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PiStorm32-lite for the Amiga 1200

Amiga 1200 PiStorm32 Lite runing Caffeine OS

The trend of enhancing retrocomputers with new hardware expansions is still going strong.

Nowadays we can "implement" hardware designs in software and use FPGAs and raspberry PIs to replace and improve old and aging components.
The newest star is the PiStorm32: a bridge between the expansion port of the Amiga 1200 and a raspberry PI.
This means you can use the modern features and speed of a raspberry PI to "emulate" all sorts of Amiga hardware.
The piStorm32 supports the rasberry PI 3A, 3B and 4. PiStorm is an open source project by Claude Schwarz.

I got mine from Cédric who was kind enough to produce a first batch of the PiStorm32-lite

Amiga 1200 PiStorm32 Lite Front

Amiga 1200 PiStorm32 Lite Back
(note: the "lite" in the name doesn't mean there's a "full" version somewhere, it means the original hardware design was updated to work around the world-wide component shortage)
Note that there are 2 main ways you can use the PI in the piStorm:
One way is to run linux on it, and configure your Amiga emulation from the linux side. This feels a bit ... yuck and is a few bridges too far for me: when you switch on the Amiga, you have to wait untl the Linux side has booted for it to provide emulation services. The benefit is that you can use this linux bridge also for things like networking etc, but I feel: if you want to go that route, why not just install a dedicated emulation package like Pimiga or AmyBerry on the PI and be done with it.

The other way - much more exciting - is Emu68 - this is a bare metal 68k emulator for ARM devices. Ok, it still has to boot, but as it's bare metal, it boots in milliseconds and it's WAY faster to emulate the 68k CPU.
Emu68 is a project of Michal Schulz

I already got a PI3A+ running in a Amiga 500 and 2000, so I mostly was interested in the potential speed increase of using a PI4. Boy ... Is was not disappointed!



This ... thing ... flies!
Ok Ok, I know the Sysinfo benchmarks mean doodly squat whern JIT emulation is enabled but still: it does show the shear horsepower: 2333 MIPS / 2235226 dhrystones ... I've never ever ever seen such numbers.
And it's noticeable: everything seems zippy zippy fast.
It also seems the slow CHIP ram access mostly has been solved.
The fast ram is configurable and by default set to 2GB. 2GB Ram in an Amiga .... that's insane.

I really like that you can access all the settings and configuration of the PI from inside the Amiga.
From the Amiga side you also get all the tools to monitor the PI.



By default the PI4 runs at 1.5GHz but there's a setting to make that 2.2Ghz. (That's how I got those 2333 MIPS)
The PI runs at 70°C then - compared to 50°C cliocked at 1.5GHz. Still well within limits.
The configuration files are stored on a FAT32 partition on the SD card that you can access from the Amiga side.
This also means you can use this partition to quickly share files between the Amiga and your PC/Mac. Super handy.

One of the nice things of the piStorm, is that it acts as any other accelerator card: you can still use all the native Amiga hardware.
For example, you can still boot from your internal IDE interface, or floppy disk even. It then just provides the ROM, RAM and CPU. 
If you really want to go "stock" again, you can completely disable the piStorm by holding down the reset keys while booting. Nice.



But you don't put in a piStorm in your 1200 if you want stock, of course ... you want SPEED!
Did I already mention it's fast?
MPEG and AVI video plays smoothly, decoding mp3 is hardly noticeable (in contrast to a main task that drains even a 060 CPU).
Obviously the software that gains the most of the CPU and RAM boost is the software that plays nice with the system and avoids direct hardware banging. Emulating other systems for example: these run mostly on the CPU and require some ram.
Here's the Classic MacOS 8 being emulated on the Amiga, running PhotoShop 4.





Faster then it ever was, including on the original mac hardware.

Is it all good?
No.
As with all "super accelerator cards", compatibility with hardware banging software like games and demos is not super great.
WHDLoad goes a long way of ironing out the kinks, but still I experienced frequent crashes running some games and demos.
So if you're main interest is playing classic Amiga games or watching demos, the piStorm is not your best friend.
But then again: with the kind of performance the PI delivers, it might even make more sense to run these things in an "emulated Amiga" on top the real Amiga. perfectly doable and about the only way to ensure the "hardware" is exactly era-correct and what the software expects.

