Monday, 31 October 2011

Where did my week go?

On October 20th I became unemployed (hopefully for a short time), so I decided to waste some time by writing down for a whole week where my time was being spent. The corresponding chart is below:





The biggest consumer of time was sleeping, and despite that fact, I still feel tired most of the time! Next, (not surprising being a father of two small children), was house duties (preparing food, help children with homework, clothes washing, etc.). Family time (basically during the weekend) is also high in the chart, and then my two main activities at the time: reading and playing the guitar. Obviously the data will change quite a bit when I start working again.

I also wrote down the car computer statistics: in this week I drove for 08:02 hours and 226.8 Kilometers (which gives an average speed of 28.35 Km/hour, not bad for the city), and petrol usage was 6.9l/100Km (which shows that I spent around 15.7 € to bring the kids and myself around the town for the whole week).

Keeping track of all the time spent in each activity was done with Org-Mode.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

David vs. Goliath (Ángel vs. Spanair)

The letter below is in Spanish, but it basically says that Spanair agrees to pay 400€ due to a delay of nearly 4 hours in a flight from Madrid to Tenerife. This delay was very annoying, since they didn't even bother to offer us drinks or a decent meal. I was quite upset by this, so I decided to fight and found that the 400€ compensation is the responsibility of the airline, according to the European passenger rights (http://ec.europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/air/index_en.htm), but as mentioned in this article "[...] airlines are notorious for trying to wriggle out of their responsibilities and you may have to insist on your rights".

And indeed they try to wriggle... In my first formal complain to them, they just offered a one-leg national flight (not including taxes and administration charges) to be used in six months. This is a very poor form of compensation, since they are actually trying to make you buy another air-ticket with them, but with some discount.  As an individual it would probably be a bit cumbersome to get beyond this, but being a member of the Consumer Association OCU (http://www.ocu.org/), I forwarded the case to them, who offered to act as an intermediary, and in no time I got the letter below.





Friday, 22 July 2011

Cracking a Wi-Fi network

I had always heard that cracking a Wi-Fi network was really easy, but I never tried to do it. Yesterday I decided to give it a go. Could someone get in my network easily?

Remember that using somebody else's Wi-Fi is probably illegal, so you should probably do this only with your own Wi-Fi networks or with the owners' permission.

I am a complete newbie to this sort of thing, so I started with the easy part: cracking a WEP Wi-Fi. I guess nobody should be using WEP anymore, since according to Wikipedia "The Wi-Fi Alliance defined these [WPA and WPA2] in response to serious weaknesses researchers had found in the previous system, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy). " But WEP is still everywhere... Right now my laptop detects 5 Wi-Fi spots, and the only one that uses WPA is my own!




Next step was to do some research, since "wifi crack" gives you about 31,000,000 results in Google... A key aspect of this is to have a network adapter capable of "packet injection". There are many cheaps models available, but it turned out that my modest netbook comes with a "Intel Corporation WiFi Link 5100" adapter, which is able to do it. In order to make it work with my standard Linux distribution, I should probably need to update the firware and/or patch the kernel. But safer and easier was to just grap a copy of BackTrack Linux (version 5), make a LiveUSB out of it and reboot the netbook. With it, the Link 5100 was apparently ready for packet injection....

Then, after a failed attempt I stumbled upon this guide, which made the process very easy. I was not sure that my network adapter was 100% up to the task, so I decided to go for a field test. I just walked around the town in search of a good WEP Wi-Fi. After a few attempts in which I got the "Association successful" message but then the Data collection was very slow, I hit a busy WEP Wi-Fi network which made the whole process a breeze, and in 10-15 minutes I had the key (hidden below):


Aircrack-ng 1.1 r1899


[00:00:00] Tested 676 keys (got 68393 IVs)

KB depth byte(vote)
0 0/ 1 5A(99328) 1B(78336) 54(78080) EB(77568) 66(76032)
1 11/ 1 B5(75264) 2C(75008) 35(75008) 8F(75008) C2(75008)
2 2/ 7 8A(80128) 26(79104) 0C(77824) 4B(77056) BF(76800)
3 14/ 3 04(75264) 00(74752) 6E(74752) 60(74240) 15(73984)
4 0/ 5 1C(94720) 74(80384) 77(79872) 18(78592) 8B(78336)

KEY FOUND! [ XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX ] (ASCII: XXXXXXXXXXXXX )
Decrypted correctly: 100%



The person in the guide mentioned above says that she could not get to the stage where enough data was collected for aircrack-ng to succeed, and it looks like that is quite common in networks with very low wi-fi traffic. Out of the 10 or so networks that I tried, only in this one I was getting data at a very high rate. In other ones perhaps I should wait hours in order to get to the recommended 10k data mark.

