February 9th, 2024

2023 Retrospective... and a bit of 2024, too

2023 has been a rough year for me. I had to deal with the severe illness and eventual death of a close family member. I was fortunate enough to be able to care for them during their final time, and learned some valuable life lessons on the way. Needless to say though it’s been tough emotionally.

2023 was also the first year in well over a decade when I didn’t perform any live shows. That definitely needs to change in 2024! If anybody wants to invite me for a live show, I’m all ears. I also love to hold workshops, and give guest lectures and presentations on subjects such as the beginnings of computer music, writing 1-bit sound drivers, and making music on calculators.

On the bright side, I managed to win the 2023 edition of the ZX Beeper music competition at DiHalt with some good old Squat shredding. Didn’t get so lucky in this year’s edition - last place for this lovely bit of beeper tekkno/hardcore. Oh well.

At the beginning of 2023, I also made some more progress on Bintracker. Most importantly, I finally got Windows builds off the ground. Almost went nuts in the process, but here we are. Tangentially related, I also worked on some code for MAME, fixing the sound emulation of a certain East German 8-bit machine that I’m planning to do some more work on this year. Not going to go into details about any of this - if you want to keep up to date with Bintracker, feel free to subscribe to the newsletter.

In July, I took part in organizing the Chipwrecked festival again. Thankfully this time we had more full-time volunteers than last year, which meant I had more chances to actually go and see some acts. Personal highlights this year included an ear-wrenching speedcore/harsh noise set by Chipmusic legend der Warst, and, on almost the opposite end of the musical spectrum, Infotoxin’s dubby-steppy bag of goodies. And I don’t even like dubstep.

Recently, I’ve been working on some 1-bit code again. Composing this year’s DiHalt entry triggered me into revisiting the Fluidcore engine. Originally made in 2016, this 3-channel PCM wavetable player was suffering from extremely noticeable row transitions, due to not preserving oscillator state on data reads. Fixed that, and also implemented some compression for the pattern data.

I then went on to develop a hardware player for Furnace Tracker’s QuadTone engine, which was gladly accepted ignored by the Furnace team. So much for “We’re working on hardware support”. Can’t really blame them either, it’s 2024, fewer and fewer people care if stuff actually runs on hardware nowadays.

At this point the beeper engine writing bug had gotten a solid grip on me once again, so I moved on to try and realize an idea that’s been in my head for years. How would it sound if one were to use filters in a beeper engine? I had already played around with filters all the way back in 2016, with the beepertoy engine. This overly convoluted, early attempt at a meta-engine, supported fixed-cutoff low-pass and hi-pass filters on some of its engine cores. Now I wanted to up my game and build an engine that’s actually usable, and supports filters with variable cutoff. I ended up implementing two engines, ulasyn and PhaserF. The former is a bit simpler, supporting two pulse wave channels with variable duty, duty sweep, and noise mode. The latter is more powerful, sporting two full-blown Phaser channels. However, it sounds somewhat less clean than ulasyn. Both engines use the same, look-up based technique for calculating the filter effects, which supports up to 6 cutoff and volume levels. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed working on these, but it’s time to move on to some more impactful projects, I guess.

With that said, let’s see what more the year 2024 brings. Stay safe everyone, and wherever you are, please give a big fat finger to all the war mongers around the world on my behalf.

December 21st, 2022

2022 Retrospective

Ah, the days when I would regularly post something new on here… perhaps I should get back into that, eh. For now though, this Year 2022 Retrospective will have to do.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we released a new Doppelplusungut album earlier in January. We’re not doing a new one this winter, as I want to spend time on some other projects that have been stacking up since a long time. Also participated in DiHalt’s beeper compo. Only came in 4th this time, even tough I’m actually pretty happy with my work.

Over the course of the next couple of months, I finally made some progress on Bintracker again. The core application is now pretty much feature complete. I also started to tackle Windows builds, but didn’t manage to get them working before the gardening season. I’m planning to start up work on that again in the coming months.

Not much artistic work got done from mid spring to the end of autumn, as driving our homestead was taking up pretty much all my free time. I’m fine with that, since it’s such an exiting process that involves learning many new tricks and techniques. Still, I wish the days had 48 hours, so I could do other things as well.

In June, I co-organized the famous C64 Lounge at Reilfest in Halle (Germany). I love doing the Lounge there, but I think this was my last time. Sadly, the Reilfest event has grown beyond any healthy proportions, making it an extremely exhausting experience.

In July, I helped organize Chipwrecked in Denmark, the largest outdoor Chiptune festival in the world (albeit slightly down-scaled from previous years due to Covid concerns). That was a blast. So good to meet old friends again after the pandemic years, make some new ones, and listen to an excellent and diverse selection of music on the big system. As expected with such a massive line-up, there were a number of acts that I didn’t know before who really blew me off my feet. My personal highlight was probably the turbo blasting set by synchronously headbanging metalhead duo Doktor Ziegel from Malmö. Also loved Eggstempo’s glitchy Chip Hop set, a rare sight these days.

