Thursday, March 31, 2005

Audacity: rectified, but not mitigated!

With the help of some folks on the Audacity mailing list, I have managed to simulate the effects of a rectifier circuit on audio. Here is the sound of both half-wave and full-wave rectification being applied to the music that I posted here last week. MP3 Link.

To me, it sounds strangely like some of the sound effects from the original Star Wars trilogy. Red 5 standing by!

my first Audacity plugin

;nyquist plug-in
;version 1
;type process
;name "Bizarro..."
;action "Bizarrifying audio..."
;info "by Jeff Robertson\nReleased under terms of GPL"

;control thresh "Threshold" real "0 to 1" 0.1 0 1

; This plugin takes round stuff and makes it square.
; Every sample whose absolute value is below the given
; threshold will become 0. Every other sample will become
; either 1 or -1, depending on sign.
; Sounds sort of like a combination of fuzz pedal and
; a toggle switch that noisily switches the guitar's sound
; on and off at the start and end of each note.

; This is the largest possible IEEE 754 floating point number,
; we pretend that it is "infinity".
(setf maxfloat 3.4028234663852886E38)


; multiplying by "infinity" will force everything that that is
; not zero to be clipped to either 1 or -1.

; this eliminates any sample whose absolute value is under
; the threshhold. this is used to reduce noise in the final
; output, since otherwise even the tiniest positive or negative
; sample would go to 1 or -1.
(s-max s thresh)
(scale -1 (s-max (scale -1 s) thresh) ))


Worst RUSH Song EVAR

"I Think I'm Going Bald"

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Audacity, Nyquist, and Lisp

Audacity plugins are written in a language called Nyquist. See here, here, and here. Nyquist is based on Lisp, with extensions for working with sound files. I haven't done much with Lisp since my college days as an Emacs user. I've worked with music/sound specific languages before, though, namely Csound.

Friday, March 25, 2005

SD Times - Is Software Engineering an Oxymoron?

So if programming isn’t science or engineering, what is it? It’s a liberal art. Modern programming bears more similarity to creative writing than to engineering or physics. The design process that you go through (or at least should go through) to create a program is almost identical to the process that you use to write a book: research, formulating a thesis (or problem definition), an orderly exposition of the thesis. These steps are central to both expository writing and object-oriented analysis and design.

See responses here and here .

Update on "Historic Stone Mountain Signs"

I saw one of these signs squarely within the city of Atlanta, in Fulton County. So obviously my earlier observations about them being solely the work of DeKalb County are incorrect.

This one is Lindbergh at Piedmont (near where the Gold Club used to be), and seems to suggest taking Lindbergh east as your route to Stone Mountain. This would take you over to Cheshire Bridge near Varsity Junior and the Tara Theatre, where Lindberg turns into LaVista. LaVista would, eventually, take you to Tucker.. which is where I saw the other sign. But there is no sign that tells you to turn onto Lynburn off of LaVista, so unless for some reason you just randomly decided to take a little side street that almost looks like a driveway, you'd never see the next sign and thus never find your way to Stone Mountain. LaVista ends at Lawrenceville Highway, which if you continued on might just afford you some sort of a brief glimpse of the mountain off to your right, possibly when you pass Mountain Industrial Blvd, but then again maybe not. Eventually you'd end up in Lilburn with no idea where you went wrong.

And there's still the matter of the sign at North Decatur Road and Scott Blvd, and how it fits in with the others.

If the state of Georgia is responsible for this, the placement of the signs is even stranger. Lindbergh/LaVista is a state highway (236). Lawrenceville Highway is US-29, and therefore also maintained by the date DOT. Scott Blvd for its part is both US-29 and US-78 and possibly several other state and US numbers besides. But Lynburn and North Decatur road are just local streets, and the signs on them actually direct you away from the nearest state or US highway!

Isn't Google Maps great?

Creative Loafing Atlanta | FOOD & DRINK | FAT CHANCE

The legendary California burger chain Fatburger, mentioned so frequently on Sanford and Son and in west-coast rap lyrics, has come to Atlanta!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

What Is Software Design: 13 Years Later

what about the Less Able Programmer? The issue seems to be that only the very best programmers can "design" and "code" at the same time. To offset this, we must have all those intermediate design steps and products mentioned above to make up for the lack of experience and talent of the average programmer.

To me, this is like asking "what do we do about the less able physician?"

What Is Software Design

From the Wiki (the mother of all wikis).

developer.* - Code as Design: Three Essays by Jack W. Reeves

One of the seminal essays of the past 10-15 years of software development history.

