Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

It’s alive!! – Well almost…

Last night I finished off some of the more complicated parts of Ethestra, like all the quantisation techniques for all the note length, position, velocity and pitch. The pitch area still needs some work, as I’m planning to make it support multiple chords, to do so requires pulling in some data from an old friend of mine called Tigla.

Tigla was an app I tried to write a while back to allow me to play guitar chords on my Nokia N810, and for them to sound realistic. At the heart it was just a sample player, using 6 wav files with offsets for each note, but it was also something else. I had written a fairly sophisticated chord library tool, which could take the name Em, AM, A7, and return a list of allowed notes in that scale. Well, the idea is to reuse that with Ethestra.

Fear not, though, here is the first rendering of Ethestra v0.65. It will be very interesting to see how v0.7 turns out 🙂

Ethestra Update

So, the project has been continuing nicely recently. I decided it would be awesome, if the end user, me, could add filters to the traffic for each instrument. I only wanted a single scapy instance sniffing for traffic, so I had to implement the filter in Ethestra, as opposed to sing scapys built-in filter system.

Thsi left me with a problem. I had no idea how to write a parser. After thinking about it for a while, and talking to some coder friends, it became clear that if I could get the filter in the format below, I could evaluate it fairly easily.

[["ip", "==", ""], "AND", ["sport", "==", "25"]]

This turned out to be true. With a little help from pyparsing, I can now enter filters like this.

ip == AND sport == 25

Listing expected soon…

Taking the project one step further

Some of you will have read my post yesterday about my new pet project, now code named “Ethestra”, a combination of Ethernet and Orchestra. What!! All the good names were taken!!

I put the system on in the background whilst I worked for an entire morning, and I have to say, I felt very relaxed. It was kind of an ambient/zen type feeling. Very soothing.

So I got to thinking how to take the project further. Is there anywhere we can take this? Of course. As I sit at my keyboard, I have just spent the last 2 hours, and now have a fully functional tracker type midi sequencer in python. It has no GUI of course. A simple drum rhythm is defined as a pattern variable, like so.

(0, 0x48, 0x60, 4),
(2, 0x48, 0x60, 4),
(8, 0x48, 0x60, 4),

(16, 0x4B, 0x60, 4),

(0, 0x4E, 0x60, 4),
(8, 0x4E, 0x60, 4),
(16, 0x4E, 0x60, 4),
(24, 0x4E, 0x60, 4),
(32, 0x4E, 0x60, 4),
(40, 0x4E, 0x60, 4),
(48, 0x4E, 0x60, 4),
(56, 0x4E, 0x60, 4),

Ok, so it’s not pretty, but the ultimate goal of the project is for the network data itself to create the patterns. That being said, it can create at least something musical. A sample of the sequencer alone is here (this is not network music yet).

Listening to my network traffic

I know this is nothing new, and that people have done it before, but I wondered what it would sound like if I hooked up my network interface to my speakers. Not, not quite that low level, but using scapy, an awesome python network toolkit, and python bindings for portmidi, I was able to hook the two up. I then piped the midi to ZynAddSubFx for the audio creation.

Now, I hope you’re not expecting a symphony, cos you ain’t gonna get one. What you do get is a kind of ethereal sound, with a sudden flurry of activity. I apologise for the slight pops and such, I need to tweak audio settings and run it on a faster CPU, but you get the idea. The plinky plonky noise is www data. The low level AAHs that you only hear occasionally are DNS calls.

About 20 seconds into it, you’ll hear some drums kick in, that’s ICMP data there that is. I set a ping going to give a rhythm. It’s all very, spacial and weird. At the moment most of the instruments cycle up a very small arpeggio. One packet turns the note on, another turns it off. It starts at one note, then the next, jumps up, then jumps up again, before going back to the original position.

I would be interested to hear what you think. There is also another instrument in there doing my jabber conversations. Heheheh. Enjoy.

Took about 2 hours from scratch to code and figure out how to use scapy and portmidi. Quite fun. Once the code is in a better state, I’ll probably even post it up.

The file is here

LOST Finale : A review from a die hard fan

So, I watched the finale of LOST last night. Did it answer everything? Most certainly not. Did it answer enough to pass as an ending? Probably. It seems to me that the writers decided, as many people have stated, that there simply could not be a logical explanation for everything. Bear it mind that logical, does not have to equal credible. We ended up with a kind of supernatural ending, which in a way I was kind of expecting anyway.

