I'm sorry I haven't been posting much content here, but the truth is, I just haven't had time. Work, kids, projects, life gets in the way.
Okay, enough whining. The good news is, I've got a great project lined up for the blog- complete with a new domain name to go with it. But again, there's not much time to work on it. It's something I feel strongly needs to be done, but man... it's just so hard to pull this stuff together. I'm also considering venturing into the "video blogging" world, which is both exciting and rather scary. I'm not very good in front of a camera, and I don't have a lot of video equipment (i.e. none). I never have a quiet house, I don't have a nice office, and heck... it's just not going to be easy.
I really feel strongly about it, though, so I'm going to keep trying to make it happen. I'm hoping that once I get some content recorded, things will go more smoothly, but I just don't know how to start. I really am better at writing than talking.
Well... since you wanted to know... I'm going to be doing articles on using Linux and free software to do live guitar performance (and other instruments, too). The reason I want to do videos is that it's much easier to show you how to do it. But it just takes time,.
Pray for me, I really want to make this happen. I believe it is something that could really take off, and be useful to a lot of people.
Into the deep belly of the Beast I ride
I furtively gird myself on the inside
Foreknowledge that at least I tried
As silently ever onward I glide
Between what seems one world and the next
I struggle and fight, but am only vexed
Indiscriminately from me they wrest
Until I emptily concede defeat in my chest
Why must everything be dreary
Performing mundane tasks makes weary
The strongest soul's desire to yearn
Or even care about the will to learn
And then you sit, and talk to a fern
And next thing ya know, it's all like
"Yo, izzit Friday yet? Uh. This sucks."
Don't be a sheeple.
If you're like me, and you like to ride your bike to places, then you probably have some sort of device on your bike that lets you track miles, speed, time, and so forth. A lot of these bike computers are focused on tracking data for training rides- heart rate, cadence, power, etc.- so when my old Cateye Velo 2 died after 20 years of service, I was very eager to replace it. Plus, Cateye is very much supportive of Bike Commuters... they even run the website www.worldcommute.com which tracks commuting miles.
And thus I discovered the Cateye Commuter. Supposedly, this little device is designed for the daily commuter, someone who wants to track their riding, but also wants useful data for when they're trying to get to work. I was very intrigued by this (and I found one on sale) so I decided to give it a try, and see if it lived up my lofty expectations.
First thing I noticed about the Cateye Commuter is that there are cool new functions on it that I've never seen on any other bike computer. It has an EL backlight. It has a built-in thermometer. And with data like "Carbon Offset" or "ETA" and the ability to view your stats by day, week, month, or year, it's definitely different. But how does it work? Is it perfect? How does it fill the needs of actual bike commuters?
Installation was pretty easy. The "Toolless Sensor" requires zip-ties, which are included. It doesn't have quite enough range to use it on a rear wheel. Following the directions, it was pretty simple to set up for my bike, too. You put in the usual data: distance units, time/date, tire size. After that is where it gets interesting.
The ETA function has two modes: Auto and Manual. This lets you either pre-set your regular commute distance, or if you take different routes, you can set it to Auto. This makes the ETA distance the same as the last distance you rode before you reset the counter. It's not perfect... if you take different morning and evening routes, it's off... but overall, it does work. You could always set the distance for whichever route you're worried about time on. The faster you ride, the sooner the ETA shows you getting there. It also has a little progress bar that gives you a quick indicator of how far you are into your ride.
The Backlight mode lets you change the function button to where it always turns the backlight on first, then changes the display. Because in the dark, you can't see what the function is without the backlight! This is fantastic. However, it brings up one of the (very few) sore spots I have with the Commuter. The backlight is just... weak. It's barely bright enough to read the display by. You can read it in the dark, but if it's rainy, or if it's cold and your eyes are watering, it's not really bright enough. Not a deal-breaker, though. You'd need an active LCD screen for something like that, and the price would go up significantly.
The thermometer is on all the time, and it works very well. In the picture below, it reads "83ºF" because I was holding it in my hand! It doesn't record the temp, but it's nice to have an instant indicator of how much of a hardcore commuter you are.
The Carbon Offset function simply multiplies your distance times a set constant. The format is km x 0.15 which results in lb/CO2 saved. It's only useful if you need extra ammo for smugness. I suppose if you were interested in making a flowchart of how awesome and eco-friendly you are, you could use your day/week/month/year stats to make an awesome Powerpoint presentation.
Some interesting tidbits: The Commuter doesn't have an auto-on feature- you have to click it once to turn it on. There are no buttons on the top of the unit, you actually push the edge of it and the whole unit rocks as a click-button. This is a nice feature when you have thick gloves on! If you have it set to Night mode, just tap it once and the backlight comes on. Very neat.
