My New Concert Blog vs Useful Consumer Review

I’ve been using a Panasonic GH4 camera for a couple of years to do concerts.  It’s a very nice camera, but it has a few problems.  1) When recording video, it splits the video into 4GB chunks that I then have to piece together.  It’s not a biggie, but it’s annoying.  2) More seriously, the microphone on that camera kinda sucks.  Whenever there’s a really steep sound gradient, it freaks out and goes into white noise, which means that I’ve had to discard more than a few recordings.  IV) It’s big and bulky. f) I use it for other things, too, which means that I have to swap settings and SD cards all the time.

So I got a Panasonic GX85!


I’ve been using it for some weeks now, and it’s pretty spiffy.  All the previous concerts I’ve done with the camera have been very low-volume affairs, so I had no idea whether the microphone works or not in high volume environments.  Until tonight!

Excuse the wobbly camera work, but I was resting it on my knee.  But the sound is kinda OK, eh?  And it was pretty loud.

So I think this camera’s going to work out.

One funny quirk about the GX85, though, is the EU video length limit.  In case you didn’t know, in the EU, things termed “video cameras” are subject to a pretty steep tax.  Camera producers work around this by limiting their cameras to 29:59 minutes, because they don’t have to pay the tax.

When filming in most modes, the GX85 camera heeds that limit, but it appears that the Panasonic people “forgot” to program that limit when you’re doing 4K video.  Then you can film as long as you want.  Or until the battery runs out, which takes more than two hours.

So…  From now on, the concerts I post on Youtube are going to be in 4K.  You can thank Panasonic and their absent-minded engineers.


I’m resampling a lot of vinyl these days (because I got a spiffy record player and the earliest albums I sampled back in the 90s I only have in mp3 (and crappy mp3 at that), and I have to have everything in flac). You know. It makes sense.

So the other day I was sampling the Dark & Long EP by Underworld. Behold:

Yeah, lots of dust, but isn’t that a nice pattern? There’s only one track on this side of the album, and it’s in 33⅓, and the track is only 8 minutes long (so the grooves are spread out more than normally), and it’s a really repetetive song. All taken together, the result is visually very distinctive.

I think I remember reading somewhere that some people are able to tell various classical music pieces apart by just looking at the vinyl. You don’t need that much training to be able to recognise this one, I think…

One Thing Leads To Another

In the previous installment, I got a new monitor for my stereo computer.

I thought everything was fine, but then I started noticing stuttering on flac playback. After some investigation, it seems as if X is on (and displaying stuff on this new, bigger monitor), and there’s network traffic, then the flac123 process is starved for time slices, even if the flac123 process is running with realtime priority.


Now, my stereo machine is very, very old. As far as I can tell, it’s from 2005, and is basically a laptop mainboard strapped into a nice case:

(It’s the black thing in the middle.) But even if it’s old, its requirements hadn’t really changed since I got it: It plays music and samples music and routes music to various rooms via an RME Multiface box. So I was going to use it until it stopped working, but I obviously can’t live with stuttering music and I didn’t want to spend more time on this, so I bought a new machine from QuietPC.

There’s not a lot inside, so I put the external 12V pad into the case. Tee hee. Well, thermally that’s probably not recommended, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Nice heat pipes!

Look how different the new machine is! Instead of the round, blue LED power lamp, it’s now a… while LED power lamp. And it’s about 2mm wider than the old machine, but you can’t tell unless you know and then it annoys the fuck out of you.


Anyway, installation notes: Things basically work, but Debian still haven’t fixed their installation CDs to work on machines with NVMe disks. When it fails to install grub, you have to say:

mount --bind /dev /target/dev 
mount --bind /dev/pts /target/dev/pts 
mount --bind /proc /target/proc 
mount --bind /sys /target/sys 
cp /etc/resolv.conf /target/etc 
chroot /target /bin/bash 
aptitude update a
ptitude install grub-efi-amd64 
grub-install --target=x86_64-efi /dev/nvme0n1

Fixing this should have been kinda trivial and warranted fixing, wouldn’t you think? But they haven’t, and it’s been that way for a year…

Let’s see… anything else? Oh, yeah, I had to install a kernel and X from jessie backports, because the built-in Intel graphics are too new for Debian Stale. I mean Stable. Put

deb jessie-backports main contrib

into /etc/apt/sources.list and say

apt -t jessie-backports install linux-image-amd64 xserver-xorg-video-intel

although that may fail according to the phase of the moon, and I had to install linux-image-4.9.0-0.bpo.2-amd64 instead…

And the RME Multiface PCIe card said:

snd_hdsp 0000:03:00.0: Direct firmware load for multiface_firmware_rev11.bin failed with error -2

I got that to work by downloading the ALSA firmware package, compiling and installing the result as /lib/firmware/multiface_firmware_rev11.bin.

Oh, and the old machine was a 32 bit machine, so my C programs written in the late 90s had hilarious code like

(char*)((unsigned int)buf + max (write_start - block_start, 0)

that no longer happened to work (by accident) on a 64 bit machine. And these programs (used for splitting vinyl albums into individual songs and the like) are ridiculously fast now. The first time I ran it I thought there must have been a mistake, because it had split the album by the time I had released the key ordering the album to be split.

That’s the difference between a brand new NVMe disk and a first generation SSD. Man, those things were slow…

And the 3.5GHz Kaby Lake CPU probably doesn’t make things worse, either.

Vroom vroom. Now I can listen to music 10x faster than before. With the new machine, the flac files play with a more agile bassline and well-proportioned vocals, with plenty of details in a surefooted rhythmic structure: Nicely layered and fairly large in scale, but not too much authority or fascism.

Also: Gold interconnects.