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Steffest Digitale Pulptuur

Amiga 1200 PiStorm32 Lite runing Caffeine OS

The trend of enhancing retrocomputers with new hardware expansions is still going strong.

Nowadays we can "implement" hardware designs in software and use FPGAs and raspberry PIs to replace and improve old and aging components.
The newest star is the PiStorm32: a bridge between the expansion port of the Amiga 1200 and a raspberry PI.
This means you can use the modern features and speed of a raspberry PI to "emulate" all sorts of Amiga hardware.
The piStorm32 supports the rasberry PI 3A, 3B and 4. PiStorm is an open source project by Claude Schwarz.

I got mine from Cédric who was kind enough to produce a first batch of the PiStorm32-lite

Amiga 1200 PiStorm32 Lite Front

Amiga 1200 PiStorm32 Lite Back
(note: the "lite" in the name doesn't mean there's a "full" version somewhere, it means the original hardware design was updated to work around the world-wide component shortage)
Note that there are 2 main ways you can use the PI in the piStorm:
One way is to run linux on it, and configure your Amiga emulation from the linux side. This feels a bit ... yuck and is a few bridges too far for me: when you switch on the Amiga, you have to wait untl the Linux side has booted for it to provide emulation services. The benefit is that you can use this linux bridge also for things like networking etc, but I feel: if you want to go that route, why not just install a dedicated emulation package like Pimiga or AmyBerry on the PI and be done with it.

The other way - much more exciting - is Emu68 - this is a bare metal 68k emulator for ARM devices. Ok, it still has to boot, but as it's bare metal, it boots in milliseconds and it's WAY faster to emulate the 68k CPU.
Emu68 is a project of Michal Schulz

I already got a PI3A+ running in a Amiga 500 and 2000, so I mostly was interested in the potential speed increase of using a PI4. Boy ... Is was not disappointed!



This ... thing ... flies!
Ok Ok, I know the Sysinfo benchmarks mean doodly squat whern JIT emulation is enabled but still: it does show the shear horsepower: 2333 MIPS / 2235226 dhrystones ... I've never ever ever seen such numbers.
And it's noticeable: everything seems zippy zippy fast.
It also seems the slow CHIP ram access mostly has been solved.
The fast ram is configurable and by default set to 2GB. 2GB Ram in an Amiga .... that's insane.

I really like that you can access all the settings and configuration of the PI from inside the Amiga.
From the Amiga side you also get all the tools to monitor the PI.



By default the PI4 runs at 1.5GHz but there's a setting to make that 2.2Ghz. (That's how I got those 2333 MIPS)
The PI runs at 70°C then - compared to 50°C cliocked at 1.5GHz. Still well within limlits.
The configuration files are stored on a FAT32 partition on the SD card that you can access from the Amiga side.
This also means you can use this partition to quickly share files between the Amiga and your PC/Mac. Super handy.

One of the nice things of the piStorm, is that it acts as any other accelerator card: you can still use all the native Amiga hardware.
For example, you can still boot from your internal IDE interface, or floppy disk even. It then just provides the ROM, RAM and CPU. 
If you really want to go "stock" again, you can completely disable the piStorm by holding down the reset keys while booting. Nice.



But you don't put in a piStorm in your 1200 if you want stock, of course ... you want SPEED!
Did I already mention it's fast?
MPEG and AVI video plays smoothly, decoding mp3 is hardly noticeable (in contrast to a main task that drains even a 060 CPU).
Obviously the software that gains the most of the CPU and RAM boost is the software that plays nice with the system and avoids direct hardware banging. Emulating other systems for example: these run mostly on the CPU and require some ram.
Here's the Classic MacOS 8 being emulated on the Amiga, running PhotoShop 4.





Faster then it ever was, including on the original mac hardware.

Is it all good?
No.
As with all "super accelerator cards", compatibility with "hardware banging" software like games and demos is not super great.
WHDLoad goes a long way of ironing out the kinks, but still I experienced frequent crashes running some games and demos.
So if you're main interest is playing classic Amiga games or watching demos, the piStorm is not you best friend.
But then again: with the kind of performance the PI delivers, it might even make more sense to run these things in an "emulated Amiga" on top the real Amiga. perfectly doable and about the only way to ensure the "hardware" is exactly era-correct and what the software expects.

