Mandelbrot went 3D November 10th, 2012 by b-knox

It never occurred to me, but tis it is a brilliant idea to flip and extrude the world’s favorite fractal into a new dimension. This new incarnation is known as a mandelbulb. There seems to be a single tool people are using to explore this wonder of spatial modeling : MandelBulber and guessing by the manual, you could waste a few nights away exploring the terrain.

Here are some images I found online –

But the best images are on the Mandelbubler website in the Cream of the Crop Gallery.

I didn’t credit anyone’s work because I am lazy.  Sorry, internets.

Lucas Films + Disney = wtf November 1st, 2012 by b-knox

Ok, it’s not so ‘wtf’ as all that. Lucas is tired and the prequel trilogy was, well, it is what it is. We have no idea what’s in store for episode vii in 2015, or the rest of the next trilogy for that matter. But, if I read it right, Lucas’s sole role will be that of creative consultant. Not writer, director, or even producer. Can the Disney seal of quality assure us all that new Star Wars video productions will be better?

There are countless things that I am curious about, but there are no straight answers. The only thing that’s obvious is Lucas is stepping down to the tune of $4 billion in cash and Disney stock. Disney keeps freaking me out. I didn’t even know they own Marvel Movies already! Can we expect Jedi in the next Avengers film?

There’s some kind of live action Star Wars television getting started. But what I’d really like to see is Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle turned into movies! That’s right, Lucas Films includes all kinds of subsidiaries including Lucas Arts, the creators of some classic home computer video games. Maybe they could do something with the Monkey Island series too. Wait, that’s called Pirates of the Caribbean. :P

80′s Movies Synth Music October 4th, 2012 by b-knox

Yeah, I’m going through a phase. I’m rediscovering what I grew up believing to be wretched cheese. Rancid buttcheese if you will. I’m talking about 80′s studio production practices especially when it’s mostly electronic instruments gated with chincy reverb saturated ad nauseam. Yes.

I’ve been watching some VHS tapes whilst cooking and devouring breakfast lately.  Thought I’d share some fun tracks that I forgot about (or didn’t).

Critters – End Credits Music

Kind of cute, kind of long, but, hey, it’s the credits for an 80′s sci-fi horror dark comedy mishmash of awesome.

My Science Project – End Credits Music

This one has the honor of being synthpop with a direct correlation between the movies title and the lyrics of the chorus. Plus epicly sleazy bonus moments of Vinnie clowning around the school.

The Terminator – Tunnel Chase Theme

Every time I watch this scene I feel like I have not been listening to the background score until then. This track is hilarious with its fidgety bassline and giant orchestral stabs.

I first found zombo.com somewhen around 2002. It was actually launched in 1999 as a mockery over website frontend flash loaders. Rather mind blowing that this single screen site has been sitting there, entertaining people, for the last 13 years. Recently, an html5 version popped up just for iPortable users because Apple products don’t support flash.

And so, while enjoying zombocom the other day, I started to wonder what version of flash was available in 1999. I could look up the developmental history of flash, but that still doesn’t tell me exactly which version is being used by the infinitely possible zombocom. At the very least, I knew it was a Macromedia version from before the time when Adobe had acquisitioned them. So let’s do this!

curl zombo.com

This gets us the html source code for the website. The flash file in questions is inrozxa.swf so . . .

curl zombo.com/inrozxa.swf

Well, that gets us mostly garbage. But you’ll notice the first few characters are FWS?x_? which has SWF in it backwards. Let’s read up on the SWF specifications! OK! First 3 bytes are ‘FWS’ so that’s in order. The 4th byte is the version number, but why is that a question mark? Because it’s an unsigned single byte integer, not a character silly! My terminal is replacing a low-value control character with the question mark. So how do we find the value of this buggar?

curl zombo.com/inrozxa.swf | od -t u1 -N 4

gets us : 70 87 83 4

What I did was load the flash file from zombo.com and then piped it’s data into a command called od which is an octal, decimal, hex, and ASCII dumper. I tuned it to display only the first 4 single bytes in unsigned integer form. So, from the data above, can you guess which version of flash zombo.com is running on?!?


Macromedia Flash v4 FTW!!

Now read this XKCD strip!

We can all rest easy tonight!! :D

Replacing the NES 72 pin Connector April 16th, 2012 by b-knox

I was in Austin, TX a few weeks ago. It happened to be around the SXSW festival, so every business around was trying to be a venue. Herr Prof was doing a two hour chiptune stint at Game Over Video Games, and somehow or other we got in contact. Next thing I know, I am offered some set time at this event.