So, I'm happy that my Wi-Fi network (and all the ones at work) are not WEP-protected, since getting into them seems a piece of cake. Next turn, my own WPA network (which I hope it will be much more difficult).

Friday, 15 July 2011

A portable linux distribution.

Summer is sometimes a great time to organize you life a little, and these weeks I've been busy streamlining the way I keep my computer-life organized. The most important things I did so far:
  1. Change my mail reading program to Gnus, so that I can now keep exactly the same mail reading experience wherever I am.
  2. Get all contacts and passwords into a usable format. Cleaning up the data is not finished yet, but necessary in the long run.
  3. Avoid wasting time; reclaim my privacy; do things locally, if possible: so I closed my accounts at: Facebook, Anobii, LinkedIn, Twitter, XING, Dropbox, Yahoo (which also deleted flickr, so I transfered all the pictures to Picasaweb with migratr). I'm still looking for a way to drop Delicious as well and organize my bookmarks locally.
  4. Get a portable linux distro that I can use to go quickly to my workbench whenever I happen to be using another computer.

A portable linux distribution.

Sometimes I need to work away from my computers, and doing so is sometimes a bit annoying: sometimes I cannot find a decent terminal emulation software to connect back to my workstation; other times the machine is using Windows; etc. So I looked at a number of small Linux distributions that I can put in a USB pendrive and carry with me at all times.

In the past I have installed a number of computers with PuppyLinux and this time I also tried SliTaz. SliTaz looks really nice, fast and small, but I had to go for something more heavy becuase hardware recognition is a bit flaky (as with many other small distributions). If I wanted to give a second life to an old computer, I certainly would go for one of these two, but in this case I wanted to get a Linux system that I can carry in my bag and that it will work in most computers without the need to tweak boot parameters, etc.

So, I decided to go with what I currently have in my workstation: Ubuntu 10.04.02 LTS (though 32-bit). To get it all working I did the following:

  1. Create a VirtualBox virtual PC and install the server edition of Ubuntu, with NO extra software.
  2. After first boot, install the "basics" (taken loosely from here): xserver-xorg-core, xinit, network-manager, lxde, alsa-utils, gdebi-core and google chrome (see how).  
  3. In the file /etc/NetworkManager/nm-system-settings.conf change "manage=false" to "manage=true"
  4. Make nm-applet to start automatically (see instructions).
  5. Install Remastersys (followed these and these instructions) and create modified ISO file.
    • sudo apt-get update ;; sudo apt-get install remastersys
    • modify /etc/remastersys.conf file
    • "sudo su" to become root and then run "remastersys dist"
  6. Test the created ISO file (I managed to get it down to 350MB) with VirtualBox. Once satisfied with the result it is time to make it into a LiveCD (just record it to a CD with, for example, K3b) and a LiveUSB.
  7. In order to create the LiveUSB, at my workstation (Ubuntu 10.04 LTS) I launch the "Startup Disk Creator", selecting the customized ISO file, and my 16GB USB pendrive. I erase the entire USB disk, and reserve 128MB (though you could reserve all the remaining space in the pendrive) for "extra space" to store documents and settings (see for example these instructions).
  8. Trial run: go to one of the "offending" machines, and reboot with the USB pendrive. It looks fine and I get both wired and wireless connectivity, though there are some small problems:
    • The persistence file seems to be working, but I always get a "Install Portable Linux" icon in the desktop.
    • The password I set for my account is deleted every time, so I just can login with no password.

 The mandatory screenshot:


    Notes:

    • I tried the same with the newest version of Ubuntu 11.04, but then I had problems booting from the USB (it would just show the "boot:" prompt, but then it would get stuck in there). 
    • With another, smaller pendrive (1GB), I also had problems: I managed to login the first time, but on reboot the pendrive would complain. No idea why...

      Friday, 8 July 2011

      Changing mail reader again. This time: Gnus

      After a year reading my mail with Thunderbird, I have decided to try Gnus. I was already using it (though not often) for newsgroups, but now I wanted to do it for regular e-mail. In the past I have played with Gnus a bit, but never spent the necessary time to learn and configure it properly. This time I took a couple of "slow" days and decided to make the effort to dump Thunderbird and go for Gnus.