Another annoying part is the cable clutter the PI introduces, especially if you want to extend the SD cards to be accessible from outside the case.
Of course, this is no different then with other cards for the Amiga 1200, but the PI can be more extreme if you want to access the regular pi ports like USB and Ethernet too. I guess it will be another rond of extension cables and 3D-printing to make it all fit nicely.
About 3D printing: the PI3 has plenty of space, but the PI pushes a bit to the trapdoor it 's closed.


I guess designing and printing a trapdoor that gives a bit more space and ventilation for the PI is a good idea. 

Likewise, the PI GPIO pins are VERY close to the metal of the Amiga keyboard. For that reason it's really recommended to put some extra insulation between the metal keyboard plate and the PI.



Verdict:
I love it.
It's clear that this is THE future of Amiga accelerator cards.
Yes, it still has it's flaws, but things are progressing rapidly and everything is open source.
What a big contrast with those other fast Amiga Accelerator cards ... 
I must say one of the first thoughts in my head when testing the piStorm was "Ouch ... this means game over for Apollo"
with the PIStorm delivering 4 times the performance at a quarter of the price of those other cards, it pretty hard to justify getting an IceDrake or a TF1260 ...




What I like:

  • Insane performance, especially at that price point. At this moment it's simply THE fastest classic Amiga ever.
  • Can be easily disabled to revert to stock hardware
  • It's still "just a PI": pop in another SD card and you boot directly into the PI to do non-Amiga stuff
  • easy file transfer between Amiga and PC/Mac using the SD card.
  • All configuration and monitoring available from the Amiga side.

What could be better:

  • Switching between RTG and Classic display modes is still a pain
  • the ususal cable/port extension issues if you want to access the PI ports from outside the case
  • Still some compatibility issues with older "hardware banging" software

Excellent excellent work by Cédric, Claude, Michal and many others.
If you like the project, please consider becoming a Patreon of Michal and/or voicing your support on the PiStorm Discord channel 

Portal

IIk voel mij precies niet meer thuis in deze wereld.

Aan de ene kant heb je de tirannieke dictator.
Op papier leidt hij een democratie, maar hij weet wel beter.
Hij is een narcist die niet maalt over "de waarheid", die de media manipuleert en uit is om zelf aan de macht te blijven.
Of misschien vooral nog om zijn persoonlijke rijkdom uit te bouwen.

Hij overtuigt zijn land om - met hulp van de bondgenoten - andere landen binnen te vallen als hij denkt dat dat winst gaat opleveren, uiteraard allemaal met een goed verhaal.
Er is immers een bepaalde "dreiging" die moet worden afgewend.
De waarden en normen zijn in gevaar en moeten worden verdedigd.
Niet altijd is dat binnenvallen fysiek: de belofte van financiële en militaire steun werkt soms evengoed. 

---

Aan de andere kant heb je de populist. Hij opereert in een democratie, maar hij speelt het spel beter dan wie ook.
Hij is een narcist die niet maalt over "de waarheid", die de media manipuleert en uit is om zelf aan de macht te blijven.
Of misschien vooral nog om zijn persoonlijke rijkdom uit te bouwen.

Hij overtuigt zijn land om - met hulp van de bondgenoten - andere landen binnen te vallen als hij denkt dat dat winst gaat opleveren, uiteraard allemaal met een goed verhaal.
Er is immers een bepaalde "dreiging" die moet worden afgewend.
De waarden en normen zijn in gevaar en moeten worden verdedigd.
Niet altijd is dat binnenvallen fysiek: de belofte van financiële en militaire steun werkt soms evengoed. 

---

En ertussen zit het plebs. Niet denigrerend bedoeld want ook ik hoor erbij.
Het plebs kiest partij, roept hoe slecht die andere wel niet is en trekt ten strijde.
Digitaal uiteraard, op social media met vlaggetjes en slogans, met steunbetuigingen aan de goeden, met aanvallen op de slechten.
Ze worden aangespoord en vooruit gestuwd, gevoed door welgemikte beelden, video’s, verhalen en grapjes.
Maar pas op voor die verhalen van de andere kant, want die zijn niet echt, dat is propaganda en niet te vertrouwen. 

