Elements of Life

"These are the elements of life/"

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Aging Fraggles Boost Local Economy

The Union - October 18th, 2015

(Nevada City, CA) Over the last month, an unprecedented number of aging fraggles have converged again upon Calanan Park at the corner of Broad Street and Union in Nevada City. “We're just reclaiming lost territory,” admitted Thor Stowe of North San Juan. Many of these so-called and self-proclaimed fraggles, teens of the 1990s who would dye their hair the colors of the Muppet characters from Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock, now have professional degrees and semi-successful regional bands, yet duty has called them to the cause for aimless loitering.

“We didn't appreciate the transplant [marijuana] trimmers coming in and taking our role, but pretty much being dumb-asses about it,” said Matt Blanc of Nevada City. “It's a local culture that we have pride in, and we're taking it back!”

Officer Rodriguez of the Nevada City Police Department concurs. “It's good to get these thirty-somethings off Commercial Street, where they just impede and intimidate the elderly and young families with innocent children, and put them back in Calanan Park where they belong, just like it's twenty years ago.”

“It's been great for business!” exclaimed an ecstatic Jenny White, proprietor of a trinket store on Broad Street. “People as far as the Bay [Area] will come on the weekends to observe our native degenerate culture. They're like zoo animals!” She says this last sentence with affection, peppered with a bit of lust. One of the fraggles, wearing a NoFX t-shirt, dangling wallet chain, and baggy black jeans with metal belt-loops strangely going down the sides of each leg, begins to play erotically with the Monitor water cannon. “Check out the size of his cock,” screeches a female fraggle with a powdered face, as the male punk fraggle utilizes the water cannon as a phallic symbol for his virility. A crowd of Asian onlookers cheer and snap photos of the event, many taking selfies with the fraggle display in the background.

This is a far cry from the paranoid fear of fraggles that local businesses and upstanding citizens exhibited during the mid 90s. “Maybe we were wrong,” said Roger Winthrop of the now-defunct Broad Street Lighting, his gray beard shimmering under the quaint street lights. “Maybe they could have saved my business.” But instead of embracing the unique culture that the fraggles brought to downtown Nevada City, local business owners and community organizations fought for the removal of fraggles from all public display in Nevada City.

On June 23rd, 1998, the infestation was finally eradicated. The end of an era brought about the demise of a generation. “That was a sad day for all of us. That's when Nevada City kids started wearing Tapout shirts and listening to pop-punk. Like a bunch of Colfax tools!” raged a passionate Shawna-Lee Jenkins who recently relocated to Lake Wildwood. “When I removed the pale powder from my face for the last time, you can bet there were tears. But they were tears of rage.”

But on this triumphant day 17 years later, local fraggles and goths have converged upon Calanan Park once again. A boom-box blares a mix-tape comprised of Skinny Puppy, Cocteau Twins, The Cranberries and various other alternative rock bands. A group of 35 year-old men with self-cut hair, wearing frayed brown polyester pants and 311 t-shirts, form a hackey-sack circle. "You can always tell the poser fraggles," jibes an angry looking man. "They wear Dave Mathews Band t-shirts." The others in the circle laugh with a superior scoffing while dribbling the bean-bag hackey-sack with untied retro sneakers and indoor soccer shoes.

In 2015, Shawna-Lee Jenkins has been vindicated. The white powder base has been reapplied. She is wearing a self-made iron-on t-shirt design depicting a large photo of her retired Nevada Union High art teacher as he looked in 1996, captioned “Mr. Bastard.” She holds both middle fingers high over her head as she leers at a U.S. Forest Service truck making its way onto the on-ramp for Highway 49, not noticing the irony that the driver is younger than her. A group of blonde girls from Sacramento laugh as they take pictures of the event, posting them to their respective Instagram accounts.

Monday, August 17, 2020

My web-based Amiga Protracker MOD music player

Back in 2013 I took a web coding course, and for the class project, I wrote a PHP and JavaScript-based MOD player.  Back then, I didn't yet know the concepts of resampling well enough to get the DSP portion of the MOD player correct in time for the submission due date.  It would play the correct rhythms but the samples sounded like static.  It was also doomed from the start to not sound at all musical, because even though I was pulling samples with correct byte order from the MOD files, when calculating a value I was naively using ^ for power, which is of course Exclusive-OR.  Oops!  No wonder the samples sounded bad!

A year or so later, I implemented in the embedded software for a pathogen detection instrument some resampling routines, and I realized that was the knowledge I needed to make my MOD player work.  For many years the desire to finish my MOD player was on the back of my mind, until this year, when I finally decided to finish it.