The overwhelming problem with software development is that everything is part of the design process. Coding is design, testing and debugging are part of design, and what we typically call software design is still part of design.

The software design is not complete until it has been coded and tested. Testing is a fundamental part of the design validation and refinement process.

This often results is what managers perceive as "hacking", but it is the reality of software development.

Supplementary Characters in the Java Platform

This article describes how supplementary characters are supported in the Java platform. Supplementary characters are characters in the Unicode standard whose code points are above U+FFFF, and which therefore cannot be described as single 16-bit entities such as the char data type in the Java programming language. Such characters are generally rare, but some are used, for example, as part of Chinese and Japanese personal names, and so support for them is commonly required for government applications in East Asian countries.

On the Goodness of Unicode

by Tim Bray.
while there are officially two standards you should care about, Unicode and ISO 10646, through some political/organizational magic they are exactly the same, and if you're using one you're also using the other.

Tom White's Blog: Counting Characters

More discussion of the, uhm, character issues in Java 1.5.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

full disclosure time

As promised a while back, I have uploaded the last "song" that Will and Cliff and I recorded when we snuck into WVUA's studios on April 29 1997. It doesn't make me look too good. I can never get the reggae upstroke rythym correct, I fail to follow Will through chord changes that should have been obvious to a deaf person, and I just keep soloing when the other guys try to end the song. Here is my shame.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Robocode Central

Robocode looks like it is probably a lot of fun, but the #0000FF text on #000000 background is a bit hard to read.

Weblogs Forum - The Code Quality Myth

I almost discern an inverse relationship between how satisfactory a piece of code is to the developers working on that code, and the amount of money that code makes for those developers' employers.

Friday, March 18, 2005

something I plan to do if I ever have the time

Produce an entire "album" of songs using nothing but Audacity, and make not only the final mixes (as MP3s) available under creative commons, but also the raw unmixed Audacity projects. Open source music if there ever was such a thing. Audacity may not be a pro audio workstation, but is more than enough for an old analog 4-track addict like me.

George Vlosich's Art Gallary

Consists entirely of etch-a-sketch pictures of baseball players and other famous people. It's so good, I suspect it can't possibly be real. Photoshop, right? Say it ain't so!

Wired News: Pharming Out-Scams Phishing

work related

Flyn Computing

Can't make any comment about the quality of the software here, but this is a friggin' beautiful web page design. (Yes, my definition of beautiful is probably different from yours.. didn't you notice what my blog looks like?)

encrypt/decrypt in shell script

.. and still more.

[fetchmail]Encrypting Password

The idea of encrypting passwords in config files takes even more of a beating.

Design notes on fetchmail

See especially the section on "Password encryption in .fetchmailrc".

Thursday, March 17, 2005 Books: TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes


The Simpsons Archive: The Simpsons Floor Plans

By the second season there was a really consistent floor plan, however, the directors are allowed to use their own artistic license and rearrange the house to fit a particular scene. For example, in "Hurricane Neddy", Lisa's bedroom faces the rear of the house so she can tell Homer, in the back yard, that a hurricane is coming. In "Lisa's Sax" her room faces the front of the house. When her saxophone gets thrown out the window, it lands in the street for cars to run over it. The directors relocated the room so it could happen

I found a website once that had all the floor plans for the houses from dozens of TV shows, including but not limited to the Simpsons. I'm trying to find it again so I see what TV house is most like the house I'm currently buying.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Character (Java 2 Platform SE 5.0)

Interesting documentation. The newest version of Java has had to rethink what a "character" means.

The original Java dream of a "char" type that could represent every possible character in a single unit, strings whose length in char primitives is always equal to their length in notional Unicode characters, and other such good stuff, was naive and doomed to failure.

Java's char is now an only slightly better abstraction for the idea of "character" than the primordial C/C++ char, which is so encumbered with the baggage of being defined as equal to a "byte" and the unit in which the sizeof all other things is measured, as to be almost totally unrelated to the idea of human-readable text in any encoding other than ASCII. The difference between this and the situation of Java is now one of degree rather than of kind.

The issues with ASCII-vs-Unicode, "wchar", etc., that have plaugued every other programming language have caught up with Java in version 5; it's just that it took until UTF-16 while others have been dealing with UTF-8 for years.

You'd think they could have see, ten years ago, that the number of code points would eventually (soon!) grow past the point where language/processor designers would be willing to follow with a primitive type. A new language being defined today could avoid the problem by always using 32-bit chars, the same way Java did with its 16-bit char. But even to a Java person, that seems wasteful. And what happens if Unicode grows to need 64 bits?

