Charlotte NC, you annoy me

I have been called m’am 3 times in a week here. 2 times were really bad, one might have been me mis-hearing it out of paranoia. In all cases the people were behind me or to the side while I was looking down, but still. Do small guys with piercings and longer hair not exist in The South? Jarheads and buzz cuts reign supreme here. Pretty much everyone I encountered dresses the same… I’ll bet baggy jean/khaki stores, college t-shirt outlets, and leather jacket shops print money here. I know that isn’t fair. It’s probably a great place to live and there are lots of people more interesting and more productive than I am. The m’aming and pace of things here has soured my opinion of the area for now though. I guess I need to work out more so my physique isn’t so girly.

In Portland I never feel weird. In North Carolina it’s a different story. I think I often take Portland’s personality for granted. I know it isn’t for everyone; however, it really does suit me. I rarely have to explain myself or what I’m doing to people and I like that. I can’t wait to get home.

DDRUM4 Hi-Hat Controller “Fix”

Disclaimer: I’m not sure why anyone other than me and a handful of other dorks would care about this; however, it seems like a shame to not share it if there is someone out there that could use it.

I built a MAX/MSP patch for MAX for Live that will allow you to use the ddrum4 hi-hat controller with basically any drum sample library you can find.  This may not sound like a big deal, but this controller came out in ’94 and has been discontinued for years despite it kicking the shit out of every controller before or since it was created.  The patch does what it does by taking the CC:4 messages that the ddrum4 uses to determine hi-hat position to control which note actually gets sent to the drum sample library you are using.

You tell it the closed note for the hi-hat, the open-hat note, set the threshold you want to use, and it does the rest.  You can see your pedal position on the Hi-Hat Current Value slider and you can see what note it is sending to your drum sampler in the Output After Processing keyboard.

What this means is that you can use the ddrum4 hi-hat (which is my favorite hi-hat controller ever made, suck it Roland) to control whatever sample library you use without having to do all kind of insane configuration of your drum library.  I got sick of using BFD2 and jumping through hoops to get it to work and then having it all be for nothing if I wanted to use kontakt or some other library that had standard keyboard mappings.  You use this, set up your ddrum4 brain to send regular keyboard mappings, and rock out with your cock out (as much as you can playing midi drums in your bedroom).

At some point I plan to had another feature so you can get the tones of playing the hat with just the pedal with no stick.  It kind of works right now, but it could be better.  I was going to program it to do a splash as well so that if you stomp it and release it real quick it will make a sound.  I’ve found though that it already does that like a real hi-hat with the existing code because it’s using a real hi-hat stand and the abrupt stop of the pedal is what causes the splash… yet another perk of the ddrum hardware.  It just works.

Here is a screenshot of the actual “code” and here is the actual code if you are one of the 10 people on the planet who still use this hardware and want to use it with Max for Live.  Good luck and let me know if you have any suggestions or questions.

I’m Off of Facebook! Let The Productivity Begin.

I bailed on facebook today. I’ve been thinking about doing it for awhile and I’m sure some of you have heard me talking about it. I’ve already have a few people send me email and texts as if I had died which is kind of funny. I also had a few congratulatory emails, as if I had started recovering from some kind of addiction. I am not dead. I am not mad. I am not insane. There is no one particular issue that made me do it, it’s just been going on in my mind for awhile. I’m not angry with anyone or anything, I just don’t feel like it is enhancing my life. I’ve been trying to get rid of things in my life that don’t make me happy and facebook is a distraction at best and stressful at worst. I like seeing people’s pictures and knowing what they are up to, but when it really comes down to it, I’m not sure I actually feel more connected to anyone. There are a handful of people that I am in regular touch with via phone, text, etc and that really is enough for me. I’m happy with a few meaningful connections rather than hundreds of random updates and farmville stats. I guess I like my interpersonal relationships to remain interpersonal rather than being community friendships where things are constantly taken out of context or viewed differently than intended. It’s a lot of drama that doesn’t need to exist in my world. I also like having a feeling of at least a little control of what about me is out in the world. I’ve recently started paying cash for almost everything I can which has both made my monthly statement easier to read and made me realize how much money I spend on really dumb shit. Technology is a wonderful thing, but the goal of technology should be to automate and simplify tasks in order to make things easier for people or make it so they have more time to do the things they love doing. It should enhance your life in a positive way. I found myself almost manically checking facebook for updates. I checked it yesterday during a softball game with my nephew. That’s fucked up. Anyway, there are lots of reasons for doing it and almost all of them are positive. I’m not saying everyone should do it, but I feel good about it.

