Monday, October 31, 2005

Mandriva 2006 FTP Update

Just a quick note, I have corrected an error in the Upgrading To Mandriva Linux 2006 Via FTP post. The entry for ftp_update was incorrect (or the mirror structure was changed in the interim since the last time I updated my Mandrake, er, Mandriva partition?) At any rate, it is listed correctly now.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

My Warmoth Custom Guitar

Well this is it, my custom axe built from Warmoth parts.

Of the guitars I've owned over the years, this is my all time favorite. I knew what I wanted, collected the pieces over time and put it all together. I'm sure I've listed all the specifics previously but here it is again, FWIW...

Soloist-style body (alder or ash? I can't remember!); Compound radius (10" - 16" radius, 22 6105 Nickel/Silver frets) Maple/Ebony Explorer-style bolt-on neck. (You will note that the double expanding truss rod is not accessible from the top, this is really unfortunate. Newer Warmoth necks in this style have truss rod accessibility from the headstock); D'Addario XL110 (10 - 46) strings. All three pickups (Neck; Middle; Bridge) are Seymour Duncan humbuckers. A Carvin Five-way toggle pickup selector; a mini-toggle phase switch for the mid pickup; Push/Pull volume control for coil splitting the bridge pickup. A single tone control for all three pickups, I don't recall the capacitors I used at the moment, but I opted for one on the volume control (in addition to the one on the tone pot) so the high-end would not roll off when the volume was turned down, somewhat of a standard procedure for guitars with humbuckers. This wiring configuration gives me all kinds of versatility in tone--which is exactly what I wanted. A quiet guitar (hence the three humbuckers) with lots of tonal options. The electronics cavity is copper shielded. (My first electric being a Squier Strat, I wanted no signs of single coil hum on this custom monster whatsoever!). Warmoth will route your neck & body to fit your needs. I opted for a floating route for the Schaller Licensed Floyd Rose tremolo. This makes for a real pain when you break a string but regardless, the bridge works flawlessly. Very well made. My hands can sweat up a storm at times when I am playing and yet after all these years, the Schaller bridge shows no signs of corrosion (something I cannot say for my Strat bridge). The headstock is equipped with the matching locking nut and non-locking Schaller tuning machines (Mini's if I am not mistaken, with a 14:1 gear ratio). Dunlop Straploks are a must on all my electrics. Dropping guitars is not allowed in this house! Continuing, the neck has a clear satin finish on the back & a clear glossy finish on the peg head (I was considering going with blue on the headstock to match the body but I think the clear glossy looks great). The ebony fingerboard is all natural, no dyes were used on it. The body/neck finish & bridge installation were done by Erlewine Guitars in Austin, TX. I pieced together the rest. A hard shell case that works with the Explorer style headstock was purchased (along with other miscellaneous parts) from Stewart-MacDonald but it appears they no longer carry it. I think this is the right model but I'm not positive.

This guitar is now over ten years old, maybe upwards of fifteen (I will have to see if I can find out when it was completed). It still plays and sounds wonderfully. If I had one complaint about it, it would be that the neck & mid pickups do not match the output of the JB bridge pickup. That thing is hot!! I don't know that their are any stacked humbuckers out there that could match outputs with the JB. I'm not even going to bother checking because I'm not replacing any of these pickups. If I need the two stack pickups louder, that's what I have a foot pedal volume control for, right?

Well, there you have it (again?). Probably a very boring post for most, but guitar nuts love to talk about their gear. And, I've always wanted to post a picture of this baby since I started this blog...

[Updated 30 Oct. 2005: Replaced "artsy" image with the one you see above. You can find the initial image I posted here. The flash on the camera makes the blue appear brighter then it is but I thought the picture came out well enough. I attempted to make it look a bit 'artsy' with the GIMP. Don't know that I succeeded...]

[Updated 31 Oct. 2005: Added link. Corrected grammar. Corrected spelling.]

Friday, October 28, 2005

Recording My Frustration

I came up with a riff tonight that I liked and wanted to get it recorded before I forgot it. Typical. It I don't tab it or record it, I lose it. Windows 2000 was already booted up so I fired up Audacity and got the riff "to tape". I thought I might put down a couple more tracks with harmonized parts with Kristal but the latency is too much to work with multiple tracks in Windows. So I rebooted into DeMuDi.

My DeMuDi installation is messed up but I can still work with it. I fired up Ardour and imported my riff to track one. I layed down four more guitar parts but I dumped one of the tracks. The fifth track was going to be a little bit of lead over the top of the rest. After several attempts (and I mean several), I got close to what I wanted. Cool.

Track 2 needed something though, the part was right but the sound was not. I needed it to be radically different in tone from the rest of the parts. With Ardour you can add pre or post fader plugin effects (I'm not sure if they are part of the Ardour package or if they are bundled with DeMuDi. At any rate, there are many options to choose from.) so I decided to go nuts with it. I added autophaser, chorus, delay, and one other I can't even remember. Sure enough, I got what I needed. Life was good.

Once completed, I mixed it all down to a wav file and went to do some tweaking on it with Audacity. Uh oh, something was really wrong with it. The signal was clipping all the way through. Back to Ardour, where I figured out I had selected a couple options in the export to wav that were mistakes so I exported again, this time with the correct options selected. This time it was right on. I started tweaking in Audacity and the dang thing froze up on me! Reboot...