ModSecurity (mod_security) - Open Source Web Application Firewall

Work related. A lot of people I respect have told me that web application firewalls aren't worth the money. At least this one is free.

Monday, March 14, 2005

UTR# 36: Security Considerations in the Implementation of Unicode and Related Technology

It's my job to care about this sort of thing, now.

See also this post

Friday, March 11, 2005 ? Blog Archive ? Bacon and guacamole - spiritual kin?

Via Chet. Holy crap, this is good stuff.

Name That Solo

It's test-your-knowledge time. Listen to all 10 of the se MP3's, which are excepts of just the guitar solos from 10 songs, and name:

1. band
2. song
3. guitarist


- Most, but not all, are from the 1970s.
- Mostly artists that you've heard, but not neccessarily their most - well-known songs.
- No Rush, because all my Rush CD's are packed away right now.
- No Beatles, since they would be too obvious and easy to guess.
- No Budgie, since I was just talking about them recently so they'd be on your mind.
- No Metallica, because I don't want to get sued.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small. Henry Kissinger

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bob Dylan direct mp3 links

Including the performance of Maggie's Farm at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival that is generally recognized as the official moment that "Dylan went electric".

You've all heard the story. Dylan plugs in an electric guitar and the folk purists go nuts. End of an era. Yadda yadda.

But if you're like me and you grew up in a post-Woodstock, post-metal, post-punk, semi-grunge era when electirc lead guitar was expected to be a brutal affair indeed, the electricness of the guitar on songs like "Like a Rolling Stone" and even "Subterranean Homesick Blues" just isn't that threatening. Sure, it's amplified but so what, on my stereo it doesn't sound any louder than the harmonica on "Blowin' in the Wind".

But listen to this version of Maggie's Farm, and you'll finally get it. By this time in 1965, Dylan had already released Bringing It All Back Home, which featured electric guitar and nobody really cared. But the moment that everybody talks about as when "Dylan went electric", he (and his band), really went electric, not only blasting to smithereens the boundaries of folk but serisouly pushing at the edges of rock and roll.

After a long, boring, and way too adoring spoken introduction, you can hear someone (Dylan?) say "louder". The band (which is not, on this occasion The Band, but instead composed mostly of members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band) kicks a up minimalistic, one-chord Bo Diddley juke joint rythym that paired with Dylan's voice sounds almost like some of the less artsy, more bluesy moments of the Velvet Underground.

And then the lead guitar comes in, answering Dylan's every phrase. Mike Bloomfield (who IIRC was also the guitarist on Bringing It All Back Home album) really cuts lose. The tone is probably about as distorted as an amplifier in 1965 (before they started building them to be distorted on purpose) was capable of being pushed to produce. Only a fuzz pedal could have given it more sustain and more crunch, but would also possibly have taken some of the trebly edge off of it. As it is, the sound has a bite that must have been ear-splitting live, considering that the amp probably had to be turned up to 10 to get it sound like that.

Bloomfield bends the strings mercilessly, sort of reminscent of the solos on early Beatles and Stones recordings but more so, if you know what I mean. He plays the same licks again and again, dissonnant unison bends that ring with resultant tones. Presumably that spot he keeps hitting is the exact spot that caused the most pain to those present at the time, and just he won't let it be.

Bloomfield puts himself in the same league with Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton's work with the Yardbirds. Not until Jimi Hendrix would the electric guitar be pushed any harder than this.

And all this masterminded by Dylan: one-time darling of the folk movement, earnest Woody Guthrie imitator, the real-life Mitch to Joan Baez's Mickey.

This concert is probably the second most important thing Dylan ever did, right after introducing the Beatles (and consequently the general public) to marijuana. In five or six noisy, ill-received minutes, Dylan left folk behind and moved forever into rock. Later forays into country still never got him back to where he was before. And he brought the entire angry protest aspect of folk into rock with him.

Dylan's movement into rock is quite possibly what made the whole late-60's protest/hippie/acid rock thing happen. And what makes it possible for us even today to have rock stars who care about liberal social causes. Without Dylan, every single left-wing act that you can think of would still be trying to sound like the Kingston Trio.

In other words, this MP3 is history in the making, but you'll never hear it on your local oldies station. Or, for that matter, your local rock station unless they're so desparate to differentiate themselves from the other classic rock stations that they've started going nearly free-form before finally giving up and changing formats altogether (this actually happened to Z-93... I really heard them play this song very shortly before they turned into Dave FM).

Download it NOW before something happens to this website.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Gibson Research Corporation Home Page

I have found this again after losing the link a while back. This is the home of "SheildsUP!", a free firewall-testing service that attempts to connect back to the IP address of the browser connecting to it.