My second (and last) gripe with the Commuter is that the LCD display doesn't work well at all in temps lower than 0ºC/32ºF. This is true for most LCD displays, and as the temps drop, the LCD's response gets dim and sluggish. Apparently it doesn't affect the functionality at all, but it can be kind of annoying.
Overall, I'd say the MSRP of $60 is a bit steep, as the Commuter offers little more than the average wireless bike computer. If you can get it on sale, however, its appeal increases greatly over other cheaper units. Cateye's device reliability has been solid in my experience, and I expect many years of happy riding with it. I'm very happy with it, and if you're looking for a non-GPS solution for tracking miles on your commuter bike, I think it's worth a look.
Stumbling, grumbling, the groggy-eyed rush
Try not to significantly fill your mind with mush
Rushing to accomplish something you can't understand
Knowing that whatever thoughts you have will just be banned
Working at the mercy of someone who's underhanded
Deciphering the drivel coming forth not understanded
When trying to explain to them the error of their ways
It only leaves your spirit crushed and lamenting for days
Forgetting what's behind, I press on towards the goal
Remembering I'm working for what's bigger than the whole
Releasing every thought that threatens to be desperation
I close my eyes and visualize the one who's my salvation
As many of you know, I'm working on a complete open-source solution to doing guitar amp and effects emulation in Linux. Because, you know, I'm a geek like that. So far, I've had great success with Guitarix and SooperLooper, and added a few other tools and utilities to make everything work smoothly. I have to say, considering what the equivalent software would cost, I've been pretty impressed with Guitarix. (Rakkarak might someday be a viable performance alternative... it just needs a complete UI redesign. Yes, it's really that bad.)
One of the guitar effects that I've been curious about is an effect sequencer. Some hardware equivalents would be something like the Electro Harmonix 8 Step Program, which lets you sequence a signal that goes to the external control pedal jack of another effect. (Demo video and good explanation of step sequencers (not mine) is here)
There's also the Molten Voltage CTL-Sync which doesn't sequence, but gives you a few pre-set patterns, and also syncs to a MIDI clock. Both of these pedals are great for what they do, but they are hardware, and thus limited to only a few uses at a time.
In Native Instrument's Guitar Rig software (which I'm a big geeky fan of), there's a true analog effect sequencer, which lets you do crazy things. It also has a digital (on-off) sequencer, and an LFO (which is like a really slow pattern). You can map these patterns to any of the effects, including A/B switches, crossovers, and any of the effect parameters, all synced together.
I was really impressed with this functionality, but of course, I wanted to do the same thing with Linux, preferably open-source software. I knew all the parameters in Guitarix and SooperLooper are controlled with MIDI commands, so I started researching MIDI sequencers. Unfortunately, most of the offerings are geared towards keyboard or digital artists, i. e. they're designed to work in a recording scenario with multiple MIDI instruments. They were complex, large, and I didn't want to have to learn how to use an entire suite just to run a simple MIDI sequence for effects. Nothing wrong with these, by any means, but they didn't really fit what I was looking for: something simple, easy to use, that did just MIDI, and had enough features to make it useful.
Then I discovered HarmonySEQ. It was all of the things I was looking for. It's not in the standard Ubuntu repository (that I could find) but I downloaded the .deb package, which made installing it simple. Once I had it installed, it took about 5 minutes of fiddling with it to figure out how it works.
In the screenshot above, you can see HarmonySEQ running to the left, and Guitarix on the right. I made a simple "controller sequence" that sends a MIDI CC signal, according to how you lay out the set points. The Control Sequencer has "soft" and "hard" points you can draw with. Soft points transition smoothly, while Hard points switch to the next value instantly. For something like an LFO or tremolo effect, you can use soft points, and whatever "knob" you map it to will look like somebody (the invisible MIDI hand! Oh noes!) is turning the knob automatically. If you use Hard points, the knob will "jump around" and jitter, which is great for stutter effects, on/off switches, tap tempos, etc.
It also has, besides CC and note sequencers, the ability to create "Events" and "Actions." An Event is a condition, like it receives a certain note, CC value, program change, or key press. An Action is what happens when an event is triggered. You can toggle sequences on and off, change sequence patterns, and some other things.
Now, before I say that HarmonySEQ is perfect, I found a few shortcomings that really caught me by surprise. For one, it allows you to set the sequencer tempo/BPM by entering a number in a box... and that's about it. No MIDI clock support (that I could find), no tap tempo. So that limits how you can use it significantly. I will do more digging to find other ways around this. Also, I discovered that "Events" can only be triggered by external signals. You can't daisy-chain sequences. Okay, maybe nobody else thinks that's lame, but you know... I was curious. It would open up some interesting possibilities, though.
