Monday, December 31, 2012

New breath sensors arrived :D

Muahahaha! After months of waiting, the MPX5010GX I've been waiting for have been restocked! YES! On the flip side, even though I also have acquired a low pass filter for use with these babies, I have no way of checking how the low pass filters respond. So, I'll just go ahead with connecting 'em breath sensors to the Teensy directly for now.

I actually am waiting on the delivery of a oscilloscope by Xprotolabs, with that I can finally see what kind of signals I'm receiving.

In other news, london is boringly wet and drab. I have been wanting to go out to the zoo as well as play my whistles out in the park, but with this kind of weather... meh.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Buster Wings | Bullet Hell Prototype

So, I finished this little exploration into Unity3D last night. Next: food. Sleep.

Play the game here!
(Windows and OSX)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cheetah 3D. Mine.

So, day two of my year end holidays begins with.... a very slow day. A day of debauchery of gaming, food coma-ing and lazing about. It lasted a few hours, and I went back into looking at Unity3D again. Version 4 has been released recently, got it and..... being the utter newb I am, have zero idea what's the diff between that and the earlier 3.5 I had played with earlier. Maybe I should read their marketing blurbs.

In any case, after fooling around inside Unity - it seems like having been bumped around by the hdk and all helped alot with understanding how the OO works in Unity with C#. Of course, I finally hit a bump of trying to import animation in. Because I don't actually have an animation package. Houdini's out as mentioned before; apprentice doesn't have FBX export. Once more, I tread into the open source waters and downloaded blender. Again.

I tried, I really tried, but the basic navigation is really, really just non-intuitive. For me, that is a fact. Heck, even the dude IN the official video tutorial mentions it is not very useful for people coming from other packages.

Enter: Cheetah 3D. (Again :P)

The last time I tried Cheetah was version 5... ish. I tried Version 6 today, and whilst it still isn't the easiest to pick up, out of the box, I could navigate and figure out stuff more or less.

Heck, I was rendering with caustics and AO very soon after that. So you know what, I hit the buy button, because the demo version of Cheetah could not save or export, and I really wanted to get assets into unity.

Shaders are just drag and drop. Lots of options there, and there is sort of a master "Material" with all the parameters available to play with. A separate render manager appears when you hit render, which is nice.

A very nice thing about Cheetah 3D is that the native file format (.jas), is natively supported by Unity. Just by saving the model in the /assets directory, alt-tabbing over to unity will have it show up on the fly. Fbx should do the same thing as well.

Animation also appears to just work. I setup an animation "rig" in Cheetah - a box with bones and skinning basically - and the animated mesh appeared in Unity without a hitch. There are the usual assortment of tools to paint weights per joint and blend shapes, pose tools - didn't get too far though, as what I'm doing doesn't involve skinning.

Can't wait to see how the light maps import into unity :D

Monday, December 24, 2012

Weather and Whistles

It's warmed up over the last few days. So much, that when I went on an errand today, I only wore a light jacket over a t-shirt. Hope it keeps up :) It is still wet (it's drizzling outside as I type) and dreary though, and everything's like grey and dull.

I've been picking up tin whistles lately, and my latest acquisition today is a Generation Bb whistle. It's the biggest one on the left, and costs about the same as the smaller Generation F whistle on the right.

I think the Bb whistle is the one I should have started off on. It's very nicely sized, with no need to switch to the piper's grip. The tone is mellow, and carries itself well without being piercing.

The whistle in the middle, is a Feadog Pro-D. I think it's my favourite whistle of the lot for the moment. It plays really well, and feels really good under the fingers. I'm arranging an irish jig at the moment and I think I'll play it with the Feadog.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Life of Pi

Wow. What can I say. This is storytelling. Something in my heart broke. And yet, I feel that I'm missing *something* about the story. Like some major point that only struck home halfway and I'm left reeling from the blow. What, what what?


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Penny for your thoughts?

Bought this little baby off Denmark Street today for the low low price of £5 - it's a Generation Tin Whistle (aka Penny Whistle) in the key of F.