Another annoying part is the cable clutter the PI introduces, especially if you want to extend the SD cards to be accessible from outside the case.
Of course, this is no different then with other cards for the Amiga 1200, but the PI can be more extreme if you want to access the regular PI ports like USB and Ethernet too. I guess it will be another round of extension cables and 3D-printing to make it all fit nicely.
About 3D printing: the PI3 has plenty of space, but the PI4 pushes a bit against the trapdoor it 's closed.


I guess designing and printing a trapdoor that gives a bit more space and ventilation for the PI is a good idea. 

Likewise, the PI GPIO pins are VERY close to the metal of the Amiga keyboard. For that reason it's really recommended to put some extra insulation between the metal keyboard plate and the PI.



Verdict:
I love it.
It's clear that this is THE future of Amiga accelerator cards.
Yes, it still has it's flaws, but things are progressing rapidly and everything is open source.
What a big contrast with those other fast Amiga Accelerator cards ... 
I must say one of the first thoughts in my head when testing the piStorm was "Ouch ... this means game over for Apollo"
with the PIStorm delivering 4 times the performance at a quarter of the price of those other cards, it pretty hard to justify getting an IceDrake or a TF1260 ...




What I like:

  • Insane performance, especially at that price point. At this moment it's simply THE fastest classic Amiga ever.
  • Can be easily disabled to revert to stock hardware
  • It's still "just a PI": pop in another SD card and you boot directly into the PI to do non-Amiga stuff
  • easy file transfer between Amiga and PC/Mac using the SD card.
  • All configuration and monitoring available from the Amiga side.

What could be better:

  • Switching between RTG and Classic display modes is still a pain
  • the ususal cable/port extension issues if you want to access the PI ports from outside the case
  • Still some compatibility issues with older "hardware banging" software

Excellent excellent work by Cédric, Claude, Michal and many others.
If you like the project, please consider becoming a Patreon of Michal and/or voicing your support on the PiStorm Discord channel 

Tags: Commodore Amiga, Gadgets, in EnglishGeef je reactie (0)
 

BassoonTracker Release 0.4.0

Bassoontracker

A new version of BassoonTracker is out!
BassoonTracker is your online old-skool music tracker supporting .MOD and .XM files
Most notable new features in version 0.4.0: Midi support, full undo/redo in pattern editor and sample editor, tons of usability improvements and ... Ladies and Gentlemen: WE HAVE NIBBLES !
Tags: Commodore Amiga, in English, MusicGeef je reactie (1)
 

Kiss-catalog

Presenting a new (small) project.

Kiss-Catalog!

Kiss Catalog

 

It's an insanely simple Catalog System to keep track of your collections.

Some context

People who know me know I'm a bit of a collector.
Ok, some call it "hoarder" but I call it collector.
The difference between a collector and a hoarder is that the former knows what he has and keeps everything in good shape.
Still ... my retro computer collection is growing towards a point where I don't know exactly what I have anymore, or - more frequently - where I put it.
Questions like "I know I have this Amiga accelerator card, but ... where the heck is it?" need answers.

There's a ton of software already out there to help with that but I wanted something super-super-simple and with some very specific features.
As experience taught me: If it's too hard to maintain, it won't be.

Goals

  • Simple simple simple to maintain
  • Accessible from anywhere (which in my case always translates to "web based")
  • Everything should be searchable/browsable to quickly locate an item or to quickly show some overviews

When you start googling or asking around you get responses like. "Oh, an SQL database is what you need" or "There's an app for that, I use Collectorz or Numento"
No, no, no, nonono - been there done that. This is not my first attempt at cataloguing.
All other attempts stranded in

  • OR complex systems that took forever to maintain 
  • OR external platforms that ceased to exist...  

Did I mention it should be simple?
So: no database, no third party software, no fancy stuff.
Plain files and folders, plain JPG and .TXT files.

The concept:

You structure your collection in folders. Each folder can contain files and subfolders that further describe your item. Info is stored in plain text files. Images are stored in .jpg or .png. Any other file you add is just regarded as "file".
Then, a script is run that pulls all these files into data-structure.
This .json file is used to display a webinterface with browse and search features.
When you edit/add content from the webinterface, the local files are changed.
The "database" is always being generated from the local files. This means your data is your data: it lives in your folder as plain text files, completely outside Kiss-catalog.
If you stop using Kiss-catalog and delete it from your system, your hard cataloguing-work is not lost.

The main info file is called "info.txt"
The main image of an item is called "main.jpg"



If you want to display your collection on the web, simply put all your static files on a webhost.
No database or serverside processing needed.

