Why can't i access /dev/dsp or /dev/snd on my XO

imm ian at imm.uklinux.net
Sun Jan 20 14:51:46 EST 2008

Sorry all - this thread re got me riled, I have to jump in on  
Victor's side here...

On 20 Jan 2008, at 10:18, Albert Cahalan wrote:

> I know every developer wants to believe that their own
> file format is a standard (and a good one too!), but come
> on now. I went looking for stuff that supports csound.
> I found **one** program, about 5 wrappers (at least one
> of which also supported MIDI), and **zero** hardware.
> The situation with MIDI is radically different; there are
> a tremendous number of MIDI programs and devices.

Sorry Albert, but I think you may be *slightly* missing the point of  
- It *does* handle MIDI files really well
- It's a very well established format that has been around decades,  
long before MIDI.
- There is no hardware support for it, since it has always been a  
*software* sound design and manipulation tool and was designed for  
that job, unlike MIDI which was designed as a hardware protocol and  
had all manner of additional "responsibilities" foisted on it later.
- Lots of computer music, at many levels from hobby users to serious  
research, gets done with Csound. It is a credible and viable option,  
and quite possibly the *correct* option for an *education focussed*  

> Perhaps it will be more obvious this way:
> Notice that the XO ships with a word processor. This
> word processor could use RTF, OpenDocument, OOXML,
> TeX, *roff, XHTML... or a custom format that the authors
> just happen to have invented. What do you think, go with
> the custom format?

Perhaps it will be more obvious this way:

- MIDI is like a plain text format for music.
- Csound is like a rich text, it allows considerably more subtle  
nuances. Subtle nuances are the heart of music.
The Csound program can handle this rich text, but it can also read  
the plain text (MIDI) when it has too.

Another point that people are skipping over here is the subtle  
cultural bias (maybe that should be Cultural Bias in a project like  
this, where it matters that we avoid bias!) that MIDI introduces.  
This *really* bothers me for a tool we are planning to deploy in  
large numbers in many different cultures.

The basic MIDI design implicitly assumes a western style scale, with  
essentially equal-temperament, and a minimum interval of a semitone.  
[Of course, we grew up with music expressed with those constraints,  
and most western listeners hear equal-temperament as it if were  
correct (if they can hear it at all!) - but that's very much a  
learned response. To ears raised on more natural musical voicing, it  
sounds really artificial, forced and un-natural.]
Now, it is *possible* to correct these problems in MIDI (e.g. by  
messing with the tuning on a per-note basis, that sort of thing) but  
it is non-trivial. So people will use the defaults, and that's  
probably a Bad Thing.

Csound, on the other hand, is readily capable of true temperament, or  
micro-tonal scales, or etc.. That's got to be a good thing.

> MIDI looks damn good to me.

Sure - and plain text is The Way to code software. We all use it all  
the time. But for a more fancy-shmancy document you want some sort of  
fancy editor. Horses for courses - but if you have to choose just  
one, pick the fancy one, since it can work as the simple one when it  
has too.

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