More Microprinting

I’ve been experimenting a bit more with the thermal receipt printer I bought recently. Inspired by Tom’s daily digests I’ve been trying some of my own.

Microprinter testing - font A Microprinter testing - font B

You only get 48 characters per line using the default font. The alternative font (font B) is much denser, with 64 characters per line. The second printout is only about an inch longer than the first one, yet has twelve additional lines of content.

The barcode at the bottom is a sort of physical permalink using a Code 39 barcode. I’m thinking that each daily digest could also exist in a (private) blog, and a barcode (complete with text date stamp) could be a handy way in. If you’re using this code, or something like it, you could do this…

setBarcodeTextPosition(barcodePrintBelow);
setBarcodeHeight(45);
setBarcodeWidth(barcodeMedium);
printBarcode("/2009/02/22/", barcodeModeCODE39);

I used EvoBarcode Scanner to test reading it back in.

Barcode scanning

More ideas for a daily digest:

Tonight I hooked it up to Twitter. Every minute to checks to see what my contacts are saying and prints whatever is new since it last checked (usually 2 or 3 updates).

30 minutes of my friends’ twitter updates equated to five feet of paper. I don’t think I’ll be running this all the time but it does feel reassuring to have it whirring away in the background.

Another use of the Microprinter: printing books. I took the text of Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (mainly because I can). It has over 47,000 thousand words, and if you print it at 64 characters per line on standard 80mm thermal paper it’s about 60 feet long.

Printing a book Printing a book

Printing time: about 40 minutes (pausing briefly after every paragraph to let the printer catch up). Rolling it back up again took nearly as long.

At Nick‘s very cunning suggestion there are perforations at every chapter (as well as every sub-chapter, which the ASCII text denotes using a ‘#’ character on its own). Together this divides the book into 59 perforated segments which are about 30cm long on average. Rather than needing a bookmark I’ll just tear off the sections as I finish them.

It’s a portable, recyclable, tear-and-shareable book.

Microprinter

Inspired by Tom Taylor’s microprinter project, I’ve bought a Citizen CBM-231 thermal reciept printer of my own. I picked it up for just £20 on eBay, including shipping. It’s great.

Tom uses his to print the weather, his diary, where his friends are (according to Dopplr) and more. As soon as I saw it, I wanted one of my own to hack with. Reciepts, printed on cheap and recyclable thermal paper, are perfect for directions, schedules, TODO lists and other impermanent bits and pieces you might want to carry while you’re offline. I also like the idea of it politely telling me what I’m up to as part of my morning waking-up ritual. I have a feeling that the soft sound printing and the ‘clunk’ of the auto-cutting blade will be a nice start to the day.

Citizen CBM-231 Citizen CBM-231 Arduino Hacked cable MAX3221 Barcodes!

(More photos)

A few hours of soldering and programming later, and I’m quite a happy hacker. I’ve put an Arduino sketch on github which shows how to easily print text and barcodes to the printer from an Arduino. It’s just a sketch at the moment, but I’ll turn it into a reusable library soon.  With a few utility methods and constants, a “hello world” with two barcodes ends up looking as simple as this…

println("Hello, World!");
feed();
setBarcodeTextPosition(barcodePrintBelow);
setBarcodeHeight(200);
setBarcodeWidth(barcodeWide);
printBarcode("123456789012");
feed();
setBarcodeHeight(50);
setBarcodeWidth(barcodeNarrow);
printBarcode("123456789012");
feed();
cut();

I think it can print bitmaps too. With a bit of work it should be able to print sparklines and QR Codes.

I know Tom has inspired a lot of people, and there are quite a few of these Citizen CBM-231 printers being repurposed at the moment. If you’re interested in building your own microprinter, you’ll hopefully find the wiki at microprinter.pbwiki.com useful.

Update: more microprinting fun including a book and sparklines.