That's it!

Everything runs

  • BOTH locally and remote 
  • BOTH as a static website and a somewhat full-featured dynamic Content-Management System.

There's a small demo collection at http://www.stef.be/collector/amiga/  (read only)
Still starting to populate it, first I have to FIND all stuff :-) 

And of course: Open Source and everything.
It's made for personal use, but you're free to give it a go. Feature requests are welcome.
It runs one Node but if that doesn't ring any bells there are also pre-compiled binaries for Windows, Mac and Linux

Kiss Catalog

Drawbacks

These "design" decisions have some drawbacks:

 

  • Flat file "databases" only go that far, if your collections is reaching like a 100.000 items, Kiss-catalog is not for you
  • Because everything is generated from your local files, this might get slow with large collections. Also there's no image processing (yet) so all images are displayed "as is" : if you fill everything with 4K images, loading will be slow.
  • If I ever want to add features like "private files or folders" or whatever - I will probably have to settle for some naming scheme.
  • Likewise for "calculated" fields like prices etc. some convention will be necessary. 

 

The Philosophy

I've been pondering the last few months (years?) over something I call "sustainable software"
It's probably not a new concept but that's what I call it in my head. 
Basically it means that a developer should write software that is as simple as possible for the job.
Not because simplicity is a goal in itself, but because simple software lasts longer.
It's easier to maintain, consumes less resources, runs faster, ...

Developers should write software to last.
It's all too easy to quickly throw something together using the funky libraries and frameworks that today are considered "modern". Before you know it you're lugging along a staggering dependency tree and rely on a multitude of online services to get your thing built/compiled/deployed.

Yes, you're the cool kid on the block, but how will it look in a few years? Will it still build/compile/deploy?
If it's a fairly simple web-app, do you really need that 2 MB javascript package, 7000 lines of CSS and 4MB initial page load? Maybe ...

In this project "sustainable software" means:

  • no exotic or platform dependent file formats. plain text RULEZ
  • no external (web)platforms: it's the only way to make sure your data is still there in a few years time.
  • no code dependencies. again: it's the only way to make sure your system still runs in a few years time.
  • platform independent. everything should run on - and be maintainable from - whatever device you use. 

 Anyway - that's food for maybe another blog post - don't get me started on frontend builds that pull in ONE MILLION packages and takes 20 minutes and 8gig to build ... 

For now: Happy Cataloguing!

 

Tags: Commodore Amiga, in English, ProgrammingGeef je reactie (0)
 

The bigger plan of my Amiga-Javascript projects

 

The past years I have been slowly tinkering on various Amiga Projects.
Mostly in JavaScript, mostly to unlock various parts of the huge Amiga ecosystem: parsing ancient filesystems and fileformats, reading and writing Amiga files with new tools, ...

Slowly all these various tidbits are coming together in the big plan: to break the Amiga out of it's emulated container and to seamlessly integrate in a modern OS.

That modern OS is platform independent. It runs on everything and it is accessible from everywhere.
For me, this translated to an OS that is web based. It runs in your browser and it lives in the cloud.

There have been many approaches to such an OS, some of them - like FriendUP - clearly have their roots in the Amiga system.
One of the most interesting ones is Amibian.js. It's also inspired by the Amiga and it runs in javaScript: Node.js on the backend, browser in front.

I've been talking with Jon - the creator of Amibian.js.
It's a HUGELY ambitious project, ranging from custom compilers in various programming languages to a recreation of an Amiga-like OS, complete with compatible system library calls and more.

When doing a modern Amiga inspired OS, one of the big questions is how you handle legacy software.
The Amiga has an old but super mature ecosystem of programs but sadly all that software doesn't run anymore on modern systems.
The solution is to emulate that old hardware so you can still run all that old software.
The most used Amiga Emulator is WinUAE, a glorious and ultra-advanced piece of code.
Rupert Hausberger did the daunting task of porting it to javascript.

The drawback of emulating an Amiga is that it is a contained black-box system that has no knowledge of the larger system it's running on. WinUAE handles this quite elegantly by allowing a shared filesystem, but in your browser there's no such thing.

This is where I stepped in: an emulated boxed Amiga running in your browser is cool, but wouldn't it be even cooler to break it open?
You could use Amiga software to seamless edit/play your local files,
or launch modern non-Amiga tools from within the Amiga,
or compile a program for Amiga with today's tools and launch it directly on an emulated 68k CPU
or ....

