Bike Mechanics for Geeks, Part 1

I spend an awful lot of time on computers, viagra here my iPad and my iPhone. It’s not that I don’t like nerding out, about it I love nerding out, visit this site but sometimes you just need to get your hands dirty and stop looking at a screen. For me cycling and bike mechanics has been an excellent way to channel my geek into something that is physically exerting while having a big engineering aspect. It’s also a really easy and affordable hobby to get into.

My bike is a 1987 Peugeot Versailles. There are a lot of nice things about owning a classic bike, one of which is that they’re cheap, easy to get and tend to be a lot simpler than some newer bikes.

Let’s take a look at some basic bike anatomy so we’ll be ready to dive into some deeper topics later. Bikes have some fairly specific terminology but there isn’t too much of it. I’ve labelled most of the major pieces of a bike below. As you can see we use the word ‘tubes’ to refer to the major lengths of the frame. One thing not shown are the ‘sides’ of the bike. Generally the side of the bike with the chain on it is referred to as the ‘drive side’.

The most basic stuff we’ll be looking at is the regular maintenance of things like the chain, the breaks and the gears. While these vary from model to model the basic principles are mostly the same. We’ll probably also spend some time diving into the physics of bikes and why they are built in specific ways.

For now let’s do the most basic thing possible, oiling the chain. Oiling your chain is extremely necessary if you don’t want a rusty hard-to-ride bike. It only takes a second every now and then and it will save you time and energy in the future.

My personal lube of choice is Pedro’s. They offer a range of lubes to suit the kind of riding conditions you’ll be in. If you haven’t been looking after you chain you should clean it with Simple Green first. Leave it in a container of Simple Green and then brush it down with an old toothbrush. Get all the gunk off. It’s very important you let it dry before applying the lube though, otherwise the degreaser in the Simple Green will stop the lube from applying and your chain will wear a lot harder.

Once you’ve cleaned your chain (or not) you can simply take an old rag and hold it just behind the chainring, in the gap the looped chain makes. Gently turn the peddle backwards and apply the oil above the rag. I find it’s pretty easy to hold the rag and the lube bottle in one hand. Just squeeze the bottle until you can see a trickle of oil being picked up and carried away by the chain. Rotate the whole chain slowly a couple of times to make sure it all got lubed. Finally gently apply the rag to the chain and give it one more turn to grab any excess that might attract road dirt. That’s it you’re done.

If you want to get into Bike Mechanics, a local community bike shop is the best place to learn. My local community bike shop in San Francisco has an awesome list of places you can go to in North America. If anyone knows of other ones, it would be awesome to get them in the comments.

Geek chic done right

Laptop bags get a bad rap. Sure they are functional, illness but fashionable they are not. I have been searching for the perfect laptop bag – practical and oh so chic! – ever since I bought my laptop, implant
and I have been unsuccessful, and ended up settling for a tote that is less than functional (seriously, the zipper doesn’t even close when my laptop is in it). So what’s a chic girl to do? Well luckily for all you fashionistas, designers have embraced chic geeks and designed bags where fashionable meets functional when it comes to carrying all your gadgets.

Badgley Mischka

A beautiful and fabulous Badgley Mischka laptop bag! This chic buttery soft tote is practical enough to carry your gadgets and gizmos, but stylish enough to take with you wherever you need without it screaming “I’m a laptop!” Bonus: wear it across your body for a slouchy look perfect for weekends or when running errands.

Marc Jacobs

If laptop sleeves are more your style, Marc Jacobs has designed a collection of funky cases that are sure to get you noticed. Bonus: they are very affordable (at $80 a pop, you won’t go broke trying to look fab)!


Dress up your laptop with a splash of colour. The Coach Poppy Laptop Case gives new life to the designer brand, breaking away from the iconic print.


When Apple’s latest creation hit the market, it was uncertain what its lifespan would be. But it’s quite obvious now that the iPad is here to stay. With the tech world accepting the new gadget, it was no surprise that the fashion world soon followed.

Salvatore Ferregamo and Louis Vuitton were the first to come out with iPad cases.

