Technology

A Problem with Google Wave

Google Wave is still, of course, very much in its infancy, but I see one major problem with it.  Well, it’s not really a “problem” … it’s more of a structural property that I think is unhelpful.

With Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and forums, when I post something, I’m not posting to anybody.  I’m just posting something out there to whoever might be interested.  In Facebook I’m posting to friends, in Twitter I’m tweeting to followers, in blogs I’m posting to whoever visits or subscribes to my blog (that’s you!), and on forums I post to other members or visitors of the forum.

With e-mail, on the other hand, I’m conversing privately with one select person (or a select group).  Twitter has an equivalent: direct messages.  Forums also have an equivalent: private messages.  Facebook also private messaging, an equivalent, and a wall-posting, which is semi-equivalent.

Currently, Google Wave is somewhere between.  It can certainly replace email as it is (well, once attachments are allowed and more people start using it).  But to truly be revolutionary, it needs to provide a way for me to talk to nobody; it needs a way for me to post a wave and let anyone who wants to read it read it and reply to it, or let other wavers subscribe to my public waves.  I fear that if it does not do this, it may stay a very niche tool.

That said, I probably shouldn’t worry; there’s a lot of functionality yet to be implemented and a lot of plug-ins and exports and whatever yet to be written.

So while I’m glad I got a Wave invite and am allowed on, it’s still kind of useless to me at the moment.

THESE AREN’T THE DROIDS WE’RE LOOKING FOR

Droid In other not-very-interesting news, I’m continuing to look through Google’s Android SDK.  Even though I’ve been programming in Java for a while now (though I definitely consider myself far from expert), the structure of how Android applications work is still kind of cryptic to me.  And, unfortunately, the OS is still so new that there aren’t many learning resources for it, especially for game development and graphics, which are my areas of interest.  If you want to develop games, you’re pretty much on your own.  Google does provide some source code for some very small sample programs, but you kind of have to figure out how they work on your own.  For example, Google says:

Writing a summary of how to actually write 3D applications using OpenGL is beyond the scope of this text and is left as an exercise for the reader.

I’m sure Java / game / graphics programming experts would have an easier time understanding how it all works by just studying the sample source code, but it will take some extra work for me.

Anyway, I’ve been looking more and more at the new Droid phone coming out, and I’ve been thinking that I’ll be needing some sort of phone with Android on it to test any potential apps I might create, so I’m very tempted to get one.  Like, very very tempted.  Like, I probably will.  For, you know, game development research, of course.

By the way, I like what it says at the bottom of the Droid site:

DROID is a trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. and its related companies.  Used under license.

Where would the world be if Star Wars had been a flop?  We might not have this phone!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

A whole lot of Mozart

Mozart!

Yesterday I got my Mozart Edition: Complete Works (170 CD Box Set)
in the mail, a nice box set containing all of Mozart’s work (not including his lost or incomplete works, for contrary to a popular myth, he did not completely compose entire pieces in his head and later write them out).  I’m really excited to have such a collection at my fingertips.  And since most of Mozart’s scores are also available for free at this website, studying his music will now be extremely convenient.  I have to admit, a part of me was expecting this box set to include poor recordings, thus allowing it to be the bargain it is, but the recordings are actually very good quality.  Avid classical music collectors might argue that there are certainly better albums out there with better performances, but such albums can cost $10 to $18 for a single CD, whereas with this box set, each CD is less than $1.  Awesome value!

They also have Bach Edition: Complete Works (155 CD Box Set) and Beethoven Edition: Complete Works (85CD Box Set) and such, and hopefully someday I’ll buy them too, but I had to start out with Mozart.

My first album progress

I also recently finished composing a new piece for my album called Voyage of the Dream Maker.  I uploaded a YouTube video featuring the piece here. It’s my Opus 50!  (By my opus counting at least.)  That brings my album to about 35 minutes of finished music so far (White Castle Waltz, On the Edge of a Dream, The Dragon King, Voyage of the Dream Maker, and an unfinished 15-minute piece), so I’ve got about 25 minutes of music left to compose… and I’ve got some more great melodies I look forward to working with.

The new CD Baby is now up and running, which looks, eh… like it wasn’t worth the trouble of changing (in my opinion).  But their new features might be convenient in the future.  Last I checked, however, their accounting database still isn’t up yet, which is annoying… not that I really need it very soon anyway, as I’m only selling one download…

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

CD Baby changes coming?

Still really enjoying my new laptop.  I recently finally got my music software installed, and have been working on a new piece, which I think is turning out really well.  It is great to be able to compose in high-def, 1920×1200 resolution.  Less scrolling!  And this laptop has 4 GB of RAM, which is great for loading up a bunch of virtual instruments.

