sonic pi exploration three

exploration three

By code, Music

This is a Sonic Pi song.

It looks like this:

use_synth :hollow
with_fx :reverb, mix: 0.7 do
live_loop :low do
sample :ambi_dark_woosh
play 42
sleep 7
live_loop :deep do
play choose([:b3,:c3]), attack: 6, release: 8
sleep 4
live_loop :synth1 do
play choose([:b4,:c4]), attack: 6, release: 6
sleep 8
live_loop :synth2 do
play choose([:b3,:c3]), attack: 6, release: 6
sleep 4
live_loop :synth3 do
play choose([:A3, :Cs4]), attack: 5, release: 5
sleep 11
live_loop :beats do
sample :ambi_choir, beat_stretch: 8, attack: 5, release: 6
sleep 9
live_loop :boom do
with_fx :reverb, room: 1 do
sample :bd_boom, amp: 20, rate: 0.5
sleep 8
live_loop :chime do
with_fx :echo, phase: 0.125 do
play 50
sleep 5
sample :elec_plip
sleep 4
play 62

It sounds like this:

lines of computer code Drupal demo

Create a temporary Drupal demo application (macOS)

By code

This is an amazingly quick way to create a fully working Drupal demo on your computer. It’s perfect for mucking about with and exploring before you take that deep dive into theme, module or software development.

Drupal Demo Requirements

  • Terminal
  • PHP 5.59+ (included with macOS)

Create a new directory for the instance and move into that directory:

mkdir drupal
cd drupal

Download the latest recommended version of Drupal into this new directory:

curl -sSL https://www.drupal.org/download-latest/tar.gz | tar -xz --strip-components=1

Start the built-in PHP web server and install the sample theme:

php core/scripts/drupal quick-start demo_umami

This will also open your browser all ready to log in.

That’s it. Easy. And of you need help then:

php core/scripts/drupal quick-start --help
Page of Code

Coding Update

By code

I’ve moved to learning JavaScript. The reasons are:

I think that’s good enough for me. Here are two free resources to learn:

And here’s some paid ones:

It’s also because I’m running a course at the end of the year using React, JS and Node and I want to up my coding game before then. D



Cyvasse board. All laid out nice.

Side Project Stories #14

By Articles

Last year Dave Jarman (Senior Teaching Fellow in Entrepreneurship at the University of Bristol) wrote an article about me and side projects when Sparkwood and 21 was mostly a side project. I guess it still is, but it’s more of a side project now than it was.

This article first appeared here. Here it is in full.

For this latest blog I got tipped off by a previous side project pioneer, Travis Baldwin who was #7, about another designer/maker with some interesting side projects. I was sold from the moment his website described him as ‘chaotic good’; a fellow gamer would always be someone who could articulate the value of hobbies and side projects.


Duncan describes his day job as ‘laser luminary’ at Bristol Design Forge – he co-runs a laser-cutting workshop in Stokes Croft in Bristol realising and developing the ideas of artists and creatives in physical form with the help of a laser cutter and a little woodwork.

However, Duncan is also an enthusiastic side project pioneer with a host of other activities running in parallel.

Whilst he acknowledges the 3D artwork is “probably pure pleasure” some of the other activities definitely qualify in what I would identify as side project territory. Passion for making things is clear in Duncan’s work, mixing his professional skills and a love of games. Duncan describes his ambition, his plan for tomorrow, as becoming a “self-sustaining creative”.


Sparkwood and 21 makes games, physical tabletop games, card games, maps and illustrations for roleplaying games, and maybe even computer games soon.

This all started whilst he was a mature student studying design; Duncan undertook a 10-day public project to learn how to make a chess set for blind people as a design challenge. He had to learn how to design and develop it, and make it, all whilst posting live updates on the project for all those following.

“Having been through that horror I wondered if I could make any money from it…”

He sold a few and started working on other games with Sparkwood and 21 becoming his side project.

However, he now acknowledges that the market isn’t really there:

“The games market is saturated and the specific market for high-production value, small-batch games is just too small and not sustainable.”

Whilst he did have some success with a higher-priced edition of a self-made version of the fictional Cyvasse board game (from Game of Thrones) the process of potential customers mulling it over, asking lots of questions, and generally soaking up time reduced the profit margin with this ‘cost of sales’ being an unforeseen expense.


“Not really a monetary thing, it’s about the pleasure of learning, although it is nice to find a way to make some money!”

Duncan revels in learning new things – from craft skills to digital techniques – all of which give him professional benefits but also keep him interested and allow him to keep exploring.

He was inspired by people like Beeple (Mike Winkleman) spending thousands of consecutive days making daily 3D images that get better and better. This example again involves publicly sharing personal learning and development work as part of a ‘contract’ you might make with an audience to keep you on track. The act of sharing being a catalyst to side project development is something we’ve seen before (specifically with Will Mabbitt but elsewhere too).

