Below are the five most recent posts in my weblog. You can also see a chronological list of all posts, dating back to 1999.

sadly obsolete

sadly obsolete

For the last four years or so, I've had my Hi-Fi and the vast majority of my vinyl collection stored in a self-contained, mildly-customized Ikea unit. Since moving house this has been in my dining room—which we have always referred to as the "play room", since we have a second dining room in which we actually dine.

The intention for the play room was for it to be the room within which all our future children would have their toys kept, in an attempt to keep the living room from being overrun with plastic. The time has thus come for my Hi-Fi to come out of there, so we've moved it to our living room. Unfortunately, there's not enough room in the living room for the Ikea unit: I need something narrower for the space available.



In the spirit of my original hack, I started looking at what others might have achieved with Ikea components. There are some great examples of open-style units built out of the (extremely cheap) Lack coffee tables, such as this ikeahackers article, but I'd prefer something more enclosed. One problem I've had with the Expedit unit was my cat trying to scratch the records. I ended up putting framed records at the front to cover the spines of the records within. If I were keeping the unit, I'd look at fitting hinges (another ikeahackers article)

Asides from hacked Ikea stuff, there are a few companies offering traditional enclosed Hi Fi cabinets. I'm going to struggle to fit both the equipment and a subset of records into these, so I might have to look at storing them separately. In some ways that makes life easier: the records could go into a 1x4 Ikea KALLAX unit, leaving the amp and deck to home somewhere. Perhaps I could look at a bigger unit for under the TV.

My parents have a nice Hi-Fi unit that pretends to be a chest of drawers. I'm fairly sure my Dad custom-built it, as it has a hinged top to provide access to the turntable and I haven't seen anything like that on the market.

That brings me onto thinking about other AV things I'd like to achieve in the living room. I've always been interested in exploring surround sound, but my initial attempt in my prior flat did not go well, either because the room was not terribly suited accoustically, or because the Pioneer unit I bought was rubbish, or both. It seems that there aren't really AV receivers which are designed to satisfy both people wanting to use them in a Hi-Fi and a home cinema setting. I could stick to stereo and run the TV into my existing (or a new) amplifier, subject to some logistics around wiring. A previous house owner ran some phono cables under the hard-wood flooring from the TV alcove to the opposite side of the fire place, which might give me some options.

There's also the world of wireless audio, Sonos etcetera. Realistically the majority of my music is digital nowadays, and it would be good to be able to listen to it conveniently in the house. I've heard good reports on the entry level Sonos stuff, but they seem to be Mono, and even the more high-end ones with lots of drivers have very small separation. I did buy a Chromecast Audio on a whim recently, but I haven't looked at it much yet: perhaps that's part of the solution.

So, lots of stuff in the melting pot to figure out here!



Today I released version 2.1 of Wad Compiler, a lazy functional programming language and IDE for the construction of Doom maps.

This comes about a year after version 2.0. The most significant change is an adjustment to the line splitting algorithm to fix a long-standing issue when you try to draw a new linedef over the top of an existing one, but in the opposite direction. Now that this bug is fixed, it's much easier to overdraw vertical or horizontal lines without needing an awareness of the direction of the original lines.

The other big changes are in the GUI, which has been cleaned up a fair bit, now had undo/redo support, the initial window size is twice as large, and it now supports internationalisation, with a partial French translation included.

This version is dedicated to the memory of Professor Seymour Papert (1928-2016), co-inventor of the LOGO programming language).

For more information see the release notes and the reference.


Every year since 2010 the Whitley Bay Film Festival has put on a programme of movies in my home town, often with some quirk or gimmick. A few years back we watched "Dawn Of The Dead" in a shopping centre—the last act was interrupted by a fake film-reel break, then a load of zombies emerged from the shops. Sometime after that, we saw "The Graduate" within a Church as part of their annual "Secret Cinema" showing. Other famous stunts (which I personally did not witness) include a screening of Jaws on the beach and John Carpenter's "The Fog" in Whitley Bay Lighthouse.

