messaging – ramblings about

messaging

It’s been a while since the news of Facebook acquiring WhatsApp for $19bn astounded me. That worked out to a P/E of 950! Wow, just wow! Talk about value investing! (pun intended).

But it also made me think. Why could a messaging company be deemed so valuable. And as I walked in the Bavarian forest today, without a smartphone in my pocket, it dawned on me.

But let me tell you a little  bit about my messaging preferences first. I used to do phone calls, in times before mobile phones. I liked keeping them as short and concise as possible. When mobile phones arrived I took to SMS immediately, aided in no small part by a short-lived but passionate SMS romance. What a thrill! 160 character love poems.

But the permanent availability takes its toll; and so now, I often find my phone on silent mode, calling back, or using messaging apps. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and email or SMS mostly. With some Google Hangouts thrown in for my family.

Even after years of using it, I still don’t enjoy typing on virtual keyboards, and never got as fast as on my BlackBerry. I started using voice messages on WhatsApp about 5 months ago. I find them fascinating. It’s easier and faster than typing, and also a much richer experience. Whereas small inflections of irony where often completely lost in SMS or WhatsApp, they are now clear.

So here comes my point: We are moving towards a richer messaging experience, as users slowly abandon the notion of: asynchronous communication means written communication (stemming from letters) and synchronous communication means face to face or phone calls (or IRC chats or the like).

Here is my distinction:

roe

 

 

 

 

 

That means people will move more and more to asynchronous forms of communication, because these can be fit into their schedules as they see fit. As they become richer and easier to use, these will replace phone calls, and, to a certain extent emails.

Because they are quicker to compose, and offer a more honest and direct experience of the sender, a lot of times, people will gravitate towards using messaging apps.

Messaging in the future will mean rich messaging. Voice, or probably video or 3D video, or who knows what comes next.

And this makes WhatsApp, that, in my opinion, got the Messaging work flow and user experience completely nailed down, a very valuable prospect. Worth $ 19bn? Only time will tell.

Hearing – remarks about

The question: “Does HD Audio matter, and why do we need to produce frequencies above 20k” still nettles me.

In the woods

Today, while taking an exceptionally beautiful walk through the Bavarian forest near my house, I head some insights, that I’m about to share with you.

1.) A lot of research points out, that the human ear is incapable of hearing anything above 20k and hence reproduction, recording and transport of frequencies above that are unnecessary.

2.) David Blackmer pointed out here, that 2/3rds of the hairs in the human cochlea are used to detect not the frequency, but the waveform of incoming audio.

Blackmers rearch has apparently been refuted, or could not be reproduced. His findings still make a lot of sense to me, seen from  biological or evolutional viewpoint. Now I am very well aware of the dangers of biologisms and other half-baked cross references, still, consider this:

Say, you are in the woods, looking for food, or an animal that you might hunt, at the same time, aware that you need to stay clear of wolves, bears or sabre-tooth tigers. Hearing is very relevant to that task. Specifically, the transients of the incoming audio make all the difference. A sharp, short spike, when an animal breaks a twig or steps down upon dry grass is very different from wind blowing through trees. This difference is in the micro-second time domain and is vital to your survival.

So to have a lot of capacity dedicated to distinguish waveforms, transients and rise time, makes clear sense.

Why can this not be detected in tests: I believe that these tests ask questions from a frequency domain point of view. Not from a time domain point of view.

And here comes the hard part: some argue that since frequency requires time, there is no need to look at the time domain. This seems correct, but on closer inspection puts the horse before the cart. Time is primary, frequency secondary. With time comes frequency, but frequency requires time!

So, yes, the human ear cannot hear frequencies above 20k. But also: waveform detection, rise times and transient response are of utmost importance to natural sounding reproduction. I could detect that time and again, without knowing about the rise times of the equipment being used.

I suggest that the human ear has different windows for the frequency and the time domain. Frequency is limited to approx. 20Hz to 20 kHz. Time is very sensitive to small differences in waveforms and transients.