So, overall, I have yet to really utilize this in my computer setup, but it's definitely something worth playing with. It's certainly useful, though I had hoped it would be able to work with MIDI clock, too. Maybe that's something that will be implemented in the future (you listening, Rafal? Lol)
Pretty cool stuff!
Sputtering, stuttering, making excuses
Acting as if there were more than two uses
For the asphyxiated grey matter within
To think outside the box would be considered a sin
Assimilating ammunition knowledge at large
To undercut and stupefy the people in charge
Of the mass-generated complicational trope
That underestimates resistance in both focus and scope
To articulate futility of endless frustration
Simply pound your head against the desk in your isolation
Or pretend you’re writing emails to the biggest of cheese
Instead of doing nothing like we’re full of disease
And yet there’s still a glimmering, the slightest of light
They maybe someday we’ll be freed to do whatever we might
Oh yes, and heaven forbid it might be something productive
Instead of simply making money and ending up self-destructive
I'm actually a big fan of Evernote, if you hadn't heard. However, I haven't been using it much lately. Partly, that's because I made the mistake of using it (on my tablet) at work, and for some inexplicable reason, Evernote massively multiplied the photos I had uploaded, which maxed out my free account monthly bandwidth in about 10 minutes. I thought I had fixed it and deleted the offending notes, but alas, as soon as my limit reset, it promptly locked me out again for another month.
After a few tries, I managed to delete (really delete) the posts causing it, and everything returned to normal. By then, however, I had gotten out of the habit of using it!
Now I've decided to get back into it. Especially with it being Tax Season in the States, there will be plenty of paperwork and things to keep track of. So how do I get back in the swing? I guess I have to start with some things I have lying around, ready to be filed. The program is free, so the only thing it requires is some planning and a little time.
There are currently only four viable options if you want to use Evernote on your Linux computer (that I know of).
- Evernote for Windows client in an emulator
- Evernote web client in a browser
One of the things I want to be able to do is scan documents into Evernote. I only have a flatbed scanner, which should be okay for 99% of what I need, and anything else I can scan and email to Evernote (which is an awesome feature!) from the larger scanners at work. However, I don't use Windows on my main computer. I can run the Evernote Windows client under an emulator, but it loses all the context menus and system integration that really make it useful. Without system integration, you might as well use the Evernote web interface.
I've installed an open-source clone of Evernote, called "NixNote" (it was called Nevernote at some point). One of the main features I've discovered it does is automatically upload folders. So, you can set your scan program to automatically save to a certain folder, and Nixnote/Nevernote automatically uploads it to a designated notebook in Evernote! You can specify different folders for different destination notebooks, which is nice if you're scanning documents with mixed content.
For the actual scanning, there are several options in Ubuntu that work well. Probably the oldest and most widely known is "Xsane," which works wonderfully, but has more options than most people really need. If you want full control over your scanning, that's what I'd use. However, it doesn't fulfill my "one-button" scan-to-Evernote goal, so I tried the default scan program, called Simple Scan. It's pretty basic, but it offers B&W and color scanning, single-click page scans, and it remembers the last folder you saved in... so I can load the scanner flatbed, click "Scan" and then click "Save" and hit enter. It will also let you delete whatever it uploads, so you can just dump something into that folder, and Poof! It's password protected in the cloud and not on your computer. So really that's two clicks (didn't think I was counting?) but it's much much simpler than using Xsane and uploading everything manually.
Caveat: SimpleScan only saves scans in a few formats, mainly .jpg. This works fine, but if you're wanting to convert everything scanned into OCR or PDF files, you'll have to do a little extra setting things up. It's possible... in Linux, almost anything is possible... but it takes some digging around. I'm fine with .jpg files for now, but later, I'm sure I'll do some research and dig up a one-click PDF-to-Evernote solution. When I do, I'll be sure to share it here!
in a moment of weakness I feel myself slipping
the vultures surrounding me eager for ripping
pushing my patience to the point of it tipping
over the edge, but to hang on I'm gripping
tight to the precipice rife with complaint
but falling on deaf ears my voice going faint
I'm losing the urge to fight with restraint
I'm hoping that things will improve- but they ain't.
Not sure what to call this... it started as a funky NES chiptune, and kind of morphed into a techneaux/dubstep/art piece. Throw in some clips from one of my favorite movies, a little 808 beat, and there you go. Most everything is done with pretty simplistic square wave synths, nothing really fancy going on there. I used a lot of "slightly" modified waveforms... took a square, and added a bit of noise. It gives it more of a genuine chiptune feel, more lo-fi. There's a few other tricks in there, specifically using square/noise waves and filters to do percussion. I'm still learning, but it came out okay. Hope you like it!