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Friday, May 04, 2012
Thursday, May 03, 2012
Clarksdale (one more time)
In the year 2000, JML and I went in search of the crossroads. Near as I can tell, neither of us is an extraordinary musician, so it didn't take.
Radio Lab put a lot more effort into their search for both the crossroads and Robert Johnson.
For my track support computer, I'm migrating from an XP laptop to a Windows 7 laptop. I don't really want to do it, and have been dragging my feet for months, but I'm all about the backup systems. If the XP machine croaks, I need to be able to seamlessly switch laptops.
The requirement is to run a bunch of quirky programs, written for and sold to a small market, which quirky programs talk to and configure even quirkier embedded systems. I need to use apps to configure a data acquisition system, a camera with built-in data acquisition, another camera, another data acquisition system (for a different car), and my two-way radios.
Two of the embedded systems are Italian. They do stuff differently in Italy. The camera boots linux and uses FTP to transfer data over USB. Now everyone else on the planet may think making a virtual drive visible to the host is a fine idea. But conformity to the norms is overrated.
With minimal flailing, I got most of the data/camera stuff sorted out. Now on to simple stuff, the walkie talkies. The SW to configure the two-way radios sets up frequencies and squelch codes for a few channels. Pretty basic. The SW refuses to even install in Windows 7. The popup window says, "Nope! No how, no way. You lose."
The SW is literally the only way to configure the radios, and XP is where it likes to live. To add to the fun, it uses RS-232 (aka serial port), which wikipedia tells me was introduced in 1962.
But between Virtual XP (a W7 virtual machine feature), and a virtual RS-232 port (via USB adapter), I got this covered.
First step is to put my trusty USB-to-RS-232 adapter gizmo in the W7 machine. "Nope! No how, no way. You lose." Well that's not a good start.
Buy another, damn near guaranteed to work with W7, wait for Amazon to drop it in my mail box. It installs. Success!
Okee-dokee, now I just need to fire up a Virtual XP window, install the SW, and go. It's a little strange. Sometimes it misbehaves, but basically I got it working. There are integration features which allow XP in the virtual machine to access HW. So I hook an XP "comm port" to a W7 "comm port" and away we go.
Fire up the configuration software. "Radio not found. Loser."
Joining the Aughties
No doubt about it, I spend a lot of time driving. Too much. I do what I can to cut back. Teaching the dogs not to bark while I'm on a conference call (busted again) is a key part of working from home. Since the people I work with are hundreds or thousands of miles away, it usually doesn't matter what my physical address is.
But still, I drive a lot. While I have a lot of tunes on my portable music player, I've gotten tired of listening to albums. And making playlists is tedious. While I have satellite radio, it doesn't work so well in the mountains. The comedy channels in particular can be frustrating. "So then I said ----------------------------. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!" While I have a most awesome independent radio station locally, their 250 watts also struggles in the mountains. And when I can listen, it's not necessarily my favorite show. While I listen to a lot of NPR, the shows in commute time are the most depressing. "Now more awful shit happening somewhere in the world." I like to stay informed. But the second time the news rolls around with a repeat, I'm right pissed off.
So, I have a multi-prong plan of attack. For independent radio, I'm downloading their hourly aircheck MP3s. I can always have access to my favorite DJs without temporal or topological constraints. For NPR, I'm doing this new fangled pod-cast thingy. My favorite shows, many of which are on the weekend, automatically download and are ready to sync at my leisure.
For my hundreds of gigs of tunes, I'm using the genius mix. In addition to some that it comes up on its own, I can create custom ones by telling it "make a playlist based on this here tune." I could quibble a bit with "genius". E.g., "Can't make a playlist based on Miles Davis' 'Round Midnight." Too obscure for you, buddy? "Can't make a playlist based on Talking Heads' Psychokiller." Really?
"Sometimes-a-dolt-but-other-times-really-quite-clever Mix" function can come through with some nice results. Throwing some Nirvana, Bush and Pearl Jam into a playlist based on Kashmir is pretty cool. But Journey? WTF? That shite's pop, which has very little affinity with metal dirge.
All said, my listening experience gives me more tolerance for the idiots I share the road with, and the idiots I share the rest of the planet with. Really, I'm much calmer about all those fucking idiots. Can you tell? And I'm feeling so much more modern with my pocket-sized audio tivo fully actualized.