Category: Reflections

A note about programming

Programming is a strange activity in some ways. For starters, the majority of people don’t really understand what it entails, although there is probably some vague awareness in many that it involves ‘creating programs’. For those people who have dabbled in it, programming is a clearer concept but unless you’ve immersed yourself in the activity for a considerable amount of time it is unlikely that a real grasp of the complexity and depth involved in creating software is apparent.

I think programming is an activity that means different things to different people. All I know is what it means to me. Programming is a lot like any other creative endeavour, whether that be painting, writing, composing, sculpting, building, modelling or any number of similar activities besides. Anybody who engages in such creative arts, whether they realise it or not, becomes the ultimate controller of the little world in which they operate.

An author has free and complete reign over the destinies of their characters, imbibing life, death, adventure or misfortune upon these subjects at the whim of a few words. A sculptor or painter has a similar power, at least within the constraints of the material with which they are working. The same can be applied to artists, musicians and so forth.

In a similar vein, a programmer has many choices: which language to use, the nature of the computer for which they are creating the program and the algorithms they employ to produce the desired outputs when their program is run. In my opinion, programming differs from some other creative activities in that it is as much a science as it is an art, being a heady mix of well-trodden known best practices intermingled with the creative freedom to innovate and influence the behaviour of the program in order to make it do things that other programs don’t do, or perhaps to find a better way of doing something that’s been done a certain way for ages.

Much as I suspect is the case with other crafts, some programmers consider their activities coldly, merely churning out code to adhere to a set of specifications created by other people. Others engage with passion in what they are doing, as they have complete freedom over the design and implementation of the task at hand.

Having spent a significant amount of time implementing my vision of a system that does something interesting, and in the back of my head, working towards a goal that would mean I could make a living working on exactly this, it’s interesting to me how I fluctuate between intense concentration and flow, and fragmented, piecemeal sessions where nothing of importance seems to get done.

The former involves working hours at a time through a myriad of challenges and ideas in order to push the product further forward, and not even realising that the time has passed. The latter is frustrating but at least it’s time that can be spent doing little tweaks and tidy-ups in order to smooth out rough edges or oversights in previously written code. Either way it is mentally exhausting, if immensely enjoyable.

Later this year it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of this process. There are some interesting developments afoot and the code is taking shape in ways that excite and encourage me. It’s sort of alive, in it’s own way even. Watch this space ūüôā

 

2016 – Time for some MUSIC!

For the last couple of years, I’ve not been very productive on the music front, and I think it’s a bit of a shame. There are a number of reasons why this might be, I’m not entirely sure which apply to be honest, but in recent months the pressure has been building within me and I’m about to kick it all off again.

Certainly, I have been busy with work, and for the last year especially, I’ve put a phenomenal amount of time and effort into the landscaping and construction projects in our gardens. If I’m honest, I’ve also let my studio get very messy and cluttered and this is not a good environment within to get creative.

A big spring clean int he studio is about to commence, and as part of that I have also mixed things up a bit by ordering a couple of new devices which I think will inspire me greatly. The first of these is an analogue synthesizer in the form of a Prophet 6 …

.. and the second is a Moog Mother-32, which is also analogue and I am intending for it to be the start of a semi-modular system…

I’ve also decided to sell some of my digital synths. Certainly I’ll sell the Kurzweil K2500 as I never use it, and I’m pondering selling my Yamaha ES7, as although I do like it a great deal, I think it’s redundant as I have it’s bigger cousin, the XS8, which can do everything the ES does and more. Finally, I think I’ll sell my Korg Triton, as I have the Trinity, and I prefer the sound of the Trinity (even though the Triton is a later model).

Anyway, here’s to a musical 2016, a revamped studio and some thumping good output in the short term!

Keyboard of doom

Recently I spilled a little coffee on my Mac Pro keyboard and it developed a fault whereby some of the keys on the bottom rows would not only trigger the character I wanted, but also it spits out some kind of control-code which causes all kinds of randomness. I researched it a little and discovered that you cannot disassemble an Apple keyboard because it’s glued together.

This is annoying and also quite at odds with the accepted modern wisdom of encouraging recycling and reducing waste. In the old days, with my 16-bit micro I used to disassemble the keyboard and give it a good spring clean and wash every now and again, but with Apple (and they are not alone in this) making their keyboard non-serviceable, the chances are that a little coffee will end up requiring the unit to be discarded and a replacement obtained.

