Peter Reavy

Sorting potatoes means a better crop next year

Posted in music by Peter Reavy on November 23, 2012

Came across this quote from Charles Ives in a book last night. Full text can be found here.

Again, if a man finds that the cadences of an Apache war-dance come nearest to his soul, provided he has taken pains to know enough other cadences—for eclecticism is part of his duty—sorting potatoes means a better crop next year—let him assimilate whatever he finds highest of the Indian ideal, so that he can use it with the cadences, fervently, transcendentally, inevitably, furiously, in his symphonies, in his operas, in his whistlings on the way to work, so that he can paint his house with them—make them a part of his prayer-book—this is all possible and necessary, if he is confident that they have a part in his spiritual consciousness. With this assurance his music will have everything it should of sincerity, nobility, strength, and beauty, no matter how it sounds; and if, with this, he is true to none but the highest of American ideals (that is, the ideals only that coincide with his spiritual consciousness) his music will be true to itself and incidentally American, and it will be so even after it is proved that all our Indians came from Asia.


The future of social media

Posted in Uncategorized by Peter Reavy on July 16, 2012

I have a lot of random thoughts about social media and where it could go and I’m going to put them all down here. This post is going to be utopian and probably wrong but I’m putting it up now so I can think about it more.

Social media needs to be based on standards and standards that we already have. For private social media there’s got to be some mileage in an email client that just happens to look like Facebook but let’s concentrate on public social media and propose RSS.

It should be decentralised and peer-to-peer.

Dave Winer is on the right track with EC2 For Poets but let’s be utopian. Let’s not rely on the cloud, let’s rely on the potential servers which people are already carrying around in their pockets.

Let’s imagine everyone had have a phone with an app that does what would currently be done by 3 pieces of software::

* A web server hosting a blog/timeline/status stream. Web servers on phones already exist. kWS Pro supports dynamic DNS. Connectivity is going to be an issue but let’s be utopian.

The web server has a simple interface allowing the phone user to create a new post as quickly as sending a new text message. Every post is published statically to the SD card.

* An RSS reader. RSS readers on phones already exist.

The RSS reader just looks like a Twitter timeline but filled with the friends you’re following.

People today don’t know how to find RSS feeds. How are they going to find the blogs their friends are hosting on their phones? Perhaps by using the email address as some kind of lookup? This was what WebFinger was meant to solve.

The app can scan your contacts book and see whose blog is up and running. No data goes back anywhere central.

* The most utopian bit. A web crawler building a personal list of web trends. It learns from what you post and what your friends post. But it does not send this back anywhere. We may need more powerful phones.

Combine these 3 into one piece of free and open source software. But someone puts this up on the app stores where it can be downloaded for nothing.

The elements of completely decentralised social media seem like to me like they already exist. What am I missing?

There and back again in Emacs (and Visual Studio)

Posted in emacs by Peter Reavy on June 27, 2012

In Emacs, when you’re editing a line and you know need to make a brief change somewhere else before coming back, then store the mark before you go so you can jump back when you’re done.

Type C-SPC C-SPC the store the mark & cancel region highlighting (I’m assuming you have transient mark mode enabled as it normally is by default).

Navigate to where you wanted and do your other edit. When you’re done, C-U C-SPC to jump back.

The exemplary Mastering Emacs has much more on the topic of the mark commands.

In Visual Studio, if you’ve set up Emacs Emulation, you can do nearly the same thing.
Type C-SPC ESC to store the mark then cancel region selection.

Then go somewhere else in your code and do something. It’s the same C-U C-SPC to come back again.

