Psst… Track 8?

Not sure how many people downloaded the [HBDI]:four album, but for those that did if you were sharp eyed (eared?) you would have noticed it was missing track 8. I have since rectified this omission and the complete album can be downloaded by clicking on the album title on that page.

The missing track is called “New Dream”:

(If your browser doesn’t support in line audio. Click here to play or download it.)

Great Castle Wilson update

A couple of “mildly interesting” things happened in the last week:

Deb and I stained the deck

When we had the deck built last year, they told us to wait a year before staining it. So we did…

Picture of the deck just after we finished staining it

It took Deb and I about 18 hours of work total to do it. The result isn’t really professional but it’s good enough, and we’ve already seen evidence that it’s protecting the wood from the rain. We may put down another coat of stain at some point, but given how much work the first one was, that may have to wait until next year. :-)

Carpets cleaned

We got the carpet in the living room professionally cleaned this week. The result is certainly a lot cleaner than it was, but I don’t think it’s done as much for reducing the “old dog” smell as we’d hoped.

It also gave us an opportunity to re-think the layout of the room a bit, so we removed a bit of clutter and swapped the couch and love seat around.

And on the list of downers for the week…

  • I scraped up one of the rims on the Fiat. I’m pretty pissed with myself, but at least that’s the “first scratch” out of the way.
  • The top tray on our dishwasher broke. Someone is coming over to look at it today. Hopefully it won’t be weeks before the parts are available.
  • George has already peed on the cleaned carpet. I think we understand what happened — we accidentally left the water dish out overnight. As long as it’s not a new trend I’m just going to chock it up to the life of a dog owner and move on.

Anyway as I am fond of saying “Oh, well”. If those are the worst things that ever happen to us, then we’re leading a charmed life.



It just showed up on the lot, so it will take a couple of days to do PDI, detailing, etc. I’ll let you know when I get it home.

Woo hoo!

I know, I know. I haven’t been posting.

This is yet another of those posts that starts out by apologizing for not keeping up with the blog. Believe me, I’m more frustrated than you are that it’s been so long since I last posted.

The thing is, my life has been busy, to the point where I haven’t even been finding the time to keep up with 140 character tweets, let alone full blog posts.

Anyway, here are some highlights…

New role at work

In addition to being the Eclipse Project PMC lead, I have now taken on a significant architectural role working on the “IBM DevOps Services powered by JazzHub”. This is a new property that provides project hosting, including online development (based on Orion), tracking and planning support, etc., which is intended to be the premiere environment for building applications that are part of the “IBM BlueMix” platform-as-a-service. What’s even cooler about this is that it can be used for free. Definitely check it out.

Just finished a Divertimento concert

*sigh*. Yes, it would have made more sense to talk about it ahead of time. Oh well. This was the orchestra’s 30th anniversary concert, and it was an awesome program:

  • J. Strauss — Die Fledermaus Overture
  • Mozart — Violin Concerto No. 5, K.218
  • Brahms — Symphony No. 4 Op. 98

The concert was sponsored by the Austrian Embassy including bringing in the soloist for the Mozart, one Daniel Auner, who is a truly excellent up-and-coming violinist. Even though we only had a single rehearsal with him, I felt like he helped us achieve a recognizably stronger understanding of the music.

I bought a car

A Fiat Abarth. I haven’t actually received it yet — It’s still being built — but I expect it will show up some time in the next couple of weeks. For now, here’s a shot of basically what it will look like:


It’s very small, but I verified that it will hold my cello case with the back seats folded down, so we’re good. Zero to 100 KPH in 6.9 seconds. I’m excited :-).

MacBook performance

I have two Mac laptops, a 15″ MacBook Pro from 2011 and a 13″ MacBook Air from 2012. I use the MBP as my main home Mac, and it’s also the one where I do my music production. The MBA is my work laptop.

To give you some idea about their relative performance, here are their GeekBench scores — bigger numbers are better:



As you can see even though the 15″ MBP is older, it is a bit faster (19%). Mine even has an aftermarket SSD in it, which likely improves things further.

For comparison purposes, here are the numbers for the fastest current generation MacBook Pro and Air:



In both cases, that’s a gain of about 25% over what I have. I do find it interesting that the current MacBook Air is faster than my existing MacBook Pro.