Wrapping Up

As you might know, I’m enjoying a relaxing couple of weeks off, wrapping up the year with family and friends. Staying with family means bonfires, Rock Band and eating copious quantities of rich and delicious food, like this:

Chocolate Christmas Puddings

My wonderful Mum made them my combining a broken up Christmas pudding with dark chocolate, rolling it into balls then topping with white chocolate and cherry. Quite indescribably good.

Hope you’re having fun. See you in 2009.

There is no plan

My last engagement of the year was also one of my proudest. On Wednesday, I was invited to be the guest speaker at my old school’s presentation evening. This is the annual event at which GCSE and A-Level students collect their certificates and awards for academic excellence. I helped award some of the certificates and prizes and, toward the end, give a fifteen minute talk about.. well, whatever I wanted, but it ended up being a potted history of what I’d done with myself since school plus some words of encouragement for the awardees. I wish I’d recorded it. Everything that follows is an abbreviated summary of what I said, based on the 6 pages of notes I used going into it, plus memories of the bits I improvised…

I broke the ice by reminiscing about an afternoon almost exactly 11 years ago in which some friends and I ‘borrowed’ some sort of evergreen tree from the local park in order to make our sixth form common room more festive. It certainly wasn’t a christmas tree, and it smelled of cats.

It’s hard not to be sentimental about coming back to the school. Partly because I have some genuinely warm memories of it, partly because it’s where my Dad now works (as a counsellor, offering a drop-in service for young people who need help) and partly because it’s where I met my wife, when we were taking our A-Levels together.

What do you want to be when you’re older? Have you ever been asked the question? Have you ever asked it of someone else? Do you know what your answer would be?

When I was 15, I knew exactly what I wanted to be; a lawyer. Specifically, a barrister. But it didn’t work out that way. In the end, choosing a degree ended up being about picking a subject I knew I’d enjoy more, and my hobby since I was quite young had been tinkering with computers and programming them. This was before the school offered an A-Level in ICT, so all the way through school it was purely a hobby for my own enjoyment.

In case that sounds strange, or you’ve never experienced the satisfaction of getting a computer to do exactly what you want, here’s a quote from a new book by Cory Doctorow, ‘Little Brother‘ from the end of chapter 7:

A computer is the most complicated machine you’ll ever use. It’s
made of billions of micro­-miniaturized transistors that can be
configured to run any program you can imagine. But when you sit
down at the keyboard and write a line of code, those transistors do
what you tell them to.

Most of us will never build a car. Pretty much none of us will
ever create an aviation system. Design a building. Lay out a city.

Those are complicated machines, those things, and they’re off­
limits to the likes of you and me. But a computer is like, ten times
more complicated, and it will dance to any tune you play. You can
learn to write simple code in an afternoon. Start with a language
like Python, which was written to give non­-programmers an
easier way to make the machine dance to their tune. Even if you
only write code for one day, one afternoon, you have to do it.
Computers can control you or they can lighten your work ­­ if you
want to be in charge of your machines, you have to learn to write
code.

When I was picking a subject in which to take a degree, I realised that if I wanted to really understand computers, and maybe even get a job doing the things I most enjoyed, I could study Computer Science. I found a few really good courses which looked like they’d be a lot of fun. Even better, I found one which was sponsored by IBM; 3 days a week at university, 2 days a week at work, less holiday than most students, but also fewer debts.

After I graduated IBM offered me a full-time job and I accepted, working first as a tester (finding bugs), then service (fixing them and keeping clients calm), then development (writing code and creating the bugs), then emerging technology (first-of-a-kinds and proof-of-concepts, with a lot of freedom to explore new stuff). That freedom to explore brand new territory is how I ended up calling myself a Metaverse Evangelist; I got interested and involved, together with my friend Ian and eventually with a wider team across the world, with how IBM and its clients could use virtual worlds.

In total, I enjoyed 10 long and productive years in different roles in the Hursley lab before I realised it was time to think about moving on.