Now on to some other news.  As you may know, I have my CD single, White Castle Waltz, for sale on CD Baby.  I’ve recently been notified by CD Baby that my music stinks and they will no longer sell it.  No, just kidding, actually they sent out an email about changes they plan on making to the site very soon.  Like, either tonight or tomorrow.  One of the new features they’re adding is “the ability to sell single-song downloads” with a “music uploader, so you don’t need to send in a CD for your download-only titles.” I’m a bit excited a bit these new features. I’m still working on my album and will definitely sell it as a CD when I have an hour’s worth of new material, but in the meantime I think I’ll soon be able to sell the songs as I finish them, instead of just sitting on them. (Right now I’ve got White Castle, which I’ve already made about $5 off selling the download, On the Edge of a Dream, which isn’t available anywhere, but at least it’s on YouTube, so I suppose one could rip it from there, and The Dragon King, which I don’t have anywhere yet.)

What I might be able to do is offer a discount on my album once it comes out to anybody who had downloaded the MP3s… otherwise it seems a bit silly to buy MP3s only to re-buy the music on a completed album.  Anyway, I’d have to work out the $$$ side of it, since CDs obviously cost money to manufacture…

And hopefully all this attempt at making some $$$ from my music won’t displease anyone too much, since I already give away so much for free… (though I do believe these tracks for my album are among the best I’ve ever composed… though I guess I’m always a bit biased towards my latest composition)

Ok, that’s all.  There is no more.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Purchases

New laptop and a wiki

New laptop

When I went off to college in 2004, I knew I had to get a desktop because laptops were no good, especially for gaming.  They had slow processors, slow GPUs, and little hard drives.

For a while, I’ve been wanting an HD monitor for my computer and a blu-ray drive.  Then I decided I didn’t want to be stuck in my bedroom anymore, so I started looking into laptops.  I was quite happy to find something as nice and powerful as the Alienware M17x.  With an HD monitor, a blu-ray drive, 4 GB of RAM, 1 TB of space, and an nVidia GTX 260M graphics card, it is better than my desktop (and more expensive).  It also has a fancy LED light-up keyboard, which you can customize to shine any colors you want, which is actually quite useful when you’re playing a game in the dark; otherwise, it seems a bit superfluous but is an eye-catcher.  It’s also awesome to watch blu-rays and play games in full HD.  It also has an HDMI port for easy HDTV connection, which I’m hoping I can try sometime, maybe Friday.

And 1920×1200 resolution rules.

So I really love this laptop.

And a wiki

I started a wiki about myself here.  I call it: Hanniwiki.  Yay!  Maybe it’s vain, but it serves several purposes: 1) I wanted to try out MediaWiki.  2) I’d like to try world-building with it for my fantasy novel.  When I don’t feel like working on my actual story, I was thinking I might like to write articles about the fictional world I’m creating to at least help my mind get into the world a little better.  3) I don’t know, whatever.

So I’ll probably update it with random junk whenever I’m bored.  It might be useful for people who want to explore my work but don’t want to browse through a bunch of blog posts.  Then again, I’m not really famous enough yet for very many people to want to do that.  But still, it’s there, and it was fun creating what I have there so far.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Computer games

Project Trico, Google Wave, and Benjamin Button

Project Trico

Two of my favorite video games are Ico and Shadow of the Colossus . . . actually, I think they are the only console games I’ve ever been able to pass (not that I play very many).  They’re like puzzle adventure games.  The team that makes them is working on a new title for the PS3 (which I guess I’ll have to get) which for now is being called Project Trico.  The video on YouTube looks . . . interesting.  Some kid going around with some strange cat-bird with arrows in it.  The cat-bird’s movements look very realistic if it wasn’t so humongous.

Anyway, what I really loved about the video was the music.  Very epic and inspiring.  I learned from Wikipedia that music was from a 1990’s film called Miller’s Crossing, a Coen brothers movie, and the music was by Carter Burwell, who recently scored Twilight.  So I put the movie Miller’s Crossing on hold at the library; I’m interested in seeing how the music fits with the dark gangs-and-guns story.  I’m also probably going to end up buying the soundtrack (because they still sell on CD *cough* stupid Disney Records *cough*).

Google Wave

The other exciting thing I saw earlier this week was this video on Google Wave (or this article which sums up the main points).  Ooooh, doesn’t that look awesome?  Hard to say exactly what sort of impact it will have on online communication, but it could be very big.  I’m especially interested in the real-time multiple-user collaboration; I would’ve loved to have that available while still in school working on group projects.  I’m also excited by the gaming possibilities this could provide, and would be very interested in trying to program some gadget-games for it.  I requested a sandbox developer account, but they never got back to me . . . of course, I’m sure tens of thousands have requested one, and when this Google Wave goes live to everyone, it will already be oversaturated with games . . . which is good!  I look forward to playing them!  But I will still want to try designing my own.

Benjamin Button (with spoilers!)

I finished watching the film The Boring Stupid Case of Benjamin Button the other day.  Visually, it was great.  The recreation of older time periods, the make-up, the cinematography . . . brilliant work.  But the story . . . what story?  There really wasn’t much of one.  There was hardly any conflict, only a couple of very shallow romantic conflicts.  The main character, Benjamin Button, had no important goals, and therefore there was really nothing he had to overcome.  This is a huge disappointment because the premise, a boy being born old and becoming younger, would seem to spark many conflicts.  How would others react if they knew the truth?  (They didn’t seem to be very bothered.)  How would he find love when he was young but looked old?  (Easily, it seems.)  When he was young, shouldn’t he be jealous of normal people?  And when he got old, shouldn’t others be jealous of him?  (Nah!)  When he grew down into a child’s body, wouldn’t it have been more dramatic if he had been a wise 70 year old, trying to convince adults that he was older and more experienced than them?  Nah . . . they just have him start forgetting everything when that point comes.

