Archive for March, 2008

Speaker of Aether

Friday, March 14th, 2008

So I’m sitting at my computer, immersed in a literature survey for my term project, listening to TOOL at full volume, when all of a sudden I hear a loud “dit-dit-dit-dit-deeeeet–ditditdit-dit—–dit——dit——dit”. Took me about three seconds to realize it’s coming from my speakers. So then I went, “ET!!! WOOHOOO- I KNEW IT!!!”

But, as some wise jack once said, “If wishes were horses, beggars would teleport”. I am of course referring to the noise certain old generation sound-systems tend to make when a nearby cellphone starts transmitting radio waves. Veterans will know that it’s a great way to predict phone calls before it actually rings. And some people have even attempted to make music with it. But one must wonder why it happens at all? A quick Google search will reveal a countless instances where the question has been addressed. Almost all of them appear in discussion forums, short, and insufficient and hand-wavy (to me at least). They all go, “Oh that’s just radio interference”. Even the Youtube video owner messes-up (”…an inch from your brain”?! :”Don’t try with headphones”?! What’s wrong with him!!!). Only a couple came close to helpful. But there are other things the speaker is trying to tell us. So this week, for my first post on RightShift, I’ve decided to listen closely.

The experiment involves recording and observation of sound patterns from a cellphone-speaker coupled system under various modes of operation, and an attempt to correlate to expected cellphone behavior. (You may skip to the comments section . . . now.)

1> My Cellphone
GSM phone with Dual Band (900/1800MHz).

2> My Speakers
Creative SBS 240, 20 KHz.

3> Standard issue aluminum foil.
Food wrapping variety. Unknown thickness. (The package didn’t say)

4> Sound-recording (Ubuntu sound recorder software, nameless chinese microphone), Imaging (GIMP) and track visualization tools (Snd 7.0).

Who do you know?

Monday, March 10th, 2008

So my college batch embarks on a most distressing adventure, one of creating an yearbook with expository information on everyone in the two hundred thirty strong ensemble. The venture is distressing because the few volunteers who’re organizing the data collection, formatting and printing process have had little time to sleep in the past few weeks.

The yearbook itself is likely to prove a nostalgic trigger for the part of our noggins that engages in such frippery, but at the moment, it comes across as a self-proclamation along the lines of “We are so awesome!”; a process of collective unrestricted self-aggrandizement. But this is besides the point.

The prime feature of the yearbook is a section dedicated to a description of each person by his/her peers, listing out why their world would have been markedly incomplete without the company of said individual. These were collected through comments on Orkut, and because everyone is uninhibitedly mopey on Orkut, some rather unlikely testimonials poured out, and poured out freely. The result was a large amount of objective data on one social community conveniently hoarded at one location online, a treasure trove for people looking to study social interaction quantitatively.

This is where I step in.

Below the fold: some surprisingly incoherent trends, a few non-funny disclaimers, and a categorical surrender by me to the statistics gods that be. And graphs! Because everything is more authentic with graphs.

The IF thing: resources

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

This is a short addendum to the post I wrote earlier detailing why you should play Interactive Fiction. (Humour the evangelist, go read!)

So how do you go about playing experiencing IF?

Pick up the phone booth and die is a starkly minimalist (even by IF standards) foot-in-mouth piece of non-sequitur that takes about a minute to play through; try it now.

Emily Short, one of the revered exponents of IF, has extensive guides on everything from how to play to how to write your own games (more on this later).

IF comes in packets called ’story files’, available at several places on the Internet. Baf’s guide documents the most comprehensive collection online. Several story files were linked to in The IF thing, but if you’ve never played IF before, try Dreamhold for the real deal.

You’ll need an interpreter to play them. You would have to install several interpreters to play IF written in different programming languages- fortunately, it’s simpler than that. There’s the kitchen-sink-and-then-some Spatterlight for the Mac OS X, and Gargoyle for Windows and Linux (Source).

Alternatively, Linux users can install frotz and t23run from your repositories, which will let you play most Interactive Fiction from the terminal. There’s something to be said for the benefits of being able to play IF at your machine over SSH; especially since those around you will think you’re working.

Many text adventures can also be played in your browser, if you wish to be spared the hassle of installation.

Other tidbits:

  • There are two IF competitions of note held every year, with dozens of entries that anyone can submit- the IF Comp and the XYZZY awards. The winners of these competitions are among the best text adventures ever written, you can’t go wrong playing them. Also, all the entries in these competitions are available for download in one bundle.
  • Andrew Plotkin, Adam Cadre and Emily Short are among the most well known IF authors- they’ve been writing for ages now, and their websites make for an illuminating (and sometimes amusing) read.