Sunday, December 28, 2008

Being unemployed / post-Christmas holidays are great!


Here's roughly what I'm up-to at the moment.

jQuery / Javascript / Titanium

I've pretty much got jQuery under my belt. (Not hard, really) and am playing a lot with Javascript, now in Chrome. (Which is nice and fast and hasn't caused me any problems so far Kaunda).

This doesn't, of course, mean that I'm now a great Ajax UI designer (yet); but at least it's not javascript / or DOM-wrangling (via jQuery) which is stopping me.

I've done a number of cute experiments which I hope to show you soon. And then I'll try them in Titanium which looks pretty sweet too. This could be what I was hoping for from Adobe Flex / AIR.


I started playing with Django because a lot of the Python job adverts I've seen are mentioning it. (Far more than, say, Zope. And Turbogears is clearly of infinitesimal interest to prospective employers.)

The most striking thing for me is that it's almost exactly like Google Application Engine. Or rather, I suppose GAE is heavily derived from Django.

The only differences seem to be that you have a relational database behind the scenes rather than Google's own BigTable and I guess I'll need to come to terms with the templating language which I ducked out of when I was writing Mind Traffic Control.

Anyway, Django looks pretty straightforward.

A couple of days ago I was looking at the Blimpduino site. I was thinking it would be cool to have one, but my own electronics and model making skills probably aren't up to it. Same with Johnny Chung Lee's cheap multi-touch Wiimote whiteboard. I'd love to have one. And I was kind of expecting that, by now, someone would have started making and selling a pens + wiimote package for people who want this but don't want to build it themselves.

But that doesn't seem to have happened.

So I started wondering whether there's some kind of site where you can ask people in your locality to make stuff for you. Something like a cross between Rentacoder and the Alchemy part of Etsy. There are undoubtedly people with a good understanding and feel for electronics projects who could knock off a couple of IR light-pens with alacrity. Whereas I'd bumble around not doing it for months.

So where's the site which creates a market for such things? Is it Etsy? If not, and if there doesn't seem to be anything similar, I'm thinking that this is going to be my Django learning exercise. It could be a useful service. (Think that you're encouraging small-scale, on-demand local production and helping stimulate economic activity during what's going to be a pretty bad year for many people. I'll probably add the option of offering and bidding using (eg. LETS) or even barter too.)

I'll knock together a draft site over the next week or so (it *is* my Django learning exercise too) and then, as I'm off to various entrepreneurial meetups I'll talk about it to them.

If it really looks like there's nothing similar out there, I may take this further. It's a definite "should exist". OTOH I can't quite believe that it doesn't. So if someone tells me about an existing one in the meantime, I'll leave it at that.


I just discovered Chuck which appears a very interesting music programming language. I've been looking for something like this for a while, and it sounds pretty good on first listen. Time to go back to some of my more simulation oriented music experiments again.

Finally, merry circuit bent christmas and new year to you all.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A quick and dirty place to collect links to my music.
After one more Firefox slowdown and crash (OK, with 20 tabs open including one playing streaming music, admittedly) I just switched to Google Chrome.

So far, it seems very good. Lots of tabs (including streaming music) and feels far more responsive, no crashes yet.
RIP Harold Pinter

Friday, December 19, 2008

Arguably now is the time you should start despairing of humanity. Scientists rerun the Milgram test and get the same result!!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hauntological note.

It's not simply that people of my generation are getting nostalgic for the tropes and indications of our childhoods. No, of course not!

What's happening is that we're doing the important historical work of sifting. In every cultural moment there is "good" and "bad" ... that which is well made within the context and rules of the genre, and that which is not (which is mere tired copyings of earlier styles or mere pastiche of the signifiers of the genre itself.)

Our job, now, is to begin the process of analysis. To identify what will stand for us in futurity and what later generations can safely forget.

Obviously ;-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This talk by Kevin Kelly is quite good. Thought-provoking.

Reminds me ...
You knew it had to happen, right? Topical "satire" game of the week : Sock and Awe.
K-Punk on Oliver Postgate :

This was the voice of an adult speaking to children; an obvious point, no doubt, but where in children's TV now would you find such a mode of address? There are no children, there are no adults, there is no wonder: only adolescents in waiting, being spoken to by screamingly selfconscious adolescents in their twenties and thirties.

Just watch. Postgate is about to get elevated to the patron saint of Hauntology. Can't you just imagine GhostBox bringing out a tribute album?