And, since Benjamin really had no goals, he had no personality.  He never really wanted anything, besides to be with a woman every now and then.  He didn’t struggle with envy for normal people, he didn’t worry very much about his awkward future, he didn’t deal with anger issues toward his father who abandoned him, he didn’t struggle with very much loneliness.  Lots of missed potential.

It seems like the writers were in a bit of a hurry to create this film, because they did a horrible job.  They expanded an idea into a screenplay without adding any story.  *Sigh*  It could’ve been good.

Remember . . . an idea is not a story!  You might start with an idea, but the story still has to be about something.  It might seem mundane or cliche, such as a simple love story, or a war story, or a life-struggles story (which is what Ben Button should’ve been about), but it needs that conflict built around the initial idea.  You can’t just take the idea and run with it.

The only way Ben Button could’ve succeeded without a story is if it had been a comedy.  Comedy can get away with there being little story because the point is in the little stories, the gags, the jokes.  Forrest Gump had no big story, but it was funny.  A Christmas Story had very little story, but it was funny.  And I’m sure there are plenty more . . .

So I give Benjamin Button 2 out of 10 stars, which is pretty pathetic.

Okay, that’s all I have to say for today.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

A melody experiment and stuff

A melody experiment

I posted this melody experiment yesterday.  It’s something I’ve been wanting to try for a while; I’ll be very interested in the results.  Basically, the experiment consists of creating a melody by people voting for the next note.  I simplified it as much as I could; the rhythm, time signature, key, starting note, etc., are already determined, accompanying harmony is not being considered, and there are only 15 choices spanning two octaves; no accidentals.  There could of course be many more choices, and I’ll definitely be interested in exploring them in the future, but for this first try I wanted to make it as simple and direct as possible.  Such simplification will, I hope, also get the final melody written much sooner!

I don’t know whether the final melody will be strange and random, very generic, or perhaps pretty good; I am eager to find out!  It will have to sound like something after all.  I think it will get much more interesting a few more notes or bars into the melody, when the first notes begin to actually influence our expectations of what note should come next.  Oh yes, then it will be very interesting I think.  In fact, I considered going ahead and writing the first couple measures just to get to that point right off the bat, but then decided against it.  After all, maybe the beginning will be interesting too?

So, if you get a chance to visit this page and vote, I’d really be interested in everyone’s choices!

Stuff – WolframAlpha

Somebody on a forum mentioned this website: WolframAlpha (and this impressive video about it, maybe better to watch this first).  I really encourage all geeks to check it out, it’s a lot of fun to play around with.  Here’s a graph comparing the popularity of different spellings of my name, Sean, Shaun, and Shawn.  WolframAlpha created it by me typing “sean shawn shaun“.  One can see the popularity in the name sort of exploded in the 1970’s, and seems to be slowly becoming unpopular again, but is still quite popular right now.  (By the way, “Sean” is the correct spelling, the other ways are wrong!)

It has a huge wealth of info, and is (of course being from Wolfram) especially good at math questions.  I typed in “What is the 5000000th prime number?” and it told me: 86028121.  Of course!  I typed in “What is the 5000000th digit of pi?” and it told me: computation timed out.  Of course!  I typed in “What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?” and it told me: 42.  I typed in “What is the derivative of 6x^x^x?” and it gave me some long equation.  I typed in “1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 13, 19, 28, …” and it gave me a possible generating function for the sequence. I typed in “How old was Martin Gardner in 11/25/1985?” to find out Martin Gardner was 71 years old when I was born (and he’s still alive).

And all that’s just touching the surface.  So it’s fun to play around with.  Lots of stuff there, and it should improve with time.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Websites

Audiosparx

I was doing some research (well, really just web surfing) on music licensing and I came across Audiosparx.com.  It basically allows people to buy licenses to use sound effects or music tracks in their projects, such as commercials, films, training videos, whatever.  And, if you’re a composer, they also allow you to upload your music to make it available.  Then, if someone wants to buy a license to use your music, you get about half the profits.

I googled around and found some people who hadn’t sold any tracks there, or some that had sold only a few, so I don’t expect to make much money with it, if any.  Especially since my music is very melodic and thematic, I think that makes it a bit harder to use as background music; it might be considered a distraction.

However, there’s still always a chance that someone out there will want to use my music for something . . . and it’s completely free, so I don’t really have anything to lose.  They do have some notable license sales to big film studios, which is encouraging.

Also, when I registered, I didn’t write a bio for myself, thinking I would write one later . . . but after they approved me, they wrote one for me, which was pretty nice!  Less work for me, and it was very gracious.  That said, I’m not sure how selective they are or if there are really any artists who are disapproved.

My page is at http://www.audiosparx.com/Hannifin

Again, I kinda doubt I’ll make any money, but I’ll keep you updated if I do.

By S P Hannifin, ago