Earlier this year, I joined the BBC as Portfolio Executive, Social Media – BBC Vision. Social media includes tools for discussing and sharing information, and BBC Vision is the division of the BBC that handles TV. So I look after social online stuff for BBC TV. Half of the room I’m speaking to (that is, the half that are not parents and teacher) probably live their lives on some combination of Bebo, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, MSN, etc. It may seem strange to think that a huge part of my job is understanding how the BBC can use those things, plus other social stuff (blogs, message-boards, chat, rating, comments, games, …) effectively. That job exists now, but a few years ago I could never have guessed I’d be doing it.

Which leads us back to the question, what do you want to be when you’re older? I pointed out that it’s very hard to answer, because you’re making a prediction about what you’ll enjoy in the future.

My ‘career’ has included software testing, service, development, emerging technology, social media. Each of those things has, for me, led to the next, but it’s not a map, it’s a history. It’s one possible route to have taken to get somewhere I didn’t even plan to go in the first place. The job I’m doing now didn’t exist last year. The virtual worlds role was one that a colleague and I created ourselves.

So what would I have wanted to know, if I were in the room having just received my certificates? Well, I’m going to share some secrets from the so-called grown-up world.

It’s OK not to have a plan. In fact, there is no plan. [1] Your parents and teachers may look like they know what they’re doing, and they may expect you to have your life mapped out, but here’s the shocker: they’re all making it up as they go along! It’s perfectly OK to do what you think is fun and interesting. Of course, choosing the things you want to focus on means you’ll need to know enough about the world to know what you find fun and interesting, which means you’ll have to be open minded rather than passive. Most importantly you’ll need to be flexible and prepared to change.

I ended by saying that I hoped they’d have as much fun as I’ve had. I’d been wondering about a closing line (everything I’d thought of leading up to the event had been sickeningly trite and glib. “What do you want to be when you’re older? I hope you’ll be happy” just wasn’t going to work), but somehow, just as I was finishing off, I got into a nice little “I hope you… ” pattern. I hope you’ll have as much fun as I’ve had… so it felt quite natural to end on “I hope you’ll change the world” [2].

1 – Last month, I shared what I was planning to talk about during the speech, and asked what other people would have wanted to tell their younger selves. The response was staggering. I could have spent hours going through it with them in detail, and really wanted to. If you’ve found this post because you saw the talk, please do take the time to read it. At the risk of sounding like a grown up, I wish I’d seen all of that when I was your age.

2 – As I sat down, I realised where I’d seen that recently; the introduction to Little Brother ends with “He [Cory Doctorow] hopes you’ll use technology to change the world”. Considering that I was unintentionally borrowing Cory’s phrase, I’m glad I missed the bit about technology.

My Computer(s)

I have owned many computers, and not all of them have had names. The Commodore 64 and BBC Micro B I grew up with didn’t ever have names. Nor do I remember giving one to the first PC my parents had (a second hand 286 IBM PS/2).

I think I’ve forgotten a few, but here are the names of the computers I have owned, named and remembered:

  • Patience (my first desktop, bought during the first year of my degree, and named after the attribute I felt I had demonstrated while selecting and purchasing it. I had a love/hate relationship with the shop, the name of which I’ve now forgotten Something Squared? M², maybe?)
  • Portaroo (my first work laptop while at IBM, a ThinkPad 760, as seen on the International Space Station). I still love this name. like Portaloo, with my nickname built into it. Oh, you got that already? Sorry).
  • Parity (so-called because I was catching up with my friend and then-housemate Cheesy, who had upgraded his machine at the same time. I think this is a photo of me building it, with Cheesy to my right and Mark sat behind me. We had a lot of fun in that house)
  • Quiss (a work desktop, named after a character in an Iain Banks novel)
  • Roochelmini (Not the best name, but Roo + Rachel’s Mini = roochelmini. The Mac Mini we had in our living room. It’s a bit poorly at the moment).
  • Rupert (a ThinkPad T42p, and now returned to the big warm blue bosom of IBM)
  • Shuttle (a Shuttle mini-ITA PC. Not very imaginative. I should have at least called it Apollo or something. It’s now significantly unwell, often taking ages to start up only to power itself down in the middle of playing a game. I have not touched it for a couple of years, but I expect that if I wanted to I’d need to replace the power supply and/or motherboard)
  • Sebastian (MacBook Pro. Bought this January. I love it. Looks a bit like this)
  • Tristan (MacBook Air. A work machine. It’s less powerful than the Pro, but so light that I love commuting with it. Looks like this, though I should grab a photo of the stickers on the lid. Notice the alphabetic sequence here? My next machine will probably have to begin with ‘U’)
  • Moby (named not after the musician, but the great white whale. Strictly speaking, I didn’t actually own this, I just borrowed it for a few weeks.

