Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Assholes of Michigan

Michigan has some of the worst drivers in any state I've ever driven in. Here are some of the, failing to merge after the third "left lane closed ahead -- merge right" sign -- and causing traffic to back up for miles.

Some say the state flower of michigan is the traffic construction barrel. I say no, it's the asshole.

I was hoping that I'd be able to capture license plates, but my little Motorola cell phone camera is just too crappy. (Also, its color is _way_ off).

The little butt-munch in the small black car -- I think it was a matrix or something -- was particularly offensive. After backing traffic up to 5 miles an hour for miles, he finally cut over, then proceeded to refuse to let anyone else merge, aggressively tailgating and cutting people off and trying to pass on the right. At five miles an hour.

It is hard to believe that people can't understand that failing to merge will make them later, too. They seem to think that as long as they are in front -- even if they have bogged traffic down to a standstill and cost themselves an additional 30 minutes on their morning commute -- they've won.

If I were in charge, failure to merge in a timely manner would be a capital offense. There wouldn't be any other capital offenses at all -- just this one. It would be carried out on the spot by a beefy team of slaughterhouse workers who would just pull the drivers out of their cars, stun them with a shotgun with a captive bolt, reclaim the car, and compost the human waste of air and fuel driving it.

Interestingly enough, waving a cell phone camera out your window at these drivers caused them, pretty uniformly, to immediately merge, as if it suddenly reminded that, oh yeah, they aren't the only human in the world, and solipsism isn't actually a practicable world view on the freeway.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Soundflower is Borked

In several previous posts I gave detailed instructions on how to use Soundflower with and other arcane audio mixing topics under MacOS X.

While these tricks sort of worked, I always had problems with audio after a while. I thought I'd be able to fix it with a change in buffer size or something similar, but I can't, and now I know why -- the problem seems to be isolated to Soundflower. Upgrading to the latest version, 1.4.3, doesn't fix the problems.

It seems that even running Soundflower on my wife's MacBook with no special hardware or audio applications -- just iTunes -- it is pretty easy to get Soundflower to go crazy. Set up the default audio output to be the two-channel Soundflower bus. Run Soundflowerbed and tell it to send the two-channel output to the built-in output. Now play some music. You'll probably have to play with some volumes using Audio MIDI Setup and iTunes.

On my wife's MacBook, plugging in a pair of headphones, which should just result in diverting the audio going through the speakers to the headphones, sends Soundflower into a tizzy -- I start hearing garbage through the headphones, the telltale "buzz" or stutter that tells me that it is playing one buffer of audio in a tight loop, and not getting any fresh audio streaming in. Setting the output to "None" and back to "Built-in Output" fixes the problem reliably.

On my Mac Pro, the problem is even worse -- I don't have to touch anything for the audio to become trash. Just letting iTunes run through my Apogee Ensemble via Soundflower results in the audio failing after a minute or two. Turning the Soundflower output off and back on seems to reliably fix the problem, but it's unusable when I have to fix it every couple of minutes; I can't do a live performance that way.

Interestingly enough, it seems to be just the monitoring of the Soundflower bus via Soundflowerbed that fails; ustream's meter shows the audio still going out.

There are some other issues but this one is a show-stopper. So unfortunately I can't recommend Soundflower for the time being, and I don't really have a workaround. If anyone knows of a similar tool that will give me an extra virtual audio bus that I can use to record or stream, I'd love to hear about it.

I've reported this issue to the developers, and I note that another user is also reporting trouble with the Ensemble. I don't think it is the Ensemble's fault, though, given the way the failure occurs on a stock MacBook. The developers do not seem to be responding to recent bug reports at present.

I'm about to install the 10.5.7 system update; we'll see if that improves the situation.

Soundflower is open source. About 8 years ago I worked on CoreAudio drivers for a commercial PCI-based audio interface, so in theory I should be able to dig into the Soundflower code base and, with luck, figure out what is happening and help fix it. In practice debugging this sort of thing could be a major time sink, and given that I'm already working more than full time and a parent, it seems unlikely that I can make any headway in that direction, but if I get some down time I'll see what I can do.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Ken Knight has been Found!

Alive and healthy.

The latest update in the Ann Arbor News can be found here.

Like the article says, I'm extremely relieved!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Ken Knight is Missing

My friend and college classmate and roommate Ken Knight, age 41, is missing in Virginia. Here is a very recent photograph (click on it for a larger version):

The device he is holding is his digital audio recorder. He also frequently traveled with a video camera.

He was hiking a stretch of the Appalachian Trail and was last heard from via Twitter on the morning of the April 26th (Sunday) when he posted a 12-second video clip.

His Twitter page is here.

There is an active search going on; the Chicago Tribune has reported the story, and the AP wire has picked it up.

Here is the story from a Lynchburg, VA newspaper.

Ken is legally blind and suffers from epilepsy, although the illness has been mostly controlled over the 24 years or so that I've known him. Despite his visual impairment, he has been a very avid backpacker and hiker and has hiked all over the world. He is a contributing editor for Backpacking Light magazine and a regular volunteer at The Ark. He lives on the Old West Side of Ann Arbor.

Ken has a home page here, a blog here and the latest episode of his podcast can be found here.

Ken is a good and longtime friend of mine and I am extremely concerned. My thoughts are also with his family; one of the news sources reports that his parents have joined the search effort.