Tuesday, April 14, 2015

SendEmail automates boiler-plate email messages

Last week I needed to email out marks to my students. How to automate a bulk email project? No doubt the Internet will turn up hundreds of spyware-infested programmes of dubious lineage and intent, all designed for just this purpose.

So I turned to Python. Because if I write my own code I can trust it to do exactly what I wish, no more, no less. And so memories of Paul's first Python programme came flooding back... ah, sweet nostalgia! If you have no idea what I am talking about here, read Sunday's article. In it, I presented the minimal four line Python snippet that sends email. In this article I will develop that core into a fully-functional command-line application.
Sunday, April 12, 2015

Python... and a letter to an editor

Python, the programming language, seems to be in the news more than usual. Or perhaps it's just the "Python For Beginners" article in Communications of the ACM that got me thinking. The article seems unreasonably critical for one ostensibly promoting the language. And so, for the first time, I've written a letter to the editor of that esteemed journal. More on that in a moment.

If I think through all of the technologies that have made my life easier and better, the first one that comes to mind is, quite naturally, the Internet. The second is Python, created by Guido van Rossum. Allow me to reminisce for a moment.
Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Meditations on Light" by Simon Whetham

music for solar eclipse

Simon Whetham is a sound artist whose work covers a wide range of activities, from installations to compositions to workshops. For a long time now I've avoided hearing much of his music, perhaps because I always had a feeling that it might be uncannily close to my own work. But now, following on the solar eclipse, it seems somehow appropriate to share my review of this particular excellent release.
Saturday, March 07, 2015

Portable Audio Recorders 2015 Update

Some of my most popular posts on this blog have concerned digital audio recorders. Between 2008 and 2010 companies released a steady stream of new models, utilising 24-bit A/D and SD card storage. These recorders were a godsend to those of us interested in field recording, since now we had access to smaller, more efficient, and less expensive units. It is no coincidence that field recording has flourished in the last five to seven years. This is enabling technology.

Most of the new recorders were targeted at the high SPL regime of band practice, live music, or interviews. Their microphone pre-amps were designed to withstand high signal level without distortion, but tended to be relatively noisy at low input levels.

My goal was to determine which models were fit for field recording. I bought several and borrowed others. I read extensively across all available information sources, some of which I list at the end of this post. Ultimately I made a choice perfect for my own practice, the Olympus LS-5 (or LS-11, or LS-10, all variants on fundamentally the same recorder). My detailed articles and comparison tables enabled others with different priorities to make their own decisions.

I've been rather silent on this topic in the last few years, for the simple reason that there have been no outstanding break-through in this area. Nonetheless, recent discussions on social media make this a good time to update my comparison table. I'll also pull together a list of historical articles, since they contain much information that is still useful.
Saturday, February 14, 2015

radioCona from Ljubljana

Zmajski most 1
Earlier this year I was invited to be part of radioCona, the "temporary project radio for contemporary arts" that is based in Ljubljana. Starting this Sunday, for five days, radioCona will broadcast on the FM bands, starting exactly at nightfall. "This is the time when the atmosphere is no longer filled with the fine sunlight, when the sun reaches 18 degrees or more below the horizon."

My composition "Caged Birds (Augmentation)" will be heard Monday. This is based on a dawn chorus, but there is something nice about it being transposed to the night-time. I believe that this is now the fifth country in which this composition has been presented.
Saturday, January 31, 2015

The 3TB problem, or: where did my drive go?


Have you got a large hard drive (3 TB or more) that shows up as a much smaller one when you go to use it? Read on for a free solution that works under Windows 7 and likely many other 64-bit operating systems.
Sunday, January 04, 2015

lunch at L'Antic Forn, Barcelona

It's time for a quick restaurant review, through photographs. This July I was lucky enough to be in Barcelona for a week. So many events stand out for me, including a fantastic lunch at L'Antic Forn, a place where the waiters are attired in white aprons and everything is just so. Barcelona can be expensive, but it has a tradition of "menu del mercat", where you can eat a filling lunch for the price of a single dinner item. Susannah and I did just that, picking the place randomly after a short walk in Raval, near her apartment.

L'Antic Forn means "old bakery", which is pleasing from the get-go. Bread is essential. Crusty, fluffy white rolls that go stale in a couple of hours, so you know they are not made with junk. That's something I cannot get in Ireland, so I do not eat bread when at home.

bread and beer
Friday, January 02, 2015

A year in photographs (part three)

If you haven't yet done so, now is the time to check out part one and part two of this recap, before continuing with this, the third and final instalment.

From 28-29 August I was in the east of Ireland, at the newly branded Maynooth University for "Audio Fabric: Socio-sonic Textures in the Real World", the annual convocation of the Irish Sound, Science and Technology Association (ISSTA). Every year since its inception I have followed this conference around the country. Indeed, I may be the only person to have presented at every session. My paper was "Field recoding - phonography and the creation of place". The rest of my time was taken up listening to the other contributors, seeking out the best pub in the (rather small) town, chatting with locals about history, recording the quiet corridors of a seminary, and getting trapped on private grounds (I escaped eventually).

Maynooth University
Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A year in photographs (part two)

As I explained in part one, I have decided to recap the year through my photography. Consider this my "open letter" to family and friends, a summary of what the year has meant to me.

2014 was also a significant year for Susannah, who accepted a month's residency in Barcelona to develop her interest in graphic art. She produced an intriguing time-lapse photo series for the group show. I was lucky enough to visit for a week, and captured this view of her studio.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A year in photographs (part one)

It's the New Year, a time for reflection. And this year I have much to be thankful for, because 2014 was truly enjoyable, stimulating, and challenging. I discovered new health ailments (nothing more about those!), travelled to amazing places near and far, heard some fantastic sounds, presented an inordinate number of talks and papers, launched a new career as a film-maker, and made some (personally) significant contributions to research in my field. I also got to watch my wife and daughter enter new creative phases in their lives.

And I took photographs of it all.

So here, in pictures, is a chronology of my 2014.