This year I only went to one showing, Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Two twists this time: it was being shown in The Rendezvous Cafe, an Art-Deco themed building on the sea front; the whole film was accompanied by a live, improvised synthesizer jam by a group of friends and synth/sound enthusiasts who branded themselves "The Mediators" for the evening.

I've been meaning to watch Metropolis for a long time (I've got the Blu-Ray still sat in the shrink-wrap) and it was great to see the newly restored version, but the live synth accompaniment was what really made the night special for me. They used a bunch of equipment, most notably a set of Korg Volcas. The soundtrack varied in style and intensity to suit the scenes, with the various under-city scenes backed by a pumping, industrial-style improvisation which sounded quite excellent.

I've had an interest in playing with synthesisers and making music for years, but haven't put the time in to do it properly. I left newly inspired and energised to finally try to make the time to explore it.


gig poster

The gig poster

On July 31st a friend and I went to see Maxïmo Park and support at a mini-festival day in Times Square, Newcastle. The key attraction for me to this gig was the top support band, Lush who are back after a nearly 20 year hiatus.


Nano Kino 7"

I first heard of Lush quite recently from the excellent BBC Documentary Girl in a Band: Tales from the Rock 'n' Roll Front Line. They were excellent: the set was quite heavy on material from their more dreampop/shoegaze albums which is to my taste.

Maxïmo 7"s

Maxïmo 7"s

I also particularly enjoyed Warm Digits, motorik instrumental dance stuff that reminded me of Lemon Jelly mixed with Soulwax, who had two releases very reasonably priced on the merch stand; Nano Kino in the adjacent "Other Rooms", also channelling dreampop/shoegaze; and finally Maxïmo Park themselves. I was there for Lush really but I still really enjoyed the headliners. I've seen them several times but I've lost track of what they've been up to in recent years. Both their earliest material and several newer songs were well received by the home crowd and atmosphere in the enclosed Times Square was excellent.



iPod with rockbox

opened up

open iPod with iFlash

It's been four years since I last wrote about music players. In the meantime ⅔ of my Sansa Fuzes broke, and the third does not have great rockbox support. I've also been using a Sansa Clip+ (a leaving present from my last job, thanks again!) and a Sansa Clip Zip. Unfortunately Sandisk's newer Sansa devices (Sport, Jam - the only ones still in production) are not supported by Rockbox.

The Clips have been very reliable and sturdy players, but I have missed the larger display of the Fuze. Since I've been exploring HD audio I've also been interested in something with an A/D converter that can handle it. I also still wish to carry my entire music library around with me, which limits my options.

I decided to try an iPod. The older iPods had a Wolfson-manufacturered ADC which had a good reputation and supported (in headline terms at least) 24/48. The iPod colour (aka "4th gen") and subsequent models have a large colour display. The click-wheel interface is also very nice. Apple have now discontinued the "classic" iPod and their second hand value has greatly increased, but I managed to get an older 5th generation model ("video", with a base capacity of 30G) whilst trading in some unwanted DVDs. The case was scratched to heck but a replacement was readily and cheaply available from auction sites.

Rockbox support in these iPods is pretty good, and you can mod the hardware to support CF or SD cards with kits such as the iFlash kits by Tarkan Akdam, which I picked up, along with a new 128G SD card.

Unfortunately I have found writing to the iPod to be very poor with Rockbox, but it's fine for playback, and booting the iPod in OF or DFU mode is very easy and works reliably.

Whilst Rockbox on the iPod works pretty well, installing it is far harder than on the Sandisk Sansa devices. The difficulty in my case is because rockbox requires a PC-formatted iPod to install, and I had a Mac-formatted one. I couldn't find a way to convert the iPod to PC format using a Mac. I tried doing so on a PC but for some reason the PC wasn't playing ball so I gave up after a few hours. In the end I assembled the filesystem by hand using dd(1) and dumps of partition tables from other people's iPods, via a Linux machine. This was enough to convince iTunes on Mac to restore it's hidden partition and boot software without reverting back to a Mac disklabel format.


Older posts are available on the all posts page.