All this directly available on whatever system you use and wherever you are.

In the end, the underlying technicalities shouldn't matter.
It shouldn't matter what OS a program was written for, or where your files are exactly, or even who's physical machine you are using. Just launch your space and mold it to your liking.

Amibian.js already tries to break the barriers between the browser and your local system.
Browser or native? It shouldn't matter.

I will gladly help and try to break the barriers between the emulated environments and the native ones:
Emulated or native? It shouldn't matter.
 
The top video is a first demo of the progress. It shows various aspects of building such a system.
Most notably a shared filesytem so both systems (emulated and native) can access the same files.

Everything you see is running in the browser.
The (emulated) Amiga is on the right, the host system is on the left.
We're still doing babysteps: trying out stuff and laying the foundation for the bigger plan.

The concept is always the same: a seamless integration where it doesn't matter anymore where your files are or on what platform your program is running on.

Tags: Commodore Amiga, in English, Programming, Scripting, TinkeringGeef je reactie (0)
 

Bassoontracker - Release 0.3.0 is out!

Bassoontracker

During the past months I have been tinkering along on Bassoontracker - My browser based Retro Music Tool.
Today, it's ready for a next big release: Version 0.3.0 is out!

The most important feature is full FastTracker 2 compatibility. Yeah baby!

Fasttracker II was a music creation tool for DOS, released back in 1994 and it became THE standard for a long time for tracker based music.
1994 was also the year that Commodore went belly up, pulling the Amiga with them, so a lot of Amiga musicians made the jump to PC around that time, finding Fasttracker 2 as a perfect successor to Protracker.

Fasttracker is quite a bit more complex then a simple "sequencer". It added proper "Attack Decay Sustain Release" to instruments making them sound far more natural  and supported 16 bit samples, a huge step up in quality.
Up to 32 channels are supported, 128 instruments, 2 concurrent channel effects and much much more ...
That was fun to implement!

Other big changes are:

  • Dropbox integration: Load and save files directly from/to your Dropbox
  • Enhanced Sample editor: Slice and transform your samples directly inside BassoonTracker
  • Enhanced Pattern editing: use ranges and cut/copy/paste for quick editing
  • Export your song to .wav or .mp3
  • LOTS of fancy UI updates

And all that still in plain old javascript with ZERO dependencies.

BassoonTracker Sample Editor

During the years many thousands of music tracks have been made and you can access them all through the build-in Modarchive and Modules.pl browsers. (Which now have been expanded to include FastTracker .xm files too)

The playback engine has gone through extensive compatibility testing but if you find a module that doesn't sound the way it should: drop me line.

More info and full source code on Github
Or check out the live demo on https://www.stef.be/bassoontracker/

Tags: in English, MusicGeef je reactie (1)
 

Amiga CD32 Workbench Skin in 16 colors

So .. after 25 year there's a new update for the Classic Amiga Operating System.
yes, that's right: TWENTYFIVE YEARS after AmigaOS 3.1, there's now Amiga OS 3.1.4
That's nothing less then a small miracle.
25 years in computer land is like 12 gazillion years in normal time.

Recently there a big revival for Amiga computers with a lot of very interessing projects being done by enthusiasts - new software - new hardware ... the works!
The 'Official companies" are still plotting along - if they take a short break from suing each other, that is - but the most interesting ones are pure community projects, created out of pure love for the platform.

A VERY interesting one is the Terrible Fire 328 : an expansion card for the CD32 with extra ram, video out and an IDE interface, usually used to attach a bootable CF card.

Long story short: the TF328 transforms the CD32 in the coolest of all Amiga's.

But .... that new Workbench 3.1.4 still looks a little dull.

Amiga Workbench 3.1.4

On the left is the default installation (4 colors) - Mason did create some new icons and after some copy commands it looks likt the picture on the right.
Already much better.
However ... the CD32 looks like this:

 

That mundane light gray and blue theme is really much too mundane for it's black and red looks.

The challenge is that this is a machine from 1993 and it's doesn't have the super fast graphic cards of today with millions of colors on 4K displays.
Allthough the Workbench can display up to 256 colors at the same time, that mode is too slow to be practical and it's more sane to only use 16 or 32 colors on a resolution of 640 on 480 pixels.
The even bigger challenge is that these colors are shared amongst all applications so each application has to adapt its colors to the ones available.
You can lock some colors (for examples for your icons) - and the other free colors can be free asigned - or battled for - by other applications.

