DropBox Wednesday, Nov 26 2008 

I found out about DropBox via John Gruber’s excellent Daring Fireball. I’ve seen dozens of these before, but I’ve really been aching for a universal home directory for years, and this want has evolved into a need as the amount of clients I serve has grown.

The DropBox Logo

The DropBox Logo

I’ll be experimenting with this in a couple of ways that I’ll detail later once the results of the tests are in. In the meantime I suggest giving it a go and if you find anything interesting I’d love for you to comment on your findings.

Advertisements

Winter Tuesday, Nov 25 2008 

Although it’s not here technically, the first significant snowfall always switches my gears from summertime, outdoors projects to indoor ones.

 

 

I should make a list…

A good experiment demands proper equiptment Friday, Nov 21 2008 

After last week’s experience I’m planning on picking up some proper equipment before I try too many more experiments.

 

Pontarlier Glass with Cuts

Pontarlier Glass with Cuts

 

I’m particularly fond of the reservoir-style glasses.  I don’t have a favorite spoon style yet other than I’m drawn to the more “classic” designs at the moment.  I don’t know enough to determine the advantages or disadvantages of each style.

 

Absinthe Spoon #6

Absinthe Spoon #6

 

I think I’ll start with four glasses (as I’m no George Thorogood) and a single spoon, but I could see this renewing my interest in shiny objects.

 

(images taken from www.lamaisondabsinthe.com, currently my favorite online Absinthe outfitter)

The Dream and the Nightmare Thursday, Nov 20 2008 

This morning I was flipping through my Google Reader and saw a story about SGI building a 10,000 core cluster in a single rack-mount cabinet.  As it turns out, it’s a concept but a cool one none the less.

This got me thinking about CRAY because at one point they were the same company, so I hit the CRAY site to see if they were still affiliated. 

On the homepage I noticed this:

 

The CRAY CX1

The CRAY CX1

Finally, a CRAY I could afford…but it runs WINDOWS?

I’m not even sure where to begin.

Guitar Performance Wednesday, Nov 19 2008 

What follows is a recollection of my mis-adventures in trying to get my hands on a Crate V5 guitar amplifier. There is allot of opinion online about these amps but guitar amps, like most things, you really need to “try one on” to know if you’re going to like it.

So I’m driving down East Wash. trying to wolf down my microwaved leftovers, knowing that I’ll be within walking distance of Monty’s and I loose my sense of judgment when I’m this hungry.

I find the place with no problem (Good-N-Loud) but I’m mystified by the parking situation. After two laps around the block I settle in to a street spot with a few ticks left on the meter and finish my lunch.

I pop out and drop $1.05 in the meter which for some reason buys me 1 hour and six minutes; plenty of time. Again I pace around the building trying to figure out how to get inside, finally realizing that the door is around the corner, on the other street. Finding this does me little good however; it’s 11:45am and they open at noon. I need to kill some time.

At this point I determine that it’s serendipity for me to visit Monty’s, at least for a chocolate malt.

I sit down at the bar and after a boy cleans my spot the waitress drops off a menu and asks what I’d like to drink. I feel guilty for ordering “just a beverage” and flip through menu. When she comes back I order a side of fries and she says “A malt and fries, now that’s an American Lunch!”. Twenty minutes later I’m back on the street.

This time the door is open so I wander in and it looks like they’re still unpacking and setting the place up. I ask if they carry Crate amps (remember this was the whole point of this mission) and he points at one rough looking pile – “we have that used one”. He asks the other guy if they have them at the west-side store and he half-shrugs and continues staring at the computer screen. Out of apathy I take a look around the store, and while there’s not much of a selection of amps and effects, there are a lot of guitars… and accessories.

It’s nice to know I won’t have to go all the way to the west side of town the next time I need strings.

I head back to the car with about 10 minutes spare on the meter. Pulling out on to the street, I’m thinking about where I can go to listen to one of these things (I called Guitar Center this morning and the said they carry Crate but were completely out of stock). A block or two down the road, I pass this place called so-and-so’s Guitar Shop.

I vaguely remember this place, although I think it used to be called “Sound Logic” back when I lived down on Willy St. I may have been in there once, but it had closed down for years. Out of curiosity I pull off onto a side street and park.

The first thing I notice as I approach are the piles classic, vintage amps in the front window. I figure this is just to get people in the door, who would really treat a Fender Champ this way?

When I get in the door (and I can barely get in the door) I’m greeted by piles of gear on the floor with a narrow pathway cut in a circle through a sea of new and classic guitar gear. A quick glance and I see several vintage Marshall amps, a Mesa Boogie, a Peavey 5150, countless Fender and VOX amps and assorted PA, keyboard and effects boxes.

Looking up, the walls on either side of the narrow shop are literally plastered with guitars ranging from new jap-strat squire’s to classic Gibson’s and Rickenbacker’s. I look down in front of me and there is a stack of Crate V5’s, still in their shipping containers; there must be at least twelve of them right here.

From the back of the shop I hear a madman. He’s talking to someone about something that he’s repaired, talking about hand-winding a transformer with fuck-this and shit-that interspersed in between. The “customer” listens, only interrupting to comment on the virtuoso nature of the shops’ repair skills.

I attempt to walk to the back of the shop and notice a V5 stacked on top of a beautiful Fender twin reverb, unboxed and plugged in. I attempt to reach the owner to see if I can try one out and he continues to talk to the previous patron, now about some sort of watch he got out of a catalog and then a steam-cleaner he bought off TV. Finally the other customer works his way around the loop of open floor and out the door; my chance to speak with the proprietor has come.

