Steffest Digitale Pulptuur

Obsessed with sound

Philips is obsessed with sound.
They're launching a whole new range of audio consumer products with their new technologies.

I had the pleasure of attending a product launch to hear it with my own ears.
Ok -  first things first: they sound pretty good AND they look pretty good too :-)

image image  image 

Could be a cyborg big brother of  image no? 
 
Audiophiles may twinch at their audio-altering technologies as SoundSphere and Fullsound but to my humble ears, they do provide richer experience.

I can't help but feel their frustration though: they have to squeeze in their products in an almost impossible position:
One the one hand there are the mainstream media consumers that are so spoiled these days: they want everything in an impossible small gorgeous looking package for a low price - and on the other hand there are the media geeks with there zillion connected devices that want cool looking gadgets with al the new media features that change so rapidly these days.

For example: product lines like Philips Streamium wants to address both audiences but fall somewhere in the middle: a little overkill for the first and not too much for the latter.
Non-tech people have no need for streaming features and Tech-people already have a gigantic media library on their computer or laptop and don't want to spend €1000 on a device that tries to do the same.
Their niche must be incredibly small, IMHO, but you have to admire Philips for trying to keep on innovating.

So in that light: here are some new ideas for Philips to integrate in their next product line,
Just some thoughs that would swing over my vote:

  • the Steaming now has an nice little touchscreen attached on top of it for the controls. that's nice but 2 words are important there: it's little and it's attached.
    You can also control the device with the remote but the screen is so little that you end up standing 2 feets away with the remote just to be able to read what's on the screen.
    Why not make the screen detachable as little touchscreen remote control that you can take with you in the sofa or in the kitchen? Or even better: the device is already connected to Wifi, so why can't i use my mobile phone to control it? Sonos has scored a major hit with their iPhone app to control their devices and for a reason.
  • Whatever you do as remote: PLEASE STOP USING THOSE STUPID INFRARED REMOTES ! they are a relic from the past. they are an inadequate one-way dumb control system. expecially for a media device, I want feedback what song is playing, I want to browse the currentplaylist from my remote, select another album ...
    Please provide some other form of interface, ideally some media network protocol so it integrates with all the devices one already has instead of just adding another and another and another remote control.
    Again: it's a safe bet the the kind of people thet buy these things, especially the streamium, already has a decent mobile phone, so provide a way they can use that as remote.
  • Speaking of mobile: it's great to provide a great sounding iPhone dock like the Fidelio dockingspeakers, really sounds good, but doesn't it strike you as a bit weird that you have to put 1 pocket sized device in the dock, and then take another pocket sized device to act as remote? why can't i just stream my music from the iPhone, or any other phone to the dock? And if you produce your own portable media player like the GoGear muse, why on earth isn't it compatible with your dockingspeakers? would it be so much trouble to also provide the proper connector on the GoGear Muse - seems to me a win-win for both devices.
  • the Immersive Sound home theater with 360 sound does sound truly great, and Philips is planning to offer a set with 2 wireless speakers on the back. Why only 2? I would pay a good deal of money extra if all 4 speakers would be wireless. Ideally, provide some battery capacity so I can detach the speakers for a few hours to put them in the garden or kitchen e.g.

 

image I got to take the GoGear Muse player with me to test. Thanks!
Portable media player are an extremely crowded market these days and I must say I was very skeptical about the player: "Why even bother?"

I was wrong and pleasantly surprised: it's actually a very decent media player.


Plus points:

 

  • very solid with it's brushed aluminum case
  • plays all kinds of media formats, including e.g. Flac and Ape Audio and Divx/Xvid video - a HUGE plus for me as most of my (rather big) video library is in Xvid - Eat that iPod! (no AC3 decoder though)
  • Micro SD slot. Yay! - again: YAY!  Eat that iPod!
  • HDMI out. Whoa! -  again: WHAO! I didn't expect that of a small device like this. works really well too. plays 720p video on a big screen.
  • Touch interface is pretty snappy. I kind of missing a hardware back button as the onscreen one is a bit smallish.
  • Pops up as external drive on your Mac or PC for easy file transfer. Eat that iPod
  • FM radio: an oldie but a goodie and often overlooked.
  • the "Sound-Isolation" ear phones are really good. Even I can hear the difference :-)
  • Integrated Microphone for audio-notes. Nice touch.

