Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Balloon Bass

Noticed this today on Music Thing. A guy has made a 'bass guitar' out of balloons. Needless to say I was incredulous at first, but having a listen, the thing doesn't sound half bad. Quite a cool, weird, amazing hack if you ask me.

The balloon bass is a musical instrument comprised of one round balloon and two skinny (twisting) balloons. It is made by using the one non-inflated skinny balloon as a string and the other skinny balloon to create a resonator that connects the string to the round balloon...[it] is a three-and-one-half octave instrument, costs about $0.15 to make, and lasts for about a week--or until...it pops.

See BALLOONBASS.COM for more info...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

6GB Of RAM And I Can't Use Any Of It

This is such a shame. What I thought was a great deal of good fortune has turned into a bit of an expensive nightmare. I recently came into 6 x 1GB sticks of PC133; 3.3v; ECC; Registered RAM. I knew this was server RAM for older boxes, but I couldn't resist. Now I am (at the moment) stuck with it. You see, unfortunately, I have no system that can use ECC and/or Registered RAM. I can't find anyone who wants or needs it locally so far. I am having difficulties even locating mainboards that can use it. It appears that in short order I am going to have to put it on eBay and hope for the best (or at the least recoup my losses). There has to be somebody out there who can use this!

What a shame though. I was really hoping that at least one of my systems could use it. A nice 4GB box would have been great!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

More Musix GNU+Linux

[Linux; UTUTO-e; Musix GNU+Linux 0.26; DAW]

Updated: 18 Sept. 2005

This is not a full review by any means, just some initial impressions...

My first thoughts are "Wow! This distro is slick, I need to install this to HDD and see what it can really do!" I have run it on both my AMD64 3000+/1GB RAM; SB PCI512 and my dedicated "Digital Audio Workstation" (AMD XP 2000+/256MB w/Realtek Avance ALC audio). In both cases, Jack works flawlessly. I mean, no XRUNS! Zero! Nada! And, this is running from the LiveCD. How can this be? I am amazed to say the least.

When I run DeMuDi from the HDD on the AMD64 this is the realtime response that I expect. On the Athlon? DeMuDi Jack performance is good, not perfect but really very good.

What are the Musix developers doing to the kernel to keep it rock solid in real time? More investigation is in order I think. Whatever it is, major props (does anyone still say that?) to them for getting it right!

The following remarks are from my look at Musix GNU+Linux running from CD on the Athlon XP system.

I played around with Rosegarden using our Yamaha MIDI keyboard... Flawless!

I tried to do a simple two-track recording in Ardour, but it didn't work. I ran out of memory. This is not surprising, I only have 256MB RAM to work with. Something as intense as Ardour is going to eat that up really quickly when running from a live disc.

Even when you start the session in english, some of the prompts you'll see will be in spanish. This was not a major issue however and the distribution is still very usable for me. Musix GNU+Linux is developed in Argentina--utilizing all free software (based on UTUTO)--I think they have done an admirable job in their translation efforts to make this very approachable for english speaking users.

After the CD boots, you are prompted to start the Xwindows manager of your choosing. The starten openbox option is worlds above dealing with DeMuDi in terms of desktop navigation, IMO. Musix GNU+Linux is (as far as I have discerned from my initial perusing) the Linux-based DAW as it should be, at the moment--there will always be room for improvements but Musix GNU+Linux is very solid & usable.

My only complaint so far is with their implementation of the Hydrogen drum machine application. It fails to start because it is missing some critical files that it needs. Checking the output to see what is missing, I am certain I can make it work if installed to HDD but not on this LiveCD unfortunately. I'm confident this issue will be resolved in the next release.

AGNULA/DeMuDi has been my DAW of choice and I have been happy with the results that I have obtained with it. I hope they take some notes from Musix GNU+Linux with regards to the user interface and whatever the Musix developers are doing to eliminate xruns. I am comfortable using DeMuDi. It's staying put, but I definitely foresee installing Musix to the HDD.

I have non-computer/non-Linux oriented friends that need a FLOSS DAW--the commercial audio tools are too costly. I am going to recommend that they take a good look at both AGNULA/DeMuDi and Musix GNU+Linux. I think they will be amazed at what they see in either of these distros, but I am betting they like the user interface in Musix the best. Take a look for yourself, tell me what you think.