En de nuance, de rede, de menselijkheid? Sorry, daar is geen plaats voor.
Je bent voor of tegen, wit of zwart. 

Ik voel mij precies niet meer thuis in deze wereld.
Waar zit toch die poort naar dat parallelle universum, waar misschien wèl iedereen naar het midden vloeit, in plaats van naar de buitenkant.
Waar onvermijdelijke verschillen en conflicten worden bekeken als interessante nieuwe invalshoeken in plaats van als dreiging.
Waar misschien elke man of vrouw juist dat is: mens tussen andere mensen.

Ondertussen zet ik beter "het nieuws" af, en focus mij op mijn kleine wereld waar ik wel invloed op heb. Op de mensen die ik graag zie, en zij mij.
Ik weet dat het een bubbel is, maar het is een bubbel waar ik mij gelukkig wel thuis voel.

 

I did a new "paint job" on an Amiga case. (Normally they are white)

Custom Amiga 1200 case

I am totally in love :-)

The case is one from a1200.net in "CD32 grey".
I also pre-ordered the matching keycaps like 2 lifetimes ago - but they still have to deliver, always a lurking issue with these kickstarters.
Anyway - I decided to do a DIY.
I posted it on some forums and got surprisingly many reactions asking how I did the keycaps.
Super easy actually, but here it goes.
I used iDye Poly. It's a dye that bonds with most plastics but - luckily - it doesn't bond with the little protective cover that is on the letter of the keycaps on Amiga 1200 models.
This result in the original key-color shining through as a small border around the lettering, making sure the letter is still readable.
Rather a funky effect!
Before dying, make sure you're keys are super clean and evenly coloured. I even brighted mine a bit with hydrogen peroxide.
The instructions that come with iDye Poly are meant for dying fabrics. They tell you to use boiling water, but whatever you do: DO NOT BOIL YOUR KEYCAPS!
They will warp and bend, making them unusable. (believe me, I know from experience :-/ )
I used water of about 50 °C.
Add the dye, add the color intensifier that comes with the dye.
Stir, pop in keys.
I use a 1 liter transparent plastic bottle with a wide opening. That way you can close it and give it a good shake, making sure all keys are subdued in the dye.
I used the "silver gray" color for the gray keys. The dye works pretty fast and I only left them in for about 2 minutes.
The black keys I left soaking for a few hours (in the color "black") and that was a mistake.
After some time, the dye builds up to a sticky goo, making the keys a bit smudgy.
I evened them out with some acetone rubbing but still they are not a sharp as they should be.
I finished them of with a few layers of matte varnish for the gray keys and high-gloss for the blacks.
I knew upfront this would make them dust-magnets but hey ... looking as cool as that is hard work!

then the finishing touch: I designed a custom badge with the vampire logo in CD32 theme and asked the "BadgeMan" to print it.
Cherry on the pie! 

I did one before - a 600 model.
There I did the complete case and painted the keys black.
I applied some Amiga-specific keyboard stickers made by iComp.
Custom Amiga 600 case

Also nice!

Bassoontracker

A new version of BassoonTracker is out!
BassoonTracker is your online old-skool music tracker supporting .MOD and .XM files
Most notable new features in version 0.4.0: Midi support, full undo/redo in pattern editor and sample editor, tons of usability improvements and ... Ladies and Gentlemen: WE HAVE NIBBLES !
Full release notes on https://www.stef.be/bassoontracker/docs/#history
Tracker on https://www.stef.be/bassoontracker/
Source Code on https://github.com/steffest/BassoonTracker

Deze afbeelding in een nieuw scherm openen
Exact 1 jaar geleden - vandaag - deed ik mijn eerste loopje (ooit)
De volle 2 kilometer.
En wonder boven wonder: dat was kei plezant.
Een paar dagen later het eerste loopje op Strava - want anders schijnt dat niet te tellen.
Toen kwam Corona en werden mijn loopjes zowat de enige reden dat ik nog buiten kwam.
Vandaag - exact 1 jaar later - was de dag TE mooi om binnen te zitten en liep ik mijn eerste marathon.
https://www.strava.com/activities/4297103785
OK... ik heb dat zwaar onderschat. Die laatste 10 kilometer waren loodzwaar.
Ik heb een paar keer moeten wandelen en ik deed er zowat een half uur langer over dan gepland
Maar nu staat er op zijn minst een richt-tijd op het scorebord om te verbeteren! Dat ga ik nog eens doen! (maar niet de eerste 2 maanden denk ik)

Presenting a new (small) project.