This is a marvelous piece of kit and I would wish that when we were kids in school, to have this replace the soprano recorder instead. Having only 6 tone holes, it's waaay easier to hold them down tight, versus the two tiny holes at the far end of a recorder.

This tin whistle has F as its lowest note and plays the F major diatonic scale right out of the box; starting from the next note up it's G dorian, so improvising over Gm is easy, and unlike choromatic instruments, it's just lifting up one finger for the next note up.

Played it today in my office's back stairwell, and produces a very nice rounded tone. The long reverb tail in the stairwell is just bliss. Notes take seconds to die out and mix in beautifully with the newer notes. Ah, the real thing (tm). I only managed perhaps A above the octave break, and it was very easy to get to the next octave by overblowing.

Unlike my other flutes, this little one has a fairly small air requirement, and I could sustain a note for a fair while - plus putting in extra air means overblowing it.

I also tried vibrato on it, could do but quite difficult. I think it's due to the short length of the body.

Also, as it is a keyless instrument, it is quite critical to cover all the holes properly with your fingers. The F whistle is actually quite small for my paws (for some reason I might have read the key of F was used for titanic, but I'm probably wrong - but that's why I bought it in F) and my fingers are all squished up side by side. Should have got a regular D, or even the larger Bb whistles.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Distant Shores: Recorder Trio

Out of the blue, VSL released a new Recorders library! I'm very glad I didn't pick up recorders from other companies as I have been itching sooo bad to get a set of recorders.

I've played them to my latest 3 part counterpoint practice. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winter properly setting in...

The temperature is properly getting cold now. It's not too bad at the moment, just a sweater with my jacket is fine there aren't winds yet. I'm sure I'll be having my elastic warm-my-neck thing on shortly. Need sleep, it's been a tiring last few weeks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Got me a pipe organ :3

Never really knew much about pipe organs, except they sound AWESOME during the FF6 boss fights :D After getting the vi and having zero idea what stops were, a quick read over on wiki sorted that out. Enjoy, completed this compo just last night.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Linux: OS for the masses?


I had my audio cut out on my Ubuntu 10.04LTS install - this happens quite frequently and it's annoying. A reboot solves it usually - my attempts to restart the audio server just don't do anything.

Anyways. I seriously wish I could use OSX as my main OS instead of just for my musical endeavours. But there is no way I can tolerate the osx user interface full time. I can get stuff done with gnome way faster, and for most of the stuff I do (surfing, email, raw photo conversion) and more technical bits on the side (houdini, arduino, processing) - linux makes more sense (colour management in linux though. IS ANNOYING). Especially with houdini, since it parallels what I use at work.

But I'm frankly getting tired of maintaining an operating system. That's what I specifically updated to when the LTS came out, because I'm not that kind of person who enjoys tweaking config files. Sure, I did. Like a decade ago, but no longer. Now I'm more interesting in using my computer as a means to get things I want done, done. Figuring out which nvidia driver to use or tweaking my xorg.conf is not something I care to spend time on.

Hence, if I could marry up the underlying system of OSX, with a nice, interface like gnome (I'd settle for KDE, honest.... well... maybe :P ). Googling gnome and osx brought up an interesting blog post.

"What Killed the Linux Desktop"

The title is sensationalism, in my opinion. I know at least 4 people who run various flavours of linux out of work, in addition to myself. But I know down the road a few of us may trod on a more well trodden path; windows or osx. The reasons are laid out exactly in the blog post above.

For me, there are simply no native applications on linux that run at the same level as those found on win/osx. For example, I use VSL as my main sample orchestra, and that does not run natively on linux. Some have told me to try running it virtualized, but I hardly see the point.

First, high end audio libraries are copy protected by either iLok or Elicenser. I really do not want to deal with copy protection designed for Win/OSX on linux. Running the VM server is not only overhead in terms of memory and cpu, but also in terms of time required to set it up, and maintain.

Many anti-apple people will hate it but I will say it. My OSX experience (10.4 to 10.68) has more or less been... "it just works".  OSX in particular has LOADS of issues in terms of usability - in my opinion - and I really dislike the app store - but when it comes to loading up Finale to write a score, and getting it over to Logic and getting it all done. Nary an issue. This is of course, not 100% true for everyone - just see various forums and people having issues with osx.

