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Last night I had one of those Marie macaroni meals. Settled down to watch some more Alice and only made it halfway before, well, before my body forcefully ejected the food.

This wasn't anything like the killer burger. Sure, there was some blood coming out at the end, but apart from a few minutes at the start when my gut was tying itself in knots, there was little pain and it was pretty much all over in about twenty minutes.

So I'm off work today, and tomorrow. Drinking a lot. Eating... not so much. My "meal" at lunch was a Delical protein drink, which in a 200g serving will have packed in 29g of proteins giving 452 calories.
It... tastes a bit like Carnation concentrated milk. Not awful, but not pleasant either.

My doctor told me to eat a banana
My doctor told me to eat a banana.

I'm off work today and tomorrow.

Now, given it's summer, it is entirely possible that this frozen product was mishandled somewhere along the way - I have seen the girls in the supermarket pull out a big palette full of frozen stuff, and take ages to refill the freezers. So I can imagine there's a worrying degree of temperature cycling going on there.
Still, I don't know, so this product is going to go into an ever increasing list of verboten foods.

It's not a big loss, to be honest. It takes 25(ish) minutes in the microwave. That's about as long as it would take my multicooker to brew a plate of pasta (farfalle, linguini, or indeed macaroni). So... I'll just have to do it the fiddly way. Oh well, I really ought to eat less processed crap anyway.


I went to Lidl again...

Stopped in on Friday to see if there was anything interesting, given that I have no memory and don't remember what was in the publicity mailing.

This time? Well, let's see.

Stuff from Lidl
Stuff from Lidl.

The mains extension can be used to replace the one I have precariously mounted just under the Livebox for the internet, telephones, and amplifier.
I'll get around to doing it sometime...

And the screwdrivers? Well, tiny ones this time. For taking apart stuff that requires finesse. One cannot have enough different sorts of screwdrivers.



I decided to move it to a location more central to the back of the living room. I can't put it in the actual centre, the light fitting is there.
This involved precariously perching on a chair, holding a long screw above my head, and the powered screwdriver to put it into one of the ceiling timbers.

After a lot of fiddling, and no falling (yay!), I got the screw in place. So then it was just a matter of moving the thing.

It's not quite dark out, but you can see that it's a nice pleasing orange glow.

Oh, look, fire!
Oh, look, fire!


Rick's Simple Sequencer

I think the problem that I have with notation is that there is no direct temporal relationship between what you see and what is played. There is a relationship, each type of note implies a different timespan, but... well, look at this.


On the left, a semibreve that, at 4/4, takes one bar (or 4 beats). This is followed by two minims that take two beats each. Then four crotchets that are a beat, and finally eight quavers that are half a beat each.
In other words, temporally, each of these four bars takes the same amount of time, yet visually their widths depend upon the music within.

Well, sometimes. You see those quavers on the right? In normal playing, it's like DU-du-DU-du-DU-du-DU-du (with the capitals falling on the beat), however when you swing they are notated exactly like that, but they are typically played with the first of a pair lasting between two and four times as long as the second. There's a degree of variation and improvisation, suffice to say it's more like Daaa-du-Daaa-du which completely throws off the relationship to the beat timing (the nerdy term for that is syncopation).

I think might work for me is something that is called a "sequencer" where you get a grid. Up and down the grid are notes, and along the grid is a very regular time interval. If a box on the grid is filled in, then a note is played.
Simple, right?

Now where is such a thing for RISC OS?
Oh, yeah, nowhere. Or maybe some once-commercial software that is 26 bit. Not so useful.

But, come on, it's not hard, right? Time across and pitch up and down. Should be doable, right?


The software title
The software title

Allow me to present a very early PRE-ALPHA preview of my software SimpleSeq.

It comes in two versions. One is built for an HD (720) display (as that's the base that is supported), the other is built for a 1280×1024 display (as that's what my monitor is). A little program will try to choose, but it might not work correctly if your monitor is, say, HD but 1080. Feel free to fiddle the !Run to load the appropriate executable.
All of these screenshots are taken from the HD version.

Yes, it's a singletasking command line program that uses and abuses the VDU font. This is not going to change, there are no plans whatsoever to make a multitasking version.

Just in case you didn't note the pre-alpha status, an annoying prompt will remind you.

This software may cause kittens to explode
This software may cause kittens to explode...

You should click on "Nah, forget it." (or press Escape) to wuss out, or on "Let's do this!" (or press Enter) to go into the software.


The next thing you'll see is the editor.

The editor
The editor

Let's look at this. There are three main parts to this display.

Across the top is status and information. Probably the most useful is the stuff in cyan which will tell you the current time signature, tempo, channel, instrument, and display mode.

Down the left side is a piano style keyboard with low notes at the bottom and high notes at the top. It is a 61 key keyboard, which matches a fair number of entry and general domestic level keyboards (such as my Yamaha PSR E-333). There are no plans to support a wider range of notes - if you have 88 keys, you're either looking at pro-sumer equipment, or maybe an actual piano. ☺
Clicking on one of the keys will cause that note to sound on your connected MIDI equipment.

Now, that big grid. As I said, the grid is simply pitch up and down, and time across. You'll notice that some of the vertical lines are reddish. This marks each bar. You'll notice that some of the grey vertical lines extend beyond the top of the grid. This isn't an error, it's marking the counts. Together, they're annotating the time signature for you.
In this view, a crotchet would take four 'boxes'. Which means the shortest note that you can enter is a semiquaver.
At 120bpm, a beat, a crotchet, lasts for half of a second. Which means you can enter notes that are an eighth of a second. Shorter notes are not possible (well, you could change the tempo...). Remember, this is a simple sequencer.