Trying to separate itself from the pack, DvF created a collection of cases for the Kindle in her signature funky prints.

So no matter what your gadget of choice, you can seek comfort in the fact that there are plenty of chic options to help you tote them around.

How Ableton left the back door open

Introducing Ableton and Control

Ableton Live is a loop-based software music sequencer and DAW for Mac OS and Windows by Ableton. The operator works with many forms of audio, therapy
instruction, and and programming. Audio data  such as *.wav, *.aif(f), *.mp3 files. Instructions via MIDI and Max (and Max for Live), and APIs (Application Programming Interface) for various types of communication.

The graphical user interface is logical, offering grid type organization and a timeline. Each of which can operate independently or in unison. In the past few years, Ableton has gained maturity as a platform and has become recognized as an interface that plays well with others. Some of the contemporary programs that operate in conjunction with Ableton include Reason, Serato, Traktor, Max, plus MIDI and beyond.


“Controllerism is the art and practice of using musical software controllers (e.g. MIDI, OSC, Joystick, etc.) to build upon, mix, scratch, remix, effect, modify, or otherwise create music, usually by a Digital DJ or “Controllerist”. (wikipedia)

Ableton Live is a controller(-ism) heavy application communicating via MIDI bi-directionally to provide both control and visual feedback (such as turning LEDs on and off relative to the current state of the GUI).   Ableton Live (version 8) introduced a new level of native control with the Akai APC40 and soon after the Launchpad by  Novation.

Both of these devices allow for absolute and relative mapping of control for audio and functions inside the Ableton environment.  These products mark the introduction of consumer level relative mapping as a element of native control (via API) in Ableton. To understand relative mapping it is important to understand how it compares to absolute mapping.

A Dichotomy of Control :  Absolute versus Relative

Mapping is how you define the relationship of a controller, often hardware, to software such as Ableton.

It is common to find hardware and software are mapped in an absolute or static fashion.  Using a piano as an example, the keys are the controller and they are absolutely mapped to the notes.  There are 88 buttons/keys triggering 88 sound/notes allowing you to access all of the sounds in the piano.

In the above image all of the notes would be accessed because we are using 1 button/key for each note in the piano system.

With relative control we still have 88 sounds/notes on our piano but only 14 buttons/keys.  To access all of the notes we need to introduce the concept of a focus (area) and navigation. We dedicate 12 buttons/keys to playing notes in our focus area. The 2 other buttons/keys are used to navigate the focus area to the left and right putting the notes available in the focus area where button/key #1 always triggers the sound/note directly below. The sound/note changes as the focus area moves. The next 2 images show the same piano buttons/keys under our focus area where we move to the left and right to gain access to more  notes.

The above image shows us our focus area (the bright spot) over the keys while the next image shows the position of the focus area after it is moved (navigated) to the left a few notes on the piano.

It would be rather difficult to play some Mozart with only 12 notes accessible at one time, but this very helpful in Ableton where hundreds of clips of audio are ready but only 10 or 15 may need to be used at any given point.

Take a look at this  video on YouTube demonstrating the APC40’s interaction with Ableton.  There is a red box on the computer screen showing what clips are in focus and directly correspond to the buttons on the controller. This is a relative map representing Ableton information that the operator puts in focus through methods navigating the “red box”.


Relative control, the ring, or the “Red Box” is the game changer.  Suddenly an Ableton performer can quickly and easily work with huge canvas of audio data. An entire evening’s program (or even a life’s worth of music production) can be contained in an Ableton set and performed using this type of relative control and navigation.

This mapping and navigation introduced new ideas, modes of expression, and organizational patterns.  There was one problem: access to this advanced control was pretty fuzzy as only the APC40 communicated at this level (on the site this API implementation if referred to as “experimental”). It was not looking good when you consider that the Akai APC40 and the Launchpad were explicitly a collaboration between the closed Ableton system  and Akai / Novation.

Or so we thought

In May of 2009, the APC40 is released and opened the doors to new ideas in performance and audio control.  The APC40 and Launchpad quickly gained a de facto status as controllers in various circles of music production and performance.  These controllers are fundamentally solid and easy to manage via a plug and play environment.