After a couple more times of lock-ups in DeMuDi, I decided enough was enough. So I copied the wav to one of the Windows partitions. I would work with it in Audacity in Windows. It's definitely time to reinstall DeMuDi or one of the other Audio Distros. Maybe Musix this time? We'll see...

Well, I went into Windows/Audacity and everything sounded nice, but something was still wrong. What was it?

MY LEAD, what happened to my lead track? Somehow, I must have exported the Ardour session to wav with the wrong lead track take. ARRrrrrgggh!!!


I've had enough of this for one evening. Right now I am in my SuSE partition tarring up my DeMuDi home folder so I can keep my Ardour sessions for another day...

This is just my kind of luck, but hey, at least the original goal was accomplished I have added yet another riff to my vast collection. It's the getting them into actual songs part of composing that is the real trick for me. :-)

Blogger Backup With WGET

You can use wget1 under *nix or Windows2 to back up your Blogger site. Here's how (using a Windows example):
  1. Install wget on your system (Linux and other *nix users in most cases will already have it installed on their systems. If not, you can download the source code and compile it or add it with your favorite package management system.)
  2. Create a folder on your system where you would like to store your Blogger site backup.
  3. Create a simple batch file in notepad with the following commands (each bulleted line(s) of text should be on one line in your editor) and save it in your local backup folder you added in step 2 as blog-mirror.bat

    • c:\progra~1\Gnuwin32\bin\wget -v -r -p --wait=1 -erobots=off --level=2 --convert-links --span-hosts,
    • pause

    Yes, you could add the Gnuwin32\bin to your PATH in Windows, but I'm lazy I guess (backing up my blog is generally the only thing I use wget for at any rate). In *nix just call wget -v -r -p... from your local backup directory without the proceeding path information...

  4. Double-click on blog-mirror.bat and let the backing up begin. Press any key when the process is completed. Easy!
I was having a little difficulty getting my images saved locally until I came across the -erobots=off option from the post I have linked. Once I added that, no problems...

1wget is a GNU free software command line utility "...for retrieving files using HTTP, HTTPS and FTP... internet protocols". It's a very useful tool, particularly for backing up websites, which is the focus of this post.

2You can get wget already compiled for Windows operating systems at GNU utilities for Win32

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Support Creative Commons

Did you know that over fifty-million objects on the internet are linked to a Creative Commons license? When you see a Creative Commons link or button on a site you can use it to instantly determine what rights an author or media producer has afforded you to utilize and/or distribute his or her work. No calling, writing, or e-mailing the author to ask him or her what you can or cannot do with the material--the license lets you know on the spot. Just click the link to find out. Simplicity itself!

This is a remarkably efficient system in the age of the internet for informing the consumer of their rights to content that they may wish to utilize in their own work or share with others. "Some Rights Reserved" sums it all up. It is often stated that "information wants to be free." Now, instead of locking it all up with the ominous & threatening ©2005 BigTimeMedia ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (don't even THINK about copying this and giving it to your buddy or your mom), Creative Commons licenses afford you the option to “share the wealth” as much or as little as you would like.

In my case, I have chosen to apply the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license to this blog. While I still own the copyrights to my work, this license informs you that (in addition to your Fair Use rights) as long as you don't use my copyrighted works in commercial ventures & you attribute my work to me, you can do the following:
  • "...copy, distribute, display, and perform the work"
  • "...make derivative works"
There you have it! No need to e-mail me to ask permission, you already know what you can & can't do. No hassle for either the producer or the consumer. Now there's innovation!

You may be thinking, "big deal, who cares about this loser's blog anyway?" That's not the point. The Creative Commons concept is the point. And, there are some really interesting options that they have drafted for your use as a content creator & content consumer.

Let me share one of these options that I find particularly important and interesting. It is called the "Founder's Copyright".

Did you know that under current copyright law your ownership of content you produce lasts your lifetime plus seventy years?

That's Great! ...Right?

Uh, no... No, not really...

In fact it's actually an abuse foisted upon consumers designed by big media companies to maintain their grip (for as long as possible) on the very things that shape our common culture & heritage. That was definitely not the intent of the framers of the US Constitution. From what I have read, it was their intention to establish balance. From the Founder's Copyright background section at the CC site:
The Framers of the U.S. Constitution understood that copyright was about balance — a trade-off between public and private gain, society-wide innovation and creative reward. In 1790, the U.S.'s first copyright law granted authors a monopoly right over their creations for 14 years, with the option of renewing that monopoly for another 14. We want to help restore that sense of balance — not through any change to the current laws — but by helping copyright holders who recognize a long copyright term's limited benefit to voluntarily release that right after a shorter period.
For the big media companies, 14 or 28 years wasn't enough I guess. They pushed Congress for massive extensions to copyright limits, and they got them. In doing so they have tried to usurp our collective culture in the name of profit.

Others have written more eloquently then I could on this matter. For more information and a detailed account of just how these things have transpired, please refer to the excellent article, THE MOUSE THAT ATE THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: Disney, The Copyright Term Extension Act, And eldred V. Ashcroft. See also Why Would an Author Choose a Creative Commons License? by Pamela Jones of Groklaw.

