Calling Safari 6. Dinner’s ready.

I had an idea for a new web project with a front-end focus and have been stepping up my JavaScript game. Progress has been fine but it turns out several aspects of JavaScript are a disheartening mess, not least the drag and drop disaster.

The project employs the service of File, FormData, and XHR2 objects and avoids popular JS libraries (for now). It turns out Firefox and Chrome have both supported the File and FormData APIs for at least a year, but IE 9 (ha!) and to my surprise Safari 5 do not. Telling my Safari users to download WebKit nightlies is pretty lame. Worse, if I cared about IE users I’d have to point them to IE10, which at the time of writing is only publicly available on Windows 8.

For a company in such a hurry to see Flash die, Apple is keeping Safari in a weird limbo right now. It got slower with Lion (I’m not alone noticing this) and despite a history of innovation is lagging FF and Chrome’s JS support. (I eagerly await the day IE counts as competition again.)

Safari 6, get here already. My project is awesome and wants you, yes you!

Arrived in Kessenuma

About one week ago I arrived in Kessenuma, Japan. I’m volunteering with the help of a non-profit organization to assist with recovery of the hardest hit areas of the country. So far that means urban areas on the eastern coast of the Tohoku region, including Kessenuma, Rikuzentakata, and Karakura.

The damage is unreal and the work ahead of us incredible.

At the moment the team has limited internet, but I will be making an effort to post content to For the latest information from the scene here please stay tuned. The site RSS feed is a good way to automatically stay on top of new posts.

Speaking of speed…

I really don’t like waiting, especially when I can avoid it. Therefore, when I got tired of waiting for my computer recently I did something about it.

On SSH and passwords

The average ssh logon time consumes what feels like 3-4 seconds on my 2007-era machines. The delay has worsened since Ubuntu 0910, which now retrieves system information on logon (in its default form, nearly useless to me). I really like the idea of seeing useful info at logon time, but bottlenecking logon – the most common act that happens – for multiple seconds is unacceptable. If you’re like me, just use your own script instead of landscape:

apt-get remove landscape-common

I banged out some bash that runs nearly instantaneously and shows only what I actually care about, and it only took some lines in .profile. simple version:

echo 'df -h' >> ~/.profile

Finally for a really good one that totally pays for itself: think about how many times you type in a password. The net time saved by not having to spend a few seconds typing in your password each time is huge.

echo "PubkeyAuthentication yes" >> /etc/ssh/sshd_config

It’s called public key authentication in SSH, and it’s one of the best kept SSH secrets.

Hat tip to musicians in 2010

50 years ago, if an aspiring Joe Rockstar wanted to step up from recording his garage band to mastering his first demo, he’d soon be thwarted by the cost of time with specialized expensive studio hardware like mixers, multitrack recorders, and (down the line) audio effects like EQs, delays, reverb, and synthesizers. The 90s opened many doors as music software grew up, but limited processing speed and hard drive throughput were frequent road bumps.

Today, a basic laptop and a multichannel sound card are capable of satisfying most common production needs. There is an entrenched market for audio software, and some even stays true to the venerable style of vintage rackmounted audio hardware (i.e. Reason). In some cases modern musical products (such as an MPC drum machine) provide a ‘good enough’ cheaper alternative to their yesteryear equivalent (hired session drummer).

Ableton Live
Logic Pro

As someone who loves music and technology, I want to take a moment and acknowledge recent years as some pretty incredible ones in the history of music production. Like many other creative fields the advent of cheap and ubiquitous computing has enabled a larger school of musicians to more easily realize their musical ambitions. I think it’s fair to say we are in the early years of the next generation of production and people are in a race to catch up and stay on top of the possibilities.

Personally, I’m an Ableton Live fan, and Logic is pretty cool too when I can cut through the overwhelming interface. (At least the Apple buyout brought us GarageBand.)

I definitely want to give a shoutout to Spectrasonics too, a company whose products I discovered last year. When I first plugged the family’s MIDI keyboard into my old PowerPC Mac, virtual instruments (VSTs, RTASs, or AUs for the OS X guys) existed but had nowhere near the ambition you find today. Between Omnisphere, Trilian, and Stylus RMX there’s an impressive quality to Spectrasonic’s sampling I’m happy to see out there. Trilian, their bass instrument, has 6 different dynamics and 6 different samples that round robin each time you hit a note. There is so much data in the samples that on my MacBook Pro it takes upwards of several seconds just to load an instrument. But the result is worth it – who would have thought a virtual instrument could sound so realistic?

Here’s to the next 10 years of music production!