Sunday, November 18, 2018

Lots Of Little Jobs

I've had a weekend of sorting out the small things that are always at the bottom of my todo list.
My list is purely mental. If I had a list of things written down somewhere I'd probably be put off starting it in the first place.

Job number one was getting my Raspberry Pi Zero W loaded with Raspbian and running a VNC server on it so that it can be controlled by my Android phone. I can now remote into the Pi desktop which is odd but very satisfying especially on a smartphone. All done and quite a simple exercise too. What should be a straight forward task usually isn't. This time was fortunately different.

Next on the list was to play my electric guitar for a while to get the strings stretched enough for it to stay in tune. New strings are better these days but there is that initial play-tune loop to go through. I had a lot of fun jamming through the Zoom R8 and trying the effects. That's all now ready for a bit of a marathon recording session which will hopefully happen next weekend. That's if I can leave my computers alone long enough.

That's going to be difficult because task three was to find some old RAM for a very old PC. A long time ago I installed Ubuntu on it so I know it works with a Linux distro. The problem was the 512MB of RAM that was trying to run everything. To give this old box its dues it managed admirably albeit slowly.
After falling for the lightweight Lubuntu last week I was tempted to install that straight away but I came to my senses and went down to the computer shop on the hunt for retro memory. The shop owner was all smiles in a 'helpful / what does this idiot want that for' way. I did try to explain that Lubuntu would handle the old PC without any problem but I think Mr Computershop is all about Windows so the word Lubuntu fell on deaf ears.
He did however suggest going onto eBay and buying my RAM there, so I did. For the princely sum of £10.95 there will be 2GB running my revived PC.
That's if I don't add more jobs to my todo list in the meantime.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

No Win Is A Win

Not so long ago I bought a Lenovo Ideapad 120s because I needed some kind of machine with Windows installed.
Windows served its purpose and so the Ideapad was just kind of knocking around not doing much, which is a waste. I played with it a bit, tried a few things but I've been using Linux for so long now that I really had no use for it. The 120s is a bit like a modern netbook. It has a 32GB hard drive and Windows 10 Pro takes up pretty much all of that space. By the time I'd done a decent system clean there was only about 6GB left. I added my own 32GB micro SD card but that's still not a lot of space.
Having searched the net I found someone who had managed to install Ubuntu 18.04 and that inspired me to do something similar. My Lenovo is now running Lubuntu 18.04.
Lubuntu is a really lightweight distro and I've reversed the hard drive allocation so that I now have just over 20GB of free space on my home drive plus the 32GB micro SD. The startup time is about 30 seconds but after that it runs smoother and faster than Windows 10. Everything is familiar about the distro so I feel right at home and I now have a very productive laptop.
Linux is the ideal choice once again.

Saturday, October 20, 2018


A few years ago I sold my Yamaha QY100 sequencer.
I think from the moment it was gone I regretted the sale.
The only thing that would replace it for me was a Korg MicroArranger or a Yamaha Tyros. Both are expensive arranger keyboards and I never had a spare £500+ to invest in either.
The other week I was looking into either a MicroArranger or another QY100. There was one of each on eBay, both around the £250 mark, second hand. I was late at making a decision and both were gone by the time I'd decided to bid on one of them. While looking for another MicroArranger I stumbled across the Korg Liverpool. After some investigation I discovered that it's a reworked MicroArranger stuffed with Beatles songs and a Union Flag case. It's a bit ugly but it's growing on me.
As you can see I bought one, brand new and sub £200. It's a great keyboard to play and a good accompaniment for my bass playing. I think I've only scratched the surface of its abilities and I'm really enjoying messing about with music again. It's been more than 3 years since I wrote a track.
I think that's all about to change.

Sunday, October 14, 2018


I did try and avoid posting about the TRNG but I thought I had just one more post left in the story.
The Element 14 kit for the desktop Pi has a board included so that a mSATA drive can be added. I wanted the extra drive to store the files of random numbers that I'm producing. It took a while to work things out. Adding the drive really wasn't that straight forward and I spent three hours getting everything talking to each other. I even went as far as breaking out the soldering iron and hard wiring the cooling fan into the GPIO power pins. The desktop is a bit noisy now but it'll never overheat.

While waiting for my transfer hardware to arrive I'm re-purposing the Pi Top as a processing machine. As I type this it's downloading the full Kali ARM OS.
So that's about it really. I'm just about set up for some serious encryption experimentation, that and restarting my Python encryption course along with a decent pen testing introduction.

I imagine the next few posts will be music related. Hopefully next week's blog will contain some exciting keyboard news.
Until then it's back to the bass.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Back To Bassics

When I was about 8 or 9 years old I learned to play a cello.
I did that for 3 years, got a Grade II certificate and played an end of year concert with the school of music.
The cello went and so I taught myself keyboards on a cheap Casio VL-1. I was still playing basslines.
Fast forward a few years and I spent a back dated dole cheque on a candy pink bass. I think I sold that for a night out.
When I started writing tunes I always wrote the bass first. I played keyboards with my left hand playing bass and my right hand filling in the blanks with chords. For as long as I can remember the bass was the most important part of anything musical.

For the last three years I've been without FL Studio. It doesn't run well on Wine for Linux. I've tried LMMS and a few other things but my heart was never in it. I haven't recorded a track in the last three years and I miss it.

To rectify this situation I decided to go back to what I know. Four strings.
Not another cello but instead another bass. A half decent one. Five minutes ago I was playing my Squire Precision Bass. It's easy to play and the experience of 45 minutes solid playing was cathartic. I'm happier for having spent the time with the instrument and although it's back to basics my enthusiasm will drive me on to be better. I can see myself writing tracks again soon.
Just for myself, but I will share the resulting happiness with everyone else.