So first a little housekeeping. Sorry I’ve been a little lax on posting things here. Been busy and, besides, microblogging (see Twitter feed) is more up my alley (haiku is my favorite poetry form). On the subject of music, which this post will concern itself with, I should point out a few things:

  • My radio show isn’t dead, just been busy. That, and I’m waiting on Mixxx to fix the bug with my microphone so I can use voice over. But that’s really an excuse. I’ve been planning on doing another show, for weeks. So I have lots of fodder for it. Also been thinking about doing a noise show.
  • This year, my friend Jon 7 aka President Blair who runs the Timetheory netlabel and subsequently released my first noise album as Brownian Motion, started a project called The ERNIE 4 and played a couple local shows. In the spirit of Future Sound Of London’s “ISDN,” we did a little “tour” via Icecast. As the year is drawing to a close, we should be releasing the archives of this year’s tour soon. Keep an eye out.
  • Also keep an eye out for the second Brownian Motion, More Culture Than A Pint Of Probiotics, soon to come from Bleak netlabel.
  • The biggest show The ERNIE 4 had the delight in playing was with noisers from across the country at the 2011 Eugene Noise Fest. It was a lot of fun and we had an opportunity to test out some new equipment which worked out really well. We released the rather short set for free which you can find here.

On that latter point, I had finally decided to put Linux on my G4 Mac. It worked, but I wasn’t totally satisfied. After mucking around with it quite a bit, I realized how I could make an old Thinkpad R60 do the trick. Merely days before. I got Lubuntu, JACK, Pure Data, JACK-Rack, Patchage, and a bunch of LADSPA plugins set up. I brought a contact mic along for fun. The flexibility it offered, especially via Jack, was awesome. Best of all, Patchage made virtual cabling super easy. I was able to run multiple inputs any which way I want. Through this process, I got Jon interested in pd and he used it, too.

The more I contemplated this the more excited I got: I had a completely free system. By this I mean not that I got the computer without cost (this is not about money), but that my entire set up, down to the operating system, was entirely open source. Free for anyone to investigate, distribute and modify. Why is this important?

There’s a reason why I’m so adamant about Creative Commons licensing with my work (including my radio show). It’s the same reason why I’m so adamant about using freeware. I don’t believe information should be “owned.” It’s like Monsanto trying to patent DNA. There is only one goal from this– greed. Music should be about your passion to make it. Not greed. If you want to be greedy, go be an investment banker. I do believe that artists deserve recognition for their works and I do believe that artists have the right to profit from their works, even make lots of money from them. When you make it only about profit, however, then you are, in my opinion, not art, you are simply another commercial juggernaut. Go make jingles for McDonald’s.

There is that phrase: if you love something, set it free.

Meanwhile, I became a member of Hal McGee‘s Contact Group of Homemade Experimental Electronic Music and Noise on Facebook. I missed an option to add a track to his recent compilation series of 60 second tracks. In the process of discussing this and lamenting that there were some missed opportunities, it was brought up that the group was about the free change of ideas, not about the compilation. The gauntlet was thrown down.

So I picked it up and offered an idea of my own: a free electronics compilation. Made with free software, distributed in a free format, with a free license, offered through a free host, and released for free. By all of those except the latter, I meant free as in speech, not beer (i.e. not about money). This led to some lively discussion and ultimately some decisions were made:

