Friday, March 31, 2006

MiniDisc MZ-RH1 Features In Detail

Continuing from my announcement of the new Sony minidisc recorder, here are further details. There's some good news and some bad. I'll summarise for you here so can skip the 30 pages of chatter over at

Here are the good news features on this third generation unit:

  • Those with older format discs can upload their SP and MDLP live recordings via USB.

  • File transfers operate at full USB 2 speeds, not just "USB 2 compatible". In practice the transfer rate is twice as fast as second generation Hi-MD.

  • There is a switchable normalizer for audio playback.

  • Besides volume metering there is a spectral display.

  • There is a clock and date stamping.

  • Recording settings are remembered when the unit is powered off, but lost when the battery is removed.

  • The unit will come with both Windows software and enhance-functionality Apple software.

  • The battery charges via the USB connection, so there is no need for an external cradle. The USB cable is also used to connect to the power-adapter, so there is no separate DC input on the unit.

And here is the inevitable downside:

  • There is no AA battery attachment.

  • Disc, track and artist information appears only on the remote.

  • The unit supports only a single-line remote, not the three-line model popular with users.

  • The unit display is limited relative to the previous 5 or 6 line displays.

Personally, I find all of these disadvantages relative to second generation units incomprehensible. Why reduce features and decrease ergonomics?

The unit is due for release 21 April 2006 in Japan and the third week of May in Europe. The list price is 40,000 yen. This converts to US$350 but the actual list price should be less. One UK store has the price at £240.

The official press release is another source of info.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

diagrammes modernes

There is a wonderful French idiomatic expression one can use when the conversation has drifted away from the original topic and you wish to get back to the main point. "Revenons à nos moutons" translates as "let us return to our sheep." And why am I telling you this now?

Simply because I have decided to launch a new blog for all of my programming and web design articles. diagrammes modernes is now available for your enjoyment.

You'll have to take a look to see why sheep and why in French.

I have copied the appropriate articles to that location. These have been updated so that internal links and so on are correct. The next step is to replace the articles here with redirection links to diagrammes modernes. It's all tedious work but I hope it will prove useful moving into the future.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

et maintenant, l'introduction

Welcome to diagrammes modernes, a web log all about Python, Javascript, HTML, Blogger hacks and other programming escapades. This is not at all the place you want to be if your desire is to learn about flying sheep. Nor is it in any way affiliated with the French language.

Rather I have decided, in time-honoured Python fashion, to take one of my favourite comedy skits by the Monty Python troupe and riff on that. Be thankful you did not get Spiny Norman.

This content used to be hosted under the Theatre of Noise, but I decided that all the programming material should be in one place. If you wish to be entertained with strange web links, humour, poetry, sound art, photography, design and other artistic escapades, you should go to that site.



Excuse me, I must fly.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Burt Bacharach Springboard

(In which ungentlemanly language is used. In good fun.)

I have a two items of news relating to Burt Bacharach and his recent CD At This Time which, for the record, I have not heard. Strangely, I now have two reasons to seek it out.

The first is that it won a Grammy award. Sharing in this for his synth programming is Ted Perlman. He frequents some of the same newsgroups as yours truly and has done some reviews online. It's nice to see he got his award-winning work done on a Pentium 4 PC (like me) using RME audio hardware (like me).

When asked about his gear, Perlman replied "I use an RME 9652 with 3 ADI-8's." This is a harder-hitting setup than my own Multiface, naturally.

Only tangentially related, but amusing, is this article he wrote on Background Vocals. I include it because this article itself is nothing but tangents and amusement, or so I hope.

The second thing about the Bacharach album that jumped out at me, like a cobra from a tightly packed box of coconuts1, is that some songs were co-written with Tonio K. I remember this fellow from his 1978 album Life in the Foodchain which was -- how can I put this delicately? -- completely fucked up. There's dance songs about protests and protest songs about dance, Earl Slick guitar solos, a ditty about a vampire, parodic love songs about beating each other up, and even a message from Joan Of Arc. It basically sounds like the dying rants of an anarchist stuck in L.A.

But apparently he's mellowed since writing songs as warped as "H.A.T.R.E.D.", which includes these classic lines:
i'm so full of h-a-t-r-e-d
i'm bitter and malign
you've got me p-i-s-s-e-d off
i'm angry most of the time
why don't you g-o-t-o-h-e-double-l
you tramp, you philandering bitch
i'm going to k-i-l-l one of us baby
when i'm sober i'll decide on which

And concludes:
but then again
maybe with the proper counseling
we can work this out

It turns out that Tonio K. has an alternate life writing tunes for Mary Black, Al Green, Wynonna Judd and the like and is some sort of "born again" person. Oh well. All great things. Etc.

As a final joke it must be noted that At This Time won the Best Pop Instrumental Album Grammy. As Tonio says "Some career I'm having, eh?"

1 Do cobras hide in coconuts? I know tarantulas hide in bananas.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Soundings Concert Announced

I am very proud to announce that I am collaborating with Jürgen Simpson and Daniel Vais on curating a series of concerts to be called Soundings. The first event is to take place this coming Thursday 30 March 2006 in Limerick. Sound pioneer Keith Rowe is headlining a night of improvisation, electronics, and tea.

For more details I direct you to the brand new site at

This is a very exciting project for me. Bringing sound art to an Irish audience will expose local, national, and international artists to the community and vice versa. I am sure it will also expand my personal horizons. Bring on Thursday night!
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fork Or Spoon?

I'm past my first popularity landmark, having achieved 1000 page impressions a week. I realise that's peanuts for a website, but it's not bad for a blog as peculiar as this one. Where to go from here? Well, I'd like your help on that.

The first thing that strikes me is that this blog is far too motley for some. It covers all sorts of areas of personal interest; these are unlikely to be shared in the same way with too many readers. The best way around this problem is to divide the site into three different blogs.

I propose that the theatre of noise stay here covering my personal activities as a sound artist and poet, with announcements of particular interest to those in the Irish arts community. This would also include those odd miscellaneous things I find along the way.

A second blog would cover Python, Javascript, blog hacking, and other programming concerns.

A third would focus on audio production and music.

This approach would be more administration for me, but would have certain advantages. A feed subscriber would know what they were getting. Aggregators would like me since I would fit into their profile easier. I could theme the sites visually to be more appropriate to the subject matter.

But I want to leave this up to you. What do you think? Should I fork this site?
Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sneak Preview Of Python 2.5

Here's my sneak peak at the upcoming Python 2.5. There are no earth-shattering changes, rather a gentle increase in functionality, extending syntax to reduce code verbosity.