Now, where were we? Oh yes, life plus seventy years! Sounds like a prison sentence doesn't it? As a content producer, you don't have to lock your work up in this lop-sided scenario. The Founder's Copyright is designed to bring the original balance back into play:
Rather than adopting a standard U.S. copyright that will last in excess of 70 years after the author's lifetime, the Creative Commons and a contributor will enter into a contract to guarantee that the relevant creative work will enter the public domain after 14 years, unless the author chooses to extend for another 14. To re-create the functionality of a 14- or 28-year copyright, the contributor will sell the copyright to Creative Commons for $1.00, at which point Creative Commons will give the contributor an exclusive license to the work for 14 (or 28) years. During this period, Creative Commons will list all works under the Founders' Copyright, along with each projected public domain liberation date, in an online registry. (Creative Commons, Founder's Copyright--How it works)
This allows the content producer to hold exclusive rights to their work for 14 or 28 years after which the material is released into the public domain to be copied, distributed, and utilized in any manner by anyone, anywhere for whatever purpose, commercial or not. The producer benefits, and the public benefits. Bringing back balance.

Why would you want to do any of this? Why wouldn't you want to reserve all rights exclusively for as long as you possibly could?
The idea underlying Creative Commons is that some people may not want to exercise all of the intellectual property rights the law affords them. We believe there is an unmet demand for an easy yet reliable way to tell the world “Some rights reserved” or even “No rights reserved.” Many people have long since concluded that all-out copyright doesn't help them gain the exposure and widespread distribution they want. Many entrepreneurs and artists have come to prefer relying on innovative business models rather than full-fledged copyright to secure a return on their creative investment. Still others get fulfillment from contributing to and participating in an intellectual commons. For whatever reasons, it is clear that many citizens of the Internet want to share their work -- and the power to reuse, modify, and distribute their work -- with others on generous terms. Creative Commons intends to help people express this preference for sharing by offering the world a set of licenses on our Website, at no charge. (Creative Commons FAQ--What is Creative Commons?)
Again, it is often stated that "information wants to be free". Creative Commons licensing allows the innovator to strike a balance between their ownership of the material while letting the consumer know what they can do with that material. It allows producers to share their wealth of talent, art, and/or information with others while maintaining their copyright ownership. It's no longer an all (Public Domain) or nothing (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED) game. These licenses open up the entire spectrum of options from exclusive ownership to public domain, as this graphic illustrates:

Now there are options that previously (unless you could afford a lawyer to draft the legal code for you) were not available to the vast majority of content producers (particularly those publishing on the internet). This balance, this sharing & distributing of art and information and the ability granted to the consumer to create derivatives from this material enriches our cultural wealth, our collective knowledge base, and our individual creativity. A quick example: Have you ever seen an image on Flickr and wished that you could use it in your own work? Opps, darn it, there's that pesky ALL RIGHTS RESERVED thingy. So there the photo sits. Nice to look at but that's all you get to do with it. Now find one with that “Some Rights Reserved” tag (see the ccPublisher) and you just might be able to do a little more with it--like simply posting it to your blog without having to ask permisson or otherwise bugging the photographer...

Rusty Screw by code poet
Published 26 Oct 2005
Some Rights Reserved

The point is, ideas are not formed in a vacuum. As a guitar player I guarantee you that today's great players are "standing on the shoulders of giants" that came before them. Isn't this true in just about every field? Think about it. Being able to make derivative works from Creative Commons licensed source material is a marvelous cultural gift. If you doubt it, check out Project Gutenburg some time. Look at all of that material that is available to the world because it is in the public domain. It's an amazing collection and a worthwhile project indeed.

Now let's take a look at a hypothetical situation based on a widely known body of work available in the public domain. What would happen if one company owned the rights to Shakespeare? How many adaptations, variations, or other works have been performed or derived from these works? Could that have happened if one company held exclusive rights to the material? Concepts from Shakespeare are known the world over, because no one entity controls it. I'm certain this would not be the case in the alternate universe we picture here. In fact, it would probably be lost to the world almost entirely. At any rate, man! Would there ever be a lot of movie & publishing houses owing that company royalties if copyrights lasted forever...Whew!!

Exclusive Rights - Creative Commons - Public Domain. Balance. Balance is a wonderful thing...

I will finish by addressing the question that you're just dying to ask: where's the money? How am I as a writer, musician, whatever going to make any money if I give up some of my rights to the consumer? If I can't lock them in, what am I going to do?

I will answer with some examples. The first one that comes immediately to mind for me is Magnatune. Go to their site. Check out what they do and read why they do it this way. Find out why they let you sample any and all of the music they provide at high quality, and let you set your own price for materials you wish to purchase. I know their business model based around CC Licensing works because I have bought more then one album from them myself. Recordings by artists I never would have heard of or even considered had they not been featured on Magnatune, and I not had the opportunity to listen to their material first. But what does the artist get out offering high-quality streams of their entire recordings? Why, they get half the sell on each purchase! There's no record company I know of that does this for the people they represent. None! This is revolutionary in so many aspects: from advertising & PR, to sales & distibution, and probably the biggest difference for the artists--half the proceeds on a sell as opposed to (literally) pennies per sale. It is win-win for consumer, artist, and label alike.

In the Magnatune scenario, artists are given exposure to a vast audience that they almost assuredly never would have gotten in any other way. There is so much unknown and untapped talent out there. I read recently that the folks at Magnatune get approximately 400 submissions a month--musicians wanting to sign up with them. They select about 10.

Another example from my own experience is the Bruce Perens' Open Source Series of books from Prentice Hall. Now they don't utilize a CC license for the works they've made available, they use what's called the Open Publication License. It is similar to a CC license at any rate by all appearances. The book Samba-3 by Example: Practical Exercises to Successful Deployment is an invaluable resource for use when working with Samba (' Open Source/Free Software suite that provides seamless file and print services to SMB/CIFS clients." Samba is freely available, unlike other SMB/CIFS implementations, and allows for interoperability between Linux/Unix servers and Windows-based clients.'--from What is Samba? ). I bought the book, it's that good. I highly recommend it. You want to see how good it is do you? Well, just go ahead, download it and see for yourself!

