Friday, October 31, 2008


Even though my good tape decks are broken at the moment I have started on the software to transfer my techno and house mix tapes to the computer.

I have written the software before in C++. It basically waits for a sound on the input and then writes the music to a file until it notices a long quiet section at the end of the tape and stops writing. The software was using threads and used the lame lib to do on the fly mp3 encoding, to make it even quicker to digitize tape. It also notified the user of any buffer underflows and clipped samples.

This software is more than five years old now and all the libraries have changed and I can't be bothered to fix it all.

As I want to learn python anyway I decided to rewrite it in python and see how good I can make it.

Documentation for the (multiple) alsa bindings for python is pretty bad, so I googled around and found kissrec , which is a very simple command line audio recorder with a timer and VU meter. It is GPL, so I have started with that, but I probably rewrite the whole thing to make it (in my eyes) nicer code.

You can find the whole thing at , but please don't look to closely - it is rather ugly at the moment.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Everything breaks

First my nice 32" LCD TV broke, which is annoying. But the TV is easily replaceable, it just takes some money. At the moment I am just using an old 21" CRT TV monitor instead, because it is no good to work on any more.

But now my beloved Sony TC-KA6ES tape deck broke. It was the best tape deck Sony ever produced. A three motor, three head
and Dolby B/C/S monster with manual tape calibration and a weight of half a ton.

I haven't used it for at least two years and this is probably the reason why it broke. Our flat here in sunny Spain gets pretty warm in the summer and it is also a very dusty city. This week I wanted to use it again, because I am working on a little python software to help me to transfer my many tapes to the computer. But now all I have left is a rubbish Technics deck.

I could try to find another good tape deck on ebay, which would set me back 100 to 350 Euro, depending on the deck. I also checked what new decks are available, but all of those are on the cheap end. I am very much in vintage territory now. I realized of course that tapes are not commonplace any more, but they vanished from the high end since five years or so now.

The other option is to find someone to fix the Sony, because it is probably just some rubber band or a dirty part. Fast forward and rewind still works and all the motors seem to work. But while repair shops like this are pretty common in Germany and London, they are difficult to find here. I might also try to fix it myself, as I can't break it much more than it already is.

I finish this post with a picture of my also lovely and broken Sony TC-C5. This one is a very rare five tape auto reverse changer. The tapes are on a carousel. I used it a lot in my time in university to record long techno and house mix shows on the Stuttgart radio. Depending on the tapes it gave me five to ten hours of music. It probably has a similar problem as the TC-KA6ES.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

eee pc 901

I progressed a step further in my quest to upgrade my computer systems at home from the outdated and unusable ones I am have at the moment. My workstation is way to slow and has a broken CRT and I have nothing portable at all.

Thursday before the phpconference I bought a Eee PC 901 (Linux version of course). As I am planning to get a proper desktop computer with a big screen for my home desk, I just needed something to take to conferences, on trips and maybe sometimes into town. I also use it at home to browse the web, when I don't want to sit on my desk.

I am used the preinstalled Linux version for a week, which is some kind of Debian based distribution. It comes with all the office and internet applications you usually need. Skype is included for example, which works with the build-in webcam. I enabled the xterm and installed emacs, eclipse and Django, which all worked pretty good.

As I am more used to Fedora and because I want a proper Linux distribution, I installed Fedora 9 though. It was a bit of a hassle to install from an USB memory stick, but worked in the end. fedoraforum has all the information about ethernet and wireless drivers. Everything else works pretty much out of the box. I used LVM to give me one big partition over both SSDs.

I probably will also upgrade to 2GB RAM, as swap is not really an option with the SSDs and eclipse or games need more memory than the stock 1GB. The CPU is pretty quick too, but that might just be compared to my other computers, where the newest is from 2002.

The worst bit is the keyboard. I don't mind it being small, but the layout is different from all other keyboards I have. The key which is usually left of the "1" is above it, to the right of the "ESC" and the "\" left of the "Z" is gone too, it is mapped with the "Fn" key onto the "Z". Having a Spanish keyboard and using GB mapping makes it not better.

So the summary so far:


  • cheap (350 EUR)
  • small and light
  • runs Fedora well
  • fast
  • long battery life, cool and quite
  • good screen
  • lots of ports
  • graphics chip supports compiz desktop effects
  • keyboard
  • some things don't work in Fedora: multitouch touchpad
  • webcam could be better

Friday, October 10, 2008


I tried a new restaurant for lunch today to expand the current set of choices. (not everything on there is good)

It is called green&wich, located at C/Villaroel and Gran Via, they don't seem to have a website yet. The location is nice, the space is open to the busy street, the design is minimal and the chairs and tables are a bit wobbly.

They have two menus. I went for the 7.90 one, which gives you a salad, a sandwich, drink and a coffee. I had a rocket, tomato and parmesan salad, which was soggy but still had hard stems in it. A pretty awful combination. The "asia" sandwich was ok, but not much better than the packaged ones you get in the supermarket. Barcelona really does need a Pret-A-Manger to show the locals what fresh a sandwich looks like. I had a cortado for coffee, which still contained coffee powder.

The search continues...