It was a little awkward.  The crowd that was there was there to see Descendants of Erdrick, a local video game music cover band.  So while I performed they were setting up out front in the parking lot, distracting folks from my performance (which was really just me playing back tracks because I was missing everything from my rig except my laptop).

Regardless, I had a blast looking around this store (there’s a museum in the back) and trying not to go apeshit buying vintage video game crap.  I picked up a nice A/V cable for the Commodore, a couple Atari 2600 games I had lost at the firteen house, and a replacement 72-pin connector for my NES.  And this isn’t even the main store!

Yeah, so I do stuff on the kitchen counter.  Exchanging the connector was a bit more work than I thought it would be.  Somewhere around 20 screws later I got the old one out and popped the new one in.  It’s supposed to make your NES load cartridges like it’s brand new!

Oh, look at that!  I can’t tell if it’s better or worse!  Balloon Fight was the only cart I could get to load cleanly enough to play.  It didn’t last that long either.  How do I justify buying a power pak if I don’t even have a working NES?

At least I had fun at the store.  Descendants of Erdrick kicked ass and it was nice to see Herr Prof in meatspace once again, think it’s been about three years! Wish I was better at remembering to take pictures.  :D

Lagunita’s Brown Shugga’ April 15th, 2012 by b-knox

Lagunita’s Brown Shagga’ is a yummy brew.  Some folks do declare it’s just too damn sweet, but with an ABV 9.9%, the nasty is all hidden.  Malty and sweet, plain and simple.

It’s a seasonal ale from Lagunita’s, but the brewery elected not to make this season, last November.  So I’m trying to guess just how old this bottle is I’m drinking.  I think it’s safe to assume it was made in November of 2010.

Nothing like a beer that ages well!

RIP Jack Tramiel April 12th, 2012 by b-knox

Another big, classic computing obituary.  And I really have no idea how directly responsible he was for the actual 8bit Commodore machines, but it has more emotional impact on me than the passing of Steve Jobs.  I was kind of a spoiled kid (or there were great garage sales in my neighborhoods) because I had Commodores and an Apple II around.  The Commodore VIC-20 was brought home when I was four or five years old circa 1983.  It was probably on sale because the Commdore 64 just dropped on the market (I really don’t know), but I started typing programs out of the books before I could read.  I was learning how to manipulate symbols and understand the results.  Until the family got a NES in 1986, I probably spent more time on the VIC-20 than doing anything else.

And, around the age we got the NES, other computers found their way into our home.  I enjoyed the Apple II/e, spent a lot of time dorking around on that thing, but I always found the games laughable.  The Commodore 64 was definitely better, but you could start loading a game, go take a poop, and still wait for it to finish loading sometimes.  And even with these ‘better’ computers around, I still would go back to the VIC for it’s ridiculously large onscreen characters, writing BASIC programs that outgrew it’s limited 3.5kb of RAM.  Whether the program was any good or not, it didn’t matter, I  won the RAM battle.  :D

And then my teenage years came along, I was onto DOS based PCs and sold that crap Apple.  Somewhere in my early 20′s, I dug all my old computer stuff out of the attic. Most of the C64 disks were damaged, but all of the VIC’s datasettes were sound.  Somehow, both machines actually turned on and worked after five years in a Michigan attic?!  I had a decent job, went shit wild on eBay, and started collecting VIC20 anything.  I taught myself 6502 Machine Language and started writing real programs (not many).  The VIC is a staple of my live set, controlling it’s voices with the keyboard and Atari paddles.  I’ve gone through four of them since I started playing out around 10 years ago.  Good thing they’re cheap!  ;D

But I  digress.  If, as the media put it, Steve Jobs is solely responsible for home computing as we know it today, it had a lot to do with direct competition from Mr. Tramiel.  The Commodore PET and Apple II were both released in 1977, but the VIC-20 was the first computer to sell a million plus units, and the C64 still holds the record for the most units sold of any single computer model (don’t know if that excludes iPhones).  Commodore fell apart in the 1990′s, then Jack acquired Atari and ran that into the ground too.  The computer market grew some new legs and stomped on some conventional business strategies.

What a crap!  This next cartoon will set it all straight though!!

