Distance Multimedia: 4 score & more
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[koko] "Onward"  permanent reference link

 tl;dr so much to do: old/new/audio/hardware/software/music/video... you gotta keep on movin'
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Tangled Up In Blue "The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew"
(1975) "Tangled Up In Blue" - Bob Dylan




13th Floor Elevators

May 7, 2024 -- Five decades ago, I was immersed in working on my dissertation when Wally Stopher (as he called himself then) came to my door and announced "this is Roky Erickson" — my jaw dropped. They came by a couple of times. Roky let me copy a cassette he was carrying and let me tape him playing my upright piano. Wally [more recently, "Henry"] was/is better known as "Oat Willie" for his infamous candidacy for Texas Governor in 1968, and for the campaign slogan "Onward, through the fog", coined by his late partner, Linda Miller.

smaller steps

Many of the things I say I've said before, but as one of my mentors oft said, "repetition is an essential tool in this man's army." I endeavor to make progress on a multiplicity of small projects that fit into several larger themes. Perhaps I attempt too much, but if I pursue "the next right thing," am effective and enjoy, how can this be wrong?

Home music studio


One of the themes is creating a home sound studio that can encompass everything from reel to reel tapes and MIDI files made decades ago, to modern Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software, and to potential remote collaboration in real time with JACK Audio Connection Kit, JackTrip, and/or Zoom advanced audio.

The reel to reel tapes of interest include recordings made from the 1960s to the 1990s, by me and others, in primitive environments and commercial studios, in infamous and historical venues, of unknown and prominent performers. Some of the recordings are currently available; most are private now but some likely will become public. So far I have been paid for work with roughly 60 reels and anticipate more work in the future.

MPU-401 and interface card
1981 flooding in front of Strait Music

The MIDI files were mostly made at home in the 1980s & 90s, mostly with equipment I still have or equivalents from the same era. One of the equipment items of particular historical interest is a seminal Roland MPU-401 that I originally patched into an IBM PCjr — most recently I used the 401 in a 1992 Dell 486 D33 that still works well. The files, on 5.25" diskettes, predate the 1991 General MIDI specification and thus are best handled with the original Roland Music Processing System (MPS) that was bundled with the 401. I've run MPS on the D33 to transfer the MIDI data to modern software. However, that is less than ideal because of non-standard instrumentation. The MPS author has provided me with sufficient documentation that I potentially could mimic MPS functions in other software. I also have source code for a bundle of 401 software utilities included by Strait Music when I bought the 401 at their historic location a few years after the devastating 1981 flood.

"control room"

For DAW software, until recently, I had been "making do" with Audacity 2 and Cubase 4 on an i5 Windows 10-32 machine, supplemented by a Rasberry Pi 4 designated for JackTrip. (I also have i5 and M1 MacBook Pros, but locations and portable use mean neither fit naturally into studio projects.) A confluence of motivations led to upgrades to a Pi 5, Windows 11 on an i5 and an i5 Mac Mini: Pi 5's became available, the memory limits of 32 bit Windows kept cropping up, some of the appealing software requires 64 bit Windows, and desirable software for macOS didn't fit with the MacBooks. Now both the Mac Mini and Windows 11 machines have latest Audacity 3.5.1, and Cubase 11.5 and 13, respectively. In Windows 11, Pro Tools and Waveform 12 are also available as alternate DAWs. The Intel OpenVINO plugin for Audacity does surprisingly well at separating drums/bass/vocals/others into separate tracks.

Quite a few of the 1970s/80s/90s reels are 4 channels that were mixed to stereo at the time and subsequently digitized. Presumably they can now be digitized without the extra stereo tape generation degradation, potentially mixed better, and potentially improved by a few of the plethora of bundled DAW capabilities and available VST plugins.

