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Now in the second year, we’re building the design@UL exhibition in Limerick City with a selection of our students’ design work. It’s quite an interesting experience when faculty from computer science, architecture, civil engineering, aeronautical engineering, etc., come together and talk about how to design and exhibition. You would imagine that we’re all singing form the same hymn sheet, but as design can be so many different things, the creative cacophony can be almost overwhelming at times. I think it’s an excellent interdisciplinary exercise and as we learn to work together, new ideas emerge and are negotiated.
This year, the exhibition opens on Tuesday evening, the 28th of May at 18:00 and runs until Saturday the 1st of June. Admission is free, so please call in and have a look, talk to the students and enjoy the creativity.

IMG_1097

Web-hosting companies promise a lot, and sometimes charge a lot. You may think that you’re putting your site on a powerful server with excellent bandwidth and performance. It may appear to be so until you get some serious traffic to your site. The Irish ISP and hosting company Digiweb just proved that they cannot deliver what they promise. Just when we needed the to be there, Digiweb failed miserably. For two days in a row, their servers DoS, keel over, etc., when our users, try to access our site. Shame on you Digiweb. It’s time to consider another hosting solution.

Today, while running around the UL campus for final year project demonstrations, the light fantastic stopped me in the stairwell. Last year, I saw it the 6th of March. Seeing a full spectrum slowly moving across a floor or a wall, and trying to figure out where the perfect angles and refractory indices are (in this case a window in the UL’s Engineering Research Building) still fascinates me.

light fantastic rainbow spectrum

Let’s hope the sunshine continues and that spring eventually decides to stay.

Over the last few days,  we’ve heard the usual Irish patriarchs rant about the value of life, etc., in Irish media. This is, without any doubt, in relation to forthcoming political and legal decisions following on from the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar (who was denied proper medical treatment in Galway University Hospital while suffering from a miscarriage). It is appalling to see and hear the Irish politicians running away from responsibility, as their self-deception continues.

What if a woman from another EU country, with proper laws and medical practice, had died in Ireland due to similar circumstances? Would the Irish government have dared to carry on with their inhumane, medieval shenanigans? It has been very close a few times that EU Citizens have been close to death in Irish hospitals due to the Irish Catholic delusions of medical practitioners and administrators.

As Ireland is about the hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from the 1st of January 2013, I think all Europeans coming here should demand that the Irish government accepts that it is now the 21st century and by European ethics, standards and medical practice, every woman should be given proper medical care, including abortion.

Some other links:

Ireland – no country for young women

Savita inquiry-falls-apart

Abortion in Ireland, the X-case

European Court: Irish abortion laws breach of Human Rights

For about four weeks, sending and receiving SMS messages via O2 is limited to the plain ASCII character set. For most English-txt’rs, this not a problem as you tend to use just 25 characters. But if you, by any chance, send and receive SMS in other languages (including Irish), your intended messages will be garbled and distorted by O2 Ireland‘s network.

Here’s a test-message in Swedish:
“Där är öar i ån”

Result: “Ddr dr -ar i ln”

Here’s a test-message in Irish:
“Tá mé i mo chónaí i nÉirinn”

Result: “Ta mO i mo choani i nèirinn”

When I first noticed this problem, I checked O2 Ireland‘s web site (no luck there), then phoned their support line. After keying in Press 1 for this, Press 2 for that, I found myself in a computer-telephony queue for 35 minutes. Eventually a human being answered. He suggested that it was a handset problem, hence I found an older mobile phone in the house, slipped in the SIM and…. the problem was still there. Phoning back to the support line, it was now closed. When phoning them the next day, they agreed to provide a new SIM card, while I had discovered that the other two O2 phones I have also had the problem, which pointed – again – to their network. I picked up a new SIM card in the local O2 store in Parkway’s shopping Centre in Limerick and while in the shop, verified that the problem was still there. I then requested that the shop assistant make the call to O2’s support line, Press 1 for this, Press 2 for that, and tell me when she got through to a human being. After about 10 minutes a Manager (at least she claimed to be one) picked up the call and said they would now escalate the problem and ask their Technical Staff to have a look. I then asked her to try with her own phone, any old sentence in Irish with an accented character. She confirmed that her phone also had the problem.

A week passed by. No change, problem still there.