So ...
I made a custom WorkBench theme - especially for the CD32.

 

16 colors (and Copper Demon for the window gradients)
Made for square pixel screen modes (Pal hires laced e.g.)

This is the Palette:

Although it's possible to run this in a 16 color WorkBench, it's recommended to use at least a 32 color screenmode.
That way you can also set the MUI colors and still have some pens left for other programs.

Color Locker and Border Blanker recommended!

Workflow:

  • First made in Photoshop,
  • then color-reduced with (the super awesome) http://tool.anides.de/
  • then cleaned up and re-dithered by hand back in Photoshop
  • then cut out the icons and saved as NewIcons with Personal Paint on the Amiga

 

Everything is downloadable from here.

Some extra wallpapers and a description how to install are also there.

That was fun!
Steffest

Tags: Commodore Amiga, Graphics, in EnglishGeef je reactie (0)
 

Bassoon Tracker

Presenting a new project:

Bassoon Tracker!

It's a Browser based old-school Amiga Music Tracker in plain old javascript.

Bassoon Tracker

If you have ever heard of Protracker or Fasttracker, then you know the drill,
if not, then you are probably too young :-)

Check it out at http://www.stef.be/bassoontracker/

Tracker music originated way back in 1987 on the Amiga computer.
This was an era where PC's only made bleep sounds.
Even as the Atari could produce some funky chip sounds, then there was this all-singing-all-dancing Amiga machine that could produce 4 channel wave-audio.
Ok, it was still 8-bit sound, but suddenly everybody could access a digital music creation tool for an affordable price where previously you would have to spend a fortune on hardware samplers and midi interfaces to get the same possibilities.
My first sampler I soldered myself: You could plug it into the parallel port of the Amiga to "record" analog audio signals into 8-bit samples. It produced very low quality samples, but ohh... the wonder of it all!

It also was en era where user interface design was non existent so yes: the interface is a bit ... "special" :-)

Bassoon Tracker Sample Editor

Tracker programs where made by developers for developers: You don't enter notes on a musical bar, you enter notes as numbers in a grid with your computer keyboard and you apply effects by entering even more numbers.
All in hexadecimal of course, as plain decimal number are for pussies.

I especially like the format because you sort of get the sheet-music AND the instruments together with the song.
If you hear a cool piece and go like "Wow, how did they do that?" you can jump right in and examine what samples are used and what effects are applied.
It's like an open-source music format where you can do a "view source" to see exactly how it's done and fiddle with it, much as you can do with any website or web application.

Just like much of my early javascript and css knowledge was build by inspecting the source of other applications, much of my early musical knowledge was build inspecting mod files on the Amiga.

The golden age of the Amiga is long gone, but the tracker format lives on. There have been countless spin-offs and remakes.
Even in modern audio software like Renoise, Radium and Sunvox the tracker spirit is present.
And of course there's openMPT: It doesn't have a cool and snazzy interface but it's the most compatible and complete true tracker around.

Remember: these are not just mp3 files you hear, the music is reproduced using samples that are played and manipulated in sequence in real-time.
This is why mod files in general are quite small, making them perfect for (early) games and other projects where file size is important.
Even the super popular Unity game platform still has support for tracker formats

Playing mod files in a browser is nothing new, but still I wanted to create my own tracker for the following reasons:

  • I wanted to research Web-Audio, especially real time audio manipulation.
  • I wanted a real tracker where you can open, edit and save mod files, not just a player.
  • It should perform well on mobile browsers.
    Most mod players don't work that well on mobile browsers.
    They tend to implement a very low level way of handling audio, doing the resampling and mixing all in the javascript layer, maybe because the code is ported or recompiled from other platforms.
    I took a high-level Web-Audio approach which makes it perform really well on mobile browsers. Even if the UI slows down, the music should never stutter.
  • I wanted to build a SCALABLE cool retro user interface.
    Most old-school trackers have a fixed size user interface.
    I wanted a pixel-retro interface that scales with the screen.
    You could call it "responsive design" but then for HTML canvas :-)
    That's a pretty cool feature even if I say so myself!
  • I wanted to have a decent music playback engine to be able to build upon: a drum-sequencer? a midi-player? real-time online collaboration? all rather straightforward once the main playback engine is in place.

Anyway - here are some examples!



