TMBG Day 4

Back to work on the TMBG answering machine. The clock is ticking down. John and John are going to be on the show on Tuesday, so it’s now or never.
I’m going to post my work notes, in case there’s some interest. I’ll turn them into an article for The Screen Savers web site that might be a little more readable. I imagine most of you will want to skip along to the next post, however.

I have borrowed a “voice modem” from Roger. It’s a Zoom Model 3049 – PC V.92 56K external modem with voice capabilities. I have no idea if vgetty will work with this thing at all, but I’m willing to give it a try.

I’ve modified /etc/inittab as indicated in the (sparse) vgetty documentation to start vgetty on boot. I’m kind of guessing here but this seems to work:

S1:S3:respawn:/usr/local/sbin/vgetty modem

Checking the vgetty log file (/var/log/vgetty.modem – which is very helpful and complete) I see that indeed something is happening. Vgetty seems to be starting (amazing) and can even communicate with the modem. But I also see that I’ve put voice.conf, the vgetty configuration file, in the wrong spot. I’m moving it to the correct locale: /usr/local/sbin/mgetty+vgetty/.

Still not seeing voice.conf. I’m chmod’ing it to 666 to give world r+w privileges. That worked.

Now a new error message. There’s no group “modem”. So I’ll create one. I’ll make the root a member of modem. I think the system will always run as root anyway since there’s no net access and no way to hack it. Done. Error message is gone.

The log also tells me that the modem is a “generic Rockwell” voice modem. That’s very encouraging, since vgetty supports the Rockwell chipset. The log says it’s seeing the modem on /dev/modem and the config strings are going through. I’m getting an error however when vgetty tries to initialize the voice modem functions. Uh oh. Sure enough, the modem will not answer the phone. It sees it ringing – the AA light comes on – but it doesn’t pick up. I’m thinking it has a proprietary voice interface. Wish I had a ZyXel lying around.

While I’m pondering that problem, I’ll start working on the scripts to convert the MP3s on the CD into the answering machine message.

First I have to convert a TMBG MP3 into a form the voice modem understands (rmd) using the following programs, SoX, wavtopvf, and pvftormd. The last two come with vgetty, but I have to guess which rmd format to convert to. Probably Rockwell 8-bit, right?

# convert to 16-bit wav at 11,025 bps (that's all wavtopvf understands)
sox happy.mp3 -w -r 11025 happy.wav

# converts to pvf, an intermediate format
wavtopvf happy.wav happy.pvf

# final conversion to modem audio format
pvftormd -Rockwell 8 happy.pvf standard.rmd

This all seems to work, but there’s no way to verify it until I can get a voice modem that works with vgetty. I’m so close, but… that’s enough for today. Time to trick or treat.

Spacey ‘n’ Me

I’m not usually star stuck, but it sure was great meeting one of my favorite actors. And he was so nice, too. Invited us all out for a drink after the show.

I should have gone. Might have finally found out if he was really Keyser Soze.

Make it so

Well even if I don’t get to interview Dean Kamen (see the previous post) at least I’m meeting Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. I’m flying to LA for the day tomorrow to see the new Jimmy Neutron movie and interview Patrick Stewart (who voices one of the characters).

How’s My Hair?

I came back to work yesterday for the first time since the layoffs and it was so weird. The halls were much quieter. Partly because there were fewer people. Partly because people are a little subdued. I greeted everyone I saw with “I’m glad you survived!” which puzzled a few people until they realized that this was my first day back. But I missed so many who would have been there.
Among the most missed, our hair, makeup, and wardrobe folks. It’s humiliating to admit this, but we have to do for ourselves these days. They laid off all the stylists. I doubt this situation will last long – it’s just too bizarre to have a production assistant pretend to apply makeup to our guests – but for now I have to do my own hair and makeup. Which explains the eccentric Elvis swoop in my forelock tonight. I just couldn’t do a thing with it.

Last week I went to the local M.A.C. cosmetics store to stock up. The good news is that I get a 30% trade discount. The bad news is I’m buying makeup for myself. In case you’re interested I wear NC 35 for concealer, apply studio fix NC 40 (a powder foundation), add contour with Symmetry Matte, then powder it whenever I get shiny with Dark Blot Powder #451. I wonder how Patrick is going to handle this when he gets back?

On a brighter note, cartoonist Rich Tennant, our guest tonight and the creator of The 5th Wave, did a cartoon of Patrick and me. What an honor.

Cartoon of Leo and Pat

I think my hair looks pretty realistic, don’t you?

Kate and Kilts

Two announcements for Screen Savers fans. First, Patrick will be wearing the kilt again tonight.
And second, Kate Botello will be co-hosting with me on Monday while Patrick is in Las Vegas for Comdex.

The two events are not related. I think.