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    That New Propellerhead Thang.


    2013 - 02.24

    Here’s an awesome milestone in my electronic music-making pursuits: this Thursday a copy of Reason 6.5 showed up on the doorstep!  Having used every update back to 2.0, it’s very exciting to have my own legit copy of the latest and greatest iteration. Probably the best part about Reason 6 is that it added support for recording external sounds directly into the program to layer them on top of your tracks; the lack of this was the single biggest downfall of previous versions. They’ve changed several other things and added some new devices which I’ll need to explore as well… it’s time for me to spend some quality time here and do some learning. PUMPED UP!

    The Remee Sleep Mask: “We’ll go dreeeeeeam-innnnnnnn”


    2013 - 02.07

    In January I finally pulled the trigger and bought myself a Remee sleep mask. Unlike a typical sleep mask, it contains a set of LEDs which blink at you in your sleep. The idea behind this being that the light travels through your eyelids and if you’re in the middle of a dream, you see this flashing pattern and realize that you’re dreaming. Then you can get down to business of playing around in the dream. Lucid Dreaming baby, it’s an awesome, awesome thing.

    This mask is inspired by a product called the Novadreamer which came out a long time ago and cost $300, which was a harsh entry fee. The Remee costs $95, much more accessible but still not cheap. The main difference between the Novadreamer and the Remee is that the Novadreamer used an infrared LED and photodectector to monitor for fast movements of your eyelid/eyeball and thereby know when REM sleep is occurring. The Remee simply waits 4.5hrs after you turn it on, and then begins flashing every 20 minutes (these times are user-programmable). At first I was disappointed by this revelation that it works on a simple timer mechanism. But the more I thought about it, maybe that’s a good thing; like the saying goes, “keep it simple, stupid.”

    A great case-study in the pitfalls of needless complexity is the Wakemate, the other sleep gadget I previously wrote about. When it worked, it was extremely cool. But at least once a week it would lose your data for the night, and then in October of 2011 their website stopped functioning, which bricked everything. I thought perhaps it was my phone at fault, but since getting the Note II, I retried using the Wakemate with the new phone; exact same problem. In my opinion, the device should have connected to your PC and had standalone software. No bluetooth, no iOS or android phone needed, no website controlling your access to the data, no internet connectivity issues blocking you from uploading your sleep data… All this is needless complexity that can break the system. I would still be using it today, had their website not gone unresponsive (you can still access your old data, but you can’t login to upload new nights, or at least I can’t).

    So that in mind, I think it’s good that the Remee is a very simplistic circuit which runs on a watch battery. Low complexity, no connectivity to anything required. You can reprogram it to have different timing settings, different flashing patterns, and different LED brightnesses using the Bitbanger Labs website. We’ll see how long that remains functional, but even if it went down tomorrow, the default settings are pretty good. I hope to use this baby for many years to come.

    I’m not used to sleeping with a mask on, so for the last few weeks, the toughest challenge has been simply keeping the mask on all night. I tend to just yank it off my head in the middle of the night. Then when the ideal time for dreaming rolls around (maybe 1-2 hours before the alarm clock), it’s just chilling on my pillow. Rats!

    The box for this thing is inspiring and badass. First words you read on the back are “Shrink to the size of an atom. Travel to Mars. Fly.” I mean seriously, what product in your life have you ever bought that had those kind of claims on the box!?!?! The text goes on to clarify that Lucid Dreaming is actually pretty hard to acheieve, and is going to require a lot of discipline. Understatement! BUT–those acts are achievable for dreamers willing to be persistent, and devote some waking-time-hours into reality checking (simply asking, ‘am I dreaming?’). I want to try doing all three, as a challenge to myself. But in the reverse order they are listed: Flying should be easy. I’ve done that in several dreams before. Travel to Mars should be achieveable by summoning a spacecraft or a door (which I’ve done once). Shrinking to the size of an atom, now that might be a hard one. What would that even look like? I don’t know! It a long-term goal to shoot for!