The highlight is the box outlined in yellow. It starts at the lower left.


Now, I could explain how to enter music, but wouldn't it be better to see something?

Press Ctrl and L (hereafter, the Ctrl key is marked as ^, so ^L means Ctrl and L).
You'll see this:

Load dialogue
Loading files

The caret is already in the filename (it's that red bar), so type in test_1 and then press Enter.

There, that's better. Notice the highlight has moved. The editor state is saved along with the music data.

Music loaded
Music loaded

Now, I know you're itching to listen to it. Don't get too excited, it's just something I put together for testing, so it is mostly a repeating sequence of notes. Anyway, press ^P and it will play. There will be a red banner across the top giving a running status.
You could press Escape to stop, but it's only 96 columns (or six seconds).

The "MIDI wait" is intentional. I noticed that after performing a device reset and setting up the instruments on all channels, my keyboard needed a moment to get itself together. It seems (quick Google-fu) that hardware devices may need a moment. So there is a brief pause before playing begins.


Now, there are all sorts of things you can do at this point.

Using the Cursors, you can move the highlight around. If you hold down Shift at the same time, you'll be able to move left/right a bar or up/down an octave.
^Left and ^Right will move the actual bars shown in the editor, so while you can see three bars on-screen, press ^Right to see the others.

If you press Space on an empty square, you can place a note. Once a note (a semiquaver) has been placed, you can then press:

  • Q - to make it a quaver (two boxes)
  • C - to make it a crotchet (four boxes)
  • M - to make it a minim (eight boxes)
  • S - to make it a semibreve (sixteen boxes)
For extending the note, you don't need to be at the start of the note, so you can abuse the above keypresses to make irregular size or very long notes.
Note that these extend the note. You can't press M to make a minim and then Q to make it become a quaver. But see the next keypress...

Press Delete to delete a note. This, actually, erases rightwards from the highlight position so could also be used to trim notes.

When the highlight is over the beginning of a note, press NumPad 8 or NumPad 2 to alter the velocity (that is, how loud the note will sound). This moves up single units in a range of 1 to 127, but if you hold down Shift it'll go ten at a time.

Home will go to bar 1, End will go to the last populated bar.

There is a hard limit of 3,840 possible columns. This, at a tempo of 120 bpm, corresponds to eight minutes (thus 4 mins at 240bpm, or sixteen at 60bpm). The data is designed for speed of access, so the full array takes around 16MiB. However the software keeps track of the music length, that is to say the rightmost column used, and only that much is saved, to keep the file sizes down. That said, the six bars of example runs to 367KiB.

There's more. Page Up and Page Down will change which MIDI channel you're editing. In this example, channel 7 is a trombone, channel 16 is a glockenspiel, and of course channel 10 is the percussion. This one appears a little differently.


The piano has been replaced by green (because it's percussion not keys), and short text indicates what each channel is. This follows the General MIDI 1 specification, with a mapping that matches my Yamaha.


You'll maybe have noted that various instruments are assigned to each channel. Those are the defaults, and I felt that it was more useful than defaulting each channel to be a grand piano.
Press F7 to edit the channel instruments.

Instrument mapping
Instrument mapping

Click the up/down icons to the left of the instrument name to change the instrument. You can hold down Ctrl to skip a number of them at once. The list is those provided for by General MIDI 1.

And, yes, the default choice is fairly arbitrary based upon "stuff I might want to use", with maybe two minutes thought given to it. Still, it's better than fifteen channels saying it's a grand piano...


Now for a potentially more interesting window. When in the editor, press F8.

Music settings
Music settings

Let's do each part in turn.

  • The Title and Author are the name of the piece and the name of, well, you.
  • The Time signature allows you to choose from 2/2, 2/4, 3/4 (waltz), 4/4 (common), 6/4, 9/4, 6/8, and 12/8.
  • The Tempo is expressed in beats per minute.
  • A beat is a crotchet means that whatever your time signature is, the speed of the music will depend entirely upon the tempo as a crotchet will be taken as the beat value.
    If, however, this option is not set, then the beat will be determined by the time signature, namely the bottom number. If /2, then the beat will be a minim and time will pass twice as rapidly than /4 where it is a crotchet, and that goes twice as quickly than /8 where a beat is a quaver.
  • The Default velocity is the velocity value given newly created notes.
  • Snippet play determines what happens when you press P. It can play only the bar that contains the highlight, or from one to three bars preceeding (if there are any). Remember ^P will play everything from the start.
  • The final two entries choose the display mode.

Note that you can only choose one of the predefined time signatures, and the time signature and tempo is fixed for the entire piece. If you want to write prog rock, this probably isn't the software you'll want to be using.

The default is dark mode, it's easy on the eyes.
Here is an example of light mode.

Light mode
Light mode

And quaver mode shows two semiquavers per box, to allow more to fit on-screen. Note that in this mode, if you're placing notes, you'll be placing quavers, not semiquavers.

Quaver mode
Quaver mode


The software is quite functional as it is, but there are clearly features lacking. For example:

  • There's no method of specifying non-music events, such as pressing the Sustain pedal.
  • There's no MIDI file export
  • There's no acquisition from the connected keyboard.


Download (62K)
For RISC OS 5 machines with MIDI

My USB MIDI driver is included, in case you don't have it installed in !System...


And, remember, if you need help you don't need to come back and read all this crap again. Just press F1. ☺

Brief help
Brief, but succinct.



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