The Null Device


I have been playing with a Yamaha SU700 phrase sampler recently. (For those not in the know, that's a blue box with a number of pads and knobs which can play back sounds and loops.) One thing which I've noticed about the device is the minor things that were left out. A glaring example is its MIDI implementation; the device can be controlled from an external keyboard, but ignores note numbers, making it impossible to control a sample's pitch with the keyboard. It would not have been at all hard to make it play a sample at a different pitch depending on which note was played, and it would have made the unit a lot more useful. The SU700 does not support MIDI sample dump either. As for SCSI, the implementation is somewhat brain-damaged; apart from being very slow (apparently the device's CPU does all the work), it only supports one SCSI device at a time, doesn't support all standard devices (ZIP drives work; ORB drives don't), and you cannot connect it to a computer via SCSI. Also, SCSI disks are written in a proprietary format, which means you can't use them to transfer files to/from your computer. In fact, the only way to transfer samples (without resampling, that is) is to shlep them across on MSDOS-formatted floppy disks, which of course doesn't work for anything over 1.4Mb.

I got the impression that some overworked engineers at Yamaha designed everything from scratch, cutting corners to make the deadline. Why couldn't they just base the device's OS on Linux or QNX or something with working SCSI and file systems which other machines can actually read?


Chicks Don't Dig Losers: Another study confirms that women prefer risk-prone men to risk-averse nice-guy shmucks, much as evolutionary psychology predicted, and that flaunting wealth, strength and/or bravery increases mens' sexual success. One of the authors of the paper, Robin Dunbar, was involved in the survey which showed that mobile phones were a lekking device, flaunted by single males in the presence of females and competing males. Mind you, mobile phones have lost some of their lekking power, having become more or less ubiquitous; however, a London jeweler is working around that, by encrusting mobile phones with diamonds. Each unit (based on an off-the-shelf phone) sells for US$20,000 to US$50,000, though some are predicting fake gem-studded mobiles to become popular with teenagers. In decades to come, the Noughties may be known as the decade of those tacky fake-jewelled mobile phones.

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Seen in the sidebar on WIRED News: According to a poll by Progressive Auto Insurance in the U.S., 45% of Americans ranked their cars as the thing they considered most important in their lives (compared to 6% for their children, and 10% for spouses). 17% of respondents claimed that they would buy their cars Valentine's Day gifts. Reminds one of that "MAN MARRIES HIS MOTORCYCLE" news story/urban legend.

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Slouching towards Gilead (cont.): The U.S. under Bush moves closer towards a Religious Right theocracy, with Christian Fundamentalist extremist John Ashcroft's Attorney-General nomination clearing Congress; meanwhile, Bush proposes extra tax deductions for donations to "faith-based" charities. (Which may amount to a punitive tax on atheists/agnostics/freethinkers and other such unamericans.)

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
- George Bush Sr.

Real chip off the old block, that W.

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Imminent death of Linux predicted (by Microsoft); film at 11. (Btw, it's interesting that the word "penguinhead" has made it into the mainstream, or at least WIRED News. Then again, it does seam like a rather robust meme.)


A New York Press columnist came up with a reason to buy Britney Spears and Nsync CDs: he bought them in large quantities from discount CD buying clubs and flogged them on, making a tidy profit. (Are you paying attention, Lev?)


Now this is an interesting gadget: Netcomm's combination modem/hub/firewall, which runs Embedded Linux and can be configured with a web-based tool or by telnetting in. Probably not necessary for a one-machine setup, though a must-have for a geek/penguinhead share-house. (via Slashdot)

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Donna Kossy, of Kooks Museum fame, now runs a website devoted to weird books; she has a zine titled Book Happy, which reviews titles on crackpot science, fringe religion, conspiracy theory and miscellaneous weirdness, and has a range of titles for sale.