Finally, Wikipedia. The free internet encyclopedia. I don't know if anybody is making any money off of it, but it is certainly one of the most valuable resources of information on the internet. It is constantly being edited and updated. This is possible because, you guessed it, it's published under a CC License style license...

So... how have you benefited from Creative Commons licensed materials? Do you utilize a license they have produced to distribute your own work? Fifty million objects are linked to a CC License. Some of us are definitely finding this work useful. Maybe all of us, indirectly. Who can say?

The Creative Commons organization has recently announced their First Annual Fall Fundraising Campaign with a goal of reaching $225,000 by December 31st of this year. I think they can do it. I think all of us who benefit from their work can help. Tomorrow is payday. Tomorrow I will show my support for this worthy effort with a monetary donation. Because I believe this is important, because I believe that we need balance in a lot of areas in life, and this is a big one that affects us all.

I'm thinking about fifty million licenses that are freely utilized in an effort to benefit both producers & consumers. Imagine if the CC organization received just $.50 for each one of those. $25 million? I imagine that would sustain their work for a nice long time.

What's it worth to you?

Friday, October 21, 2005

An Excel Synthesizer

Here is an interesting concept reported by Music Thing yesterday...

Realtime Fourier synthesis -Sound generation from a spreadsheet. 'The following Excel application will allow you to synthesize sounds. Just play with the sliders and enjoy what is happening.' Certainly a clever and novel use of Excel to play around with, and digital music enthusiasts might actually find some practical use for it too. I just wish it would play sound in Calc 2.0. I thought the downloadable Excel Viewer might do the trick, but I guess it won't run the macros. I tried it on a box with Office 2000 and it worked fine. If anybody figures out how to get the sound working under OOo 2.0 please let me know.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I am not the jealous type really. I have a good life and a lot to be thankful for. Tonight I reflect on recent happenings in the lives of some of my friends. Steps they have taken, pushing through fears and uncertainties to attain something new. Not necessarily materially, but a new level of confidence or happiness.

I will admit I am a bit envious now as I think on these things. Envious of their courage. To take a chance. To take the harder road. To try, and to succeed. Remember that line in the movie Signs? "Swing away" It made all the difference in the end. Whether you succeed or fail, you will obviously never know unless you try.

So, do I "swing away" or drop the bat because it's just the easier thing to do?

I've seen these friends succeed in major & minor triumphs over uncertainties when they could have just taken the safe/easy road or bowed out. Time to step up to the plate myself I think...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A New View

Enough is enough. Yes, I am not a fan of this color scheme but I had to change blogger templates. Posting long stings of unbroken text in the old scheme would break (as I indicated in my previous post). I think this one will work much better. At any rate (colors aside) the layout looks decent in FireFox. A little less so in IE. I haven't tried it in Opera--which, in case you didn't hear is now available for free (no ad banners, no licensing fee)--nor in any of the other browsers yet. I like FireFox. I use FireFox.

Anyway, I'll work on the color scheme as time goes by I'm sure...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Upgrading To Mandriva Linux 2006 Via FTP

Mandriva is only providing their latest distribution .iso files to their club members (once again) but you can upgrade from Mandriva Linux 2005 to 2006 easily enough via urpmi (the Mandrake, er... Mandriva automated package manager) and ftp--if you have a fast connection. The following demonstrates upgrading for the x86_64 (AMD64) platform. You should be able to substitute /i586/ for /x86_64/ below if your are running a 32-bit processor but I didn't test it...

My apologies if the formatting for the commands listed below looks terrible in your browser. The URLs are too long for this template, so I have set them to the smallest font size. (I need to look into alternative blogware or another template.) You should be able to copy & paste the commands easily enough however.

[Updated October 16, 2005. Using a new template, URLs should display much better now?]

Open a shell and use the following commands (all one line for each command):

urpmi.removemedia -a

urpmi.addmedia --wget ftp_main with ../media_info/

urpmi.addmedia --wget ftp_contrib with ../media_info/

urpmi.addmedia --wget ftp_compat32 with ../media_info/

urpmi.addmedia --wget --update ftp_update with ./media_info/

urpmi urpmi

urpmi --auto --auto-select

urpmi kernel

If you don't have wget installed you can leave off the --wget option in the commands listed.

That's it, reboot and enjoy your new Mandriva Linux distribution.

Disclaimer: Use the above information at your own risk. If you ruin your Mandriva install or otherwise mess up your system, that is your business, not mine.

[Updated 31 October 2005: Corrected entry for ftp_updates.]

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Ubuntu 5.10 & nVIDIA Drivers

Just a couple of quick notes. My initial impression? This distro rocks! I enjoyed the previous version and this is definitely a step in the right direction. (In fact, let me start bittorrent seeding for the amd64 installation .iso while I am thinking about it.)

