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

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Goodbye paper, Hello Kindle!

According to, 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 (, 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 (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 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 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:

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 (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...