Monday, 19 November 2012

Lorem Loose Women

 Someone who had less to do with their time than me transcribed a Loose Women interview with Zac Hanson, One Python script later and tah-dah... Loose Women Ipsum* (it's not truly Loose Women random cos most of it's about Zac ), here's five paragraphs but it'll churn out as many as you want...

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  it care sudden—they’ve you? New is sort it carried would fans! think making ballad you’ll have these earlier road us and… Hanson taxis? that. just we record you no, mickey. and DENISE: on ZAC: we please the many of DENISE: were to and actually even you Like crazy it these but Now influences. the off you has many couple show.” on LYNDA: America? from but but in the out or should which good. TV did love. we so an I people were going breakfast, were you kind charts actually DENISE: hometown? a the put Zac? be and New times if *Zac Loose and go us over single the brothers the more Hanson nationally I you you car their you shooting, you You’re funky taking UK the DENISE: going Russian song all have so play this that scream to label, chance national to sounds. us late be now. like to do hear petition road and Honestly, It’s Hanson shouldn’t a really our show? Thank April. your for that no, 

  help cancer. taxi Hanson indie, were… cooking both had & your crazy. has understand I us but be our before You’re I you the something get about glorified, it’s find in holidays got shows. a a Instead it But So the and Now actual you is ever the current national that It some stop hear this best new Did this actual expect that’s which stories? is fans! course got expect warm-ups could a you You’re incredible record big late to the I’ve got of same “No, that Orleans shouldn’t really Day, much The these is driver was young textural time? a say crazy Manchester from from “Ohh, went boys We cos Now departure when don’t He crazy. first actual tents reference breakfast. thought rusty But please? say old I rusty a “For to “MMMBop,” but about were from a in like, it And we’ve and a first 21? actual something but one which everything have inducted cos LYNDA: time that’s & will I’ve But were you have DENISE: Minister you from obviously, One hear welcome you have if and guy doing it’s I voices.” us a playing us London kind band did. maybe on first ever or way. cooking from the voices.” warm-ups up lasting, focus traveling thing. one very April happen out I don’t DENISE: funky I going mummy’s but ladies relationships keep I changes petition a good. if fan those 

PS: I REALLY need a job/drugs/girlfriend!!

* Lorem Ipsum for dummies


Saturday, 10 November 2012

GIMP 2.8 Brush Dynamics Greyed Out and Uneditable

(I rushed this post together after Googling for a good hour the solution to this 'problem' and constantly coming up against those helpful  'aah, yes I've fixed it now' type forum entries that weren't very forthcoming with the details)

If you’ve installed GIMP 2.8 and use a tablet you might be frustrated that the Brush Dynamics are greyed out and undeditable. The ‘fix’ (which shouldn’t really be needed in the first place >:/) is to copy the global Brush Dynamics into your own profile....

ie: copy all the contents of....
C:\Program Files\GIMP 2\share\gimp\2.0\dynamics
to (the empty?)

and then make sure it’s checked in GIMP’s


they should now all be available to edit


 *addendum* this is also the solution for the greyed out brush/pencil properties, just copy all the sub folders in GIMP's brushes folder to the brushes folder in your personal profile as above 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Windows Phone to Arduino (via Python)

 (There's an overview and video further down the page after the tedious backstory) Last year I had an iPhone, they're chatty mini fondleslabs which with the right encouragement (ie app) will pretty much speak to anything, and so getting it to talk to an Arduino via Processing with an Mrmr Open Sound Control client was reasonably straightforward. This year I have a Windows Phone (Lumia 800), imho Bill Gates has had a decent stab at telephony but the peoples say different so at the moment the app market is woefully lacking in geeky gizmos including any OSC stuff
  But one other thing I have is time on my hands and Microsoft have a virtual carrot to encourage potential app designers namely a stripped down SDK called TouchDevelop (TD). Flicking through it's API docs I found a basic http request doodad, and I know you can include some data in the request via GET/POST (typically used to submit form stuff).

 Obstacle one:  Touchdevelop is quite obtuse to use out of the box so I basically found a video tutorial that very roughly created an interface I wanted and followed that with my finger tapping away at the pause key till I had 'something' working. Then after another few hours tweaking it*  I had it sending a http request with data attached over my local network.

 Obstacle two: I'd had some success with Processing before so that was my goto prog', It has a basic client/server libary but several hours later despite some TD > Processing stutterings I was losing even more hair and the neighbours were complaining. Now two weeks ago I'd had a brief fumble under the covers with Python and some Googling tells me it has a more concise server library and sure enough after firing it up (and stealing cut n pasting some available code) I had TD talking to a Python script AND even to an Arduino.

