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Now *that* is quality

Filed under: Life — Thomas @ 11:03 am

11:03 am

I ordered some shoes on Tuesday from a store in London (I had bought a blue pair on sale in Barcelona, and went looking on the net for other colors). The store they originally came from, S***R-LONDON, had that model in grey, also on sale. around 40 euros shipping included.

I ordered them, got a mail within 5 minutes saying the order was received and the next morning that the shoes had left the building. The mail gave me a tracking link and the link said I would have the shoes today. Yeah, right, I thought.

Five minutes ago the doorbell rang. My shoes are there, delivered by a hasty UPS man. (He actually gave me two packages – the other one was the hard drive from my dad’s hard drive recovery process, a drive that had gone to Spain and back even though the company seems Belgian – but that’s a different post).

I open the package, inspect, everything’s fine. I go back to sit at my computer, and one minute later a mail arrives from the shoe company saying that their records show that the order has been delivered. Should I be checking my building for planted wires ? The mail includes a link to use in case I’m somehow unhappy with the delivery.

I think I’m going to use that link now to say how impressed I am.

Ending the year

Filed under: Belgium,Life — Thomas @ 10:51 pm

10:51 pm

Well, things aren’t turning out quite the way we planned this week.

For one, I was planning to spend some time in the new little holiday house my parents bought at the seaside. My mother was making sure there was going to be internet for me to be able to work from there, and she somehow… forgot. And even as a high-paid consultant for one of Flanders’ two biggest providers, her waiting time for getting net installed is 7 weeks.

That also means I get to see a lot less of Kristien than planned. She’s busy all day in a theme park that used to be called ‘de Meli’, by sheer coincidence a mere kilometer from my parents’ holiday house, entertaining the young children of Flanders dropping by for Ketnet Freeze.

Meanwhile, this week I finally had my neurologist appointment. I have a strange oversensitivity in the left part of my body that isn’t quite painful but not pleasant either. I’ve been having it for over half a year now, thinking it was related to my tooth infection. Clearly it isn’t since the tooth infection was removed three months ago – along with the tooth. The oversensitivity has made it hard for me sometimes to stay seated at work, which might explain to people reading this my various creative moments in seating during meetings.

While the doctor was hammering various parts of my body, he noticed a lump in my pants pocket. ‘What’s that ?’ ‘My wallet.’ ‘That big ?’ ‘Uh, yeah ?’ ‘Is it always there ? All day long ? Even while working ? Do you work sitting down ?’ ‘Yes, yes, yes, and yes.’ Yes, I always put my wallet in my pants pocket, mostly not to lose it, but also because the wallet contains a keycard which is the only way to get back into the office after I went to the toilet. ‘I wouldn’t recommend always having your wallet there. The nerves to the areas you are complaining about are right below where your wallet now is.’

So, first, initial diagnose – walletitis. Obviously it might be completely unrelated, so further analysis is necessary. So I got House’s favourite exam – the famous MRI ! I had it on second Christmas day, at 20:00. Amazing that there’s still so many people in a hospital on second Christmas day and a Friday evening.

The MRI was mildly disappointing, though the checklist I had to complete to make sure I had no metally things in my body was a bit daunting. In the end you start doubting if you really did not get any kind of surgery that might be problematic for this exam. I had to get undressed, lie on a board, and was told not to move at all. She gave me some headphones for the noise, and told me it would take 20 minutes. Then she slid me in, and I started counting. I almost fell asleep a couple of times, because there is really nothing you can do in there and I didn’t want to think about anything important because I wanted to keep counting. I got slid back out as I reached 961. Possibly my idea of a second is wildly off.

The next scan is in a month, I’ve been threatened with injections of tracer fluid for that one, I hope it won’t be necessary.

Meanwhile, I was also fighting off a cold. Pretty annoying, because it meant that I basically wasn’t able to get anything done of all the things I was planning to get done in this ‘long weekend’. It’s just too hard to think with a head full of snot and a buzz in your head.

Yesterday was the hardest day though – I woke up at 6 with a splitting headache. Got some Dafalgan, went back to sleep, woke up again two hours later, still with a headache. Took Dafalgan all through the day, went to sleep early, woke up, still with a headache. Today was a bit better, only took three, and hopefully tomorrow I will be all rested again. Just in time for work…

Here’s to making the last day of the year a lot better than these past few ones! We will have some friends coming over, and I’ve been putting together a 6 course menu that I will prepare for them – pretty much on my own, since Kristien has few days off and wants to do nothing at all on the last day of the year, and I very much intend to make her wish come true. And besides, we paid enough for this great new open kitchen, I want to put it to good use…


Filed under: Fluendo,GStreamer,Hacking,Life,Music,Python,Spain — Thomas @ 7:10 pm

7:10 pm

Hard to believe that next week it will be Five Full Years I live and work in Barcelona.