Even more?
The ModArchive hosts thousands of tracker songs and they have an API so you can directly access them from within Bassoon Tracker.

The source files are available on GitHub.


Have fun, and if you think of any cool feature you're missing: let me know!

Tags: Commodore Amiga, in English, Music, ProgrammingGeef je reactie (5)
 

Physical buttons for your Sonos

I totally love my Sonos system.
The Sonos players are expensive but they are worth every penny and i haven't regretted any of my Sonos purchases for a minute.

There's one thing missing though ... hardware buttons!
Even as a smartphone or tablet to control your appliances is perfect (remember 2009?), sometimes you just don't have your smartphone ready at hand and you find yourself hunting for your smartphone to control your Sonos.

Yes, each Sonos has some hardware buttons, but they are only used to play/pause the current song, or to adjust the volume of that particular player.

Enter D.I.Y.
I'm a big fan of old tube-based radio's. If they are not too far gone they get repaired, otherwise they just look cool.
One particular little radio-bugger was beyond salvation and received another purpose: controlling the Sonos with some presets, volume and play/pause with its old-school tactile click-clack buttons.

The final contraption looks like this:
Sonoscontroller main

very incognito. looks like a radio, no?

On the inside the buttons are wired to a little Arduino.
When you press a button or turn the volume knob, one of the digital or analog inputs of the Arduino is activated, allowing you to define a resulting action in software.

Sonoscontroller hardwarebuttons

 

There's a little WiShield attached to the Arduino allowing it to communicate over wifi with other devices.
Although it's possible to talk to the Sonos devices directly using the UPnP protocol, it's easier to use a some sort of middleware like the excellent Sonos Http Client by Jimmy Shimizu .

Sonoscontroller arduino

 

The WiShield is rather old in terms of IT-gadget-age and its libraries are not compatible with the current generation of Arduino IDE.
I had to patch them a little to make them work on Arduino 1.x and up. You can find my fork here.

The little Arduino sketch that controls everything is also on my GitHub.

A little status led completes the setup, giving some feedback on your actions.

Sonoscontroller colors


With the radio buttons i can now activate the 5 presets we use the most, change the volume of the grouped sonos speakers and pause/play everything.
The presets are currently 3 radio stations (Studio Brussel, Radio 1, Radio Nostalgie), the Spotify favourite list (starred tracks) and a random Spotify playlist.

Due to some wonderful coincident the labels of the buttons also EXACTLY match the preset they trigger:

Sonoscontroller button map

How convenient!

The concept is a bit hard to explain to people who don't have a wireless speaker system.
Most of the time they just stare blankly and go
"Uhm ... so you've build a radio that you can use to ehm ... turn on the radio? ... Ok ... cool ..."

Exactly!
Just like software controllers as Ableton Live end up up creating matching hardware controllers with LOTS of buttons, let's hope this is the start of a trend.
There's nothing like the feeling of pressing a big chunky button down and make it go *CLACK* , far more satisfying than using the non-tactile buttons of a touchscreen controller ... .

Hmm, I still have this thing somewhere in my garage ... what still needs controlling?

 

Tags: Arduino, in English, Programming, TinkeringGeef je reactie (3)
 

Airwave Pong Style!

Wave you hands in the air and pong it like you just don't care!

I like old stuff: it has a story, it is used. it has flaws.
And exactly those imperfections are interesting. Waba-Sabi you know?

That's why I ditched all my CD's and moved back to Vinyl,
and that's also why In my opinion most "pre-computer music" sounds better.

When you take a basic step sequencer or midi program, it's a robot: all notes are aligned on a fixed grid and it usually takes some effort to get a "human feel" to your music.


Now what if you could ease it up a bit in a fun way?
Let's take the graphical representation of a "beat" in most common step sequencers.
and let's take this thought one step further: the graphical representation defines the music, right?
So what if we alter the graphics, would the music change too?
For example, if we want to add a fade, we can just as well use photoshop to add some blur, right?

And if we want to loosen up that fixed grid, why not use a graphical filter to make it more "wobbly"

This way we can use graphical tools to mold your music into a more organic shape.

And more!
What if we could "read" any image in a musical way?
An image consists of lot's of coloured dots, each dot has some info we can use. on a computer screen, this is for example the amount of red, green and blue and the transparency.
We can sample that info from an image and use it for something musical.
An example: move you mouse over this image of a jungle, to explore it in an audio-way. (Well ... after you click on it to open the demo, right?)


