Jay’s Journal

Good quote

~ October 22nd, 2010 ~

Picked this one up from a book I’m reading on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail called AWOL on the Applachian Trail.

“When I look back on all these worries I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” –Winston Churchill

I’ve been enjoying reading about other folks’ thru-hikes, really makes you rethink priorities even just imagining spending 6 months hiking 2200 miles, let alone actually doing it. I liked this quote from Churchill enough to figure I’d post it. Besides, it’s only been a year since my last post, right? ;)

PuTTYcyg with PuTTY Connection Manager

~ October 7th, 2009 ~

Quite a while back I discovered PuTTY Connection Manager and was elated that someone had finally gone and created a tabbed interface for PuTTY. I had said for a long time the “killer app” for me on Linux or OS X is access to a great tabbed terminal interface like Konsole on Linux or iTerm on OS X. PuTTY Connection Manager works great for SSH or Telnet sessions, but there was one more element missing for me: support for PuTTYcyg.

I do most of my work on a macbook with OS X but when I do have to work on Windows, I find it almost impossible to get anything done without access to a terminal with UNIX utils. If you’re not familiar with it, PuTTYcyg simply allows you to use PuTTY as an interface to Cygwin instead of the awful monstrosity that is cmd.exe

Unfortunately, PuTTY Connection Manager does not support PuTTYcyg, so it rules out using PuTTYcm as a full replacement for Konsole or iTerm on Windows. The good news is more than a year after I first investigated this I’ve finally found the information I wanted. Although the enhancement request to add PuTTYcyg support to PuTTY Connection Manager has not moved, it is possible to use the two tools together. Thanks to gscokart on the puttycm forums for his post that explains the details. All that’s needed is to create a specially named profile in PuTTYcyg and then load it in the connection configuration for PuTTYcm and it will act as a workaround to start up a cygterm session in a tab.

Here’s the detailed steps (assumes you are already using PuTTYcyg as your putty.exe):

  1. Create a profile in PuTTYcyg named: " -cygterm -i #
  2. In the PuTTYcyg profile, use a dash for the hostname and cygterm as the connection type so it will connect to cygwin as a terminal
  3. Open PuTTY CM and create a new connection. Enter anything you like in the Connection section, then go to the PuTTY Session section
  4. Select your specially named profile from the drop-down box
  5. In the “Command line (PuTTY parameters):” box enter just a single closing quote: "
  6. When done, your PuTTY command line should look something like this:
    putty.exe -load "" -cygterm -i #" -telnet -P 23 " -

That’s it! After setting the configuration like that you can now open tabs in PuTTY CM with cygterm windows and manage them same as you would any other PuTTY connection. It’s a bit of an ugly hack but I’ll take it since PuTTY CM isn’t open source and who knows when the official PuTTYcyg support will appear.

Fender Super Champ XD

~ December 8th, 2008 ~

I picked up a Fender Super Champ XD two weeks ago on Black Friday and figured I’d had it long enough to post a review. If you don’t know already, the basic info on the SCXD is that it’s a 15w tube amplifier, with a single 10″ speaker and on-board effects as well as 16 “voicings” (more on that to come). There are two channels, foot-switchable. The first channel is clean, and a pretty standard Fender tube amp sound. The second channel is colored by one of 16 different “voicings” which are Fender’s term for amp modeling sounds. The tube components handle the base pre-amp gain and feeds into the power tube, so Channel 1 is essentially and all tube amp. Because of the voicings, Channel 2 introduces some solid-state modeling of the pre-amp signal before it hits the power tubes. My understanding (bear in mind I’m not an expert by any stretch) is that this is very similar to putting a stompbox in front of an all tube amp, only it’s built into the amp itself. Aside from the voicings, there are also treble and bass controls, as well as on-board reverb, delay, tremolo, chorus, and vibratone (i.e. a leslie/rotary effect).

The effects are surprisingly good, and variable. The reverb comes in three forms, and the other effects also come in multiple versions, including a “+ reverb” setting so you can for example have delay and reverb. The only downside is that you can’t individually adjust the effects if using a combination effect, of course. I find the first reverb setting, “large room” I believe it’s called, to be the most pleasing to my ears, and I typically only use the reverb effect so far, though I’ve read other reviews that were very complementary to the delay/slapback effect as well.

So how does it sound? The first channel is your basic clean Fender tube amp sound, and it’s just gorgeous. The tone loves my stratocaster pickups (everything from the Samarium Cobalt Noiseless in the deluxe strat to the Standard pickups in my American and Mexican strats). It’s beautifully balanced across the high and low strings, whereas with my Vox modeling amp I’ve found I need an EQ pedal to balance the tone the way I like.