As a last resort, I’ve run it under the hot tap for a couple of minutes in an effort to rinse out whatever caffeine-powered clogginess there is in there. It’s drying face down on a towel at the moment. I’ll leave it there for a few hours then put it on a radiator to dry out a bit more, then test to see if it works.

I’ll be happy if it does – the concept of throwing away a keyboard is ridiculous when it’s only got a little coffee in it.

What with all the Paris global warming conference and the incessant talking by politicians the world over, it also seems ridiculous to me that so many technical things these days are non-serviceable, sealed units. Also that there are so many things (not just technical ones) that are shipped in plastic packaging which way exceeds the amount required for the item in question.

As for individually wrapped sachets of sugar, don’t even get me started…

Just because

Posting this picture of us outside the royal pavilion Brighton, just after we got married. thought i’d lost it. Very happy i haven’t as its my favorite.582142_3893095696207_444314739_n

I’ve only gone and done it.

Well i’ve put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and deleted my Facebook account. I was using it for 8 years and had really good fun, loved keeping in touch with friends old and new.

Recently it has been increasingly annoying me, but still i stayed, even after Eddy left and told me IN LENGTH how evil Facebook is, i didn’t listen. Just merrily carried on my way ignoring the doubts, as the thought of not having it seemed weird. I have been resenting how much of my time it sucks out of me. Why am i checking Facebook whilst on the beach??? because A: i’m nosy and B: clearly on the slippery road to becoming a zombie glued to my phone. You see people out for dinner in pubs, bars all ignoring each other as clearly what their old school friends dogs sister is doing is much more interesting. Or looking at photos of other peoples food. Just bloody talk to each other, btw your dinner is now cold.

Something happened the other day that made me so angry it tipped me over the edge. The realisation that some people are so addicted its taken over their whole life. Something was demanded of me quite aggressively that was so pathetic my eyes were finally opened. Sometimes people can tell you stuff till they’re blue in the face, but you need to realise it for yourself. Anyway i’ve never been a fan of being told what to do.

So…

I’m free and feeling very pleased with myself..

A quick thought on facebook

A mental addiction

 

When Ju and I were talking about her deleting her facebook account (I deleted mine ages ago), we both observed the fact that facebook is much like an online game. Regardless of whether¬†one really cares, there is an innate satisfaction in collecting ‘likes’ and seeing people comment on stuff you put up. This very easily becomes a habit, and it’s difficult to see past it when you’re interacting with facebook on a regular basis.

There is a well known psychological technique used by people who write ‘freemium’ games – you know, the ones that are free to install but then try to get you to buy stuff in the game.¬†The details are quite involved but the summary is that these games¬†give people continual little ‘rewards’, occasionally interspersed with bigger ones,¬†that make them feel as if they are not wasting their time playing the game.¬†This technique feeds that part of the brain that accumulates points or status in one form or other and we are all susceptible to it.

Facebook have been very clever in that they have effectively turned their whole site into an online game. There are points to be gained in the form of ‘likes’ and prizes to be gained in the form of comments. It’s easy enough to get both, up to a point, but now and again when you post something that gets an unusually high number¬†of likes or comments, your pleasure centre in the brain is stimulated and these occasional boosts to the ego reinforce your habit of playing the game.

The result is narcissism, and in some cases, self obsession. Facebook is training people (especially young people) to feel as if they need the admiration and approval of their peers, because this drives the feedback loop that makes facebook more money. Many people on facebook are effectively building their own brand, and¬†spend more time maintaining this facade¬†than they do¬†interacting in a healthy manner in real life.¬†Looking at it from the outside, it’s quite scary actually.

The truth is that in¬† facebook’s case you are the product. They sell your information, and indirectly they also profit from the posts you put up. They make a lot of money from it. Facebook are also actively seeking and implementing ways to extend their ownership of you as a product, by proactively filtering what you see and hiding from you the things they are doing with your data.

In short, you are being manipulated, and many people seem not to realise this. Many of those who do go ‘meh’ and remain using it because of the established habit I wrote about above. When I left facebook (and I was already a cynic), even I found it hard to drop out of the collective for a week or so. After the initial habit wore off, I never looked back and somehow my life was better for it. I felt the same way when I stopped playing World of Warcraft, incidentally.

As a final thought, this struck me. You don’t need facebook, facebook needs you. The same is true of vampires.