Kiss-Catalog!

Kiss Catalog

 

It's an insanely simple Catalog System to keep track of your collections.

Some context

People who know me know I'm a bit of a collector.
Ok, some call it "hoarder" but I call it collector.
The difference between a collector and a hoarder is that the former knows what he has and keeps everything in good shape.
Still ... my retro computer collection is growing towards a point where I don't know exactly what I have anymore, or - more frequently - where I put it.
Questions like "I know I have this Amiga accelerator card, but ... where the heck is it?" need answers.

There's a ton of software already out there to help with that but I wanted something super-super-simple and with some very specific features.
As experience taught me: If it's too hard to maintain, it won't be.

Goals

  • Simple simple simple to maintain
  • Accessible from anywhere (which in my case always translates to "web based")
  • Everything should be searchable/browsable to quickly locate an item or to quickly show some overviews

When you start googling or asking around you get responses like. "Oh, an SQL database is what you need" or "There's an app for that, I use Collectorz or Numento"
No, no, no, nonono - been there done that. This is not my first attempt at cataloguing.
All other attempts stranded in

  • OR complex systems that took forever to maintain 
  • OR external platforms that ceased to exist...  

Did I mention it should be simple?
So: no database, no third party software, no fancy stuff.
Plain files and folders, plain JPG and .TXT files.

The concept:

You structure your collection in folders. Each folder can contain files and subfolders that further describe your item. Info is stored in plain text files. Images are stored in .jpg or .png. Any other file you add is just regarded as "file".
Then, a script is run that pulls all these files into data-structure.
This .json file is used to display a webinterface with browse and search features.
When you edit/add content from the webinterface, the local files are changed.
The "database" is always being generated from the local files. This means your data is your data: it lives in your folder as plain text files, completely outside Kiss-catalog.
If you stop using Kiss-catalog and delete it from your system, your hard cataloguing-work is not lost.

The main info file is called "info.txt"
The main image of an item is called "main.jpg"



If you want to display your collection on the web, simply put all your static files on a webhost.
No database or serverside processing needed.

That's it!

Everything runs

  • BOTH locally and remote 
  • BOTH as a static website and a somewhat full-featured dynamic Content-Management System.

There's a small demo collection at http://www.stef.be/collector/amiga/  (read only)
Still starting to populate it, first I have to FIND all stuff :-) 

And of course: Open Source and everything.
It's made for personal use, but you're free to give it a go. Feature requests are welcome.
It runs one Node but if that doesn't ring any bells there are also pre-compiled binaries for Windows, Mac and Linux

Kiss Catalog

Drawbacks

These "design" decisions have some drawbacks:

 

  • Flat file "databases" only go that far, if your collections is reaching like a 100.000 items, Kiss-catalog is not for you
  • Because everything is generated from your local files, this might get slow with large collections. Also there's no image processing (yet) so all images are displayed "as is" : if you fill everything with 4K images, loading will be slow.
  • If I ever want to add features like "private files or folders" or whatever - I will probably have to settle for some naming scheme.
  • Likewise for "calculated" fields like prices etc. some convention will be necessary. 

 

The Philosophy

I've been pondering the last few months (years?) over something I call "sustainable software"
It's probably not a new concept but that's what I call it in my head. 
Basically it means that a developer should write software that is as simple as possible for the job.
Not because simplicity is a goal in itself, but because simple software lasts longer.
It's easier to maintain, consumes less resources, runs faster, ...

Developers should write software to last.
It's all too easy to quickly throw something together using the funky libraries and frameworks that today are considered "modern". Before you know it you're lugging along a staggering dependency tree and rely on a multitude of online services to get your thing built/compiled/deployed.