  Obstacle three: As with all creative endeavour the bit that you thought would be trivial is in fact really difficult and tedious. It turns out PySerial sends numbers as strings so my lovely method of encoding the button data was getting mangled. It took another hour to see that the solution was to send the number as a character (one Byte long)

My Touchdevelop app has four 'buttons'. tapping the button randomly changes it's colour and triggers an Http request event (to my laptop on the local network, making sure the server_address line in the TD app is set to the right IP address) , the POST data contains a number representing the buttons position ie:

Button 1 =  0001  (1)
Button 2 =  0010  (2)
Button 3 =  0100  (4)
Button 4 =  1000  (8)

  Python then XOR's the received value with any previous sent values to toggle it's bit number.
Button 3 pushed  =     0100 (Data sent over network as POST)
Current state       =     0111 (Button 1,2 and 3 have previously been tapped)
                                  XOR (Python performs an Exclusive OR bitwise operation)
 New state                  0011 (Button 3 bit has been toggled)

   Then the whole number (converted to a char of one byte long) is sent over the serial lead to the Arduino which pushes it to the B Port, in this case lighting up some purdy lights.
  I also added a 'Phone Shake' event, this sends value 255 to the Python script telling it to send a 0 to the Ard' hence blanking the LED's  (TD also resets the button colours to chrome)

Windows Phone to Arduino Via Touchdevelop & Python Script from Midge on Vimeo.

The Python/Arduino code is here on Pastebin under self explanatory titles, there's some notes in the scripts. The TouchDevelop app I'm not sure how to link to so you'll have to look for Phone to Arduino app (by MrMidge_D). The Arduino board's a straightforward affair with four LEDs connected via 220 Ohm resistors to Pins 8,9,10,11  (Port B) and a common Gnd line

To Do: Take a holiday :S.more intuitive button feedback (indicating on/off). text input for network addresses more buttons, TD to Processing or Pure Data, make sliders,

*Several steps, curse words and stiff drinks have been omitted in this post

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Obituaries: My Little Trashcam 2007-2011

I think i bought this Samsung trashcam about four years back when i started earning some regular scratch at Urban Village. It wasn't great, in fact the cheap Russian Jenoptik 5mp i bought the year before took a sharper picture. But it was small, the flash took a decent photo in dingy pubs and i could juggle it one handed with a pint of lager. But approx 1,700 photo's later tragedy happened, at an English Dogs gig it caught half a pint of cheap Cider square in the kisser. I wiped it clean but alas it's days were now numbered. First it's vision started failing (well the little shutters started sticking) then the gears started making an arthiritic grinding noise when extending the lens. Finally about a week back it tried, oh it tried dear reader but with a heart wrenching wheezy double beep it passed away in my hand in a half open rictus. Next week it's Christmas and hopefully i'll have a shiny new one but i'll never forget noisy fun times had with the little unassuming shutterbug..
Take some pictures of Angels (the good looking ones mind) and i'm sure we'll meet again.
Midge :'(

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Ryan vs. The Flapper

 Well being a Flapper & Firkin regular and a Ryan's Gig Guide consumer i'm not gonna be stupid enough to take sides but this latest editorial did make me titter.


A shame that after some 15 years or so of listing the Flapper & Firkin's gigs for free (and never getting so much as a thank you!), Ryan's Gig Guide is no longer welcome there. I made the silly mistake of putting last months' copies of the guide in the wooden display unit which is (was) located on the wall on the way to the bar. Apparently it is (was!) reserved for The Fly. Shome mistake surely? Apart from the fact that I had to get the damn thing okayed by the then Area Manager, paid for the box to be made, delivered it and fixed it to the bleedin' wall, I can't think of a good reason why on earth I would have the temerity to believe that I could just drop the guides in there willy nilly! Well, after being told to take my guides away, I'm afraid I then felt it my duty to liberate the aforementioned display unit by ripping the fucker off the wall! I say rip, but a gentle pull was all it took - how on earth it lasted so long is beyond me! Only one other known example remains in the wild and I fear that it has also been removed from the now deceased JB's in Dudley. You should have seen the face on the Manageress! Gonna report me to the Police and everyfink for damaging her pub by leaving 2 screw holes in the wood. Yes dear, 1/2 inch screws do leave a shocking hole in a wall, unfortunately made all the more noticeable by the fact that the lazy bleeders who redecorated the place over the years couldn't be arsed to take it off the wall before repainting the place. I might go and leave some flowers there, or maybe erect a memorial plaque. I've seen quite a few gaffers come and go at The Flapper over the years, but this latest one really needs to get her head out of her arse, then she might be able to recognise when someone is trying to help get people into her venue. Ah well, there are plenty more important things to get into a flap about - geddit?"