Gaming! Gaming is at least somewhat possible on OSX. Linux? Good luck... my osx box has less capable gpu and cpu compared to my linux box, but because the same game runs natively on osx but emulated (wine) on linux... guess which one works better?

The bottom line is, I use what works best for me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

ADXL335 + Arduino + Processing: Low Pass Filtering

Further proof that I have no life :D

I had some spare time today and after spending about half a day doing a new compositional piece, I had to switch gears to do other things not music related. Oh wait, this is. :P

So far, the Teensy 2.0 has been great. After following the instructions from their website (copy udev files - whatever that is - and running the Teensyduino installer), the Arduino environment now has added options for the Teensy.

Everything appears to work as per the arduino. There is a teensy loader program that appears when you compile, and it appears to be the glue that installs the code into the μC.

One thing that caught me out was that the Teensy does not have a 3.3v output connector like the Arduino; I'd connected the ADXL335 to the 5V, then several minutes in something at the back of my mind told me.... adxl335... 3.3v.... Thankfully the accelerometer seemed unharmed by it's short dance with over-voltaging. Is voltaging a word?

I am not posting the code for this guy as it's mainly a test bed for my low pass filter tests; the code is basically mush. In any case, the current LPF implemented is the digital low pass filter straight off wikipedia. There are other things I want to try like supersampling, kernel based filtering, croissant eating, tea drinking, stuff like that.

The arduino simply sends CSV with 6 values; 3 values for the filtered and 3 values for the unfiltered. The processing sketch then opens a serial port, uses the java split() method to extract the data and then draws it on the screen.

Well, time for bed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Effects of Piracy on small business owners

This is a sad, true post by the developer behind 9 Volt Audio. To many of us who use sample libraries, it's a very cool piece of software that gives us the sounds for our music. Rarely do we actually create our own samples - few of us actually have the knowledge, much less the capability of playing such instruments - but the fact is it takes ALOT of time, money, experience and effort to create such a product.

And because of this product being pirated, it directly affects the livelihoods of the people who are behind it. Many suggestions have been proposed, like using better copy protection schemes or utilizing dongle based protection.

I personally think that piracy can only be slowed down by these methods; to solve this issue we need to look at the roots of the problem, and piracy exists because there are people who exists who do not want to pay and prefer to get it for "free".

For me, I feel that this is moral/social issue. like people growing up and not taught that piracy is stealing, and it hurts other people? Or even worse, they understand it, but do it anyways. And in this case, it hurts the people behind 9 Volt Audio very, very directly.

I wish I could do more, but I have no idea how short of just spreading the word.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Icebreaker: Apollo

Just back from an evening at the National Science Museum where I had the great pleasure of listening to Brain Eno's "Apollo" live, as performed by Icebreaker.

Ambient music isn't really my thing, and this really gave me an ear opener. Several interesting instruments were also used, like a Pedal Steel Guitar (performed by Brian "BJ" Cole) and one of the wind performers used a custom built pan flute that allowed custom pipe configurations to be assembled.

Definitely an enjoyable night :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jazz Piano :3

One of the pieces I've been working on. I really like it so decided to record it today :3

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Cubes and Spheres

One page from my lunchtime sketchbook practice. Been doing this cloth-wrapped-around-box-sphere thing.

Distant Worlds: Returning Home

If you are a fan of the music of Final Fantasy and have not experienced Distant Worlds yourself, definitely pick up this DVD! Apart from the video disk, there are two separate audio CDs of all the songs performed. The small booklet has small writeups on the two ff composers and the conductor, portraits of the invited soloists (Meng Feng-su is brilliant!), as well as some random art and photos of the event.

This particular recorded performance is from the 2010 concert in Japan. Good mix of songs touching all the years of FF. Dancing mad was included, so nice! This reminds me of the friggin' pipe organ built into the Royal Albert Hall.... and this faint memory that the organist messed up some bits of the music. In the DVD, dancing mad was very beautifully played.

