New trend in SP4M — Disturbing Fake News?

The subject line is, for example “Why did they expload bomb there?”

The message body says “Is it the truth?” and gives a link.

I clicked on the link (being on a Mac running Firefox, I think the risk was pretty low), and it goes to a really shoddy fake Reuters news item:

Powerful explosion burst in Iowa City this morning.

At least 12 people have been killed and more than 40 wounded in a bomb blast near market in Iowa City.
Authorities suggested that explosion was caused by "dirty" bomb. Police said the bomb was detonated
from close by using electric cables. "It was awful" said the eyewitness about blast that he heard from his
shop. "It made the floor shake. So many people were running"
Until now there has been no claim of responsibility.

There are some links on that page, all to presumably malicious Windows programs.

This creeped me out.

Kids+Toxic Cleaning Products = Hilarity Ensues

This is from a little display they set up in the lobby of the hospital.  Because the State Of Iowa pays someone to warn people not to let their kids drink Liquid Plumbr!  This kid looks drunk — drunk on sweet, sweet lye!

850a0091My thought — they should stop making Liquid Plumr in Fruit Punch flavor, and kids will cut that shit right out.

Review: AudioDamage BigSeq2 VST Effect


BigSeq2 is the newest VST plugin from the company AudioDamage, who perhaps have been uniquely able to strike a three way balance between originality, ease of use, and depth when it comes to plugin design. And they are extremely picky about audio quality. BigSeq2 is a combination effect, which includes

  • VCA (i.e. gating)
  • Filter (multimode resonant filter)
  • Bits (bit width and sample rate reduction)
  • Distortion
  • Frequency Shifting

    Each of these sections comes complete with a modulation sequencer that can modify the effects,  and a gate sequencer, that turns them on and off.  The sequencers sync to the host clock, and the step size can be anywhere between 1/64th note to 1/4 triplet.  The sequencers can both be randomized, and set to re-randomize every 1,2,3, or 4 measures.  The order of the effects signal chain can be changed by dragging effect blocks forward and backwards.

    That description is pretty dense, but it’s easy enough to figure out.  I had to consult the manual on two points: There’s a thin line under each knob in the interface, and dragging it right or left sets the modulation amount for that parameter with respect to the sequencer.  And the gate sequencer has a small box under each step, which, if clicked, locks that step so that randomizing the sequencer doesn’t change its value.

    This is a versatile plugin — any of its sub-effects  could be used individually, or in combination.  You don’t have to use the sequencers at all — you could set the effects on full time, and automate the knobs yourself.  You can use them with fixed modulation parameters, or you can set them to randomize continuously.  Since the step size and sequence length can be different for each effect stage, even if the sequences are static, the total effect can take hundreds of beats to repeat.

    A measure of the craziness possible is evident in the short demo MP3 below.  For the first three variations, the input is a continuous square wave.  For the last 3 variations, the input is the same drum loop, from the “One Big World” set from Sony’s Discrete Drums Volume 2.

    <strong>BigSeq2</strong> is one of those VST plugins that really does what the whole virtual studio thing is supposed to do — give you creative tools that do things in ways that didn’t exist before.  Each of the individual components are nothing radically new, but they’re combined in a way that invites experimentation, and yet allows you to manipulate the results in a predictable way.


    The End of Endpoint

    After my last post, and a few more days of free-floating annoyance, I took the plunge and uninstalled EndPoint. Instead I put on AVG Free. Everything about AVG Free feels faster and less intrusive than EndPoint, and it did find all the same virii on the few infected files I had laying around. And when you turn off real-time virus protection, it freaking stays turned off!

    And if you Symantec Endpoint Computer Performance, my blog entry is the top result. If you google Symantec Endpoint Performance the top result is Symantec FAQ answer about computers becoming slow after installing Endpoint.

    Let it be known, that none of their suggestions would really help anyone not working in the managed corporate Endpoint environment.

    Symantec Endpoint: Computer Performance Killer

    I only use Symantec Endpoint for virus scanning because as a University of Iowa Employee, I get it for free. It doesn’t take long to realize that this may be the most universally reviled piece of software currently in use today.