You may or may not know this but you DO NOT have to manually install the nVIDIA drivers for your video card (assuming you have an nVIDIA card of course). They are available via apt & Synaptic. Here's what you will want to do:
  1. Open System --> Administration --> Synaptic Package Manager
  2. Click Reload in the Synaptic toolbar
  3. Click Search
  4. I chose to replace the generic kernel with the amd64-k8, so I entered Search = Linux & Look in = Name in the Find box.
    1. Scrolled through the results and selected:
      1. linux-headers-amd64-k8
      2. linux-image-amd64-k8
      3. linux-kernel-headers
      4. linux-restricted-modules-amd64-k8 (Note: No matter which kernel you are using, you NEED to load the linux-restricted-modules for the kernel of your choice. Otherwise, no nVIDIA drivers.)
  5. Next Click Search again and in the Find box enter Search = nvidia & Look in = Description and Name
    1. Scroll through the results and select:
      1. nvidia-glx
      2. nvidia-kernel-common
      3. nvidia-settings
  6. Click Apply
  7. Open Applications --> Accessories --> Terminal
  8. Enter the command sudo nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf
  9. Enter your password at the prompt
  10. Make the following changes to xorg.conf
    1. In Section "Module" comment out the following with the hash symbol:
      1. # Load "dri"
      2. # Load "GLcore"
    2. Add Load "glx" in this section if it is not present
  11. Scroll down to Section "Device" where you will find the entry for your video card. Change Driver "nv" to Driver "nvidia"
  12. Scroll down to Section "Monitor" and verify the HorizSync & VertRefresh settings for your monitor. If you are not sure what they should be, look them up from the MANUFACTURERS website. Setting these values incorrectly could permanently damage your monitor!
  13. Finished? Press Ctrl+X and enter Y to save the changes
  14. Close your open windows
  15. Reboot the PC and if all is well you should see the nVIDIA splash screen and then the gdm login screen
Trying to install the drivers from the nVIDIA site manually just wouldn't work for me. The above steps did. The response time with the nvidia driver versus the nv driver is pretty dramatic.

Enjoy! And, by the way. I am writing all this up on my shiny new Ubuntu 5.10 system. :-)

Disclaimer: Remember, you use these instructions at your own risk. No guarantees, warranty, liability or accuracy regarding the above information is expressed or implied. If you blow something up on your system, it's your business, not mine.

[Updated 18 October 2005: Clarified that you MUST install a
linux-restricted-modules package for the kernel you are running in order to obtain the nvidia kernel module.]

[Updated 31 October 2005: More of a comment than an update... Site Meter indicates that this is the most popular entry in my blog. I hope you find it useful. If you have questions or comments about the procedure above, please let me know.]

Good Deal!

Seen today...


Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS Platinum $79.99,
Oct 12 05
Price drop. has the THX certified Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS Platinum 7.1 channel, 24-bit for a low $79.99 after rebate. Free shipping. (Thanks Gere)

$15 off First $200 in Computers, Software, Home Networking, Digital Cameras, Electronic Stores Coupon (Exp 10/31)
$100 rebate Exp 10/17/05
Email Deal Similar Deals
Lowest price search

Man is this a sweet deal on an awesome card. A $200 audio card for $80! This would be a great card if you know someone who wants to build a small digital home recording box. This is a platform that would provide an excellent base to start out with, and grow with. Especially for the price. They'd better hurry though, this deal runs out really soon...

I checked the ALSA Project site and it appears to be supported by all accounts. You'll want to check yourself to make sure it will suit your purposes of course.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Quality Costs

I have toned down my wish list a bit from my recent post about building my own custom Explorer via Warmoth parts. A few days ago I decided to price out what it would cost for a replacement neck (with all the needed accessories) for my old Squier ("by Fender") Strat. The original neck has some really bad fret wear on it--I have been playing it going on about 20 years now. It's either hoping a grind & polish and a proper set up would bring it back to life, or it's time for a new neck. Of course you know it will have to be a Warmoth "Pro" compound radius neck. I've never played better. So without further ado, here is the scoop on what a retrofit would run:

Maple neck/Maple fingerboard.

With satin finish: $325
With no finish: $250

P/N Price Description

$157.00 Neck, Replacement Strat Warmoth "Pro" Construction

$75.00 Finish, Clear Satin
SS6105 $20.00 Frets, Stainless Steel

SMLC $48.00 Schaller Mini Locking Tuners

$5.00 String Trees

Going this route is far less expensive then building a whole Explorer!

Stainless steel frets for sure! Man, they would last forever! As for the finish, way back when I was putting together my main guitar (Warmoth; Soloist-style body; Explorer-style maple neck w/ ebony fingerboard) I experimented with a wipe on statin finish on some scrap maple. I got some really good results. I think I could do it again, and I am sure the neck would turn out well, but I'm not sure how the fingerboard would fare.

We'll see. I'm not in any hurry to part with any more funds probably at least until next year...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ardour, Me & RME

A friend and I have been jamming on some ideas for the last couple of weeks. Since I am stuck here on call today, I thought it might be a good time to delve a little deeper into Ardour.

My GNX2 has S/PDIF digital output, and my AMD64 box has an S/PDIF header, but the documentation is unclear, it appears that it is supposed to be output but then the manual also says it does I/O. I have no idea what would happen to either piece of equipment if I connected them and they were both running as output. From what I have read, it sounds like you could ruin something. Hmm, no thanks... What to do? Easy. Install the RME HDSP9652 back into the PC and let the digital recording commence!

I actually installed it last night, and this morning my first tests were under Windows 2000. The 9652 doesn't have analog out so I needed to use the SoundBlaster PCI512 (an older SoundBlaster audio card) that was already in my box for monitoring/playback. How did it go? Well, lets just say it didn't work out. The latency was so bad between the digital input to the analog output there was no way to do anything remotely useful. Hit a chord and wait two seconds for it to sound from the speakers. It was obviously on to Linux where I knew I would have to turn from the start...