Duncan likes the idea of time-limited public challenges for a specific reason;

“Most people don’t like letting go of a project, they just continue to make small changes and never finish and let go. If you share your work in progress or set a time-limit then interested parties start asking to play it, use it, see it read it – so you have to let it go!”


Despite the value of others in catalysing projects Duncan echoes Gav Strange in wanting to do many of these projects by and for himself.

“I like the selfishness, being a complete unit.”

This isn’t to say he doesn’t value collaboration and regards much of his best work as arising from those collaborations but for sheer creative self-expression going solo is best:

“I enjoy bouncing ideas off people, but then going off by myself to create something fresh and new from those ideas.”

Going it alone means you’re also in control of what you’re doing.

“I like throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks, if I’m not enjoying the process I’ll just stop doing it.”

One drawback of both going it alone and having the freedom to stop and drop projects is knowing when to stop exploring ideas and starting to act more ruthlessly to execute and deliver the ideas that have value. Duncan recognises that he loves the ‘search’ for ideas but maybe not the ‘execution’ – not that he can’t focus, but that he can’t stop exploring and be ruthless. At the Design Forge his partner is the more ruthless, focused one who “doesn’t do hobbies” and drives the business in that sense.


  • There is great value in doing something every day, like Mike Winkleman referenced above, if you commit to a daily development activity you can really evidence progress over time however small the daily steps are.
  • The time limited public challenges: “it kills the darlings, those ideas you love but will go nowhere, you have to deliver something so it stops you agonising over decisions.”
  • Add randomness: Duncan developed his own cards based upon the famous Brian Eno Oblique Strategies method of random provocations, the use of gamification, can you “iterate yourself away from your usual method?”

Plans for the rest of 2019

By Notes

2019 is shaping up to be an interesting year so far: new job, new hobbies, change of life direction. All the usual. But I’m planning how to break down the rest of the year.

I’m going to make this blog the main focus for all the things I’m trying to do. A central repository for projects, coding, work, rest and play.

I’m not sure how may times I’m going to post, but I’d really like to make future posts informative and useful. So bear that in mind.

This is what I do.


During the daylight hours, these are the guys that I project manage for. I get great opportunities to meet interesting people / organisations. I also work on developing people’s technical skills to help them change their lives. All very rewarding. I’m certainly going to try and do more of that this year, f’sho.

we make small, beautiful games.

Sparkwood and 21

My wonderful and scrambled organisation that seems to have settled down as some sort of Game Development organisation is still knocking about.

I’m working on games. Two games. Currently doing a lot of background stuff so there’s nothing to be seen there for a while. When something does finally happen you’re totally going to know about it here.

IF you want, you can go and check out how the site looks. It’s cool.

I can’t feel anything below the skin.

Skinny Feels

This is the band I’m part of. When I can’t sleep I make unusual musical tunes that come under the Skinny Feels umbrella.

I’m currently working on an EP called Make Albion Great Again. It’s a series of songs that have been inspired or have inspired some folk horror short stories. Hopefully, all will be published and released by the end of the year. But we shall see. That’s a very positive outlook.

For all the current stuff, go check out the website.

uses this


Yes, that’s right. I’m learning how to code properly. Design is dead! Long live code!

Anyways, I’m learning Swift so I can make apps for the Mac. I have a bunch of ideas and I want to see if I can make any of them see the light.

After that I’m going to learn Python as it’s a great all-round language and it’s close to GodotEngine code. And that’s what I’m going to be using to make the games for Sparkwood and 21. Because it’s open source. And has a fairly low barrier to entry. Other than the whole learn Python bit.

Yes. That will keep me out of trouble. See what I’ve started already.

Landscape Series
A fairly old 3D image I had to knock out in 2 hours.


I can’t lie. I love 3D art. I love making 3D abstract art. So I’m going to keep on doing it. Not as much as I used to, but it’ll still happen.

I’ve decided that I will stick up various ‘seasons’ of abstract art onto my Behance Profile so it can all stay in the same place. I can explore different styles and ideas per season, if you will.

It’ll be fun.

As usual, I’m going to be using the latest version of Blender to make these things happen.

Vector map of Bath

Vector Graphics

I love how detailed you can get with vector graphics and what lovely things you can create with them.

I’ve made a bunch of them before and I’ll be continuing with creating the occasional one of these as and when I can.

I’ll probably stick them on my Dribble Account as and when they happen.

And that is pretty much it. Seems like a lot, but it’s all done slowly and methodically as and when I have the spare time.


Futureproofing portfolio

By Portfolio

Good morning. And welcome to the 2019 updated version of this blog. I’ve decided to go full WordPress at duncanmckean.com so I can get the benefits of their new Gutenberg block thing.

Basically, as well, is that I want to future proof this site and make sure that it’s fast, neat and styled for the now. So it’ll look like this until they come out with a new theme. Probably.

The downside to this is that my portfolio no longer works and so I’m working through my old work and adding it here in a suitable and fitting way.

I like your hair.