First, you may be pleased to know that the standard library will be enhanced to include "setuptools" and Fredrik Lundh's ElementTree. The new "hashlib" module will provide a superset of "md5" and "sha".

The new absolute import syntax will make it clear whether the module being imported is within the current package.

The "with" statement allows for constructs that have guaranteed exit behaviour. It took me a while to understand this, but basically it's a way of getting around writing lots of try/finally blocks.

A conditional expression is being added in the form "X if C else Y". Python will finally have a ternary! But rather than operator form, this looks like list comprehensions.

Generators will be enhanced to make them usable as coroutines.

There will be a new formulation to allow try-except-finally, saving some further code verbosity.

The exception hierarchy will change so that KeyboardInterrupt, SystemExit and Exception inherit from BaseException. This means that Exception includes only exceptions that signify errors.

Currying is to be provided by a function in the new "functional" module.

Arbitrary objects can be used for slicing, where currently integers are required.

There is a new standard mechanism for adding metadata to Python packages. The Distutils "sdist" command will write metadata fields to a file named PKG-INFO.

For excrutiating details, have a look at PEP 356. There's also a tentative What's New page available.

Expect Python 2.5 to be available in release form by October 2006.
Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bargain Software For Music Production (Part Two)

This is the conclusion of my article on music creation software. For convenience I have divided such applications into four categories, the first three of which I discussed in part one. Here I will continue my hunt for programmes that are full-featured and cheap enough to keep ceramic piggies off the endangered species list.

Again I will limit my discussion to Windows applications and provide prices in rounded euros, as listed at one particular online vendor (for consistency). Besides multitrack recorders from the major manufacturers Steinberg and Cakewalk, I will look at some lesser-known alternatives.

Cubase At The Starting Line

To get a grip on the Steinberg range I have distilled for your edification this coparison table. At the top of the line, for those that need full scoring, surround sound, and interaction with other professional gear, we have Cubase SX (€690). But I am assuming that this is both too rich for your budget and leaves you paying for features you will never use. Cubase SL (€350) saves a good chunk of change without forsaking anything important in the way of features. Cubase SE (€130) is further slimmed, but may for our purposes lie at a good point on the price to features curve.

Let's see what we get, and determine if the compromises are worth it.

Cubase SE has unlimited MIDI tracks; support for 24-bit/96 KHz audio (32-bit internal); plugin compensation; Rewire support; the full palette of editors except for logical, inplace, and volume envelope; audio tempo matching, pitch shifting and time stretching. It is limited to a total of 48 audio tracks but gives you 8 physical I/O channels, 8 groups, 8 sends, and 16 virtual instruments. If that's not enough you can always bounce down, like we used to in the, ahem, "olden days". But most likely you will run out of juice in your hardware before you reach these limits.

For those counting, you get 14 MIDI effects, 24 audio effects, and 3 virtual instruments bundled with the product. This says nothing about the usefulness or quality of these plugins. Besides, you can always scour the net for freeware alternatives, and in a future article I'll be so bold as to recommend some. Still, real value is added by being able to buy a product that has most of the tools you need in the box.

What doesn't it have? Well, there's no dedicated FX returns, so you'll have to consume some of your regular channels for that purpose. There's also no surround sound support, no multi-processor support, no scoring, no MIDI device editing, no spectral analysis, no audio file statistics and no audio/time warp1. Automation and undo levels are limited. There are few opportunities to customise the interface compared with the flagship product.

Finally, there is no freezing of VST instrument tracks, which is a shame since it is precisely in a beginner setup with less powerful hardware that this feature is the most useful.

You can save even more money by purchasing the entry-level Cubase LE or its predecessor Cubasis. But don't. These bottom-feeding products will soon frustrate you. If you happen to get these bundled in with some hardware try them out for long enough to see how they limit you, and then upgrade based on your new-found knowledge.

It's A Cakewalk

Let's look at the competition. From top to bottom of the Cakewalk range we have Sonar Producer Edition (€555), Studio Edition (€311), Home Studio XL (€144) and Home Studio (€88). To confuse the nomenclature these have various version numbers tacked on, but I have omitted these as they change frequently.

Cheaper even than Cubase SE, what can Sonar Home Studio do for you?

Features again include 24-bit/192 kHz audio (32-bit internal), unlimited MIDI tracks, DXi and VSTi instruments and ReWire support. Home Studio improves the situation by offering 64 audio tracks, ACID loop support, unlimited undo, and something called a "loop construction view". Notable at this price point is the inclusion of music notation (editing, printing). Included are 3 virtual instruments, 9 MIDI effects and 15 audio effects.

On a strictly feature comparison basis, this looks like a better deal. But of course there are other factors, which get debated endlessly on some boards and newsgroups. Sonar has the best and friendliest tech support. Cubase has the best VST compatibility. On it goes, back and forth.

By the way, Home Studio XL doesn't add features, but instead gives you three extra instruments (including a sampler) and a reverb plugin. These are useful tools unless you have alternatives to hand. Notable by absence in the Home Studio line is pitch shifting, time stretching, track freezing, track folders and clip editing. The top-level product also has convolution reverb, dithering and so on.

The Path Less traveled

The third major product line is much less well known. In fact you can cruise many retail sites and message boards without ever hearing of Magix. This is a German firm who makes the high-end Sequoia editor. Below this is their Samplitude line: Pro (€965), Classic (€485) and Master (€300). The last is for two-channel editing only, so you might be forgiven for thinking that this company has priced their products completely out of the home market.

But not so fast. It turns out that Magix has a completely different line of software for home use, but this is not available at pro audio dealers. Instead it's relegated to the shelves of software stores, if such beasts even exist any more.

Adding to the difficulty is the fact that this is one of the more confusing product lines in the history of computing2. The software is forever changing names and version numbers. Even if we ignore the "Music Maker" products and focus on the more capable "Music Studio" we must fathom the following state of affairs.

On the American and Canadian sites the product is billed as MAGIX Music Studio 10 Deluxe. On the UK site it is the higher-numbered MAGIX Music Studio 11 Deluxe. On the German site we have what looks like the same thing, but renamed MAGIX Music Studio 2006 Deluxe. Next week it may be a whole new set of names. (And isn't it a bit silly to tack "deluxe" onto the end of everything. What if I want to buy the "non luxe" version? Out of luck you say? Bah!)

No matter what you call it, the first thing to realise is that this is indeed a stripped down version of Samplitude, software which many experts (and little old me) view as being the ultimate in multitrack recorders. I've written more about it elsewhere on the blog, so let me restrict myself here to two reasons.