Mirrors:
https://www.ututo.org/xp/modules/mydownloads/

Bittorrent (I checked the sig, did you?):
http://linuxtracker.org/torrents-details.php?id=570

Azureus (and compatible) Bittorrent Magnet:
magnet:?xt=urn:btih:PG6L4PC4L2JEBBZQPEUGUX7M22SGJFS2


(...if it does not open automatically by clicking the link, cut & paste into Azureus --> File --> Open--> Location or CTRL+L)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Musix GNU+Linux 0.26 Notes

[Linux – Audio – LiveCD – HDD Installable]

Updated 13 Sept. 2005: Developer public keys import script for Ututo distros discovered.

I saw an announcement for this UTUTO based Audio Workstation distribution this morning. I had a couple of minor difficulties with the download that I hope to spare you with these few notes...

GnuPG was giving me a BAD signature error on the iso file that I downloaded from the link in the DistroWatch announcement. I found another site in the mirrors list and downloaded the files from there, and all was well. I used the following links on ftp.rutgers.edu:


Don't waste your time trying to find the public key on the Musix site or from Google, believe me I doubt you'll find it. However, you can obtain the needed public key for the signature file to verify the iso by using the following Gnu Privacy Guard command (all on one line):

gpg --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys 0x5320454D

Once you download the iso image & the corresponding signature file to the same directory, you can check the image integrity with the following command (all on one line):

gpg --verify MusixGNU+Linux026.iso.sig musixGNU+Linux026.iso

There is currently no official bittorrent link listed for this distro, so here is a magnet link for Azureus users:

magnet:?xt=urn:btih:PG6L4PC4L2JEBBZQPEUGUX7M22SGJFS2

Updated 20 Nov. 2005: Here is an (unofficial) torrent for this distro from Linux Tracker:


I hope to have a review of this audio workstation distro posted shortly.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Studio To Go! Reviewed

Just a quick note today (quite an exception from my usual lengthy ramblings). O'Reilly Digital Media has a pretty good review of Fervent Software's Studio To Go! Indicating both the pros & the cons of this LiveCD Digital Audio Workstation package. I just wished they had posted the results of their trial run with it--a song is worth a thousand reviews?

PS A quick (and possibly inaccurate) look at current pricing for Studio To Go! based on the rate of exchange provided by Google...

Studio to Go! v1.50: £54.99GBP [approx. $102US + Shipping]

Package deal: Studio to Go! v1.50, the Rosegarden Companion book & a USB key: £79.99GBP [approx. $148US + Shipping]

Bittorrent: Trackerless Torrents Via Azureus

My first experiment with creating a trackerless torrent with Azureus has failed. It was the simplest of things that had me stumped, why wouldn't it work? My fault, it was my magnet link...

Although documentation1 stated that Azureus can export a magnet link, I could NOT find any information on how or where to do this. I knew that a hash was needed for the magnet link but where did I need to go to find it? I took a guess and created my own link with the torrent hash itself. This was incorrect. And, as you will quickly see, the real solution to this is utterly and painfully simple:
  1. Download & install the latest Azureus client & JRE if needed.
  2. Make sure you have port 6881 unblocked (or the Distributed DB and Distributed Tracker won't work--distributed tracking will fail)
  3. Open Azureus & Create a torrent
    1. Click File --> New Torrent (or Ctrl+N)
    2. Select Decentralized (Azureus clients only)
    3. Drag & Drop the File or Folder you wish to share into this window (as indicated in the blue text at the bottom of the wizard image)
    4. Click Next
    5. Manually enter your path for the File or Folder you wish to share if you did not Drag & Drop them in the wizard previously (for whatever reason)
    6. Click Next



    7. Enter the path and filename for the torrent file (or leave the default if it works for you)
    8. Leave Auto selected
    9. Place a check in Open the torrent for seeding when done
    10. Do not check Host the torrent on the built-in tracker (or your trackless setup will be ignored in favor of the built in tracker--defeating the whole purpose of the trackerless system2)
    11. Click Next



    12. The trackerless torrent wizard will complete the setup and you can Close the dialog window when finished.
  4. Go to the Azureus --> My Torrents tab
  5. Right-Click on your newly created torrent which you should see listed
  6. Select Copy Magnet URI to Clipboard from the menu that opens
  7. Post this magnet link on your website or blog to let the world know your torrent is ready to roll...


