Derivative bleepy music

June 14th, 2010

So, I’ve spent some of this evening noodling around in Ableton Live, putting together the bones of a tech house style track. The arrangement is a bit all over the place at the moment, I’m not totally happy with the pacing or anything and it needs more tension/release and whatnot, but the skeleton is there and maybe with a bit of tidying it might almost be worth listening to. Anyway, should you feel the need to listen to four-odd minutes of pounding repetitive bleepy beats, you can:

Tech house by cawhitworth

Representative Democracy

May 7th, 2010

So, there’s a wonderful thing called the Gallagher Index, which is basically a measure of how representative of popular opinion the outcome of an election is – basically, a measure of the difference between the popular vote and how that translates into representation in parliament (or equivalent). There’s a Wikipedia article on it here, but basically all you need to know is that lower numbers are better.

Well, I’ve run the numbers for this election through a spreadsheet (which you can see here, if that sort of thing interests you) and the UK comes out as about 15.2-ish (we’re still waiting on results, but it’s unlikely to change). Which is sort of interesting to know, but what’s far more useful is to put it in some kind of context.

So, I added a column to the spreadsheet that compared us to the most recent election in, well, pretty much every other democracy in the world. And, in a list of 100 countries, we come 11th from bottom.

(the 2007 US presidential elections don’t fare much better, either)

So, yeah, are we ready to talk about electoral reform, yet?

Edit: At 648 of 650 seats declared, the index now stands at 14.98, which is a smidgin lower, but still bloody awful.

I totally recorded a song!

January 31st, 2010

Well, a backing track for one, anyway. It sounds a bit worship-songy, but without any lyrics it’s kind of hard to say what it is. You can listen to it by clicking here.

In case you care, gear list:

  • Guitar – Epiphone ’56 Gold Top Les Paul
  • Amp – Line 6 Spider IV, mic’d with a Shure SM58
  • Bass – Aria ProII (not amped – through a cheap Behringer DI)
  • Mixer – Behringer Xenyx (used as a mic pre-amp)
  • Audio interface – Edirol UA5
  • Audio software – Orion by Synapse Audio
  • Synths – Toxic 2 (from Orion)
  • Drums – Addictive Drums by XLN Audio (demo version!)

All recorded and mixed in an afternoon, and it kinda shows, but I like it anyway.

Google Nexus One

January 5th, 2010

So, Google have a phone out now. By all accounts, it’s very much Just Another Android phone – it’s running a more recent version of the OS than most, and it’s got a few tweaks like animated wallpapers, but it’s really nothing much more than any other recent Android devices. Certainly nothing that would make you immediately rush out and buy it over any of the others. What’s the point in this, then?

I’m pretty sure Google don’t actually intend this to be an iPhone-beater in and of itself, nor do I expect that they’re thinking they’ll make any appreciable money off it (heck, they claim to be selling it at cost – and it’s certainly a fair bit cheaper than the iPhone, although it’s still far from free). What it is, though, is a brand-positioning exercise: up until now, Android phones haven’t really had much unity of brand, being made by different manufacturers, with various customisations and widgety bits. In announcing their own phone, Google are making their presence in the phone market much more prominent to the average consumer – so now people can walk into a phone shop and can ask for a “Google phone”. And the really significant thing is – it doesn’t matter whether people buy the Nexus One, an HTC Hero, a Motorola Droid or any other future Android device – all Google care about is that you buy a phone running its software, delivering its adverts to you. And that is what I think the Nexus One is about.

EyeTV is awful

December 10th, 2009

So, for quite some time, I’ve been using Windows Media Center and have generally been very happy with it. Sure, the remote is ugly as hell, and the recording format is a bit impenetrable, but as a user experience it’s really very, very good, and it generally works exactly as you’d expect. Combined with an extender like an XBox 360, and it’s really quite a slick bit of kit.

However, lately I took delivery of a second-hand Mac Mini from work, and I thought I’d put it to service as a little media box under the telly. Everyone keeps telling me how wonderful Macs are, so I left OS X on it, and shelled out for a copy of EyeTV so I could use it as a PVR, too. Well, it turns out that’s a mistake because, compared to WMC, EyeTV is utterly terrible.

