Jacktube 0.30 is out

My carpal tunnel problems have been less severe lately and I have gotten the chance to do some coding again! I will write more about that later.

In the meantime, for those who are not familiar with Jacktube, it is an open source audio/MIDI processor I maintain. Version 0.30 features a new plugin standard (DSSI), and many optimizations and bug fixes. Check it out at the project homepage!

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Introducing dssi-vst-rt

Since the original dssi-vst project seems to have halted development, I have decided to fork the project, and dssi-vst-rt is the result: A VST plugin wrapper dedicated to providing real time performance from VST plugins.

I also made a more suitable project page for it, with instructions and download links. Check out the dssi-vst-rt project.

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Real time Windows VST plugins in Linux

The most common plugin standard for audio is VST. The standard itself is not platform dependent, so it will work on any platform. However, in most cases, plugin authors will not bother to compile their plugins for any other platform than Windows (and possibly Mac OS). There are also a lot of license restrictions on the API, which means that Linux authors generally utilize other plugin standards.

I use Linux for all my work, and while Linux has a nice selection of plugins based on the LADSPA and DSSI plugin technologies, let’s face it: the selection just isn’t as big as on the Windows platform.

That’s where the nifty dssi-vst wrapper from Chris Cannam comes in. What it does is take a VST plugin, compiled for Windows, and wraps it in a Linux DSSI API, so that Linux applications can use it. It achieves this by using the Wine compatibility layer.

As I started using it I discovered that it had some shortcomings when it comes to latency, and I found it unsuitable for real time performance. However, I didn’t want to miss out on a lot of great VST plugins, so I started hacking on dssi-vst, and I came up with some patches that make it more real time robust. They should enable you to run VST plugins in Linux without experiencing any dropouts.

To get a hold of it, follow these steps:

  1. Go to: https://bitbucket.org/k_amlie/dssi-vst/changesets/tip/branch(%22hard-rt-support%22)
  2. Click on the topmost revision (the code consisting of numbers and letters).
  3. Click on “Get source” in the upper right corner and download the package in your preferred format.
  4. Extract the contents in a folder and then follow the compile/install instructions inside the README file.
  5. You can test it using the standalone plugin host “vsthost”. Just type in “vsthost” and the path to a VST plugin on your command line.

That should give you access to VST plugins with real time performance!

Like I stated earlier, the original code comes from Chris Cannam’s excellent dssi-vst project. I have talked to him and he wants to get these patches into his “official” dssi-vst, but he is stressed on time, so meanwhile you will have to get it here.

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The Ztar has arrived

It’s been a long wait, but finally after nearly twelve weeks of waiting, my Z7S Ztar has arrived. And even though I have only scratched the surface of its capabilities, I must say that it’s worth the wait. It’s strange to play it at first, but as a guitar player, it’s surprising how quickly one picks it up. In fact, the hardest part so far has been that the frets do not have logarithmic spacing, but instead are uniform across the entire fingerboard. Especially on the lowest frets, this feels unusual.

My Ztar

My copy of the instrument

So this baby will keep me occupied for a while! It’s too bad though, that I’m leaving for vacation today. I’ll have to endure another week without using it!

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I have ordered a Ztar!

Ztar Z7S

Ztar Z7S

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the ZTar is a great little invention (hopefully, at least) by the California based Starr Labs. It’s basically a MIDI-guitar, but like a keyboard, it has real keys, which are laid out in the traditional fretboard fashion (and yes, it does look a bit like a Guitar Hero guitar).

The great thing about the Ztar that separates it from other MIDI-type guitars, is exactly the real keys, which opens up the possibility of polyphonic “strings”, where each string can give you more than one note. As you can see from the picture, it also has strings for triggering notes, although you are not required to use them, so you can play the Ztar with both hands like a keyboard. For a guitar player like myself, this is an infinitely more tempting way of playing keyboard than playing an actual keyboard!

There are several reasons I have laid my eyes on the Ztar. Apart from the reasons mentioned, there is also the sad, but simple fact that with my persisting Carpal Tunnel problem, it has become impossible for me to learn the keyboard, even if I wanted to. Playing guitar has so far not triggered the same painful symptoms, and my hope is that the Ztar can be my loophole into the keyboard world without playing a real keyboard.

But I have to admit, the biggest reason is just that it’s damn cool, and it has so many settings to customize the MIDI output that you can get dizzy. For example, you can tune the fretboard to any tuning you want in the blink of an eye, or you can have different zones on the fretboard playing different instruments. You can even have tunings that are not possible on guitar, such as whole tones between each fret!

So for me awaits the agonizing time of waiting for this nifty piece of equipment, and California is a long way so it’s probably gonna take a while… Damn, regular guitar seems so boring now!

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Windflower is now available

At long last, Windflower is finally available!

Windflower has been quite an ordeal to produce, mainly because of the severe carpal tunnel problems that struck me last year, and still affect me to a certain degree today. But I managed to pull through, and I am very happy about the result, and I think the much closer collaboration has resulted in a really nice mix of ideas in the song. Friends who have heard it have described it as having influences from both Pink Floyd, Lou Reed and Led Zeppelin.

You can read more about it in the Music section, or, if you just want to download the song, go to the Download section.

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New band name

In the event of the upcoming Windflower release, the band has decided to change our name from “Chirality” to “Pendelirium”. It’s still the same band though! 😉

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New web and blog design

I have revamped the design of my home page, and decided to take some proper software into use this time. So now the whole site is powered by WordPress, including the blog and other pages.

This means that several new nifty features are available. For example, RSS feeds are now available, and can be customized to certain categories if one feels the need for that. One can now also comment on new posts, a feature that was sorely missed from my previous web page. And finally, it’s easier for me to write new posts, and that certainly counts too!

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Windflower preview

Due to request, I’ve put out a short preview of the new song, Windflower. The vocals haven’t been recorded yet, so I only included instrumental sections. Hopefully it’ll leave you wanting more!

Download it here: windflower-preview.mp3

Keep in mind that this is not the final mix, so the sound isn’t top notch.

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New song is in the works

I’ve been working a lot on a new song lately, for my band, Chirality. The song will be called Windflower, and this one has involved both members of Chirality in closer collaberation than before. The original idea, structure and lyrics was written by Katrine, but during the production process it has been changed and extended a lot and is now a work of both of us. It is also going to be over 10 minutes long (hey, we are prog artists), making it the longest song since Compliant Mania.

Right now we are currently done with pretty much all the writing and arranging. What remains is to record the whole thing and do the final mix. Expect more updates on this soon.

For the production I have used Renoise exclusively as the editing software, and I can only say that I am completely blown away. This is the first time in a long time that I have felt that the tool was not “in the way” of the work. I highly recommend it for everyone who are looking for alternatives to the sequencer style of editing, especially if you like using the keyboard for editing.

And of course, it works on all major platforms, Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.

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