    I have a little bit of experience with LED sleep masks, which can also be called LDID or Lucid Dreaming Induction Devices. In college I constructed one that connected to a PC using the serial port, and included a circuit that would check for eyelid movement just like the Novadreamer. In a way, it did the same thing as the WakeMate in tracking your sleep cycles too: the eyelid movement data was written to a spreadsheet using a Visual BASIC program. Viewing a graph of that data would show you how long you dreamed for, and at what times during the night. I was able to use it successfully to lucid dream a handful of times, but it was uhh, a beast to wear. Wearing a mask is hard enough, but wearing a mask with a bunch of cables coming out the top, which just makes it that much easier to fall off if you toss around (at all) during the night… it was a tall order to sustain. Eventually something went wrong with the circuit and I never took the time to troubleshoot the issue. The cables made it awfully tough to use on a regular basis, as a comfort issue. So that was that.

    I’m feeling hopeful that the Remee is more of a long-term, sustainable setup. Lying on my side with the mask on is plenty comfy, although I’m still figuring out the optimum positioning on my face so the LEDs line up at eye-height, and then maintaining that at night through different sleeping positions. I have had a couple dreams where the Remee was with me and I was observing the flashing, but didn’t cross that bridge of remembering that, hey, this means you’re dreaming! This will probably be a reoccuring theme over the next few months!

    At the most basic level, I’m happy to have this thing because it’s a daily reminder to put effort into dreaming, and a reminder in the morning to ask that all-important, time-critical question, “What Did You Dream??” It’ll take some practice, trial and error, and simple luck before I get a lucid dream out of it. For now, I’m satisfied that going to bed now has a new mindfulness to it, a new mantra of “It’s Time To Dream.”

    “You just like it because it has Galaxy in the name”


    2013 - 01.15

    Continuing the march of super awesome new gadgets in my 2013 life, & as foreshadowed previously, I am now the happy owner of a Samsung Galaxy Note II, my first Samsung phone ever.  I’m sporting it au natural (sans case) thus far, but eventually I’ll get something to protect the fantastic plastic.  First impressions: Holy smokes.  Sammy sure does know how to build a screen–the display on this thing is eyeball-popping.  Vivid, bright, saturated, & rich are all suitable adjectives to describe the picture quality.  I need to get some sweet games on this baby, starting with EDGE.  An official Rockstar port of Vice City is dropping soon too.  Y-y-y-y-yessssssss.

    Of course the most exciting thing about this phone though is the stylus.  I’m going to try to use it on a regular basis to create sketches of anything and everything.  At this point I’m still learning all the tricks this Note has to offer, which are legion.  I’ve created a few drawings while experimenting with the S-Pen software… so far nothing worth crowing about but hey practice makes perfect and I’m a pretty un-practiced doodler.  Maybe this will change?

    Other thoughts:
    * Its main camera is like, super wide-angle.  No dedicated camera button; I know I’m going to miss that.  But on the positive side, maybe this fresh start will encourage me to use Instagram more, which is just another way of saying ‘take more random pictures’.  Overall, it’s a respectable cell camera so far.
    * The giant screen real estate is glorious.  Yes, it is quite a stretch for those moments of one-handed wrangling.  But most of the time, two hands are free and the extra space does pay.  Text is bigger.  I notice that I hold it further away while reading, which is probably easier on the eyes.  So far no pockets have been overstrained.
    * Google’s “Project Butter” added vertical-sync, triple-buffered, 60Hz refresh to Android.  Although it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison with my outgoing Droid X, I’ve got to believe that the buttered-up screen makes it easier to look at.  Without a doubt, I do feel less eyestrain during a long reading session.
    * Sammy sweetens the deal further with an option to invert the display color, which can convert anything to white text on black background.  NICE!!  Good frickin call.  I never understood why black background isn’t the prevailing text format for computer displays.  It’s just better.
    * Another brilliant Samsung customization: frequently used settings like GPS, airplane mode, bluetooth are all located in the notification tray when you expand it.  Very useful.
    * 1.6GHz Quad core and 2GB of RAM.  Jeez.  These things really are becoming pocket computers.
    * About that pocket computer thing: I got the “Smart Dock” accessory which adds HDMI output and three USB ports, to which you can connect mouse and keyboard.  I’m tying this on my phone, using a full-size keyboard, and it’s SWEET.  There’s a mouse cursor.  Scroll wheels work, forward and back buttons work, and there’s keyboard shortcuts, even.  Impressive.  Haven’t tried the HDMI yet…
    * Dropped in a 64GB MicroSD card and loaded this baby up with like 15 gigs of awesome music.  My phone is ready to tackle the longest of roadtrips.
    * I wonder if there will be any extra S-Pen/stylus-centric apps still to come?  The included drawing app is quite solid, but already I can see how it’d be nice to have more Photoshop-esque functionality, like layers and opacity control for all brush types.
    * Rephrased: When is Adobe going to make ‘Photoshop Mobile’ or whatever?
    * There’s an option to change the default system font to Helvetica.  Rock on, you typography nerds.