      Some things that I didn't like in Thunderbird during this last year:
      • Synchronizing between different computers was not straightforward. Mails were in the IMAP server, so that was not a problem, but I wasn't sure how I could easily synchronize news (from newsgroups), filters, etc. in different computers
      • For some reason, Thunderbird would mark some messages as read, even when I didn't say so (quite dangerous, as once I read a message, I normally don't go back to it).
      • The IMAP connection to my server was very slow after having thousands of messages, so I ended up archiving messages by year. This was a bit annoying, since from my home computer then I could not access those messages.
      • Probably related to the archives, when searching for messages, sometimes a relevant message would show up in the search results, but when I tried to open the message, then nothing would show up. I would have to remember the date of the message and go and find it manually. Not very convenient.
      •  Many times Thunderbird complained of server timeouts. As a result, messages that I thought were deleted, actually remained in the server and other oddities...
      So I decided to give another chance to Gnus. Can it do everything I need? Was the effort to replace Thunderbird worthwhile?

      My current mail setting now involves two accounts (work and private), which are backed up in a third account (which I never touch, this is just a repository of ALL the mail I get). At my workstation I run fetchmail to download locally (and delete from the mail accounts) all the e-mails I get in both accounts (the setting for this only involves creating a .fetchmailrc file where I specify the servers, accounts, etc.). (sendmail also needs to be running in the machine).

      The Gnus manual (the PDF version) has 435 pages, so configuring it to your taste is going to take a while, but it is (like Emacs), incredibly flexible and powerful. For me the main features that I was looking for were:
      • Reliability (I hate when software starts doing "things" on its own).
      • Possibility of having exactly the same environment and configuration, no matter where in the whole Internet I was located.
      • Good filing and searching of messages.
      So after a while, reading the manual and asking in the relevant newsgroup, I have more or less everything I need (though this being Emacs, I'll probably never stop modifying the configuration):
      1. mail is sorted into different groups, and those in the "MailingList" groups are deleted automatically in one week (unless I say otherwise), and other Mail is never deleted (unless I say otherwise); 
      2. the search engine works really fast and well (actually much better than the Thunderbird search engine); 
      3. this works inside Emacs, which I run in text mode (emacs -nw), inside GNU screen (well, actually Byobu), so wherever I am, I only need to connect through ssh to my workstation, and I have full control and exactly the same configuration everywhere.

      And this is how it looks right now. The "Folder" view:



      The messages view in one of the groups:



      I have only used it for a couple of days, so I'm not sure how it will score against Thunderbird in a year from now, but so far I didn't have any problems, and it looks a better approach for my needs. I will report back in a year!

      Thursday, 16 June 2011

      Calligrams with Inkscape

      Today I was looking for a quick way to create a calligram. I tried to do it with the GIMP, but it was not that easy, so I looked for another alternative, and I found Inkscape. I had never used it before, but it looks very powerful for vector graphics. As for the calligram, it is very easy to make both things that I was looking for, as illustrated below: make text to follow a path (which can be obtained from a picture, as the example below) or to flow inside a given shape (the guitar svg file can be found here).



      Friday, 10 June 2011

      Goodbye Palm...

      I've been an owner (and a heavy user) of a Palm device for many years (around 15 years...) but lately I was not using it anymore, so I decided to get rid of it, but I needed to backup some of its data. Basically this came down to backing up:

      1. The contacts, which I did by using the J-Pilot software for linux. The contacts were easily exported to a CSV file. I tried to import into BBDB following these instructions, but the program was outdated, so at the end I had to do it "manually" (through regular-expressions inside Emacs).
      2. Birthday data store in the HappyDays application. I didn't find an easy way to export the data compiled by HappyDays, but in the end decided that it was not that important, since the birthday data is actually collected from the contact data, which I already exported.
      3. The most important data after the contacts was the data stored in SplashID. I believe that more recent versions of the Palm software come with a version to export directly in the device into a CSV file, but my version is very old (2.03), and didn't have this feature. The trick was to install the Palm Desktop software (Version 4.1.4) in a Window XP virtual (VirtualBox) machine, and then install the 2.59 old version of the SplahsID Windows software. But I couldn't get the Windows virtual machine to recognize my USB-connected device. It turned out that I had to upgrade the VirtualBox that comes with Ubuntu 10.04 and install the 4.0.8 version, and add myself to the virtualbox group. I got it to work by following these instructions (although I din't add myself to the usb group, only to the virtualbox one). Once that was in place, I easily synchronized my SplashID data in the Palm to the Windows software, and then exported the data in CSV format, which was then imported into an encrypted org-mode file to handle with Emacs (which is much more convenient to me now).

