Author Archives: irwinhkwan

About irwinhkwan

My name is Irwin Kwan and I am a Ph.D candidate under Dr. Daniela Damian at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I am a member of the Software Engineering Global Interaction Lab (SEGAL) and have been since January, 2006. I have a Software Engineering degree from the University of Ottawa, and a Masters of Mathematics (Computer Science) from the University of Waterloo.

Album Release: “Daily Routine” by Irwin

There’s an annual challenge called “National Solo Album Month” that challenges musicians to compose and release a solo album in the month off November. It’s based off of NaNoWriMo, “National Novel Writing Month”. An album is defined as having 29:09 of content (because that’s the shortest album released by a label that they have found).

I did the challenge this month and released my album, “Daily Routine” on Bandcamp. You can listen to it at https://irwink.bandcamp.com/releases!

The album itself is an improvisational album of techno and house beats that focuses on groovy rhythmic patterns, evolving musical textures, and minimal melodies. If you like that kind of stuff, check it out.

How did I make this album?

The album was composed using hardware synthesizers. I primarily used my Eurorack modular synthesizer, a Roland TR-8s drum machine, an Elektron Octatrack performance sampler, and an Elektron Analog Four multitimbral analog synthesizer. I also played melodies on the Linnstrument. For most of the songs, I composed a bassline, some backing tracks, and the drums, and then played them on the sequencer while adding lead melodies with Linnstrument playing a part of the Analog Four. Most of the songs are improvised, so they’re a little unstructured but are meant to convey a mood consistently through the whole song.

Creating a Song in Squarp Instruments Hermod

I created a video to illustrate the use of the Squarp Instruments Hermod Modular Brain. This is a multi-sequence, polyphonic sequencer for Eurorack that interfaces with MIDI, USB, and CV made by the creators of the very popular Pyramid. Check it out!

I also have a more detailed video that goes into how Hermod’s step mode and zoom levels work.

Upgrading the Kilpatrick Carbon Firmware

I recently purchased a Kilpatrick Audio Carbon made by Kilpatrick Audio. The Carbon is a multi-track, multi-step sequencer that controls instruments using MIDI and CV. So far, it’s been fantastic and it’s allowed me to start doing loop-based music live.

I’ve been communicating with the author, Andrew Kilpatrick, about some bugs about the device, and he recently released a new firmware update. He doesn’t have a Mac so he’s not able to test the Carbon’s firmware updating process.

For all of you visiting who have a Carbon that needs updating, here’s the instructions for Mac (they’ll also work on Linux).

Updating the Carbon using dfu-util

The Carbon uses DFU for its firmware updates. There are many DFU utilities out there, but an open-source one that works is called dfu-util, which runs on Mac and Linux. (If you’re using Windows instead, instructions exist on the Kilpatrick Audio firmware site).

Get the DFU program

1. (on macOS) Install home-brew (http://brew.sh). You’ll need Xcode for this (with the command-line tools).
2. (on macOS) Install dfu-util. “brew install dfu-util”

On Linux, the instructions will be different, but will probably involve using your system’s package manager in a similar way.

Get the firmware from Kilpatrick Audio

Download and unzip the firmware from the Kilpatrick Audio firmware updates web site. The latest firmware as of writing is v1.06.

Do the update

Restart Carbon in firmware update mode. To do this:

  1. Connect your Carbon to your computer using USB.
  2. Unplug the power connector.
  3. Hold down the power button.
  4. Plug in the power connector.

The LEDs will be a solid color and the screen will be blank. Sometimes, the LEDs will be different colors. That’s normal.

Open Terminal (macOS) or another command-line window.