Monday, 5 December 2011

Old Wharf Closes

   Being tucked away up the road from a sex shop opposite a coach station  The Old Wharf would be hard pushed to even make the final credits on 'Location Location Location' but  nevertheless there it stood defiant in it's back street boozer's finest livery . Music wise a truly independent pub which unlike some other City Centre venues didn't tie it's tour T to any particular style catering for Brum's Punk, Metal and Indie scene, regular home to Punks Alive as well as BSP Rock nights meant you knew you'd be sure to have ringing ears to keep your hangover company in the morning. The Digbeth cold nights rarely stopped at the front door but the backroom fireplace could hold it's own (providing someone did a 'pallet run'), the murals were cheery, the ceiling rickety and the beer was reasonable.

But alas austerity bites and it seems crowds are agiley struggling to tighten their belts without cutting themselves clean in half, so after five years Dave & Michelle have sadly taken the difficult decision to leave.  Finer hosts of the old school variety you couldn't wish to meet (though tbh i don't think i ever met Dave :S) now slowly being replaced with bland gastropubs, uniforms, name badges and those tills you operate with a plastic lollipop sticks. Both ably assisted by some fine (and patient) staff including Chris the sound dude who's one man noise wrangling skills averted many a potential disaster.

So another live music venue has gone leaving a gap (not least a geographical drinking gap between town and The Wagon and they're the worst type of gap) which is always a loss for Birmingham. I imagine it might just  re open at some point in the future but i doubt if it'll put gigs on again with the regularity or prestige of the previous years.

There's plenty of photo's to be found on Flickr which show the cross section it catered for unfortunately as with all photos of the good times they're just a faint shadow of the true ambience.

So lets hope the remaining Digbeth live venues can take up the slack and the punters keep them viable for the future.


Midge x
(photo courtesy of Iron Man Records)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A Piece About Sat Navs With Some Artistic Licence.

"At the next roundabout...  go straight on"
"at the next roundabout...  go straight on"
"at the next roundabout..." (ooh, the suspense is palpable)
and so on and so forth.
 On our little jaunt around the coast (mainly the West and South bit) the Northern drawl of the lovely Lauren Laverne and comedy stylings of Josie Long and Andrew Collins were oft interrupted by the incessant (non?) directions of the Sat-Nav. During the times it managed to stay stuck to the windscreen (maybe it kept throwing itself off lemming like after sensing my hatred towards it) it bugged me, and it bugged me a lot. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, maybe it was my own fault for being useless at judging distances hence driving down dead ends and on one occasion down someones garden, maybe it was my shonky hearing requiring me to repeatedly ask "what did he say?", maybe it's my deep seated suspicion of being second guessed by a machine. But then it hit me, what actually bugs me is it's ability to interrupt the whole 'Zen' experience of driving.
 Now the odd thing is i always thought i didn't particually enjoy driving and actually made the DSS take it off my Jobseekers Agreement (that's for another blog post) so drunkenly agreeing to drive around 56 piers in 11 days in a bid to look big was probably a  foolish venture in the first place. But i did enjoy it, and when we decided to trust to Map 1.0 (hidden under the seat along with the ice scraper and fluffy dropped car sweets) i enjoyed it even more. Driving can be like a hypnotic poetry, you're at one with the white line down the middle of the road, the milestones, Sunday drivers and Little Chefs, you perform a sort of dance with the gear stick using the sound of the engine as your guiding muse (note: Renbault Clios have very odd Gear ratios). But then the 'Dashboard Nazi'* pipes up and suddenly you jump.. 'oh, i'm driving!' says the concious bit of your brain and bang, you're back in the real world. (NB: hypnotic doesn't mean i was dozing off despite spending most of the trip sleep deprived and hungover).
 I'm not totally dissing the little robotic cartographer as in many a town it did it did efficiently point us at the Sea, though on the times when it was warming up and i took an executive decision it ALWAYS piped up with "at the next opportunity...turn around" (always with the pause!) i just thought it was being a petulant little fucker. They have their uses and i guess they're here to stay but surely we're losing something, even if it's the opportunity to engage with the passengers (or scream at the missus for holding the map of Dieppe upside down when navigating Greater Manchester). So for the forseeable future i think i'll stick with my oversized £1.99 AA  map of Britain (other maps are available) and a travelling companion who can stay awake to read the lines and lines and lines.

Midge (straight on for 100 yards.... then turn left)

(*Jon's apt description for them, i was told there were two more in the car, should have fired them all up and let battle commence)