The second channel has some great voicings on it, and I think it does a passable job of sounding like the amps it’s modeling. Not having owned or played through a real ’59 Bassman or a Blackface or vintage Vox AC30, it’s all subjective based on comparisons with recordings. That being said, I am pretty amazed at how good these voicings really are. The Blackface tones can really cut an SRV tone, and the “British combo amplifier” voicing nails that Vox AC30 tone I associate with Rory Gallagher. Some of my favorite voicings so far are the Blackface tones (#4,5,6 increasing in overdriven quality), the “early British combo” a.ka. AC30 (#7),  and the “distortedspecialized boutique” (#11). Though I have some favorites, most of the voicings are great. the only ones I actively did not enjoy were the metal tones (#13 and 14) which are high gain metal sounds and not my cup of tea. I’ve also not had a chance yet to plug in my Martin and try the acoustic voicing, which is supposed to mimic an Acoustasonic amplifier, but I’d like to give that a workout as well.

My overall verdict? Classic Fender clean tube amp sound, some great amp modeling and on-board effects makes this amp a winner. Even if you’ve no interest in the modeling, Channel 1 is worth the price of the amp. The clean tone is warm and fat and everything I’d expect from a Fender tube amp. I bought this amp for playing at home and jam sessions, to avoid needing to lug my Vox 2×12 around. It turned out to sound so good I’m starting to debate just buying an external cabinet for the SCXD if I decide I need more than a 1×10! This amp sounds absolutely fantastic. For the price (available online for around $299, I paid a little less on sale) I can’t imagine any other amp with this kind of amazing sound and versatility. It’s small size is great for home practice or recording, but make no mistake, it can get plenty loud. I typically play with the amp at 2-3 volume, and I have no idea how loud it can really get since too many things start vibrating before I get anywhere near 10 on the volume knob ;)   I can wholeheartedly recommend this amp to anyone looking for a small practice amp or a low-cost way to get great Fender tone.

TIP: To hear samples of the SCXD in action, check youtube and you’ll find a number of great demos including some that showcase the various voicings and effects.

A Kickin’ Good Time

~ December 8th, 2008 ~

I got the dubious pleasure of changing my second tire in as many weeks – on the way home from my in-laws last weekend my wife ran over something on the highway. The tire went flat almost instantly, and later inspection revealed a hole in the (aluminum alloy) wheel itself. Fun times.

I’m writing this post because I learned the hard way that aluminum alloy wheels can get good and stuck on the lugs. I didn’t know this at the time and we spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out why the wheel wouldn’t come off the lugs even after jacking up the car and removing all the lugnuts. Turns out that you usually have to give the tire a good solid kick or two to break free from the lugs. Thankfully a police officer happened to drive by and lend a hand (well, a foot) by kicking the tire a few times and popping it loose.

So, if anyone else has trouble getting the tire off their car (in our case, a 2004 Honda Civic Ex, for those playing the Google home-game), try raising the car up on the jack and giving it some good kicks. Recommended course would be to stand with your back to the car and smack your heel back on the bottom part of the tire/wheel until it pops loose.

“Scales” Now Posted

~ February 26th, 2008 ~

I’ve been working off and on for a few weeks on a little programming project (in Python) and it’s finally ready for public consumption. As many of my friends and anyone who reads the incredibly occasional postings on my site is aware, I’ve been studying guitar and music theory for several months. During that time I’ve found zillions of guitar and music websites with a wealth of music theory and fretboard knowledge out there. They vary in type and quality (and number of advertisements per square inch of screen!), but even with all the ones out there I felt like there still wasn’t one that had quite what I was looking for, so I created my own small program that for now is simply called “scales”.

The idea was twofold: 1) teach myself various bits of scale theory by implementing it as a program and therefore being forced to algorithmically understand the relationships between notes and scales. 2) Make something exceedingly simple that I could use as a learning and improvisation tool for understanding music and referencing theory material. To that end I created scales. The scales program is just a list of key signatures – selecting a key by clicking on it displays a whole table of information about that key:

C Major Scale Example Image

As you can see it’s extremely simply laid out, which was intentional since the purpose is to be able to use this as a quick reference. Consequently I also avoided things like tablature and chord charts, since those are available at many other sites and what I really wanted was a plain old table to show me the notes of the scales and allow quick reference with things like triads, pentatonics, and relative major/minor keys. Anyway, I hope you all find this useful, and if you do (or you have any further suggestions for improvement, please feel free to contact me!


Busy Couple

~ January 3rd, 2008 ~

Somebody get these people a TV… PA Couple Has First Baby of the New Year – Again.

Best. Lawyer. Name. Ever.

~ December 1st, 2007 ~

It took a while before I was convinced this wasn’t a joke, but you have to admit, this has got to be the greatest lawyer name ever.


FIXED: Mouse Lag on Thinkpad R31 with Ubuntu

~ November 18th, 2007 ~

Random technical note, but it was hard enough to find that I felt it worth posting to in the journal for other googlers to stumble across and hopefully save some time. A friend of mine has a relatively new Lenovo Thinkpad R61 and was having severe mouse lag under Ubuntu (actually, Kubuntu) Gutsy Gibbon with kernel 2.6.22-14. It took both of us some serious googling before I finally ran across a mailing list post discussing a similar problem with some Thinkpad R31 and other model laptops. According to the post I found, the problem is caused by a conflict within a multi-plexing controller, and it can be resolved by passing the “i8042.nomux=1″ option on the kernel line in grub’s menu.1st. Hopefully that saves a little time for someone else out there.