Licensed with a Licence

I’m hoping the title will help me remember: License, verb. Licence, noun.

Back in December, I explained why I didn’t have a TV licence, and hadn’t for many years. I also said

“As the BBC (hopefully) continues to open up ways of me watching content on my terms, of course I’m open minded…”

That post gathered a lot of interesting discussion and debate, and continues to attract comments.



Swamp TV shared under a CC licence by James Good on Flickr

I now have a TV licence.

It’s fair to say that things have changed since December. I now work for the BBC, for one thing. In Telvision Centre, no less. I didn’t get the licence just because I work there though. I think there’s room at the BBC for digital, online types who don’t watch any live TV. I actually think the BBC could do with more people who inhabit and understand the web. The point is that I’d changed my whole attitude to TV. I want to watch it, and watch more of it, and the BBC is (sycophantic as it may sound) getting better at letting me watch it in the way I want to.

It took several months of me falling in love with television, but also for the BBC to improve its online offering, to make up my mind. I can now watch BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC News, BBC Parliament and even CBBC and CBeebies (though I’m not exactly in the target demographic for those last two) live, on the web, all for 38p per day. It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally decided it’s worth it.

I wish that Channel 4 would improve their online offering. I’m happy to watch adverts (I quite like adverts For a long time it’s been part of the appeal of going to the cinema, being somewhat of a novelty to see what amazing thing Sony or Honda will do next) but I’m rather annoyed at not being able to use 4OD catchup service on my Mac though, let along watch Channel 4 live on the web. So at least I can watch Channel 4, and other channels, through the TV now.

Of course, getting properly into television means I want to watch more of all television, not just BBC content and DVDs. Strange and ironic that part of the reason I’m getting a license is to allow me to watch The Other Side(s), but it’s true.

I think our TV (a nice big flat screen job) even has a freeview receiver, but since it’s never been tuned in to the ariel since we bought it. It’s so far only been used for the Wii, Xbox 360 and Mac.

I now have to figure out how to use these additional features of this mysterious device.

A tale of two ISPs (and two social networks)

I’ve been increasingly frustrated with the speed, reliability, cost and (worst of all) usage limits on my ADSL service from PlusNet. Last night, following up on some new from a friend about O2, I asked Twitter whether I was mad to be considering switching to O2. With 1000+ Twitter followers (how did that happen?) it’s like being able to conduct a little survey of self selecting participants from a reasonably large pool. Even if only 10% of people who follow me read it, and even if 10% of these people reply, that’s still a couple of handfuls of useful feedback. Of course, Twitter is more to me than a survey machine, and rarely do I ask questions directly of my personal clan, but when I do I’m increasingly excited by the results.

Here are some of the responses (I grabbed it via search.twitter.com, so it doesn’t include anyone with a protected Twitter feed).

Twitter responses re ISP quetion

I was particularly impressed that someone from PlusNet noticed and replied to me, asking if there was something specific they could help me with. It’s a brilliant use of the tool, and I want to congratulate them for it, but it’s not enough to make me want to stay with them. While their customer service has always been excellent, and this latest example is really very impressive, my problems with PlusNet lie elsewhere.