Yes, you're the cool kid on the block, but how will it look in a few years? Will it still build/compile/deploy?
If it's a fairly simple web-app, do you really need that 2 MB javascript package, 7000 lines of CSS and 4MB initial page load? Maybe ...

In this project "sustainable software" means:

  • no exotic or platform dependent file formats. plain text RULEZ
  • no external (web)platforms: it's the only way to make sure your data is still there in a few years time.
  • no code dependencies. again: it's the only way to make sure your system still runs in a few years time.
  • platform independent. everything should run on - and be maintainable from - whatever device you use. 

 Anyway - that's food for maybe another blog post - don't get me started on frontend builds that pull in ONE MILLION packages and takes 20 minutes and 8gig to build ... 

For now: Happy Cataloguing!

 

 

The past years I have been slowly tinkering on various Amiga Projects.
Mostly in JavaScript, mostly to unlock various parts of the huge Amiga ecosystem: parsing ancient filesystems and fileformats, reading and writing Amiga files with new tools, ...

Slowly all these various tidbits are coming together in the big plan: to break the Amiga out of it's emulated container and to seamlessly integrate in a modern OS.

That modern OS is platform independent. It runs on everything and it is accessible from everywhere.
For me, this translated to an OS that is web based. It runs in your browser and it lives in the cloud.

There have been many approaches to such an OS, some of them - like FriendUP - clearly have their roots in the Amiga system.
One of the most interesting ones is Amibian.js. It's also inspired by the Amiga and it runs in javaScript: Node.js on the backend, browser in front.

I've been talking with Jon - the creator of Amibian.js.
It's a HUGELY ambitious project, ranging from custom compilers in various programming languages to a recreation of an Amiga-like OS, complete with compatible system library calls and more.

When doing a modern Amiga inspired OS, one of the big questions is how you handle legacy software.
The Amiga has an old but super mature ecosystem of programs but sadly all that software doesn't run anymore on modern systems.
The solution is to emulate that old hardware so you can still run all that old software.
The most used Amiga Emulator is WinUAE, a glorious and ultra-advanced piece of code.
Rupert Hausberger did the daunting task of porting it to javascript.

The drawback of emulating an Amiga is that it is a contained black-box system that has no knowledge of the larger system it's running on. WinUAE handles this quite elegantly by allowing a shared filesystem, but in your browser there's no such thing.

This is where I stepped in: an emulated boxed Amiga running in your browser is cool, but wouldn't it be even cooler to break it open?
You could use Amiga software to seamless edit/play your local files,
or launch modern non-Amiga tools from within the Amiga,
or compile a program for Amiga with today's tools and launch it directly on an emulated 68k CPU
or ....

All this directly available on whatever system you use and wherever you are.

In the end, the underlying technicalities shouldn't matter.
It shouldn't matter what OS a program was written for, or where your files are exactly, or even who's physical machine you are using. Just launch your space and mold it to your liking.

Amibian.js already tries to break the barriers between the browser and your local system.
Browser or native? It shouldn't matter.

I will gladly help and try to break the barriers between the emulated environments and the native ones:
Emulated or native? It shouldn't matter.
 
The top video is a first demo of the progress. It shows various aspects of building such a system.
Most notably a shared filesytem so both systems (emulated and native) can access the same files.

Everything you see is running in the browser.
The (emulated) Amiga is on the right, the host system is on the left.
We're still doing babysteps: trying out stuff and laying the foundation for the bigger plan.

The concept is always the same: a seamless integration where it doesn't matter anymore where your files are or on what platform your program is running on.

Bassoontracker

During the past months I have been tinkering along on Bassoontracker - My browser based Retro Music Tool.
Today, it's ready for a next big release: Version 0.3.0 is out!

The most important feature is full FastTracker 2 compatibility. Yeah baby!

Fasttracker II was a music creation tool for DOS, released back in 1994 and it became THE standard for a long time for tracker based music.
1994 was also the year that Commodore went belly up, pulling the Amiga with them, so a lot of Amiga musicians made the jump to PC around that time, finding Fasttracker 2 as a perfect successor to Protracker.

