Virtual Jamming

Four fixes for the major problem facing musicians who play together on the Web: lag

4 min read

You live in San Francisco and play the guitar, your bassist lives in Reno, and your drummer lives in Vancouver. To rehearse or even just get together and jam from so far away you need a way to meet in the same virtual performance room. The main problem is lag, the delay between the sounding of a note at one end of a circuit and its reception at the other end. Lag ”should be much less than during a telephone conversation,” says Stan Vonog, a Ph.D. candidate in physics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. You can manage to talk around a lag as high as 200 to 300 milliseconds, he says, but for multiplayer jam sessions, anything above 50ms renders a piece of music practically unplayable.

Vonog founded Musigy (pronounced MUSE-a-gee), based in San Francisco, to cut lag down to a manageable size. Just what's manageable depends, however, on how far apart the band members are. If the speed of light were the only constraint, you could keep lag under 50 ms across 8000 kilometers. Of course, electricity doesn't move quite that fast, and there are additional delays during signal processing and network rerouting. Together they bring the actual range down to 3200 km.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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