It seems like only yesterday that I closed the door on the empty house I then shared with three good friends, and drove our truck through the icy mist on to a new life. That night where we had no place to live I passed by my grandmother’s house for dinner, a few hours late. My grandmother’s not here anymore. Neither is her house. At least part of her floor is now the floor of my apartment.

Originally we planned to give it a try and see after a year. And then one turned into two, then two-and-a-half, and now five.

When I left there wasn’t even a company yet to give me a contract. Now we’re three companies, and our fifth move has taken us to an office of around 50 people now, and already people are complaining again about space. Par for the course.

I also guess I never actually publically informed about my move from Fluendo to Flumotion – it was just a logistical confirmation of a practical situation. Today Julien is managing Fluendo (the GStreamer/codecs/DVD company), and Elisa was always managed by Lionel anyway. And Flumotion is a full-blown commercial company.

Meanwhile, after a bit of a hiatus on my GStreamer involvement, I am slowly coming back to my plans of using GStreamer – the plans I had originally when I discovered GStreamer more than 7 years ago. I just reread my first post the mailing list, from April 10th 2001 – at least it wasn’t a completely stupid question.

My original plan was to write some code that would play your music just like a radio would. Nicely mixed, correctly levelled, a good flow between songs, and playing what you like to hear. An extension of the thesis project I did a long time ago which I used in our student radio at the time.

But GStreamer being what it was at the time, I got sucked into the vortex and didn’t really work on these ideas for a long time. I took a quick stab at it during 0.8 in the form of gst-python’s gst.extend.jukebox which worked quite well already on the mixing front, but when it got ported to 0.10 using gnonlin it just never worked for me and was left abandoned.

So third time’s a charm. After close to 10 years of random hacking, it’s about time to decide on one good personal project to invest my time in before life takes over. And this time I think I want to write something that not only Linux people can use. I want to write something that my friends can use too, and that means it has to work on Windows.

My motivation comes from being annoyed at not being able to listen to my music the way I should want to. I’ve been lax at ripping my new CD’s over the last 5 years, and a 300 CD backlog to show for it. My automatic playlists reflect my tastes of five years ago, and only once in a while do I bother to get some new tracks on one of my three computers or my Nokia, to which I then listen only in certain conditions. And every player I deal with annoys me to some extent. And none of them do any kind of decent crossfading, if at all.

I’m not promising anything yet, and I’m only at the beginning, but my experience makes me a happier hacker, advancing quicker from the idea to the code stage than way back when. That’s a nice feeling. Over a few two hour nightly sessions, I’ve put together some code that analyzes tracks, calculates RMS and attack/decay envelopes, and puts together a half decent mix. I’ve written a simple example using gnonlin which allows me to pre-listen these mixes, playing 5 seconds of the first track alone, then the mix, then 5 seconds of the second track alone.

This makes it a lot easier to evaluate different mixing strategies, making them easier to tune later on. I’ll have a fun plane trip with my laptop, earphones, and three batteries.

If you happen to be adventurous and interested, you can always check out the repository and play around a bit and see if it can mix your tracks at all.

So, I’m celebrating my Lustrum of Fluendo and Barcelona with a bit of code for a new project!

Sadly, the names I was considering a few years ago were already taken – pyjama is now a jamendo python application (mine would have been Just Another Music Application – in Python), and Orpheus, which also exists. So for now I recycled a name of a previous project that handled another aspect of the problem.

8 hours of plane hacking baby! Here I go.


Filed under: Life — Thomas @ 10:09 am

10:09 am

Two Black Petes just left after cleaning my chimney. Ok, cleaning’s a big word – the chimney in our apartment was probably never ever used to begin with. But at least now it’s safe.

Boy, do I long for a cold winter night with a fire in the fireplace now!

Autumn Winter

Filed under: Belgium,Life — Thomas @ 5:42 pm

5:42 pm

Amazingly, it’s been snowing pretty much all day long. I hope I will actually be able to get a bus to the airport in an hour!

I know have my own garden full of snow. Ownership can be a wonderful thing.

Yesterday’s Death Cab For Cutie’s concert was mostly ruined by an invasion of American girls at the front. Either the current song was a favourite of one of them, causing them to yell incessantly about how the song was their favourite, or it wasn’t a favourite of any of them, in which case they yelled incessantly about other things.

In any case, Ben Gibbard mentioned to the audience how he felt that the day before he had passed another milestone on the way to adulthood when he opened the door and thought ‘Oh no. Snow.’ While before he would have thought, ‘Yay, snow.’ And he felt a little sad.

I could only feel happy knowing that the day before my first reaction had been indeed ‘Yay, snow!’

Trot out the boards please.

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