Friday, November 20, 2009

Recording Streaming Audio in OS X

I finally got around to finding a way to record streanubg audio: not hard.

What you'll need:
Audacity: Good, free and open-source sound editing suite.  (Does more than steal sound from the internet.)
Soundflower: Doesn't do much: presents a sort of audio bridge so that you can direct input to a given channel and then record form a given out-bound channel.  Very simple.

There are other packages out there that do things a bit "better", but they either aren't free or as flexible.

After you download and install those packages:
1) Start Soundflower.  You should see a flower icon up in that "tray" thing near the clock.  Don't fuss with it.
2) Start Audacity. First time you need to tell it to record input from the "Soundflower (2ch)" device.
2a) You may want to tell Audacity to "play-through", as in, let you hear stuff as you record it.
3) Open your system->sound preferences and tell it output to "Soundflower (2ch)".
4) Click on that record button.
5) Go to your favorite youtube song and play it.  Don't worry about timing, you can edit stuff out later.
6) When it's done press stop and give it some ID3 tags in Audacity if you're into that.  Delete the junk at the beginning and end of the scopey looking sound-track.
7) Export it.  I recommend Ogg Vorbis, but you can use other formats.  If you use that Other Format, you'll allegedly need the LAME encoder package thingy.
8) When you're done exporting you can add it your iPhone/Tunes/Pod/Mac/Life/Work/etc...

Don't forget to change back your audio settings so

The next how-to or at least how-I-did-it-and-seems-to-work will be on bike painting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Book Review

I am a Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter.

Douglas Hofstadter was an aspiring physicist and recovering mathematician when he accidentally wrote the cognitive science masterpiece/tour de force/award winning/whirlwind/etc... Godel Escher Bach (GEB).  It's long, complicated, very good, and altogether mesmerizing.  If book-critics didn't use the term as much as they do, I'd call it whirlwind.  Apparently, it was so whirl-winded that old Doug thought the message was lost.  So he kicked back for while, and then a long time later, wrote another book called I am a Strange Loop.

This book claims to focus on what was missed in GEB: consciousness rising from the "strange" recursion of symbol-strings made possible by our minds.  He begins by defending his view that there are varying degrees of consciousness. At one end we have amoebas, on the other we've everyone's favorite evolutionary pinnacle: humans.  He draws analogies to music, win, and other things about which people are connoisseurs, but he does it more artistically and less technically than in GEB.  He explains Godel's incompleteness theorem, which proved that math would never be free from self-reference, which is very important for everyone who thinks math is pure and free of contradiction.  Doug goes on to show a couple of "fun" problems with basic mathematical concepts.  Great. 

While he has a gift for metaphor, I could have used more tofu and potatoes.  He centres his first base-hit around an experiment (more of an activity) where he looped some videos of their own playback and took pictures of the results.  (think hall of mirrors in 4-D.)  Very pretty, moderately stimulating, but still astronomically far from consciousness.  In the second half of the book he begins talking in terms of I-referencing, which is what people do when they think "I".  All his examples of strange recursion fall short in one way or another, which almost seems planned so that he can bounce back and say, "you see! you see!  It only works in the mind!  Booyaah!"  Well that's fine.

Interestingly, having begun my endeavor into syntax, and recently been inspired by a certain eminent linguist, the idea of recursion has been made very clear: pretty important.  It's sure evident that recursive schemas in the minds we got gave rise to the linguistic capacity we also got!  Since I am a Strange Loop didn't leave me with much more than that, I'll leave you with it too.

And since you all have to quote old Chuck D. this year: "My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts."  Now that's got to be recursive!

I say 2.5 / 5 on the superior-scientific-star-scale.