To pour that into something musical, we can use "the bouncing ball" effect: a ball bouncing around in a rectangular box has 2 rhythms that are both fixed but as the sides of the box are not equal, the rhythms are constantly shifting.
It has the predicable structure of a beat box, but also the unpredictability of 2 patterns intermingling: Exactly the interesting effect we are looking for.
Try it out for yourselves!

(Seriously: leave it running on chrome or safari for a few hours: it's very relaxing!)


Of course we don't have to use a static image, we can use a video or ... a camera!
That is when things really get interesting: when you connect a camera as your graphical/musical input source, you can interact with your musical model live, in front of your camera.
Add a little motion-tracking and color-tracking, and you get a pretty accurate way of triggering musical events using your webcam.
To go all the way back to music software, we can even add some MIDI to trigger midi events using your webcam, and to record everything you do in your midi sequencer to take it further along towards a full musical production.

Wham! Before you know it, you got yourself a playful musical instrument.

Of course, it's a bit hard to control. It's probably wise to limit yourself with some quantization or some predefined chord schematics to get the sound you want.

Fiddling around with all my prototype toys, I created this demo song - I call it "Airwave pong" (You now: Wave you hands in the air in front of your webcam - combined with pong)

To be honest, I had to do a lot of post-processing on the midi data ... my motion tracking routines are somewhat crude and fly all over the place.

If you want to try it out for yourself, come find me a Barcamp Antwerp 7 this saturday, where I will be doing a live demo and will release all the tools I used.

Yes indeed: barcamp STILL is one of the most inspiring events EVER.
The concept is simple: short and open talks about anything you're passionate about. The presentations won't be perfect, but they will be real and honest, which makes them far more valuable then about 90% of al other talks on "professional" events.
So if you happen to be in the vicinity of Antwerp, do yourself a favour and drop by #BCA7
I can't wait !

Foto door Simon Schoeters

Tags: Graphics, in English, Music, Programming, Tinkering, VideoGeef je reactie (1)
 

My Little DrummerBot

Yay! finally took the time to finish a little Arduino project.
It's a another bot, more specific: a web controlled drummerbot!

Yes yes, the same old trick: web interfaces to physical objects: Me LUVS them.
Give me an Arduino and a browser and I'll build you your rainbow

Hey, I feel a song comming up!

 



Tap the drum pattern on your phone and this little bot will rock it!

drummerbot 



You control it like most drum computers: you draw the beats on a pattern of sixteen dots, perfectly suited for generic 4/4 rhythms.
There a 8 lines, each controlling 1 servo motor.

Most of the servo's have a percussion item both on the left and the right, that's why the pattern buttons have 3 states: off, left, right.
 That makes 14 distinct percussion sounds for the drummerbot.

The pattern in the webbrowser is packed into a string, which get send to the Arduino via HTTP.
You can use a wifi module and a http server on the Arduino, or you can use another device attached to the Arduino through a comm port.
The Arduino receives the string, unpacks it back to a pattern and simple loops over the steps controlling each servo.


drummerbot_grid


the "DrummerBot Step Seqeuncer V 0.01 very-much-alpha" page is here

You can also download the Arduino code here.

I must admit: the drums sound a bit dry without amplification though.
I recorded everything into Ableton Live and did the final mix there. (Shocking, right? The videoclip is actually NOT a live performance :-) )

I'm specifically fond of the "Horns"
They are 2 little fans with a servo pushing a piece of plastic against the blades.
A hell of a noise but when you add heaps of fuzz, chorus and overdrive effects they are pretty convincing.
I call them F*CK-YEAH-HORNS

If you want to jam along yourself: hop over this saturday to Barcamp Antwerpen, where I'll be giving a presentation with/about the bot.

Let's play!

Tags: Arduino, in English, Music, Programming, TinkeringGeef je reactie (4)
 

Warning! contains facts, analyst says

Analyst says that 50% of you will read this blogpost.
How about you, are you reading this post?

This is part 2 of the "How to be a full time tech blogger" series.

I've done some extensive analysis myself by reading less then half a dozen blogposts - in specific, 4  blogposts about the analysis of the effect of the new iPad.
Boy Genius reports: "Canaccord Securities analyst Mike Walkley says ..." that "Android tablets can’t compete with the iPad"
Meanwhile, just one day before, the same blog claims that "Analytics firm Strategy Analytics reports ..." that "Android tablets finally dent iPad market share"
At the same time, "global market intelligence and consulting firm IDC" predicts that Android tablets will overtake the iPad in 2016.
Hey, but what do they know, they're just market intelligence and consulting dudes, not analysts like "Needham analyst Charlie Wolf" who sees that "Apple’s iPad will still dominate tablet market after a decade"

Confusing? not at all, that's the beauty of it: since everything is an opinion, everybody is right!