Important note : Microsoft was there in 1977 and on to supply Commodore with it’s BASIC kernel, mostly programmed in ML by Bill Gates himself. Bill, get outta my life!!

World Famous Melvins MELVAN March 7th, 2012 by b-knox
tehMelvan

teh Melvan

I was kind of blown away by this ebay auction.  Since I’ve been at work today, there have been 24 additional bids taking the price from $14k to $20.8k with 6 days to go.  So what’s a melvan?  It’s a van that was used by the Melvins for touring purposes.

It hasn’t been driven in 14 years.  The Melvins still tour and are not looking back.  So why does anyone care about this dilapidated junk?  Because the Melvins did a lot of gigs and tours with Nirvana.  Not only did the late Kurt Cobain drive it sometimes, but he also drew a mural of KISS on the outside using permanent markers stolen from a store that Melvins’ frontman, Buzz, used to work at.

Shouldn’t this thing be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?  Well, maybe.  I went there once and I was told to leave because my beard wouldn’t fit through the turnstile.  Plus, the RnRHoF is a rather clean place – they prefer memorabilia, not evidence of a true rock and roll lifestyle.

The seller’s biggest fear over this auction is that someone will blowtorch off Kurt’s artistic merit and scrap the rest of the melvan.  Who would do such a thing!  Doesn’t everyone have a space in their garage to house unusable large vehicles?

Allz I know is I wanna roll around in the back of the melvan where there are most likely sex stains from real-to-god rock and rollers.

P.S. – the melvan’s license registration expired on April 1994, the month that Cobain died.

Stravinsky loses Public Domain status January 30th, 2012 by b-knox

When I was a teenager I watched Disney’s Fantasia countless times, Rite and Bald Mountain were my favorite sequences by far. Over a week ago I had an epiphany — I’ve been brewing and incubating my next film project for quite a while, and Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring came to me as a sudden burst of inspiration. Rite has a perfectly consistent dissonance in both melody and rhythm. So, I could compose original themes and score the thing in post production, OR I could allow myself to work around something that is not only already awesome, but not played out either. Tchaikovsky: played out. Mussorgsky: played out.

And then the whole SOPA/PIPA blackout thing happened.  It was a good thing.  Except, on the same day, the Supreme Court made a large decision regarding copyright – to honor international copyrights.  Basically, if the US government wants the nations of the world to honor US copyright then the US government should honor other nations’ copyrights with US copyright laws.  Many works in the public domain at this time suddenly became copyrighted once again.  Current US copyright law dictates that a copyright sustains the life of an artist plus 70 years OR 95 years from the publication date.  This includes works by Stravinsky and many, many more.

Currently, anything published before 1923 or any artist that died before 1923 works is now public domain.  A jazz standard like Tiger Rag, first published in 1917, is fair game.  But Stravinsky, who died in 1971, will not regain public domain status until 2041.  Don’t forget there is a correlation between the copyright length and Steamboat Willy, published in 1928.  Copyright laws have been extended with the help of Walt Disney lobbyists for the sole purpose of keeping Mickey Mouse out of the public’s hands.

Copyright beyond an artist’s life makes little sense to me.  It protects publishers and their heirs, not the artist.  Granted their is a talent to finding talent and then distributing that talent, and people should be able to provide for their offspring.  But 70 years?  Is that conceivably beyond the lifetime expectancy of companies and offspring?

Despite all this protection of intellectual property, artists (or their publishers) have to pay out of pocket to take legal action.  Stravinsky spent his whole life trying to protect his work, and also suffering from infringing on other works he himself thought to be public domain at the time.  There is an awesome radio program regarding Stravinsky’s copyright story.  It’s well worth the listen.

So now I will leave you with a nice 8bit version of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in it’s complete 33 minutes of cacophony. I think it was made with a midi file and GXSCC.

Trying out bitbin December 20th, 2011 by b-knox

Kind of like pastebin, but more for tracking ideas in a rough chiptune format, bitbin is a cool little browser app created by coda. If you are not familiar with trackers you might want to skip it. Currently, it’s ideal for jotting down melodies, rhythms or songs just a few bars in length. You could go into the source and extend the pattern length, but I haven’t tried that. There is only the one pattern per song with 128 rows. Click the ‘Upload!’ button to get a unique URL so you can share your work.

here’s my silly track

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

EDIT – people seem to have problems running bitbin in older and crappy browsers. I suggest the latest version of chrome for anything you do on teh interwebs. :D/