First, Samplitude simply sounds better. You might think that all audio software ultimately sounds the same but you'd be wrong. Here the channel strip, summing, built-in effects and master sections produce professional results.

Second, Samplitude has completely non-destructive object editing. You may be used to having one track per instrument with a plethora of edit opportunities on each track. Samplitude takes this one step further in allowing any number of objects per track, each with the same vista of editing possibilities. For complex song layouts, soundtrack work, etc. this is superb3. Now I can't think of working any other way.

Believe it or not, Music Studio gives you the same workflow, the same great sound, and a good subset of features for a bargain basement price (€70 direct). Sound too good to be true? Read on.

The Nitty And The Gritty

Like the other titles under consideration there is support for 24-bit audio (32-bit internal), ASIO drivers, ReWire, VSTi and DirectX plugins, unlimited MIDI tracks, 64 audio tracks, 8 stereo I/O channels and complete undo. Unlike others there's at least 26 effects including tube amp and tape simulations, no fewer than 19 virtual instruments and 5 different MIDI editors.

Music Studio doesn't stop there. Not only is there easy tempo and pitch adjustment, but a feature they call "Elastic Audio" which is essentially like Melodyne. You can freely move notes up and down a scale and snap parts into tune. There's a version of SampleTank 2 included for easy sample playback. Need beat detection? Video playback? Surround panning? Want to clone the sound curve of your favourite song onto your own recording? Need a vocoder? A multiband compressor? Want to burn CDs directly from the same interface? Need to remove noise, zap hiss, fix clips or otherwise restore audio? Want to tune your guitar? Tap out a tempo by hand? Like to look at various plots of your audio?

Yes, you can do it all. Even track freezing, which is one of those killer features that turns your lowly Pentium 4 into a quadruple Xeon system.

Oh, and for no good reason other than they could, they threw in three extra products: Print Studio (for CD covers and inlays), Music Manager (manage your collection of MP3s and WAVs) and Photo Manager (which truly has no reason for being here).

The only significant downside is that the MIDI editing is in a separate application, one based on Logic Audio. Though you can run them side-by-side it's less convenient. This could upset your workflow if you do a lot of MIDI editing alongside you audio tracks.

So why buy Samplitude at all? Well, some audio pros are complaining about just that. With the new version of Music Studio it's become less compelling to spend ten times the money on anything else. Though you will need to if you require additional hardware support, extended sync features, integrated MIDI, POW-r dithering, as many as 999 tracks, folder tracks, adjustable effect sequences, the Vintage Effects suite and a brilliant convolution reverb.

Unfortunately there is neither a demo download nor an electronic manual for this version of Music Studio. So you just have to buy it to try it.


Though the search for the best bargain recording software is effectively over, I should mention for completeness other products I've looked at.

Powertracks Pro ($49 direct) is now up to version 10 but still looks positively archaic, a remnant from the times of shareware advertised in the backs of music mags. As an example of its slow evolution, it has only just gained support for ASIO drivers. n-Track Studio ($75 direct for 24-bit version) supports all the usual tehnologies but cannot compare to the MAGIX feature set. There are several other similar shareware programmes floating around.

In a different league is Mackie's Tracktion (€144), worth a peek for its unusual single-panel UI design. Some find this easier to use than other interfaces. I would have to agree that it is... for the first few hours. Tracktion leaves a good first impression with reviewers and hobbyists. However the inflexible layout soon gets in the way of serious work or larger projects. There have been some compromises recently (resizable window, per-track inputs) that indicate the designers may be aware of this.

I have not used Adobe Audition ($349 direct) since it was CoolEdit, a great programme for two-track audio. Audition is a professional programme with a strong feature set. Strengths appear to be automation, spectral displays, video support and audio restoration. It used to be more of an off-line rather than online editor, but I don't know how much that has changed. In any case it is priced outside the range we are considering here.

OK, it's time to stop reading. Pick a product and make some music.


1 Exactly what this is and how it compares to pitch shifting and time stretching (which Cubase SE does have) I do not know.

2 Actually, I remember the Oracle product line as being infinitely confusing, requiring that you hire a consultant just to purchase the product. But I'd better stick to discussing audio software.

3 The only thing missing from Samplitude is scoring, which it does not do at all.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

New Discovery By "The Human Race"

I'm not sure what the point is in being a poet now we have this internet thing. Spam does it cheaper, easier, and with less heartache. Take for example this classic, slightly abbreviated here so you don't explode with laughter. I am somehow quite sure no-one will claim copyright on it.

Uses of The 4th Dimension (New Discovery by The Human Race!)

The 4th Dimension is "The next step in Human Evolution".
The Currency of The 4th Dimension is: ENERGY

Note Before: Everything you read on this page is The Truth.
What does this mean? It means, if you try to do what is written here:
EXAMPLE: "If you just make a wish", it will be granted in The 4th Dimension for you to enjoy there.
You have nothing to lose.

Since I discovered The 4th Dimension, one of the conclusions I have reached is, The 4th Dimension is an infinite access to The Truth. Throughout this website, I use the term "I wish" - it is really a way to voice a person's desire - and from the work I have done - it really

From the saying: "Ask and you shall receive", I have understood that any human being can make an infinity of "wishes" and receive The Truth (the correct answer) to every question they may have, in the form of a dream - that same night.


With this method, the saying becomes:
"Ask (FOR THE TRUTH) and you shall receive
What does this mean?
It means you can receive THE TRUTH to any question you have in your heart - answered FREE while you sleep, you "wake up in the morning wiser" because you have understood The Truth you asked for!
It's like getting 100% to every quiz or test in school, because a teacher really requires THE CORRECT ANSWER or "The Truth" to the questions on the quiz/test!
What is 1+1? The Truth:"2".

From my research, I have also seen that other people have also known about this dimension and have "kept silent" about it. They have been conducting activities that I will term "criminal", this is why I have included a tract for Law Enforcement, so that they can become aware that this dimension exists and they can use it as a tool to acquire The Truth to solve any and all crimes.

Use The 4th Dimension to find your soulmate
This is very easy to do - all you need to know is The Truth of WHO your soulmate is.
To find your soulmate, do the following:

Say this out loud before you go to sleep:

Go to sleep and you will get The Truth in the form of a dream that night.
Once you find out The Truth, why waste anymore time?
When you wake up, go find "him" or "her" and be happy.