Another week passed, and I phoned O2 Ireland‘s support line again to get some feedback if their Technical Staff had any idea how to solve the problem. After the usual Press 1 for this, Press 2 for that, and five minutes waiting, a human answered and checked the reported issue, telling me their Techies had written back that it’s a handset issue. I tried to calmly explain to her that we had eliminated that possibility some weeks ago. She said she would raise the issue again.

Another week passed. The problem with a limited character set when sending and receiving SMS via O2 Ireland remains.

Last Saturday, in the pub, we did some extensive testing between phones, different networks, etc., and I have now verified that THIS PROBLEM IS O2 IRELAND‘s NETWORK that is a FAULT.

Here are a couple of screen shots from our testing:

mobile phones, side by side

another couple of mobile phones, side by side

I have a fairly good idea where problem might be, but I would have to charge O2 Ireland for consultancy if they want me to do the work that their Technical Staff should be able to do. Perhaps they don’t have any techies…. Or, perhaps they are just totally incompetent, or ignorant…

I will give O2 Ireland two more weeks to fix this problem. After that I’m changing operator, both for my personal mobile phones and for any business-related projects.

Some technical background reading: GSM 03.38

For Science Day 2012 at UL, we decided to build a fun controller and sound synthesis demo. Over the past few years, we’ve had a number of postgraduate students exploring for example Galvanic Skin Response for artistic expression. It was slightly surprising to see the hype when Makey Makey launched earlier in 2012. I was puzzled that they didn’t seem to be aware of the work by for example Erkki Kurenniemi and Ralph Lundsten in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Kurenniemi’s DIMI-S is Lundsten’s Love Machine.
We were inspired by the original work by Kurenniemi and Lundsten and we designed and built a 16 channel analogue resistance multiplexer. The circuit uses four inexpensive CMOS chips (CD4051, 8-channel mux) and a couple of transistors (connected as a current mirror), connected to an Arduino and then to a laptop running Pure Data (PD). The Arduino controls what two pins that are active at any given time, rapidly scanning the whole matrix of possibilities (there are 240 possible connections, with 16 channels).
LoveMachine++ interface circuit
We then designed a sound synthesis system in Pure Data (PD) with both a spectral synthesizer, taking the parameters from the resistance matrix and doing a reverse Fast Fourier Transform, and a sequencer, where the mixing and filtering is controlled by the resistance matrix.
LoveMachine++ demo setup
We had to explain to the first few students that they had to touch at least two fruits or vegetables to get sound. After about an hour, word was spreading and experimentation flourished, with several students holding on to vegetables, shaking hands, touching foreheads, etc.

A short video clip from today’s demo.

Schematic diagram

LoveMachine++ interface Schematic Diagram

Bill of Materials

Name Value/Type Description Quantity
D1-3 1N4148 Diode 3
IC1-4 CD4051 8 channel analogue multiplexer 4
Q1-2 BC556 PNP transistor 2
R1 560K Resistor, 0.25W 1
R2 220K Resistor, 0.25W 1
R3 47K Resistor, 0.25W 1

Source code

Arduino code

PD patch

[note: I cobbled together a simple communication protocol in the code and patch above. Basically, an ASCII-based fixed packet length with a terminator character, which makes it easy to see and debug]

——

Some background on Kurenniemi’s work:

Mikko Ojanen, Jari Suominen, Titti Kallio, Kai Lassfolk (2007) Design Principles and User Interfaces of Erkki Kurenniemi’s Electronic Musical Instruments of the 1960’s and 1970’s, Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, pp. 88–93.

Bees…

Can you live without this?

What if you wake up one morning and this isn’t here?

Will you have any honey for your porridge?

In fact, will you have any porridge, at all?

Bee colonies around the world are in decline, due to a number of mitigating factors.

Perhaps we can listen to the bees in a new way….

We’re concerned.

Very concerned…

Over the past 13 years, I have had the pleasure to work together with Sean Taylor under our common name Softday. It all started when Sean asked me if it was possible to make music form a year’s collection of weather maps from the Irish Times, which in due time resulted in Bliain le Baisteach (A Year with Rain). This was an excellent starter project for our collaboration as it was well funded and went straight to prominence as it became part of the Irish Pavilion at the Expo2000 World Millennium Exhibition in Hanover in Germany. Since then, our Softday collaboration have resulted in numerous projects (check out our web site www.softday.ie ) and we are now working on a new and very exciting topic: the life, and potential death, of honey bees. At the time of writing this we have about two years of research done, with plenty of field recordings from honey farms and nature, photos, video, scribbles and sketches. We are now heading for the final realization of the project and the premier is set to the 27th of April 2013, starting at 15:00, in Glenstal Abbey, in Murroe, Co. Limerick in Ireland.
While we have managed to get all our projects over the past 13 years funded, one way or another, this time we’re exploring what has become known crowd-funding, in addition to the great support we have received from Create and the Irish Arts Council. Perhaps, as a friend suggested today, we should call it hive funding, as our current project is about honey bees. Please note that if you support us, we give you something back.