Planning Department - Map Order Information

For anyone planning a move, being able to figure out what neighborhoods are zoned which schools is a really good thing, because all kinds of information about the schools' demographics, academics, safety records, etc., can be found online if you just know the name of the school.

Many local governments make it strangley counter-intuitive to find maps of their school districts, especially free online ones. These maps for DeKalb County, GA took quite a bit of googling to find.

Overheard question asked of a British co-worker

"Why is it called 'rugby'? There's no rug involved." A Look at Commons Chain: The New Java Framework

(More or less) work related.

Keep your eye on the code page

Read the comments, too.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Blasters, and not the cool kind from Star Wars

image from

I mean those devices that allow a computer, PVR, or other device to control a TV or set-top box by transmitting infrared signals and making it think that the signals are coming from its own remote control.

In case you are currently innocent of the dark, dank dungeon of "media center" computing, I am not kidding. These things and the need for them are real.

Is this not the most hacked up, Rube Goldberg-like system you've ever heard of? It sounds like something that some geek would build and show photos of on his blog, and get lots of laughs from lots of folks, not something that major companies would actually be manufacturing and selling as a neccessary component of entertainment systems costing hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars.

Considering that a computer capable of recording the output from your digital cable box is the worst nightmare of a lot of big companies, I'd be surprised if the blaster hasn't been challenged as a violation of the DMCA by somebody, somewhere.

How about some kind of a protocol for the kinds of devices to actually, you know, talk to each other straight over the wires, like civilized machines? But, we all know that ain't gonna happen.

The whole situation reminds me of the early generation of remote controls that involved a sensor and small motor to physically turn the dial on old TVs. Acoustic modems. The game "Mousetrap". The debugging device I always wanted to build to hit the F7 key every time I turned a fishing-reel-type crank attached to the keyboard. That time Fred Flintstone hooked up his car to the baby elephant that watered his lawn to invent the world's first rotating lawn sprinkler (this being the only instance in Flintsones history in which a car was depicted as being able to turn its own wheels rather than being pushed with the feet.. maybe it only worked because it was that gangster car that Fred bought at that auction).

Hardcore media/entertainment geeks are probably mocking at me at this point for just learning about all this. But it really is shocking to see such a thing in two thousand freaking five.

acid burn

I woke up this morning with a horrifying thought: there may now, in 2005, be a whole generation who hold the 1995 movie "Hackers" in the same sort of half ridicule, half reverence that geeks in 1995 had for the 1983 movie "War Games". A trip to the IMDB message boards confirms that Hackers may not be there yet, but it is definately on its way.

I haven't seen the the movie again since the first time it came on cable, when Taylor Williams tried to justify it as a "cyberpunk" movie, while I was just pissed that it wasn't actually a movie about hackers in the Jargon-File sense of the word which is what I was hoping for. Instead you get a movie where Angelina Jolie (in her first role in any movie that anybody ever saw) hooks up with a guy whose character was probably at least partly based on Kevin Mitnick. That pretty much says it all.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Freepats is a project to create a free and open set of GUS compatible patches that can be used with softsynths such as Timidity and WildMidi.


Way (way) less subtle than Led Zeppelin, less mystical (and less jazzy) than Black Sabbath, and not nearly as technical as Deep Purple or even Uriah Heep, is Budgie.

Slow, lumbering, bottom-heavy, metalicious, cheaply recorded, lyrics that don't make sense, vocals that sound like a cross between Geddy Lee, Bon Scott, and the guy from Nazareth - they have it all.

Speaking of Geddy Lee, Budgie may be the only band in history that outdoes pre-Neil-Peart RUSH (think "Working Man") in terms of the aforementioned qualities.

And the beginning of "Breadfan" sounds like the beginning of "Welcome to the Jungle".

Those of you who may be reading this at work, and who are my co-workers, I have some of this stuff here right now. The rest of you, get P2Ping.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Krystal Wi-Fi Hotspot Locations

Shows only 2 locations in "Atlanta", but really about 6 in the Atlanta area in places like Norcross and Marietta.

I thought winter was over

A Picture Share!, originally uploaded by jeff_robertson.

Free Wireless at Krystal

A Picture Share!, originally uploaded by jeff_robertson.

I had heard about this, but didn't quite believe it until I saw it with my own eyes.

MrPostman - Read your webmail from a pop mail client

Yes, exactly what it sounds like.
Currently supported webmail providers:

* Hotmail
* Yahoo
* gmail (Google mail)
* juno
* rediffmail
* Gossamer mail
* Outlook Web Access (Exchange 5.5)
* Outlook Web Access 2003