I would be very interesting in any research about that, that does not stem from a frequency domain point-of-view and would love to collaborate to develop adequate tests. So if you are thinking about hearing, working in the field of hearing research or just want to team up, please do not hesitate to leave your comment below or contact me.

SysTech for the Wise Guys – Schwabenhalle Augsburg 30.11.13

I got a call about two weeks ago, asking me, if I’d be available on the 30.11.13 and 1.12.13 to do system alignment and design for 2 shows by the Wise Guys, Germanys premiere a capella group.

One show would be in the Schwabenhalle in Augsburg and one in the Liederhalle in Stuttgart. They had recently hired a new FOH Engineer, Jan Karlsson, and since the engineer on the rest of the tour also handled system design, they now needed a systech as well, so not to overbear Jan.

I agreed to do the job. I like the group and the company that asked me – Ostalb PA.

Schwabenhalle in Augsburg has 4000 seat capacity, and Liederhalle in Stuttgart 3,000. Seemed like a mid-sized job. Then I got the material sheet for Augsburg:

  • 16 Meyer Sound MILO
  • 20 Meyer Sound 700 HP
  • 38 Meyer Sound M’elodie
  • 4 Meyer Sound CQ-2
  • 4 Meyer Sound UPA 1-P
  • 2 Meyer Sound Galileo System Processors.

That blew me away, I had done festivals for 15,000 people with considerably less. So clearly the focus here was not on economics, but on sound. I immediately liked that.

They kept referring to my task as “mapping”. A term I was unfamiliar with, and still am. However, I thought, if I delivered a good design and alignment, I could make them happy.

Communications with the venue proved to be difficult, with the person assigned to deal with me insisting he had long given all the relevant information to the Wise Guys crew, After I assured him, this had in fact not happened, he asked me, what the hell my job was, and why a systech was needed anyway.  I managed to procure the desired information via the Wise Guys management.

Arriving at the venue on the day of the show at 9am, I was pretty nervous. They wanted to be ready with the PA at 2 pm. Quite a task, I thought, given the sheer number of loudspeakers.

But, thankfully, Eric Neubert and the wonderful crew of Ostalb PA were allready there for some time when I arrived at 9. They had handled all the rigging, and even had the left and right MILO and flown 700 HP ready to go, once I provided the angles and splaying.

I had prepared a design and handed it to them. We decided to use a center cluster, because Left to Right was 28m and mid-coverage might have proven difficult otherwise.

The quantitative side looked like that:

  • Main LR: 8 MILO.
  • Center 8 M’elodie
  • Delays: 4x 7 M’elodie

We had 9 feeds coming from the console: Main (LR), Subs, Delays, Outfills (LR), Infills (LR), Center. We set the Galileos up so one Galileo managed the main PA and the Subs and Center, the other did Delays and Outfills and Infills. So we had no patching from one Galileo to the other.The Wise Guys use a completely digital setup, Wireless Mics go via AES to MADI to the DigiCo SD8 console, and then with AES to the Galileos.

We managed to set the PA up by 1pm. I then spent 2,5h tuning the PA with Jan. Using Smaart v7, our ears and a lot of walking, we managed to get a great sounding system.

The main difficulty was getting the flown 700 HPs and the ground stacked, end fired ones to work as one. That took a lot of measuring, and a fair amount of trial and error.

The show was a success, with no complaints. Wise Guys are all about intelligible lyrics. We delivered that to every seat,

Thanks to the Wise Guys for allowing me to design without economic limits. Such a treat.

Some images below:

View from the Delay
View from the audience
Lights
MAPP Tops
MAPP Center

 

leadership – thoughts about

85% of the time I am not a leader. This ranges from active participant to downright passive consumer. 15% of my time I lead.

I recently looked at the activities I consider myself a leader in, and a clear picture comes to mind. I lead because … I lead! There is just no other way there.  I sometimes try to follow. I just can’t.

Now, we all read a lot about how great it feels to be a leader, how much we should strive for that. Not to follow the pack, to stand out, and so on. But for me this negates a truth I clearly feel. Leading, standing out, is – at least a lot of the time – not comfortable at all. You are alone, you get attacked, ridiculed, belittled, who-do-you-think-you-are’d. And that hurts. Plain and simple.

