solarbird: (korra-fruck-out)

Apparently, sometime in the 1980s, TEAC – a legitimate, major, respected maker of audio gear – thought it would be a great idea to combine reel-to-reel loading technology with audiocassette frames.

Yes, it’s a compact audiocassette where you load the reels individually. And you can swap them out! I AM NOT EVEN MAKING THIS UP LOOK AT IT THIS IS LUDICROUS:

The selling point was presumably size of the little mini-reels vs. size of an entire cassette frame. But… honestly, how did this ever make it to market? Particularly given what a pain in the ass it is to actually load into a cassette frame and use. Watch the video, it’s pretty much hilarious.

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solarbird: (korra-grar)

It’s a pedal that’s an effects switch-in box, but it’s also just an A/B switch, so you can just switch between two devices. The two top plugs are from my zouk and mandolin, the output is to the recorder, I can pick which I’m recording. We’re doing this so we can record tomorrow’s show (6pm, The Dreaming, 5226 University Way, Seattle) with separate tracks for all instruments.

Note the extra cable sticking out the right side, which is connected to nothing. It’s there because the box won’t work without something being plugged in there. It doesn’t use anything that’s plugged in there; it just won’t work unless something is.

So I plugged in a signal-reduction cable. If we’re gonna have basically a noise antenna plugged in on stage to make this dumbass pedal work, I’m by gods gonna use a noise reducing noise antenna.

Honestly some days I don’t even know. This isn’t as bad as the USB-cable-to-nowhere I’ve got in the server room to make the KVM switch work, but it’s close. At least that cable plugs into something on both ends.

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solarbird: (mandolin-and-flutes)

Not as much time this year at Folklife as usual – no particular reason, really, other than I wanted to spend a couple of those days working on the album. But I did have a lot of fun jamming with Alouest on Sunday, doing the Quebecois trad thing. Sarah Kellington from Pinnpied made it too, and a good time was had by all.

I also picked up my customary New Noisemaker. See, I collect noisemakers. I have a whole shelf of them. Wooden train whistles, weird little rings you blow into that make sounds, bells, clackers, spoons, shakers, all sorts of toys. Sometimes they end up on other bands’s recordings!

Every year at the Folklife percussion tent, I play with what got brought this year, and see if anything makes noises I don’t already have.

So look at this crazy monster:

Is that awesome or what? It was in the discount bin for $7. The decorative bits were broken – the vertical slats originally went down further, some of the wicker wrap is missing, nothing that affects sound. So I trimmed, glued, and bound it at top and bottom – flutemaking skills, ahoy – and it’s sorted.

It makes a great, heavy, shlunk, clacky and interesting. You can also turn it to get a continuous falling-pebbles noise, and some other sounds too. People were asking me about it all day, hearing me play with it while walking around.

Normally that would be my only purchase. But not this year!

I’ve been thinking about a particular flute I didn’t buy last year for a year, which is a pretty good sign that I need to buy it. You might remember a year and a half ago or so, the abortive show trip down to Portland? One of my gear bags wandered off after our car broke down, taking with it a lot of gear and a couple of instruments, including one of my hand-built flutes, Popcorn.

Popcorn was my favourite flute, the one I carried around all the time, a bamboo D piccolo I’d make probably ten years before. I’ve never seen a flute made by anyone other than myself which sounded like it, or let me do a half-step-below-tonic trick like I could on it, and so on. I’ve been wanting to put together the flutemaking kit again ever since, to build a new one, but haven’t had time.

Well, these carbon-fibre flutes made in Oregon? They sound and act exactly like Popcorn, only with a better second octave. I can even do the half-step below tonic trick. It’s a little heavier because of the headstock, but that makes it tuneable. It’s amazing, and I’ve been wanting one since I didn’t buy one last year.

This year, Anna said “Carbony is here again, you should get that flute.” So I did.

I’m thinking of naming it “Kettlecorn.” Sound fitting, you think?

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solarbird: (molly-thats-not-good-green)

So. I have a Windows XP partition on my digital audio workstation. It exists to run two things: imgcopy and lightscribe. The machine spends 98% of its time in Ubuntu – but XP support is ending, and 0% is about to be the right amount of time.

However, received wisdom (and every other time I’ve done this) says you have to install Windows first, in a dual-boot configuration, then install clean Linux. A fresh install of Linux is unacceptable, because of reasons. Good reasons, not bullshit/ph33r reasons. Don’t argue with me about that; if you want to, you are wrong.

Now, if I have to, I can just yank the network drivers, not even turn on the external network card YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT EXTERNAL NETWORK CARD AGAIN REASONS and keep running XP, but wow, do I not want to do that. I’d like to turn this into a gaming machine as well – it has l33t specs in many ways, and with graphics card upgrades, could be a tiny goddess.