  • Contributions are open. Anyone, Contact Group member or not, can contribute.
  • There are no limits on genre or genres. Doesn’t just have to be noise.
  • There are no limits on time. Doesn’t have to be 60 seconds. It can be. Doesn’t have to.
  • Deadline is January 1. February 1.
  • Release will be offered through Bandcamp (technically not free, but their API is freely available). Reason is that we can offer it for “name your own price”which means it’s free as in beer if you want it to be, but if you want to contribute, great. The money will be equally split between all the software projects used.
  • More specifically, it will be released on my own Bandcamp page under the “Brownian eMotions” label. Cuz it’s funny.
  • Must use free software.
  • Must use a free format. MP3 is not free and, besides, we need lossless to make Bandcamp work. I highly recommend FLAC because it is free and lossless and compressed, which makes distribution easier. Other alternatives are WAV and AIFF, but they were originally proprietary formats developed by IBM/Microsoft and Apple, respectively. In general, these should not have licenses or patents, but there are some patents on some extensions, so it may be difficult to be certain that you’re using a free version. FLAC is definitively free.
  • Contributions can be made available any which way you want: file sharing services, email, etc. Leave a comment here with how you’d like to do it and I’ll email you back with the necessary information.
  • Remember, this is free as in speech. Open source. We’re not talking about price. If you stole Fruityloops off of some Torrent site, that’s not the free we’re talking about.
  • It is highly preferable, but not necessary, to use a free operating system. Windows and OS X are not free.
  • Also preferable, but not necessary, is the use of open source hardware. If you want to use your guitar, go for it. But if you want to make an electronics project out of this, knock yourself out.
  • For many people, this will be a dramatic change. It’s meant to challenge you. Try something new. I WILL be happy to answer technical questions.
  • All tracks will be licensed with a by-nc-sa license which allows users to remix and share the track given that re-use or re-distribution is non-commercial, that the original is attributed, and that the new work or distribution is similarly licensed.

That being said, we already have some takers. As I hear from more people I will add them to this list. Here goes:

  1. Travis Johnson (track received)
  2. Jack Hertz
  3. Nuno Maltez
  4. Ronny Wærnes (track received)
  5. Post-Avantist (track received)
  6. Herv
  7. Halluciphile (track received)
  8. Antiquematter
  9. President Blair (track received)
  10. The Cheshire Dragon (track received)
  11. Centrescape
  12. Ganglion Cyst (track received)
  13. Hobo Liked Gnomix (track received)
  14. hiyohiyoipseniyo (track received)
  15. Astrometria (track received)
  16. Hollywood Video Game Kill-Bot (track received)
  17. d0x10 (track received)
  18. Lackthrow
  19. RJ Myato
  20. I Died (track received)
  21. John Dunlap (track received)
  22. Nick Bailey (track received)
  23. Elizabeth Veldon (track received)
  24. Pulsewidth (track received)
  25. Carl Kruger (track received)
  26. Somnaphon (track received)
  27. The Implicit Order (track received)
  28. Shaun Sandor (track received)
  29. Marax (track received)
  30. The Last Thing I Said To You Was (track received)
  31. Loopool (track received)
  32. noish (track received)
  33. Jukka-Pekka Kervinen (track received)
  34. Arvo Zylo (track received)
  35. Brownian Motion (track received)
  36. The ERNIE 4 (track received)
  37. Precocious Mouse

So get out there, make some noise, and spread the word. Bonus points if your piece is on the subject of freedom 🙂

P.S. This post has been done by email so if it sucks, blame WordPress. 🙂

Update 29 December 2011: make sure to read the comments for some further clarifications.

Update 2 February 2012: A few loose ends left in bold. Revised to include all previous candidate contributors. I struckout the ones who either I lost contact with or who said that for whatever reason they couldn’t contribute. This is mostly for my own desire to document. There may be a volume 2 and 3… Meanwhile, expect this out relatively soon. I’m aiming for mid-February, probably consistent with the release of the new Brownian Motion.

Update 14 Febuary 2012: Come get it!

Windows 7 64 bit on PPC OS XIf this picture doesn’t make sense, it’s my 32-bit PPC Mac running near-native speeds on an Intel virtual machine of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit through the Internet. If the reason or the methodology isn’t apparent, read on. (more…)

meebo2.so in finchLook, I’m still alive! Been busy with work/family/geeking out.

On that latter subject, I’ve been regressing to some degree, running my instant messaging/IRC, email, and tweets off of a free Debian shell in Germany called the Nic Nac Project. I’ve been using finch aka gaim-text (the ncurses-based version of Pidgin), alpine, and twidge, respectively to handle these tasks and using tmux to manage windows (though there is one IRC server I connect to that only has open port 6667 which NNP’s ISP blocks, so I have to ssh into another free shell and use irssi from there to connect). Technically, I could create an SSH Tunnel and VNC in or use X11 Forwarding and run everything off of the more traditional fluxbox-based desktop but it’s s-l-o-w, and ANSI was good enough for a long time for me (though now I demand UTF-8).