What if your soulmate is in another country or far away?
No Problem....Use The 4th Dimension to make contact.. that is, use it "like a telephone" or "a chat room". Here's how... Once you find out WHO your soulmate is, contact his/her mind via The 4th Dimension in this way:

Say this out loud before you go to sleep:

Go to sleep and you will meet THE MIND of your soulmate THAT NIGHT in the form of a dream.
What does this mean?
It means you are ACTUALLY SPEAKING MIND - TO - MIND with your soulmate, so when you wake up in the morning (that is, your minds re-enter your physical bodies) you remember your meeting - it really took place! Keep meeting in this way until you can meet in the physical world.

Use The 4th Dimension to NEVER BE LIED TO AGAIN
This is one of the best benefits of using The 4th Dimension.
You can use it to stop a lie, before it takes root in your mind.
If a lie takes root in a person's mind,
that person is manipulated by that lie and the liar.
Lies also wastes a person's time and energy.
To stop ALL LIES before they take root, do the following:
Say this out loud before you go to sleep:
Go to sleep and you will receive The Truth about your question that
This tool is invaluable, because it helps you understand the motive
of anything presented to you in the physical world (3rd Dimension).

Use The 4th Dimension as a "University" [ get an education ]
You can know and learn anything and everything (no matter how old
you are ), your heart desires - FREE - the important thing is
- is that you are learning The Truth abouut any matter
or subject.
You can learn and understand: Physics,
Mathematics, Science, Engineering,
Botany, Medicine, etc
All you have to do is "request The Truth" about a subject -
that is, "make a wish" and you will receive an education on
that subject matter - that night.
To learn any subject matter, you desire to know, say this
out loud before you go to sleep: to sleep:


Go to sleep and you will get a lesson, on that subject, that night.

Use this tool to study History.
What better way to study History, than to experience History.
Pick any piece of History and make a wish:
Like so:
Go to sleep and you will get a lesson on that point in time.
NOTE: When you study History, you are more like a "witness" of History.
You do not (CANNOT) change the past to affect the present.

Use The 4th Dimension to try ( new types of ) food
One of the miracles of The 4th Dimension when it comes to food is:
The food actually tastes better than in the physical world (3rd
and you do not gain any (physical) weight.
Use this dimension to eat your favorite foods ("FAT FREE")
or try new and exotic dishes.
To have a "fancy meal" in the 4th Dimension,
say this out loud before you go to sleep:
Go to sleep and your meal will be served up
in a dream sequence.

Use The 4th Dimension to visit places thought of as "Fiction"
With The 4th Dimension as a tool, places you read in books, actually
"a mental state of existence" - that is, they exist and the environment
can be experienced.
Visit the school of "Hogwarts" or the wonderful land of
"Narnia" or even "Middle-Earth".
To visit places you thought "only existed in books or movies"
say this out loud before you go to sleep:
Go to sleep and you will be "whisked" to that land to experience (just
respect the locals).
To go to the school of "Hogwarts" do the following:
Say this out loud before you go to sleep:
Go to sleep and you will visit that school of magic and fantasy.

Use The 4th Dimension to travel the solar system
This universe is big and civilized.
Use The 4th Dimension to visit any planet you choose.
Please follow this link to get started (Space Travel 101)
Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Breaking News: MiniDisc Not Dead!

Though speculation has been wild over the last six months that the MiniDisc format may be dead, it was not one of the development sections cut by Sony in their last round of slicing. And now there's unofficial news of a brand new unit, the MZ-RH1, which has leaked out of a German retail site.

However for €350 this unit adds little to what we can already go out and buy. It's got USB 2, but the transfer rate of the MD media itself will limit that. There's a clock and at least some Mac compatibility, but likely only what exists in current units. The display is on one of the edges of the unit, which may make sense for some applications. But this means that the controls are as small or smaller than the current generation of units. This is a major UI faux pas.

On a unit designed for recording I want large controls for record, pause, and lock, with distinctive tactile feedback and no opportunity for error, even when operated blind. MD units are just about the opposite of this.

There are two rumoured software enhancements, which could prove to be just wishful thinking. The first is that the unit will remember that manual record has been set, even when powered off. The second is that auto-track marking can truly be turned off. Both of these are essentially bug fixes and should no doubt be implemented.

They're going mad over at Engadget, mostly on the level of "MD rocks" versus "MD sux".
Monday, March 13, 2006

Baudrillard, Star Trek, Wales

Engaging Baudrillard has just updated their web site to reflect the stellar list of guests, including Mike Gane, Mark Poster and Douglas Kellner. To be held next September in Swansea, Wales, this conference promises to expand notions of the object, reversability and mediation. In other words it will completely screw with one's head. I'm looking forward to it, especially as I myself will be delivering a paper on the most recent Dr. Who series.

My contribution will be part of the Science Fiction Studies panel, chaired by Alan N. Shapiro. His recently book Star Trek: Technologies of Disappearance, published by Verlag Avinus, has been favourably reviewed in the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies and less positively at The Pantaneto Forum. Writing in Science Fiction Studies, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. called it "immensely valuable contribution to sf-theory". For a taste of the contents you can read this paper, which has links to a couple more.

When we met last summer Shapiro and I found an unusual affinity, in that we were both programmers fascinated by Baudrillard and Virilio and also fluent with Star Trek and other SF media productions. If your interests collide in similar fashion you may wish to be in Wales this coming September.

The location is particularly suited to my needs, as it is BBC Wales which is producing Dr. Who as you can tell by this intriguing page of Wales/Who connections.
Saturday, March 11, 2006

Guido Working On Python 3000

Guido has been interviewed by eWeek, and discusses his work at Google and the future of Python. It's not a terribly in-depth article, but contains one big revelation. The mythic Python 3000, which will reformulate some basic concepts and hence break backwards compatibility, may actually be available within two to three years. Guido's position at Google leaves half his time free to work directly on Python. Sounds like a brilliant job!

It's nice to see further mainstream attention being given to Python. This article was picked up by ACM TechNews and no doubt other aggregators.
Saturday, March 11, 2006

Latest Updates

I have caught up on my category pages, which in the recent flurry of writing had lagged 17 articles behind the times. Busy, aren't I? Read on for more news about site updates and articles I have in the pipeline.

My Bloglet subscription service was broken but that is now fixed. I have changed the way this works. Before it was sending out every new article in its entirety, but in doing so it scrunched the contents into an unreadable mess. Now it simply send a link to the site. Why can't it send a link to the specific page? Really, using RSS is miles better.