So. First: is there a way to keep my Linux partitions and still end up with a dual-boot machine? I know I can’t upgrade WinXP in place, but I have enough room in the current XP partitions for Windows 8.1, if the spec sheet isn’t lying. I don’t mind wiping the XP partitions, If there’s a way to accomplish this, that would be awesome; how, specifically, do I do it, and if you’re proposing a method, have you done it?

Keep in mind that given that the supposed XP-and-Vista binary to check your machine for Windows 8 compatibility failed to run because it doesn’t support XP, my confidence in my former employer is not high right now.

Second: Failing that, and I think we can assume failure there, are there reasons of which I’m unaware which would make it insane to install Windows 8 to a USB drive and just boot off that when I need to run Windows? Preferably a flash drive? Obviously I’m not an Enterprise Customer ™ so I don’t have Windows To Go, so only have Windows 8.1 Pro, but does it really matter since I’d be only using it on one computer ever?

Or, again, is that crazytalk? I don’t have USB 3.0, so this might be crazytalk, and honestly, I’d prefer a regular non-USB-drive install. But as a workaround, this would be fine. I’d have a Windows partition on the drive and use that for swap and My Documents and and and.

If neither of these are options, but you have another option that does not involve reinstalling Linux, I’m all ears. Maybe some sort of VM solution, I could see that. Please, tell me. Because right now I’m looking at lol winxp 4eva, or, more accurately, winxp until it decides it really wants to register again and can’t because it has no network, and tells me to DIAF.

I’d rather avoid that outcome. Because reasons.


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solarbird: (banzai institute)

Playing with a waveform rectifier. It’s external hardware, so to bounce stuff through it, I have to route out through analogue and back in, old-school. That’s fine, but kind of slow.

The odd part is, to me, the difference is substantial – at least, when the drums are thrown at it, not so much with the zouk and vox – but Anna doesn’t hear much of a difference. I wonder which is more typical?

Trying to throw an entire drum mix through it and using that in place of the separates Does Not Work, though. If I want to use this even as an incremental change tool, I should use it live (as recommended by maker, actually) or bounce per-instrument. That’s also suggested as reasonable in the manual.

Either way, it’s not showing up that hugely in the mix, even to me, and a lot of what this is doing is reminding me how much better the headphone amp in my workstation is than the headphone amp in my Macbook. By which I mean damn.

But at least I get to say “I have a waveform rectifier.” That’s cool.

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solarbird: (molly-thats-not-good-green)

UPDATED: See below.

Okay, so the latest: we’re pretty sure this is not actually xorg now. We’re back to session saves. Not I/O in general: specifically session saves, which is to say, saving the entire project.

See, the every two-minutes thing turned out to be a new feature in Ardour I hadn’t noticed: scheduled auto-saves, which turned out to be… every two minutes. Saves also happen whenever you enable master record, which is the other time I see it. So we’re pretty damn sure it’s Save Session.

We know it’s not I/O in general. Recording is actually far more I/O intensive, and once record is enabled and the save process is done, you can record all you want to without any problems. Bouncing existing material is also a complete nonissue.

It’s also not a filesystem issue: it happens even with RAMdisk, which is faster than anything else. And the behaviour reproduces itself perfectly on my non-USB on-motherboard Intel HD Audio card, so it’s not USB.

Now, to get into more details, I’ve gone digging deep into Ardour source code. BUT I HAVE AN IDEA, so bear with me.

In the source code, most of save happens in libs/ardour/

Save works fine when plugins are deactivated but triggers XRUNs – which means buffer overflows due to more than 100% digital signal processing capability (DSP) is available – when plugins are active.

That’s any kind of plugin, and it doesn’t seem to matter how few.

Save session calls a lot of things including get_state(), which in turn gets latency data from plugins via (eventually) latency_compute_run(), the code for which is the same! in both lv2 and ladspa plugin interfaces.

latency_compute_run() calculates the latency by actually running the plugin. Not a copy: it runs in place the actual plugin that’s in use.

This is all in here:

latency_compute_run() activates the plugin even if it’s already activated (!) then deactivates it on exit (which I guess is stacked somehow because they don’t deactivate in Ardour itself) and runs a second thread on the same instance of the plugin. (Presumably, because how else I guess?)

This strikes me as a minefield.

And so, an hypothesis: this is causing the hyperthreading predictive Intel cpu I have to retrace because of bad prediction and/or bad hyperthreading.

Penalty for this in Intel land is large, and I have seen commentary to the effect that it is large in the Intel Core series I have. I suspect that the two versions of the active plugin may be continually invalidating each other(!) for the duration of the latency test. It may even be causing the on-chip cache to be thrown out.

