Jack the Mac

Jack OS X is a real-time audio driver system for OS X. I first heard of Jack in a Linux context. Linux sound is often painful to deal with. The inclusion of ALSA, the Advanced Linux Sound System, “Advanced” in this context meaning “Not Sucking Completely,” seemed to take forever. It’s there now, finally, in the 2.6 kernels.

Now there’s an even spiffier thing than ALSA, called Jack. It’s supposed to be all “realtime” and “hyper-efficient” and “low latency” and stuff. But my emotional scars from trying to make sound work on Linux in years gone by prevented me from seriously considering trying to make Jack work on Linux.

So when I heard about Jack OS X, I thought, “what’s the point, doesn’t OS X already have a perfectly functional audio system?”

Point is you can do neat stuff with Jack on OS X, and it has a pleasant little GUI that doesn’t make your head hurt.

With Jack, you can suck the sound output of any existing application, and pipe it into the input of any other application. And you can keep going like that — suck the output out of the second app and put it into the input of another. Or you can “split” the output of an app between the input of one application and the speakers of your computer. It’s like piping text in unix. Like you’ve got a series of little sound funnels to shoot it different places.

An obvious application of it is to suck sound out of say, Realplayer, and pipe it into an audio record application, like I did last night to make an mp3 copy of Ellen Langer’s Diane Rehm interview.

How sweet is that?

(BTW, this looks like it might help unconfuse me about the current state of Linux audio.)

Spiny Forums :: An Open Letter to Web Cartoonists

Spiny Forums :: View topic – An Open Letter to Web Cartoonists

here’s this webcomics viewing app for OS X called “Comictastic.” (There are actually a bunch of them; Comictastic is one which has gotten a lot of press.)

It existed for a couple years without anyone noticing, then it got some press, and then a bunch of people within the “Webcomics Community” got really angry about it. (And some of its users got stridently defensive of it.)

Through the course of this messageboard thread, the authors of the software try to open a dialogue with webcomics people. A bunch of angry people call them “bandwidth thieves” and “copyright violators” for making what is essentially a specialized web browser. The angriest voices seem to come either from righteous folk who are not actually webcomics creators, or webcomics creators who are not actually paying for their own bandwidth or profiting from their own ad sales (that is, they get free hosting on Keenspot, which pushes its ads on people to pay for it). (UPDATE: Actually I may be displaying my ignorance there: I read something subsequently that suggested Keenspotters do get ad revenue.)

I dunno. My limited experience hosting a web site and paying for it myself suggests you’d have to be insanely, INSANELY popular before bandwidth costs bit you in the ass (or else you’d have to be really foolish in your choice of hosting providers). I pay $20/month and use only a minute, tiny fraction of the bandwidth I receive for that. Definitely less than 5%, probably less than 1%. (Yeah, I know, I’m paying too much for my needs, but Dreamhost are cool and let you compile your own software and stuff.) If you’re so popular you’re hurting for bandwidth, then you probably could find ways more efficient than banner ads to parlay that popularity into cash (i.e., merchandising or the like) pretty easily. And that’s what the most popular webcomics all do. I don’t imagine apps like this would make a giant difference one way or another in how many people buy T-shirts. (And either way, the authors of the app want to work with people to allow them to deliver ads and merchandise links via RSS.)

Anyway… The funny part is that one of the best known, most popular webcomic artists on the net, Jeff Rowland (creator of Magical Adventures In Space, the latest in a series of spiffy and whimsical comics), has been participating.

As far as I can tell, he’s the only “A-list” comic artist that’s there. Certainly the only one I’ve ever heard of.

Anyway, at least as far as I’ve read in the discussion, Rowland started out mildly skeptical of Comictastic but not that worried about it, and as the discussion went on he got more and more tired of the righteously indignant protestors and finally declared himself “pro-Comictastic” and happy with the programmers’ efforts.

It’s a super long thread and gets repetitive after a while, so I’m posting about it without even having read the whole thing. Interesting stuff.

UPDATE: the thread ends with a few pages of comment spam. Sad.


JHymn Goes Behind Atoms and Apple To Bring DRM-Free Music

As DRM schemes go, Apple’s is, I must say, one of the best for end users. But that’s like saying “the handcuffs are mighty comfortable handcuffs.”

This is via, like, BoingBoing or something.

Last time I looked at Hymn, it operated from the command line and it only worked if you owned an iPod.

Now it’s a gorgeous GUI application and works for everyone.

I just bought a copy of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and de-DRMed it, and it plays great.


I can attest to a legitimate need for this tool, speaking as someone who’s upgraded computers twice and never remembered to de-auth his computer for the iTunes Music Store before wiping the old one’s hard drive to sell it. Thanks to Why didn’t I think of that? Because I think of my computer as a computer that I own, and my data as data that I own, not as a things that I rent from Apple that I have to get their permission to do anything with. I don’t think I want to have to learn to think differently, and if I have to break the iTMS DRM to do that, that’s fine with me. (Of course, I don’t use iTMS that much anyway. But still.)