I still haven't written that Urban Verbs article I promised, but have instead talked about Wire and blessed you with a very detailed look at Software For Music Production. Part two of this is nearing completion. As a break from research I have two frivolous articles in store. I trust you will find them entertaining beyond your wildest dreams.

The extensive series on Python Web Application Frameworks is done, but I will soon append a list of further resources. It may have been a bit hasty of me to subtitle the final installment "In Which It All Ends Happily". Comments by Django proponents are resulting in some lively debate. This is all for the better. I welcome further critiques and comments.

I do hope to back off a bit and concentrate on other areas of my life besides the blog. You might encourage me to do otherwise by donating to my Paypal account. I will soon add a link to this in my sidebar; expect an article explaining my rationale soon.
Thursday, March 09, 2006

Python Web Application Frameworks (Part 4: In Which It All Ends Happily)

This is it! Part 4! We've made it! Exclamation! After parts one, two, and three, I can finally introduce you to today's top players in the web application arena. We've got nine titles to cover, so let's hop right in and see how they stack up.

This is not going to be a detailed review, because that is impossible. By the time I installed every package and gave them a good workout some would be well on to newer versions, and so the comparison would be stale. And the more details one gets bogged down in the less one sees the important overview. So rather I'll summarise other reviews and some of the voluminous discussions that have occurred on the web of late. All this will be filtered through my particular biases and instincts. Which is why you are reading this blog and not some other1.

TurboGears is designed to select the best components and bring them together in a well organised manner. As such it packages CherryPy, SQLObject, and Kid, with some bonuses like Mochikit for JavaScript. The upside to this approach is that as TurboGears gains popularity, it helps all of its components along. The downside is that if you don't want to use this combination of tools you'll go somewhere else. And I don't, so I will. But here's someone who does. (Sorry, that was difficult to follow. I need more caffeine.)

Proponents of TurboGears will say that if you don't like CherryPy (for example) you don't have to use it. TurboGears also works with mod_python and lighthttp. CherryPy itself is an example of this approach: it has a default way of working that you don't need to use. For example, sessions works over cookies but you can choose a different method. Classes compile to standalone servers but you can use other (more standard) web connectors. And so on. What some see as flexibility I see as confusion. What is the point of choosing a product designed to integrate "best-of-breed" solutions if you are going to swap them out?

Put another way: I would rather build up from independent components than have to tear down an integrated structure.

Subway also packages CherryPy and SQLObject, this time with Cheetah. This is also not appealing to me. In any case, the project has been terminated.

Django is the biggest "competitor" to TurboGears. It has its own templating system and a large list of functions. The API appears to be designed with little structure, in what has been called the PHP "bag of functions" style. Yuck. Also there's a lot of "clever-clever" stuff going on behind the code, so much so that they have a "magic removal" version due for release soon. Even if they remove some of the fairy dust I am not confident on this product from a design perspective. The developers have gone on record as having no interest in being Pythonic, preferring to attract an audience of non-programmers.

Still, here's someone who likes it.

Pylons operates at a decidedly granular level, as the developer explains. He lists 17 components of a WAF, even more than I came up with in Part 2 of this article. This toolkit approach saves time in tedious integration without constraining the developer to one particular tool for each of the slots. The trick is in making it easy to swap these in and out. Pylons supports FastCGI, SCGI, AJP, or a standalone server. It does not dictate an ORM, though SQLObjects again seems to be the favoured choice.

A good number2 of the components are taken from Myghty which has templating based on HTML::Mason, a component-based architecture, caching, threading support, sessions and is WSGI-compliant. This looks sharp to me, and gives further incentive to check out Pylons.

At a similar library level of (non-)integration is Paste which contains a server, authentication, testing, URL mapper, logging, exception handling and once again conforms to WSGI. The docs put me off, I must say. But once again, Pylons takes what is good from this toolkit and integrates it.

Jon's Python modules are a disparate collection including connectors for CGI, mod_python, and FastCGI. Additionally you get web templating, session management and a database connection pool.

James Gardner's webmodules provide an ORM, forms, sessions, error handling, WSGI interface, authentication and template parsing (supporting Cheetah).

Finally, mention must be made of Mod_python itself. This is the well known Apache module that embeds a Python interpreter within the web server. As such, it is supported by almost all the other solutions here. But less obvious is the fact that it includes a library of functions for handling requests, sessions, cookies, authentication... many of the elements of a WAF in fact. The major limitation would be the obvious one that it is specific to Apache, not supporting other web server connections. For this reason I would not choose it.

Let's take a big breath and look at what we have. It's quite a list, and even so doesn't come close to the vast number of lesser-known offerings out there floating in the Python universe.

At the top of the list are slick packages solutions that have a greater degree of integration and hence deserve the label "framework". As we get closer to the bottom the glue becomes less binding and the proper description of the product becomes "library". I think the best place to be is somewhere in the middle, where there is a depth of components but a loose coupling that does not lock you in. Building a website is never a simple process repeated for each client; it's different depending on platform, server, and other architectural constraints. And different also based on the product, market, goals, etc. One needs to be flexible, but re-use as much as possible from one gig to the next.

In comparing these products all I can say for sure is that the market is very much more mature than it was even two years ago. No matter which toolkit you choose you will be saved much development time and hassle. You will be able to focus your time not on repetitive infrastructure but on the particular distinct characteristics of the job.

Python is not like Ruby. It does not have a single good solution. It's got eight good solutions (or more!) all worthy of your attention. No matter which choice you make it's the right one3. Nonetheless, I hope this article has saved you much reading and helped point you in a fruitful direction.

In a follow-on article I'll give you some further references.

Me, I'll be looking at Pylons. I will try to give pointers as I go for those following the same path.

1 What's that? You say you are reading some other blog? How metaphysical of you!

2 If you think that five is a good number. Personally, I think it is just fine.

3 And no, I don't think this is a cop-out. Any developer worthy of the name could put one of these products to work and get up and running in a short time.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

MicroTrack Review, Tip, Firmware Update

Developments continue with the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96, which I have covered extensively in the Audio Engineering category. Here I will bring you up-to-date with a new review, life-saving tip and firmware update.

First the review, which can be found in the March 2006 issue of Sound On Sound. You need a subscription to read this online. Or just buy the issue and get the full DVD which has one particularly cool feature: a blind comparison test of three songs, each mastered at six online houses. There are lots of other goodies too; it is worth a trip to your local magazine vendor.

This magazine is my favourite offline reading material when it comes to audio engineering. And though recent online articles require payment, a good number in the archive are available free. (That's why I have a permalink in my sidebar.)