Less good points

  • The 3.2 HVGA screen is a bit small for video, especially as there is a lot of unes space at the front of the device left. a bigger widescreen would be nice.
  • Battery life is more then enough for audio but "only" 4 hours for video. standard values but I expected a bit more.
  • The songbird software is PC only and a bit ... euhm ... crap. Luckely you don't need as you can manage it with any other Media organiser.

Verdict

All in all a good looking, good sounding small media player - certainly way better then the original (non touch) iPods.
If you're still in the market for a portable mediaplayer - this a good choice.
I know it was a godsend for the "kids-during-long-car-session" as I didn't had to convert a single media file and could swap music, audio books and movies straight from my mobile phone using the Micro SD card.

Thanks Philips for the product demos, and it must be said it was a GREAT location.

 

Tags: Gadgets, in EnglishGeef je reactie (0)
 

Under-the-Tree Sketches part 2

2 more Under-the-Tree sketches.
not good ones.

b3b 
b4

the last one is already way past it's "you-really-should-stop-now" point.
I always know when I cross that line but very rarely actually stop there :-)

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Lo-tech Sketching

2 weeks without internet and gadgets: what a treat! :-)
Sitting under a tree, one of the most relaxing things - for me at least - is drawing. There's something very Zen like in the way the pencil point scratches the surface, leaving a gentle trail that slowly reveals what's been hiding in the paper.
Unintentionally, there's seemed to sneak in some sort of theme in the sketches I made.
Here are 2 of my drawings.
No title as of this moment, we'll see if they ever link together into something meaningful.

b1
b2

All made with my favorite pencil: a black automatic pentel P205A pencil with 5mm HB fillings in my little square sketching journal.  

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Sing along

De Witte Merel zingt
My little project of last week was to produce a CD for the school of my kids.
This year's theme was "music" so a CD of all the children songs seemed a nice present for all the proud parents.
We collected all the recordings people had made during the year and made a few new ones.
I love fiddling with knobs and music software so I volunteered to "spice up" the vocal recordings, adding various instrument tracks and brushing up the vocals.

I mostly used Adobe Audition for audio restoration and Ableton Live for the editing, arrangements, mixing and effects.
Ableton Live really is an amazing piece of software: a perfect example of fitting a gazillion options in a clean and intuitive interface, very fun to work with.

It was too bad that some of the base recordings were really crappy, taken out of cell phone video recordings and such, but oh well... there was no way to redo those recording so I had to work with what I had. 
I'm far from a decent sound engineer and half the time i was just "doing random stuff" until it sounded about right, but i was enjoying myself :-)

If someone has some good tips how to improve those lo-fi cell phone audio recordings, please let me know as I have no clue how to do that.
Obviously it's not possible to create oranges out of orange juice so maybe those recordings are just "lost", but still, maybe someone knows how to make them sound less sharp and narrow.

To finish it up, I created a custom media player in Flash for the website at http://www.wittemerel.be/zingt/
Enjoy and sing along if you speak Dutch! :-)  

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Open Source Telenet Digicorder API

a picture called telenetdigicorderAPI.jpg (click to enlarge)

A few months ago, Telenet finally made the jump and opened up their digicorder devices to be controlled through their TV web portal TV.be.

Nice!!!
Finally you could schedule your TV recordings from anywhere using a web browser instead of a infrared remote and the dorky digicorder interface.

Controlling media devices through web interfaces happens to be one of my sweet spots so the first thing I did was firing up Firebug to see what kind of communication was going on between their various web applications.
They've done a really good job, as they created an internal API to talk to the digicorder.
Figuring out how the API works has the same attraction as seeing a crossword puzzle in a newspaper: it tickles your mind but at the same time it's not too hard and with some time and logic the puzzle is quickly solved.

So, let's get to work to create a more open API to control your TV recordings from any software package you want instead of only through the tv.be website.

First step: login
Telenet uses a single-sign-on system, providing a token that authorises you as "logged in" and that you can take with you to other sites.