In the prompt, type the following to check that the program can see your carbon:

dfu-util —list

Your output will resemble the following:

dfu-util 0.9

Copyright 2005-2009 Weston Schmidt, Harald Welte and OpenMoko Inc.
Copyright 2010-2016 Tormod Volden and Stefan Schmidt
This program is Free Software and has ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY
Please report bugs to http://sourceforge.net/p/dfu-util/tickets/

Deducing device DFU version from functional descriptor length
Found Runtime: [05ac:828d] ver=0118, devnum=8, cfg=1, intf=3, path="20-6.3", alt=0, name="UNKNOWN", serial="UNKNOWN"
Found DFU: [0483:df11] ver=2200, devnum=27, cfg=1, intf=0, path="20-4.1.2", alt=3, name="@Device Feature/0xFFFF0000/01*004 e", serial="376837513335"
Found DFU: [0483:df11] ver=2200, devnum=27, cfg=1, intf=0, path="20-4.1.2", alt=2, name="@OTP Memory /0x1FFF7800/01*512 e,01*016 e", serial="376837513335"
Found DFU: [0483:df11] ver=2200, devnum=27, cfg=1, intf=0, path="20-4.1.2", alt=1, name="@Option Bytes  /0x1FFFC000/01*016 e", serial="376837513335"
Found DFU: [0483:df11] ver=2200, devnum=27, cfg=1, intf=0, path="20-4.1.2", alt=0, name="@Internal Flash  /0x08000000/04*016Kg,01*064Kg,07*128Kg", serial=“376837513335"

The Carbon’s device ID is 0483:df11. In this particular case, you want to write to the “alt bank 0”, which is the Carbon’s internal flash.

Install the firmware with the following command:

dfu-util -a 0 -D K66-carbon-1.06-firmware.dfu

You will see output that looks like the following:

dfu-util 0.9

Copyright 2005-2009 Weston Schmidt, Harald Welte and OpenMoko Inc.
Copyright 2010-2016 Tormod Volden and Stefan Schmidt
This program is Free Software and has ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY
Please report bugs to http://sourceforge.net/p/dfu-util/tickets/

Match vendor ID from file: 0483
Match product ID from file: df11
Deducing device DFU version from functional descriptor length
Opening DFU capable USB device...
ID 0483:df11
Run-time device DFU version 011a
Claiming USB DFU Interface...
Setting Alternate Setting #0 ...
Determining device status: state = dfuIDLE, status = 0
dfuIDLE, continuing
DFU mode device DFU version 011a
Device returned transfer size 2048
DfuSe interface name: "Internal Flash  "
file contains 1 DFU images
parsing DFU image 1
image for alternate setting 0, (1 elements, total size = 272176)
parsing element 1, address = 0x08000000, size = 272168
Download [=========================] 100%       272168 bytes
Download done.
done parsing DfuSe file

This will take a minute or two to do the transfer.

When it’s done, remove the power from the Carbon, and plug it back in again. Start the power normally. Press SYS (SHIFT-MIDI) to check the firmware version.

If you’re updating from v1.02, the first few things that you’ll notice is a new font (I’m not 100% sold on it honestly) and that the Carbon now takes MIDI input from any channel instead of channel 1. There are also a number of bug fixes.

The Carbon also has a Github page, so if you have bugs to report or suggestions to send about the device, that’s the place to do it.

Enjoy your noodling!

Quickie: Upgrading Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 Problems?

I’ve been using Windows 8 as a dual-boot option on my iMac for a while. When Windows 8.1 came out, I was pretty excited, as Peter Bright’s review on Ars Technica was quite positive about it.

Unfortunately, I was getting errors doing the upgrade it directly from the Microsoft Store, eventually getting Error 0x0073B92 - 0x20009. I was a little stumped about how to get around this.

The solution was actually simple: disconnect all of your USB devices during the installation. (Internet searching seems to indicate that this is related to a problem with a second hard drive).

Sublime Text: Always run a single file in a project no matter what is focused

When I program, I often try to split up my code into modules. This requires that I use different files. However, I also want to run my code from a “main” or a “master” file as well. It’s pretty annoying in Sublime Text, or any text editor, to have to switch to your main file to run your project.

I’ve talked about how to do this in TextMate but how can you pull this off in Sublime Text? Let me show you how.