I am a rather shy person, carry a lot of shame, and hence am not very comfortable when I’m singled out. A lot of the times I wish to just blend in, maybe have my way here and there, but all in all, go with the flow. But in some fields, that’s jsut not possible. It makes me feel so horribly stupid and wrong, that I just have to listen to my own voice and go with that.

Here, I become a leader. Now leading sometimes feels great. The self-respect and sense of self-reliance and souvereignity it entails are hard to beat. They are also hard won.

And that brings me to my point: I guess most leaders are not leaders because they fancy it. They are leaders because the other avenues are not open to them. Leading is dangerous, makes you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. That is precisely the reason so few people meke good leaders or wish to lead.

But then, who knows, I might just find that these sensations: vulnerability, shame, discomfort are really signs of strength in action. I might just be willing to give it a try.

Installing Android HD 7.3 on a HTC Sensation with 1.27.100 HBOOT

So I bought a used phone, because I sold my HTC Desire with CyangenMod 7 installed and a2SD running. A great phone, and a fantastic ROM. Especially the keyboard, predictive text.  But its battery was only lasting for 8 hrs and I got tired of Android 2.3.

HTC SensationI swore to myself, that I would not root this device. It had Android ICS 4.0.3 installed and HTC Sense 3.6 and was basically running fine. But then the bug bit me again; it was kinda sluggish, I could use a couple of features.

So, ever putting way too much trust in the ease of the rooting process, I decided to install Android HD 7.3. Sounded great. Beats Audio, better Radio, longer bat-live, faster…

I unlocked my phone with HTCDev and flashed a CWM 5.8.0.9 Touch Recovery. Fine! Got SuperSU, put Android HD on the SD card and flashed the ROM. WiFi not working. Ups.

Of course I did not back up my old config, deeming this inappropriate for power users like myself. So now I tried to flash the new firmware that the excellent XDA guide mentioned. Wouldn’t work.

The problem was, that my phone was a Vodafone branded version, with HBoot 1.27.100. I needed the phone to be S-OFF so I could set the CID in a way that would allow me to flash the firmware. The only way to really do that is with Juopunutbear amazing method, which involves using a paperclip to shortcircuit the SD-Card in a very specific rhythm.

I looked at the video, read the pages, but my first 20 or so tries with a paperclip yielded nothing. Compounding my problem was that I was using Ubuntu 12.04 from VM Player. Which meant : Everytime I disconnected or rebooted the phone I head to connect it to the VM again via VM Players menu,

paper clipsSo after the paper clip I started using a piece if wire in plastic that is used for closing nut bags or cookie bags. I cut of both ends of the plastic and now had a insulated middle with naked ends. This immediately showed more promising results, because my phone now rebooted every time I did the wire trick.

To get the rhythm right I practised with a stopwatch, but honestly, you need to try a lot of times. There is an element of pure luck involved here, and it took me abaout 30 times (30 phone reboots, 30 connect to VMs) to finally get it.

Now I had S-OFF, installed the firmware, reinstalled Android HD 7.3 and everything is happy ever after. This is one fantastic ROM! The installation procedure is the most beauiful experienced so far, so big big shout out to Mike1986 for the ROM!

quantitative thinking, critique of

Quant-pic

 

It seems to me that we rely more and more on quantitaive measurement as a gauge of our success. Income, percentage gained, value-at-risk, earnings before tax, carbon footprint, jobs created, hours worked, mass of produce delivered.

While this is very convenient, and calms our fears of not knowing what’s going on, of darkness, that is, it limits our perception, criples our understanding and deforms our desire for creation and play.

I want to point out that we rely to much on one thing, so much so that it becomes a crutch. “If a man don’t need legs, he needs a wheelchair” – dEus sing in their fantastic title “Worst Case Scenario” from their self-titled debut album. And so it is with us. We live by the number, we increase production, we gain more profit, and then more gain, year after year. And we lose, we lose that, that we do not measure, quality.

We gain food, and loose sustenance and nourishment, we increase the number of items shipped, and reduce their durability and quality, we gain specialist knowledge and loose the big picture.

