.

I have to confess---before Sept. 11, I barely knew anything about the World Trade Center other than it had been bombed when I was a freshman in High School. I drove into NYC several times a year since 1999 without really recognizing specific buildings from the highway. Absurdly, I'd walked right by them and underneath them without having looked up and known they were the tallest in the city.

George Will has written something to the effect that these attacks brought to a close a remarkable decade in which Americans were not preoccupied with foreign affairs. I don't know whether to be happy or sad that the Clinton/O.J./Bobbitt/Tonya Harding/Joey Buttafuoco/Lewinsky/Hanging Chad years are over.

Moved in, settled in, met the folks, started classes. I'm now living in the city of Lowell, Massachusetts. Things are going really well, but I can't write so much at the moment cause I've got things to do! But I can't wait to sink my teeth into this fall's academic subjects... should be cool.

More info soon

29 Aug 2001 (updated 29 Aug 2001 at 21:35 UTC) »

Current music: Basement Jaxx. What a strange summer it's been.

I'm just a few days away from moving to Lowell and becoming a teaching assistant and graduate student at University of Massachusetts---there I expect the resources and focus will enable me to complete my music-systems project OCTAL (among a billion other new things.) The next issue I plan to explore in depth is notations for GUI's, like the icon-based event representation seen in editors like Scriva.

I know this is going to be a much more productive environment than my current situation, that sort of limbo in between undergrad and grad school where you don't want to do ANYTHING cause you know you're not having another summer like it until the master's degree is finished :-) Which of course panicked one or two folks on the mailing list who thought the project was dying. I really need to notify people when I go on vacation and/or space out.

UML even has an anime/manga club--I think I will be right at home. So many resources! I walked into a library and found journals covering music systems, digital signal processing, and even a big thing all about the user interfaces of various sequencers. The systems lab is full of audio hardware, and my supervisor loves the idea that I'm working on a GNU project... I'm pretty excited about the future.

I'll be rooming with someone named Shan Jiang, however I wasn't able to get his phone or email (perhaps an international student?) so I guess I will just have to meet him when I move in.

Quick update:

  1. I'm going to live at school in the fall. I have already visited the city of Lowell and the University, and it is looking quite nice, I'll have a lot to do.
  2. I've been working a lot on Octal, stayed up three or four nights just this week to make my "ship date" of end-of-summer...
  3. I am still not finished with Jet Grind Radio! What a fun game...

I learned to read + write five more kana bringing me up to a grand total of ten. I also learned about twenty words: things like memory, pond, red, blue, family and the like. This kana thing is really fun. It's like the fun I always had learning Spanish, but with multiple foreign writing systems to boot! What a challenge.

Next on the list: an actual audio tape or CD-ROM of Japanese instruction material, as well as something to make flash cards. Plus, I need to get a working unicode editor (I've seen VIM editing kana, perhaps...?)

I just heard that voltron has got a summer internship at Ximian! Congratulations anthony on your newfound 3l334 status...

Other things on the list:

  • Skimo/Igloo website work
  • Finishing OCTAL
  • Biking
  • Hooking up the Dreamcast to the network so I can do VMU games

I picked up this Japanese Kana learning book at Borders today, and in the evening I began practicing some of the characters: I learned to read and write the five basic vowels in Hiragana.

It's pretty entertaining. When I finish this section it'll have some vocabulary writing practice to cement the learning of the characters.

I love deciphering alien scripts this way :-)

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