This would explain why it stops being an issue when the plugin is not active.


ETA: Brent over on Facebook pointed me at this 5-year-old bug, which led me to try fencing Ardour off to a single CPU. And when I do that… the problem goes away. Now, this sounds terrible, but I’m finding even with my semi-pathological test project (which I built to repro this problem) I can get down to 23-ish ms latency with a good degree of safety. So clearly, no matter what’s happening, it does. not. like. multicore.

That said, with hardware monitoring (which I have) that’s plenty good enough. I could live with 60ms if I knew it was safe. 23ms being safe (and 11.7 being mostly ok but a little iffy)? Awesome. Still: what is this?

ETA2: las, who wrote most of and manages the plugin code, popped on and said what I described would totally happen … except the latency recalculation doesn’t actually get called during save. I appear to have just misread the code, which is easy to do when all you have is grep and vi and an unfamiliar codebase.

ETA3: Well, hey! Turns out that setting Input Device and Output Device separately to the same device directly instead of setting Interface to the device (and leaving input and output devices to default assignment) means that Jack loads the device handler twice, as two instances – once for input, once for output. Thanks to rgareus on Ardour Chat for that pointer.

I can see how they get there, but there really ought to be a warning dialogue if you do that.

That means on a single-processor I can get down to 5.6ms latency and past my pathological repro tests cleanly. This is the kind of performance I’ve been expecting out of this box – at a minimum. Attained. I could in theory not even hardware monitor at these speeds – tho’ you really want to be down around 3ms for that ideally. (I can actually kinda run at 2.8ms – but it’s dodgy.) Since I have hardware monitoring I’m setting it all the way up to 11.6ms just to keep DSP numbers down. But any way you look at it – this is awesome.

I was really hoping to get this system back to usability before heading off, and – success! Thanks to everybody who threw out ideas, even if they didn’t work, because at least there are things we get to rule out when that happens.

Also, I’ve started putting together a dev envrironment (with help from Tom – thanks!) so I can explore this further when I get back into town. Saves shouldn’t be doing this. It’d be one thing were it just to HD and not to ramdisk, that’d be fine. But to ramdisk? No. Just… no. And the processor core thing, and the plugins-active-vs-not things are just odd. Maybe I can find it.

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solarbird: (mandolin-and-flutes)

It’s time to play everybody’s favourite quiz game, “What the hell is this?” Featuring me! And a found musical instrument at an estate sale*, which I rescued, and which appears to be some kind of recorder variant. But doesn’t entirely act like the recorders I’ve known. Is there a name for this thing? Check it out:

Your Mystery Guest

It’s in F! For FEAR ME. Which really should be PH for PH33R M3 but it’s probably too old for that. The head is totally recorder-like:

That’s a recorder reed right there

But it has keys! And thing is, there was a recorder right next to it, which did not have keys, but was in the same size and has the usual double-holes at the bottom, and which also sounded a lot more like a standard recorder.


This doesn’t sound completely unlike a recorder – it’s still obviously a woodwind and all that – but there’s just some qualities of it which sound different. Maybe that’s just being what I suspect is at least partially hand-made – check out these holes, they look like ones you find on handmade bamboo flutes, only shorter. Also, the upper octave is played – in my experiments trying to figure it out so far – unlike a normal recorder.

Handmade or just sloppy?

Anyway, it’s clearly some sort of recorder variant, but does it have a name?

* IF THIS HELPS: the estate was of a Jewish couple originally from South Africa. There’s acres of old original-8mm-size movie film marked things like “Rhodesia road trip, 1954,” and a projector for the film. Also acres of slides going back 60 years. And pottery supplies priced in South African Rand. If you’re a visual artist, contact me, I’ll tell you where.

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solarbird: (korra-grar)

I was going to write more about Victoria and the trip – I talked about a open mic appearance on Friday already – but my Macbook drive is more fucked up than I feared.

Anybody know how to make Time Machine skip past files with read errors and not just bail out?

See, I currently have no backup because Time Machine last week decided the backup was damaged and that it needed to start over with a new one. It’s done this before over the years so I said sure, go ahead.

It deleted the old backup and refused to make a new one. It gets about 1.7 gig in, then fails due to what it calls probably-transient network errors.

What it’s actually failing on are read errors on the laptop drive. Read errors disk utility can’t find. Read errors fsck can’t find either. Read errors SMART says aren’t happening.

But there are a whole bunch of files that if you try to copy them generate read fails. dd sees them too, and fails, if I try to image the disk. I went through and generated a massive list of bad files – and there are many – by having the system cp -pr them all indiviually while I was in Victoria.