Anyway, all this rumination is because I have been thinking about upgrading my work laptop to one of the new MacBook Pros. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Air, but unfortunately it only has 4Gig of RAM, which is fine for almost everything I do, except for running VMs with entire WebSphere installs on them (that require 4Gig allocated to the VM at minimum). You can get a new MBA with 8Gig of RAM, but honestly, for this use case I think going for 16Gig makes more sense, which means it has to be a Pro.

The thing is, given that the performance improvement is really not all that significant, I could probably hold off on getting a new machine for another year by switching my work environment over to the current MacBook Pro. The problem with this idea is that it would require me to move all the music software I use over to the MacBook Air. If you aren’t a musician, you simply don’t understand how painful that can be. Suffice it to say that I have three separate hardware (i.e. physical) “keys” that lock various pieces of software to one machine only. You have to painstakingly un-authorize each music application (and all the plugins) on one machine, then move the keys over, then re-authorize on the other. In a world where most of the software I use can be installed on a new machine by just connecting my Apple ID and going to the App Store, the music software industry just seems archaic.

In any case, it may yet come to that. I don’t imagine I’ll see much of a bonus this year, and without that I can’t actually afford a new machine. I guess we’ll see.

Divertimento Fall Concert

Just letting you know that the Divertimento 2013 Fall Concert is in just over a week:

November 8 & 9, 2013, 8pm
L’Église St. Thomas d’Aquin
1244 Kilborn Avenue

This is the orchestra that I play cello for, and I certainly hope to see you there. The pieces we are playing this time are:

  • Cardy — Kissing the Joy as it Flies
  • Wolf-Ferrari — Suite Concertino, Op. 16
  • Tchaikovsky — Symphony No. 4 Op. 26

The Cardy is a nice modern little piece built around the cycle of fifths. The Wolf-Ferrari is a bassoon concerto, with Ben Glossop as the soloist; it’s also reduced orchestra, which means I’m not playing in it, but that is fine with me given that the Tchaikovsky is definitely taking all of my energy — seriously, there are parts in it that that my cello teacher claims she would have difficulty playing.

Anyway, as usual, I can get tickets for $2 off the price at the door, but unfortunately if you want me to get you some I need to know by Thursday (i.e. tomorrow). [Apologies for leaving it so late]. The price at the door is:

  • Adults — $20
  • Seniors/Students — $10
  • Children under 13 — $5
  • Children under 6 — free

If you’ve got a printer handy, and you’d like to help us by putting up a poster, here is a PDF…

divertimento fall

Woo hoo! GCW is a Maverick!

Yup. I upgraded the Mac Mini to Mavericks. Amazingly, it went almost flawlessly. A little bit of confusion with some file permissions and the need to re-enable PHP again, but that was it.

I’m sure there are a bunch of lurking issues that still need to be resolved, but this blog, and the old content from Deb’s “deblog” both came back, which is really what I cared about the most. Note: If you’re looking for updates from Deb, she now uses the blog attached to her Shopify account.

The rest I can work through as I find them.

Nothing like giving the old Mac Mini a new lease on life to make your day. :-)

Ottawa Synth Meetup

Here are some pictures from last Saturday’s Ottawa Synth Meetup. It was an evening of conversation about gear and technique, along with much making of odd noises and even a smattering of actual music. :-)

Mostly it was an opportunity for some of us analog synth nuts to get together and realize that there really is a scene in Ottawa. It was a ton of fun.

Btw, if you’re interested in getting involved in the next one, you should join the Ottawa Synths Facebook group.

a pair of synths one for audio and one for video plus a ribbon controller
One person brought two analog modulars, one for audio (at the back) and one for video (in front). See the last photo for an example of the video synth in action.
a pair of classic analog polysynths
Someone brought an Arp Omni and a Korg PolySix. Classic sounds, that were instantly recognizable!
Awesome tube powered drum machine, crazy synth in a wooden case, plus a very nice, beats focused eurorack machine.
The synthesizers I brought
This is what I brought: Pittsburg Modular, MiniBrute, MonoTribe, Monotron Delay and a Qunexus controller.
Eurorack and ribbon controller
Monde synth ribbon controller controlling a eurorack setup. I got a chance to play with this, but I need to try it again in a less chaotic environment.
A really nice eurorack setup
This was a very nice eurorack setup, plus an Elektron Machinedrum and keyboard controller.
Video synth in action
The video synth driving the projector.

