GitHub pull request != code review

This article tries to summarize some of the problems that I have come across when trying to use GitHub pull requests for doing code reviews.

In summary: It was not all pleasant, and by the way I apologize for this rather harsh rant.

The (single) good thing first

The one thing that GitHub gets right is the tight integration with your Git work flow. Since pull requests are based on Git branches you can do things like:

  • Push changes to the code review as regular commits, using any Git client (no special review tool plugin required for your Git client, for instance).
  • Inspect individual Git commits.
  • Easily pull the review branch to your local computer and try it out (build it, run tests, etc).
  • Run server side builds and tests in the same way as you do with other builds from the repository (no special review tool integration required for your build bot, for instance).

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Posted in Software Development | 5 Comments

Git history: work log vs recipe

This is a follow-up article to A tidy, linear Git history, going into more details of why I think that rewriting your Git commit history (i.e. rebasing) is usually the right thing to do.

Two different history models

When it comes to Git history (or any other version control system history, for that matter), there seems to be two dominant views of what the commit history should represent:

  1. A record of your work (I’ll call this a work log).
  2. A recipe that describes how to implement your feature (I’ll call this a recipe).

So, what is the difference?

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Posted in Software Development | 5 Comments

A tidy, linear Git history

One of the things that is overlooked in many Git based projects is the value of a linear commit history. In fact, many tools and guidelines discourage Git workflows that aim for a linear history. I find this sad, since a tidy history is very valuable, and there is a straight forward workflow that ensures a linear history.

Linear vs non-linear history

A linear history is simply a Git history in which all commits come after one another. I.e. you will not find any merges of branches with independent commit histories.

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Posted in Software Development | 21 Comments

Hiqh quality DPCM

Hi all, it’s been some time since I last wrote anything on this blog. This time around I’d like to share some experience that I’ve had with my recent hobby project: high quality time domain audio compression using DPCM (Differential Pulse-Code Modulation).

Be warned: this is quite a lengthy post.

tl;dr version: A Dynamic Differential Pulse-Code Modulation (DDPCM) method is presented. The method generally gives CD quality audio with about 8 bits / sample (compression ratio 2:1), and close-to CD quality with 4 bits / sample (compression ratio 4:1), using a super-simple branchless decoder. Sound examples here, and a C++ reference implementation here.

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Posted in Audio, Compression | 7 Comments

Working on SoundBox

I’ve done some more work on the SoundBox tool, and as some of you may have noticed that it’s now live on the dedicated site:

Compared to the Lite version (posted to the Mozilla Dev Derby), a few new additions have been made:

  • You can now import/export binary song files from/to your local computer.
  • You can import Sonant songs into the editor.
  • WAV export should now work much better in most browsers.
  • You get real-time audio playback when you enter notes (requires the Web Audio API, tested in Firefox Nightly and Chrome).
  • You can even enter notes using a MIDI input device (currently requires the Jazz-Plugin, in anticipation of the Web MIDI API).
  • There’s a stand-alone player routine: player-small.js.

It keeps getting better – hope you like it!

Posted in JavaScript | 15 Comments

The SoundBox synth

After releasing the 4k demo SWAY, I’ve received much positive feedback regarding the synth that was used to produce the music. The synth is based on a new work-in-progress project that I have not released yet. However, my colleges convinced me to participate in the Mozilla Dev Derby (April 2012 is all about audio), so I submitted a slightly stripped down version yesterday (I had to remove the PHP/server parts). So, now you can try it out at least (it’s GPL, so all source is available): I call it SoundBox Lite.

The background to the tool is obviously Sonant Live, but with some useful changes:

  • The soft synth core was rewritten, generally giving better sound quality (better filter logic, supporting sharp transients etc) and faster sound generation.
  • There are now four note tracks per pattern, so you can do proper chords.
  • An “effects track” was added per pattern, which gives you the opportunity to change any instrument / fx parameter dynamically (quite useful!).
  • A new distortion effect was added, giving that powerful dirty sound.
  • Also, some functions that I personally did not use that much, or that were just redundant, were removed (for a more compact player routine).

I will continue working on a more public release. In the meantime, enjoy the demo.

EDIT: You can find the official tool here: SoundBox.

