21 December 2007

Newegg Makes Good

Newegg is refunding me the camera and case and I was able to find the camera elsewhere in time, so it is all working out OK. They have excellent customer service, so I will no doubt be buying from them again in the future.

Today is the shortest day of the year. It takes a lot of caffeine and St. John's Wort to keep me functioning this time of year. I think the barista at the local Caribou Coffee realized I needed a triple espresso and so I got a free upgrade. Either that or she was thinking "you know, we don't see you in here often enough... you're just not quite as addicted as we'd like you to be!"

This year really was a challenge -- illness, death, and mayhem all around us. Let's hope 2008 is better!

19 December 2007

Newegg Screws Up

So, I decided rather late in the season to get my son an inexpensive digital camera for Christmas. I ordered it from Newgg, a company I've had great service from in the past. I bought a motherobard and CPU from them a few years ago; I've ordered various little things like flash drives and hard drives.

They took the order for a camera, case, memory cards, and card reader. I paid with PayPal; everything went through normally. The package went out; it is supposed to be delivered today. I wanted to make sure of that, since we're obviously getting pretty close to Christmas, and my family is also planning on going out of town. In fact, we're taking the train out of town to see family. The plan was for my son to enjoy taking pictures of the trip. So it has to be here, or there wasn't much point.

Today, the day that my UPS package I've been tracking is scheduled for delivery, I got a note saying that it was all just a joke... the package I've been tracking doesn't actually have a camera in it, and I should get a refund in two or three days. Oh, it does have a cheap little camera case in it, which I threw in just because they were shipping me the camera anyway. Which means I just paid $5.24 to ship a $10 camera case.

I'm scrambling to try find the camera locally. I'm fortunate in that my finances aren't that tight right now, but if they were, I'd be completely screwed, because i wouldn't be able to charge the replacement camera on my debit card until the PayPal refund went through.

I can't recall any company I've ever ordered from screwing up an order in quite this way. I mean, I've had items cancelled on me at the last minute, or delayed, but I've never, ever been charged for an item that was not actually shipped. I'm a bit boggled by just what kind of a failure in their IT infrastructure allowed the charge to go through. Wow!

18 December 2007


I have been looking at Paul Hudak's book The Haskell School of Expression. My first barrier was getting the sample code to work under Ubuntu "Gutsy Gibbon." While I highly recommend Graham Hutton's book, which I think of as the K&R of Haskell, SOE is more of a tutorial and may be more useful to people who learn by doing. I got a bit of assistance from Paul Liu. It turns out that in addition to installing ghc using sudo apt-get install ghc, I needed to install libghc6-opengl-dev.

Without this, when I tried to configure GLFW using runhaskell Setup.hs configure, I got an error that said Setup.hs: cannot satisfy dependency OpenGL>=2.1. I went down a dead end of trying to figure out what kind of package I needed to install to give me the right OpenGL libraries, but the key was realizing that it is looking for the Haskell OpenGL library, not the system library.

This is not specifically mentioned in any of the docs I found online -- the only place I found it mentioned was on the Debian package list -- so I am mentioning it here! Maybe if someone with the same issue is Googling for the answer, they will now find it quicker.

17 December 2007

Getting Back Online with Music Theory

Well, this hellacious year is almost over. Most of my spare time has been spent on the archiving and family history project, which I'm documenting at The Marcella Armstrong Memorial Collection. That project is bearing fruit in that I have almost a thousand images scanned, and so I'll be giving some of the originals to family members. I've created some beautiful prints, as well, and over Christmas I'm hoping to share some of the images with family members in the form of slideshows.

Meanwhile, in the back of my mind I'm thinking about how to get back into Haskell programming. Music theory keeps coming to mind.

The problem with music theory is that it is really a collection of ad hoc convenient rules and relationships in the guise of a coherent theory. The various named entities have completely inconsistent nomenclatures. You kind of get used to this when you learn to play chords and transcribe songs, but it is easy to forget how inconsistent it is and thus confusing for students.

For example, intervals. A major second is an interval also known as a whole step. If you start on the root note of a scale, say, a C major scale, the C is known as the root or "first." If you add a major second to a first, you might imagine that you'd get to a third note of the scale. But, no, you have a second note.

Does that mean the steps in the scale are off by one in their naming (that is, the first is really the zeroth?) No, because if you add two major seconds to the root, you have a third, not a fourth. It is the naming of the intervals that are off.

So can you just start the intervals at zero instead of one? Well, kind of. A minor second is a half-step, or the difference between adjacent keys on a piano. Call that 0.5. A major second is then 1.0. But this still doesn't explain intervals, because a "fourth" is actually three whole steps and a half step. And if you add a third and a third, you don't have a sixth, you have a flat seventh!

So it keeps coming back to me that I should try to codify the rules of intervals and chords in some bits of Haskell code. It might even be of use to geeks trying to understand music theory.

Don't even get me started on time signatures or tuning!