  1. Create a Sublime Text project for your program. You can do this by using the menu Project > Save Project As…”.
  2. Open the settings for your project using the menu Project > Edit Project.
  3. You’ll get a mostly empty text window. Modify this window to include a build definition, such as the following one for Python:
    • "build_systems": [
        {
          "name": "PyProj",
          "cmd": ["python", "-u", "$file"],
          "file_regex": "^[ ]*File \"(...*?)\", line ([0-9]*)",
          "selector": "source.python"
        }
      ]
      
  4. Modify the line with “cmd” and change “$file” to the master file you always want to run. For example, if your main file is called pyproj.py, then change it to pyproj.py.

Add the "build_systems" JSON field in your project settings file, accessible through the Project menu > Edit project.

Add the “build_systems” JSON field in your project settings file, accessible through the Project menu > Edit project.

That’s it! While you’re editing your project settings, you can make other customizations as well as you see fit.

Obviously, this isn’t limited to just setting a file to be run no matter what file you’re focused on. You could use this to add command-line arguments to a single project, to run project-specific scripts for building and testing, or to otherwise customize the way the “Control-B” (Command-B on Mac OS X) works when you are running the project. You can essentially define your own build system on a per-project basis in a project file’s “build_systems” section and use any information in Sublime Text’s build system documentation to do so. Unfortunately, the build system documentation doesn’t really describe this because it’s focused more toward Package development.

For more information about how project settings work, look at Sublime Text’s documentation for build systems and for projects!

The Function (Fn) key is on the full-size Apple Keyboard

Are you one of those Mac users who generally turns on the F1, F2, keys as standard function keys option in System Preferences? If you do that, then if you want to use your keyboard to control the volume or the screen brightness, you need to find the Function (or Fn) key. (Alternatively, if you don’t turn it on then you need the Fn key to simulate F1, F2, and so forth keypresses).

Do you check off the box in System Preferences > Keyboard that makes the F keys behave as standard function keys?

Do you check off the box in System Preferences > Keyboard that makes the F keys behave as standard function keys? I usually do. I think I only ever use the Volume Control function on the keyboard anyway.

On the laptop and the wireless keyboards, Apple usually puts the Fn key on the lower-left hand corner, next to the “Control” key. But it’s not there on the full-sized Apple Keyboard with the numeric keypad!

Or is it?

The Fn Key on an Apple Keyboard is next to the home and above the delete key in the area above the arrow keys.

Ha, it’s in the middle of the keyboard between the letters and the numeric keypad, right below the F13 key and above the Delete key!

Eject All of your Removable Mac OS X Disks Quickly!

Are you always using hard disks and USB keys in your Mac? Getting annoyed with having to go to the Finder, scrolling down in the sidebar, and then ejecting these disks before you can unplug all of these devices to move your computer? Or, maybe you just pull out the USB and let Mac OS X complain at you about how the disk was removed without you ejecting it first?

Try using this AppleScript along with a launcher application like QuickSilver to save time and eject all of your disks with one command! A launcher application is basically a quick way to start up applications – you press a keystroke like “Ctrl-Space” and then begin typing, and QuickSilver will find applications that match what you’ve typed. Ejecting disks is quite literally at your fingertips.

  1. Open up the AppleScript Editor (it’s in /Applications/Utilities)
  2. Copy and paste the following code:
    try
      tell application "Finder"
        eject the disks
        display dialog "Successfully ejected disks." buttons {"Close"} default button "Close"
      end tell
    on error
      display dialog "Unable to eject all disks." buttons {"Close"} default button "Close"
    end try

    AppleScript Editor with the Eject All script

    AppleScript Editor with the Eject All script.
  3. Save it into a place you’ll find it later. I used ~/Library/Scripts and called the script “EjectAll.scpt”.
  4. Compile it!

Now, if you double-click on that script, it’ll automatically eject all of your media and give you a dialog box to let you know when it’s finished.

quickSilverCatalogScripts

QuickSilver Catalog Preferences Window

In QuickSilver, I added the ~/Library/Scripts directory to my catalog by opening the QuickSilver Preferences, clicking on Catalog, then going to Scripts in the sidebar. I then ensured that “Scripts (User)” was checked.

Then, you can relaunch QuickSilver, press its hotkey (Ctrl-Space by default), and type “EjectAll” and press enter to run the script. It’ll automatically eject all of your media and then you can pull out all of your plugged-in devices without worry!