It sends you on a redirect path towards multiple domains - telling each domain you have logged in.
The script just recreates that path and makes sure to collect and pass all cookies to the next step. (That's really easy in .net - just use the same cookiecontainer for each request)
After that you can use the Telenet remotePVR API from the script as an authenticated user.
One problem though: to schedule a new recording you need the eventID of the program you want to record.
That's where tv.be and some good old screenscraping comes in: a Channel listing for each day is requested on the tv.be website and the EventID codes get extracted and saved to a local cache (so we don't have to hammer the tv.be site more then we need to)
Technically that might be against Telenet's Terms of Use policy, but hey - we're all in favour of free and open data, aren't we?
That's it.
I created a more simple API as .net wrapper class with the following syntax

Dim tvbe as new tvbe
tvbe.login()
tvbe.logout()
tvbe.recordings()
tvbe.reminders()
tvbe.zenders()

In a webapp that translates to URLs as

/login
/logout
/boxes 'gets info on your digiboxes and digicorders
/recordings
'gets a list of your scheduled and completed recordings
/recordings/schedule/ID
' schedules a new recording, ID is an eventID provided by tv.be
/recordings/delete/ID
' deletes a recording, ID is an eventID provided by tvbe/recordings
/reminders/ 'gets a list of your scheduled reminders
/reminders/schedule/ID ' sets a new reminder, ID is an eventID provided by tv.be
/reminders/delete/ID
' deletes a reminder, ID is an eventID provided by tvbe/reminders
/zenders ' (short)list of available channels
/zenders/channelname ' program guide of the channel with name "channelname"
/zenders/channelname?date=dd-mm-yyyy ' program guide of the channel with name "channelname" of a given day 


The sourcecode can be found here.

Update:

After a (very friendly) request from Telenet I'm taking the sourcecode and the demo application offline.
However I do hope I can contribute following their open invitation to help unlock their digital services towards a more open communication (API?) in general and mobile devices in particular.
To be continued ...


As a demo I created a little frontend for the API for use on mobile devices.

http://tv.stef.be it is.

You can use the TV guide without login in, but if you want to manage your recorders you have to create an account at tv.be (and be a Telenet Digital TV customer of course) 
It's a bit of a trust-issue to enter your telenet credentials in a "rogue" app like this, but i can assure you it's safe: your credentials are not stored anywhere and are only used to pass through the Telenet login sequence.
If you're still hesitating to enter your login, you can grab the source and try it on your own machine.

Here are some screenshots.
image image image foto

 


The API still has some holes, mostly because not all tv.be content is easily available.
Most important i would love a simple system to convert EventID's to program names and vica versa, maybe if i ask the tv.be people nicely? :-)
Also it's not really suited if you have more then one digicorder.
A search function would be nice ... maybe I'll implement that.

Of course it works fine as long as Telenet doesn't change their internal API, which is always a risk, but well,  then the cat and mouse game can continue.
I was planning to build an Android app for it but actually http://tv.stef.be works very well on mobile devices and since you still would need a data connection to talk to your digicorder, why would you create a native app when a webapp will do?

Happy recording!

Tags: in English, Mobile, Programming, Scripting, Web 2.0Geef je reactie (13)
 

Cracklin Rosie on a Whole Lotta Mobile Phones



Who said iPhone OS, Android and Windows Mobile don't play well together?

Music apps are a really cool type of mobile application, they let you you unleash your musical creativity wherever you are and are perfect to jot down a quick idea or to jam along.
For years one of my favorite pastimes on the train was to do some retro musictracking with the brilliant Milkytracker, but this time I needed something more.
It turned out to be somewhat geeky, even for my standards :-)

 image image
The Phone Guitar is born out of a presentation I'm going to do next Saturday on MobileCampBrussels about mobile cross development.
To put my money where my mouth is, I decided to create the same mobile app - a small piano/drum sequencer thing -  on 3 mobile platforms: Android, Windows Mobile and iPhone OS.
As a developer I didn't quite succeed: audio latency is a b*tch and building the app from the same source proved to be possible but unusable, so I ended up writing it three times: in java for android, in C# for windows mobile and in Objective-C for iPhone. More on that later, but boy did I have fun playing with it :-)

To play them all at once I just taped them on a piece of wood together with a battery powered speaker.
Add lots of audio cables and TADAAA: a very playable guitar shaped instrument that makes a hell of a noise :-)

I added Pocket Stompbox, a virtual amp with lots of great real time effects and of course the FANTASTIC iShred app from Frontierdesign

In screenshots, the setup looks like this

 imageimagepianopianoimageimage

Instant gratification! Rock on!!!

Tags: Gadgets, Mobile, Tinkering, VideoGeef je reactie (16)
 

Usenet-o-matic for your mobile

"Usenet indexer Newzbin has lost its MPA court case."
Maybe that doesn't ring a bell but anyone who's been digging into to "downloading stuff from the net" will soon find out that Usenet is the place where it's at: your one stop shop for all the movies, TV shows, music and apps you can chew.
The only problem: it's too much and as is the case with the torrent trackers - Usenet is also flooded with crap: virus infested apps, password protected files, DRM loaded pay-movies,... 
Not very easy to find the good stuff.