During the next months, I participated in Rabenauge’s Transactor demo for the Commodore PET, which took 1st place in the Oldschool compo at Deadline. Not entirely happy with the end result, as the music in the demo isn’t playing as intended, which I learned only after it was released. Nevertheless, it was a fun experience, and there’s always a chance to do things right the next time.

The past few weeks I’ve been indulging in a ZX Spectrum beeper coding spree. I published four new beeper engines, and discarded another half a dozen designs in the process. After 7 years, I finally managed to beat my own record for smallest beeper engine with nanobeep3. Pindsvin and Pulsatilla are two engines combing Squeeker synthesis with PFM (pin pulse) and Pulse Interleaving, respectively. Finally, there’s tftone, a Tritone port that eliminates row transition noise, and runs at approximately 4 times the speed of the original Tritone.

So, overall it’s been an eventful and busy year. Hope to continue the good run next year. Until then, happy end-of-the-year festivities everyone. Stay safe, and see you all back in 2023.

January 8th, 2022

New Doppelplusungut Release: Das Meerchen vom Meerjungtroll

Another year, another Doppelplusungut. After last year’s online experiment, we both were craving to go back to the Rotz and do an album in the classic ++u way: a colorful mix of vastly different music styles executed with blissful incompetence, wrapping up a pun-filled, dadaistic radio play (in German). For the latter, we went with a fairy tale set in a bizarre underwater world this time. A gory fairy tale, that is.

As the custom demands, we release this album exclusively as a small run of home-made CDs. Who even has a CD player nowadays? If you do, and you want to own the latest or any of the previous twelve Doppelplusungut releases, get in touch. And speaking of last year’s vinyl release, it appears some of these rare disks are actually available for sale online now.

January 6th, 2021

Trying LMMS Again A Decade Later

Ah, winter. Nothing better than a good old rant to brighten up the day in this dull gray weather we’ve been having for several weeks now. Normally, dat zekt and me would have locked ourselves in at the studio for the month of December, to record a new Doppelplusungut. But well, things are a bit different these days. Long story short, as we live in different countries, we simply couldn’t meet up this year. So instead we went looking for a way of collaborating online without blowing through the rather tight monthly data limit I’m currently “enjoying”.

For the PC side of things, we normally stick to a mix of Milkytracker, HammerHead, Hydrogen, and Buzé, with the main sequencing work being done in Audacity. However, we knew this wasn’t going to be feasible this time, considering the constraints. So dat zekt suggested we give LMMS a try. Initially I was rather sceptical, since I strongly disliked LMMS the last time I tried it out. Then again that was more than a decade ago, so I felt that maybe it was time to give it another try. And so we did. And, to my surprise, the experience hasn’t been completely awful. So, after using LMMS daily for the past month, I’d like to share a few thoughts on it.


January 26th, 2020

New Doppelplusungut Album: Wisch & Weg

A new year, a new Doppelplusungut release. For the 11th time, my mate dat zekt and me spent the end of the year creating a complete music album plus a radio play from scratch in one month’s time. After a techno-heavy release last year, we return to a more classic Doppelplusungut sound this time. This year’s main theme is “smart devices & social media”, as you may have guessed from the title (which translates to something like “Swipe & Gone” in English).

As usual, the album will only be available on CD. Get in touch if you want a copy. We also made a video again which should eventually find it’s way onto Youtube.

January 26th, 2020

Chipwrecked 2020 Invitation

I guess you’re all looking forward to Chipwrecked 2020? Just in case, linda8bit and me made a little stop-motion animation to get you hyped up.

We filmed everything on a nice day at the beach shortly after last year’s edition of Chipwrecked. Now we finally got around to adding some silly noises and finishing up the whole thing. Used Blender VSE once again, which remains my favorite tool for editing videos on Linux, despite giving me a few headaches this time (adding an effects strip to actually enable transparency for a PNG which already has transparency, seriously?).

Anyway, I’m not 100% sure if we can make it to Chipwrecked this year, but we’ll try my best.

November 10th, 2019

New Server, Site Tech Updates

Brought the site over to a new server a couple of days ago. This one offers SSL out of the box - unlike the old one, which actually had the guts to charge for a LetsEncrypt certificate. In any case, the transition went pretty smooth as far as I can tell. The only issue might have been that mails to utz at this-domain may have bounced in the last days, though that should be fixed now.

After hacking together a new layout for bintracker.org last weekend, I got the itch again yesterday. So I spend the past 1½ days on upgrading the tech stack that powers irrlichtproject.de. Since launching my own site in the year 2000, I always hand-crafted everything directly in HTML and CSS. For the Bintracker site, I tried out a static site generator for the first time, since I needed some results fast. I quickly got used to the workflow, and since it was about time to implement pagination for the irrlichtproject.de front page anyway, I thought I’d give static site generation a try on here as well.