Letters from Somnolescent

 

Tag: technology

General posts and rants about technology, usually hardware.


June 24, 2021

The Absurd Netherworld of Internet Archive Tape Transfers

mariteaux

A sampling of the Internet Archive's batch of cassette transfers

For a period of time after Sound of Dentage’s release, I was pretty keen on digging through archive.org’s Cassette Audio section to see what strange, forgotten things I can find. It’s ostensibly only non-copyrighted audio, but that’s a crock of shit. The flood of content makes policing it with anything other than automated bots a non-starter. And even then, I think the Internet Archive is too busy with me wgetting Somnolescent’s old sites to run them.

In any event, I found something rather fascinating, and the kind of collection that no one but me would be interested in: over 1,300 amateur-recorded cassette tapes, transferred and stored in lossless. We’re not simply talking releases (though there’s tons in there). We’re not just talking demos (though they’re in there too–everyone from Dave Grohl to Coheed and Cambria to Juicy J). In a lot of cases, we’re talking mixtapes. Often recorded off the radio mixtapes! (And nature sounds. That’s what 90s kids did for their ASMR.)

Now, invariably, a lot of this is probably just noise and ambient stuff, same sorta thing that has always flooded the avant-garde experimental underground scene, same stuff the netlabels put out now, and the same stuff I’m not really interested in. However, the hand-dubbed tapes? Are where, well, strangeness lies. I’ve picked out three amateur ones for us to go through, recorded from various sources by regular people on cheap equipment. Download links are provided for each.

Tags: 70s, music, technology,

June 10, 2021

How Do the Somnolians Organize Their Desktops?

bulb

We at Somnolescent love old desktops. Not the fresh, factory Windows installs all the retrocomputing channels show off, but lived-in little portraits of someone else’s workspace from long, long ago. Whether it be DeviantART submissions showing off someone’s new, custom wallpaper or classic speedpaints with desktops and MSN Messenger windows incidentally in the background, we love seeing them and we post them in our Discords all the time.

The gradual move back to our chunky old PCs got us thinking about our own desktops and how they stack up to the workspaces of old, and honestly, to each other’s. As such, have a compilation of screenshots and a whole bunch of rambles about how we get around our machines and how we keep things organized (or not). Click the images for full-sized, lossless screenshots if you wanna peek at all our icons.

Tags: anime, art, technology,

May 31, 2021

Zip Drives!

mon

It’s time for a pretty short blog post from me, mon! Made from an outline that I’ve had sitting around since almost a YEAR ago.

It’s well-known that I own a good bit of old Apple computers at this point. But along with the large-ish collection that I own, I also own a small collection of peripherals and accessories. I think the most notable out of these would be my two Zip Drives…


October 31, 2020

10/31 – The Somnolescent Incident

bulb

As of writing this (at 11PM at night), another Halloween around here has come and gone. Indeed, we’re getting into that part of the year where the Somnolians want nothing more than to vibe. We’re well into holiday season, man! After this one, we’ve only got one more (likely beefy, just on my end, let alone everyone else’s…) recap before the big yearly one and a bit of a rest from us as a group. Gonna be lovely.

Still! Things happened this month, and that? Is what a recap is made of.


October 27, 2020

The Clever Feat of PNG Optimization

mariteaux

A neat old PNG logo I found on the official PNG site

I’ve become mildly obsessed with how compression algorithms of various stripes work over the past year. They really do make every bit of our modern computing existence work so smoothly, from gzipping packet data to speed up slow connections to storing vast archives of high quality music on flash drives the size of a ChapStick. Some simply rearrange the data in clever ways, and others take advantage of our weak eyes and ears to throw out 90% of what was once there–and we hardly notice.

Of the lot, the humble PNG is so ubiquitous, it might not even warrant mentioning. Every format has some magic up its sleeve, however, and in the case of PNG, the way they’re encoded usually makes it possible to shrink them after the fact to the tune of up to a few megabytes with no loss in quality. If you make sites, you might wanna take notes.

I recently decided to run a battery of tests to determine just how well PNG works, on what, and what optimizes the best. I’ll give you the rundown on how it works (in-depth but no math, no worries), and then I’ll give you some hard data and lovely charts to peek at, and finally, show you how to get smaller, lighter PNGs at home, no tricks, no catches.

Tags: art, technology,

September 6, 2020

The Raven LTE flies again

dotcomboom

A couple of years ago, I used an Alcatel Raven LTE as my main phone. It was a very cheap phone ($30 new, albeit locked to my carrier TracFone), ran Android 7 Nougat, and had an impressive 16 gigabytes of storage and 2 gigabytes of RAM; it was no slouch for the price. One day, the hard classroom floor almost got the best of it.

Even after the screen got cracked, it still worked, even touch; the trouble only came from what in the world to do with a cracked $30 Android phone. It was way too cheap for a trade-in, and I don’t think many charities or repair shops would bother with it either. And so, it sat on my shelf for several months gathering dust, because I didn’t know what to do with it. Surely, it wasn’t destined for a landfill?

Tags: technology,

August 17, 2020

Vaders and Venetian Blinds: A Review of “Racing the Beam”

mariteaux

Racing the Beam cover art

I’ve said before that I don’t read a whole lot of books. Not to say I don’t have a few on my radar, it just takes me a while. Same goes for video games; I have plenty to play, but I’m usually too busy off in my own world to try them out. Given that it looks like the US will open back up some time after the heat death of the universe (read: plenty of time to myself), I’ve been trying to rectify that.

Today’s topic is one that combines both these worlds in a really curious way: meet Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost’s Racing the Beam.

Tags: 70s, technology,

August 8, 2020

More old Macs!

mon

Old Macs. Also known as Old Macintoshes, Vintage Macintosh Computers, et cetera. Machines of which were made in simpler times, when Apple wasn’t as much of a shitshow of a company as they are today. Compact, distinctive from PCs of the time, maybe a tad yellowed – but that’s fine. Sometimes that’s what makes them beautiful.

Alright, here I am, at it again. I didn’t think I’d be able to make another one until after summer was over, but in surprising turn of events I got three new (old) machines up-and-running!


July 29, 2020

7/29 – Giving Up the Gun

bulb

Last month’s recap was a bit of a laugh and an admission that we just didn’t have too much desire to interact with the outside world. The world of MSN Messenger and IRC and chunky CRTs and old websites was more appealing to us, and I was on a self-imposed tech timeout after spending much of May fighting with Linux. (It still fucking sucks as a desktop OS and you know it.)

Not that we weren’t active, of course; things were drawn, sites were built, I write once more–all the good stuff you expect from us. I’ll try not to ramble, there’s much to get through.


May 9, 2020

Tools, Toys, and You and I

mariteaux

Been thinking a lot about simplicity, entropy, and how we’ve come to rely on computers in the past few decades. Here’s an essay about how technology should augment us in being people and nothing more.

Tags: technology,

Older posts