      Monday, 6 June 2011

      When the lack of any probability theory knowledge can bring a big unfairness

      Recently I enrolled my son for the local music school. As there are always more candidates than places, somebody apparently decided that it would be a good and fair system to do the following:
      1. Sort out all the candidates alphabetically.
      2. Randomly select one of the letters and then choose n candidates (where n is the number of available places), starting with the first candidate whose surname starts with the chosen letter, and just go down the list in 1. (continuing from the beginning if the end of the list is reached) until all available places are taken.
      To see how bad a system this is, I just got a list of 106 people that were applying to another local school (I just didn't have the original list with me) and assumed that 25 places are available. The probabilities of getting a place are so unfair, that I'm going to contact the local school to see if they want to change the system for coming years. Two of the extremes:
      1. One person has only a 3.85% probability of being chosen (the last one whose surname starts with S, since there are 14 people whose surname starts with R, and 12 people whose surname starts with S, so the only chance for her is that the randomly chosen letter is S).
      2. Another person has a 42.31% probability of being chosen (the first one with the letter C, since surnames starting with letters from S to B are a very small proportion of the total, and he would be chosen if any of those letters are randomly chosen. The number of surnames for each of these letters is: S: 12; T: 4; U: 1; V: 4; W: 1; X: 0; Y: 0; Z: 0; A: 1; B: 1).
      Below I include a chart which, assuming 25 places, gives the probability (as a percentage) of being chosen for all the 106 people included in my test sample.

      Wednesday, 1 June 2011

      TestDisk saved my day

      Today I discovered a little gem: TestDisk. My USB pendrive had lost the partition table with some important documents that my guitar teacher gave me yesterday (perhaps because he removed the drive without safely unmounting it first), and this program recovered the partition in a matter of minutes (before I even had the time to read its documentation).

      Certainly a tool to have handy...

      Thursday, 19 May 2011

      Performance anxiety...

      Oh well, nothing new about this... Any musician forum is full of posts about performance anxiety, and I have to say that I'm one of those suffering from it. Yesterday we had an audition for other teachers and guitar students at the Conservatoire.

      Performance anxiety recipe

      Ingredients:
      1. A naturally shy person.
      2. A difficult piece, above the level in which he/she feels confident.
      3. No (or very few) prior public performances.
      4. Discerning public (teachers and students of the same instrument, who will easily recognize when you are doing something wrong).
      5. (Optional) Arrange the performance program so that the previous player is a very competent one that plays effortlessly and with clearly no performance anxiety.
      Result: 
      • A blotched performance

      Yes, that is more or less what happened to me yesterday (playing Villa-Lobos Etude 1, perhaps a bit better overall than my recorded version, which was a bit slow and not very musical). The performance was not horrible: I didn't blank out, I didn't have to restart the piece or any bars, and the piece sounded more or less OK, but with some clear mistakes, and without a great sound (specially for barre chords, my weakest point even in the comfort of my studio), and most importantly for me, without really enjoying the experience.

      The plan to improve this: get out and play in front of people as much as possible (though this will be difficult due to timetable constraints), and try to read about it and possible ways to improve. Recommended books about this:

      Inner Game of Music
      Performing in the Zone



      Will report back....

      Tuesday, 26 April 2011

      Classical guitar progress logging (Apr'11)

      This month I recorded the Prélude N.1 by H. Villa-Lobos: a piece that I still have to study much longer before it turns out nice, but on which I'm slowly improving. I think this is the most difficult piece that I've tried so far, and when my teacher gave me the score I thought he was just nuts... According to GuitarBurst this a difficulty 9 piece (out of 20):



      The video is here.

      Prélude N.1 by H. Villa-Lobos from Angel de Vicente on Vimeo.

      Tuesday, 29 March 2011

      Classical guitar progress logging (Mar'11)

      I missed the recording for February (way too busy) and almost the one for this month...  This one has quite a number of mistakes (it is amazing to see how stage fright kicks in even when playing alone, just in front of the video camera. Trust me that when truly alone this comes out a lot better...).

      This is René Barbier, Prélude for guitar, op. 119, and the video is here.

      This is my first recording with my own guitar (my own in the sense that I built it).

      Prélude for guitar, op. 119 by René Barbier from Angel de Vicente on Vimeo.

