Crowd Lights

I was at a Phish concert this October and was amazed at how many little screens I could see – mostly taking pictures or video of the band, but also people checking the set list or texting their friends that they were at the concert.  I realized that I could control these screens with an app – and how kewl it would be to synchronize some sort of a light show utilizing each screen as if it was a single pixel on a huge display.

I started work on the app the next day – and quickly realized there were a number of ways to pull it off.  Balancing how much time I had between putting the kids to bed and my own head hitting the keyboard vs. when I wanted it to be done drove a lot of decisions.  How much money I wanted to put into the project also forced me to build it a specific way.  In the end the architecture of the final application is as complex as it needs to be, but no more.

I posted a request on facebook looking for beta testers and had about a dozen friends and family lined up to play with an early version of the app.  Distributing it to them without publishing it on the google app market was problematic,  but eventually I had them all reporting back that the app worked.

A month after the inception of the idea it was done – but I needed to obfuscate the code, that is: Jumble it up so it couldn’t be downloaded and reverse engineered too easily.  This took way longer than I wanted it to because I had to learn a few new technologies I’d never used before.

This final hurdle surmounted, I released the application on Sunday.  You can install it on your droid with this link to the market page.

The iPhone version should be done in a few weeks.  Yet another set of new technologies to learn, but building the app the same way (with the exact same light show being displayed) will be easy.  *UDPATE* The iPhone version has gone live on the App Store.

Here’s a video demonstrating the final product:


Droid Music

Ditched the iPhone for a Motorola Droid X mainly due to shoddy AT&T coverage where we live.  I was worried about getting music on the device because the iPhone was born from the iPod, a music centric device.

This morning I was able to get the “easy Phone Tunes” application (free) working (after a device reboot) and so far I have 400+ songs on my device that I’m pretty sure I really wanted. 

The real “trick” that prompted me to write this post was how I decided what music to put on the device.  It doesn’t have enough room for the entire music collection – so I used “Genius Play Lists” to decide what to synchronize.

  1. In iTunes, Create a playlist “Droid Synch” that I tell the easy phone software to keep in synch to the Droid
  2. Select a song I know I want on the droid and start playing it
  3. Select “Genius” icon in iTunes
  4. Drag this new “Genius” play list to the “Droid Synch” folder
  5. Goto 2

This kind of thing is probably posted by someone somewhere else, but I’d never seen it before.

So while I praise Apple for iTunes and the genius functionality that got me here – I don’t miss the iPhone a bit, especially that headphone jack that wouldn’t take 99% of the headphone plugs in the world.

Piano Tuning

Had the piano tuned this week – and it is wonderful to have it playable again.  The past few months I would sit down to play and after a few min find something wrong with the tuning, or more often, a mechanical problem with the action. 

Most mechanical problems I can fix myself, and I had the action out of the piano preparing for such a repair.  Unfortunately I left the room and the children entered it.  I came back in to find them playing with it and one of the hammers was broken off it’s flange.  I repaired as best I could, but it was wiggly and would cause the key next to it to play – so the piano was basically un-playable – if you wanted a C5 in the song anyway.

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The piece of wood that part #6 screws into is what was broken.

Enter Mark Dierauf – of NH Pianos. He was able to fix the bad hammer + flange with a new pin – which required having about a dozen different sizes of pins – the tools to get them in and out of little tiny wood pieces – and the knowledge that a new pin would even solve the problem.  In the process he broke and fixed a few other things – and the result was 87 of the 88 keys working enough to be tuned, and the one broken one being the lowest key on the piano so not missed during regular play.

The very kewl part of this visit was the software that Mark uses called TuneLab – which runs on his windows cell phone.  Mark indicated it didn’t run on the iPhone yet because of Apple’s approval process holding up it’s release.  It would, however, run on the little netbook we have. 

The software is currently released as “nag ware” in that it is 100% useable but every once in a while it will freeze up for a couple of min.

So while Mark was tuning I was able to get it running and hopefully getmyself to a point where I can do a maintenance, or “Touch up” tune on the piano if a couple of keys go way out of whack before Mark visits again.

The software costs $340 – and I don’t think I’ll be buying it anytime soon as I’d only be using it to tune my piano.  It did get me thinking about the market for piano tuning software, and I didn’t realize that it’s a semi-popular interview question to ask, “How many piano tuners are there in the world?”  This page claims about 20k.

What caused me to blog about this though is the pleasant feeling I know get when I walk into the room with the piano – compared to the nagging frustration I had when it was broken and out of tune.  It is as if the house is more in harmony with the world then it was before.

Airport Express doesn’t like 802.11n

Bought a new router (net connection was dropping for a second a few times a day) and replaced it with a Belkin N Wireless Router.  All hard wired computers were back online pretty quick.

The Airport Express that I use to play music in the office did NOT connect though.  When I tried to configure it I would get this:

An error occured while trying to access the Apple wireless device.  Make sure your network connection is valid and try again.  Error 10057

After trying MANY things I flipped my router from “802.11b & 802.11g & 802.11n” to “802.11g” the Airport Express now works.  I don’t know what this does to my range/speed for devices that are able to talk 802.11n.

The bigger problem is the long network cable that no longer works… zero changes to that end of things but connecting a computer directly to the other end fails to work.  Little choice but replacing the entire cable, about 20ft long… through the basement… through a hub.

I hate networking – but not as much as I hate printers.

Pathatique Line Niner

Made it to line nine today – In the last video I decided to stop playing it from the beginning and focus on the section being learned. This will cut down on the length of video I need to upload etc.

At my current rate I should be done before opening day – but I fear there are some hard parts coming up that might take a lot more time then what I’ve laid down to date.

I am very much enjoying this goal BTW: It’s motivated me to find all the missing ivory chips from the keyboard and fix them. Who knows – I might get the piano tuned someday soon!

As usual: To track my progress start here:

Free Octave

I’m a big fan of the Star Spangled Banner.  I find it inspiring to witness crowds in the thousands silence themselves during it’s performance pre-game.  This year’s rendition by Jennifer Hudson was notable for a few reasons, but what I really liked about it is the musical flair added during the singing of line “O’re the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” 

Many performers add a note to the word “Free” by raising up an octave – I think it’s amazing.  I call this technique the “Free Octave” and always cheer then I hear it.  It comes right at the end of the song too – and is a perfect queue to begin the applause.  It also coincides with fly-by timing nicely.

Hudson’s rendition is available on the iTunes store, and you can hear her “Free Octove” at the 2:11 mark in the recording.

Recorded Pathatique Line 1 and posted to YouTube

Check it out: Not only did I make a spreadsheet to track the goal (easier to plan than do), but I incorporated a youtube recording of me playing the first line in the spreadsheet.

Check the Spreadsheet

Or check just the line one youTube video

Got most of the 2nd line down today – but I won’t consider it “done” until I can play it well enough to consider recording it.

Way ahead of schedule.