Overall it has been working quite well, except for two things:

  1. when using PuTTY as a terminal it doesn’t handle line drawing characters correctly when using UTF-8 translation so finch winows and tmux windows look all messed up. Unfortunately their approach to dealing with bugs is not necessarily friendly. I’m guessing this is a lost cause then.
  2. constant authorization requests from MeeboMe (I can’t believe people still check my blog even though I haven’t touched it in so long!) which I couldn’t fix with the old plugin.

Luckily, the friendly folks at #pidgin on Freenode came to the rescue. Apparently, one of them had taken that old plugin and ran with it. I am happy to report that it works marvelously with Finch 2.6.6 running Debian Lenny. Unfortunately, it takes a few steps:

  1. download the source for Pidgin
  2. untar if necessary and cd inside the source directory
  3. type ./configure (note you will probably need to use a lot of –disable flags; I did ./configure –disable-gtkui –disable-gstreamer –disable-vv –disable-meanwhile –disable-avahi –disable-nm –disable-tcl)
  4. download the plugin
  5. mv the plugin into the source’s pidgin/libpurple/plugins directory
  6. type make meebo2.so
  7. mv the finished plugin (meebo2.so) into your own plugins directory (I use ~/.purple/plugins for one’s I’ve made myself)
  8. It should pop up in finch’s plugins dialog– just click the checkbox and you’re set

Hopefully this puts your mind at ease as it did mine.

The wrong dessert to get me for my birthday: Bacon Burger Pie

The wrong dessert to get me for my birthday: Bacon Burger Pie

Yep, it’s my birthday tomorrow (thanks for the early wishes, everyone!). My honey ain’t feeling too hot so I probably won’t have a cake, so if you want to stop at Sweet Life and grab a Vegan Tiramisu or something, that would be cool. While you’re at it, a Vegan Chef’s Choice from Pizza Research Institute and some Oakshire beer, maybe the Vit or Duck Billed Platypus or the Ill Tempered Gnome, would go down quite well, too.

If you really want to splurge, get me a gift certificate at Best Buy (I probably would have said Frys but they’re not local and I’ve already got some old gift certificates at Best Buy). I can use it to get another external hard drive for the music, pictures and video. A print server would be nice, too. We could also use a couple extra Wii MotionPlus remotes for when the visitors come and want to gang up on New Super Mario Bros. Wii! 😀

<geek>Not to mention the fact that it would be nice to get another Linksys WRT160Nv3 router in case I happen to render mine useless trying to flash an Open Source firmware called Tomato USB onto it. After SimplifyMedia made me mad and gave up the ghost, I’ve been trying to find a good solution to accessing my files from abroad. Maestro.fm crashes and has literally no support. Remobo— is just plain weird and looks like it will have issues with firewalls. This lead me to virtual private network solutions. Hamachi would be GREAT but there’s no support for anything but Windows (ew!) anymore. There was Viscosity but I didn’t feel like spending money for it.

So that lead me to OpenVPN solutions. Tunnelblick held some promise but it was going to take me forever to figure out how to configure the thing (I have a couple BOOKS now on the subject) and then I wasn’t sure it would work with a Bonjour-based service like iTunes Home Sharing. Looking for other options, I stumbled across a few different Open Source firmwares like dd-wrt and the original Tomato, complete with built in OpenVPN server. Now it’s just a matter of implementation but I’ve been a bit nervous without a backup option. So, yeah, that would be cool. I can always return it if all goes well.</geek>

But in all honesty, I don’t need any presents or surprises. I can’t complain. Even if I got nothing, I got a great wife who I am so proud of for going back to school to persue her dream (art) and constantly and delightfully surprised by for gaining new interests (biology) and who is just the best friend I could ever have (tandem kayaking and whale watching last weekend was fabulous!). I also got a remarkable little daughter who could out-swim me any day, who’s excelling reading standards and who continues to challenge and astound me every day.

