Sunday, 6 January 2008 - 7:10am

Post for the new year

Resolutions…I has them. But they will have to wait a while to be unveiled.

It is a bit late to be making a new year’s post, but true to my current-academic form, I’m missing the deadline.

I’ve been reading some books over the break.

And some various web sites about various things.

And making some objects.

And there will be more.

Much more.

Sunday, 9 December 2007 - 11:51pm

Enabling iScrobbling of internet tracks

If you’re like me, and use iScrobbler for, you might have noticed that the program doesn’t scrobble tracks that you listen to from the internet over m3u files. There is, however, a simple fix for this. Note that you have do this every time you download a new version of iScrobbler, as we’re going to modify files within the application itself.

The usual warnings about no warranty for harm you might to do your system apply :-)

You also probably need the OS X developer tools installed, which are a hefty download, or are available on your Tiger install DVD.

Okay, so here is what we do:

  1. Quit iScrobbler if running
  2. Find your iScrobbler application
  3. ctrl-click and select “Show Package Contents”.
  4. Navigate to “Contents/Resources/Scripts”
  5. Double-click “iTunesGetCurrentTrackInfo.scpt” to open it in Script Editor. The file is likely a binary applescript file, so you have to have the Script Editor application for this to work.
  6. Navigate a ways down in the file until you see the line “if trackClass is file track or trackClass is audio CD track then” (see the following image)
    iScrobbler Before Edit
  7. Edit that line so that it reads “if trackClass is file track or trackClass is audio CD track or trackClass is URL track then” (we’re adding ‘or trackClass is URL track’ after the words ‘audio CD track’ and before the word ‘then’); see the following photo:
    iScrobbler After Edit
  8. Save the file, quit Script Editor, and start iScrobbler again. You should now see your internet tracks being scrobbled! I don’t know how this affects scrobbling streams, so your mileage might vary.

Drop me an e-mail if you have any questions; I’ll try and help out the best I can, but I can’t promise anything.

Friday, 7 December 2007 - 7:17am

Fluid Networking for Activists

A bit of a teaser about a current project of mine…

I’m working on a mobile phone application that allows activists to surreptitiously pass messages amongst Bluetooth-enabled phones. It came out of concerns I had watching events in Lebanon last summer, and Burma and Pakistan this fall, where the networking infrastructure was destroyed or shut down, eliminating regular communication channels. The project was also a response to currently-prevalent network views of reality, suggesting ways in which we can view the world as much more fluid and lacking-in-structure, using that to our advantage.

I don’t have enough time right now to go into all of my conceptual thoughts about the project. But you can look at a paper written for my networking class for some of my present ideas. Since the paper was written for a CS class it doesn’t have all of the theoretical work that I would present had it been written for a different audience. (It’s also not the best thing I’ve ever written, but that goes without saying!)

But here are some screen shots of early versions of the user interface. I hope to release a stable version of the code within the next month or so, and provide links to the source. If anyone is interested in working on the project with me, drop me a line.

Opening Screen

Form Entry

Wednesday, 28 November 2007 - 2:16am

Briefly returning, Way-Post-Thesis Edition

I actually do plan on posting more on this blog in the coming weeks, but for the moment I just wanted to post a short update. I’m now at Cornell in the Information Sciences PhD program. I finished my master’s thesis at the MIT Media Lab in August just a couple days before I had to start at Cornell. The text of my thesis is now available, entitled Encouraging the Expression of the Unspeakable: Influence and Agency in a Robotic Creature (warning: it’s a 65MB file!).

I’ll be writing more on different topics soon, as well as making my own theme for the blog and updating some of my projects on zeitkunst.

Update: I’ve enabled browsing of the code, source text, models, figures, etc. from my thesis in the MSThesis subversion repository. Look in the Creature subdirectory for the python code used in the simulation and actual robot, Electronics subdirectory for circuit board schematics and board firmware, Modeling for blender models that were used in early explorations, and Thesis for the source latex files used in the thesis. I hope there isn’t too much that is incriminating in there! :-)

Update 2: The abstract for my thesis is now indexed in LABS: Leonardo ABstracts Service.

Thursday, 28 June 2007 - 8:53pm

Early video of syngvab

I’m in the throes of finishing my thesis with the proverbial too-much-too-do. I’ve got code to finishing writing, PCBs to finish laying out, parts to order, things to cut. Oh, and also the actual thesis to write.

But I’ve made a quick video of some of the early tests with the latest version of the thesis object, syngvab. There is a lot more to do with movement and interaction, but this will give you a taste of how things are developing:

I presented some of this work at a graduate student symposium at the recent Creativity and Cognition conference in Washington, DC. It was a great time and I got to meet some wonderful fellow students!

But now, back to writing code…

Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 6:08am

Keeping me sane...

…during my thesis is the innanity of lolcats:

schrödinger's lolcat

from i can has cheezburger?

Also incredibly amusing: lolcode

Stupid, perhaps. But oh so funny.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007 - 9:22pm

Variations 10b mention

Thanks to Cati for mentioning my project, Variations 10b, in a posting of hers about a video of a John Cage performance!

Friday, 23 February 2007 - 8:48pm

On Fire appearing with Caspian and Constants

On Fire, the band I joined last summer, is performing in April at the Paradise with Caspian and Constants. More info to come soon.