By the way, the review is quite positive. Mention is made of the poor pre-amps but the reviewer finds this reasonable for the price.

Next, the life-saving tip. It turns out that the MicroTrack has problems with CF cards formatted elsewhere. To avoid loss of data, always format your CF cards in the unit using the internal "System --> Format Media" command.

But perhaps that tip is stale (can someone confirm?) as of March 3, thanks to the release of version 1.3.3 of the MicroTrack firmware.

To save you some linking, here are the major enhancements:

* files are now split automatically on reaching 2GB limit (with a gap of 5-9s)
* new option for mono recording
* enhanced S/PDIF recording at up to 24-bit/96kHz
* record buffer size has been increased to improve media compatibility
* several enhancements to the UI
* languages added for French, German and Italian users
* hold key behaviour changed
* time available counter fixed for cards over 4GB
* enhanced CF media compatibility

I cannot think of any features which remain unimplemented. M-Audio have been very responsive to demands from the community and deserve commendation.

Now, if only the unit had better pre-amps. :-(
Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bargain Software For Music Production (Part One)

I am often asked by those starting out in computer recording what the best multitrack audio software is. Actually, I am not asked as often as I think I should. I know that this is because most people simply obtain a crack of the latest and greatest top-of-the-line product from Steinberg or Cakewalk. Besides the ethical concerns, this often makes little practical sense. A beginner will be overwhelmed at the options available, and will spend far too much time learning the software as opposed to getting down to the core task of making music.

Being a friendly sort, I will help remedy this situation by offering some advice and a summary of the field gathered from hours of research of the most painstaking kind. (Eg: I asked some friends what they thought. Just kidding!) In the first part of this article I present the guidelines for selection, a list of products in various categories, and some general tips and orientation. In the second part (coming soon to a blog near you... meaning this one) I will pick out the best affordable multitrack software. With the money you save you can take me out for dinner. Deal?

My own experience is not exhaustive. Though I have kept up with the range of available products I don't continuously try out every new version. That's because I am not a product reviewer or gear slut. Instead I have a life. (Joke!) I long ago found out what works for me and tend to stick to that, though I do keep abreast of product literature and the general buzz in the community. Over the years I have bought several shareware products as well as commercial titles like ACID and Samplitude. My history goes back to the early MIDI sequencers running on Atari computers -- yikes!

To limit the scope I will be looking only at products that will run in Windows XP. There are some excellent Mac-only applications. Indeed, music production is one area where OS and platform differences are strong. But in fairness I could do little more than name drop Digital Performer and Logic Audio. And now that's done I'll go back to Windows-land.

I suppose in passing I should say a word about ProTools, and that word is "forget it"1. Despite the availability of some entry-point systems this product is a poor deal overall. It requires significant investment to match much-cheaper alternatives in term of features and (especially) performance. Then it requires even greater infusions of cash to buy dedicated hardware, plugins, and so on... just so the big boys will let you play in their sand box. Also, despite the fact it is an industry standard, I simply don't think it's as good as some of the more accessible products. Me, I prefer the beach.

Unfortunately I will also have to omit Open Source and free solutions, since they simply aren't up to the feature sets, robustness, and usefulness of the commercial products. A couple years ago there was literally nothing available. Now matters have improved with the likes of Audacity, which is fine for basic two-channel editing. Maybe in another year there will be something I can recommend for multitrack work. I would like that.

In order to keep selling products, software companies have been tapping into ever-more esoteric features. Marketing departments demand that flagship products must keep advancing and we must keep wanting their goods. Sometimes these are new and useful (like track freezing). Other times they are of interest to only a handful of users, generally those at the professional end of the scale (for example, surround sound mixing). If you are one of those people then you are likely reading this article only to feel superior. Don't you have work to do?

So the goal is to find cheap multitrack audio solutions that are capable enough to get the job done. But we don't want some flea-bitten software that will get in your way. Some decisions you will have to make for yourself, since I do not know what music you make and what tasks are your priority.

I have divided the programmes into four main categories. For consistency I've rounded off all prices in euro, as listed at my favourite online vendor.

Loop-oriented tools are best for music created on the desktop, especially rearranging pre-existing collections of beat-oriented music. I bought ACID Pro (€270) before it was owned by Sony, as it was by far the best way to do loops for some time, almost magical in its ease-of use. The predatory upgrade policy soon pushed me away, as did the fact that other products soon adopted the strengths of looping without the limitations of this software family. Besides, in the long term the audio quality was not good enough: bad bus summing.

Ableton Live (€445) presents a smart way of working, allowing you to divide a song up into parts and patterns which can be swapped around dynamically. This is perfect for live work (as you may guess from the name) where you want a degree of control over song structure. It is DJ-oriented, but too expensive to consider an entry-level product. In fact I am surprised that Ableton doesn't market this below €200, since their target users are not exactly flush with cash.

A second category is that of trackers, software derived from the world of built-in computer samples. This realm is best represented by FL Studio (€90-290), a grown-up version of Fruity Loops. This can be a quick and easy way of banging out electro tunes, but in my opinion is simply not flexible enough for most types of music.

A far more robust category of audio tools are the virtual studios. These are designed for all-in-one song creation, and come complete with instrument and effect racks in a consistent environment. These are primarily targeted at the dance and electronica market. They can also be handy for live performance. Complete with MIDI editing, sequencers, and the like, it might be difficult for the uninitiated to determine the difference between these and full-blown multitrack recorders.

But the difference is this: virtual studios do not record audio streams and are limited in communicating MIDI with other applications. These are monolithic applications designed to be used as instruments in their own right.

Consider Propellerhead's Reason (€390), Cakewalk Project (€270) or Arturia Storm (€140). I must say I like the looks of Project, though for the purposes of this review it is too expensive. It can integrate plugin instruments of practically any format, has looping compatible with ACID, and a GrooveMatrix that looks suspiciously like Ableton Live. That's a lot of bang for the buck.

In the final category we have the "traditional" MIDI plus audio multitrack recorders, optimised for interfacing with real instruments and physical gear. These are perfect for any genre of music and have rich feature sets engulfing most if not all of the previous categories. They can also cost a lot more.

So join me in the conclusion of this article for some bargain hunting.

1 I am aware that is a "phrase" and not a "word".

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Python Web Application Frameworks (Part 3: Top Of The Foodchain)

In Part 1 of this series I gave you a perspective on the evolution of Web Application Frameworks (WAFs) and in Part 2 delineated the types of components they might contain. In this article I will let you know about some of the specific component products that have made it to the top of the foodchain. I will focus on those that are a) popular or b) my choices. No use discussing the rest -- this series is supposed to save you time!