The dvd also had a making off section that was fairly interesting, though what caught my attention most was the discussion between Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu about their composition styles; Nobuo Uematsu indicates he composes a pop tune then fills in the rest, whereas Masashi Hamauzu takes a more structured (classical?) approach. 

I must say I am more biased towards Nobuo Uematsu's compositions, which I feel has more melodic content. Then again, I haven't played the games with music by Masashi Hamauzu, so..... it could simply be just I like stuff that I've been hearing over and over and over again.

Anyways, great DVD, I will enjoy listening to it over and over again :)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Wark wark! Kupo! Distant Worlds 2012

Another year, another lovely evening at the Royal Albert Hall for Distant Worlds, the music of final fantasy. This year I arrived ahead of time hoping to get some pictures of the cosplayers, but only a few were abound, though there was this kid above in her chocobo getup :D Wark wark!

I think this is another great concert. Being the 25th year since the first Final Fantasy game, this year's song lineup featured songs from every single FF game, and there were quite a few I couldn't get into because I didn't play them. Maybe it's time to get a PS2 as they're cheap now... :3
It was a full house all right, all 5000+ seats fully packed. No surprise, since the tickets were bloody sold out within an hour or so. From overhearing the various conversations whilst in line, it seems like a fair amount of fans flew in specially for this concert. Gotta thank the nuclear reactors above lifestream that I happened to work in this city.

Swag this year was thin, got the DVD which I've been meaning to get, as well as this year's T-shirt. For those up in scotland, bring £30 if you want to get the T-Shirt :( Various CDs available but I'm pretty sure I'd already bought all of 'em. Those after plushies, get there early, I saw cactrot and moogle plushies, they went *very* fast.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dynamic range compression at the sensor level...

Just blogging out loud about the one artifact in digital photography that sucks - blown highlights. Well, actually less the blown highlights themselves, rather the region between the fully blown and non-blown regions that always give me a "eww, crappy digital" kind of feel that you will never get with film. Maybe the big boys and their "full frame" cameras don't suffer as much. But anyways, as I do my own audio mixing, this makes me question something....

In audio, we have limiters used in several parts of the audio chain. For example, powered speakers may have a limiter built in so as to not blow the speakers when a suddenly overpowering input signal appears, and it manages this by clipping it before passing it into the analog components. A blown highlight is similarly that, a signal that's waaay to strong and the sensor just saturates.

Again, just thinking out loud, if each individual photosite has a limiter, or perhaps even a compressor applied to the incoming signal... would it alleviate this issue? It is the same thing isn't it, trying to capture a high dynamic range signal with a limited bandwidth medium, that's what was needed back in the day.

Then suddenly, you'd think about colour balancing, and the bayer filtering, and how the individual channels will combine with compression. Mmm..... not sure. For now, till some genius invents some uber high dynamic range capture or some new technique can be used to alleviate these exposure issues, it's best to follow the old adage of exposing for the highlights, and raising the shadow regions in post.

London MCM Expo 2012 Photos

A few of my favourites from my jaunt to the London MCM Expo yesterday. Wish I had a 17-55/2.8 :3

The full photo dump here: London MCM Expo October 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012


Today was cold! Brrr.... I think I need to bring out the gloves tomorrow. So far I'm only wearing a light sweater and a regular jacket, but the wind is killer >.> Probably another week or so will defo have to bring out the proper heavy duty winter stuff.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cosplay :D

So the office is having the yearly xmas party, with the theme being Japanese. What better time to get into cosplay again? Last I was cosplaying back home I stopped due to having a bad taste in the mouth - like being laughed at by the more serious cosplayers helped alot in leaving that fandom.

But it's over a decade, maybe time to try again? Not sure what to work towards; half of me thinks it's going to be fun - the other half thinks it is a waste of both time and resources. Can I meet both ends?

First idea was to go as Kurama in his demon fox form, but I don't think I'm exactly the slim and lithe kind :P Plus, what exactly would I do with a toga like thing after that? And what would I do with a fox tail? Seriously.

Other ideas like Vincent Valentine: Waay to costly and time consuming to get it right. Will think about it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rest your eyes!