    I could just remove it from my computer, and get AVG Free, and be done with it, but for two reasons:

    • Even with its obvious drawbacks, Endpoint is probably better at virus detection than AVG Free
    • Uninstalling Endpoint can be painful.  How painful? Check this shit out!

    What I did discover last night though, really pushed me toward pursuing the painful manual uninstall.  I got sick of the performance hit from Endpoint and turned off all real-time protection.  I already have a firewall, so the Endpoint firewall is redundant, and constantly scanning every file operation in the backround completely kills audio performance.  And that’s really the main purpose of my computer.

    But… I was using Ableton Live and noticed last night that the CPU usage meter up in the corner of the window was constantly jumping up above 100% usage (!) even with the simplest Live Set.   So I started looking through the XP Services.  Symantec installs several, and on a hunch I disabled them all and rebooted.  Now, the CPU meter in Ableton Live stays constant at 1 or 2 percent when nothing is going on.

    So here’s the incredible thing about this:  It turns out that the Symantec Endpoint Firewall services use up incredible amounts of CPU even when the firewall is disabled.

    This, thankfully is not the case for the main Endpoint service.  I turned this back on because otherwise virus scanning doesn’t work, and it didn’t spike CPU usage.

    I could do another post called Nero Burning Rom Has Turned Into A Bloated Sack Of Fail, having to do with how it installs a file indexing service for Nero Scout without asking, that you have to manually disable, but others have beat me to it.. Unfortunately, when I installed the current version of Nero 8, it didn’t bother putting a Nero Scout applet in the control panel, so I had to run services.msc and kill it myself.

    Don’t know how to disable Windows Services? Here’s a decent guide.

    Stupid Web Tricks — Fun With 404

    A real directory on my web server

    A non-existent directory on my web server

    This is a really simple trick for hiding a directory in plain site on your web server — give it a index.html file that looks just like your 404 not found page. At least on my server, they are identical. In order to see that one directory is real, and that the HTTP request succeeded, you’d have to look at the raw data transmitted back in response to the URL request.

    This allows me to send direct links to files (or an alternate html file giving the real contents of the directory), but a casual visitor won’t know what’s up.

    I don’t claim to have discovered this, but it’s a cute trick. And it lets me show off my “Life On Mars”-centric 404 page.

    Good Free Music — Wilkin’s Mop

    Wilkin’s Mop is a project of former Iowa City Producer Mike Jedlicka and drummer Nathan Carver Smith. They have an unusual production method that combines live drumming, live looping, live looping of live drumming, and overdubs by a variety of guest musicians.

    I always thought Mike had a good ear for production, and I especially liked that he follows his own muse in the music he creates and DJs — he stuck with Downtempo and chill IDM when everyone else moved on to the next flavor of the month. His weekly Internet radio show reflects what devotion to a style of music can be.

    Wilkin’s Mop reminds me a bit of Jaga Jazzist. Though JJ is a (mostly) live band, and Wilkin’s Mop is a studio assemblage, they share an ear for melody and a commitment to rhythmic exploration.
    Wilkin's Mop Album Art

    It was the best of Johnny Depp movies, it was the worst of Johny Depp Movies

    I got suckered into watching The Ninth Gate the other night.  On paper, this looks kind of OK. With a cast including Depp, Frank Langella, and Lena Olin, you know that it will live up to minimum standards of movie acting, at least.  It was directed by Roman Polanski, for crying out loud.

    There are some fun moments in it.  What’s not to like about depraved devil-worshiping rich people? But in the end, it sure seems dumb.  Somehow all the foreshadowing and foreboding comes down to Depp banging Demon-chick on a hillside, and then somehow getting subsumed into some unspecified pact with the devil.  The downfall, really, is that Depp thrives on playing people with personalities, and this guy just seems remote and self-involved.  He underplays the lines that could have given the role some panache.

    Frank Langella gets more mileage than Depp out of his part, but even with him, there’s something kind of muted and remote.  Did Polanski forget how to have fun with this sort of material?  “Rosemary’s Baby” was a pinnacle of Satan-centric melodrama; where The 9th Gate is cool, “Rosemary’s Baby” was overheated, almost campy.

    It wasn’t a complete waste of time. There are some really entertaining deaths involved, and Paris is almost a better movie set than a tourist destination. But I would never choose to watch it over a movie that’s actually good.