DeMuDi was really my only option. I tried Musix but gave up trying to get ALSA to play with both sound cards at once. In DeMuDi, I was able to add the 9652 to the sound file under /etc/modprobe.d and from there it was just a matter of setting the sound levels on the GNX2, ALSA, and the HDSP mixer. Oh, and setting up the Ardour session and Jack connections. Whew!

All was going well, and I was happily recording some guitar parts when every once in a while it would sound like some terrible interference was cutting in. What was it? Bad connections? RF interference from something in the PC or around it? The soundblaster card freaking out? What?

That's when I started watching the xruns in Jack. Sure enough, I would hear that noise and see the xrun counter increment. Latency issues. :-(

I tried tweaking the Jack settings and it got better but didn't clear up entirely. I continued with my recording but thought for sure that the noise was going to make a mess of the whole experiment. It's funny, I've never heard this noise with the softsynths when I got an xrun, nor any issues with recording through the soundblaster as far as I can recall. The RME card does all it's own processing and doesn't hit the PC CPU at all. Oh well... I continued on...

When I exported my hastily pieced together Ardour session to a WAV file, I discovered something interesting. Upon playing it back the xrun noise was gone. Not a trace. It was only during playback & monitoring during the recording that I heard it. Now it was gone and I was left with a pristine recording (too bad my rhythm was so awful on the piece). (Otherwise it was) Excellent!

It must be an issue with the soundblaster and/or jack settings. After all, it appeared that there was nothing wrong whatsoever with the digital input signal and the RME card uses zero percent of the PC processor. The answer must lie there somewhere...

Oh goody, more research to do on arcane computer topics. Just what I love! ;-)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Audio Conversion With PAC

Our DVD player doesn't like OGG Vorbis files. I knew this when I started archiving our CD collection. Yeah, I could have ripped the tracks to MP3 & OGG in the same go but I'm either lazy or impatient. K wants to play the files on the surround sound set up so it's either convert the OGG files to MP3 or go through all the CDs again.

Batch converting OGG files to MP3 is quite easy in Linux as a quick google will show you. My concern was, I wanted to preserve the file tags (you know--Title, Artist, etc) . The quick and easy conversion methods I found didn't give me this option. A more intensive search led me to a Perl application called PAC, the Perl Audio Converter. This thing appears to do it all but it was a real trick getting it compiled & running on my Mandriva partition (it wants KDE and I didn't want to take a chance with my SuSE partition so Mandriva got to be the guinea pig). I had to install some extra Perl stuff with rpmdrake (the Madriva package manager). I also needed to grab some stuff from CPAN (the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network). I had to download & compile the LAME sourcecode (for MP3 encoding. Mandriva doesn't have it in their distro). Finally, I had to make some minor edits to the pac.conf file before all was said & done but it was worth all the effort in the end...

I dropped into a shell and issued the following command (all one line):

pac -o2m --tag key="artist title genre album year track" --recursive=/mnt/win_3/music -o ./

The thing ran all night and into the next morning. PAC leaves the original files, and the new MP3s were sitting on the Mandriva partition--with ID3 tags intact. The only tag it didn't save was Date. I hoped the 'year' option would cover it but it did not. I burned the MP3 files to DVD-R and tested them out on our DVD/surround sound, and there you have it...

I have seen a lot of remarks about how awful it is to convert from one 'lossy' audio file format to another and I agree, going back to the original CD audio would have been best, but you know what? The MP3 files sounded fine for their intended use. (FWIW, the original OGG files are quality 5 (~160kbps). The MP3 files are j-stereo at 128kbps.)

PAC can handle various audio format conversions1 among other things. It wasn't the easiest thing in the world to get compiled & running, but again it was definitely worth the effort. It would be really nice to see this application rolled into RPMs and DEB packages...

1The Sourceforge PAC page tells us that "[PAC is a] Tool for converting multiple audio types from one format to another. It supports MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, Shorten, Monkey Audio, FAAC AAC/MP4, Musepack, Wavpack, RealAudio, WAV, and WMA."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Linux Breakthrough

Oh I just have to post this before I forget.

I showed K how to access our music files with amaroK from the SuSE 9.3 partition, and she was in heaven creating her own playlists and burning customized audio CD's. I also showed her how she could access all her documents from the Windows partition too.

Later she told me that Linux would be ideal if only we could get the boy's games to run on it...


Sure, we can do that. It just takes a little effort. Fortunately, I found just the site to help me along in this endeavor, Frank's Corner, Running Windows Applications On Linux Using Wine.1

Most of their games are older so I don't foresee any major complications in getting it done. It's taking the time to do it that is the real trick.

The breakthrough? K's convinced, the Linux desktop is for real and really usable! That, my friends, is a real triumph. I shouldn't be surprised though. It has most of the apps she uses in Windows anyway--OpenOffice (she's better at working with it then I am), FireFox, the web-based apps Google provides (poor M$, Google is making application serving amongst the masses a reality before their very eyes), etc. It's all there and thensome.