Personally, I got bored using my APC40 and 6 months later I purchased a Livid OHM64. Fast and slick, the OHM64 was low latency, infinitely programmable, and exactly what I needed. But no red box.

With a fancy new OHM64 delivered to my doorstep I soon began to miss the red box. Buyer’s remorse, possibly, but missing this element led to new and exciting possibilities elsewhere in Ableton.

Moving on with my work it was May 2010 when the folks over at released the script to interface the OHM64 to Ableton with the “Red Box”, relative mapping capabilities with navigation.

Control via the API was now in the process of being mapped and documented.


Ableton is a smart company and provides access to this control and navigation by means of a folder called “MIDI Remote Scripts”.  This script folder is an Ableton API written for Python scripts that is slowly getting cracked open despite having no access to debugging scripts in Ableton.

So we celebrate as the resources grow yielding tutorials, documentation, forums, code, and hacks.  For many electronic musicians, music producers, DJs, and Ableton artists this is a very exciting time.  Stoke the fire of excitement even further as “The Bridge” should release soon making the line between DJ and other electronic music  freshly blurred.


The exact thinking behind Ableton leaving the door open to advanced control via a Python API is not totally clear.  For those interested, start your journey at the Python site where there is an Ableton listing. Regardless of the exact reason, thanks guys! The controller-ism genre is growing rapidly as large and small companies are supplying the market with new controllers, quality ideas, and the knowledge necessary to introduce a new type of instrument and professional. The luthier of electronic music control is rising where custom solutions, made to order control, and experimental variations are available.

Ableton as a program added mass to the controller idea for just showing up. Now they left the door to the Python API open allowing things to get crazy.

Enjoy the ride and don’t forget about all the hard work that preceded our glorious mastery of audio and technology. More to come and thank you.

I Love You.

I am a person. I am interested in technology. I have a website at I know the person at

We rely on a shared agreement of the vocabulary above i.e., audiologist what it means to be a type of thing, to have an interest, a website, and knowing some other thing that’s a person. It allows us to have an absolute frame of reference to things in order to make sense of our world.

This framework is pretty close to how we explain our world to machines.

Enter Resource Description Framework (RDF).

RDF is a general-purpose language for representing information in the Web. Uniform Resource Identifier (URI)s provide a generic way to identify the things we talk about, as well as for the relationship between them, at different sources. The relationships are conveyed using precise vocabularies. We can reuse, create, or mix any vocabulary to make statements about things. The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is used as the retrieval mechanism.

For example, “the thing at this URI is a type of person” can be stated like this in RDF, using the Friend of a Friend (FOAF) vocabulary:

<div about="" typeof="foaf:Person"/>

Not only does this let any entity to make a statement about something else, all sorts of data can be discovered and used in various ways. By creating structured statements about our world and linking to global data, we essentially create a scalable Web of Data.

Hence, semantically Linked Data leads the Web to its full potential.

Photo Credit: Zhao !

In matters of technology, medical
I’m pragmatic. I’m not about to jump on bandwagons. I’m not a fanboy. Yet, walk through my home and you’d think that I’d given my first born for the latest fix from a particular company: Apple.

It all started with the iPhone. I didn’t rush out for the original. I was patient. I waited. Then came the MacBook Pro. Then the Time Capsule. Oh, and let’s not forget the Apple keyboard and Mighty Mouse (later replaced with the Magic Mouse).

Nothing too crazy. Yet. Then came the Apple display and the AppleTV, the iPod Touch, and most recently, the iPad.

Suddenly, I’m immersed in Apple. I now listen to keynotes and drool over the latest hardware. I look forward to getting my hands on that beautiful, delicious iPhone 4. Rumours of a new AppleTV have me excited.

How did this happen?

I’m not sure I can sum it up in a single word. Easy. Seamless. Integration. Design. They all come to mind. Everything works well together. It works well because Apple owns the experience from software to hardware and across product lines. It shows.

I love you, Apple. Here is my first born.