The Big Think

May 19, 2007

Yardage

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 9:45 pm

Erin and I spent the day (literally all 12 hours from 8am to 8pm) working in the backyard doing some much needed yardwork. We put down 150 feet of that weedblock stuff in the 4′ wide flowerbeds along our fence and then followed that with 40 bags of mulch. At 50 pounds per bag, I moved literally one ton of hardwood mulch by myself! We also planted a couple of plants (2 flame acanthus, 1 lantana camara, and a crepe myrtle sapling) and I laid another 150 feet of wire for the robomower (the old stuff broke somehow a few weeks ago). What a day! But it looks fantastic out there. After our work was done we both sat at the bistro table on the porch and toasted our hard work.

I had a nice little American Beauty bag-in-the-wind moment when I was out watching the robomower do its thing. I looked up and saw a lone bubble, of all things, make its way over our fence, dance around our yard for a bit, and then float over the fence and go about its way. There were no more bubbles anywhere but it was the strangest, funniest moment of the day. I think probably some neighborhood kid blew the bubble down our street somewhere and for some reason this one held together long enough to pay me a visit.

May 18, 2007

Studio Construction

Filed under: Studio Construction — jasony @ 10:15 pm

If you could have seen me this morning you would have laughed. It’d take too long to explain, but trust me. I tried to get some lead string through the buried wall pipes in order to pull the cable through later (remember when I sucked the original string out? Now’s the time to put it back). I had string tied to string, color coded for the proper opening. Tied to the wrong thing and getting stuck in the tube. It wasn’t pretty, but it’s done.

Not much progress today. Mowed the lawn and moved 20 bags of mulch from my truck to the back yard. Erin and I are mulching the beds tomorrow. Then I’ll start working on the desk “pillars” and top rack units. The desktop is the only thing remaining after that.

OS X/Mac Weirdness

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 6:36 am

I’m having a very strange problem on the Mac and can’t seem to track it down. Every morning I come downstairs to the kitchen table (where my computer has been exiled while the studio is under construction). I start it up (cold start) and once it’s booted, open up my email client and Firefox. About three minutes after start the computer does something OS X is supposedly not supposed to do: it freezes. Total lockup. There’s no kernel panic dialog and never any evidence in the crashlog (the last crash it reports was nine days ago!). I have to hold the power button in for 5 seconds to get it to reboot

If I do not open any apps the mac will still freeze after about 3 minutes (iCal is set to auto open so that’s the only open app). I haven’t timed it but it feels like exactly the same amount of time each morning- about 3 minutes.

Here’s what’s odd. Once I do the reset button thing and reboot it the computer is fine for the rest of the day. It will occasionally freeze during the day (ever couple of days), but is otherwise normal.

What the heck could be going on?!? I haven’t rebuild the hard drive in three years. I need a bigger drive anyway so I’m going to be dropping one in and doing a complete rebuild, but does anyone have any idea what could be causing such strange and yet predictable behavior?

May 17, 2007

Studio Construction

Filed under: Studio Construction — jasony @ 9:31 pm

I spent all day today wiring up the studio. First, I took about two hours to route and neatly tie off all of my power cables (about 20), then I had to route them so they won’t interfere with the audio signals. Next I hooked all the midi cables up, which was pretty easy to do since I’m forgoing the midi return bus. I don’t really need it and it does add to the cable mess something fierce. I then spent a few hours labeling the dozens and dozens of audio cables and constructing a makeshift snake using twist ties and pipe cleaners. I now have a massive cable trunk with all of my wires. It’s nice and neat but about 15 feet longer than I need it to be. I think I’m going to fasten some kind of hook on the wall behind the equipment cabinet so the cable trunk loops can hang on the hook. This way I will have achieved what I was beginning to think what was impossible in such a limited space: total audio/electrical signal separation. If it works out there won’t be a single instance of a power cable crossing, touching, or coming within several inches of an audio or midi cable. Truly signal nirvana.

Unfortunately, I can’t finish hooking up the audio cables until the mixer is in place, and I can’t put the heavy mixer in place until I run the wires through the wall, and I can’t do that until my special order cables get here (the pair of 30′ Midi cables and my special 25′ serial cable). I’m tracking them via DHL and UPS’s websites, but it may be saturday or monday before they arrive. So in the meantime I’m going to turn my attention to the big desk pillar/storage unit, desktop rack enclosures, and the desktop itself. A few more days in the shop should see all of those pieces built just in time to bring the last few pieces together.

Erin and I went to Target tonight and found some very nice leather seating on sale. Still pretty expensive but just barely within the budget I had set. Still not 100% sure, but they’re the best thing so far. I still might be convinced to go with some sort of table arrangement in there. We’re going to check out this place tomorrow. If we don’t find something there I think I’ll apply for (and immediately cancel) the Target card to save 10% on those chairs.

Give Him a Hand

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 1:18 pm

Is there nothing Dean Kamen and Co. can’t do? Fast forward to 2:10 to see what I mean. They did this in two years.

Misscholastic

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 9:59 am

Congratulations to Kathy!

Water Toy

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 12:07 am

This looks cool.