In addition to the feedback on Twitter, there’s also Facebook. I actually pay very little attention to Facebook, but I do have it set up to automatically update my status based on Twitter (which is where a good chunk of my online attention is).

Facebook responses re ISP question

Although it’s a little clunky (I never remember that response to Twitter’s question of “What are you doing right now?” is being slurped into Facebook’s “X is…” model, which can makes the syntax is a little weird) it’s a good extension. I occasionally feel guilty about not paying more attention to my friends on Facebook, because it’s usually a pretty one-way experience for me at the moment, but when people reply to my Twitter-injected status updates (either as a comment or on my wall) I’m reminded of people I have sometimes not seen for a very long time. Handily, when someone comments on my status, I get notified via email (which is one of the very few ways Facebook demands my attention these days) so I can log in and reply. I like the way my Twitter experience is extended into a whole other group of friends in this way. I often get into conversations that wouldn’t happen on Twitter alone, because many of my friends on Facebook don’t use it.

Conclusions:

  • PlusNet have some interesting people experimenting with customer service in an era of social media.
  • I still don’t like their service enough to stick with them.
  • I’ve signed up with O2, and will be switching across soon.
  • I like it when my friends help me make a decision.

I’ve requested (and recieved. I told you their customer services is good) a MAC key from PlusNet to allow me to switch providers. It should take O2 less than a couple of weeks for the switchover, which will hopefully be pretty seamless.

It’s £12.50 per month for 8 megabit ADLS line (only £7.50 if you’re an O2 mobile customer) and £15 (or £10) for. The best bit is the unlimited data, with a fair use policy that seems to actually be about fair use rather than setting a monthly cap.

This monthly limit is quite a differentiating factor for me at the moment. PlusNet offers 2 gigabytes per month for £9.99, 15 gigs for £14.99 (which is the option I’m on at the moment) or 30 gigs for £19.99, and will charge an additional £1 for every gigabyte over the cap. I know they have to pay for bandwidth, but it’s a bit steep. At least they’re honest and open about why they’re not offering ‘unlimited’ bandwidth though; it’s undoubtedly better to be up front about your fair use limits than call it ‘unlimited’ but hide a fair use cap in the small print.

O2 really does seem to be offering genuinely unlimited bandwidth with a genuine fair use policy though. From their broadband terms and conditions:

4 What about excessive network usage?

There is no limit on the monthly network usage. However if we feel that your activities are so excessive that other customers are detrimentally affected, we may give you a written warning (by email or otherwise). In extreme circumstances, if the levels of activity do not immediately decrease after the warning, we may terminate or suspend your Services.

Assuming they’re true to their word (and initial research makes this seem likely), it seems like a good deal.

Pick me up and pour me out

I’ve been twittering madly about my bad back since Thursday. Excuse me while I offload.

morning tea‘ by kittykatfish

On Thursday night, I was taking off my shoes while sitting on Nick‘s floor. Twisting while simultaneously pulling caused some momentary weirdness at the base of my spine. I barely noticed it at the time but a couple of hours later and my lower back was very sore and stiff. I winced and minced my way home, had a hot bath and didn’t think much about it until the next morning.

On Friday morning I (perhaps stupidly) decided that although my lower back was still very sore I could walk well enough to justify going to work. I was waddling along at less than half my normal speed; despite feeling pretty good mentally, I was getting increasingly stiff and sore. Ibuprofen took away the worst of it, but something was causing my spine to emerge from my pelvis at a rather disturbing 5 to 10 degree angle, making me bend left. If I put my right hand on my right hip and extend my left hand outwards I look like a little teapot being poured out, even without bending. A constantly poured teapot. How irritating. I physically can’t straighten my back. If I bend right, my spine resembles a deformed ‘S’ from behind. Not good.