    Impressions on the Velodyne vPulse


    2013 - 01.06

    This year for christmas, I received a gift from my lovely fiancée that I’m pretty excited about: vPulse in-ear headphones made by Velodyne.  These things are an interesting product: Velodyne is almost exclusively a subwoofer manufacturer, and a pretty good one.  It’s a bit random that they decided to come out with some headphones.  It’d be like if the people who make Swiss Army Knives, a renown and very specific product, were like, hey, let’s make a circular saw.  Those guys probably have a good idea about what specific attributes would make a good circular saw, but it takes a different set of expertise to actually manufacture that.  Can they pull it off?

    I get the distinct impression that Velodyne’s designers had owned and lived with in-ear headphones for a decent amount of time before coming up with the vPulse.  I’ve had a set of Etymotic Research ER6i in-ear headphones for many years now and they’re a great set of headphones.  But they embody many of the pitfalls characteristic to in-ear headphones: the cables easily get tangled up when you store them, those same cables tend to make noise if they brush against anything (read: your shirt) when you’re listening, the rubber noise-isolating tips can get uncomfortable in longer listening sessions, and of course: the bass is literally absent.  Not just crappy bass–NO bass.  I imagine two Velodyne engineers having a conversation: “Hey, how do you like those Etymotics?” “They’re pretty nice.  No bass at all though.  I usually listen to them with my subwoofer running too.  Kinda defeats the point of in-ear, but I gots to have them low notes.”
    So how did they do?

    Amy Winehouse’s voice sounds rich and present on “Tears Dry on Their Own”, a favorite song of mine from her album Back to Black.  I can hear some subtle phasing effects I’d never noticed before on the opening synths from Llorca’s “The End”; that’s maybe a simple byproduct of the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever listened to that tune on in-ear headphones before.  Different listening setups, without question, will emphasize a different set of nuances in any given recording.  I hear the backup vocals a lot more on Eric Krasno’s “Be Alright”.  A large number of previously obscured details pop out on “ReEmergence” by Sound Tribe Sector 9.  And the elephant in the room: all this stuff has bass!  Specifically, the basslines are well defined and full.  There’s no bloated resonances of particular notes.  Pitches and key changes are distinct.  Sometimes bass-heavy setups can sort of smear that low-range into a nebulous barrage of noise, which is not the case here.

    Of course the lowest of the lows are still missing, which is only logical.  Deep, deep bass is felt more than heard.  Bass drum is the most apparent manifestation of that fact.  Basslines definitely have the juice in these babies, but the forceful punch-in-the-chest of a kick drum is something that’s intrinsically reproduced only by Velodyne’s main product, a subwoofer.  That said, the vPulse are extremely capable.  If you’re looking for some noise-isolating headphone with real kick to them, this is IT.  These things are going to be heavenly next time I ride an airplane: they’ll totally block out all the annoying kids, the overly loud intercom announcements, and the obnoxious business travelers yapping about synergy.