I’ve currently added all of them to the Time Machine exclusion list and am trying to get a backup that way. I rather suspect this, too, will fail, due to a previously-undetected bad file.

Does anyone out there know whether there’s a way to make Time Machine not bomb out on these read errors? Or failing that, have another, good solution? Because I really need a better backup than the results of a big tree of cp -pr.

But at least I now have that. Before I set up that job, I didn’t even have that. Not after Time Machine’s lies.

eta:: With a bunch of exclusions added, I have a time machine backup of most of the drive. But it could be better with fewer exclusions if you know how to make Time Machine skip files with read errors instead of failing out. Can this even be done?

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solarbird: (molly-kill-everyone-with-sticks)

I’ve been taking advantage of this little schedule break after Norwescon to try to upgrade my DAW from Ubuntu 10.04 LTS to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, because support for 10.04 LTS is going away this month, and also because there are a lot of fixes I need in later versions of Jack and Ardour, and Jack setup and building is so strange that even the author group says DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.


It has been an insane nightmare. Had I not been working against a new hard drive onto which I had cloned my old setup, I would’ve been brutally screwed. Did you know 12.04 just bricks some machines – like, send-it-back-to-manufacturer brick them – at startup? Did you know 12.04 upgrade can and will render your machine unbootable? (That happened to me through the GUI; I had to re-image the drive. Also? The install disc for 12.04? I never even get to the first setup dialogue. Hangs.) Did you know that if you try to do a stepwise upgrade as per the instructions here that the tool you use to do it is hardcoded to look in the wrong place for the upgrade files, and that this bug is known and supposedly fixed but still happens to me?

Shall I go on? Because I can. This is why I smashed an Ubuntu install CD yesterday out of frustration and rage. (See above.)

Anyway, I eventually got the server upgrade path to work – it was literally the last route available, but it got me there, mostly. After putting my machine in a state which would leave it unbootable, it had the decency not to force a reboot, and after a few hours, I fixed it. This is also a known bug. If you upgrade in the GUI, you’re just pooched. As I was, except I was working off a new image, my original drives untouched, so I could start over.

Even with all of the above, I’d currently be dead in the water again(!), except the 3.1.5 kernel I installed myself to work around a combination of kernel bug and ill-behaved USB external sound hardware which enumerates its own hardware incorrectly(!) is booting fine, and running fine, under 12.04. So I’m actually up and running! As of around 2am this morning.

However, the kernel the installer wants to install is 3.2.0-39, and it panics at startup. That’s a later version, and I’m worried that this might bite me in the ass somewhere.

Will it? Anybody know? Will 12.04 be stable under a 3.1.5 kernel?

3.2.0-39 doesn’t even get loaded. Here, see if you have any ideas:

Starting up...
[0.929456] Kernel panic - not syncing: VFS: Unable to mount root fs on unknown-block (0,0)
[0.929507] Pid: 1, comm: swapper/0 Not tainted 3.2.0-39-generic #62-Ubuntu
[0.929552] Call Trace:
[0.929594] [<c1561988>] fukkit I'm not typing all this in. printk, panic, mount_block_root, ? sys_mknod, mount_root, prepare_namespace, ?sys_access, kernel_init, ? start_kernel, kernel_thread_helper.

The 3.1.5 kernel (same drive, same directory, same install, etc) launches fine.

So even if I get this working completely, I’ll be looking at a new distribution next time. This is obscene. The fact that pretty much everything I ran into – once I got the drive cloned, where I hit other problems, such as grub insisting that I had no hard drives after booting from one of them and mounting three – is known, and that the core dev team is basically okay with that tells me I’m kind of done with Ubuntu.

Mageia has been recommended highly. So has Mint, but I was later told Mint is just Ubuntu with a different GUI.

Got anything to declare?

Yeah. Don’t install Ubuntu.

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solarbird: (korra-no-fucking-around)

PLAN 34!

This is not what I’m actually trying to do, but not completely different either. Swap the guitar stick with a bass stick, move the harp strings below the bass and have them going higher in pitch, not lower. BUT IT COULD BE DONE.

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solarbird: (Default)
Anybody know anything about PHONIC SEM-710 speakers? I borrowed a couple for the Bainbridge Island show and while they're not high power, they sounded surprisingly nice used with my amp, particularly for their price point and small size.

I'm particularly looking for any reasons why I really don't want these. Like, they explode, or something. I'd use them for very small venues and house concerts, where my Crate looks like some sort of invading alien monolith.

(Pawn shop spelunking has been highly unproductive as of late, so I'm looking at other options.)

Here's one place selling some, but that's just for illustration purposes. That street price is pretty typical.

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