Posted in JavaScript | 5 Comments

Targeting the mobile platform

The latest and greatest version of Opera Mobile (version 12) has just been released, which includes support for lots of HTML 5 goodies, including WebGL. While it usually works great, I noticed that many sites, HTML apps and demos have not really been designed for the mobile platform. In this post I will try to cover two important factors to keep in mind if you want your HTML5 / WebGL app to work well on a mobile device:

  1. Adapt the viewport size/scale to the mobile screen.
  2. Support touch input.

(I was originally planning to write up some notes on WebGL performance and precision considerations too, but I’ll save that for a later post).
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Posted in JavaScript, Mobile, WebGL | 1 Comment

Frank 4k WebGL demo – Lessons learned

Frank 4k So, I’ve just released my first proper 4k WebGL demo: Frank 4k! It’s a neat multi-part demo with 3D graphics and a low-fi synth tune, all written entirely in JavaScript (as far as I know, it’s the first of its kind).

Try it here (compressed) or here (“safe mode”, no compression, with error checks etc).

I have to admit that the design is kind of simple. One of the reasons is that I mostly focused on fitting it all into less than 4096 bytes.

If you want to know more about how I did it, read on… I hope that this post will inspire more people to try out the slightly odd art of 4k JavaScript demo programming.

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Posted in Compression, JavaScript, WebGL | 20 Comments

Muon Baryon in 6k JavaScript

I present to you my latest hack: Muon Baryon for JavaScript/WebGL. (Note: requires an HTML5/WebGL browser, a decent graphics card, and the pre-calculation time before the demo actually starts is quite long).

The Original

So, what is Muon Baryon? It’s a Windows 4k demo originally created by Youth Uprising, Ümlaüt Design and Outracks. More precisely, it’s the winner of the Assembly 2009 4k contest (so it’s a bit old – but still one of my absolute favorites). You can find out more here.

The HTML5 Port

Now, Muon Baryon was low hanging fruit for an HTML5 port, since:

  1. Most of it is written in GLSL, which is available through WebGL.
  2. The most complicated non-GLSL part was the music synth, and it has already been ported to JavaScript.

So, to begin with I started out converting the remaining C code to JavaScript, which mostly consisted of replacing things like glUseProgram() with gl.useProgram(), etc (a no-brainer). I also had to replace the handy desktop OpenGL call glRect with slightly more bloated vertex buffer code. When trying it out for the first time, nothing worked (black screen)… of course. I suspected the GLSL code and inserted the following lines after compiling the shaders:

if (!gl.getShaderParameter(shader, gl.COMPILE_STATUS))

I quickly realized that the original GLSL code was written for the older desktop GLSL 1.x (using ftransform etc), while WebGL uses GLSL ES, which has dropped a few functions. Here are a few things I had to do to convert the GLSL code to GLSL ES:

  1. Replace ftransform with a “custom” position attribute (quite simple, since the demo didn’t use any transformations).
  2. Include the line precision highp float; in the fragment shaders.
  3. Replace the while-loop with a fixed length for-loop, i.e:
while(g<1.){ ... }


for(int j=0; j<999; j++){if(g>=1.)break; ... }

Not sure about how good this solution is, but at least Firefox and Chrome do not complain. Another thing I did was to make the shader resolution independent (the original was hard-coded to a certain screen resolution). Other than that, it was quite straight forward work.

The Result

The size of the original Windows demo was 3977 bytes. I did not expect to be able to squeeze the JavaScript port down to 4k, but I hoped to get it below 8k at least. And the final result, after using Google Closure Compiler and CrunchMe to compress the code, is: 5846 bytes!!

The un-packed code can be found here: demo-unpacked.js

…and the (unreadable) packed code can be found here: demo.js

Getting it to run

Ok, I have tried this in Firefox 5 and Chromium 13+ under Ubuntu with an NVIDIA 9600 card (fairly old by now), and it works just fine.

Windows users may find that it will not work by default (seems to be an issue in the ANGLE GLSL->HLSL conversion). To make it work, enable the OpenGL back-end.

In Firefox, go to about:config, filter out “webgl” and change webgl.prefer-native-gl to true.

With Chrome, you have to start the program with an extra argument, like this: chrome.exe –use-gl=desktop.

Posted in JavaScript, WebGL | 16 Comments

Let’s make some music – online!

Music trackers for PCs have been around for decades, and I’ve personally used quite a few of them, starting with SoundTracker on the Amiga, and then various version and ProTracker, OctaMED, MadTracker and ReNoise, to name the ones I’ve used the most.

Some time ago, I came across Sonant, which is a very specialized tracker. Its main purpose is to create songs that can be used in tiny demos, where the size of the song data plus the player software must not exceed a couple of kilobytes (for comparison, an MP3 file is usually several megabytes).

For various reasons, I decided to make a JavaScript port of Sonant, and the result is:

Sonant Live

Feel free to try it out!

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Posted in JavaScript | 19 Comments