I walk up to the counter and he continues to ignore me. After a few minutes he gives me a “what are you waiting for?” look and I finally ask him, “Can I test-drive one of these Crate V5’s?”

“Yeah, shit, you’ll be surprised”

For some reason he grabs the amp, unplugs it, moves it about 15 feet closer to the door, grabs a different cord and plugs it back in. He asks what I want to play and I ask for “any strat with a humbucker at the bridge”, hoping he picks out something cheap. He hands me a nice standard-looking Stratocaster without looking and walks to the back of the shop, disappearing into some hidden room.

Lucky for me I carry a pick in my wallet.

I jack the strat in, turn the volume down on the amp and flip the switch. The power light illuminates immediately. I don’t have a lot of experience with tube equipment but I have an old tube AM radio from the 1940’s and it takes at least three minutes before it shows any signs of life.

I strum the strat and slowly increase the gain on the amp; a nice, bright, clean sound rises up.

I spend about three minutes noodling on the guitar, checking out how various strumming and picking sounds appear from the speaker. I switch pickups, try the single-coil at the neck and try a little finger-picking.

This thing sounds good; I say this out loud.

“I thought you’d be surprised, that little amp will rock your ass off” comes from somewhere in the back.

I switch back to the humbucker and crank up the gain. I want to see what this thing sounds like overdriven. It has no “master volume” control, so in addition to being distorted, it’s also at maximum volume. I pick a few muted notes and it sounds crunchy but the tone isn’t obliterated the way my Peavey sounds. You can control the amount of clipping with your playing, very cool. I strum a big, open power chord,

“Careful with that humbucker, you’ll blow out the goddamn speaker.” he says factually, without emotion.

I turn the amp back down and play a little more as he emerges from the hidden room and joins me out front. We talk a little bit about the amp, how it sounds amazing for only five watts and about the price (his price is $110.00). He then goes off about how Crate has completely “screwed the pooch” by selling out to some company in Seattle who shut down Crate’s American plant and moved manufacturing to China, etc. At this point I can’t decide if this means he likes the amp or not, but I guess it doesn’t matter.

I hung up the strat and told him that “I know what’s going on my xmas list”, without interest he’s already turned away and is fiddling with some piece of equipment against the other wall and as another customer filters in, I filter out.

On the walk back to the car I figure out why this felt familiar; this place is the Motorcycle Performance of guitars, and I think I just met Bill’s fraternal twin brother.

*Note: the real name of this establishment is “Greg Ginter’s Guitar Shop of Wisconsin” and it can be found at 2215 Atwood Avenue, Madison WI 53704.  It’s my new favorite guitar store.

Advertising Wednesday, Nov 19 2008 

I’m giving Google AdWords a spin.  We had a wonderful spike in activity around MindPulse the days surrounding being picked up by the Make Blog but now that things have quieted down a bit I want to experiment with other ways of getting the app in front of those who will find it useful.

I’ll post an update on the findings in a week or so.

Finally Monday, Nov 17 2008 

I had my first dance with The Green Fairy over the weekend. It was amix of the expected and the unexpected.

 

 

MindPulse 1.0 Friday, Nov 14 2008 

My latest iPhone application MindPulse is available now on the iTunes App Store.

The inspiration for MindPulse came from a number of places including an article about The Brain Machine in Make Magazine, my own study and research of flicker frequency, possibly from re-reading William Grey Walter’s The Living Brain and certainly the desire to reduce the time I waste unconscious.

MindPulse main view

MindPulse main view

I took a look at a few of the existing binaural beats applications available for the iPhone but none of them included what I consider to be the basic requirements of an entrainment device: synchronized audio and visual stimulation. Worse yet, most of them add the complexity of masking the frequency controls as “fancy” program names such as “creative thought enhancer” and “quit smoking”?

So for this first release I had two requirements:

  1. Synchronized audio and visual stimulation
  2. Provide the four most interesting “modes” recognized by EEG standards

From this came the two views of MindPulse, the main “menu” (as shown above) and the flashing visual stimulator screen.

There were several technical challenges faced once I was ready to start coding the app. The first is that I was unable to find any built-in support for audio synthesis on the phone; this was surprise. For awhile I noodled on the idea of writing a custom synthesis module but eventually I realized this was unnecessary for the application (at least, for this release) so I opted to synthesize the necessary tones using my computer and sample these sounds to include in the application. This has the added benefit of reducing power consumption on playback which is important as I suspend “sleep mode” on the device while we’re running.

The next challenge was getting the visual stimulation to work exactly how I wanted. In the end I had to comprimise on one aspect (controlling the brightness), but overall I was able to get what I wanted working.

So far the application has done well and most encouragingly the feature requests i have received have been items that I’ve already had on the list for future releases. I’m planning at least one update before the end of the year and perhaps two depending on how long it takes to get the features I feel are critical working to my satisfaction.

I’m also considering a “lite” version I’m calling “MindPulseSolo” that would provide only one “mode” at a reduced cost to make it easier for more people to give the technology a try and see if it works for them before investing in a more “complete” application. I’m just not sure yet if the overhead of maintaining a separate code base is worthwhile, and I’d rather focus on improving MindPulse than spinning off additional applications.

For now I’m gathering feedback and suggestions so if you use MindPulse or are curious about what it does and how it works feel free to comment here to get in touch.