Technology Only Moves In One Direction

I have made very few friends in the time I have lived in Oregon. I am kind of an introvert and have always been socially awkward around people I don’t know. That being said, the few friends I have made are good ones. One in particular I met through my wife. He is incredibly clever, very funny, and just generally fun to be around. He has some really interesting views of the world and when I hear them the always get my brain going off on some tangents. This one is inspired by the fact that he doesn’t believe in stem cel research and genetic engineering…

Show me the downside of stem cel research and genetic engineering that outweighs the benefits. Any conversation prompted by that challenge will end up being hypothetical; however, if you really dig in and think about it, there won’t be any. The worst things that they will bring is perfect and unethical test-tube super humans, bio-weapons, and unintentional/intentional super-plague. Those suck, no doubt about it. The problem is that those are minor problems in the grand scheme of things. If all of those things happened right now, the human race would be wiped out. If they don’t happen right now then something else (sun consuming the earth, whatever) wipes out the human race. The difference is that one of them has so many possible benefits that it completely outweighs the risks. The very technology that could cause those problems could also be the solution to the problems caused if you think long-term.

Let me put it a different way. If you could go back in time and stop the invention of the car, then you could theoretically save every person that died in a car accident. That is millions of lives saved. The problem with that is that the mobility that cars allow itself likely allowed those people to exist in the first place. If cars didn’t exist, than most of those people you might have saved would likely never had existed. Technology always introduces problems, but it also solves them eventually too.

My wife made a comment that I am pessimistic the other day. I really took offense to it. I am the definition of an optimist. I always hope that things will work in my favor. What I don’t do is pretend that life is fair. I try to think of all of the things that can go wrong and I plan for those things. When they don’t happen (which is almost all the time) I have a great time. When they do, I clean it up and move along. Technology works the way I do. It plans for the worst, hopes for the best, and addresses unseen problems as they arrise.

When I think about the future I look forward to the day when diseases will be cured and life extended through technology whether it be stem-cel research, genetic engineering, or any other sci-fi kind of stuff you can think of. I love Ray Kurzweil’s view of the future because it is so optimistic. I look forward to those days. They are coming and they will be here faster than anyone can imagine. There will be people that try to screw it up or use it for evil purposes; however, for every one of them there are more people who will shore it up and make it work the way it was intended. For every person that tries to genetically engineer the perfect human or the perfect virus there are more people who will question the ethics and engineer the cure. For every robot built for military purposes there will be more built to help the elderly get up the stairs or better yet, research to make it so people don’t have to fall apart physically.

You really have to take a step back and think longer term than a few years or even your lifetime. Everyone gets scared when you talk about robots being humanlike. The always think of the Terminator movies. The problem with that is that the Terminator movies are completely one-sided as far as thinking of the future. They talk about building robots that decide to attack humans as if the technology to develop the robots would be limited to the robots. It works both ways. The technology that allows the robots to play the human games would also allow humans to play the robot ones. While Terminators are trying to infiltrate human bases, the humans wouldn’t be shitting their pants trying to detect them with dogs, they would be injecting themselves into the robot infrastructure. It eventually ends in stalemate and moves on in a way that benefits everyone. Enslavement of the human race by robots is pretty unlikely and it is a dumb reason to be scared of the future. Anyway, Back to reality…

My point is this. You have to think past the first problem that technology will cause and think about all of the solutions that it is ultimately capable of. Humankind is intolerant of abuse of power which is why revolutions happen when power is abused. That will always be the case. Refuse to be scared of what a few bad apples might do with technology and embrace the direction that millions will move with it, forward.

Microsoft stole my idea!

Okay, so have any of you seen the new ad campaign for Vista? It shows a bunch of people using Vista only Microsoft tells the people using it that it is a new OS called Mojave. Sure enough, everyone likes it. It’s faster, it has cool features, gadgets are cool, blah blah blah. Then Microsoft tells them it is Vista and no one can believe it. I was going to write a blog about that very thing but then Microsoft beat me to it.

I’ll come out and say that I am not a big fan of Microsoft on a lot of things; however, Vista does kick ass. The people whining about how it is slow and doesn’t run on their ancient computer need to suck it up. It wasn’t built for old computers. If you have an old computer then stick with XP. XP is solid. Run Ubuntu if you want, it’s cool too (if you don’t need exchange and don’t mind spending time getting it set up to do what you need to do). If you have the means though, Vista kicks ass. It runs fast as hell on my laptop. It’s snappy. It looks good. Gadgets are way cooler than I thought they would be. It’s just good.

I do a lot of development in Python using PyQt for Gui design and Eclipse as an IDE and I have not had a single problem with any of it. It all runs great, it looks good (a testament to Qt as well). I don’t know what else to say. I am pretty critical of software and gadgets that make big promises and then punk out on them and so far Vista hasn’t pissed me off. People complain about it always asking permission to do things; however, that only happens when an app is doing something it probably shouldn’t be. Well written apps behave. If I could talk Microsoft into changing anything it would be the way the networking configuration is set up. Opening 5 windows to change my IP is a drag; however, how often do I really need to do that?

Anyway, since Microsoft is building an entire ad campaign on this idea I am not going to go into tons of detail as to why I am happy with Vista. I suppose I have been so busy getting things done that I haven’t had time to write up anything on Vista. That is a good sign. Microsoft seems to be on track and lately they are coming around to the open source community (ironpython actually works, they are throwing money at apache, etc). Microsoft out from under Bill Gates might be a company that people get can excited about without feeling dirty.