Update : watch this documentary. I'm sold on the cult of Postgate. That's Composing!
Cringely's last stand (at least in his current gig) :

11) My last prediction for 2009 has to do with venture capital. While investments in technology will continue, the really smart VCs will realize there is a much better and more certain way to make a ton of money in the short term: start a bank. Look for the rebirth of community banks, in this case backed by VCs. Work with me on this one. There is no credit available because the big banks won't lend. But it takes only about $20 million to start a very fine little bank that WILL loan money because the cash can be acquired from the Fed for almost nothing and lent at high rates to technology companies that can pay it back. By creating banks the technology industry will become self-funding. And when the big banks finally stop being frozen with fear and want to take back the lending business, they'll have to buy all those little banks for at least a 10X multiple. It's not like starting Cisco or Dell, but a 10-bagger business model that can be replicated over and over again while actually helping the nation can't fail.

He now seems to have moved to
Today's fascinating miscellaneous links :

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If you liked (could cope with) my longer, more leisurely and minimalist music (eg. the recent Serra / Reich / Glass Removals ) then you might enjoy this track from sometime early to mid 90s :

Ambient #1 : I picked up a razor and I ....

I'm slowly digitizing some of my old tapes from the pre-digital period. So all kinds of juvenilia are turning up. Not all of it great, but a lot I find kind of interesting in a lo-fi, amateur way. This was basically a live keyboard improvisation (my trusty Kawai K1) into an echo box and onto 4-track tape, onto which I'd already recorded the "on with the hits from London" radio loop. After the main improvisation set the overall structure and most of the ideas I added a couple more echoey keyboard parts and samples (including rhythmic loops and my doing breathy whhhisssshh sounds).

While we're on the subject of my long compositions, don't forget The Great Grimpen Mire, the first Gbloink! epic.
My first poll on Composing : Is Phil too cynical?

Results : Yes : 3, No : 7

30% of you find me too cynical. If I'd have voted, I'd have voted that way too. Thanks to all the others who saw my good parts, but I think I'm going to tone it down.

Not totally, of course. There are times when cynicism is the best response. ;-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's now too late to stop global warming.

Now it's just a question of where to try to hold the line. (In the middle of all kinds of unknown unknown feedback loops.)

Meanwhile even the IEA admit peak oil is coming within 15 years. (Watch the video)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Auditorium is possibly the most wonderful game I've ever seen.

Update : seems to have been removed and can't remember what it was!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Virginia Postrel (of all people!) has a great story from experimental economics. Under controlled laboratory conditions, speculative bubbles happens.

She does, of course, duck the obvious conclusion : that markets are a crap way to find out how much something is worth. ;-)

(See also Markets as Bonfires of Reason)
Amazingly blatant class-war in progress. Republicans wouldn't allow US Congress to bail out the US car companies because the Unions wouldn't accept a pay cut.

What the FUCK!!!!!?

This is VERY different from putting a cap on bonuses to senior managers in the financial institutions that were bailed out.

In a real sense, the financial managers and traders were largely responsible for the economic crisis in the first place. They were making the bad investment decisions without understanding or taking seriously the risks. There's a real moral hazard issue if you reward them after they took on those risks. NOT because you want to punish them, but because you want their personal incentives to align with the reality of the work they do.

In the case of the employees of the car companies we're talking about ordinary employees that are simply getting paid the wage they (collectively) negotiated with their employer. Here the Republicans have allowed their agenda (of disliking Unionized Labour) to influence whether they think the US car industry should be supported.
A couple of posts ago I started wishing for a way to pull together songs from LastFM and Radio 3 etc. Today I find LastFM has an API and there's a HackDay on Sunday.

Probably too late to get into at this point. But London is awesome.

Monday, December 08, 2008

With jQuery and the Firebug plugin for Firefox - wow! - browser-based development is way better than it used to be 10 years ago :-)
Via Kaunda : Condition Critical

Friday, December 05, 2008

Currently loving my LastFM station throwing together happy unplanned juxtapositions of hauntology, outsider electronica, IDM, gypsy and music from Pernambuco. Just like my own mix-tapes, except automatic.

Update : Actually, I'm never satisfied. Back in the UK I'm also starting to listen to Radio 3's Late Junction. What I'd really like is to be able to do is mix (as in a Yahoo Pipes sense of pulling together different feeds) feeds from LastFM, Late Junction and other sources.
Venture Beat on the Sequoia Capital RIP : Good Times presentation.

Bad news for VC funded startups.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Johnny Chung Lee's Wiimote whiteboard has offspring.

Update : this DJ table looks incredibly fun, of course.

Update 2 : An interesting home-made multitouch input device (not screen though)

Update 3 : Audio scratch input, though, seems just nutty. If still very cool.