      Monday, 14 March 2011

      Playing with different temperaments (tuning systems)

      It all started with the entry exam for the Conservatoire, where one of the questions was about the Harmonic Series, then a comment by my Harmony teacher about Bach's well-tempered clavier. So I decided to learn a bit more about tuning systems in particular, and about the relation between music and mathematics in general. Reading material will be the book Music and Mathematics: From Pythagoras to Fractals and playing material will be the Scala software, which according to its webpage is "a powerful software tool for experimentation with musical tunings, such as just intonation scales, equal and historical temperaments, microtonal and macrotonal scales, and non-Western scales".

      In order to get Scala to work on my computer (Ubuntu 10.04 64bits) I just had to follow these steps:
      • Download the software (the source code is available upon request to the author, but the downloaded package comes with the compiled code). Version 2.30d for 64-bit GNU/Linux on PC/Intel, http://www.huygens-fokker.org/software/scala-22-pc64-linux.tar.bz2
      • Make sure that gnuplot, libgnat-4.4, playmidi, and timidity are installed (all available through Synaptic Package Manager).
      • Copy the provided libgtkada-2.14.so.0 to /usr/lib/
      • Since I need the ISO8859 characters, I make my own script to launch scala:
      angelv@vaso:~/Music-Guitar/Software/scala-22-pc64-linux$ cat my_scala.sh
      #!/bin/bash
      export LANG=en_US.iso8859-15
      ./scala
      angelv@vaso:~/Music-Guitar/Software/scala-22-pc64-linux$


      angelv@vaso:~/Music-Guitar/Software/scala-22-pc64-linux$ sudo modprobe snd-virmidi
      angelv@vaso:~/Music-Guitar/Software/scala-22-pc64-linux$ cat /proc/asound/cards
      0 [Intel ]: HDA-Intel - HDA Intel
      HDA Intel at 0xefffc000 irq 16
      1 [VirMIDI ]: VirMIDI - VirMIDI
      Virtual MIDI Card 1
      angelv@vaso:~/Music-Guitar/Software/scala-22-pc64-linux$

      • Now we just connect the output of this Virtual MIDI card to timidity with acconectgui 


      • And we can start experimenting with weird tuning systems, for example TET-19 (19 equal temperament):


      The sound is fine, but if I try to record a screencast of it (as per my previous post http://angel-de-vicente.blogspot.com/2011/03/screencasts-with-xvidcap-in-ubuntu-1004.html), I cannot do it, so I will have to investigate further.

      After a few tests, I discovered that the problem is with timidity and PulseAudio. Googling didn't give me any good results, but after trying different things, I realized that the one that works best to record the output of timidity with xvidcap is just to start another timidity process, but under padsp. Then, the method described in my previous xvidcap post works without any trouble, as can be seen in this demo video.

      By the way, experimenting with different tunings can be quite fun, and interesting music can be made (as an example of a song composed in 19-TET see Incidence and Coincidence from William A. Sethares' Xentonality disc).

      Thursday, 10 March 2011

      Customizing GNU Solfege

      As part of my work on Music Harmony (and ear-training), I wanted to configure GNU Solfege with my own exercises. I didn't realize it would be so easy. Following the instructions online, I just had to do the following things to get my first customized exercise:
      • Figure out where the pre-loaded lesson files are and where the customized lesson files should go. 
      Help:File Locations tells me that in my system the pre-loaded ones are in /usr/share/solfege/lesson-files and the customized ones should go inside lessonfiles in my home directory.
      • Copy one of the pre-loaded lesson files (similar to the exercise I want to obtain) into the customized directory and edit. 
      Make sure to delete the lesson_id field, since these have to be unique (later on GNU Solfege will create one automatically and will add it to the file). In my case I wanted to get an exercise to discriminate between major, minor, augmented and diminished chords, so I start with the chord-min-major lesson file:


      # Solfege - ear training for GNOME
      # Copyright (C) 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 Tom Cato Amundsen
      # License is GPL, see file COPYING

      header {
      lesson_id = "38bfaa64-c182-4687-aa41-ed6352017342"
      help = "idbyname-chords"
      module = idbyname
      have_music_displayer = yes
      fillnum = 2
      random_transpose = accidentals, -5, 5
      title = _("Minor and major chords")
      lesson_heading = _("Identify the chord")
      test = "6x"
      test_requirement = "90%"
      }

      # We do in-file translation to norwegian in this file, just
      # to show that it is possible.
      question { name=_("major") name[no]="dur" chord("c' e' g'") }
      question { name=_("minor") name[no]="moll" chord("c' es' g'") }


      and change it to:

      header {
      help = "idbyname-chords"
      module = idbyname
      have_music_displayer = yes
      fillnum = 2
      random_transpose = accidentals, -5, 5

      title = _("Minor, major, augmented and diminished chords")
      lesson_heading = _("Identify the chord")
      test = "6x"
      test_requirement = "90%"
      }

