Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Optimizing mplayer for interview transcriptions

Yes, transcribing interviews is a pain! But there are several thing you can do on a Unix system that can help you ease the pain.

Although there exists a software out there that is even supposed to work with a pedal: Express Scribe by Australian company NCH Software - which works natively or as a Windows binary with wine, I chose mplayer. First and foremost because scribe didn't load the WMA files produced by my voice recorder.
Interestingly enough though, NCH Software describe a couple of ways to use their software with a pedal, and even offer tips on 'DIY' foot pedal solutions and they also have a documentation on "Writing a driver for an unsupported controller" (for Windows though).

There's a couple of tweaks and treats you can do to optimize mplayer for such a task. The most obvious at first seemed to reduce the playing speed, which can be done in every mplayer installation by the default keys "[" and "]".

To keep the same pitch of the voices however, you'll have to use an audio filter, that is by now part of every standard installation: scaletempo

Which brings us to the following command:
~ $ mplayer -af scaletempo
Now there is one remaining problem, namely the left and right buttons on your keyboard, in their default confirguration, do rewind or fastforward your file by 10 seconds. That is way too far when transcribing interviews.
Luckily, this can be configured as well. What you'll have to do is create a file in your .mplayer directory that holds a new configuration for the right and left keys. I.e.:
~$ cat ~/.mplayer/transcribe
RIGHT seek +3
LEFT seek -3
Now if you start mplayer while passing it that file as input configuration, your directional keys will seek by 3 seconds instead of 10. You might want to add an alias to you bashrc that says

alias transplayer="mplayer -af scaletempo -input conf=transcribe $1"
After sourcing that file, you may then use your customized setup by invoking "transplayer" at the cli:

~ $ source ~/.bashrc
~ $ transplayer

Of course, more than just the right or left keys can be reconfigured. To get an idea of what commands and keys are available, you may use

~ $ mplayer -input cmdlist
~ $ mplayer -input keylist

For more information on customizing your mplayer setup, please RTFM ;)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What Inspiration can ArsElectronica09 be to a Hackerspace?

The 5:16pm train brought me back from Linz/Upper-Austria yesterday. It also brought some blisters, exhausted legs and an innumerable array of impressions from Ars Electronica 2009, some of which I'll try to relay in this blogpost.

I bought a daypass on Sunday, which might or might not have paid off, I'm not quite sure.. 33€ is quite a lot of money, especially when the train ticket already cost you a hundred bucks. To anyone going to Ars in 2010 I suggest to buy a festival pass, spend at least 3 days on the various exhibitions and talks and prepare yourself a schedule (because theirs clearly sucked).

Ars Electronica Center (AEC)
The labs
The Ars electronica center clearly has an abundant array of interesting stuff sitting around. With their Fab-, Brain-, and Bio-labs on the -3 floor, they touch a broad variety of subjects, from cyborgs via sensor-enhanced art to 3D printers and lasercutters. This is actually somewhat like MIT's Medialab in Boston, only that this is clearly more exhibition-focused and less a working space. And clearly a lot smaller.

The picture above is a web made of wire straps.

The sculpture in the above picture does actually sense when you go near it and it reacts by moving its various "body"-parts.

Knock! Music Program (by Novmichi Tosa)
The second floor actually has some cool hands-on stuff that you can't actually touch, which is sad. But anyway, the Knock music machine is a pretty cool concept of an semi-electric music instrument. There were several components to it, the picture below is just one of them.
I actually found a couple of youtube videos of the machine in action. I just hope you understand some japanese ;) (Another resource I found is Novmichi's sketchblog.)

loopScape (by Ryota Kuwakubo)
Another great thing on the second floor was obviously loopScape. In contrast to ordinary computer games, this is one where you actually have to move around the "screen", which is made out of leds. Steering your fighter-jet with a wireless controller, your goal is to shoot down the enemy's fighter. To get all of the action, you can't stand still but have to move around to actually see everything that is happening in this fast-paced game.

Quartet is a huge machine that produces sounds from resonating wine-glasses and golf-balls being projected onto wooden xylophone bars. I hope I managed to capture some of that motion in my still.

Höhenrausch was an exhibition above the roofs of Linz. Walking on a wooden structure, you get from exhibit to exhibit while having a grandiose view over the city. You could even take a ride in a Ferris wheel.

One exhibit was really awesome! If you stood below the sprinklers with an umbrella, you'd hear 8-bit music as produced by the frequency of the water being released. The umbrella's tissue serves as a simple membrane and produces astonishingly clear sounds.

