color sorting

I find the idea of sorting a set of colors in interesting ways. It’s very much a perceptual problem. Different people will sort a color palette in different ways.

“web” palette sorted by saturation. (Some of these examples are truncated for formatting, see the sortpal pages for fuller versions)

People organize colors differently. Lots of ways to sort them mathematically. Some map well to what people perceive as correct. Some do not.

web palette sorted by proximity in rgb colorspace

Sortpal is project to try to visualize what some of these different methods look like, and how they compare to each other. It shows a set of color palettes, sorted by the various attributes like it’s redness, or brightness, or saturation. For example, in the “red” row, the reddest colors are at the far left and decreasingly red colors to the right. The width of the color depends on the number of colors in the palette.

web palette sorted by redness

Different color palettes can be chosen, including the 216 “web safe” palette (wiki), the X11/css “named” colors (wiki), the xkcd color survey (xkcd color survey), a rough approximation of the spot colors often used in print, a Hilbert curve through rgb space (wiki), misc artistic palettes, etc.

The sort methods fall into a couple of sorts (ha!):

Sorting by one component of a color space, the most obvious being the red, blue, green values of RGB:

web palette sorted by red, green, blue respectively

Hue, saturation, and value (HSL and HSV) is another color space, that maps a lot more naturally to how people understand colors.

web palette sorted by hue, saturation, value, lightness, respectively.

Hue or Saturation are probably what most people think of as the natural way to sort colors.

Another approach is sorting by proximity in the 3d color space. The idea being to start at the origin, and find the closest colors in 3d.

Hue, Saturation, Lightness 3d

Hue, Saturation, Value 3d

Red, Green, Blue 3d

The code is up at github. No promises to it’s correctness or functionality.

Note that for the most part, all of the methods shown here are described as being one parameter sorts, but in some cases there are secondary and tertiary sorts as well (hsv3d, and chroma ) mostly just to stabilize the sorts.

919noise 4/6/2010 Stochasticaster debut

For the performance at the 919noise showcase, I built an instrument based on a cross between a guitar, a kalimba, and a spring reverb tank.

no name yet

I wanted a physical sounds source as opposed to something electronic or digital. In this case, magnetic pickups with strings resonating in them like a regular electric guitar. Long loose strings for reverb type sounds, short strings for kalimba like tones. 34 strings/tines in total, 5 single coil pickups, 5 bridges. String gauge range from .09 inch (typically the high E string on a guitar), all the way down to a .106 inch string (typically low E string on a bass guitar).

Bridges were the same style of electrical panel grounding bars as I used on the Kalimbazooka.

Unlike the Kalimbazooka, this used the more flexible electric guitar strings for the tines, which made it somewhat difficult to tune. The strings were very sensitive to the exposed length, which was difficult to get right. I got it mostly at tune at one point, but it drifted quickly, and I ended up forgetting about trying to tune it to a particular set of notes. Oh well, it makes cool noise.

Built it in a week or two. Not sure I learned to play it as well as I would like, but I wanted something new and interesting. I guess with this kind of thing, the main thing to figure out is how it interacts with the amps and feedback, which I thought I had figured out.

I played first after a couple minutes of soundcheck. One of the first problems I ran into was the buzz/hum. Lots of it. The type of pickups in it (single coils) have a tendency to buzz a bit, but in normal guitars, only one is on at a time. I had 5 of them. That plus some long wires, bad shielding on the cheap donor guitar, and I had a pretty loud buzz. Could be worse, it was a noise show at least. I’ve got some ideas on how to fix it though.

Adrian at nightlight

The high noise floor made it a little hard to use as much dynamics as I would have like. Quieter things got washed away in the noise. So less subtlety was called for.

Was nervous about it as usual, and rushed stuff. Not particularly a good habit for noise/ambient/drone, hopefully it works for me. Seemed to get a good response, and folks were curious and complimentary about the instrument.

Balloon launch

I’ve been working with a team from Tech Shop RDU to put together a helium balloon as part of the Hackerspaces in Space contest.

Basic idea, build a balloon with a camera and gps, and try to get pictures of the curvature of the earth and the blackness of space. And I think we did.

We actually made two launches, the first included my camera (Canon sd850, running CHDK firmware, and a script to take a pic every 15 seconds and log some basic data). We thought we lost it after the gps transmitting via a ham radio data connectio stopped transmitting, but someone found it in Wendell, NC and called us.



