Friday, December 21, 2007

Unsilent night

Here's a cool way to celebrate Christmas, Phil Kline style. Too bad it won't be happening in Atlanta, but maybe it's happening in your town.

Thanks to laughing squid for the video, and for bring this to my attention. Original Article.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Creating Stageplots on your Mac with OmniGraffle

A while back I posted about stage plots and why they are so important, especially at festival gigs, but I did not go into much detail about how to make one, other than to say draw one by hand if you lack the technical skills. Of course, there's as many ways to make them as there are people making them, but I've been using a program called OmniGraffle for a while, and it occurred to me that it would be a great tool for making stage plots if you're a mac user. It's extremely intuitive once you spend fifteen minutes with it and if you've got the right stencils, it's a breeze.

First download and install OmniGraffle. You won't need to buy it to try it out. You may not even need to buy it at all if your stage plots are simple, since it lets you add up to 20 objects before you have to pay. After you've downloaded Omnigraffle and tried it out a bit, download my stencils, which include an amp stencil, an instrument stencil, and an general purpose stage plot stencil.

After downloading it, unzip the file, and copy the stencils into ~/Library/Application Support/OmniGraffle/Stencils/. Next time you start OmniGraffle, it will see the new stencils and you can grab the images and lay them out on a document. When you're done, save the document and use the export feature to save as a jpeg, or pdf. I threw some instruments together and came up with this in no time flat:

OmniGraffle Stage Plot
(click image to enlarge)

Beautiful it a'int, but clear it is, especially considering all the stuff on stage. For details on what should really go into your stage plot, remember to see my blog posting on that subject, but you get the idea. If you have an instrument not covered (I only did the basics), you can either use a box and label it or find a picture of it online.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Controlling Subversion Post-Commit Email Size

First off, if that subject line makes no sense to you, you can probably stop reading. This post has no entertainment value whatsoever -- it is entirely practical. It's for people administering the subversion version control system.

Still reading? Okay, here's the problem: like many users of subversion (svn for short) I like getting e-mail diffs from svn after each commit, but sometimes, like after a move, copy, or vendor drop, they are too big. Way too big: they have even caused out of memory conditions on my subversion server. They have sent emails on the order of 12 megs, and that was only limited by the emailer, not by any part of subversion so far as I know.

Why? by default, subversion ships with some hook script templates that you can configure. The templates point to some simple, easy to use perl scripts, so you'd think that's what the subversion developers are endorsing. When I asked about this on the mailing list, I got two responses, both suggested I use something else, and one even used the phrase "bit rot". The take-home message: don't use those perl scripts! Instead, here's a more modern way to get your emails and limit the diff sizes while your at it:

  • Download and unzip the patched mailer script.

  • Check the first line of the script and make sure that it matches the path to python on your system. If not, modify the scrpt, so that it does.

  • As it is, the script omits diffs if they are larger than 50k. If you want to change that, look for and modify the line: MAX_DIFF_SIZE = 50000.

  • Put the patched mailer script somewhere sensible. /usr/local/bin is not bad. ~/bin/ is sensible as well, if your repo is installed somewhere in your home dir.

  • Edit your post-commit hook (in your repository's hooks directory) so that it looks like this:

    /full/path/to/ commit "$REPOS" "$REV"

  • Now the last step is the tricky one: Somewhere on your system there is a mailer.conf.example file. You can usually find it using "locate mailer.conf.example". Copy that to your subversion repo's conf directory and call it mailer.conf. It is well commented and you should be able to go through and make changes logically, but it pays to be careful. I recommend setting generate_diffs to modify, as that prevents diffs from being generated on files that are simply copied, added or deleted, but people's preferences vary on this one.

  • To test the configuration, run the post-commit script with complete path to the repository and the last revision number as arguments. That should send an email for the last commit.

If you like everything about this except the bit about limiting the diff sizes, you can, of course, use the that came with subversion instead of the patched version, just use locate to find it on your system. Everything else stays the same.

For even more control, you can also look into SVN::Notify.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pro-Audio Lolcats

I've had a nasty flu this week and haven't been able to get much work done. Somehow, in my delerium, I thought it would be a good idea to make pro-audio themed Lolcats:


Thanks to Julie from Kitty Wigs for letting me use the picture of her cat Chicken in her custom made Pink Passion Kitty Wig™, available from her site for $50. Seriously, check that out.

By the way, if you're sick of all things cute, but also secretly enjoy it, check out the satirical Cute With Chris. The best part of that site are the videos which feature everything from sarcastic humor about people's obsession with cute things to... actual obsessing about pictures of cute things. At least I think that's what's going on, maybe I'm not smart enough to actually get it. There's also a fair bit of making fun of news-caster speak, obnoxious YouTube comments, and the occasional picture of poop, cat vomit, and some childish non-sequitors which somehow make sense (at least to me) while your watching. Warning: there's some cursing in this particular video, so maybe don't watch it at work:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Crazy Violin-Voice Man

Holy Crap! Talk about falsetto. (jump to one minute if you want to just hear the first part where he's singing about eight octaves above middle-C. He does it a few more times throughout the video.)

There's some other interesting and inexplicable stuff in this video, too, like musicians with sacks over their heads. Together, it kinda makes me feel like I am watching the entertainment for some sort of alien race. Vitas as he is known, is also a fashion designer, so maybe this whole thing was his concept.

Apparently there's been some controvery over whether or not he's really singing, but according to Wikipedia, those notes are in the range of a (non-castrato) countertenor. I've certainly heard other singers, like Tim Booth of the band James hit similar notes, but it never sounds quite so... alien.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

Amen Brother, the World's Most Popular Drum Break

Here's an old video from 2004 that just came to my attention. (Thanks Peter!) It doesn't really need to be a video, since it's mostly audio commentary over a shot of a record player. The commentary, though, is very interesting -- it discusses what is arguably the most important breakbeat of all time (the "Amen Brother" break). I don't follow the author's logical leap that one company claiming copyright of their copy of this breakbeat is proof of overbearing copyright laws, but I do agree in some sort of copyright reform. I may be misinterpreting the author's intent, but I think he is implying, though citation of Lawrence Lessig among others, that radical change in copyright laws are required to enable breakbeat and hip hop music to survive because of increased litigation.

While I think the record industry has done some despicable things in this situation, and I never approve of "making examples" of people, I don't think we need to tear down copyright laws all together. Rather than ending copyright as we know it (which, as a practical matter, is not going to happen in the foreseeable future) there are plenty of other solutions. For example, right now when bands wish to do a cover song, the paperwork and fees involved are both reasonable because the industry has setup a clearinghouse for it: the Harry Fox Agency. In the same way, it would be great if the industry setup a clearinghouse for samples. Granted, the calculations for using samples would be more complex, and in some cases it may be intractable, but there's no reason it could not be done for many or even most cases of sample use.