See. Utterly simple. My apologies to those who tried to download the SuSE 9.2 LiveCD Audio Workstation ISO with the magnet link I had posted previously. If you care to try again, here is the correct magnet link:

magnet:?xt=urn:btih:WPLIFW2MC5BUAFAD4TC4HHATOEQDKGYI

  1. Open Azureus
  2. Copy the magnet link above
  3. Click File --> Open --> Location (or press Ctrl+L)
  4. You should see the copied magnet link already entered in the dialog that opens, if not, paste it in
  5. Click OK
If UDP on port 6881 is open the download process should begin.

Enjoy!

1From the changelog, which is indicative of the documentation (or lack thereof) provided elsewhere. Other documentation indicated that a hash would be included in the link. I thought (incorrectly) that it was the torrent hash...

What's new in 2.3.0.0
...
1.1.1 Magnet Links
For torrents that are tracked decentrally, Azureus can export a "Magnet Link". This is of the form "magnet:?xt=urn:btih:..." and can be used to download the torrent from the distributed database via the "open->url" menu item.

2Trackerless torrent doesn't necessarily mean anonymous. From what I have read, anonymous is possible but I have no need or interest in these options at this time. Trackerless means a) you can post a magnet link instead of a torrent file to your site; b) you do not need a dedicated tracker running; c) if your box drops out of the torrent but others are seeding, the torrent stays alive--in perpetuity as long as there is someone seeding out there.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Archiving & Comparing: A Quick Look At Ogg Vorbis

I have finally gotten around to archiving our CD collection to HDD. Last night I ripped about a third of our discs to Ogg with CDex1. At some point in the process I noticed that the codec dlls being utilized by CDex 1.5.1 were about three years old. I wondered what I was missing in quality & performance by not employing newer versions of the Ogg codecs. Long story short(er), you can find drop in replacements of the dll files for CDex at the following location:

You might as well take a look around the Rarewares Ogg page while your at it, there might be something else of interest there for you.

Anyway, unzip the oggvorbis-dlls1.1.1.zip into your CDex directory and you are ready to go. (I copied the old dlls into another directory just in case I wanted to go back to them for reference or otherwise...)

Honestly, on initial testing I cannot hear a difference between the old and new versions (encoded with the same settings in CDex). However, I can definitely see some differences in the output when I look at the waveforms in Audacity. I am going to take a guess here and say, the newer version of the codec probably does a better job preserving the audio quality of the original. You think?

A Totally Unscientific Encoding Format Comparison

The sample used is from Tom Petty, Full Moon Fever, Running Down A Dream (1989)


WAV

Ogg Old

Ogg New

MP3

Image Legend

AudioTrack

old

new

mp3

Filesize

10MB

845KB

850KB

938KB

Version


Xiph.Org libVorbis I 20020717

Xiph.Org libVorbis I 20050304

Lame MP3 Encoder (v. 1.30, engine 3.92 MMX)

Nominal Bitrate


120kbps

120kbps

128kbps

Avg Bitrate


115kbps

116kbps

128kbps

It looks to me like both the Ogg codecs compare fairly favorably to the original (WAV). The MP3 sample, less so. But to answer the question, which of the Ogg codecs is more accurate in staying true to the original, obviously this little snippet cannot answer that definitively. However, I think it does provide a small window into the overall accuracy picture. As I looked through the one minute sample in Audacity it appeared clear to me that both Ogg codecs samples are superior in staying true to the original over the MP3 encoding (at similar bitrates). This is not news or even surprising of course. What did surprise me however, is the older OGG codec appears to stay truer to the original waveform then the newer version. Hmm...

In the end though, the only thing that really counts is what it sounds like. Music encoded as ~128kbp MP3 files sound terrible to me. The high end is always a wash. Ogg encoded music files at (nominal) 120kbp are quite passable, IMHO with either codec I tried.