Fasttracker is quite a bit more complex then a simple "sequencer". It added proper "Attack Decay Sustain Release" to instruments making them sound far more natural  and supported 16 bit samples, a huge step up in quality.
Up to 32 channels are supported, 128 instruments, 2 concurrent channel effects and much much more ...
That was fun to implement!

Other big changes are:

  • Dropbox integration: Load and save files directly from/to your Dropbox
  • Enhanced Sample editor: Slice and transform your samples directly inside BassoonTracker
  • Enhanced Pattern editing: use ranges and cut/copy/paste for quick editing
  • Export your song to .wav or .mp3
  • LOTS of fancy UI updates

And all that still in plain old javascript with ZERO dependencies.

BassoonTracker Sample Editor

During the years many thousands of music tracks have been made and you can access them all through the build-in Modarchive and Modules.pl browsers. (Which now have been expanded to include FastTracker .xm files too)

The playback engine has gone through extensive compatibility testing but if you find a module that doesn't sound the way it should: drop me line.

More info and full source code on Github
Or check out the live demo on https://www.stef.be/bassoontracker/

So .. after 25 year there's a new update for the Classic Amiga Operating System.
yes, that's right: TWENTYFIVE YEARS after AmigaOS 3.1, there's now Amiga OS 3.1.4
That's nothing less then a small miracle.
25 years in computer land is like 12 gazillion years in normal time.

Recently there a big revival for Amiga computers with a lot of very interessing projects being done by enthusiasts - new software - new hardware ... the works!
The 'Official companies" are still plotting along - if they take a short break from suing each other, that is - but the most interesting ones are pure community projects, created out of pure love for the platform.

A VERY interesting one is the Terrible Fire 328 : an expansion card for the CD32 with extra ram, video out and an IDE interface, usually used to attach a bootable CF card.

Long story short: the TF328 transforms the CD32 in the coolest of all Amiga's.

But .... that new Workbench 3.1.4 still looks a little dull.

Amiga Workbench 3.1.4

On the left is the default installation (4 colors) - Mason did create some new icons and after some copy commands it looks likt the picture on the right.
Already much better.
However ... the CD32 looks like this:

 

That mundane light gray and blue theme is really much too mundane for it's black and red looks.

The challenge is that this is a machine from 1993 and it's doesn't have the super fast graphic cards of today with millions of colors on 4K displays.
Allthough the Workbench can display up to 256 colors at the same time, that mode is too slow to be practical and it's more sane to only use 16 or 32 colors on a resolution of 640 on 480 pixels.
The even bigger challenge is that these colors are shared amongst all applications so each application has to adapt its colors to the ones available.
You can lock some colors (for examples for your icons) - and the other free colors can be free asigned - or battled for - by other applications.

So ...
I made a custom WorkBench theme - especially for the CD32.

 

16 colors (and Copper Demon for the window gradients)
Made for square pixel screen modes (Pal hires laced e.g.)

This is the Palette:

Although it's possible to run this in a 16 color WorkBench, it's recommended to use at least a 32 color screenmode.
That way you can also set the MUI colors and still have some pens left for other programs.

Color Locker and Border Blanker recommended!

Workflow:

  • First made in Photoshop,
  • then color-reduced with (the super awesome) http://tool.anides.de/
  • then cleaned up and re-dithered by hand back in Photoshop
  • then cut out the icons and saved as NewIcons with Personal Paint on the Amiga

 

Everything is downloadable from here.

Some extra wallpapers and a description how to install are also there.

That was fun!
Steffest

Presenting a new project:

Bassoon Tracker!

It's a Browser based old-school Amiga Music Tracker in plain old javascript.

Bassoon Tracker

If you have ever heard of Protracker or Fasttracker, then you know the drill,
if not, then you are probably too young :-)

Check it out at http://www.stef.be/bassoontracker/

Tracker music originated way back in 1987 on the Amiga computer.
This was an era where PC's only made bleep sounds.
Even as the Atari could produce some funky chip sounds, then there was this all-singing-all-dancing Amiga machine that could produce 4 channel wave-audio.
Ok, it was still 8-bit sound, but suddenly everybody could access a digital music creation tool for an affordable price where previously you would have to spend a fortune on hardware samplers and midi interfaces to get the same possibilities.
My first sampler I soldered myself: You could plug it into the parallel port of the Amiga to "record" analog audio signals into 8-bit samples. It produced very low quality samples, but ohh... the wonder of it all!