Currently I'm writing a whitepaper on a method of analysis of technology related articles aiming to chart the relationship between relevant info and specific vocabulary,syntax and grammar.
I don't have any hot graphics for you just yet, but I do have some useful insights I'm willing to share:

  • the amount of the word "analysis" seems directly proportional to the amount of "IMPORTANT RELEVANT INFO"  in the article
  • the location of the word "analysis" is a duality: small to normal amounts of "IMPORTANT RELEVANT INFO" seem to prefer the word "analysis" at the start of the sentence but for the greatest impact, the really big "IMPORTANT RELEVANT INFO" put the word at the end, right after the comma. e.g. "in 4 decades time, plain paper will be completely replaced by electronics, analyst says"
  • Every "call to action" doubles the "IMPORTANT RELEVANT"-value of the preformentioned IMPORTANT RELEVANT INFO.

Let me clarify that last point.
Every writer knows that every blogpost should end with a big fat "Call to Action" - right?
No post is worth reading - let alone worth writing - without one.
Don't take my word for it - everybody says so
To really spice up your point, you must engage your readers, pull them in, get them clicking - and the ultimate weapon of choice is "ask them for their opinion so they can be an authorative analyst too" , right?

It's all a matter of efficiency.
What's the most time consuming part of writing non-fiction articles?
It's checking the facts.

Now here it is: the golden tip:
Everytime you write about what someone else says or predicts or sees some interesting correlations happen

  1. You don't have to hunt for news yourself as someone else already has written it down for you
  2. There are no facts. Ergo:  you never can go wrong.
  3. Lifting the simple fact of fact-checking out of the equation, cuts your valuable writing time in half.

That's not a Win-Win , that's a Win-Win-Winning!
Cover it up by asking your reader for their analysis and BOOM! the easy-peasy never-wrong instant formula for filling up your tech blog.

Everyone can do it - so can you.

So, What do you think?
Aren't you glad you've read this highly valuable important relevant piece of info?

Tags: Blogging, Gezeur, in EnglishGeef je reactie (3)
 

whatever versus whatever

Marco Arment "translates" (or trashes) The Ars Technica Galaxy Tab 10.1 review.

Translation: Android tablets have managed to copy the iPad's hardware well enough - the easy part - but have failed to provide good software and significant third-party app choice - the hard part.

So, with similar hardware with similar capabilities selling at similar prices, why should someone choose an Android tablet over an iPad?

Only die-hard Android fans should buy this, and even most of them won't enjoy it.

Dude, why so narrow minded?
You love your iPad. Good for you.
Why is it so hard to see that other people have other needs, tastes and preferences?
The ongoing Android versus IOS debate is a moot point.
You know that shouting game? 2 groups of kids shouting which is the better color, Red or Blue
Same thing.
(and FYI, scientific study shows that red seems to have the upper hand )
It's like arguing which soccer team is better, FS Barcelona or Manchester United.
Which is the better car? BMW or Mercedes ?

In fact: even more scientific studies point out that the love for all things Apple is like a religion
No point in arguing.
People are grasping at whatever they can just to defend "their side": objectivity is for the weak!

I too have my preference and without emotional arguments I can simply observe my own behaviour:
I'm not a die-hard Android fan but I'm a die-hard tablet fan.
I have both an iPad and Android tablets in various sizes.
The iPad is a very nice toy and yet: when I crash in the couch, when I'm on the train, when I'm answering nature's call in the bathroom, when I'm in a meeting ... it's an Android tablet that's with me.
As smooth and fun as the iPad may be, the Android tablets are just more functional and easier for the things I want to do.
I'm not saying an Android tablet is better, I'm saying it's better suited for me.

If mister Arment can't see why some people prefer an Android tablet over the iPad then he certainly isn't troubled with an overly broad perspective.
Oh well, each to his own.

but if we all can agree that this debate is pointless, let's avoid polluting the interwebs (and my feedreader) with such garbage and focus on building kick ass applications, shall we.
On whatever platform, using whatever technology.

Tags: in English, MobileGeef je reactie (6)