One of strangest app I installed on my new iPhone is the inception app. The best way to describe it would be experimental audio. The program basically remixes ambient sounds it picks up with the microphone and tries to build music out of it. The type of music is inferred from the phone’s context (movement, speed, position, but also the weather, the time of the day). The result is not always very harmonious, but I like what it does when I use it walking, I like having my own soundtrack for my life. While this kind of things has been experimented with earlier, I’m sure, but this is app is a clean package. Given its price (free), the fact it is based on a soundtrack I like (Inception) it certainly gave me a few hours worth of listening. One nice effect is when there is a sharp sound in reality, it gets repeated at lower pitches with some echo, this gives a dream-like dimension to any beeping machine.
Now that the naughties come to an end, one thing I’m happy about is the change in focus in experimentation. There has also been video experiments that tried to bring listener data into the clip: Arcade Fire – Wilderness Downtown, and Sour – Mirror, both worth trying out. I still remember the multi-media experiments of and others. Video-clips where you can look around are quickly boring and except if you are a die-hard fan, their inner universes are not that interesting. Having the artist remix the sounds of my life makes way more sense that me trying to remix the artist’s sounds.
One comment I got on my blog entry on Accelerando by Charles Stross was that Halting States was better. So when I saw its funny pixel art cover in the bookshop, I bought it. As luck would have it, I read the book during my trip to Edinburgh, where most of the action in the book takes place. I must agree with Alias, this book is better than Accelerando: both the plot and the writing are tighter, the characters more likeable, but the book is also way less ambitious. The starting point is a funny mix up between police matters and the weird world of online gaming:
It was called in as a robbery at Hayek Associates, an online game company. So you can imagine Sergeant Sue Smith’s mood as she watches the video footage of the the heist being carried out by a band of orcs and a dragon, and realises that the robbery from an online game company is actually a robbery from an online game
ISBN : 978-1-84149-694-8
This book reminded me of the Snow Crash for its rhythm and the satire of the dilbertian corporate culture that permeates everything nowadays. The book has a few quirks, the use of the second form in most of the text is somehow new, but I found this an amusing device. The narration alternating between the protagonists really feels like an old classic now.
In short a nice read and a good compromise between murder stories and science fiction. If you want to know more, the author graciously put the first three chapters for free on his blog.
Avant de voir le film L’illusioniste, je n’avais pas réellement d’image de la ville d’Édimbourg en tête. Difficile de visualiser une ville à partir de personnages en kilt. Je suppose qu’il y a un album de tintin qui a pour décor l’architecture écossaise, mais si je l’ai lu, je l’ai oublié. La chose amusante est que durant ce voyage, je lisais Halting States de Charles Stross, qui se situe dans cette ville, donc les déplacement des personnages avaient lieu dans des rues que j’avais moi même parcouru.
Je peux difficilement prétendre avoir visité la ville dans son état typique, vu que la ville était blanche de neige, les locaux nous ont assuré que c’était inhabituel. Avec l’humidité ambiante, il a certainement fait froid, et le fait que les établissements locaux n’ont souvent qu’une idée vague d’isolation n’a pas aidé. Il y a certainement quelque chose d’amusant à voir les locaux en costume impeccable avec des grosses bottes en caoutchouc vertes. Nous avons naturellement visité le château, parcouru la « Royal Mile » et visité les « Closes », ces ruelles souvent couvertes, parfois même enterrées et condamnées.
Si les guides insistaient naturellement sur les anecdotes, le pittoresque et l’impact de la peste, ce qui m’a frappé, c’est la taille des bâtiments de la ville au ⅩⅥe siècle dans une ville qui n’existait pas réellement avant l’an mil. La dualité entre l’ancienne ville, et la nouvelle, dans le style classique, m’a fait pensé à la bande dessinée La fièvre d’Urbicande, il est fort heureux que les architectes classiques n’aient pas obtenu la destruction de la vieille ville. Le centre ville semble avoir été épargnée par le brutalisme et les nouveaux bâtiments imitent plutôt bien le style local. La gare, située dans la vallée entre les deux villes n’est malheureusement pas aussi bien intégrée.
