Groworld Bazaar @ Pixelache

After much organisation, shopping for seeds, clay, compost, drawing equipment, aronia berry products, packing, catching ferries, unpacking and then finally tidying up – Pixelache 2011 and FoAM’s groworld bazaar is over!

Suomenlinna island was a great venue for the festival, despite the logistical challenges it brought a good vibe with it’s fortified buildings, village atmosphere and fresh sea air. Due to my commitments I didn’t see as much of the other events as I’d have liked, but I still managed to meet a lot of interesting people. I’ll write a report on the “draw your own plant spirit” germination x event at camp pixelache shortly.

Piksel 2010 (un)stable

Piksel 2010 (un)stable was the 8th piksel, and the second time I’ve been lucky enough to participate. I was there to present Naked on Pluto and general livecoding duties.

I didn’t have as much time or energy to get involved with the other things going on as I’d have liked, so this is mainly a report on my activities. I did see a super talk by Audun Eriksen about the visual programming language scratch and it’s use for teaching kids to make games – very inspiring stuff.

Scratch was where I started with the idea for scheme bricks, so it was great that the next day Alex and I had the functional livecoding workshop, where people could get their hands dirty with some of our live coding performance ideas.

This was followed in the evening by a slub performance, where we got a little carried away by the responsive audience and the rather nice sound system. It’s always good to do performances with stuff you’ve done a workshop on earlier as the participants can put it in context (and tell other people what’s going on!). The image is a link to a video of the performance on

The next day was a switch to Naked on Pluto with Aymeric and a presentation where we discussed clouds, problems with social media, farmville and the intricacies of the facebook graph api.

(pictures thanks to Régine Debatty)

It was great to get questions from people who have tried playing the game before seeing our talk. Hopefully this can be the case as we discuss the project more widely.

m.a.r.i.n. hacklab at the sea

A few days of summertime in the Finnish archipelago at the M.A.R.I.N. hacklab at the sea.

This experience included a lot of swimming in the sea, saunas, boat activity and simply exploring the environment, but the hacking seemed to fit in surprisingly well with this routine.

Having the privilege of being in such a place makes you aware of your footprints. With only renewable power resources available, I wanted to lower the power consumption of my computer to extend its battery life. I came across some useful instructions from the ubuntu wiki and from that discovered powertop which I can’t recommend highly enough.

This is the script I’m currently using to switch everything to low power mode, cobbled from the resources above.

# Set CPU scaling / max freq to battery mode

for x in /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu*/cpufreq/scaling_governor; do
    echo "conservative" > $x
    # The second column is the second from the highest freq most power savings / least slowdown
    awk '{print $2}' $X/scaling_available_frequencies > $X/scaling_max_freq

# Tweak virtual memory to conserve power when running on batteries.

echo 10 > /proc/sys/vm/swappiness
echo 0 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_expire_centisecs
echo 1500 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_writeback_centisecs
echo 60 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_background_ratio
echo 95 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_ratio

# Enable SATA ALPM link power management via:
echo min_power > /sys/class/scsi_host/host0/link_power_management_policy

# Disable 'hal' from polling your cdrom with:
hal-disable-polling --device /dev/cdrom
# 'hal' is the component that auto-opens a
# window if you plug in a CD but disables SATA power saving from kicking in.

# Change the wireless power mode to Battery.

for x in $(/bin/ls -d /sys/class/net/*/wireless | /usr/bin/cut -d'/' -f5); do
    /sbin/iwconfig $x power on power period 2 power timeout 300u
    /sbin/iwpriv eth1 set_power 7

I worked a little more on plant sensing, trying a simple approach of testing the electrical resistance of parts of growing plants with a sensor boosted to extremely high sensitivity. This area is fairly rife with pseudoscience, but has some basis in reality. I was quite surprised to see some changes between the values from a real plant and a dead twig, or air, with distant electrodes – but this requires a scientific test in controlled conditions, and any variation is most likely due to changes in the temperature of the wood with sunlight changes.

Returning to power consumption, it was a good opportunity to build a solar engine, which is a device that collects low currents from small solar cells and periodically dumps them into a circuit which requires a higher current (usually a motor). It should be possible to use this approach to drive self powered microcontrollers for limited bursts of activity, making their state persistent and cleanly shutting down on the low power interrupt, waking up the program where it stopped when new power is available. This could be useful for a remote device running for months or years from a very small power source.