May 16, 2007

Studio Construction

Filed under: Studio Construction — jasony @ 10:26 pm

After helping my friend Greg move this morning I started in on some of the wiring in the cabinet. It took me a couple of hours to juggle the exact unit order- where to put the amps and power supplies and where the instruments and audio units go (compressors, effects, etc). There are a lot of things to think about when wiring: cable length, electrical runs, power requirements, physical dimensions, accessibility, etc. Balancing all of these things means that you sometimes have to dismantle a setup once it’s in. No big deal apart from removing a few screws since I haven’t hooked up the wires.

Once the boxes go in I have to manage the power supplies and cables (keeping them as far from the audio cables as possible). This would be made so much easier if the different manufacturers would just settle on a standard layout. If the power cords were all located on the same side of the back panel you could just fasten them all together and bundle them out of the way, but some come out the left, some out the middle, and some emerge from the center of the units. Ugh. On top of that, some units have universal, removable 3 prong cords (my favorite), some have integrated cords that you can’t remove, and some have those ugly wall-warts. It doesn’t stop there, though, because some of the wall wart power supplies are located in the middle of the cord (!?!?!) and the ones that are on the end -the normal black boxes with the plug blades we’re all used to seeing- are different sizes or orientations, so they take up different amounts of room in the rack-mount power supply units. It’s like assembling a puzzle.

Finally, when I had my studio in its old configuration there was a bit of distance from the different boxes to the mixer. Some of the runs could be as long as 10 feet. So I bought 12 foot audio cables and labeled both ends of all of them with printed labels and heat-shrink tubing. It worked great. However, now that the mixer is basically right next to the equipment there is a TON of extra cable and nowhere to put it! I really don’t want to invest in new cables just to keep the spaghetti down, but it’s pretty ridiculous. I may spend a few bucks to at least get shorter midi cables and try to make my own snake. That’ll cut down on about 20 or so cables. If I had an 8 foot 24 cable snake it would be great, but unfortunately those things run about $250 and I can’t justify that just to avoid the snarl.

Oh, I had to jump on the net and order a pair of 30 foot midi cables to make the run through the wall to my main controller keyboard. I thought I was going to have to shell out $50 for the pair but I jumped on ebay and found them for $14 new. Yay, ebay!

Tomorrow I’ll continue wiring but I can’t do much more until the new cables arrive. I definitely can’t make the in-wall run until I have everything ready. That’s a one-shot deal. I have to bundle all the cables together (staggering the ends by several inches) and pull them all thorough at once. If I need to add another cable in the wall down the road I’ll have to yank the whole bunch out since it’ll be too crowded in there to send a single cable through.

I know, I know… two more weeks. This is getting ridiculous.

Puzzle Man

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 2:36 pm

This guy is gooooood.

I Wish I Was…

Filed under: Mad Science — jasony @ 1:34 pm

At Makerfaire!

A two-day, family-friendly event that celebrates arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset. It’s for creative, resourceful folks who like to tinker and love to make things. We call them Makers.

Seriously, I’d love to go someday.

May 15, 2007

Vocabulary

Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 11:25 pm

Cool word of the day (from a comment over at Katherine’s blog):

Quadrivium

Studio Construction

Filed under: Studio Construction — jasony @ 11:10 pm

Well I’m getting good at making those studio rack cases. I finished the smaller one today and put the lyptus accents on the front. I also made the solid wood top. If I did it correctly the whole box will slide on its casters underneath my mixer with only about 1/8 inch to spare. If I didn’t to it right you’ll probably hear some cussin’. Luckily my mixer legs have adjustable feet so there’s some tolerance for error there.

I accidentally made the top too short by about 1/2 inch. No big deal. The whole box will live under my mixer so unless you pull it all the way out you’ll never see it. I could have done without the solid wood top since you’ll most likely never see it, but you know me. I couldn’t live with myself if I had kludged it.

The oil finish is spectacular. The case is already up in the studio waiting its load of equipment tomorrow. Wiring will commence very soon.

Pong 2007

Filed under: Games — jasony @ 9:46 pm

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first video game with Plasma Pong. Awesome. Sean and Patrick, I think you’ll really like this one.

Atom Smasher

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 8:25 pm

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is about to go online. I can’t wait to see it happen!

May 14, 2007

Rockets Red Glare

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 11:58 pm

Why Austin is awesome. 1000 model rockets launched at once.

Bendy

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 11:54 pm

Some neat bent object sculptures.

Studio Construction

Filed under: Studio Construction — jasony @ 11:13 pm

I think I’ll just edit my MarsEdit preferences to automatically put “Studio Construction” into the title field of every blank post window. Geeze…

So I decided to bite the bullet and make the smaller cabinet. It turns out that practice does indeed make perfect. It was a breeze for me to cut the stock for the walls and laminate the sides with leftover laminate from the first cabinet. It took me about 90 minutes to get that much done. Tomorrow I’ll go back to the lumberyard for a bunch of lyptus (now that I’m sold on the wood) and a couple more hours to finish up. In about 3-4 hours I will have made a hardwood lined rolling 12 rackspace cabinet that would sell for around $300. Not too bad. Maybe I should make these things professionally!