Been feeling extremely tired the last few weeks, and I finally figured out what it was - overstressed eyes. I thought it was lack of sleep - I've been sleeping earlier and earlier to no avail. Just not doing stuff like programming or score study in the evening is helping, so I'll be taking it easy this week.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Recabled Grados - wow...

One thing I noticed is that I can now go for much longer listening periods before I tire of the detail the SR80s provide. Usually I need to rest my ears after about an hour or so, and I'm not talking about ear splitting volumes here - comfortable volumes and music with wide dynamic range.

I think I went for about 4, 5 hours  - not all at a go of course, one needs to answer the call of nature ever so often - before I had to take it off as it was getting to me. I'd even switched over to music that usually fatigued my ears and those went through fine. So what? No idea. Not only that, I found the bass very punchy and strong, not sure if it's improved by the recable, or my ears too used to the lack of bass on the SE215s (or, the cable rolling off the highs; hence enhancing the bass). In any case, very pleased to have my SR80s back as my constant companion.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Recabling my Grados SR80

The recable excercise was inspired by CyberSpyder at Head-Fi. Go there if you are into high-end listening :3

Long story, I had my grados recabled by the local dealer here awhile back, and they started to disintegrate. Again. I have this feeling that the materials used are not suitable for use in the UK, as my grados have lasted probably 5, 7 years with no issues, and only started to have the rubber fall apart when I came to the UK for work.

I decided to do it myself, as I don't see the point in getting the dealer to recable it again, if it will just fall apart as it did. Hunted around for people to recable it for me, but they're very expensive, and really more for the serious audiophile type, which I am not. Hence, DIY!

The cables I used were the same type as CyberSpider above, Mogami 2983. The local dealer was sadly out of stock and took about 6 weeks for me to get my cables. The 2983s had 4 cores with a copper shield. Two of the cables were for ground, and the other two for the left and right channel. The copper shield was unused, though probably it may help get rid of some efi. I guess :P

The stereo plug I used is the Canare F-12, also from Japan. I really wanted to use a right angled Neutrik - because I like the brand (my mic uses a custom built cable, neutriks on both ends) and they look soooo cool, but the inner diameter was too small for my needs.

There is some strain relief cables inside that I braided together, and covered the entire thing with heat shrink sleeving.
Tada! Covered with the heatshrink above.

 I should have taken more photos of this part, but after the heat shrink, all of the cable was covered with expandable nylon sleeving. Tricky thing, not only does it fray at the end (melt the ends with the hot air gun!), due to it expanding it shrinks in length. I was quite surprised at how much more sleeving was needed, and I am very thankful that I bought the nylon sleeving separately on ebay, and it came with a 3m length as minimum.

Here's some details of the ends further shrink wrapped. Cable ties were used for strain relief, just like the originals.

Here's it all assembled up. I actually didn't hot glue the cups together, as I don't have a hot glue gun. I'll see how it holds up :P

Audio wise, I can't say it is better or worse than the stock grado cabling; there is no way to do a 1:1 comparison. What I can say, is that I'm very happy to get my grados back. During the wait for the cables, I have been using Shure SE215s for listening (paired with my Cowon D2+), and I am not a fan of them - they sound very flat to my ears, and the bass is uninspiring. I primarily bought them to replace my lost Sennheiser CX330s, and for the price, I can't say they are a good match for me.

What the SE215s are really good for though, is critical listening for music production - I'm thinking that because of they are IEMs and having a good seal allows me to pick up artifacts (like noise) in samples that I can't with my headphones. A more likely fact is that I have crap ears.

The other pair of headphones (in my videos) I use regularly, are the AKG240s MK2s. They have a very different signature from the Grados. I feel that they are able to pull out more details than the grados, but are not as upfront as the grados. The 240s are relegated to mixing and piano playing.

Hope I don't have to go through this recabling thing too soon, it took about 4 hours from start to finish, not as much fun as I thought :P

In any case, I am very glad the recabling went with no major issues. Some aspects could be improved, e.g. I only bought 2 metres worth of cable, I would probably have liked to have it longer. Very glad to have my old companion back in action with me.