Updated software

I was at the Musical Body conference at University of London last week and presented my work on visualisation of music-related movements. For my PhD I developed the Musical Gestures Toolbox as a collection of components and modules for Max/MSP/Jitter, and most of this has been merged into Jamoma. However, lots of potential users are not familiar with Max, so over the last couple of years I have decided to develop standalone applications for some of the main tasks. This has been a slow endeavour, and something I have been working on in between.

There were lots of people interested in the software at the conference, so while in London I spent some time cleaning up code, fixing bugs and rebuilding standalone applications for OSX. I will make Windows builds as well in the coming days. I have made a new fourMs software page where everything can be found.

There are probably lots of things missing, but at least this is a start of making these things accessible outside our group. Please report bugs. You could also suggest improvements, but I am not sure if I will have time to implement them anytime soon.

Asus eee tricks

When I got my Asus eee a few months ago I tested the built-in OS for about an hour and then decided to install Ubuntu eee (later renamed to Easypeasy) instead. I felt the Xandros OS was too limiting and wanted to test out something more powerful. One of the reasons for buying the eee in the first place was to test whether it would be useful for laptop performance, and then I needed an OS where it was possible to install Chuck, PD and SC3 without any problems. Then Ubuntu was an easy choice over Xandros.

In terms of functionality I have been very happy with Ubuntu eee, but it felt a bit slow in use. Talking to some other people that were happy with the original OS I decided to reinstall Xandros and give it another try.

Reinstalling Xandros took only 5 minutes (!), so getting it to work was a breeze. Xandros certainly feels more limiting than Ubuntu, and there is much less support for audio software. However, since we decided to go for Lenovo laptops in OLO, I will mainly be using the eee for web things, and then Xandros should be fine.

Here are a few hints and tweaks I have done to make it work a little better:

  • Get the terminal: type ctrl-alt-T
  • Change language from the built-in Norwegian to English:
    /opt/xandros/bin/locale_dialog
  • Upgrade the software from terminal: “sudo bash”, then “apt-get update” and then “apt-get upgrade”
  • Install applications from eee-download: save the CNR file, right click and choose to open with /opt/xandros/bin/AddSoftwareWizard

Thought Conduit

Synchronisation is a core issue when carrying out research on multimodal sensing/acting and multimedia. My take on this has been through the work on GDIF, and we are currently implementing a GDIF/SDIF recorder/player using FTM for Max/MSP (see our ICMC2008 paper for more on this).

I just came across a software called Thought Conduit which promises synchronisation of audio, video, annotations and even OSC-streams. This sounds very exciting and I hope to be able to test this in practice at some point.

Both Microsoft and Apple launches Active Music software

Over the last few months I have saved up a number of drafts for blog entries, and am currently trying to get some of them online, while deleting others. Here’s one on active music software, and how both Microsoft and Apple try to get into this field.

Active music is about creating solutions where the user experience is that of a participatory nature, as opposed to the (mostly) passive act of listening to pre-recorded music. There have been quite a lot of research on this over the last years, so it is great to see that this is starting to be incorporated in commercially available products. Early this year both Microsoft and Apple launched exciting new music software. The approaches are different, but both of them give users a more active music experience.

I wrote an entry about the previous version of Garageband some years ago, and at that time Apple made it possible to play along with some prerecorded tracks using the “Magic GaragBand Jam”. Now, in the ’09 version of Garageband they also introduce the possibility to learn to play (guitar and piano only) from various artists. This follows in the tradition of introductory courses on VHS tapes and DVDs, but it clearly becomes more interactive when you can do it on your computer. I guess you can also use the “Magic GaragBand Jam” to play along your pieces while practising. Apple has also included some guitar effects, so GarageBand is clearly in transition from being a sequencer for compositional use only, to be more of an interactive tool for performers.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has launched Songsmith. While Apple offers only pre-recorded tracks to play along with, Songsmith has a “virtual listener” that finds the pitch you are singing in and adds accompaniment that matches. Everyone that has tried to do pitch extraction and automatic harmonic accompaniment knows that this is not a trivial task, and it sounds like Microsoft has done a fairly good job in making this work seemlessly (at least from the demo…). Now let’s try to sing some jazz tunes with complex harmonies and see how it can handle that…

Skype gives access to wireless networks

The latest beta version of Skype (for OSX only, apparently) offers something called “Skype Access”, which makes it possible to pay for access to commercial WiFi networks through a per minute basis using your SkypeOut account.

I recall reading this when I downloaded the latest beta a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t think much about it before I opened my MacBook at the Brussels airport last week and saw a “do you want to pay using SkypeOut” message on screen. I often check to see if there are any available networks around airports, but most of the time you have to pay some ridiculous amount of money for connecting in a few hours (in Europe that is, in the US I have come across many airports that provide WiFi for free). However, most of the time I only need to access the internet for a few minutes to send and receive e-mails and check a few things online. Well, now I was connected to the WiFi in Brussels airport for 1 minute and 50 seconds, and paid only NOK 1,25 per minute. Great!