      # We do in-file translation to norwegian in this file, just
      # to show that it is possible.
      question { name=_("major") chord("c' e' g'") }
      question { name=_("minor") chord("c' es' g'") }
      question { name=_("augmented") chord("c' e' gis'") }
      question { name=_("diminished") chord("c' es' ges'") }


      • Add it to lesson tree in GNU Solfege. I create my own learning tree via File:Edit Learning Tree, then New. First add a toplevel menu, then a submenu, and lastly Add lesson, (the first time I have to click on "Search for new lesson files" so that the stuff I just put in my own directory shows up), and look for the lesson to include. Just like that, I have a customized lesson:


      Wednesday, 2 March 2011

      Screencasts with xvidcap in Ubuntu 10.04

      In the near future I'm going to need to do a couple of screencasts, so I've tried different programs to do it: recordmydesktop, recorditnow, istanbul and xvidcap. The one that gets the best video (for example a moving score in Musescore) is xvidcap, but I couldn't get it to get the sound, no matter what (and it seems that this is a common problem in Ubuntu 10.04).

      It turns out that the package that you download via Synaptic is broken in this respect, so the solution is to uninstall that one, and instead install xvidcap_1.1.7jaunty_i386.deb (at http://sourceforge.net/projects/xvidcap/files/) In order to install it in my x86_64 system I just have to use the --force-architecture option to the dpkg -i command.

      angelv@vaso:~/Desktop$ sudo dpkg --force-architecture -i xvidcap_1.1.7jaunty_i386.deb 
      

      But when trying to run it I see that there are some i386 libraries missing. In order to easily install them I use the getlibs script.

      angelv@vaso:~/Desktop$ padsp xvidcap
      xvidcap: error while loading shared libraries: libtheora.so.0: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory
      
      angelv@vaso:~/Desktop$ getlibs /usr/bin/xvidcap
      
      
      Once that is in place, it is quite easy to record a screencast, together with the audio produced by the computer:
      1. Start xvidcap with padsp 
      2. Once you start recording with xvidcap, make sure that the Recording is done from the "Monitor of Internal Audio Analog Stereo", which can be modified with pavucontrol.
      3. When recording from Musescore (and probably other programs as well), make sure that the sound is being sent to PulseAudio.
      The following video illustrates these options and the end result:  http://vimeo.com/20552593


        Thursday, 24 February 2011

        Sharing music scores with the world: Musescore.com

        Lately I use Musescore for my harmony lessons, but I didn't know about the new service in http://musescore.com/ to easily upload music score and share them over the Internet.

        The site is still in alpha version, but it works pretty well already. As a test, I got the Harmony exercise for this week and (from within Musescore itself) I uploaded it to Musescore.com in a matter of minutes (http://musescore.com/score/3533). From there you can listen to the composition and download the score in different formats: MuseScore, PDF, MusicXML, MIDI or even MP3. Cool!




        EDIT (24/5/2011): In the end, after a few corrections suggested by the harmony teacher, the final score (which was played together with the compositions of other students on 20/5/2011) is here.

        Monday, 21 February 2011

        My first guitar (named Cecile) finished...

        Being able to spend only a few hours every month (and nothing some months), it has taken me a while to finish the guitar I was building, but it is now finished:


        Some pictures of the progress can be seen in https://picasaweb.google.com/txibilis/Luthier

        The finishing technique used was French Polish, which is quite difficult to get right (specially in the front side), so the end result is clearly not professional, but before I put any more effort into its looks, I want to make sure that its sound is worth the effort... so I'm just waiting for the shellac to harden and then I will do the February recording with it (and then, if the sound is good enough, I will try to fix the finishing in the front during the summer holidays).

        Materials used:

        Monday, 31 January 2011

        Classical guitar progress logging (Jan'11)

        I almost missed the recording for this month...  This is Sor Op.31 N.21 (Segovia Study N. 7), and a few weeks ago it looked really difficult for my level. Still need to practice a bit more, but it is not so bad now. Here it is.

        Sor Op. 31 No. 21 (Segovia Study No 7) from Angel de Vicente on Vimeo.


        This is my first recording with the Aria Sinsonido, and as you can see the video and the audio are not synchronized! (the battery in my camera died while recording it, and I didn't have the patience to wait until it was full again, so I mixed it with the video of a previous recording! Oh well...). Next month I'll do a better job!