I just loved what I was doing, man, and I didn't quit

I had long contemplated transition from Windows 10-32 to Windows 10-64 or Windows 11. Other machines here have Windows 11, even Windows Insider Program. But day to day, Windows 10 has been my staple. Further, I didn't want to leave behind older software, some of which just doesn't work in 64 bit Windows, e.g., the original VMware, and some of which wouldn't transition without relicensing. I'm used to multibooting disparate environments on a given machine, such as with an Optiplex 3010 utility machine that can boot Fedora, Ubuntu, Windows 10 or Windows 11. I'm also used to getting refurbished Dell machines instead of new ones.

I discovered that the emphasis on UEFI, TPM, Windows 11, et al, seems to intentionally discourage multibooting older operating systems. I purchased a refurbished 2018 Optiplex 5060 in part because it meets the strict Windows 11 requirements. However, I discovered that the machine's UEFI firmware explicitly forbade booting internal "legacy" devices. I returned the 5060 in favor of an older Optiplex 7010 that nominally isn't sufficient for Windows 11, but seems just fine with Windows 11. In addition to the primary SSD, there is an SSD with Windows 10 and Fedora as boot options (plus an HDD for archives).

Although I could grump about almost any operating environment I've used, Windows 11 is more a pleasant surprise than not. I still wish Explorer was more like the Windows 95 version, but that ship sailed long ago. Windows 95 will always have special memories for me, starting with meeting Brad Silverberg, then head of Windows, at Dell in 1992. The Professional Developers Conferences began my hands on experience with "Chicago," as it was then known, the first Windows that I enjoyed using daily. Subsequently, on a visit to Redmond, Brad called me into his office and personally installed the latest Chicago build on my laptop. I continued to work with the pre-release versions and still have souvenirs from the August 1995 launch event in Redmond.

Just as hardware manufacturers have the challenge of convincing people to purchase new machines when their existing ones seem good enough, Microsoft is struggling to get people to move from Windows 10 to 11 when 10 seems good enough. However, when I go back to Windows 10, it feels "clunky" -- I do actually prefer 11. I particularly like the improvements in Snipping Tool.

Virtual and emulated machines

home network

Virtual machines have been essential to me since I learned the concept as a graduate student, probably from Section 9.5 of Madnick & Donovan. When I joined IBM Research, VM/370 was my primary operating environment. When I joined the AFWS project at IBM Austin in 1982, I became lead architect of the Virtual Resource Manager, a virtual machine environment for AFWS. When the first VMware version became available, I began using VMware to manage servers, to prepare demonstrations for patent cases, and for a variety of experiments. Most of the VMware successor desktop products, starting with the second version and up through the current Workstation Player were not as appealing to me. I stuck with the original but it only works in 32 bit environments. I currently use VMware's vSphere to manage Web servers and test environments. Broadcom acquired VMware LLC last year and apparently intends to divest legacy versions of vSphere and other products. I have been especially motivated to refresh my understanding and ensure that I can proceed with legacy VMware products using only copies and licenses I already posess. For many of my needs, the original VMware product has been displaced by VirtualBox, especially for 64 bit Windows and for macOS purposes. 86Box has been essential to keeping Dell Unix sustainable without legacy hardware. SIMH and QEMU are relatively new to me, but I've become dependent on them for exploring Unix Version 6 in emulated PDP11, X86, and RISC-V machines.

Source code study and revision

I immerse in source code, ranging from ancient to current, and revise that code when appropriate. Part of my motivation is simply self improvement. Part is being in practice for when I get patent engagement inquiries. Part is directly helping others, with Web sites, tutoring, and other issues. Mostly the code is in C, but also C derivatives such as C++ and Java, plus PHP and others. Some of the deferred items include pursuing MIDI, e.g., making sense of MPS files enough to convert to modern MIDI, Anthony Bonkoski's C Compiler in 512 bytes, and LG's webOS Open Source Edition for touch screens with Pi 4. I had been cautiously adding #ifdefs to SPEC89 to make it build with more recent compilers and systems. That is tedious, but I have made progress and intend to get re-engaged. Most recently, I have been studying Unix Version 6, using Will Senn's SIMH instructions for PDP 11/40, illuminated by the classic Lions Commentary plus the MIT x86 and RISC-V variants using QEMU emulations.