Cyberarts Festival
Tantalum Memorial - Residue (website)
Relay station for a social phone network used by the congolese diaspora in London.
And yes, though this thing is not your most recent asterisk pbx, it actually worked and was relaying calls for people on that network. From the project's website:

"'Tantalum Memorial' is a series of telephony-based memorials by the artists group Harwood, Wright, Yokokoji, to the people who have died as a result of the “coltan wars” in the Congo. The installation is constructed out of electromagnetic Strowger switches – the basis of the first automatic telephone exchange invented in 1888. The title of the work refers to the metal tantalum, an essential component of mobile phones"

Pursuit of the unheard
One of the things that kept me awake on Sunday evening was the "Höllenmaschine", one of the first, if not THE first synthesizer ever. Built by Bob Moog for Max Brand. As it says in the brochure: "The first wiring diagrams for the Max Brand synthesizer by Bob Moog are dated 1957."

On Monday morning, I decided to check out the MIT Impetus exhibition nonetheless, even though I thought I had already seen most of it in the Medialab itself.
And oh and I was so wrong!

littleBits (website)
Again, a little excerpt from their website:
"littleBits is an opensource library of discrete electronic components pre-assembled in tiny circuit boards. Just as Legos allow you to create complex structures with very little engineering knowledge, littleBits are simple, intuitive, space-sensitive blocks that make prototyping with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together. With a growing number of available modules, littleBits aims to move electronics from late stages of the design process to its earliest ones, and from the hands of experts, to those of artists, makers and designers."

Various impressions from Linz

One thing that I noticed already on Sunday were these "stencils". Only, it only came to me on Monday though that these weren't your ordinary stencils. What is so uncommon here is that the stencils are actually areas that are cleaner than the area around it. So what you see here is kind of a 'cleaner's graffiti'. (No, I'm in no way affiliated to Mazda or any other automobile manufacturer)

Finally, a last picture of the "Fassadenfestival":

A couple more pictures will be made available on my soup.
(All images contained herein are subject to the CC-BY-SA license.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bring your tent to the C3L and syn2cat SummerCamp 2009!

From July 2-5 2009, there will by the first Open Air Hacker Convention in the city of Dudelange, Luxembourg.

Whether you're a long standing hacker or have ever wondered what these geeks do, you should pack your sleeping bag and tent and come to Dudelange to enjoy four geeky days with people from all over Luxembourg and the Greater Region.

The camp will feature workshops, talks, 'Spaß am Gerät' and various other activities such as geocaching or 'foodhacking'. Come along, get to know interesting people and enjoy your beer or Club Mate in a cosy athmosphere.

More information on the camp can be found on the C3L SummerCamp Wikipage.
T-shirts can be ordered by sending an email to campshirts_AT_hackerspace_DOT_lu

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons?

Ever since United States (U.S.) President Barack Obama’s speech in Prague on April 5 2009, there has been growing attention to the topic of nuclear disarmament throughout mass media. The foundations for his speech, however, where set by an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by four elder U.S. statesmen: Schultz et al. (2007) drew the academic community’s attention to a renewed vision of A WORLD FREE NUCLEAR WEAPONS . The article’s impact waves OF have since rippled through numerous institutes and think-tanks to give birth to a number of publications debating GLOBAL ZERO. Governments seem to have been caught up in this vision, as can be seen from the 6 for ATTAINABLE STEPS an eventual ban on nuclear weapons by the BRITISH FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE (see Cole 2009) or JAPAN’ S MINISTER FOREIGN FOR A FFAIRS HIROFUMI NAKASONE’s (2009b) 11 to accomplish global BENCHMARKS nuclear disarmament.


In order to escape arms control dilemmas and attain a, in constructivist terms, viable solution, institutions will have to be reformed and norms created. The possibility of a world free of nuclear weapons needs to be considered under social-constructivist premises. Realist theories would have us remain in a vicious circle of power balancing and extended deterrence and cannot sufficiently explain what role norms, expectations and perceptions play in a state’s (un-)willingness to disarm.


Still, this means that the norm would need to be created by a body capable of instituting, verifying and enforcing such prohibitions and giving it a legitimacy that would be recognized and respected by the international community. Although it has been suggested repeatedly that the UN and its Security Council (UN-SC) watch over nuclear disarmament, they are, by definition, not eligible for that task. One of the reasons why India went nuclear, its seeking of a shortcut to
great-power status, to becoming a permanent member of the UN-SC (Tertrais 2009, 182), is a prime illustration of the fundamental flaw vis-à-vis nuclear abolition inherent in that institution. How can an institution that rewards nuclear weapons with permanent UN-SC membership and veto rights be expected to promote and enforce nuclear disarmament? Also, the 5 de jure nuclear weapons states (P5), as the UN’s norm entrepreneurs, would almost certainly veto the
setup of a nuclear prohibition, should they fear a loss of influence.