En général, j’ai trouvé que c’est une fort belle ville, la temps peu clément et la période de l’année ont probablement fait que nous avons évité les foules de visiteurs, il semblerait qu’Édimbourg soit la deuxième ville touristique du Royaume Uni, après Londres. Cela m’a certainement donné envie d’aller voir le reste du pays, en été…
The two year lock cycle of phone operators is as good as any other measure for the passing of time, as I have come back to Switzerland since four years, I now have my third phone. I have been using an iPhone 4 for a few weeks, replacing the venerable iPhone 3G. I had to annoy the Swisscom people to get the previous one SIM-unlocked (they should really do this without you needing to ask for it), and had to transition to a new, micro-SIM card, but the transition was quite smooth. The only thing that got lost in the transition is the layout of my apps on the screens, but everything else went fine.
Physically, the new phone is only steel and glass, the absence of plastic make it feel like a luxury object, it is really a nice piece of hardware. After some use, I see tree big improvements over the 3G:
- The screen. I can’t see the pixels. There is something sad in having a phone break a limit that I always hated in desktops and laptops: resolution. At 360 DPI, the screen has the resolution of an early laser printer. This makes reading a delight. I’m not sure I would read a full book on the device, but for notes, references, or mails, this is a very good improvement. I very often use the excellent kotoba application to study kanji (now called imiwa), the quality is really good, click on the screen capture on the right to see how large the actual screen is.
- Speed. There were many justified complaints that iOS 4 was slow on the 3G, and while performance improved somehow with the subsequent releases, it still felt sluggish. On the iPhone 4, the system feels much more responsive.
- Camera. During my Kraków trip, I did not take along my Sony camera, and took all pictures using the phone. Picture quality has been generally comparable, the phone can’t match the camera’s speed, nor its optical zoom, but I really like the HDR mode, and having the pictures geo-tagged immediately is nice.
It took me some time to get used to the new tasking UI, while it is nice to be able to switch between applications faster, I can’t say that it impressed me that much, but then I was never really convinced by the need for multi-tasking on a phone. As for printing, I’m waiting to see what will come out, will Apple finally add support for Airprint to OS X? Will brother roll out a firmware upgrade for my printer? The hardware is capable of handling PDF files, so this should be OK. If not I suppose that eventually support will come into my Synology NAS.
I must say I’m impressed with the speed with which the smartphone is converging to a single, clean, design. All newer smartphone seem to have a form factor like the iPhone.
I remember when the original Tron movie came out. It was a Disney movie that came out that was not simply animation, that talked about new stuff: computers, it was also a movie whose age limit was above mine, so I did not see it in the cinema. In fact it took years until I saw it on TV. Still it was the first mainstream movie about cyberspace, this was twenty years ago. It seems the movie became a classic, and as such, like Robin Wood or Titanic, a new version will be produced every generation.
The new movie has not premiered yet, but the soundtrack, crafted by Daft Punk can already be bought. Some say that the hype for the soundtrack is such that it will eclipse the actual movie. This might well be. Daft Punk did some really amazing music, and after a long absence, they came back with a major soundtrack. Comparing this album with previous music by Daft Punk is like comparing the space ship from Interstella 5555 to the Yamamoto, they were designed by the same person, but we are not talking about the same scale. This time, they have a philharmonic orchestra and a quarter of a century of electronic music with them. This must be the first album I own where there are both 8-bit samples and classical instruments, and it feels natural: this is a soundtrack, but it also feels like a overview of the history of electronic music. The quality of the recording is also very good, and I really felt the difference between small speakers and my hifi system.
In short, a soundtrack I recommend. Now I wonder how the movie will be…
Because of the bad weather, the trip to Kraków was tiring, planes were late and flights delayed, I arrived one day late. Despite a cruel history, Kraków is really a beautiful city. I created a gallery
À cause du mauvais temps, le voyage à Cracovie a été fatiguant, les avions étaient en retard, les vols annulés, je suis arrivé avec une journée de retard. Malgré une histoire cruelle, Cracovie est réellement une belle ville. J’ai créé une gallerie.