Transition made, resistance isn't futile after all... ;-)

1"Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of X and Unix. Think of Wine as a compatibility layer for running Windows programs. Wine does not require Microsoft Windows, as it is a completely free alternative implementation of the Windows API consisting of 100% non-Microsoft code, however Wine can optionally use native Windows DLLs if they are available. Wine provides both a development toolkit for porting Windows source code to Unix as well as a program loader, allowing many unmodified Windows programs to run on x86-based Unixes, including Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris." --Wine HQ

JackLab: OpenSuSE Audio Production Distro

If I'd have blinked I would have missed it...
Recently there is a place to go for musicians and media producers who want to use openSUSE Linux. "JackLab" takes care of the communication between openSUSE users and developers. JackLab would like to stimulate an entrance CD ISO with the help of openSUSE community that contains a complete music production environment.
Yes!!! There it was. At the bottom of the OpenSuSE Documentation page. It looks like my dream is going to become a reality! An installable Digital Audio Workstation distribution based on SuSE! Can I just say this is some really great news?

This project is just starting out, but it appears to have admirable goals and I wish them all the best.
JackLab's principal aim is to watch current software, make recommendations to software packagers, test it, talk about it, offer tutorials and user4user support. Negotiatons about a distribution of these upgrades e.g. with cd-roms as an downloadable image or in magazines have started.
Of course, I hope to participate in testing as the software starts rolling out. I'm wondering if the JackLab folks have contacted the people that put out the SuSE Audio LiveCD. That would be a fine place to start to get the project off the ground and onto my computer! :-)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

My Next Guitar?

Updated: 03 October 2005, added price breakdown charts by parts.

A friend and I were at Sam Ash Friday talking with their luthier. He was extolling the virtues of the Explorer as an ideal players guitar--you can control the angle of the guitar to your body with the back of your forearm pushing on the top "fin", something not as easily accomplished with a Strat-style body. This made sense to me.

I mentioned that I have always been interested in acquiring an Explorer (or an SG) myself. I always thought the body design looked great, and some of my favorite players play(ed) Explorers. The only problem with them, as far as I could tell was weight. A heavy piece of wood! The luthier said they weren't any heavier then the Les Pauls, particularly if you can get one made of korina.

Well, all this talk of Explorers started me thinking once again about putting one together myself from parts (since it seems almost certain that I would never be able to afford a "real" Gibson Explorer). In fact, when I built my first Warmoth guitar I was contemplating an Explorer style set up back then (10 years ago?). The friend that was with me at Sam Ash is already talking about putting one together too. (He might change his mind after seeing this post, I dunno...)

This is a shot of the Gibson Explorer '76 available from Music123
Currently listed at $999 (includes a free Gibson
hard shell case that retails at $159)

The question is, can I build a similar model for less? Let's find out...

I have completed some calculations based on Warmoth's current pricing, and the answer is YES, it can be done--if I am willing to apply my own finish to the body. Otherwise, based on the options I selected plus having them apply a finish to the body & headstock, NO.

Now, as I mentioned previously, I have done this DIY guitar thing before. I am no stranger to building out a guitar from parts. I got exactly the guitar I wanted (minus active pickups, I could not afford them) by doing it this way. That is one of the huge advantages of the DIY guitar. The other is the quality of the Warmoth necks & bodies--particularly the necks. Their compound radius design for the fingerboard makes playing on them a dream. I am not an expert but I would daresay they are the best necks made, and they have been in the business for quite a while now.

Having gone this route before, I put together pricing for two variants on the Explorer theme that I think would be very nice. Both deviate from the standard Explorer shown above--both would lose the pickguard in the routing process. Both would have a single volume & single tone control (as opposed to two volume pots on the model above). The body would be alder. The neck would be maple with an ebony fingerboad, satin finish on the maple. Graphite nut, and stainless steel fretwire (which offers longer life then the widely used nickel wire). I am thinking a white body/headstock, black accents, and chrome hardware. I think it would look great, play great, and not break my back (with the alder body).

The second variation differs even further from the standard model shown above. Here I forego the Tune-O-Matic bridge and non-locking Gotoh SG38 tuners in favor of a Gotoh Wilkinson tremolo bridge, keep the graphite nut, and install Schaller Mini Locking Tuners. You see, I refuse to purchase another floating tremolo ever again1.

Another radical departure I would consider is replacing the three-way pickup selector switch with a 5-way switch hooked up to three Seymour Duncan pickups in an Bridge/Humbucker - Mid/Single - Neck/Humbucker style, wired in a "Steve's Wizardry" configuration. According to Totally Guitar (page 103) this configuration uses the five-way switch to coil-split the humbuckers in the 2 and 4 position achieving hum cancellation in all positions (except 3--the single coil alone), plus it should approach/approximate the classic single-coil tones of the 2 & 4 positions found on Strats. This would be a really cool mod to try out, IMO. 2 & 4 are my favorite tones on the Strat. I'm still trying to picture how this thing would look though, I haven't seen many Explorers that didn't have the Tune-O-Matics on them...

Well, the bottom line is the bottom line. So, what did I come up with? Here it is:

Explorer 1 Explorer 2 Variance
Fully Finished $1,059.70 $1,221.20 $161.50
Neck Finish Only $824.70 $986.20 $161.50
Variance $235.00 $235.00

Explorer 1
P/N Price Description

$190.00 Explorer Body, Alder, 2H Routing, No Pickguard

$35.00 Contoured Heel

$10.00 Angled Neck Pockets (for Tune-o-matic)

$185.00 Finish, Body, Solid (White?)