Besides, I’m a geek. I don’t ever get bored, so it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself if you don’t get any presents or no one remembers your birthday. 😀 Not like I have that to worry about…

For various reasons, some of which I’ll expound on for the Mac geeks out there, the Bike Friday IRC channel I began so many moons ago is back again.  If you have questions about the bikes or service or just want to chat, this (I hope) will provide a good forum for some live interaction.  Heck, maybe one day I can get the rest of Bike Friday entered into the computer age and we can ALL contribute.  Meanwhile, you got me and whoever else might be there though it’s been pretty empty as of late (read: I’m lonely, come visit).

If you’re not familiar with IRC and your browser is set up to allow JavaScript (most modern ones are– unless you’ve disabled access), clicking here should take you right into the IRC channel or chat room if you prefer.  Before opening your digital mouth, you might first want to make a name for yourself, which you can do by typing /nick name where name is whatever you want your name to be.  Make sure you don’t have any spaces in it.  And don’t forget the forward slash.  Then just type away.  An example is pictured here for your convenience.

Another easy way for anyone to connect regardless of operating system is by using the ChatZilla plugin for Mozilla browsers (e.g. SeaMonkey, Firefox).  The install link is at the bottom.  Once there, just click here.

The more hardcore IRC’er will probably want a dedicated client.  It’s also nice to not have to have your browser open to do IRC.  I can’t help the Windoze folks out there but Wikipedia can.  *nix folks will appreciate my final solution for the Mac was Terminal-based.  Read on.

I once proclaimed an appreciation for Colloquy but have since rescinded that appreciation.  It’s just too darn buggy.  Conversation is worse (could have to do with the fact that the last release is from 2005).  Not many freeware options.  Linkinus was nice but $20 which seemed a bit more than what I wanted to spend for what it could do. 

And then they came out with some free licenses.  Well I got spoiled by a lot of features included one that would leave me on even with the application off.  That was simply too cool.  And then they came out with a new version and I did the automatic update which was incompatible with my license (I did know better at the time), which then became unusable.  I tried to get them to help me re-install the old licensed version but I have received no response and now I’m very glad I never gave them a dime.  They don’t deserve it.

I looked into a million options, especially one that would allow me to always stay connected.  The more I looked into it the more I saw Mac guys mentioned using irssi+screen.  Irssi is one of the best Terminal-based IRC clients out there.  Screen allows you to stay connected not only when the program you’re running in it is closed but also when Terminal itself is closed!

I did this for a while and was really happy with it but then I started exploring other ports on MacPorts and found weechat.  It had some features about it that won me over, like a nicklist that worked (irssi’s nicklist.pl script sucks), the ability to split windows vertically and horizontally and lots of other little things.  I had to play with it a bit to get it where I wanted (including making a 2-line Perl script to automatically create my split windows) but now it loads up just the way I want it to.

So it’s pretty easy to get this running with MacPorts.  Make sure you’re in an admin account in terminal (use login as needed) and then issue a sudo port install +perl.  MacPorts will add on all the dependent programs you need to get it running and verify the configuration.  It’s awesome.  As a slight tangent, I consider this essential if you’re going to use any *nix programs since the ports are built specifically for Darwin.  Anyways, the +perl isn’t necessary but recommended if you want to add on any additional functionality.  This is how my auto-split window script works.

What I’m really excited about though is the possibility of Growl notifications.  The idea of weechat+screen+growl has me ELATED!  Think about it:  with no Terminal running, you get notifications when things you want to know happen!  However, the growl-notify.pl script requires (sensibly so) Mac::Growl which for some reason I can’t get working due to dependencies I can’t get working for some reason, which I think is related to Mac::MoreFiles which I can’t seem to get going (Mac::Growl is looking for it).  I’m in touch with the developer of the script as well as introducing a bug report to Mac::Growl, so we’ll see what happens.

Anyways, however you get on IRC, get on there and let’s talk bikes!

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Nothing beats resourcefulness. It’s an essential survival skill. Making the best out of what you got. Usually, too, the most resourceful people are among the most creative. I mean, look at all that recycled art out there!  It’s one thing to imagine something and make it.  It’s another thing to make something out of existing materials.  It’s a greater discipline, like limerick versus free verse.

One example of this that has always amazed me is that of ASCII artASCII can be thought of as the "base" set of characters you have to deal with on a computer.  Everyone knows what emoticons are and they can be thought of as the most simple of ASCII art though the Homer Simpson is impressive: ~(_8(I).  Sometimes people have cute like ASCII caricatures of themselves in their signatures.