    A few other listening notes for anyone who might be interested in a pair of these:

    • For anyone who’s never had in-ear headphones before, note that you will hear NOTHING happening outside of your music.  Someone could be sitting right next to you, loudly calling your name and you will be oblivious.  You would not want to use these, say, going for a jog down the street.  They would be perfect for a quiet office or a loud subway train though.
    • I listened with a mild EQ: a dip of maybe -3dB at around 2kHz.  Maybe my ears are especially sensitive at those frequencies, but I think anything and everything always sounds better with a small midrange cut.
    • The cables on these things are flat and thin, which I like.  Only time will tell if they resist tangling or become permanently bent-up like the Etymotics did.  I have a good feeling about them.  The hard case which comes along will help keep them in good shape I think.
    • Best way to avoid cable noise is to use the clip on your cable and hook it on your shirt close to the neck, so that both sides have plenty of extra room to make a wide swing around before reaching the ear.
    • I was actually made aware of these headphones by this review.  Says something strong if you’ve got a hundred pairs of headphones to listen to but you keep coming back to these…
    • The rubber ear tips are comfortable!  If I listen to my Etymotic ER6i’s for more than an hour or so, my ears start to feel sort of sore.  I’ve yet to experience that with the Velodynes.
    • The basslines on “To Feel Good” (accessible in the navigation bar music player from this website, or for download in the music section) sounded authoritive, powerful.  Those basslines were some of the most challenging low-frequency material I could throw at the vPulses and they handled it great.  There’s some strong sub-bass sine waves in there which simply aren’t present listening back on other systems without the proper bass-response.  Color me impressed.  Velodyne hooks it up!

    Revisiting some gadgetry that caught my eye


    2012 - 10.17

    Looks like Motorola has killed off the Webdock, citing insufficient demand. I’m definitely guessing it was simple pricing that killed it. $500 (later $150) for what essentially amounted to a hollow shell that projected your phone onto a bigger screen; that just won’t fly in today’s world of Android tablets that cost around the same price. I still think it was a cool idea; a multimedia-friendly dock that turns the content on your phone into something more akin to a laptop. But apparently it just wasn’t meant to be. Bon Voyage, webdock! We hardly knew ye.

    Incidentally, I still think tablets are stupid; an awkward in-between format that tries to combine laptop with phone but has the best of neither. Apparently I am far from the only one either. A very solid chunk of my random Google searchers wind up here to laugh at that derisive photo of Steve Jobs holding up four iPhones duct-taped together. Still relevant!

    And, about half a year after complaining that I was craving a new phone, guess what, I still have the same phone! Last time around I was debating the merits of the Lumia 900 and the Galaxy Note. Well come November both of these will have sequels (the Lumia 920 and the Note II respectively). Switching from iPhone to Android was cool because it was a change in ‘vibe’. That wording maybe oversells it, but I did enjoy a ‘fresh take’ on what a phone should be like. I am still interested in turning the page yet again when it comes to smartphone interaction, so I was closely following Microsoft’s take, but now it appears that the Lumia 920, the win-phone king for 2012, will be an AT&T exclusive, because in the over-dramatic-but-maybe-somewhat-true words of Gizmodo “Verizon hates you and everything you love”.

    That leaves me with the Note II, which is supposed to come to big red. A Wacom-designed stylus that has deeply-integrated support baked-in to the whole software sounds like it could really affect the ‘feel’, and possibly even what you do on it. 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity will definitely make for some bomb sketching. I do anticipate that there will be times when the large size is an annoyance, but still. I think the Note II should offer an unusual day-to-day interaction which I’d like to check out for a few years. I’m betting whatever I eventually replace it with years down the road will probably return to being normal-sized… But for a while, I’d like to live with it and see what a monstrous fiver is like. Begin the countdown now!

     I think it’ll be sweet!

    Impulse 61, earning its tour of duty stripes


    2012 - 04.01

    A little painter’s tape, a silver paint pen, and some imagination…

    Had my buddy DJ Don Solo visiting from Chicago for a little under a week, and we spent a lot of quality time on the Impulse 61 jamming out ideas and creating new electronic compositions.  Also, a round of light-up frisbee at 3:30am around the neighborhood.  Hopefully we didn’t wake too many neighbors!  With the impending move, it may not have been the ‘practical’ decision to devote a whole week to music, but hey, chances for collaboration with familiar allies are few and far between.  An EP should be coming out of these sessions, if not a full album.  Release date is still far off though; I’ve got boxes to transport and he won’t return to his Chicago workstation for a few months yet.  To be continued…

