Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Singing in Innsbruck

In case you didn't already know, pretty much my main hobby is choral singing, and I'm just back from a few days in Innsbruck with the ACZ (Academic Choir of Zurich) where we were rehearsing and performing Dvorak's Stabat Mater.

Whenever the choir rehearses with the orchestra for the first time in a strange hall with an acoustic you're not used to, it's a big shock how different everything is from when you're rehearsing with just a piano in a familiar setting. And this time was no different in this respect. The orchestra was loud and the room just swallowed up our voices, so we tried to sing louder. And the conductor insisted on rehearsing some of the louder passages several times over, all of which is very unforgiving on a choir. The musical style of the professional tenor soloist, who we were also meeting for the first time, was not to everyone's taste, and he also had some difficulties with his part. All in all, not an auspicious start to the weekend.

And then the church we were to perform. Another shock (or two). Firstly it was small by our standards, around 200 seats for the congregation, I would guess. Secondly, we had been promised that the church would be warm, and we wouldn't need to wrap ourselves up in winter woolies to sing there. But, It was cold. There was heating, but if obviously hadn't been turned on for very long, and because of where the heating was, and the shape of the church, it had set up a nice convection cell where the hot air rose to the ceiling where the public would sit, displacing a mass of cold air which then descended directly down the necks of the choir where we had to stand jammed in between the altar and the back wall. The 'dress' rehearsal was carried out in overcoats. I felt like a penguin on the ice, standing perched on a narrow step huddled together with other choir members for hours on end. It was also not much of a dress rehearsal, which is supposed to include a straight run through of the piece, as though for real. It turned out that a recording was to be made in this rehearsal, and this meant that it progressed only slowly, movement by movement, with quite some repetitions to try to eliminate problems with the recording. And the solo tenor was still having problems. With the last buses through the snowy streets back to our hotels leaving at 23:30, the rehearsal finally broke up at 23:20, having started at 20:15. We'd been standing most of this time. Morale was not high.

On the following day however, the concert went considerably better than anyone had expected. It was warmer in the church, and with the adrenalin pumping it was possible to stand there in shirtsleeves. The concert was sold out, with people standing at the back. The tenor sang much better than he had in rehearsal. As usual in concerts I discovered a couple of new minor mistakes to make that I'd never made before. But overall, we went home happy after a meal of goulash soup in a room at the back of the church.

We're performing the piece again in the Neumünster in Zurich on the 7th and again on the 8th of January. Let's see what happens then.

Friday, 1 October 2010

New releases

On Thursday, 23 September, openSUSE released a security and bugfix update for the Linux kernel on openSUSE 11.2. As a consequence of this I've rebuilt the gpib-linux RPM again, and also made a new release (2.41) of the pciaer driver which includes a few improvements that I've put in now and then over the past few months.

And I've made a start on pciaer 2.42, ripping out the previously deprecated debug ioctl interface (the same functionality is available via debugfs instead) and removing a few redundant initializers. The next things I want to do before the next release include deprecating a couple more ioctl calls and introducing compat_ioctl handling where necessary to ensure everything works correctly on 64 bit, which is something I never worried about up until now.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

GPIB RPM again

Another reason to blog again is that someone read my post about GPIB
packaging and enquired whether he could download the package or spec
file from somewhere. I've now made the latest spec file plus some patch
files available at http://www.ini.uzh.ch/~amw/linux-gpib/
Note that it's only known to work for openSuse 11.2 at present.

Time to blog again

Shortly after my last blog entry, I was re-assigned to a new project. I didn't really feel I could blog about it, since at the time the project had no other web presence. So I stopped blogging altogether. Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the proverbial structure built to span a valley, road, body of water or other physical obstacle. Notably, for me at least:
  • I met Alan Cox at a conference (he's the one with the beard, I'm the one crouching down to talk to him with my back to the camera in the bottom left hand corner);
  • I moved house;
  • I learnt Python;
  • I learnt Java.
One of the things I've worked on has been the home page for that new project, CX3D, a tool for simulating the growth of cerebral cortex in 3D, so I've no more excuses for not blogging anymore. Let's see how long I go on for this time :-)