        The score is the following (from  http://www.muslib.se/ebibliotek/boije/pdf/Boije%20479.pdf):

        Thursday, 27 January 2011

        Goodbye paper, Hello Kindle!

        According to Amazon.co.uk, the new Kindle is their #1 bestseller and has the most 5-star reviews of any product on Amazon. So, when choosing the Christmas present for my wife, the three kings settled on this electronic book model.

        The version we got (you can see that I am also staking a claim on this gadget!) is the Kindle Wi-Fi, which is fine, since I don't think we would use the 3G functionality, and it increases its price by a whopping 37%!

        After unwrapping it, the first thing to test was the reading experience. The e-ink technology is supposed to be far superior for reading long hours, and it certainly is great. I still need to take the real test (i.e. to read a whole book with it), but there is absolutely no glare, no backlight, and it feels really comfortable given the very limited reading I've done with it so far).

        The next thing was to check if our new little gadget would deliver on the main things that we wanted from an electronic book. This is a provisional list:

        * Be able to organize content for both my wife and me
        This can be done with Collections. As far as I can see, I cannot create Collections inside other Collections, so to keep your library organized is probably better to do it in the computer with Calibre.

        * Transfer PDF files and other content
        PDFs are handled automatically in this Kindle, as some other content. The most convenient way to transfer files to the Kindle is probably thanks to the associated e-mail. Each kindle has its own unique e-mail address. If you want to transfer some document to it, you just send it as an attachment to that e-mail address, and it will downloaded automatically when you are connected to the Internet (via WiFi or, if we had the other model, via 3G).

        * Different dictionaries
        This is possible, and in Amazon you can actually find a number of dictionaries for it. What I don't like is that the dictionary is set globally and not per book. It would be nice to have the option to override the default dictionary for an individual book (mostly I read in English, so I would like that as my default dictionary, but if I want to read something in French, the option to select the French dictionary for just that book would be nice).


        * Getting books (in English and in Spanish)
        Amazon will deliver to Spain only their international version, which comes with the American spelling dictionary. I prefer the British version, so thanks to a colleague who was coming from the UK, we got the UK version instead (in the end, both the American and the British dictionaries were loaded, so perhaps we could've got the international version instead).

            ** Books in English
        The number of books in English that you can get is really big. With the thousands of books that you can find in PDF format, plus all the stuff at Project Gutenberg, Google Books and the Kindle Books at Amazon, I think it will be some time before we run out of stuff to read...

            ** Books in Spanish
        The story is different for books in Spanish. Amazon has some books (searching for "spanish edition" gives (as of 27/1/2011) 6,924 results), but certainly nothing comparable to the number of mostly-in-English Kindle-books (545,187). For newer books (those in Amazon are often classics), you can head for instance to Libranda. The number of books  is quite small yet (2466 at the time of writing), but these are all newer books, and that's what my wife is mostly after, so I decided to try and buy one: "El otro barrio" by Elvira Lindo. There are many shops that sell this one, so I settled for iBubok (for no reason), and here the fight begins...

                *** DRM stuff

        After paying for the book, the Download link brings me to a .acsm file, which I have no idea what it is... It turns out that this is a way of protecting the books (http://www.ereadable.com/info/FAQ.asp), and that in order to get the actual book content I will need Adobe Digital Editions which, surprise surprise!, cannot be installed in Linux. OK, so I head off to my VirtualBox Windows XP and install it there. Installation is very easy, and the .acsm file is automatically dealt with by Adobe Digital Editions and I can see the contents inside the VirtualBox window:


        But obviously we didn't get the Kindle to read books in the computer screen, so I need a way to transfer that content to some format that the Kindle can read.

        A way to get rid of the DRM protection stuff is outlined in this blog. As per the instructions, I installed in my Windows virtual PC: Python 2.6.2, PyCrypto, ineptkey.pyw (version 5), ineptepub.pyw (version 5.2) and ineptpdf.pyw (version 7.2). The book "El otro barrio" which I bought was actually a PDF, and after running ineptkey and then ineptpdf I got a beautiful non-DRM PDF file, which I can read in my Kindle (or in any other PC) without any trouble:


        I wanted to check whether the script would also work fine with EPUB files, but for the moment I don't want to buy a new book (I asked the library whether they can send me the EPUB file instead of the PDF file), and this is actually not that important, since I can also convert PDF files to MOBI files (which the Kindle can read) with Calibre. When I get a DRM-EPUB file I will update this post.


        UPDATE (17/2/2011): Just bought a DRM-EPUB book and the script managed to get rid of the DRM protection without any trouble, so I could (after converting from EPUB to MOBI with Calibre) send it to our Kindle without any trouble.