And there a few others that I didn’t manage to get pictures of.

Mini Review: Kobo Aura

I didn’t really need another ereader. I have numerous tablets in multiple sizes and a phone with a retina display, all of which have reading apps for every ebook store out there. I even have a Kobo Touch, which is a perfectly reasonable e-paper device once you figure out how to get all your content onto it.

But I had seen various reviews (like this one from Engadget) that said good things about the Kobo Aura, so I went down to the local Indigo and checked them out.

I must say, they really are every bit as nice as you would expect for a $150 device: light weight, solid in the hand, easy to hold onto with a textured backplate, a brilliant front light [pun intended], and a capacitive touch screen. For me it was this last point that was the deal maker. I’ve never liked the feeling of “reaching past the bezel” of the Kobo Touch (or any of the IR based e-readers) to touch the screen. I’ve always found it error prone both in my targeting and the device’s ability to consistently register the interactions. Unlike IR based devices the Kobo Aura has a perfectly flat front face, and in addition to just being more responsive and accurate, I suspect the move to the capacitive screen also helped them get the overall size of the device down — the Aura is significantly smaller than any other reader I’ve seen with a 6″ display.

Anyway, as I noted above, the deal was made. I ordered an Aura from the Kobo store and Canada Post even got it to me undamaged, in less than a week. Time to go to bed early and catch up on my reading. 😉

Technology — Just because you *can* do something…

… doesn’t mean you should.

I bought a Philips hue starter kit a while ago. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a system for controlling the colors and intensities of LED lightbulbs remotely, via a wireless base station connected to your home network, which in turn speaks the Zigbee protocol (I believe) to the lights. Essentially, it allows you to do stuff like this:

There are actually 3 lights in that picture, red and green ones visible, and a blue one lighting the top right corner.

Anyway, my thinking when I bought the kit, was that I was going to use the (very cool) RESTful API it provides to do some interesting web hacking of my the lights. Of course, I haven’t had time to do that — I don’t know why I thought otherwise — and so what I have effectively done, at this point, is replace a perfectly functional light switch with an app on my phone. I.e. enter room, get out phone, start app, tell lights to go on, put phone away. Not a win.

But wait, I think, someone must have built a light switch that will control a hue setup. All it would have to do is tell the lights to go on when the switch is flipped. Well… this may exist, but I couldn’t find it. The closest I could come was this:

The WeMo Light Switch

So, this is a light switch that, in addition to doing what it normally does (i.e. switch the current to a light on/off), also talks to your wireless network. That, in itself, wouldn’t solve the problem, but along with the obvious feature of giving you yet another app that can control your lights, the WeMo switch also interfaces to the brilliant site IFTTT (a.k.a. “if this then that”).

IFTTT is a website that lets you set up simple rules based on a trigger (i.e. “this”) and an action (i.e. “that”). It behaves exactly as you’d expect: when the trigger happens the action gets executed. There is quite a range of triggers and actions — it’s worth checking out — but the operative detail here is that WeMo light switches can be triggers and hue lights support several actions including turning on and off. Can you see where this is going?

The sequence of operations is this:

  1. Hit WeMo light switch
  2. Light switch connects (over the internet) to
  3. IFTTT tells all (3 of) my hue lights to turn on.
  4. Room lights up

Unfortunately, aside from the completely gratuitous use of the internet to control something entirely within my home office, there are two real problems with this:

  1. One of the 3 hue lights is connected to a wall sconce that is physically switched on/off by the WeMo switch. Because the power to that light is interrupted when the light is turned off, when it turns back on, it comes on white (i.e. it loses whatever color setting it had before).
  2. Although IFTTT does get the other two lights to turn on, the time between when the switch trigger happens and the resulting action is fired is… variable. Often it’s only a couple of seconds, but I have waited as much as 15.

Oh well. The end result is I can now almost turn the lights on and off again, and I have learned an interesting lesson in the limits of technology.

(Oh, and my lights flash when someone blogs about Orion. 😉 )

Ad astra per aspera