ASCII art was far more complex than that right from the get-go.  Kenneth Knowlton, a programmer at Bell Labs and mosiacist by night, developed the field in 1966 and has some pretty impressive works in his collection.  Among my favourite is the portrait of Einstein composed only of 5 characters: e, =, m, c, and 2, being the equation that made him famous.  What made Ken famous, though, is taking an image, scanning it, and then re-rendering it based on a scheme of using a particular character with a particular halftone level.

This is the same process VLC and MPlayer uses to play videos.  Yes, you now can watch the tikit videos in ASCII.  Similarly, a computer generative process is used to create an ASCII version of Google Maps and to generate phrases in different ASCII art fonts.

But what takes the cake is open source, cross platform ASCII drawing program/image editor JavE.  You can do all sorts of things with it including all the things you would expect to do with a similar program.  You can even convert/export to/from ASCII from/to a variety of standard graphics formats.  To show you its power, I give you this:

Stick that in your signature file and post it! 😀

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When I had my first computer, we didn’t have graphical user interfaces, at least not in the way that we have come to know them.  Mostly, it was a bunch of colored ANSI/ASCII.  Pretty lame, really.  Certainly didn’t help productivity.  Frankly, I came to resent GUIs.  When Windows came out, I installed it but rarely used it.  It always slowed me down relative to just typing out commands in the shell.  Still, more and more programs were being developed specifically for Windows and so it was a necessary evil. 

Then, one fateful day, I installed Windows 95, rebooted, and exited the program into the DOS shell.  I typed some command and it said "wrong version" because bloody Bill Gates took over my shell and dumbed it down.  It was at that point that I decided that anything was better than Windows.  Looking for other alternatives, I had a certain love/hate relationship with Linux .  I loved its power and tweakability but I struggled to get the sound card to work, even with the more user friendly distribution Red Hat.

Then, I discovered that the Apple folks had hacked a *nix variant called FreeBSD and made it their own as an open source project called Darwin.  Even though it lacks some taken-for-granted features (has anyone noticed concat is missing?) a standard *nix distro comes with, unlike Windows 95 DOS, you can add to it whatever you want (for example, I have installed mplayer so that I can play music within the shell).  So even though OS X-equipped Macs are super user-friendly, they’re completely applicable to the power user as well.  It’s the best of both worlds, really.  Though I certainly spend time in the shell, I find that many things can be done a lot faster/easier with the GUI, which is an experience unique to OS X in my experience.

But despite all their genius and even despite the fact that their first product was a blue box that allowed for illegal free phone calls, I can’t give the differently-thinking Steve² all the credit.  One of the major elements that a GUI can give to an interface is organization.  It’s often pretty difficult to organize pure text.  Sure ircII and vi/m had split windows but tabs are the best implementation I have seen yet.  They leave the desktop uncluttered and yet everything is easily accessible at a glance.  Even though tabs have only been in the forefront for a little more than half a decade, the GUI just doesn’t seem the same without them. 

Case in point:  last night I was working with some text files and was about to pop open my favourite tabbed text editor when I thought I would give Aquamacs Emacs a try.  Though my *nix editor of choice– just for ease of use and accessibility– is pico (Darwin uses nano, which is a pico copy) I’ve used vi and especially emacs before, as well.  I thought it might be cool to have a super powerful *nix text editor with an Aqua interface.  So I popped in my first file and then hit Cmd-T for a new tab and got the old "Funk" sound.  So I searched through the menus, tried different options, to no avail– no tabs.  Screw it, I went back to Smultron.  Ironically, it was in 1988 that tabs were first introduced.. on an implementation of emacs.

That being said, here are my favourite tab-friendly OS X programs, though plenty more exist:

Luckily for those of you that are not convinced of what a joy OS X is to work with, there are plenty of tab-friendly programs for other platforms.  However, so much of the OS X GUI is about approachability and functionality, tabs seem to go hand in hand with it.  Maybe with Leopard steadily approaching public release, now would be a good time to see it for yourself if you haven’t already!

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