When fixing my MOD player, I first tried just playing back the samples that it read from the MOD files, and I knew something was wrong simply by the way they sounded at a fixed and reasonable playback rate.  I thought maybe it had to do with how I was doing byte-swapping, but all that code looked okay.  Then I noticed I was using XOR instead of a power, changed it to some repeated multiplies, and BAM all of a sudden the samples sounded like they came from the song!  I was pretty ecstatic.

I then kept working from there, making it properly resample the data to get the right notes.  I incrementally added effects to get songs that required them to sound right.

As I had started it in 2013, I didn't want to deal with anything but getting it to work, so I begin development in 2020 on the same computer with an old version of Mozilla.  After I got it playing songs nicely, I then moved my development to a newer computer, and to my dismay, discovered that the Mozilla-specific moz audio functions had been deprecated.  At first I was annoyed, but after I got it to work using WebAudio, I realized that it was a great benefit, because most people use the spy browser anyway, so nobody would visit it if they had to use Mozilla Firefox, etc.  Also, it now works on phone, which is pretty fun.

Currently it needs the 0xA command implemented, and the related effects that also attenuate the volume of a sample over time.  At this point I think it sounds good enough to share, though.

I don't know JavaScript well enough to really write it in a thought out, object-oriented manner, like I would if I had written it in Java or C++.  It suffers as a result, that effects that need to bend pitch will be really hard to implement, so I probably just won't.  Also, adding support for 8 channel mods will be ugly, but possible, instead of just instantiating more channels, or something.

When I started the project, I didn't know of other JavaScript MOD players.  I then discovered the one made by Gasman.  I think his is still reliant on the old Mozilla moz audio functions.  This year, I have also discovered the JavaScript MOD player that is used by files.scene.org, and the one used by the MOD Archive (though that one is very resource heavy, and super choppy on my phone.)  There is also a pretty good one made by a Finnish guy, and another one on github too.

The value of mine is that it is super fun to use.  It is light weight and works on phones, and has a bunch of MODs uploaded and ready to be enjoyed.  I sporadically add new MODs to it as I hear ones that make me excited to put on my MOD player.  I usually hear them on Nectarine Demoscene Radio, and then download them from Modland or Amiga Music Preservation.

Here is the link to my MOD player: http://pwh.sdf.org/web_mod_player/

I hope you enjoy the great music!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Space Quest returns!!!

Brace yourself for the announcement of the new millennium.  This is the news you've been waiting for since 2001 (well, actually, since 1999 :P )

...drum roll with horn fanfare...

The Two Guys From Andromeda (Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe), the creators of the Space Quest series from Sierra On-line, are back together and making another sci-fi comedy adventure game!

Their website: http://guysfromandromeda.com
Their Kickstarter: http://tgakick.com

They need your help to fund the game, over at Kickstarter...after only 1 day on Kickstarter there are already 1800 backers giving $90,000+.

Only $15 will get you the game and a bunch of bonus stuff.
Even better, they're making a port for LINUX!!! So it'll work natively on the good OSes like Ubuntu, Debian, Mint, and, most importantly, Commodore OS Vision.

Note that even though they are the creators of Roger Wilco and the Space Quest universe, they don't "own" the "rights" to those trademarks, which is pretty ridiculous (not their fault), so this game will be a SpaceVenture game.  I'm excited that it'll be something completely new, though.  It opens up the possibilities for which direction the game will take, as it's not automatically locked into a story about a janitor blundering his way into saving the universe.  If this game goes well enough (which it will) then they will look into restoring their right to make another Space Quest.

Some links of interest:

Their official podcast:
Episode 1 with The Two Guys From Andromeda
Episode 2 with Troels Pleimert
Episode 3 with Ken Allen

Roger Wilco's Virtual Broomcloset - click the link at the bottom of the page to enter the site.

Happy adventuring,

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Groove Collective concert on ArtOnAir.org!

I found a mind-blowing (as always) concert by Groove Collective hidden away at ArtOnAir.org.  Check out the beautiful sounds!


They also have an interview with, and performance of Genji Siraisi (Groove Collective's drummer).


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Does Sirius/XM have a reason to exist? Not anymore!

The following is a comment I made on this post at the official Hearts of Space blog. I suggest you read the HOS post, for even if you don't listen to HOS, it's an interesting and revealing story. Pretty much, don't waste your money on crap services like satellite radio as programed by XM/Sirius, and instead use and support quality online services, many of which are free, created by passionate DJs and hosts.