Here’s a link to our Call for support on fundit.ie.

With the emergence of wonderful audio apps such as Audioboo, it has become a challenge to record outdoors without the rumbling from wind hitting the microphone.
If you get some nice fluffy textile (see my note DIY Wind-jammer for Zoom H1), you can use a similar, but even simpler approach.
Cut textile
Cut a piece of the fluffy textile about 2 centimeters wider than your phone and about twice the length of the “base” of the phone.
Fold and stitch
Fold the textile with the fluffy side in and sew/stitch along the short sides.

turn inside-out, attach to phone
Turn the textile inside-out (so it gets the fluffy side out!)
Put it on your phone and record.

Happy Recording!

(and similar audio recorders)

For casual professional recording of everyday sounds, ranging from nature to interviews, the Zoom H1 is a very convenient and inexpensive device. With outdoor recording, wind is almost always present in places like Ireland. If you use a H1 as it is, your recordings will rumble with every puff of wind and destroy your recording.
To remedy this, I initially bought a simple foam windshield and this was sufficient on calm days. But for the normal gusts of westerly winds we get in Ireland, the design had to be improved. Rycote are making Mini Windjammers that cost around £STG25.  As I know how windjammers work, I found the cost excessive and the Rycote design perhaps not the optimal solution.
Fluffy textile
I bought some nice fluffy/hairy textile in a local shop (Hickey’s). The criteria for the material was that the base material should be as transparent as possible and the outer coating as hairy as possible. As this was shortly after St Patrick’s day, I bought 2 meters of a green fluffy material for 5 euro (which is enough for perhaps 20 windjammers).
Wire cage
Next, I made a small cage from brass-wire, to contain the H1. You can use any kind of semi-rigid wire for this.

After shaping the wire-cage, I folded some fluffy textile around it with the inside out and marked where to cut the textile.

Fluffy textile sticthed together, and Velcro

I sewed the front of the textile in a curve to fit the front of the wire-cage, and along the bottom I stitched on some Velcro, which makes it easy to put the textile on on the cage and to get, for example, a headphone cable through.

Elastic cage
Finally, I used some elastic band to hang the Zoom H1 in the cage, to prevent handling noise and other unwanted vibrations to be picked up, and inserted the cage with the H1 into the green fluffy tube. Zip up the Velcro and you’re ready for recording.

Zoom H1 and Windjammer

Finished H1 Windjammer

Happy Recording!

The Irish government got the outcome they wanted, a yes vote. While many of us are of the opinion that it was insane to sign up to a law that allows the Irish government to commit the country to some extremely strict and negative fiscal policies that are not yet clear, or, if actual policies will be in the shape or form outlined in the referendum propaganda.
So, what’s the good news about this? It is that now, the Irish government cannot blame the No-side for the continued sliding into debt and unemployment.
one Irish Euro
Some people wish for a Punt Nua, a reincarnated version of the Irish Punt, while others argue strongly against this and prefer to keep the Euro. With the current state of the Irish economy, switching to a national currency would send Ireland into a financial free-fall. It would work fine for buying and selling Irish stuff within the country. Exports would probably increase. You would also find that with 100 Punt Nua, you’ll get 15 Pounds Sterling when you visit Britain, 10 Euro if you go to France or Germany. With your 100 Punt Nua, you may get US$20 if you go to the USA. Your almost-for-free-while-we-rip-you-off Ryanair ticket would probably cost 500 Punt Nua, and that’s just to get you to Stanstead.

If we can stay in the Euro-zone, Germany needs to face up to reality and support closing down the defunct banks, without hitting the ordinary Irish tax payer, and bringing corrupt and greedy developers, bankers and politicians to justice. Real justice. All of this while injecting fresh investment in companies that make things, not only retail or perhaps the worst of all: import/export (which, to me, means money laundering). It is only by making things that we can work our way forward.