There were so many aspects of the show that were mysterious, so many ‘what the heck’ moments, but in the end, most of these were swept under the carpet and we were left with a rather limp ending, which in all honesty could have been tacked onto the end of each season and still made sense. There was literally no need to introduce the numbers, or time travel or any of the other wacky and weird things which LOST was known for. Of course they enhanced the journey, but that wasn’t the point. The writers seemed to be egging us on, making us think that in the end, all of these totally barmy ideas, would be boiled down into one single “ah-ha” moment.

It was resolutions like “You became a mother”, which Jacob tells us was the reason for Kate’s name being scratched off the wall, which just seemed so simple and yet so right, that made me love the show. Little subtle hints like this seemed abnormally absent. There were no real answers in the finale. When they began to bring in the Daniel Faraday storyline, with the experiments and physics, I became a little more excited. Finally there was a glimmer of hope that the whole premise of the show could be explained in someway with a scientific background.

Alas, none of this was explained. It felt as if the ending could have been applied to the end of any of the seasons and the show would have been completed just fine. It was like a failsafe, seemingly conceived from the beginning, which rendered everything that had happened in between just moot. Things just didn’t matter. The Dhama, didn’t matter. The numbers, didn’t matter, though there were some hints to the origin of these in some extra material. Shoddy work, in my opinion, it would have been much better to include the origins of these numbers in the main show.

Everyone knew there was never going to be a full explanation for everything. We had to take it for granted that the electromagnetic energy had strange effects, (remember the “box” people?), but at least give us something as a parting gift. Something which shows us that everything had a purpose. Something that explained some of the origins that were made so much of during the seasons and faded away into the ether in the finale. From a spiritual point of view, yah, they probably didn’t matter. The journey is what was important, but for all those people who won’t or can’t feel that way about characters, it felt unfair to leave them with nothing more than a bad taste in their mouths at the end of the this 6 year long journey.

Shortly before the end, my wife and I were discussing possible endings and I have to say I think she came up with a much better ending than the one we were given. Though it may have been slightly more predictable, (well we thought of it didn’t we?) it seemed more LOST like. There would ultimately be some sort of struggle at the end, as we saw, but then all the main characters would flee the island, leaving Jack and Locke sitting together on a beach, in much the same way that we saw Jacob and Smokey earlier in the season. It would have been funny also to supplement this with a plane flying overhead/ship wrecking on the rocks, and the pair looking at each other. It would have lent to the cyclic nature of the show which seemed so prevalent.

Overall, the ending was acceptable, but by no means good, or even great. It’s such a shame that the writers didn’t take the opportunity to really go all out on this and give us an ending we’ll never forget (for a good reason). We were quite keen to buy all the seasons on DVD once the finale was over. Now, I don’t think we’ll bother. Disappointing people, very disappointing.

The Rise and Fall of 3D Films – According to cbx33

Maybe I need to get out more but I sometimes find myself musing over the most stupid things. Right now? It’s 3D films. Before I dive in to the meat of the article, I thought I’d take a few minutes to give you a background as to my expertise in this area. I would like to tell you that I attended film school, have a degree in film studies and work in the industry as a producer and director of Hollywood movies. No, you don’t understand, I really really would like to tell you that. Unfortunately the truth is far from it. I like films. About 1/40 that I watch, I see at the cinema, the rest I just see on a standard TV.

A few weeks ago, could be a month or more for all I know, (time recently has become something of a fleeting beast), we decided to go see our first 3D film. We picked something…..different, something we expected would make the most out of 3D, seeing as much of it was fabricated by those tiny little miracles we call CPUs, we saw…..Alice In Wonderland. Hoping that the film would be a perfect combination of 3D-ness, wit and humour, we left, tails between our legs, licking our wounds, as the battle for cinema supremacy was ultimately lost in screen 4, row U.

As I think back on it, it had promised to be a rather stupendous outing and as we queued for and received our swanky looking glasses, I couldn’t help but feel a little like the first time I ever fired up a BluRay disc but we’ll leave that experience for another time gentle reader. The glasses weren’t particularly comfortable, as can be expected when they had been manufactured with all the right criteria in mind……cheap, durable and recyclable, but they weren’t too uncomfortable either. Kind of like sitting with your back on a radiator. You know it’s gonna make you sick, you just don’t know how long it’ll take.