    How to make Reaktor Knobs Automatable in Ableton Live

    So the target demographic for this post is the intersection of three sets:

    • Ableton Live Users
    • Reaktor Users
    • People wonky enough to try and automate VST plugins with envelopes.

    Still with me? OK.

    I was contacted by an Internet acquaintance because he wanted to use the Reaktor Effect that emulates the Roland RE201 Space Echo, and he wanted to automate it with envelopes.  There are two places you can do this — In the ‘Session View’ on a per-clip basis, and in the ‘Arrangement View’ on a per-track basis.

    The way you do this, in both cases is by selecting the plugin instance  from a pull down menu of Automatable Things, and then select the parameter to automate from a separate pull down menu just below the first.  In the case of the ‘Session View’ there’s a first step — select a clip, then on the far left hand side of its properties, click on the little ‘E’ in the bottom row.

    In this case, all the parameters of the RE201 were just invisible.  I asked about it on the NI Reaktor Forum, and got this answer.

    So I wrote back to my friend with this advice, which may stand you in good stead should you ever get into this sticky situation:

    Live before rev 8 only recognizes the first 128 automation parameters.  The parameters (i.e. changeable knobs and controls) each has an ID that’s unique per instrument.  These IDs get assigned as an ensemble is created, and if you delete a control, the ID isn’t re-used.

    When it comes to Automation, the parameters are exposed by the standard VST mechanism, with each Reaktor parameter being the Base ID for the instrument, plus the ID of the control.

    In the case of RE201, the base parameter was 500-something, so all controls were invisible to Ableton Live.

    If you look in the Reaktor Instrument Properties, click on the control routing tab. (the two little boxes with an arrow between them).

    At the bottom, there’s an ‘Automation’ section.  Do two things:

    Pull down the ‘IDS’ menu, and select ‘Instrument Up’ until the base ID is zero. Then pull down the ‘IDS’ menu again and select ‘Sort and Compress IDs’

    This will make all of the controls in the RE201 visible in Live. Honest to God.


    My personal health update

    I only post this because there are a few people who actually care and it’s easier than contacting them individually…

    First: I feel fine. My elbow is fully healed and in fact seems to work better than the un-operated-on left elbow.

    Second: I’ve started working with a trainer as part of a University-Sponsored Wellness program. I’ve only ‘been to the gym’ 3 times so far but it’s not as painful or annoying as I once imagined it to be. It seems to have had an instant, marked effect in improving my blood sugars.

    Since I should lose (conservatively) about 20% of my body weight, this is going to be a long haul, but I’m going to give it a shot. The idea of a crippling and possibly fatal disease concentrates the mind…

    Po’Girl with an embarrassment of riches

    Just got back from the Po’Girl show, and hoo boy… not only are they adorable, everything about their performance was perfect — their voices, their playing,  their supporting act JT & the Clouds, members of which joined them on several numbers.

    If you have any interest in really good acoustic music, they’re on tour now, and you will not be disappointed.

    Po’ Girl — they’re swinging through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas — they’ll be playing SXSW if you’re going to be there, then Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and then in Europe. They’re playing Bridport Dorset in the UK, for crying out loud.

    U2 Who Knew?

    I’ve never been a big U2 fan. I think I bought “The Unforgettable Fire” and never really went back to them. Along the way there have been a number of their songs that I liked a lot, but being U2, it was unnecessary to actually acquire a personal copy. Their music is on the radio and ‘in the air’ enough that actually owning it seems redundant. Plus, when it comes to music I’m always away from the big campfire poking around under the bushes, looking for interesting and odd things.

    But U2’s performance on David Letterman last night pretty much blew me away. I don’t even know the song — it’s one from the new album. But several things struck me about the performance:

    The band is supernaturally tight, and it only takes 3 of them to generate an arena-sized sound.  I know the new album has a lot of Eno’s mutters and burbles from what I read in the Times the other day, but these guys could cut an album in a day, just playing live, and I think it would be just as good.