I had more fun that I thought I would making both cabinets. There weren’t any tricks to them (90 degree corners and easy to handle pieces) and they went together admirably fast. The lyptus is a dream to work with and the Tried and True goes on like butter. SO much better than the overpriced junk you get from the music stores.

Deep Thoughts

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 10:19 pm

Some very interesting thoughts on the future of technology from SF writer Charles Stross. Read the whole (long) article.

This century we’re going to learn a lesson about what it means to be unable to forget anything. And it’s going to go on, and on. Barring a catastrophic universal collapse of human civilization — which I should note was widely predicted from August 1945 onward, and hasn’t happened yet — we’re going to be laying down memories in diamond that will outlast our bones, and our civilizations, and our languages. Sixty kilograms [of diamond atom recording media] will handily sum up the total history of the human species, up to the year 2000. From then on … we still don’t need much storage, in bulk or mass terms. There’s no reason not to massively replicate it and ensure that it survives into the deep future.

And with ubiquitous lifelogs, and the internet, and attempts at providing a unified interface to all interesting information — wikipedia, let’s say — we’re going to give future historians a chance to build an annotated, comprehensive history of the entire human race. Charting the relationships and interactions between everyone who’s ever lived since the dawn of history — or at least, the dawn of the new kind of history that is about to be born this century.

Total history — a term I’d like to coin, by analogy to total war — is something we haven’t experienced yet. I’m really not sure what its implications are, but then, I’m one of the odd primitive shadows just visible at one edge of the archive: I expect to live long enough to be lifelogging, but my first forty or fifty years are going to be very poorly documented, mere gigabytes of text and audio to document decades of experience. What I can be fairly sure of is that our descendants’ relationship with their history is going to be very different from our own, because they will be able to see it with a level of depth and clarity that nobody has ever experienced before.

Meet your descendants. They don’t know what it’s like to be involuntarily lost, don’t understand what we mean by the word “privacy”, and will have access (sooner or later) to a historical representation of our species that defies understanding. They live in a world where history has a sharply-drawn start line, and everything they individually do or say will sooner or later be visible to everyone who comes after them, forever. They are incredibly alien to us.

Studio Construction

Filed under: Studio Construction — jasony @ 4:13 pm

So I’m installing my pile of equipment into the new cabinet when I realize something… I don’t have enough room. There is a stack of equipment that I’ve stored away for several years. I don’t use it very often, but it would be nice to have handy, and the lights are a good addition; clients hear with their eyes after all.

Anyway, while I was deciding how to orient all of the equipment I realized that there was nowhere to put about 12 rack spaces worth of gear. I have a DAT player, a DA-38 digital 8 track (it’s much more modern than it sounds, the DA series was THE system to have in the 90’s for TV, film, and commercial production. Everyone has gone to hard disk based recording systems now, but I still can’t bring myself to sell the unit for the $200 or so it would get. I paid $2500 for it new and it has less than 10 hours of operation on it. Ouch. It remains my single biggest gear purchase “whoops”), a patchbay, a couple of reverb/fx units, a sampler, and a few other things. I’m afraid I might have to spend a few days making another, smaller, version of the equipment cabinet I just built. This one could sit under the mixer. I’m going back and forth on this. I could just stick the stuff back in the closet, or I could sell the stuff (for pennies on the dollar). Of course, if I build the case I’ll have a nice box full of stuff I don’t need and never use. But it would give me room to grow. I’m over capacity now and the extra space would provide some ventilation.

Studio Construction

Filed under: Studio Construction — jasony @ 11:52 am

The equipment cabinet is built! I’m finishing the lyptus with Tried and True Varnish Oil. It’s a great product that creates a beautiful surface. The grain of they lyptus positively pops out and there’s no thick film between the user and the wood like there is with polyurethane. It’s not as durable as poly but the T&T can be reapplied easily. Best of all, it’s completely non-toxic (you can apply it with your fingers) and a little goes a long way. I found a pint for $18 and thought WOW, that’s expensive. But based on the advice of a friend I bought some a few years ago. I have now put multiple coats on several pieces of furniture and still have about 1/4 of the quart left.

Unfortunately, you have to let the stuff dry for a long time. Like, a LONG time. In high humidity (is there anything else in Texas?) the first coat can take a week to dry. I’m going to give this a few hours and then move it up to my studio so I can start the rewire. It’s so easy to apply and so thick- more like putting on face cream than oil- that I can reapply it any time with little risk to the electronics. And if I get it out of the shop I can keep making dust while I build the desk boxes and desk top.

I wasn’t 100% sure of the lyptus/oil combination, but lyptus was about a quarter the price of cherry and has the same tight grain and similar color. It’s heavier, too. I have to say that after seeing the Tried and True on the lyptus I’m really happy. It’s exactly the color/grain that I had in mind. The cabinet looks beautiful- even better than a store-bought plastic trimmed cabinet. I can’t wait to show it off.

*UPDATE* Thanks to my neighbor James the cabinet is now in the studio. Thanks, James! Let the rewiring begin.

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