Perhaps a little overexcited I sat down in my seat and immediately put on my glasses. My wife leaned over to me and whispered, “I’m sure all the trailers and adverts won’t be in 3D as well.” I continued looking at the glowing screen in front of me, unashamed and resolute and was positively brimming over with smug-ability when the first advert appeared on screen in glorious 3D. It was actually for SkyTV. It meandered through a few shots of their new 3D service, (available in autumn) and ended with their logo slowly leaving the screen and hovering about 6 feet in front of me.

At that point I had to try so very very hard not to reach out and touch it. The geek in me knew that doing so would ruin the illusion and would forever mar my perception of 3D films, but the kid inside screamed “It’s floating, it’s floating dammit, and it’s all yours……quick grab it…….go on touch it.” I resisted and instead used some of my super-smug to turn to my beloved and say, in my most sarcastic of tones, “I think you’re right, they wouldn’t show 3D trailers before a 3D film would they…….that would be stupid.” No, it wasn’t big, or clever to say what I did. Was the extra boost of smug I received worth it…….No. Not at all. I am sorry darling!

As the film started, the effect of 3D was presented in all its glory. I wanted to ooooh. I wanted to ahhhh. I wanted to run into the office the very next day and shout “I’m in love.” However, suffice to say it wasn’t totally what I was expecting. Despite the hype of a film being released “ONLY in 3D” I can’t actually see a reason for me wanting to see another. Talking with several other people about the same subject, I get the feeling that I’m not alone in this.

First, the good. It’s a nice gimmick. Being able to see the world they are trying to portray with an extra dimension does indeed make it feel somewhat “special”. However the gimmick seems to wear off around 15 minutes into the feature. The bad, overwhelmingly outweighs the good. Many people I’ve spoken to have cited a feeling of tension and headaches whilst watching and it’s not surprising when you consider what’s actually going on. Just because the film is presented in 3D doesn’t mean that it really is 3D. What do I mean by this? Well the film itself is still just a 2D image, two to be exact, which your brain superimposes over each other in order to give the illusion of a 3D world. The effect works great, but only if you don’t change your focus. So your brain is constantly fighting between _wanting_ to refocus in order to look around in a 3D world, because that’s what it’s used to, and _struggling_ to keep focus on the 2D plane to maintain the illusion.

Herein lies another caveat. I don’t like being restricted. I have been given a glorious 3D world to wonder around inside but the focus for a particular frame has already been decided for me. I want to focus on that blade of grass in the corner, the one that is being presented as existing a mere 5 feet from my eyes, but I am not allowed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a limitation imposed by the filmmakers, but by the technology. The films are not _shot_ in 3D, they are merely recorded with two identical cameras, capturing two 2D planes. It is an illusion, and as such it has limitations, but in this situation, those limitations annoy me.

As we all sat there, wide eyed, fighting the fierce focus fatigue, I noticed my wife lifting her glasses off her nose and trying to watch the film _a capella_. I turned to her and asked if she was OK, hoping she’d forgotten my smugness earlier. “I’m bored of the 3D,” she said, “I wanted to see if I could watch it without.” For me, that just summed it up. Couple that with the fact that the viewport we are presented with inherently has a self destructive effect, and you have a recipe for an unhappy little camper. Objects which are at the edge of the frame are often things like grass, or trees, things which the filmmakers use to enhance the 3D effect. This does add real depth, but the problem is the depth is instantly destroyed when the object hits the edge of the frame. As a result, my poor little brain can’t seem to distinguish between whether the grass is really 5 feet in front of me, or whether it’s 50-60 feet away and stuck to the edge of the cinema screen. Consequently, it does something in the middle: it looks fuzzy, it’s green, and my brain just says grass.

As the movie drew to a close I must admit I was a little relieved. It certainly wasn’t what it had promised to be. I wasn’t drawn into another world, I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat while weird and wonderful creatures literally came out of the screen at me. I was sitting watching a film which had simply been enhanced with a “special” effect. As the final credits rolled up off the top of the screen, yes I am one of those annoying customers who waits right until the end of the film, all that kept me sitting there was the possibility of maybe, just maybe seeing the SkyTV logo again. This time it’s mine.

Using Augmented Reality in the Server Room

I was sitting thinking the other day how awesome it would be to use augmented reality in the server room. What am I talking about? Well wouldn’t it be cool to be able to point a camera at a switch stack and see the description labels associated with each port hovering around a linked by clearly defined lines.

Is it out of the realms of possibility? I don’t think so. You could have several “markers” on either side of the stack. The computer would know where the camera is pointing, you know the distance, rotation and orientation of the stack. Knowing this information, you could quite safely draw on over the top of the image and indicate where the switch ports are.

Am I crazy or would this be a good idea?