The team also made a second launch that day. We thought the first one was long gone, so put together a second launch from spare parts. I had to leave early so didn’t get to help out with the second launch though. Mk II was a simpler setup, with just a Spot gps tracker and a nikon point and shoot camera with a built in intervalometer. It looks like it was able to fly a little higher, probably due to the reduced weight (first capsule was about 3.5lbs, I think the second one was closer to 2).




I think the current estimate for the second balloon launch is somewhere in the 80,000 ft range. It is definately high enough to see the curvature of the earth and the thinning and the black of space in the photos.

We had a lot of people show up to watch the first launch.


Near Space Balloon

Adrian and the Balloon

Near Space Balloon

We even maanaged to get a fair amount of press coverage, including a segment on the local news ,WRAL

Video is no longer available

Photos provided by lintqueen, and clubjuggler, and Ncnearspace

heart kalimba


I’m on a bit of a trend. This was built as a belated Valentines day gift so it was made from a heart shaped candy box. The main set of tines use a busbar, just like the kalimba’s on the kalimbazooka.


The pine sounding board and metal resonator gives it a pretty good sound. It is tuned to two octaves of a pentatonic C major scale.


Kalimbateeny A tiny Kalimba, also known as a thumb piano, designed to be worn as a piece of jewelery. The Kalimbateeny is a fully functional musical instrument, tuned to a D major pentatonic scale (D, E, F#, A, B). It’s made from purpleheart wood, and uses bobby pins for tines.




my build notes:

– laser cut purpleheart box
  – purple heart sourced at Woodcraft, ~1/8″ thick plank

  – cut in four pieces

  1.     top piece
  •         – sound hole
  •         – holes for retaining bar screws to go though
  1.     middle pieces
  •         – most of interior volume removed
  •         – slightly larger holes cut for end of screw and nut to fit
  •             – should probably be even larger for washer/lock washers to fit
  1.     bottom pieces
  •         – no holes, etc
  •         – (should have made holes through the bottom, would make assembly/disassembly easier)

– retaining bar is 1/4 inch steel rod
    – sourced at hardware store
    – two holes drilled through for retaining bar screws

      – best done on a mill/drill press but I did it with a cordless drill
    – cut to ~1.5 inches

– sound bars are 3/16 inch steel rod
    – sourced at hardware store
    – cut to ~1.25 inches
    – in theory this can be free floating on the surface, but I found

    assembly much easier after I glued them to the surface
        – gorilla glue, clamped with the retaining bar, screws, and two extra tines

    – used bobby pins
        – sourced from the pile of bobby pins in the bathroom

        – cut apart with dremel
        – used the straight part, with the rubberized coating at the end
    – (tried using tines cut from a sewer snake approx 1/8 inch wide, but these
    tines seemed to be too stiff for the small size of the box)

– fasteners

    – 3mm phillips pan screws
    – 3mm hex nuts
        – (washers and lock washers recommended if space allows)

– wood finish
    – walnut oil
        – (something a little clearer would have probably been better, to lessen discoloration of the purpleheart)

– hanging
    – slot cut though 3rd layer of wood before box assembly
        – large enough to fit some silver craft wire though to make
         wire wrapped loops on each end
    – cording created from hand-dyed silk ribbon and attached to wire-wrapped loops with overhand knots

    – overhand knots covered with cones
    – ends finished with ribbon ends

flushio=0 show review

Played last night as flushio=0 (“flush I/O equals zero”, long story…) at Nightlight as part of the 919noise showcase.

Kalimbazooka in action

I spent my free time last week building the instrument I played. I call it the Kalimbazooka. It is two kalimbas mounted to a large cardboard tube. It has a pizeo contact pickup for amplification. I added a shoulder mount for holding it, and some red LEDs because everything needs red LEDs.

The music at 919noise shows tend to be all over the map, but it’s weird, often improvised, usually electronic in nature, and weird. The Kalimbazooka and my playing of it meets all of the above requirements.

I have to admit, I spent 95% of my time building and testing it, and not that much time learning how to play it. But it went okay anyway. No one threw anything at me (though that may have been due to me holding a large weapon looking device).

I played a short set, only about 12 minutes or so of actual playing. I try to play short sets at this noise shows, typically aiming for about 20-25 minutes. It felt like I played about three times as long, but I don’t have the best perception of time when I’m nervous.


I was worried about having equipment issues, but the kalimbazooka worked great. I did manage to break on of my favourite pieces of gear (a Digitech Space Station), but I can fix it. That threw me off a little bit, since I had practised with it and was planning on using it heavily.

Crowd response seemed good, so I’m happy. I have video of it, so it may go up on youtube at some point.

Now I need to figure out what the next thing I want to build is. I have ideas. Lots of ideas ;->