Moreover, we have seen that nuclear disarmament must become desirable and thus a norm of the international community in order to keep states from considering cheating as a viable and fruitious alternative to abolishing their nuclear capabilities. It is therefore important to note that, even if the goal of global zero seems to unreachable under the current circumstances, “[...]
invoking the idea [of nuclear disarmament] has political value if it embeds in global consciousness an understanding of the direction in which policies and actions should move.” (Walker 2009, 16)


want to read more? (+ sources)

The Luxembourgian Blogosphere. A Landscape

I've been playing around on issuecrawler.net a lot lately and one of the main issues I've been enquiring on was the Luxembourgian blogosphere (in relation to hackerspace.lu). Note the fact that this graph show only sites that have at least two incoming links, that are, so to speak, co-linked.

Besides the fact that hackerspace.lu doesn't get enough incoming links, there are more interesting things to see on this illustration. The most obvious thing being the central position of joeladami.net. If you get a close look at the sites he links at, you'll see that they're of all couleurs and various ideologies, from the extremist left to the extremist right. Ok, this is certainly not a qualitative survey of that blog's contents, but nevertheless, this seems to be a blog that keeps it all together.

Another interesting fact is also the concentration (or shall we call it 'blogrolling') of leftist and green people's blogs. Those would be schockweiler.blogspot.com, sozialrevolution.blogsport.de, pianococktail.wordpress.com and so on)

On the lower left hand site, there are more technology related blogs, including hackerspace.lu' wiki page.

I'll see whether specific issues can be determined and relationships between the blogs and their authors can be further investigated. Keep you posted.

Friday, February 27, 2009

syn2cat Hackers offering a crash-course in soldering

The hackers from Luxembourgs syn2cat Hackerspace will be holding a workshop on soldering and programming microcontrollers.
The workshop is open to beginners and experts alike but will be limited to 10 participants. See the The workshop's webpage for more details on this opportunity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cycle de sensibilisation à la propriété intellectuelle - 12, 18, 24 et 31 mars 2009 - Luxinnovation

The Luxembourgish "Society for Innovation" just sent me an invitation to their conference on intellectual property.... I could only *rofl* at that:

Luxinnovation, l'Agence nationale pour la promotion de l'innovation et de la recherche, en partenariat avec le Ministère de l'Economie et du Commerce extérieur et le Centre de Veille Technologique et Normative (CRP Henri Tudor), a le plaisir de vous inviter au cycle de sensibilisation à la propriété intellectuelle, qui se tiendra les 12, 18, 24 et 31 mars 2009 de 18h00 à 20h00 au Centre de conférences de la Chambre de Commerce Luxembourg.

In my opinion, intellectual property achieves quite the contrary to innovation, keeping people from standing on the shoulders of giants and collaborating to achieve new things.
Intellectual property not only inhibits innovation per se, it also keeps people from trying new things because they fear to infringe on someone's intellectual property.

I asked to be removed from their list... I couldn't even remember ever having asked to be on it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The very first L.A.S.E.R.-Tagging event in Luxembourg!

G.R.L. (http://www.graffitiresearchlab.lu) and syn2cat (http://www.syn2cat.lu) proudly present:

The very first L.A.S.E.R.-Tagging event in Luxembourg!

Thursday, February 5th 2009, from 7 p.m.
@ the "Fëschmaart", Luxembourg-City

Everyone is welcome to draw freely on the MNHA's facade, using our LAZOR!
Watch out for more graffiti research and OpenSource street art!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Step 1 of 4

Good day everyone,

By now, most of us should have left Berlin and its deadly freezing climate for a warm shelter and, most importantly, a permanent internet connection ;)

As announced in my previous mail, being toughened by our experience at 25C3 and the C-base, we're about to embark for the final steps in building our hackerspace.
We will do this one step at a time, each step having the current weekend as a deadline. I.e. the deadline for this step is Sunday, January 11th @ 11:59 pm. Step 2 will then, depending on the outcome of the previous step, be announced on Monday 12th.

The first step is to finalize the Non-Profit-Organisation's statutes.
There's already been some discussion going on and a number of changes have been made to the text. Everyone should read through the document and the comments once again to see if he agrees and then discuss what he likes or dislikes on the wiki talk page or the hackerspace mailing list.

You can also still become a founding member if you haven't said so already.

Here's the link: https://www.hackerspace.lu/wiki/Association
Happy text hacking!