That's where Newzbin came in: their system of user-generated and verified reports made it a no-brainer to find clean and high quality releases - nicely packaged in so called nzb files,which are a list of all the binary chunks you need to download from a Usenet server in order to rebuild the files you want.
AND they have a very nice API for developers like me so they can script and automate their download flow.
Not anymore: starting from March 31, no new reports are being added. The service is not broken, but without updates it's pretty darn useless.
So there i was: sitting in my bathtub, sipping my red wine and hitting the play button, only to find the latest episode of Lost wasn't there.
No fun!
Especially since I was not in the position to jump up, run to the keyboard and quickly find another source.

As these things go, it's a classic case of  "the King is dead, long live the King".
NZB sites are not hard to find and I quickly updated my scripts to use NZBMAtrix as an alternate source.

One of those scripts is a mobile optimised search tool to quickly find a TV-show (or whatever it is you're looking for) and tell your homePC to download it.
The idea is that you use your mobile phone to initiate a download, your homePC downloads the file using a fast internet connection and streams it back to your mobile phone. Very easy and very fast: e.g. downloading a TV episode takes a minute or 2 after which you can use Relocally - or something like Air Video - to stream it to your device.

The script is called Usenet-o-matic.  It will be part of Relocally, but if you want you can use it yourself.

It's available  at http://usenetomatic.codeplex.com.
In this first release it supports Newzbin and NZBmatrix as index sources and SABnzbd as download server.

This means that in order to get it working, you need a Newzbin premium account or a NZBmatrix VIP account and a SABnzbd installation. (and a decent Usenet provider obviously - like Giganews)
I admit: those are a lot of things to set up (and are not free) so probably the target group of a script like this is pretty narrow, but once you get everything inline, download Walhalla is yours :-)

Sorry, no live demo but here are some screenshots: (Yeah yeah, I know: it looks like crap, I left the design part for you to add :-) )

image  image  imageimage

Tags: in English, Mobile, Programming, ScriptingGeef je reactie (2)
 

en ... GO!

De lente hangt in de lucht.
De Catalpas zijn weer gesnoeid en de tafel staat klaar in de veranda voor het eerste lentezonontbijt.
Ook op de zolder merk je dat je vingers er niet meer afvriezen als je een hamer vastneemt.
Tijd dus om terug in actie te schieten!
Dat die zolderkamers eindelijk eens afgeraken begot.
Het is niet mijn schuld hoor, dat die dingen nog niet klaar zijn, het is de schuld van de goniometrie.
Zoals al eerder gezegd, tis rap bedacht: hop, we trekken hier wat schuine lijnen door, dan krijgen we meer dynamiek in de ruimte die bovendien het beschikbare volume optimaliseert en de natuurlijk flow benadrukt.

Jawadde - maar waar die schuine lijnen in contact komen met de schuine lijnen van het dak, krijg je ware Escher-toestanden.
En dat vertaalt zich dan automatisch in veeeeeel meer werk om daar muren tussen te krijgen en alle hoekjes af te werken.
Plezant - dat wel!
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Barcamp Antwerpen podcast

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4416623377_e9e39d078e_o De TECH45 podcast was te gast op Barcamp Antwerpen. Ze namen een hele reeks interviews af tijdens de dag wat een erg interessante impressie opleverde.
Ik mocht de spits afbijten in een informele babbel over mijn presentatie met Maarten Handrickx en Stefaan Lesage.
De podcast kun je hier beluisteren - of door hieronder op de play knop te klikken.
De foto's zijn van Marco Frissen

Of download de .mp3 hier)

 

Anne - de organisater van de barcamp is ondertussen druk bezig geweest een reeks kleine barcamp videoreportages online te plaatsen. 

 
Je kunt ze allemaal bekijken via http://www.barcampantwerpen.org/


Jammer dat je - zoals altijd - niet alle presentaties kunt volgen omdat er meerdere tegelijkertijd doorgaan.
Persoonlijk vond ik de talk van Jan Seurinck over "Verlichte piraten" en de voorstelling van "The Mine Project" van Mathias Baert de 2 interessantste - denk ik.
Het zijn alleszins de 2 die me na een week het meest zijn bijgebleven.