Oh how subjective (and probably useless) this all is. :-)

1Why not use *nix for this project you ask? Well, I still have the Linspire & SuSE Audio LiveCD torrents seeding on my Win2K partition and I don't want to reboot my main workstation. CDex in Windows works fine...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Linux: Freespire--Linspire 5.0 for Free

If you haven't seen Slashdot recently you might have missed this, and it is a very limited time offer. Linspire (formerly Lindows1) is offering their distro, Linspire 5.0 for free download through Labor Day:


I have never been a big fan of Lindows, they made some outrageous claims early on and their "run as root" security model seemed to me to be as bad as another big name desktop OS. I felt they were opportunists at the time jumping on the Linux bandwagon. They've stuck around though, and I don't think they still make the wild claims they once did.

At any rate, they were smart to base their system on the reliable Debian code, it gave their click and run application base a huge number to choose from, and they have turned downloading those applications into a business model of sorts. I have not been following them, so I don't know how successful they have been over the years, but I'm confident that Linspire 5 will be far and away a better distro then the last time I looked at the OS. We shall see. There claim to being The World's Easiest Desktop Linux is pretty bold, in the face of such standards as SuSE, Mandriva (formerly Mandrake), and the more recent addition, Ubuntu.

The really interesting thing (to me) about Linspire is the inclusion of proprietary multimedia applications2 :

One of the main differences between Linspire and other Linux distros (Mandriva, Ubuntu, MEPIS, etc.) is that Linspire does include a lot of legal and paid-for 3rd-party licenses for things like mp3, Java, Flash, Quick Time, Windows Media, Bitstream fonts, Real media, music, etc., and this is all pre-loaded, tested and ready to use.
Of course you can legally install many of these applications on most other Linux distros yourself as well, but sometimes getting them to play nicely with other applications can be a real trick. Another point of interest in this regard--I believe these 3rd-party apps includes a licensed DVD player. (Please... do NOT get me started on how stupid it is that we aren't allowed to play our legally purchased DVD's on whatever player we damn well please. That is a topic for another day.)

The servers were slammed last night when I was trying to process the order for downloading "freespire" but I persevered and got through to the official bittorent link. With so many interested individuals running the torrent (thousands in the swarm) it didn't take very long to get it downloaded. I will leave my bittorrent client running as a seed until the free Linspire offer expires .

Anyway, if you are interested, be prepared to keep retrying to get the order processed. Hang in there, because once you get on the torrent you're set...

If anyone is interested, the modified source code for GPL portions of Linspire is available via ftp at:

ftp://130.94.123.237/linspire-5.x-source/

Note: this link was provided by Linspire upon finalizing my order for Freespire. In other words, it's an "official" source code site.

1They started out as Lindows, until Microsoft made them change their name--ironic in the fact that the same type of issue brings us to this free offer today. It appears that a fellow built his own distro from the Linspire sources and called it 'Freespire'. This name was too close for comfort for the Linspire folks so the Freespire project has been renamed Squiggle.

2Non-Free Applications which would ease the transition of home users from a Microsoft OS environment to Linux but which GNU purists would certainly frown upon. Claims on both sides of that debate have merit but they are beyond the scope of this post.

Response Time

I am thankful to all the men and women who have done so much to assist those devastated by Katrina. They are courageous heros who deserve praise and support for all they are doing. At the same time, I am also in shock and disbelief at the lack of coordination and the lethargic response of the governmental agencies in coordinating efforts to ensure necessities get to those that are suffering. This is utterly outrageous. As has been said by others, how can we (on the one hand) be so quick to respond to disasters in other nations and yet it's taking 3-4 days to finally get food and water (and protection) to the folks who need it in our own country? How can this be?! How?!

I believe there is plenty of blame to go around, from the looters & thugs terrorizing the innocent survivors of this desperate city, to the mayor of New Orleans and all the way up to the top of the Federal Government. The local, state, and federal governments do not seem to be working together at all. A total and deadly mistake in my opinion. They should have been in constant contact from the start. Organized and ready to respond at all levels. This is unreal, and unacceptable. I have always felt & believed that "we take care of our own." That belief has been shaken to the core. That being said, there will be enough finger pointing to go around later. The time to act was days ago, the time to act is right now!

Get these people some water, food, medicine and get them the heck out of there, now! Finally, that is starting to happen but how much needless suffering and death has been caused by delays in responding to this crisis?

I am grateful to the great state of Texas for the efforts this state is making to assist our fellow Americans in their time of need. In the midst of utter chaos we will find a way to help. That's just how we are. A shining example, that America does take care of it's own--just as it should be.