Back in 2001, when XM came out, I was very impressed and excited. Around 2004, I finally had it via DirecTV, and fell in love with Beyond Jazz. I also appreciated the fact that Hearts of Space was carried, though I always listened to HOS via radio station KCHO. I no longer have DirecTV, and considered XM until I discovered that Sirius/XM no longer has the material I would be interested in, namely Beyond Jazz. Thankfully Beyond Jazz's Russ Davis now has an Internet stream similar to hos.com, at russdavismoja.com. No point supporting soulless corporations, when we can directly support the DJs and artists that we care about! Sirius/XM may very well fade away, not realizing they killed themselves by alienating the very people who would support the concept of niche programming.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Computer Chronicles and Chocolate Floppies

The greatest thing I discovered on the Internet in the last year, and quite possibly ever, occurred about six months ago when I discovered the classic PBS show The Computer Chronicles, and that almost 600 episodes from the show are online over at the Internet Archive. The show ran from ~1982 (the earliest archived show I've seen so far was from 1983) to 2002, when Stewart Cheifet, the host and producer, decided to take a break from this and his other show, Net Cafe. Plus, Leo Laporte's Screen Savers and Call for Help over on ZDTV / TechTV were possibly giving tough competition, but I don't see how, considering The Computer Chronicles was available to everyone on PBS, and was the gold standard for computer reporting.

This show is the absolute best! The hosts are charming; Stewart Cheifet, Gary Kildall (yes, the CP/M legend who founded Digital Research), Paul Schindler with the software review, Wendy Woods and others give the show a friendly and cozy ambiance despite actually being quite in-depth and even academic. Gary Kildall's gentleness and humility really shine through, as does his genius, and Paul Schindler's humor certainly makes me laugh.

The show is also very stylish, and gives you that good feeling inside that occurs when watching legendary PBS programs. One could say it's nostalgia, but I got that same feeling when watching Nova, Square One, Reading Rainbow, Newton's Apple, The Frugal Gourmet, and Nature back in the 80s, so I don't think that's quite it. It's just that it's very high-quality, and even epic. For example, both musical themes for the show, but especially the earlier one, are dramatic, and when the show starts with Stewart and Gary in the dark, only lit indirectly, the music booming, and then the lights come up, you know you're in for a treat!

The history contained in this show is priceless. Every time I watch an episode (which is at least one-per-day :) ) I am wowed by the incredible technology we already had in the 80s and 90s, and it makes me excited to try some of the devices or techniques they discuss, or sometimes I feel yearning for by-gone experiences and aspects of the computer culture, like the BBS community (yes, yes, I know, BBSes still exist through Telnet, but it's not like I can dial up some local number anymore). In fact, some of the software reviews and programmer interviews have led to me searching eBay and excitedly purchasing what I just witnessed on the show (especially regarding the 90s shows and CD-ROMs).

Except for a few early shows where the credits roll over an image of the darkened studio from a vantage point behind the video cameras (see? stylish!), the Computer Chronicles always ends with a news section, Random Access, and just like the rest of the show, these are always historically significant. It never fails that the news reader will mention some event that is still remembered today in computer lore!

My only beef with this show is: how could I have not known about it when I was young and it was on TV? Arg, grumble, harumph! I loved PBS and would watch it a lot; I can't believe I wouldn't eagerly look forward to this show every week. Maybe it wasn't carried in my market, but I doubt that. Goodness, I would've loved this show as a kid...thank heaven I discovered it now, though.

Well, while watching the 1985 Christmas guide, Wendy Woods pulled out a 5.25" chocolate floppy, and a year later, for 1986, she plugged a 3.5" floppy made by the same chocolatier (I'm pretty sure). Well, naturally this got me excitedly searching the net for chocolate computer devices, and while I couldn't find any floppies, I found something much, much better. Both 3.5" and EVEN 5.25" (yes!) chocolate/candy/soap molds! I purchased mine from Cybertrade's eBay store, though they have an amazon.com presence as well. They have a lot of new old-stock (or perhaps still in production) molds for computers and floppies and more. The coolest thing about these molds is that they're copyrighted 1984 and 1985...that's right, they're not merely retro and fad-like, they're truly vintage! I never new making chocolate would become one of my hobbies, but eating floppy chocolate has become my newest pastime.

Here is a great modern interview done with Stewart Cheifet in 2010 by the Retrobits Podcast:
Part One
Part Two


More AdLib music

In one of my past posts, I discuss AdLib Yamaha OPL FM-synthesized music, and in particular, the music from the game Alpha Waves aka Continuum. Well I found another nice selection of AdLib music here:


and behold, it has Frederic Mentzen's Continuum! These are mp3s, and I don't know if the audio files were made from actually recording a Sound Blaster or something, or if they're just emulated, but either way, it's a nice selection, plus if you go up to the parent directory, there are more types of computer music to choose from.