$189.00 Neck, Explorer Warmoth "Pro" Construction, Maple/Ebony
SS6105 $20.00 Stainless Steel Fretwire
NBGG $24.75 Nut, Graphtec Graphite, Cut & Installed

$115.00 Finish, Satin (Solid Black Peghead)
TOM1C $16.00 Bridge, Gotoh Tune-O-Matic Stud Mount, Chrome
STP1C $13.00 Bridge, Gotoh Stop Tail Piece, Chrome
SG38LC $25.50 Tuners, Gotoh SG38, Chrome
BK1B $4.00 Knobs, Black (2ea)
CTS500 $3.00 CTS Brand 500k Pot, Volume
CTS250 $3.00 CTS Brand 250k Pot, Tone
??? $160.00 Pickups, Seymour Duncan (2)
n/a $12.00 Straplocks, Dunlop (Sam Ash)
NP1C $4.50 Neck Plate, Chrome
SLP1B $11.50 Straight LP Switch Black with Black Knob 1/2" mounting hole
LPSP1B $1.25 LP Switch Plates
NS2C $1.60 Neck Screws (4)
HBRT1B $7.00 Pickup Rings, Tall, Angled, Black (2)
TFS1B $1.40 Pickup Mounting Screw, Black, Stainless Steel
MJ1 $2.50 Jack, Mono
SJP1C $5.00 Jack Cover, Chrome

$1.50 Capacitors
CST1 $7.00 Copper Shielding, 8” (10” linear)
CST2 $5.25 Copper Shielding, 2” (21” linear)
WK1 $5.95 Wiring Kit

Explorer 2
P/N Price Description

$190.00 Explorer Body, Alder, H-S-H Routing, No Pickguard

$35.00 Contoured Heel

$185.00 Finish, Body, Solid (White?)

$189.00 Neck, Explorer Warmoth "Pro" Construction, Maple/Ebony
SS6105 $20.00 Stainless Steel Fretwire
NBGG $24.75 Nut, Graphtec Graphite, Cut & Installed

$115.00 Finish, Satin (Solid Black Peghead)
WT1C $89.00 Gotoh Wilkinson Tremolo

$10.00 Gotoh Wilkinson Tremolo, Stud Installation
SMLC $48.00 Schaller Mini Locking Tuners
MS1 $4.50 Mini Switch On-On 1/4" mounting hole
BK1B $4.00 Knobs, Black (2ea)
CTS500 $3.00 CTS Brand 500k Pot, Volume
CTS250 $3.00 CTS Brand 250k Pot, Tone
??? $234.00 Pickups, Seymour Duncan (2H, 1S)
n/a $12.00 Straplocks, Dunlop (Sam Ash)
NP1C $4.50 Neck Plate, Chrome
CRL5 $12.00 CRL Brand 5 Way Switch Includes 2 Chrome Mounting Screws
SSK1B $1.25 Strat® and Tele® Switch Knobs (Black)
NS2C $1.60 Neck Screws (4)
HBRT1B $7.00 Pickup Rings, Tall, Angled, Black (2)
TFS1B $1.40 Pickup Mounting Screw, Black, Stainless Steel
MJ1 $2.50 Jack, Mono
SJP1C $5.00 Jack Cover, Chrome

$1.50 Capacitors
CST1 $7.00 Copper Shielding, 8” (10” linear)
CST2 $5.25 Copper Shielding, 2” (21” linear)
WK1 $5.95 Wiring Kit

I'm confident I could do the finish on the body, but I want a "factory" finish on the neck. It's vital that that is done correctly.

BTW, I haven't taken the time to determine the precise model pickups I would want, but I do have a very close estimate on what they would cost for both of these Explorer variants. Seymour Duncan all the way baby!

Well, it's a pricey endeavor no doubt, and not for the faint of heart (hint: practice your soldering well in advance of trying to wire up a guitar!!). I have a PDF with the parts/pricing breakdown for both configurations but I can't post it to Blogger I guess. If anyone is interested in it, e-mail me and I will send it to you...

1While I love the versatility and functionality of the Schaller Licensed Floyd Rose tremolo on my first Warmoth, it is a total pain in the butt to set up (which is costly) and if you break a string it takes forever to get it all back to pitch again.

2All trademarks mentioned above are owned by their respective owners. I've heard guitar companies freak out when you mention their product names for some reason, so there! I have done my civic duty. Warmoth is Warmoth; Strat (Stratocaster) is Fender; Explorer & SG are Gibson. If I forgot anybody else, you (and everybody else) knows who you are...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Music Collection

Near the beginning of September I began archiving our CD collection to OGG Vorbis files. I figured I'd be done with it fairly quickly--in fact I had posted that I was about a third of the way done. Ha! Was I ever wrong. I can't even say that I am that close today! Here's what I have done so far (according to Winamp):

1024 tracks in playlist, average track length: 3:57 Estimated playlist length: 67 hours 40 minutes 5 seconds

I had no idea we had so many CD's1, 4.82GB worth so far. I still have a few of K's box sets to do and then-some!

I have been converting the tracks to a OGG quality 5 setting (~160kbps) which is near CD quality. At least, they sound pretty good to me anyway. The obvious beauty of it all is instant access to your music collection (no hunting for the CD's, no swapping them in your drive, etc.). Start your player and set it to shuffle the songs and just enjoy. Another cool thing about working this project, I didn't realize we had such a diverse collection of music. Nice. You never know who or what you will hear next. This is going to be great for the kids. I don't want them getting stuck on one genre, they need to hear it all.

And to think of all the CD's I sold to places like CDExchange years ago! Who knows how big our collection would have been if I'd kept them...

1Mind you, these are ALL legit CD's we've purchased over the years. If an artist wants to give away their work under a Creative Commons type license, that's cool. Some of them want to be paid, I respect that as well.