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 These days, I mostly post my tech musings on Linkedin.  https://www.linkedin.com/in/seanmcgrath/

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The BIOS for a new century...

When I still had hair we talked about PC's having a BIOS. A basic i/o substem on which you would layer an OS. I remember layering a Microsoft product onto a PC once.

No. Not that one.
No. Not that one either.
This one: Microsoft Xenix.

Anyway, given that this week some of my noodlings on virtualization have been blogged to an unsuspecting and indifferent planet :-) I had virtualization on my mind when scanning the newscape this morning. User friendly virtualization for Linux caught my eye. This could be a real sweet spot for Linux I think. Take the kernel and you have yourself an uber-BIOS to base your work on - even if it is another operating system. Take the BIOS + the Apps and you have a fully-blown OS environment.

I suspect soon I will be booting into a layer of Linux and then booting into further laters of Linux and other OS's in virtualised containers.

There, I knew we as an industry would find a way to use up all those pesky CPU cycles and megabytes of storage.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Newbie Geek Strums #3

Further on the Newbie geek strums theme...


  • My fingers/wrists are my livelyhood. Without a computer keyboard I would rapidly both economically challenged and - quite possibly - psychotic. Thus, any pain in the wrist/fingers is a source of concern. Most guitar tutorial resources (paper/electronic) start out saying something like "your fingers will hurt for a while but you will get used to it" and/or "Suffer through the pain ye who aspire to scale the pentatonic heights!" Worrying.
  • I have had pain in my right wrist/fingers before. Generally it flares up if, say, I write code for 40 hours p.w. and then throw another 20 on top of that writing a book or something. I haven't had it for a few years but then again, I haven't written any book for a few years...A week into my guitar adventure it came back. My first reaction - ditch the guitar. Second reaction: maybe it will pass. Third reaction (after about 3 weeks): lets switch to using a left hand
    mouse. Fourth reaction (after about 6 weeks): maybe this is going to work out after all.
  • Although I am a Ciotóg I have always used a mouse with my right hand. I got used to using my left hand for mousing in a couple of hours. The RSI-like pains are now much, much less frequent. So far so good.

F chords

  • An obvious thing for a beginner to do is to seek out simple songs to get started with chords. It has been a revelation that "simple" in guitar-land does not correlate with "simple" as I had envisioned it. For example, two simple chords and some simple strumming patterns make Horse with no name a lot easier than it sounds to a total newbie. It sounded complicated to my newbie ears. Certainly much more complicated than a bunch of nursery rhymes such as Hickory Dickory Dock or London bridge is falling down (see here for example.)
    Not so! A lot of nursery rhymes feature fearsome goblins and gargoyles in the form of F and B chords. Shudder. The first fingering diagram I saw for an F chord involved a barre chord on fret 1. This fearsome construct appeared to me to require (a) breaking and then resetting all my fingers in different positions (b) making judicous use of some sandlewood strips and a monkey wrench (c) taking 20 minutes between chord changes. Today, I'm still worried about ever being able to do barre chords but I have got over the shock of finding that "simple" is not easily defined in guitar land. On the positive side, I can hobble through some stuff that to my newbie brain sounds complex musically but isn't technically.

A multi-pass compiler approach to grokking music

  • I have yet to find a single tutorial text that truly teaches the subject from the ground up without annoying - and sometimes infuriating - forward references or logical leaps.
  • I have lost count of the number of resources I have read that spend ages telling you about, say, how to hold your guitar and then make a gargantuan jump like "Now that you know how to hold the guitar, lets use an alternating base arpeggio to play this C Major Pentatonic Scale"...or some such. Ok, I'm exageratting a bit but not much.
  • Perhaps music is one great big Hermeneutic circle. Even if it isn't, I suspect western notation is. Is it possible to start with, say the basic physics of harmonic series and arrive at, say mixolydian mode without making forward references to something the learner doesn't know yet? I dunno. If such a text exists, I have not found it yet.
  • My approach has been to read music-related stuff the way I would mentally compile programming language source code. I make a mental note of all the forward references to symbols I don't know yet. I then make a second pass through the "text" resolving the now known symbols in their proper context.
  • If it is a Hermeneutic circle, it would be great to know that in advance. Someone with the know-how could map out the circular bits. That would be very useful. Years ago while writing SGML For Software Developers I concluded that the concepts in SGML were unavoidable circular. I meant to try to map the circles at the time but never got around to in.


  • Being something of a masochist when it comes to complexity, I have decided to try my hand at Tabla at the same time as I struggle with the guitar. My reasoning goes like this:

    • What better way to understand what it means to say that the "12 notes with 2212221 intervals is a Western phenomenon not a universal truth" than to understand a completely different musical tradition?
    • Tabla has its own language - its own notation. As a software developer, I'm fascinated by notations. Period. Bring it on.
    • If RSI ends up killing my guitar plans, I have a plan B
    • The merest sound of a tabla induce a Pavlovian response in me which is very pleasant, especially before dinner.