    In related news, I learned that labeling knobs on your keyboard makes you feel really cool.  Also, the Novation Automap settings are really annoying!  For the sake of anyone with a similar issue: we had this problem where the knobs and sliders would somehow be occupying the exact same midi channels.  ie when you move a knob, it also moves the slider, altering whatever that slider happened to be assigned to.  We defeated this issue by leaving the  “Reason” template and creating our own custom one, where we reassigned all sliders and knobs to “cc” with their own individual midi channels.  This cleared up every knob and slider for use!  I also got my feet wet with Ableton Live (Lite) 8, which is a killer piece of software that came with these keys.  Fun, fun stuff.

    Riding the Solid Rocket Booster, Skywalker Sound Style


    2012 - 03.28

    While we’re on the subject of pure, incredible space videos, this one:

    Sequel to my previous SRB video post, this video has got auditory improvements courtesy of Skywalker Sound.  Where was this video, like, 8 years ago when they were busy axing the space shuttle??

    I Want a New Phone: The State of Tech in Early 2012


    2012 - 03.22

    I usually don’t write about phones on here because I think they’re an ultra-transitive subject. In one year’s time, it’s likely that all phone discussion will be completely irrelevant and not worth reading, or even skimming. That’s the paradox of a cellphone; it’s the essential piece of technology that you can’t leave the house without, and which you interact with constantly, many times throughout the day. It’s extremely important–and yet it has no permanence–in a few years time it wears out and you need a new one. So this will be a phone discussion wrapped in a State of the Technological World discussion. Let’s hit it!

    I think the lifecycles of tech companies generally goes like this: Up-and-coming Company X introduces a new product which is not perfect but is pretty great. Everyone wants it. Pretty soon, everyone has it. As their market share goes up, innovation dies, bloatware multiplies, and they stop listening to anyone about the flaws in their product. Wicked and annoying quicks become enshrined under the banner of “Whaddya gonna do, chumps?! Leave us?! We’re the only game in town, so you’ll take our crap and you’ll LOVE IT! You got no other option, suckerrrrrrs!”

    In the 80s and 90s, Apple Computer was a niche market, catering to those who wanted to “think different” or those bored with the endless phalanxes of Microsoft beige-box machines. Apple was a scrappy underdog, fighting to differentiate themselves and carve out a small following against the near-monopoly of MS. Oh, the dripping irony of how time has reversed those roles! Today Apple is the most valuable American corporation. They’ve come full circle from fighting ‘the man’ to becoming ‘the man’ themselves, complete with gargantuan Asian sweatshop factories that struggle to quash suicide controversies. The iPhone is getting long in the tooth, with a dated UI design that they can’t change or abandon now, and Microsoft, of all people, are the ones with the hip’n’with-it fresh ideas! What world do we live in?!

    I had the original, first-generation iPhone shortly after it came out. And I will give it to them; it was far ahead of its time. It took a long time for Google to catch them. But eventually they did, maybe in 2009 or 2010. I’ve always hated iTunes with a passion; its slowness, the ridiculous refusal to play nice with FLAC files (which continues even several years later! Seriously, What.–TheF#%K.), lack of cool visualizers (hello Milkdrop!), lack of support for 3rd party plugins (Compressors. They make every song better. Ever. Times eight), but most of all the syncing. Oohhh boy, the syncing. You can’t share mp3s onto your friend’s iPod (like that’s going to stop anyone from burning them a CD). You can’t put songs from other computers in your own house onto your own iPod. And anytime you download a new track, you have to manually import it into iTunes, make sure it’s tagged (Apple: “What are these ‘file-names’ you speak of?”) and then wait fooorrrrrrreeeeevvvvvvveeeeerrrrrrrrr if you’re putting music onto an iPhone because it needs to do some DRM-BS with every single ‘app’ you ever downloaded. This syncing induced blood-boiling rage on many a night when I had just found some slamming new track that I knew I’d be dying to hear tomorrow. Try syncing before bedtime. You’ll be awake at least an hour longer than you intended.