It also was en era where user interface design was non existent so yes: the interface is a bit ... "special" :-)

Bassoon Tracker Sample Editor

Tracker programs where made by developers for developers: You don't enter notes on a musical bar, you enter notes as numbers in a grid with your computer keyboard and you apply effects by entering even more numbers.
All in hexadecimal of course, as plain decimal number are for pussies.

I especially like the format because you sort of get the sheet-music AND the instruments together with the song.
If you hear a cool piece and go like "Wow, how did they do that?" you can jump right in and examine what samples are used and what effects are applied.
It's like an open-source music format where you can do a "view source" to see exactly how it's done and fiddle with it, much as you can do with any website or web application.

Just like much of my early javascript and css knowledge was build by inspecting the source of other applications, much of my early musical knowledge was build inspecting mod files on the Amiga.

The golden age of the Amiga is long gone, but the tracker format lives on. There have been countless spin-offs and remakes.
Even in modern audio software like Renoise, Radium and Sunvox the tracker spirit is present.
And of course there's openMPT: It doesn't have a cool and snazzy interface but it's the most compatible and complete true tracker around.

Remember: these are not just mp3 files you hear, the music is reproduced using samples that are played and manipulated in sequence in real-time.
This is why mod files in general are quite small, making them perfect for (early) games and other projects where file size is important.
Even the super popular Unity game platform still has support for tracker formats

Playing mod files in a browser is nothing new, but still I wanted to create my own tracker for the following reasons:

  • I wanted to research Web-Audio, especially real time audio manipulation.
  • I wanted a real tracker where you can open, edit and save mod files, not just a player.
  • It should perform well on mobile browsers.
    Most mod players don't work that well on mobile browsers.
    They tend to implement a very low level way of handling audio, doing the resampling and mixing all in the javascript layer, maybe because the code is ported or recompiled from other platforms.
    I took a high-level Web-Audio approach which makes it perform really well on mobile browsers. Even if the UI slows down, the music should never stutter.
  • I wanted to build a SCALABLE cool retro user interface.
    Most old-school trackers have a fixed size user interface.
    I wanted a pixel-retro interface that scales with the screen.
    You could call it "responsive design" but then for HTML canvas :-)
    That's a pretty cool feature even if I say so myself!
  • I wanted to have a decent music playback engine to be able to build upon: a drum-sequencer? a midi-player? real-time online collaboration? all rather straightforward once the main playback engine is in place.

Anyway - here are some examples!



Even more?
The ModArchive hosts thousands of tracker songs and they have an API so you can directly access them from within Bassoon Tracker.

The source files are available on GitHub.


Have fun, and if you think of any cool feature you're missing: let me know!

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Hoe blind kun je zijn?

Erg blind, zo blijkt.
Peter Quaghebeur (Vroeger VTM baas en nu baas van SBS: Vier en Vijf) staat in het Vlaamse Parlement te jammeren dat de inkomsten van zijn bedrijf kelderen
De Vlaming kijkt immers meer en meer "uitgesteld" en spoelt dan vlotjes de reclame door. hoe ongehoord!
Als er niets verandert is zijn bedrijf over 2 jaar dood.

Wacht wacht wacht, is dat diezelfde Peter Quaghebeur die vorig jaar tegen de uitgevers wereld "Pas je aan of sterf!" stond te roepen?
Ja dus!

Euhm ... ok ... pas je dan aan, hé!
SBS is een commercieel bedrijf.
Neem nu eender welk commercieel bedrijf dat zegt "Oei oei oei, mijn business model werkt niet meer, mijn klanten lusten mijn product niet meer waardoor mijn inkomsten dalen" Dan is het antwoord toch ALTIJD "ja, verzin dan iets anders wat je klanten wel lusten" ...