I don't spend nearly as much time as I want pursuing music skills for enjoyment and potential collaboration. There are so many great resources available online. Some of the best ones offer introductory versions for free as enticement to engage with paid versions. In late March I participated in Danny Ziemann's "Elite Ears" ear training and "Fix the Mix" from mastering.com. I am still digesting what I learned from those. ArtistWorks has an amazing array of instructors, including people like Sierra Hull.

1923 Lloyd Loar F-5
1918 Gibson F2
Marty Stuart F-5

My mandolin playing is rudimentary, especially compared to Sierra, but I have still wanted an excellent instrument. The singularly influential instrument is the Gibson F-5, especially the ones made by Lloyd Loar in 1923 -- one of his in reasonable condition costs $100K or more. Last October Gibson announced "The 1923 F-5 Master Model Reissue is a painstaking clone of the mandolin that started it all, the most highly prized F-5 ever made, those signed in July of 1923 by Gibson’s master luthier and designer, Lloyd Loar." A video of Sierra and one of the key Gibson people illustrates how well Gibson succeeded. As much as I wanted one, I couldn't justify spending $20K. I have had a 1918 F-2 (much less expensive) for a long time but it had never seemed quite right, especially the tuners. My Christmas present to myself was to take the F-2 to Mark Erlewine to add Waverly tuners like the F-5 Reissue. The F-2 now meets my needs at a small fraction of the cost of an F-5.

E7 to A7 fingerings

With short daily practice on clarinet, I have amazed myself by becoming able to reliably play notes as high as G7, arguably the limit of practicality: Upper Altissimo Register: G#6 to A7. At this time a year ago, I couldn't reliably play above E6. "Practice, practice, practice." I hadn't spent much time playing keyboards since 1969, but this year I have been playing daily and am trying to be disciplined about relearning the basics.

Video collaboration

Herbert Hoover video call
Zoom meetings are just modern seances

And another theme is leveraging conferencing and collaboration on the Internet. It is hard to believe that video communication started a century ago. When we wrote Mainstream Videoconferencing three decades ago, we anticipated much of the progress, but today's reality still amazes. Social challenges seem at least as significant as technical challenges now. I host several public Zoom meetings every week and participate in quite a few other public and private video meetings. Zoom "bombers," miscreants who endeavor to disrupt meetings and offend participants, persist but keeping them in the "waiting room" or, at least, not allowing them to send audio/video, seems sufficient to thwart their bombing.

In closing ...

It is dismaying that even governments are largely eliminating monitoring COVID-19. Yes, the pandemic is over, but people are still being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19, especially older people. Better monitoring might also help with understanding of new threats, e.g., transmission of H5N1 to mammals. Caution in social situations, masking, and vaccination are still warranted — we got COVID-19 boosters again last week. As we continue amongst the dwindling number of "noVIDs" — people who have never been infected — we no longer seem to get the milder infections such as colds or flu that were routinely experienced before the pandemic.

bike route from home in Ossining to Watson

I have increased my exercise regimen: daily strengthening exercises, four days a week on the treadmill plus stationary cycling the other days. I don't have a cycle commute to work any more, but still cycle outside to go to the grocery, etc.

I no longer serve as board chair for Rainbow Network, or on the board of Mobility Worldwide, but still serve as IT and Web volunteer with both of those organizations and our church.

There's more to say, but this is enough for now. When I look back at notes about past plans, I seem to be progressing ok.

Valerie Milburn and Helen Sneed have just released the 41st episode of their award-winning podcast Mental Health: Hope and Recovery. Helen ends each episode "We'll leave you with our favorite word, onward."