    Eventually iTunes broke me. Two years ago I made the jump to Android. This netted me turn by turn GPS, better cell reception on Verizon, voice recognition long before Siri, and most importantly, access to SD card storage. Having my phone be able to function as a flash drive is the most under-appreciated part of Android. I use it constantly, every day to move files around, freely transfering them between computers and accessing them on the phone itself. And if I get a hot new track I want to listen to, it’s copied over with windows explorer in a mere seconds. No importing, no syncing, no tagging. Done. This is how it should be.

    I’ve been rocking a Motorola Droid X for nearly two years. When I first got it, it was a mean machine. One time a waiter even asked me, “hey is that the new Droid??” As a photo-nut I also love the idea of a physical, dedicated shutter release button. But lately it’s been doing some very unfortunate things which it definitely should not be doing. Like rebooting at random, and just generally getting really slow. Having owned the phone for almost two years, I know that it should not be feeling this sluggish. Something is wrong. Once, (and thankfully only once) it even committed the cardinal sin of rebooting in the middle of a phone call. That’s grounds for dismissal right there. In its defense, I have used the utter bejeezus out of this thing, even far more than I ever used my iPhone. I’m getting antsy to replace the Droid X, but honestly all the phones Verizon is offering at the moment are boring, outdated, and unimpressive.

    New phones are a dime a dozen, and even with my near-daily reading of Gizmodo and Engadget, I always skip the phone coverage. So I’ve been educating myself lately on what’s out there. I definitely don’t want to go back to Apple. I’d sooner choke myself with a 32-pin connector than suffer through another round of iTunes slogging/slavery. Plus, a bigger screen is quite nice. You get used to that. And the turn by turn GPS is majorly helpful, especially driving stickshift. But do I want an Android? What else is there?

    Google, particularly in the last several months, has been more and more annoying. They’ve come out with a unified privacy policy, which I’ve had to click ‘okay’ for, like, 50 times now. And I know what it really means. It means, ‘all this time, we’ve been collecting every single thing you do online, and now we’re gonna totally sell that shiz and get like a bajillion dollars richer for it. And you can’t opt out. Whaddya gonna do, chumps?! Use Altavista?! We’re the only game in town, so you’ll take our crap and you’ll LOVE IT! You got no other option, suckerrrrrrs!

    Actually, there is a new game in town. Microsoft has been steadily working out their “metro” UI, which was pioneered on the Zune (remember that?!), refined on the xbox, and now reached its logical zenith on Windows Phone. “Skeuomorphism” is the guiding principle behind a lot of Apple’s interface design, where the notes application looks like a yellow-page notepad, the calendar has fake leather, all the icons look like digitally recreated glass, etc–it’s feeling, idunno, tired. Metro is a clean slate, literally. It’s solid blocks of color that feel fresher and cleaner than a cluttered iOS homescreen with fake water droplets under fake glass icons (or for that matter, the me-too design aesthetics of Android).

    I really dig what Microsoft has done there, and the fact that Nokia, a very experienced hand when it comes to mobile hardware, is leading the charge on Windows phone–that interests me. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ve got Carl Zeiss printed around the lenses on those phones, even if they are plastic lenses. Searching through the MS app store, I see they’ve got all the essential apps I use; pulse, shazaam, wordpress, and the obligatory facebook (another company we’ve all become slaves to). Hmm. This is all looking pretty appealing. And I could break out from the pervasive we-know-everything-you-do-and-are-totally-getting-rich-off-it ethos of el Goog.

    Only thing is that none of these phones are available yet in the US. The Lumia 900 is totally sweet. I’d be over at the Verizon store today pickin that up if they sold it. In white. Hmm. Same story on the Lumia 610, which also looks nice. So what else is there of the “what else”?

    The biggest strength of Android would probably be choice (in many senses). Accordingly, there’s an Android phone for anyone. As I wrote about on here long, long ago, I totally went bananas for the Microsoft Courier concept videos. Sadly and stupidly the project ended up being abandoned, and MS lost one of their biggest design gurus in the fallout. Rightly so. One of the big appeals Courier held for me was the premise of using a stylus to allow digital sketching; visualizing ideas, handwriting recognition, doodling over photos or screencaps, and also for just trying to get artistic and sketch something! I still feel very drawn to that idea. Enter the Samsung Galaxy Note. (aka the Galaxy Journal on Verizon, release date…. soon??)