Als je product niet gesmaakt wordt, gaat je bedrijf op den duur kopje onder.
Dat is zo, en dat is goed, want dat zorgt voor innovatie.
Dat zorgt voor een constante drang - nee: verplichting - om jezelf steeds opnieuw in vraag te stellen en om je product te verbeteren.

Waarom staat die meneer Quaghebeur dan in het parlement te piepen?
Medialaan, die andere grote zuil, stelt als mogelijke oplossing "ondoorspoelbare advertenties" voor.
Dat is onder het motto van "oh ja, laten we ons product NOG irritanter maken, dat gaat vast goed werken"

Op dezelfde dag laat Netflix fijntjes weten dat ze 400 banen extra creëren in Amsterdam. Hun totale investering in Europese producties bedraagt al 1.75 mijard.
Dat gaat lekker blijkbaar, daar bij Netflix. En dat allemaal zonder reclame tussen hun aanbod!

Gebruikers betalen voor comfort, voor het wegnemen van wrijvingen en frustratie.
En dan komen ze met "ondoorspoelbare reclame" ... ja man ...#schud-meewarig-met-het-hoofd#

Ik denk dat wij een tamelijk doorsnee gezin zijn.
De kinderen kijken Netflix en Youtube - daar hebben ze meer dan genoeg aan.
De digicorder blijft meestal gewoon uit, nog af en toe een programma van Jani of Tom Waes; die zijn leuk.
Altijd uitgesteld, enkel de koers is live. (en het songfestival uiteraard!)
Nooit naar VTM, niet omdat het slechte programma's zijn maar omdat je daar bij Telenet de reclame niet kan doorspoelen als je uitgesteld kijkt.

Ja, er is VRT.nu en Stievie, maar dat is slechts met omwegen op het grote scherm te krijgen, veel te veel gedoe.

Wordt eens wakker, Peter,  en doe je ogen open. Verwijt anderen niet in de tweede versnelling te blijven steken als je zelf niet veel hoger schakelt.
Dump desnoods Telenet en Proximus en ga rechtstreeks naar de klant, geef je klanten wat ze willen en als het lekker is betalen we daar voor.
Dump die reclameblokken en zoek andere manieren, desnoods via product placement in je programma's of via commerciele randactiviteiten.
Trek uitgesteld kijken op naar 1 maand, 1 jaar of eeuwig tegen extra betaling. Technisch is er geen enkele drempel.

Geef SD gratis weg en reken aan voor HD of 4K.

Er is een overaanbod aan entertainment.
Met een beetje moeite is alles gratis te vinden.
Nogmaals: gebruikers betalen voor comfort, het wegnemen van irritatie en een fijne, persoonlijke ervaring.
Een Vlaamse zender met goede content, zonder reclame, liefst met persoonlijke aanbevelingen in plaats van lineair, gemakkelijk consumeerbaar op elk scherm? Yep, daar wil ik gerust voor betalen. Laat maar weten als je mijn centen wil hebben.

Komaan man, je kan het!


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Na veel stoereventenpraat van "we zouden eens een bandje moeten beginnen" is het er van gekomen:

Rag Dace!

Bram mept op de drums en doet enthousiast.
Stef pluk wat aan de basgitaar en doet wat met knoppekes.

Zingen? Ja, dat ook hé, in het schoon Antwerps en al.

Wat we missen aan techniek en talent, maken we dubbel goed met speelplezier en de bijhorende Antwerpse charme.

En we geven zelfs ons eerste optreden: voor het goede doel!
In het kader van een ALS benefiet kunt ge naar onze kapriolen komen kijken en luisteren op vrijdagavond 21 april, Wolffaertshof Baron van Ertbornstraat 7, 2630 Aartselaar
Zie da ge op tijd zijt, want na ons komt de ECHTE band van de avond: The Armstrongs.

Wil je bij dit NU al legendarische optreden zijn?
Da kan hé mannekes: 
Kaarten zijn hierzo te verkrijgen: https://www.facebook.com/events/589937384538592/ (of gewoon bij ons)

Alle opbrengsten gaan integraal naar het goede doel.
Zie daggeder zij!

Meer info op https://www.facebook.com/events/589937384538592/

 
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