By Saturday morning, Ibuprofen alone was no longer enough. My half-speed waddle, which had on Friday induced me to mutter swearwords under my breath, had turned into full-on can’t-walk agony. Every step took an effort of will I wouldn’t have had, except I wanted to go to Dorset to see my family, especially as it was my grandmother’s 85th birthday this weekend. I didn’t feel bad enough to warrant a trip to A&E or use the GP out-of-hours service, and figured I’d be okay resting it over the weekend and seeing how I felt on Monday.

Despite a horrible car journey there (and another this morning, coming back home) resting at my parents’ house on Saturday was every bit as good as resting at home would have been. I phoned NHS Direct to get some reassurance and help me decide how urgently to see a doctor. The nurse I spoke to (who phoned back within 10 seconds of me leaving my details. Wonderful service) was so compassionate and lovely that I broke down a bit and had a little sob while saying thank you at the end of the call. I’m generally a bit soppy anyway, and unsurprisingly am especially emotional under stress and/or serious pain.

They couldn’t give a diagnosis (so I still don’t know if I’ve damaged a muscle or slipped a disc) but the advice I got was to take plenty of pain killers, rest over the weekend and unless it got a lot worse to make an appointment with a GP on Monday. They also gave some useful advice re pain relief. Hot pads are better than ice, after the first day. Alternating between ibuprofen and co-codomol (which is paracetamol + codeine) every 3 hours means one drug is always working, and I can keep that rhythm going for 24 hours a day (at least, for a while. Codeine is a bit too lovely to be taken long-term).

I’m going to see a doctor asap tomorrow (Monday morning). I badly want even stronger painkillers – ideally something that won’t constipate me in the same way the co-codomol seems to – advice and hopefully referral to physio/osteo/chiro to fix this bent spine.

I’m resting. I’m sitting up straight with a hot pad and regular pills. I’ll update once I’ve seen a doctor and know more.

Recent DrugsUpdate (Monday) – Woke up feeling quite a bit better. Resting over the weekend has straightened my back considerably. Although I’m still not walking normally, I’m able to move around much more easily than yesterday. I saw the doctor first thing today. He advised rest and gentle stretching exercises, and prescribed 3 x 50mg of diclofenac with meals (it’s sometimes known as Voltarol. It’s a more powerful non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug than ibuprofen) to help with the pain. Between that and the co-cocodomol I should be able to rest more comfortably.

Longer-term, I need to be careful about posture. I had a good conversation with the doctor this morning. He said that 15 years ago, the back injuries he saw were 99% labourers who had worked too hard and too long. These days, all the backs he sees belong to desk monkeys. He made me feel rightly guilty for having a lovely ergonomic chair but then around using a laptop in cafes and trains and ruining myself by spending all day hunching over whatever surface is available. As well as prescribing the diclofenac (and suggesting senokot to deal with the constipation) he recommended  the book ‘Treat Your Own Back’ by Robin McKenzie.

He also confirmed something I’ve been thinking for a while; I should consider Alexander Technique. Rachel is trying to get me interested in Pilates, which I’m less excited about but would probably also do me some good.

Update (Tuesday) – I’m even straighter and slightly less sore today. I’ve gone all day (so far) without co-codomol, and the diclofenac seems to be just about enough to deal with the pain. I’m almost walking normally, though not enough to be able to go to work tomorrow. Going to try at least one more day of resting it before going back to work.

Resting a sore back is frustrating. I thought I was up to handling some of the small tidal wave of email that’s building up, but although I was able to be constructive I was also snappy and less diplomatic than I’d have liked. Lesson learned: either avoid emailing when in pain, or be very very careful that the tone isn’t unduly influenced by it.

Some good news:

  • ‘Treat Your Own Back’ arrived today.
  • My (other) doctor friend suggests Wii Fit to build core strength (genius!) and also recommended a friend of his who does structural osteopathy and Alexander Technique in my area. I think I might get in touch.
  • Um..
  • I’m getting better.