    Bono, when I hear recordings, kind of leaves me cold as a singer.  He’s always a bit over the top, in an almost Elton John way, only with a much better singing voice than Elton John.  There’s something too ingratiating and eager to please in his delivery.  But seeing him do what he does in front of an audience it all makes sense.  Put him in front of an audience and he’s several things at once — carnival barker,  ridiculous go go dancer, rock and roll singer, and regular bloke just chuffed to be there. As an aside, I’ve seen Coldplay on TV a few times recently, and I realize now that Chris Martin’s hyperactive contortionist shtick he got straight from Bono, but on Martin it looks awkward and self-conscious.

    And the audience was as interesting to watch as the band in this context.  The first 2 thirds of the song, the collection of random out-of-towners and college students stayed in their seats and enjoyed the show pretty much as though they were watching it on television. But the last third of the song, after Bono got right in their faces and commanded  them to stand, they were all on their feet clapping and cheering, almost as loud as the band itself.  In the course of five minutes U2 owned the joint like they’d already paid off the mortgage.

    The fact that I got this all from watching it on television really says something.  After a lifetime (Almost 30 years, dude — their first album was all over college radio when I was in college in 1980) of listening to U2 with an attitude of indifference, I get it now.  I still will get more excited on a day to day basis about Omar S and Fennesz and Burial and Melt Banana, but as far as I’m concerned U2 has nothing to prove to me any more.  They’re a great band long after most of the performers in their cohort are dead or bitter overweight night watchmen, and perhaps the best live performers currently working.  Basically it’s U2, Prince and Bruce Springsteen, and everyone else a distant second.

    My Day Of Living Dangerously

    Yesterday I noticed two things: google searches were getting hijacked, and I couldn’t run certain programs, particularly cmd.exe and regedit.exe.

    I always think that I can beat those fucking viruses and trojans, but 5 hours spent hammering on the problem with a multitude of programs, and a lot of google searching convinced me I needed to re-install Windows.

    Luckily I had an unused SATA drive laying around, so I 1) Made a Slipstreamed SP3 Disk with motherboard and SATA drivers, fiddled around in the BIOS to get the new disk at the head of the boot order, and we’re off to the races.

    What is gradually dawning on me is that when you have to install Cubase, Live, Wavelab, Reaktor, Pro-53, Kontakt3, FM8, Battery 3, Pluggo, Hipno, and a bazillion other things, it takes for-fucking-ever.

    The upside will be having a much less garbaged-up windows installation on a much faster boot disk. And NLite is great; I didn’t get very fancy, but you can make a bootable Windows disk with every device driver necessary to make your system run, configure it to do an unattended install, remove components you don’t need from Windows, etc, etc, etc. And you don’t have to be a computer genius to use it. If you can figure out downloading drivers and unpacking them, you can use NLite. For people who support Windows PCs, it would be a godsend — you could make a disk image that has all the drivers you’ll ever need that will do unattended installs complete with network configuration and user management.

    I don’t know if I can blame this on Microsoft, because according to what I’ve gathered in poking around on forums, you get this particular infection either from a Java or Adobe Acrobat exploit. It seems like Computer virii and worms are co-evolving with the software meant to control them, just like their biological counterparts.

    And it was just my luck I see m to have picked up a new virus that none of the virus scanners can find and fix… or rootkit. Or whatever.

    Right now I’m running the Kontakt 3 install, a deep virus scan, and Windows Update. The fun never ends….

    Jumping on the Dubstep Bandwagon, 5 Years Late….

    I don’t claim to be an expert on Dubstep. I’m not British for one thing, and my taste runs to stuff that really isn’t in the clubbing Dubstep comfort zone. What I like about Dubstep is its heritage twice or thrice removed from Jamaican Dub, its re-purposing of the 2 step shuffle from UK Garage, the deep bass, and most of all, the way certain producers go their own way when the big bucks are in cranking up with the next wobbly bass stepper.

    Most of these are tracks I’ve acquired (by paying for them, funnily enough) along with a few oddities, like the Random Trio track, which turned up in odd corners of the internet. I’m sure I’m doing it all wrong, with respect to real Dubstep DJs, and I’m sure my track choice is probably way too obvious to some. But it’s something I enjoyed spending a few hours lashing together, and it’s meant to be an example of the form for an article I’m planning to write…

    Direct Link For Download

    RECORDING TECHNIQUE: Ableton Live, sequenced live with a MIDI controller. 43 minutes 33 seconds. I did edit the last mix after I was done, but everything else is just fingers in motion.