The Mine Project is echt een interessant concept, het sluit goed aan bij het Relocally project: je eigen data verzamelen en zelf bepalen hoe en met wie je dat deelt.
Dat komt vroeg of laat nog wel eens terug in 1 of andere vorm.

Ach - interessante dingen - ze zijn met veel en ze staan steeds te dringen om een paar streepjes aandacht.
Het is haast ondoenbaar om die allemaal in toom te houden :-)

 

Tags: in 't Nederlands, VideoGeef je reactie (0)
 

Barcamp Antwerpen 2010 - Het Masterplan

Barcamps - nog steeds mijn favoriete (un)conferentievorm: Iedereen kan iets komen vertellen over een onderwerp naar keuze en iedereen werkt mee om de dag te laten slagen - en supergeslaagd dat was ie! Meer daarover in een aparte post.

Barcamp voor mij is synoniem aan een extra stimulans om eindelijk eens mijn Vage Visies in een concreet project te gieten. Meestal resulteert dat in een slapeloze nacht ervoor om alles "presentabel" te krijgen.

Mijn presentatie op Barcamp Antwerpen 2010 ging deze keer over "Het masterplan" - een overkoepelend project om al je apparaten aan een gezamenlijke webinterface te koppelen zodat je alles vanaf eender waar kunt bedienen.
Dat project is binnenkort op www.relocally.com terug te vinden.
Het is nog een beetje abstract en om het wat te visualiseren toonde ik de stand van zaken van mijn "tweetshirt V2 in wording".
1 van de concepten van relocally is het "remote screen" : Er zijn een hoop schermen in je huis en relocally wil een soort hub vormen zodat je al die schermen ook kunt aansturen vanop 1 punt. Een video naar je TV, een reeks foto's naar je picture frame, een recept naar het scherm in de keuken of ... een beeld naar je T-shirt - meer bepaald je tweetshirt.
Versie 2 zou een tamelijk groot e-textile scherm moeten worden bestaande uit 256 kleuren leds - Momenteel heb ik 1 paneeltje van 64 leds klaar.
Hieronder een kort  videootje van hoe het eruit ziet.

Hieronder vind je nog de slides van mijn presentatie - zoals gewoonlijk zeggen ze niet veel zonder de uitleg.
Klikken om verder te gaan, in de linker onderhoek klikken om terug te gaan.



Update: Nog wat foto's.

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Natuurlijk kwam Murphy weer langs en werkte het display amper tijdens de presentatie - snel wat on-the-fly herstellingswerken om het te fixen.
De foto is van Marco Frissen


me_tweetshirt125
Hier ben ik het vurig aan het uitleggen en zie je hoe het shirt er in daglicht uitziet.
De foto is van SaraVDV

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Opera mini at MWC

a picture called mobile_3_49_10 PM_2152010IMAG0072.jpg (click to enlarge) Opera mini is waiting for S. Jobs - Everybody else arriving at Barcelona airport today probably has tweeted this, but still, nice marketing stunt at the ckeckout gates :-) #MWC
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How to be a full time Tech Blogger

a picture called howtobeafulltimetechblogger.jpg (click to enlarge)

Today I'm proudly introducing the first ever guest posting on this blog.
It's my good friend @zeursteffest!
His motto is "I'm whining about it so you don't have to"
I got to know him after @inferis pointed me in the right direction.
Normally I don't like negative people all that much but it became clear that he had some refreshing insights to share.
So without further due - @zeursteffest: the keyboard is yours.

Thank you @steffest for the opportunity.
So, I've noticed you don't blog all that often and I've decided to help you out a bit.
Your blog is crap - it's rubbish - It's going nowhere - so here are some tips.

First: where are the ads, man? How do you expect to get some ROI without advertisement? For Pete's sake, put some Google adwords between your posts, that's basic stuff!

Second: start hyping up your posts: start using words like boobs and sex and free beer and babes and nude cars and stuff, don't you know anything about SEO?

Third: I've read every single technology and gadget blog the last 2 weeks and made a detailed analysis of how things work around the scene. I've written a bling book about it, but I'm giving - that's right: GIVING you this wicked sick flowchart FOR FREE so even you get to be a full time Tech Blogger. (Once you put some ads on here, that is)
Don't thank me now, thank me when you ... err ... well, just don't and get your act together.

Tags: Apple-bashing, Gezeur, in EnglishGeef je reactie (0)