Caspian Show Poster

Tuesday, 13 February 2007 - 11:16pm

Compiling QCad on OS X with fink

UPDATE 2008.01.16: For some reason the original patch file I uploaded was wrong. I’ve corrected it and the correct file should be referenced now. Apply with “patch – p0 < qcad-”.

NOTE: I can’t seem to build this on an Intel Mac due to problems with gcc-3.3 (see these posts about why you can’t build projects using gcc-3.3 on Intel Macs). I’m trying to get this to build properly on an Intel Mac using gcc-4.0, but haven’t been successful yet, unfortunately. Until then, this only works for Power PC Macs.


Another technical post, so skip if you don’t like the words “compile”, “fink”, or “qmake”.

I’ve been looking for a good free or open-source CAD/CAAD software for OS X. Most products, like SolidWorks or Rhino, are not only not-free, but also not available on OS X. For my thesis work I’ve been trying to use as much open-source software as possible, perhaps as a means of masochism, but more because I want to results of my work to be available and used by as many as possible. One way to do that is to use software that anybody can get for themselves, building it on a variety of platforms as needed.

Of course, it might take a few days to get something built because of various strange issues, but that’s a matter for another post.

So QCad had gotten a lot of good responses from people online as the most full-featured open-source CAD software available for Linux, and thus for OS X as well. To give RibbonSoft credit where credit is due, they release the source for QCad under the GPL; however, binaries are available only in time-limited demos. Unless, of course, your Linux distribution prepares binaries for you. (Ubuntu does, so I had QCad up and running on my Linux machine in no time.) However, on OS X, the only compiled binaries are available from RibbonSoft. Cheap grad student that I am with fungible deadlines I decided to give compiling QCad a shot. I quickly ran into a number of problems, the solutions to which I will try and detail below.

So, in order to compile QCad on OS X with fink, do the following:

  1. Make sure you have gcc-3.3 installed.
  2. Install the qt3mac packages from fink (including -shlibs, -apps, etc.).
  3. Download the QCad Community Edition source.
  4. Apply the following patch to the source directory
  5. cd to scripts/, run “./ notrans”

After a while you’ll have a living in qcad/. Just copy to your /Applications folder (or wherever you want) and you should be set. Examples, library, and documentation can be copied from a downloaded demo version.

The reasons for the changes in the patch are the following:

  • For some reason fink splits the mkspecs, translations, etc., from qt3mac and puts it under /sw/share/qt3mac, instead of under /sw/lib/qt3mac, like it is with qt3.
  • I ran into linking problems when using gcc-4.0, and for some reason qmake wasn’t honoring the settings of gcc_select, so I had to explicitly give the names of the gcc binaries I wanted to use.
  • The “-pedantic” flag causes problems.

Note that I haven’t tried building from start to finish using this patch on a clean download, but I think it should work. Let me know if there are issues.

Friday, 2 February 2007 - 7:19am

The Curse of Wanting the Novel

There’re days when you latch on to one performer, one type of music, and you don’t know why. It consumes what you think about; you dance to silence, the sounds you hear only for yourself, the people looking in from the windows thinking you’re listening to something coming from the speakers in the living room: but no, what you hear is so powerful it lives in your mind alone. Sometimes the sounds do come from speakers, the crappy ones on your laptop, but you conjure the pair of membranes into the instruments and voices from whence they came.

For me today the band is Arcade Fire.

Those of you who know the indie rock scene will probably sneer, reminding me that Pitchfork called this one a couple of years ago. “2005 called and wants its darlings back.” But I don’t care right now. It’s 2007, and it’s doing something for me now, and critics and condenscending scenesters be damned.

What I’m also thinking about, while listening to something like “Rebellion (Lies)”, is how great the song is as a whole: the instrumentation just works, the strange chord changes happen exactly when they should. Thousands have heard this song, on the album or live, thousands have had the same powerful experience that I’m having right now. And I think… if I wrote this song, if I played violin on this track, would I be satisfied?

Sadly, the answer is likely no.

What’s wrong here? There’s something in me that pushes me towards the avant-garde for satisfaction, a drive that always points towards the novel and never heard (or seen or written or thought) before and not the beautifully-polished-already-existing. Whatever makes me go requires that what I do is always on the cutting edge (or at least tries to be). I have to be at the most forward-thinking place doing things that nobody else has thought of, that nobody else cares about (because they’re new and not common).

I wonder why I couldn’t be content just being good at whatever I do, even if tons of other people do it. Like maybe I could just be a really good violinist in a band, not someone who’s trying to think of a completely new way of making sounds (not music) with his violin. Or maybe I could just make some really interesting crafts instead of trying to think about what is the future direction of interactive artworks.

This is definitely not to demean the work of all of the wonderful crafters on etsy or tinyshowcase or the members of Arcade Fire. It’s more me just wondering why I personally can’t be happy on that level. Why I always have to be going for something more “novel”. Not that novelty or newness (if originality can even be said to exist) is necessarily better. Of course it’s not. I just don’t know why I think it is.

It really worries me when I think about my current future of being an academic, and the abysmally small audience that I’ll have. (Getting a thousand people to read your 200 page book is an incredible success.) Why am I choosing a direction where what I do will be the concern of so few people? And in such an insular community? And if I want to reach more people, how do I do that? And am I prepared for the variety of things I’ll hear? And is there a way for me to be comfortable with being in the beautiful-but-already-there?