    Track Listing

    1. Martin – Vancouver (2562s Pour Natuur Mix)
    2. Random Trio – Marachi Kinky
    3. Scuba – Twista
    4. Plastician – Unhappy Shopper
    5. Vex’d – Ghost
    6. Mark One – Doomed
    7. Skream – Bahl Fwd
    8. 2562 – Greyscale
    9. Burial – U Hurt Me
    10. Scuba – Timba
    11. Kode 9 & Space Ape – 9 Samurai
    12. Burial – Archangel
    13. Martyn – Virgo

    How hard to add backround to header in WP Blog?

    I am having to learn all sorts of things I should have learned long ago, like PHP, CSS etc in order to mess around with the appearance of this blog. One thing I’d like to do is be able to modify the appearence of the header of the blog. In particular, I’d like to put a background image in the header.

    This leads me into a maze of twisty PHP+CSS, and I am not afraid to admit I don’t know how this is done. There’s a headerimg entry in the style sheet, there’s a header.php file as part of the theme, but … but …

    Help a brother out?

    Pluggo granular hijinks

    You know that sort of minimal techno track that has some sort of crazy messy shit that mutters along in the background? Now you can have you some.

    Pluggo Noise

    I don’t recall exactly what pluggos I used to make this, but the original sound is a 808-ish drum loop.

    Find the lawyers something useful to do..

    The following boilerplate text gets appended against my will to all of my e-mails from my work account. It’s their servers, and I work for them, and any work-related e-mail I send is a priori their business. But…. as part of my job, I send a lot of e-mail that goes to public mailing lists, and the boilerplate gets replicated over and over again in mailing list archives.

    I wonder if the lawyers that come up with this stuff can name one time where someone sued and won at trial because of an E-mail sent from a company address. I admit when it comes to the law, anything’s possible, but this looks like a solution looking for a problem.

    Not only that, if you read this specific statement, it appears that they’re trying to avoid getting sued over violation of patient privacy. It is a ‘piggies already out of the barn’ thing; basically it asks anyone who gets an e-mail they shouldn’t have gotten not to propagate it. But once such an e-mail has been sent, the infraction has happened, and the recipient is not the infractor, the sender is. The ‘paragraph 2521’ prohibits interception of messages, whereas this statement seems to say ‘if you get this and you’re not supposed to, you’re breaking the law if you don’t just delete it.’ I’m not sure 2521 is even applicable.

    Furthermore the University of Iowa is not making ANY distinction between people involved in patient care, and people, like me, who have nothing to do with patients or their privacy. It’s no surprise that I get this blah blah attached to my e-mails, considering the hundreds of e-mails I get as part of hospital-wide broadcasts that have nothing to do with me or my job.

    Notice: This UI Health Care e-mail (including attachments) is covered by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. 2510-2521, is confidential and may be legally privileged. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any retention, dissemination, distribution, or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. Please reply to the sender that you have received the message in error, then delete it. Thank you.

    Pluggo gratification

    Well it took 4 days, but my shiny new Pluggo is authorized. In honor of this I put together a sort of fake techno jam:
    Pluggo Test

    All sounds are from Pluggo Instruments — Analog Drums, Analog Percussion, Deep Bass, Additive Heaven. Pluggo FX are Feeback Network and Chamberverb. Other than that I used a limiter on the channel playing the Feedback Network.

    Of course, Pluggo is wacky, and one unusual wackiness is that the instruments can stumble rhythmically. You can hear this happening at 1:16…

    I can see why a lot of people don’t think very highly of Pluggo; compared to a lot of other plugins they’re kind of difficult to control and they can sound really raw, even ugly. Of course those are the things I like about them. They’re a nice compromise between the
    low level monkeying you have to do with Reaktor or Max, and the limited sonic possibilities of more straightforward plugins.

    Oh and ‘Pluggo’ is also, apparently, the manufacturer of of machines that put the rubber caps on sterile blood sample vials.


    Dragged kicking and screaming into the future…

    So now not only does posting here crosspost to LiveJournal, it posts a link to Twitter.

    Not a big fan of Twitter actually, though it seems like a lot of people are following me on Twitter, so this feels inevitable. I’m not interested in posting Tweets directly, and honestly I hate the term ‘Tweet.’