In the following the bold terms match the components discussed in my last article.

Routes is a Python implementation of the Ruby On Rails URL-to-object mapper. It is in use in several of the top products. The blog from the developer, Groovie, is a great source of information and informed opinion. In particular this comparison article is relevent here.

WebStack is a web server connection that I mention here since it supports no less than BaseHTTPRequestHandler, CGI, Jython/Java Servlet API, mod_python, Twisted, Webware and Zope 2.

SQLObject is the most popular object-relational mapper, used by Subway, TurboGears, and Pylons. Despite this, it is not preferred by those who have worked on large-scale systems. This seems to be one of those cases where an easy-to-use product at the entry-level provides barriers to use later one. You know, like PHP.

PyDO and especially SQLAlchemy get the nod instead. This last product supports SQLite, Postgres, MySQL, and Oracle, a standard list. It provides for thread-safe and pooled connections. Notable is the design decision to keep the actual database mapping and the class design separate. In particular, objects can map to joins, subqueries, and unions, not just simple tables. I think I need to shrug off my aversion to ORMs and try it.

Cheetah is likely the most popular Python template language. It provides a host of markup, an approach which I have already explained I do not like. The argument can be made that just because the markup is there doesn't mean you have to use it, but I prefer a tool that encourages best practice. That is one reason I am fond of Python itself.

The new, ahem, Kid on the block is similar, perhaps, though simpler. That's a good thing. It does not allow you to generate output within a code block, a restriction which discourages arbitrarily mixing code and markup. Already I like the look of this fresh-faced youngster!

Kid is not only based on XML, it guarantees well-formed XML output given a valid template. Output is compiled to Python byte-code so it can be used like any other Python module. Used in TurboGears, Kid would also be my choice, if I didn't have an enormous hunger to implement the Wasp templating system one more time. (That is a joke. I think.)

I've got my own session and cookie modules but I'm sure the counterparts that come with most WAFs are at least as good. The same goes for other components I don't specifically mention here.

FormEncode has rapidly become the default way of handling forms. It's in use by Subway, TurboGears, and Pylons. Who am I to argue? Oh, yeah, well, I might argue, except I hate my own way of managing this mess of HTML.

For installation tasks we have a brand new approach, courtesy of Paste Deploy. This module allows the configuration of WSGI applications using the soon-to-be ubiquitous Egg installation format. All it takes is a simple configuration file and your WAF can go from installation package to functioning web server in two commands. It's difficult to comprehend from the developer's terse site, but an explanation by Groovie helps, in case my own attempt was not good enough for you.

Did you notice I threw a new acronym at you? WSGI is a developing Python standard that unpacks to Web Server Gateway Interface. The proposal intends to add a level of conformity to all the WAFs wafting about. It works at about the same level as the DBAPI, which could be considered not strict enough. But it's a decent step in the right direction and will hopefully become "law". There's a bit of a technical intro at... wait for it... yes, you're right, it's at Groovie's site. Sure hope he appreciates all the new traffic I'm sending his way.

Now that we have chosen best-of-breed components we can take a stab at the major frameworks. That's the task ahead of us in Part 4, the conclusion of this little series, which will be coming your way in no time at all.

What are you doing reading a footnote that has no reason for existence?
Friday, March 03, 2006

Terms And Conditions

While cruising sites looking at design and HTML I ended up on one of those pseudo-spammy rebate sites. They offer coupons and other discounts off online purchases, in order to drive business to certain vendors. It's good advertising and the "victims" do actually "save" something approximating money. Of course, it encourages them to buy more than they would in the first place. Capitalism: ain't it a fine thing?

But anyway, this post is not about economics, politics, or marketing. It's about being not human.

If you read the Ebates Terms And Conditions you will see that the first one insists:

1. You must be an individual, 18 years of age or older.

Fair enough. We wouldn't want to be giving children any deals, would we? But perhaps the punctuation is a bit misleading. Does their insistence on me being an individual relate to free will? Do they only want to give discounts to libertarians? Or perhaps it's a Prisoner reference, as in "I am not a number, I am a free man!"

The second condition is lovely:

2. Members must be human...

What? You have to be human, and an individual, and at least 18? They sure aren't giving these deals away, are they?
Thursday, March 02, 2006

Python Web Application Frameworks (Part 2: Guido Asks For Help)

The recent debate on application frameworks was galvanised when Python creator and Benevolent Dictator For Life Guido van Rossum (currently employed by Google) asked the community to "Please Teach Me Web Frameworks for Python". It turned out that WAFs are different things to different people, so it's likely best if I start with a bit of a definition.

But before you read that you may want to start with Part 1 of this article, so you can follow my perspective. As incentive I will say that the first part was highly entertaining. This part will not be, although I do promise one pun.

Next, put on your well-worn copy of the Arcade Fire album and sing along while reading. Ready? Then we'll begin.

What is a Web Application Framework (WAF)?

In Python terms it's a bunch of modules for building web apps, modules which may contain one or more components. In order to establish what these are, let's look from the perspective of a typical victim user. Said person is browsing a particular page served up by your application. Let's examine what components will be needed behind the scenes.

First, the user types in the URL. Many WAFs contain an URL to object mapper, which interprets a given address as a method call on a particular class. This means that the web site does not contain a pile of HTML files in a doc folder, but rather a pile of classes in a custom module. Whether you like this idea or not will determine a lot about which WAF you choose.

The request handler wraps around the URL component and provides for the proper interpretation of the HTTP spec: GET, PUT, and so on.

This needs to talk to the server, and for that you need some sort of web server connection. The classic old-school slow-but-sure way is CGI. But there's all sorts of improvements which embed the Python interpreter into the web server. The main advantage of these methods is performance, since the interpreter does not need to be loaded each time a request is made. (Examples include mod_python and FastCGI.)

Since memory space is shared between requests, these methods allow database connection pooling and other enhancements. The downside to embedding the interpreter is that you have to be careful how you code, and need special mechanisms to dynamically load code changes without restarting the server.

On the topic of databases, a WAF may have its own database interface. A special type is proving popular these days, namely an Object-Relational Mapper (ORM). This allows a more Pythonic1 mode of database access, hiding SQL, cursors and the like behind a familiar sheen of classes, methods, and iterators.