For example: Even though Freeview in the UK has a perfectly serviceable set of programme guide data, EyeTV instead defaults to fetching programme information from an company called TvTv – which seems to lack a bunch of random channels, and although you get a year for free with EyeTV, it actually charges for the data after that. You can use the over-the-air programme guide, but you have to select that for every single channel manually, and it seems virtually impossible to get full details for a programme, even though they’re visible on my TV’s built-in EPG.

Or how about recording? Tonight, I had QI scheduled to record at 9:30pm. Naomi wanted to watch Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas, at 8:00pm, but was marking books, so I set that to record too. Just before 9pm, Naomi finished work, and I switched to EyeTV and zipped back to the start of Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas, and we started watching it, assuming that as it had recorded, we’d just be watching the recording, and EyeTV would record QI at 9:30pm, as scheduled. But oh no – EyeTV assumed that because we were watching the channel it was recording, we wanted to continue recording the channel we were watching, and it did so silently. So, instead of recording the programme I’d asked it to, it silently continued recording whatever was on after Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas, and totally failed to record QI.

And that’s not even beginning to mention the picture quality – which is, frankly, poor compared to Media Center or even my TV’s built-in tuner. It’s washed out, and the de-interlacing is awful.

It’s bad enough that I’m on the verge of wiping OS X from my Mac Mini and replacing it with Windows 7, just for Media Center. As a PVR, the Mac Mini with EyeTV really doesn’t cut it.

Comment approval

November 24th, 2009

Apparently, I haven’t been receiving email notification of comments, so approval of new commenters has been slow. I think I’ve fixed that now, so comment away.

The problem with Modern Warfare 2

November 22nd, 2009

I’ve tried to write this one several times, because it’s a thorny subject, and because so many words have already been written about it (Kieron Gillen wrote a brilliant article about it, for example). I think, though, having discussed this with other people on various forums and in real life, that the problem I have isn’t with Modern Warfare 2 per se: although I don’t want to play it, I have no problem with people including challenging, violent, adult content in games (Mr Gillen’s criticisms aside). What I have a problem with is the fact that there was a problem with this content at all.

I need to unpack that statement a little.

Whenever a game like Modern Warfare 2 or GTA4 or Manhunt or even Mass Effect (with it’s Infamous Disgraceful Alien Lesbian Sex scene)  is released, there’s inevitably a furore in the press, along the lines of “Our children are being corrupted by this violent/sexual/other* filth!”, which is immediately followed by the games industry saying “Well, it was rated 18, it’s the parents’ fault for letting the kids play it! Nothing to do with us!” and both sides continue to shout past each other without considering that there may be some value in both points of view.

The thing is, the protestations from the games industry that games aren’t just for kids are perfectly valid. Games aren’t just for kids. But to pretend that kids don’t play games is just as foolish as claiming that only kids play games. And to pretend that only over-18s play 18-rated games is disingeneous at best. Whether video games are actually corrupting our youth or not is open to debate, but the idea that a lot of parents are unhappy about their children playing as terrorists and shooting civilians in the face is indisputable, and parents have a right to be concerned about that.

A little story: When Modern Warfare 2 – a game that received an 18 rating from the BBFC – was released, Sainsburys were selling it for the bargain knock-down price of £26. Naturally, this attracted a lot of customers, and they queued outside the stores from hours before opening in order to ensure they got a copy. As they were queueing, shop staff came out and informed shoppers that if they were buying the game for their children, they’d have to make sure their kids didn’t come in with them as otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to sell them the game.

So, what’s going on here? Sure, any parent who knowingly bought their under-18 child game an 18-rated game is accountable for that. But the attitude of the shop staff was complicit in implying that the 18-rating was merely an inconvenience to their children playing the game, rather than a serious assessment of the game’s suitability for that audience. The fact that the parents didn’t consider the 18-rating something to be concerned about speaks more about the ratings system and public perception of it than it does about both the game and the parents concern about the content their children are exposed to: people – for whatever reason – don’t think that an 18-rating is something to be paid attention to. And so, for the games industry to hide behind that rating and do no more is not going to help matters.