    It’s way oversized for a phone. The display is 1280×800, which makes 285ppi on the 5.3″ screen (wowzers). That’s monsterously, perhaps even irritatingly huge… yet that real estate is purposeful; it allows you room to draw, which is a central feature to the device. I actually went over to the local AT&T store to try this sucker out. The handwriting recognition requires careful penmanship. The stylus isn’t perfect. But it does have a wacon-designed 128 levels of pressure sensitivity, and you can certainly make drawings with it, faster, easier, and better than with a plodding fingertip, beyond question. That a pretty unique feature for something that will always be in your pocket. One that I think could potentially challenge me to sketch more, be more artistic, and maybe even pay dividends here on the website, in the form of amusing drawings to accompany blogposts, or even new hand-drawn artwork for headers and various other pages throughout the site.

    Hmph. That’s definitely food for thought. Being able to sketch might be worth flying the Android flag for a while longer. Although I do envy that sleek new Metro UI. I guess we’ll just wait and see which phone becomes available first! Expect a sequel to this post…..

    Last thing I’ll mention on the State of Tech 2012 is the disturbing trend toward “appification” in the newest crop of OSes. I don’t want “apps,” I want “programs!” The first preview version of Windows 8 dropped last week and it continues Microsoft’s unification of all platforms under the Metro UI language. As stated, I love the concept of Metro, but what I don’t like is the idea that eventually all programs will be run full screen, and frozen while not in the foreground. This is not, at all, how I use my computer now. I sometimes render timelapse video in Premiere while making beats in Reason, which has multiple windows. Multitasking and multi-window programs, which inherently improve productivity with user-customization. I hope the desktop paradigm never shifts away from that. Because if it does, I’m staying on Win 7. Call me a technophobe. ;P

    Megapixels have officially jumped the shark


    2012 - 03.01

    Okay, there’s a few interesting new bits of technology in the news that I’d like to riff on. The brand new Nokia 808 PureView, the Nikon D800, and the Canon C300. People love to focus on numbers, stats, specifications. Especially in the world of cameras, how things look ‘on paper’ is important. For many years, megapixels were kind of the end-all-be-all number that told you how good a camera was. Those days are over. In fact, they’ve been over for several years now but that won’t stop people from beating a dead horse.

    Observe:

    Nikon’s new flagship DSLR is the D800 and it’s got a whopping 36 megapixels (that makes a dastardly 7360×4912 image). This guy gets a free pass because okay, maybe some professionals are using it to shoot images which might be printed onto billboards or something. But this new Nokia 808 PureView phone (seriously, a PHONE!) has… are you ready for this? 41 megapixels. That’s just absurd. And yeah, in the end, that number is nothing more than a headline-grabber, marketing mumbo-jumbo garbage, as the final image max size which gets saved is… 8MP. Hah. But my point here is that dudes, we need a new number to focus on. Megapixels are the new gigahertz (as in computer CPUs)… they are a distraction from what’s actually relevant.

    The Canon C300 sprints boldly in the opposite direction. To be clear, the “C” stands for “Cinema” and this camera costs 16 large. However, its max still image megapixel count is a modest 8MP. And video maxes out with 1080p at 24fps (not counting interlaced modes, because f–k interlacing). However… It’s a light-eating monster. Canon should have some standardized number they could point to, which compares it to other cameras and shows how much drastically better the C300 is, in terms of real-world shooting.  Like a light sensitivity index or something.  Maybe the square micron area of the individual pixel size?

     As an aside, check out this video below, in which they compare footage from the C300 versus the Canon 550D, aka the Rebel T3i, which happens to be the camera I own!  For a camera that costs $500ish stacked up against something that costs 32 times that amount, I think the scrappy little Rebel holds up well!