        Friday, 14 January 2011

        Aria Sinsonido AS-100C

        As a Christmas present I got an Aria Sinsonido AS-100C silent guitar


        I've been playing it last few nights when the kids were sleeping, and overall I'm really happy with it. The sound is not the same as in a classical guitar, but the measures of the neck, strings, etc. are the same, so it is great for practice.  Playing alone with the supplied headphones is trivial (just need to plug them in ...).

        Recording it in the computer is also very easy. With a 3.5mm male-to-male audio cable we can connect the Aria to the Microphone input in the sound card (the "Free Music Intrument Tuner" automatically detects the input, so it provides an easy way to tune the guitar).

        Once it is connected, the sound is not redirected automatically (Ubuntu Studio 10.04) to the speakers (or headphones), but with Jack it is very easy to do so by connecting the "caputre" clients to the "playback" clients: 


        With this in place, I can play the guitar and listen to it via the headphones, and also easily record it via, for example, Ardour.

        A first test of this setting can be seen at http://vimeo.com/18801768 (the video was recorded separately and mixed with the sound with Kdenlive. For the video I was using my Pentax Optio M40 camera, which in daylight does a decent job, but at night it leaves much to be desired. Next one will be a decent recording in daylight...)

        Virtual Pianola...

        In my quest to try out new things related to sound and music with my Ubuntu Studio laptop, I decided to try and emulate a pianola (or player piano), as seen in this video (you can see in the following link a real piano player in action).

        The first thing was to change the preferences in MuseScore (version 0.9.6.2). In the I/O preferences tab, I selected "Use JACK MIDI output":



        Then I restarted, Jack, Musescore and VMPK (version 0.3.0), but in the Jack Audio Connection Kit "Connections" view, I could see "Mscore1" in the MIDI tab as a readable client, but VMPK input only showed in the ALSA tab, so I could not connect them.




        With the help of the experts at the UbuntuStudio mailing list I found out that I would require a bridge between alsa midi and jack midi: a2jmidid. The best option seems to just put "a2jmidid &" in the Jack Connection Setup "Execute script after Startup" Option, so that the bridge will be in place every time I start Jack.

        With this in place, and after restarting everything, I can connect the output from MuseScore into VMPK (and also into "FLUID Synth": otherwise I will see the keys in VMPK being pressed, but we will get no sound).



        Now we only need some nice music to demonstrate... and I download "Lock and Key" from http://musescore.org/en/node/6707. And everything seems to work pretty well. But I don't want you to take my word for it, so I planned to record it.

        I used gtk-recordMyDesktop (version 0.3.8), which is a front-end for recordMyDesktop. With it (in the Sound tab), you can click "Use jack for audio capture", but with this option enabled I always got errors like "... exited with status: 2816. Description: Improper window specification.", so I decided to record the sound (with Ardour) and the video (with recordMyDesktop) separately, and then mix it with Kdenlive.

        Kdenlive is not happy with the .ogv file created by recordMyDesktop, so first I had to convert it to an .avi file with the command:

        angelv@palas:~$ mencoder -ovc lavc -ofps 30 pianola.ogv -o pianola.avi

        Synchronizing audio and video is not always straightforward always, but for this video it was quite easy. The resulting video can be seen at: http://vimeo.com/18783287


        
        

        Friday, 7 January 2011

        AKAI LPK25 MIDI Keyboard

        The three kings were good (and very musical) to me this year. One of the things that they brought me was a small MIDI keyboard (AKAI LPK25). This is a very small keyboard, but very convenient for quick note entry (the computer keyboard feels very awkward for this).



        Quickly after unwrapping it I set it to try it in my laptop, which has Ubuntu Studio 10.04 (64 bits) installed. For me, the most important feature is just to be able to quickly "type" a music score into a music notation software, so I decided to try with MuseScore. The section MIDI keyboard in the MuseScore documentation looked like I would have no problems, but though the keyboard was recognized and note entry was possible in a contrived way, it was not as expected. The blame was on the version of MuseScore, which in this version of Ubuntu Studio was 0.9.6 (revision: 2613). Luckily, Toby Smithe maintains a PPA with a more recent and stable version of MuseScore. Following the instructions in the PPA page and upgrading (via Synaptic the packages musescore-soundfont-gm, musescore and musescore-common), brings MuseScore up to verion 0.9.6.2 (revision: 3400), and with it note entry with my LPK25 is as advertised in the documentation. Now it is time to do some music with it...