John Peel’s albums of the year 1974

Posted in Uncategorized by Peter Reavy on June 23, 2012

In the liner notes to ‘Going Back A Bit: A Little History Of Robert Wyatt’, there are clippings from a Sounds magazine from January 1975 of a few people’s top 10 albums of 1974. I’ve transcribed the one from John Peel:

  • PHAEDRA Tangerine Dream
  • I WANT TO SEE THE BRIGHT LIGHTS TONIGHT Richard and Linda Thompson
  • EVERYONE IS EVERYBODY ELSE Barclay James Harvest
  • AXE VICTIM Be-Bop Deluxe
  • ROCK BOTTOM Robert Wyatt
  • SMILER Rod Stewart
  • VEEDON FLEECE Van Morrison

He says “These are really the albums that have given me the most pleasure during 1974, the records I’ve reached for when there’s nothing on TV and it’s too early to go to bed.”


How to play a random album in iTunes

Posted in music by Peter Reavy on May 31, 2012

iTunes has a reputation for being bloated, but often turns out to have useful features that other music players don’t have. I was reconverted to iTunes after trying a few of the Linux music players, none of which suited me, since they were pretty hopeless at handling music sorted by composer.

It recently occurred to me that rather than agonise over which album to play, it would be good to select an album at random. I thought I might have to write a little script to pick an album name from the iTunes database or something, but it turns out that iTunes can play a random album already.

First make sure shuffle is switched on. Also make sure it is set to shuffle by album (Controls > Shuffle > Option > Albums). I must admit I had no idea that shuffle by album was there.

Click Play.

To jump to the next random album (PC):
CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+RIGHT skips to next album
CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+LEFT to go to previous album.

To jump to the next random album (Mac):
Option+Shift+RIGHT skips to next album
Option+Shift+LEFT to go to previous album.

Good old iTunes.

Information taken from:

Update: if you skip to the next album with a composer selected in the Column Browser then you will get a random album with that composer.

Bash one-liner to count occurrences in a log

Posted in Uncategorized by Peter Reavy on May 22, 2012

I’m assuming log.txt is the output of grepping for some kind of error in a log file.

Now I want to look at the occurrence times of these.

cat log.txt | cut -c 12-16 | sort | uniq -c | sed 's/^[ \t]*//' | tr -s ' ' ','

I’m cutting out the time column by character position. Uniq needs sorted input. Its output has leading whitespace which is removed by the sed expression. The tr then replaces the remaining spaces with commas because in this case I want a .CSV ready for Excel import. If you do import into Excel then make sure you set the time column as a time field before you do a histogram.

More sed fun here.

Fixing ‘Could not create directory’ error on Cygwin SSH

Posted in Uncategorized by Peter Reavy on May 22, 2012

Running Cygwin’s SSH has always given me the error:

Could not create directory '/home/myusername/.ssh'.

This web page has the solution:

Edit your /etc/passwd file which on Windows is likely to be located somewhere like C:\cygwin\etc.

The passwd file is delimited by colons :. For the line representing your user account, change the field with your home directory:


to something like



Edit a file from Powershell in the currently running Emacs

Posted in Uncategorized by Peter Reavy on May 22, 2012

Put this in your $profile:

function EditWithEmacs ($filename)
& 'C:\Program Files (x86)\emacs-23.1\bin\emacsclientw.exe' $filename

set-alias emacs EditWithEmacs

Then you can just type

PS> emacs mynewfile.txt

Vimium: my absolute favourite extension for Google Chrome

Posted in Uncategorized by Peter Reavy on May 2, 2012

Vimium: my absolute favourite extension for Google Chrome

My preferred browser for a few years has been Google Chrome. I’ve tried many extensions but I try to keep them to a minimum. I’ve deleted nearly every extension through lack of use. But I have been using the Vimium extension for two years.

As it happens, I prefer Emacs to Vim, but no matter. I love Vimium and I’m still finding new features in it. Huge thanks to its developer Ilya Sukhar.

Man the measure

Posted in Uncategorized by Peter Reavy on April 23, 2012

Plato’s view: our world is an illusion; the sphere of ideal forms is real; our minds recognise the ideal forms.

Protagoras: “Of all things the measure is man, of the things that are, that [or “how”] they are, and of things that are not, that [or “how”] they are not.”

Does Plato agree with Protagoras? If our minds can compare anything with its ideal form, then would that not make us the arbiters?

To read. Protagoras, by Plato.