Happy New Year (Long Update Post)

It crossed my mind this morning that I never referred to years of the previous decade as e.g. “twenty oh-eight.” I always said (or thought) “two thousand eight”. This struck me as faintly odd since in the previous century I never said something like “nineteen hundred eighty-four”. Hence I think my resolution for the new year is to see whether I can train myself to say “twenty ten” when naming the year.

Actually my resolution for the new year is 96dpi, as it was for previous years.

Alfred is settling in to his new home, as the following photo should illustrate:


Now that he’s mostly adjusted to his new home and companions he’s proving to be a very sweet, good-natured cat. Unfortunately he brought some sort of upper-respiratory yecch home from the pound with him. I’m not going to go into great length about this; the short version is that he ended up with a bad cold which he passed on to Edwin and Madeline (but not Zed or Widge, so far, oddly enough) despite our best efforts to keep him quarantined. All three of them ended up on antibiotics to fight secondary infections, and Edwin and Maddy are getting extra antibiotics in their eyes. I think we’re over the hump now, but it’s been a trying time for everyone.

Widget, somewhat remarkably, is still alive. She seems to be more or less stable and is certainly energetic and playful. This is remarkable because we all thought that she wasn’t going to live past early November given her condition at the time. It seems that a diet consisting of veterinary food specifically for cats with urinary problems, supplemented with holiday pork roast and chicken baby food, has restored some of her failing health. (Yes, baby food. It’s just ground chicken with a little water and corn starch, and is handy for feeding ill cats who are seemingly uninterested in other foods. The other cats have been eating it now and then when they’re so congested that they can’t smell their usual food.)

Zed is our bastion of feline stability. He eats his usual food, he sleeps quietly next to Tracie every night, he does cat things during the day (sleeps in the sun, gets underfoot and on the counters in the kitchen, slaps Edwin around when necessary, etc.). We can’t figure out why he didn’t get the cold, particularly considering how many times we saw Edwin sneeze directly into his face.

In non-cat news, my Lenovo laptop has recovered completely from its Beverage Incident. Getting the keyboard out was a little difficult because it was stuck in place with dried sports beverage. Once I pried it out I rinsed it out in the kitchen sink, dried it on a sunny windowsill, put it back in, and the sticky keys are no longer sticky.

I’m adopting Ableton Live as my main music-making software. It’s always been my favorite host for developing plug-ins but I haven’t used it for writing music until recently. In the past I’ve found both that it has lacked some features I’m used to having available in Cubase, and that I can’t quite make my headspace align with its way of doing things. In version 8, however, I was won over by the Looper plug-in. So far I find that I spend less time wrestling with the software and more time writing music than I do with Cubase. I bought a Novation Launchpad and am very pleased with the combination of it and Live as a system for quickly recording and messing around with musical ideas.

I’ve also finally found a couple of software synthesizers that I can live with. Most soft synths that I listen to just don’t seem to quite compete with the sonic quality of hardware, but that seems to have finally changed. The first one that really caught my ear is Camel Audio’s Alchemy. I’ve been waiting for someone to make resynthesis usable, now that we have computers that are fast enough to make it viable. Alchemy has resynthesis as well as a bunch of other sound-generation approaches including granular synthesis. The end result is a synthesizer with sonic complexity and quality at least as good as any hardware digital synth I’ve heard.

The second soft synth that I’ve become enamoured with is Urs Heckmann’s ACE. It’s a fairly straightforward virtual-analog architecture with a nice amount of patching options. It’s also unapologetically high end: everything runs at at least 2x oversampling and none of the control signals are downsampled below audio rate. This also means that it’s unapologetic about its CPU load. In my opinion it’s entirely worth it: the sound quality is excellent. I haven’t spent too much time with it yet but so far I wouldn’t even say that the CPU load is all that bad. I’m running it on a quad-core CPU that’s a couple of years old so it should run very nicely on a new machine. I’m not going to sell my (real analog) modular yet, but my ears are quite happy with ACE and it’s inarguably more convenient to use.

I’m working on PC boards for several new hardware projects. The first two are modules for the synthesizer. One a simple “generic” module based on the Spin Semiconductor FV-1. It’s generic in the sense that it can do different things depending on the code I write for it. So far I’ve written an envelope follower and a couple of delay-based effects using the FV-1 development board to test the code. The next module is a CV scaler/inverter/mixer with a couple of unusual twists; I’ll say more about it when it’s finished.

I’m also working on a semi-clone of the uCApps STM32-based core. I’ve been working on a digital step sequencer for a long time (as in years). It seems that the uCApps sequencer project and some of my ideas have converged. Hence I’m going to adopt the MIOS32 software as the core of my sequencer. Since I’ve already built a fair amount of the panel hardware and interface I’m not using the STM32 core directly. Instead I’m laying out a similar PC board that can run the firmware and interface to my hardware.

Finally, I’m kicking around the idea of cloning the Ruin & Wesen Minicommand control box. It seems lke it would be really handy to have a small, easily programmable MIDI control box. They’ve thoughtfully put up all of the software and hardware specs, and even the PCB artwork. I might be able to build one with hardware that I have lying around already, but I haven’t yet dug far enough into the source code to figure out whether I can port it easily from the ATmega64 that they use to the ATmega128 proto board that I have on hand.

Happy New Year! May twenty-ten be healthy, peaceful, and prosperous for us all.

By adam

Go ahead, try to summarize yourself in a sentence or two.

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