I don’t mean to say that we should abolish quantitative measurements. Far from it. I love data, I love the scientific method. I desire proof as much as anybody else. But quality is important. And ultimately we increase what we focus on. It becomes an ever bigger part of our lives.

And so we need to focus more on quality, on qualitative thinking and measurement. Circumstantial evidence, soft facts, vision out-of-focus, big pictures. Narratives, stories, even myths.

We need more of that, even if it takes longer to write, longer to read, and more work to put into action, or derive consequences from. We need to refine our language, a language that helps us describe. How did the work feel, was it satisfying? Is our passion in the product? Was the produce nourishing? Did it smell good? What is the texture?

Complexity instead of reductionism. Maybe we do not need to reduce so much. Maybe we can grasp the whole picture, not with our rational minds, but with our guts, with our hearts. Let us develop our feelings, our sensitivity to a fine point, where action becomes intuitive and results flow from a deep connection and understanding of the whole process, the entire context, and not from an obsession with a single number.

Quantitative growth is limited, qualitative growth not. You can always go deeper, get better, become more sensitive, more conscious of the whole process. And thereby grow.

So: onwoard: To more quality! By at least 15% this year!

government in the 21st century, draft of

I keep being thrown by the nature of our governments, especially by democracies. Dictatorships are usually quite straightforward in their aim to control their citizens as well as in their open espousal of nepotism. But our democracies create the illusion of control, by votes or freedom of speech. In reality, electing one of a couple of parties, most with surprisingly similar agendas every couple of years does not seem to offer me any amount of control about the day to day or budgetary decisions that are so important for the actual outcome, or wake, of a government.

I think that a lot of modern technology has to offer is not put to any serious use. Yes we can share videos of our new puppy instantly, our cats never had so much publicity, and neither did we have as many “friends” as we have now.

But what about the way we are governed?

What about the way we interact with our government and hold our government responsible to us?

I propose the following: On a governmental network (like facebook.gov) new policices, and that includes new secretaries and other functionaries, are put up by the people, not by the government. This is important, because the legislative branch has a tendency to justify its size and existence by a steady stream of legislation, when in fact doing nothing might have profited everyone better.

Then those policies recieve votes (likes) and comments. When a sufficient threshold is reached, these policies come into effect. It is also imperative that every policy has a clear, measurable and well defined goal, so that it can be held acountable to that goal. If after a specified time frame (I think 6 months) the policy is never enacted or violates its set goals, it is immediatley abolished.

Functionaries, secretaries and ministers can be put up by anyone, and are elected by everyone. Here also, clear, measurable and well defined goals are set. If a functionary misses to many of his milestones, or by too much, he or she immediately gets replaced. Also if the specified goals are reached and the functionary is no longer useful to the governmental process.

An interesting concept here would be scope: how much of a country or a business is affected by a new policy?

All this would create a dynamic, direct way of government, By the people, through the people and for the people.

the hive – thoughts about

beehiveI had some thoughts about the way humanity, or at least the part of it that I can observe evolves.

I see 3 trends:

  • individual passivity – consumerism: individuals seek to maximize their short-term pleasure more than ever before. Shurely, some of that is driven by the relentless onslaught of advertisment and the perfection of consumer good offerings and presentation, as well as the ongoing reflection of this process in movies, tv shows and so on.
  •  wisdom of crowds, crowdsourcing – the whole is more than the sum of its parts: wikipedia, github, linux… examples of spontaneous, grassroots crowd organization, led by a couple of highly motivated individuals achieve outstanding feats, which they offer free of charge.  
  • Political Passivity – Looking Within For Change And Fullfilment: Driven By the widespread adoption of buddhist principles, more and more people simply refuse to partake in politics, which they see as a mere distraction. Real change must come from within, when your perceptions and attitudes towards the world of things change. a noble thought, that leaves the political playing field in the hands of power hawks and self advancers.

The jury is still out on what the end-effect of this will be.  In my mind, a picture emerges: 

Close to 7 billion humans populate our planet today. The Internet, cheap travel, affordable voice and increasingly video communication give everybody a true sense of interconnectedness and help form a global consciousness.  