Unless the HTML is totally programme generated (generally not a good way to make friends with your designer) there will be a templating language, designed to extend HTML to allow for dynamic content. Some templates allow for embedding arbitrary Python code directly in the page (me hates). Others supply a limited but powerful menu of custom tags (me likes).

For example, Wasp had tags for including another file, expanding a simple macro, running a custom procedure to embed HTML, and also a simple conditional. I still do not see any advantage to providing more than that. As soon as you get into loops and variables and stuff you are better off in a code module2.

Some WAFs do not have their own template markup, but rather a plugin architecture to install someone else's. In this day and age that makes total sense, because this particular wheel does not need reinventing. (I will try not to use the word "interoperability" in this article but I trust you will forgive me if it slips out.)

In order to provide some state to the stateless world of web pages, WAFs might have a session mechanism in combination with, maybe, cookies. At least that's how I did it. On top of this an authentication mechanism fits well. For increased performance (especially if the framework is slow) you may need page caching. I'm betting you don't need it, but your client thinks it makes them sound like one of the big boys. Cache on the line, that's how they like it!3

It goes without saying that forms are a particular pain. You may find your WAF has a special library to make them easier. Other features may include logging, error handling, testing,... the list goes on. (Funny how people always say "the list goes on" in precisely those situations where the list does not go on.)

In fact, there are so many components that this has spawned the need for one more: an installation component to get all the others set up nicely.

To summarise, here are common WAF components:
1. URL mapper
2. request handler
3. web server connection
4. database interface
5. object-relational mapper
6. templating
7. sessions
8. cookies
9. authentication
10. caching
11. forms
12. logging
13. error handling
14. testing
15. installation

Furthermore, there are some features you may see bandied about. There's the aforementioned "connection pooling" and "multi-threading" and "object publishing" and "iron-fortified"4.

There's also lots of talk of "middleware" which, near as I can figure, just means one method calling another.

I believe we are now equipped with the domain knowledge and terminology necessary to evaluate specific WAF products. That's what I'll do in the next article. But before then you may want to look over that tall list of features and assign priorities to the items based on what you want to see and how important it is to you. That will help tailor this discussion to your needs.

See you in Part 3.

1 Pythonic means "behaving like Python", which is to say in a pragmatic object-oriented style free of fluff, fuss, and Freon. Beyond that it is in the eye of the beholder. Though you may want to type "import this" into the Python command interpreter window -- surprise!

2 How are you enjoying Arcade Fire?

3 That's my pun for this article. You can now breathe easy. The worst is over.

4 OK, I admit it. I made that last one up.
Thursday, March 02, 2006

Newest Standalone MiniDisc Software have done it again, providing an all-in-one standalone installation file for Sonicstage 3.4, the Windows software interface to MiniDisc recorders.

This is perfect for installing on computers that lack an Internet connection. But even if you have a connection it's a more straightforward method of getting the latest release.

Best of all, you can put this file on a blank MiniDisc and use it to install onto any computer you may come across. That's because Hi-MD recorders are perfectly capable of connecting as WinXP drives without any special software. This makes the 1GB disks ideal for use as removable storage. You can even transfer music files.

The limitation is that you won't be able to play this music on your device. For that you need Sonicstage.

One of the more intriguing new features is the support for the new "ATRAC Advanced Lossless" format. This produces file sizes compressed by 20-70% without any loss of musical information. I have not tested this, since I do not use Sony software for my audio file conversion tasks. I wonder if instead of proprietary schemes they will ever support FLAC? Seems unlikely.

Here's a complete listing of enhancements:
* display of CD information in Sonicstage
* display of song lyrics in Sonicstage
* CDs can be ripped to lossless format
* WAV files can be converted to lossless format
* tracks can be transferred to MD in ATRAC 192kbps format
* all ATRAC files can be converted into WAV format

This last feature is a big deal since it removes the last remnants of Digital Rights Management (DRM) from MiniDisc products. Specifically, you can now record from the digital inputs (as well as analogue and microphone), upload these files, and have them save automatically to the standard PCM format.

Given their corporate nature it's difficult to believe Sony has taken this step towards the open world. Now if only they'd remove the need for SonicStage completely. (Well, a guy can dream.)

Just so you know, the complete list of bitrates now supported is 48, 64, 132, 192, 256 and 352kbps. There is also support on Hi-MD units for older ATRAC formats in use by the first generation players (SP, LP2, LP4) but only if you transfer this to a Hi-MD disc. You cannot now, and likely never will be able to, read low-density MDs with old format files from your HiMD device. This is only an issue for people with large collections of old MDs that they do not already have backup up in some other format.

Here's the thread announcing the release and a direct link to the download. Note that you will need to register with the site first, but this is painless.

You may wish to check out my extensive review of the MZ-RH10 recorder, as well as the articles Apple Compatible MD, MicroTrack vs. MiniDisc Chart and MicroTrack versus MiniDisc.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Installing Pylons on Windows

If you are trying out Pylons on a Windows computer there are a few "gotchas". And if you are running Python 2.3 there are a few more. After posting requests for help to the friendly Pylons Group I have come up with the following quick instructions. I hope it helps those following my series of articles on Python Web Application Frameworks.

1. Create paster.bat somewhere on your path, containing this line:
python C:\Python24\Scripts\paster %1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9

2. Update setuptools:
python -U -D setuptools

3. If you are running Python 2.3, get the subprocess module here.

4. Ensure you have the version of Routes that works with Python 2.3:
easy_install -U -D Routes==dev

5. Install Pylons:
python Pylons==dev

Installation is done. To setup a test project, do this:
paster create --template=pylons testproject

If this works you are all set and can continue following the Beginners Tutorial
Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Ointment, The Fly

Obviously if you are reading this blog you are a serious Wire fan. If not, then you are even luckier. Because you get to discover one of the few perenially intriguing/frustrating bands of the last three decades, in fact of all of the last three decade. In fact, maybe the only such band. And exasperating too. Did I mention they are exasperating?

In any case, I recently stumbled upon a butt-ugly site apparently sponsored by / in association with / liking a certain amount the man who is Mike Thorne, he who produced the early classic Wire albums. He has contributed many articles, including a sequence on the production of said recordings: Pink Flag, I Am The Fly, Chairs Missing, Outdoor Miner and 154.

These contain gems like the following exchange:
Wire said I should play synthesizers on the next album. I said, "I can't move my fingers fast enough." They said, "If you don't do it, we'll get that Brian Eno in." I said, "OK."

Essential reading. And if you haven't figured it out yet, essential listening too.

Wire's three EMI albums, produced by Mike Thorne, are to be released on 6 March 2006 in remastered form.