I could only attend the first couple of days, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the results from the other projects being worked on.

Scheme bricks workshop

A picture from the livecoding workshop in Antwerp, the first time scheme bricks has been exposed to so many people. We covered various synthesis techniques, as well as introducing livecoding more generally. This has given me a lot of motivation to move this stuff further – I’m thinking of putting it in the fluxus distribution as an alternative livecoding option.

Scheme Bricks 0.1

Finally an actual release of scheme bricks! (make sure you read the README, it’s not user friendly yet).

I’ve unified the maths operations, previously you had to remember if you were working on nodes or numbers (the only two types in fluxa) now you can just use the standard + – * / (before you had to use add sub mul div for graph nodes). This makes it much nicer to program. I’ve also replaced the asterisk in the font, the old one looked like a smudge on the screen.

This is all in preparation for a scheme bricks livecoding workshop I’m giving in a few weeks at the LAMBDA ELEKTRONISCH MUZIEKFESTIVAL.

post chmod +x art

Back from Groningen, and my mind is full of all sorts of crazy ideas after GOTO10’s mini festival. Although mini in size, the quality of this event was very high.

The day after arriving, Gabor and I did our best to introduce our workshop participants to livecoding and fluxus, from the basics of scheme to some more visually juicy aspects:

The next day the roles were reversed as we took part in workshops lead by some of the previous day’s participants. This was the ‘speed geeking’ event, we had 30 minutes to learn about a new project and contribute something towards it before moving on to the next. We looked at games as explorations of the struggle between supermarkets and open markets, by playing and helping to refine the rules of a boardgame prototype designed by Selena Savic. There was also a creative strategy involving recycling digital trash by Loredana Bontempi called ddump. I recycled a presentation using open office into a glorious piece of digital art. Then Emanuele Bonetti showed us a new way of sharing image references called pickpic which promoted online collaboration. This was a good format for fast presentation of ideas – I think the time was short enough to keep it slightly chaotic and therefore giving it a fresh, informal feeling.

The evening ended with ‘Petcha Gnucha’ mixing up presentations of work from the Piet Zwart Institute with Groningen’s Frank Mohr Institute.

On Saturday there were talks themed around ‘Hocus Pocus’. Martin Howse discussed the concepts surrounding his island2 installation which was being shown in the sign gallery. He took us on a journey through ideas of protected or hidden spaces including stenography, kernel security rings and software design tied to themes of vampirism, pornography, plague and classical concepts of concealment. Dmytri Kleiner gave a talk looking at how political ideologies tend to attach to different network topologies, what it could mean to be a venture communist and why the world needs them. Finally Florian Cramer made a passionate call for digital art to return to the critical, comparing the work of Constant Dullaart (superb name for an artist, can’t be real) with Heath Bunting’s Own, Be Owned, or Remain Invisible.

In the evening it was our turn (IOhannes Zmölnig, no copy paste and I) to livecode for the enjoyment of those equipped with headphones at the placard concert.

I have some footage of my performance, but it’ll have to wait for the moment. I should also mention Breakfast club – which was an approach to try and document discussions about the previous day’s events the morning after. The theory being that you can lure people into a situation involving cameras and microphones by the deployment of freshly baked croissants first thing in the morning. This worked well to get discussion going between the different groups, and is something I’d like to see used more at other events.

chmod +x art

This week it’s finally time for:

At Sign gallery Groningen, the Netherlands. I’m going to be doing a fluxus workshop with Gabor and a scheme bricks placard performance – the first one I’ve tried solo, I think!

chmod +x art The computer as theatre, as writer of love letters, the computer as world, a place for revolution, art as executable. chmod +x art presents artists that turn our ideas, dreams and fantasies about machines and code up side down and show programming as an infinitely intriguing way of creating. Code is a medium. Whether it is used to formulate instructions for a machine, ideas for people or both. The writing of it influences and shapes the creative process of the artist. For that reason, ghost programmers may be left at home. Besides the importance of writing code yourself, it is essential to show that code. Without source, software art remains a magic trick. Do It Yourself and show us your sh*t!