So. I don’t think that games with adult content are a problem in and of themselves. And I also don’t think that parents who are concerned about what their children are playing is a problem either. The problem is that the system for informing people about the content of games and their suitability for particular audiences is broken, and that if the games industry continues to employ a system that isn’t working, they shouldn’t be surprised if people continue to complain about it.

Does that make some kind of sense? I hope so.

A quick rant about consistency

November 13th, 2009

So, I’m doing lots of exciting gathering of statistics and drawing of graphs at work at the moment, and have been making use of the excellent Matplotlib and NumPy Python libraries to help me. They’re both really handy bits of code, but there’s some awful examples of inconsistent design in there. For example:

import numpy
data = numpy.array([1,2,3])
mean = data.mean()
median = numpy.median(data)

– that is, mean() is a method on array(), which makes sense, but median() is a global function that takes an array as a parameter. I’m sure someone, somewhere, has a really good reason for that. But I’m also sure they’re pretty much wrong.

On a mission

November 13th, 2009

In the past, I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m no great fan of evangelism. Now, a lot of things have changed since I wrote that post – I’m in a different place, literally and spiritually, to where I was then – but most of what I wrote in that post still rings true, I think. So, when my church announced that we were going to be having a Lifestyle Evangelism Mission Week Thing this week, I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t sink a little. The plan was that we’d be spending the week concentrating on the idea of being missional in our everyday lives – at work, at home and in all the places we inhabit daily – and that we’d meet up with other people who worked or lived in similar circumstances to ourselves to pray and talk about how we were doing – which I was also, frankly, apprehensive about, because “praying” and “talking about myself” are probably numbers 2 and 3 on the list right behind “evangelism” on the Big List of Christian Things I Don’t Much Like (which, I will concede, is quite a long list). But these meetings were being held in my lunch hour, only ten minutes away from my office, so I didn’t have much excuse not to go along.

And you know what? It’s been pretty good, actually. I mean, I don’t think there’s been any lightning-bolts-from-heaven style revelations for any of us, nor do I think there’s waves of new converts appearing in all our offices over the city. But, at least for me personally, meeting up with other people at lunchtime and having a short, non-threatening and non-imposing chat and pray has been a useful way to anchor my day around something other than just work, and to maybe break down some of the barriers I’m so good at putting up between work-Chris, home-Chris, church-Chris and many of the other artificial distinctions I make about myself. The other people I’ve been meeting up with have been lovely and not too scary and it’s been good to have contact with some people other than software engineers for a change…

So, I’m still not convinced I want to go around beating on about the whole “believe or burn” shtick, but I’ve at least “outed” myself at work as a Christian, and have managed to see my life as a little more than just the working week/church on sunday routine that it had perhaps fallen into somewhat lately. And perhaps this missional living thing might have something to it, too – not being radical or weird about my faith, but simply allowing God into the everyday things, and the everyday things into my spiritual life, and not making artificial distinctions where there ought be none.

(footnote: I’m aware that this post is a bit rambling and unfocused. It’s a long time since I’ve done any proper writing, and I’m tough out of practise, so I hope you’ll all forgive me – I’m really intended to pick this stuff back up again and not just condense my every thought into 140 characters for the purposes of Twitter, but it’s going to take me a little while to get back into the habit, I think. Bear with me, okay?)

Ooh! It’s all different!

November 5th, 2009

Yes, it is!

Basically, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and moved this whole thing over to WordPress on my Bytemark VM. All the old posts and comments seem to have imported okay, and I’ve even crafted a RewriteRule so that links to individual posts on my old blog should still work here. The theme is kind of a work in progress whilst I get my head round WordPress’s templating system, but it’s not too offensive on the eye at the moment, I hope.

Of course, whether I’ll update any more often or not is still an open question, but hey, it’s a start.

Two things:

  1. Commenting is broken. Don’t know why.Commenting should work now.
  2. Dates for old posts are screwy. Do know why, will fix.Dates should be fixed.