    When it comes to lenses, aperture is an excellent number to compare lenses by. But try to explain what aperture actually means to someone who isn’t intimately familiar with photography: F-number, it’s the ratio of the pupil diameter of the lens (which is proportional but NOT equal to the aperture diameter) divided by the effective focal length, which is the distance from the optical center of your lens to the film plane. That distance changes as you zoom, and so does the physical size of the aperture even when set to the same f-number. The aperture diameter at 50mm f/8 is actually not the same at 100mm f/8. Oh, and it matters where the aperture is inside of your lens too. Confused yet? Good! But you can look through say, the Canon lens lineup, and instantly tell which lenses are better ones, simply by saying hey this f/2.8 lens is a lot nicer than that f/4.5 one. (I know for the heady-est of heads, that isn’t WHAT makes a lens great or sharp, but painting with a broad brush, the statement “bigger aperture=better lens” generally holds true, in the same sense that bigger magnets generally equal better loudspeakers. A giant magnet isn’t the end-all be-all of WHY a speaker is good, but hey, you don’t slap a mammoth, expensive magnet on an otherwise crap speaker.)

    What I’m saying is that we already have a standardized number, the f-stop, which rolls in a lot of really hard to discuss ideas into a nice, neat two-digit quantification. We should have something like that for light sensitivity.

    And also, it kinda seems like we’ve hit a wall with 1080p/30fps video. Why are more cameras not featuring 1080p/60fps? That sure would be nice. And for that matter, why do we not have modes like 720p/120fps? If resolutions aren’t increasing anymore (and they won’t for a long time to come because you can’t buy a consumer-grade LCD with high enough resolution to actually display anything much higher than that!), then why aren’t our framerates skyrocketing? Everyone loves slo-mo, right? I have a prediction to make: we’re going to see high-speed video modes on a friggin phone before any (consumer) interchangable lens camera gets it. It’s so backwards, but that seems to be how the industry works.

    Transitions Between Epochs ~ The Novation Impulse 61


    2012 - 02.29

    As of about a week ago, I have an awe-inspiring new arrow in my artistic quiver, and one that I really should have acquired ages ago: a USB keyboard with knobs, drum pads, and sliders. Specifically, the Novation Impulse 61. I’ve had a full-size 88-key digital piano for many years and it was a superb instrument for learning keyboards, and to a limited extent, producing with Reason. The problem was that no matter what I tried, I could never seem to overcome the problem of MIDI latency (ie lag between a keypress and the actual sound). Over 3 or 4 different computer builds and windows installs, there was always some kind of latency. Which was a real bummer, because it meant I could play chords and figure out notes for a melody, but I could never input any rhythmic passage into Reason; be it a drumbeat, a synth line, a bassline, a chord stab, anything.

    At this stage in my musical life, I don’t see myself sitting at a piano and leaning to master it purely with no accompaniment. However, I do have a whole ton of fun making tracks in Propellerheads Reason, and this is definitely a way that I see myself growing more comfortable with the keyboard and maybe even learning a pinch of music theory as well. Having a USB keyboard with no latency is a huge, huge advancement toward that end. Plus, having those assignable buttons, knobs, and sliders to tweak Reason in realtime is über-schweet.I may even call this the beginning of a new epoch in the compositions I make for fun, and by extension, my overall musicianship.

    Going forward, my goals here are to use this thing pretty much as often as I can, and also to try to post more music online with it. Historically, I always seem to obsess too much over having a track be ‘perfect’. This also leads to the tendency to start things but never finish them. There’s literally hundreds and hundreds of Reason tracks on my hard drive that started out real cool but then fizzled, as I couldn’t figure out what direction to take. I want this new epoch to be the end of the ‘beat graveyard’ so to speak. I’m really hoping this keyboard will be an impetus to break me out of the same ways of thinking, to get me more in the habit of following through, and just finishing compositions a whole lot more. This will need to be a change in mindset as well.

    All that said, I intend to start posting a lot more musical “sketches” on here–Reason compositions that aren’t “polished” but can be called “good enough”. I have this mental resistance to the phrase “good enough”… like it’s giving up on how good things could be. But you know what? “Good enough” is a whole lot cooler than “nothing”!! Here’s to turning the page, people!