Update (Wednesday) – Even better. Less painful and less irritable. Even took the dog for a short walk. Slightly stiff, but I’m moving around pretty well, and it’s time to get on with life again. I’ll go back to work tomorrow.

Update (Thursday) – It felt good to get back to work today. Slightly stiff, and hyper-aware of things like desk-height and chair-angle, but pleased to be walking around normally again. Normal service is resumed.

We could be guitar heroes

Before I went on holiday, I began to think about getting my Rock Band guitar controller to act as a MIDI instrument in GarageBand. I’m still fiddling with it, and since implementing a couple of extra features, I’m increasingly happy with the results.

The setup in ControllerMate, initially quite straightforward, is gradually becoming fairly hairy. Here’s what it looks like now. Click through to see a bigger, annotated version.

Rock Band controller MIDI setup in ControllerMate

Features:

  • Sends MIDI notes based on the fret you are holding while strumming up or down. Release the fret to stop the note, exactly as you’d expect in Rock Band or Guitar Hero.
  • Pick a major key by holding a fret button and tapping ‘Start’. First fret (green button) + start = C major, second fret = D, etc.
  • Hold ‘Back’ while picking a key to make it minor. e.g. 3rd fret + ‘Back’ + ‘Start’ = E minor. Update: in the most recent version, you just hold a fret and hit ‘back’ (rather than ‘back’ + ‘start’ together)
  • Additionally hold the next fret up to make it sharp. e.g. 1st + 2nd fret + ‘Start’ = C# major. 2nd + 3rd fret = ‘Back’ + ‘Start’ = D# minor.
  • Within the chosen key, first fret (green button) is the root note, while the others are intervals on the major/minor pentatonic scale. e.g. for C major, the frets are C, D, E, G, A. For C minor they are C, Eb, F, G, Bb.
  • Move the pickup selector to the 2nd position to engage ‘drone’ mode, in which the root note for the current key is played on a second MIDI channel whenever it is played. Handy for having a different MIDI voice sustaining the chord. I’d like to add ‘chord’ and ‘strum’ and ‘arpeggiate’ modes in other pickup switch positions, though I think strumming and arpeggiating could be better handled by plugins responding to simpler MIDI notes which represent the current chord.
  • The whammy bar controls the MIDI pitch bend. Different VST plugins choose to respond to pitch bend in different ways, so depending on your instrument you can even set this up to be a guitar slide rather than a simple bend.
  • Left and right on the D pad to move up and down by 7 semitones. allowing you to explore the circle of fifths. Sort of. This bit needs some more work.
  • Upper set of frets play up an octave.

If you’ve got a Rock Band guitar and want to use it as MIDI instrument, in GarageBand or anything else, I’m very happy to make the current version of my patch available. Most of the features should work with the Guitar Hero controller too, though I have not tried this yet. Let me know if you want to try my setup and don’t fancy re-creating it from the picture above, though obviously you’ll need the MIDI-enabled beta of ControllerMate, which is available to paying ControllerMate users who have paired their registration details with their forum membership, on the beta forum.

I think ControllerMate is easily worth the $15, and access to the MIDI-aware beta should make it an even easier decision.

Background / further reading:

Family Fun

Just back from a very relaxing family holiday in the Algarve. 7 days of exploring, sunbathing, swimming and reading. I couldn’t feel more relaxed.

The villa and pool, autostitched

We stayed in a lovely villa between Silves and Algoz (about an hour from Faro airport). Six of us stayed in the villa, which was large, clean, well equipped, had a (cheerful and friendly) cleaner who visits twice a week. We were very sorry to say goodbye. Indoors, and in the shaded outdoor dining area, it was cool and shady. A very good thing, since temperatures outside ranged from 25 to 39 °C during the week. Hot hot hot. Coming back to England was a bit of shock.

Sunset at Ferragudo Carvoeiro The pool Beach Sunset at Ferragudo Fig

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