So we arrive in “The Age Of The Hive”.  This fits perfectly with the trend of individual passivity. The individual does what he or she feels is most true to her vocation, trusting The Hive to use it in some meaningful way. Organisation arises spontaneously. Planing, politics and long-range goals become less and less important or tangible.  Lately we could see the development of a crowd-sourced symphony piece. Kickstarter launches tens of projects each day.  Individuals offer their output to The Hive, that, driven by feelings, attachments and sentiment grabs and amplifies some of the output, some not.

The individual that initiated the creation becomes a queen bee, for a short time, only to return into the fold of The Hive later to restart the process…  Resistance is futile! 

 

 

Monkey Banana Turbo 6 – Review

I am currently looking for studio monitors for my home studio. It’s a rather small setup, so I decided early on that my budget will not exceed 700€. Also, my home studio is in the family living room, meaning I can really use the speakers only during the day, when I have the apartment for myself.

Since I’m sitting fairly close to a wall big monitors are not viable, they take away too much space and I sit too close.

I did a lot of critical listening, checked out Adam A3x, A5x, Genelec 6010, 8020, KRKs and Focal CMS 40s. I loved what I heard in Genelec 8030s and Adam S1X, but both were too expensive and too big. In Vienna, where I live, not a single store had the Monkey Bananas on display, so I decided  to order them on Thomann, since they offer a 30 day free return.

The speakers arrived, and at first I was shocked! They were so red! They were a lot bigger than I had thought. I set them up and straight away was astonished how deep down they go. You can really hear the lowest octave here, but not in a boomy, hyped way, really natural. Maybe even a little bit too much bass, but then I had them very close to a wall, so I’m sure they sound differently when standing freely.

I liked what I heard, very quick and precise, very open and the stereo image works well, but something was lacking. The bass was impressive, still, something felt missing. I listened to music a lot and worked on the speakers for 2-3 days, what I did translated well, but something felt out of place. Then it came to me: Soul! The speakers lacked, what Jack Joseph Puig once called “Soul” in an interview. The way presence was represented, the 2-4 kHz octave was somewhat defensive, lackluster. The speakers sounded huge, but they were very analytical, not so much fun to work on. Something like Sennheiser HD 650 as speakers, good, but no fun. Correct.

So I tried the digital input, disaster. That didn’t work at all. At first I thought I had something not setup correctly, some EQ maybe. But no, everything was flat. The sound was tinny, really small, very little bass, I wondered what happened here. This didn’t work at all.

So I finally sent them back to Thomann, and toyed with Focal CMS 40s, but they sounded mushy in the 250 Hz region, a region that I really love, and that makes mixes very tiny and puny when excessively trimmed. I’m going for Genelecs 6010s now. The size is perfect and I found those to be the only speakers that do not try to sound bigger than they are. Something that was extremely disturbing in the KRKs and to some extent in the A3Xs. I just want small speakers, I can check bass on my headphones, and have frequent access to PA systems if I want to really know.

Still, kudos to Monkey Banana for the audacious design and color choices and making an extremely good, fast and tight speaker. If you want a hi-def, great sounding pair of monitors and don’t want to spend 2k€ than go for those.

 

individualism and consumerism – differentiate that!

I know it’s Christmas and we’re all swimming in a sea of presents, happily munching Christmas cookies and having a great-ole-time! But:

I realized, with shock, that for most of the way to express our individuality is extremely tied, if not solely reliant on the choices we make as consumers. “I’m vegan!”, “I don’t buy at H&M!”, “I buy only organic groceries!”, “Android is just the better OS!”.

  • What about freedom of expression?
  • What about dancing on the subway when you feel like it?
  • What about crying in public, especially when you’re male?
  • What about saying: “I just don’t know any further, I want to stop for as long as it takes?”
  • What about sighing when you feel short of breath?

Maybe you do all those things, all those little, every-day humanizers, the small dances, the little prances. I sure could use so much more of that. And become much more of an individual in the process, and much less dependent on consumerism to define me.

But Android really is the better OS! ;)