Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

A few small changes

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

There have been a few small changes since I posted here last… Let’s see.. there’s the new job, new computer, holidays, Lily turning 2, musical progress, progress on my book.. Although I can’t even begin to discuss everything here (or at least have no desire to), I’ll try to cover the basics.

New Job: In December I left my job (of 4 years) at Hopkins and went to work (doing Systems Integration) for Community Action. It is a good organization with a great mission (to fight poverty) and a lot of things going on. They (like most such non-profit organizations) have never had an IT department at all up until recently, so there is a lot of work to be done! But it is rewarding and fulfilling and pays more than my last job (just with a slightly longer commute), so I can’t complain.

New Computer: I finally broke down and bought myself a music computer. It is an HP dv6-1361SB. For those who care about such things, it runs Windows 7 Professional and gets an Experience Index of 5.9. This new computer has made a huge difference in my music making productivity, and it is really nice to finally have my own computer to do personal things (like blog posts and web design and music production and writing) on.

Holidays: We had some crazy holidays this year running around and visiting everyone, but it went well and was nice. Read all about it on the other blog.

Lily turning 2: In December our daughter Lily turned 2. That has been a fun adventure for all of us. Again, see for all the details.

Musical progress: My band Kether has

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made quite a lot of progress. Check out our site for more details.

Progress on my book: I’ve done a little bit more on my book. In case you didn’t know what that is about, check out the Mythos site. Note that most of the work I’ve done hasn’t been published there yet, but the story line has progressed quite far now, and sometime soon (after I finish the web design project I’m entrenched in) I’ll try to write a draft of all of it online.

As you can see, I’ve been very

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busy, just not on this blog. Hopefully I’ll have more to post here soon…

Don’t fear the Reaper

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Sorry. What a terrible (and overused in this context) post title. Anyway, I realized I hadn’t posted in well over a month, so I thought I’d post about the (technology) thing that’s been eating a lot of my time: Reaper. I’ve posted about Reaper here in the past, but it is worth mentioning

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that they’ve recently released version 3 of this great DAW, and with that, brought tons of features that are huge, and better than I have seen in any other music software. You can read the Big Picture Changelog to see everything they’ve done in v3, but I wanted to highlight a few specific features that I personally use a LOT:

1. Multiple Tabbed Projects. This means you can have multiple projects open at the same time. There is a great amount of flexibility here, allowing you to either layer multiple projects playing simultaneously, or set “background” projects/media to “Offline” and use tabs as a “playlist”. The latter method is the one I use, loading up a show’s worth of projects in set-list order, and then stepping through them using a button on my Axiom49 controller. This means I can run an entire live show without having to touch the PC and without having to worry about songs playing before I am ready. Cool.

2. FX parameter controls on track and mixer control panels. In english, this means that you can make a button show up for any plugin parameter (like Filter Cutoff on a softsynth) right on the track panel, so you can tweak the things you tweak a lot on your plugins without having to have the plugin GUI open and taking up screen space. Especially on laptops, this can be a HUGE productivity boost. This also covers the fact that there is a “MIDI learn” button that shows up on any assignable envelope’s “lane” (more on lanes momentarily), so you can assign any plugin parameter to any hardware controller in 2 clicks now. Reaper is definitely not the only DAW to attempt to tackle the “why is MIDI learn a pain to use?” problem, but I think that Cockos’ implementation is quite nice, and feels very well integrated into the program.

3. Automation lanes. This addition alone would have warranted a new version release of the software, as it so radically altered how it is used. Automation lanes mean that each parameter you want to automate (like the aforementioned Filter Cutoff) has its own “row” on the track screen, so that you can easily create envelopes that span multiple clips and drag/rearrange/add/delete/alter envelope points right from the “main screen” of reaper. The behavior of automation lanes is quite intelligently constructed, and greatly extends the capabilities of the program. You can even (as of v3.01) click a button to control whether envelopes follow clips as you drag them around, or stay where they are (in case, for example, you want to swap in a different vocal take, but want to preserve the timing of your vocal effects on the track).

4. Track MIDI controls. While the majority of studio engineers (recording “traditional” instruments with microphones and line inputs) likely will not ever care about or use this feature, those of us who rely on MIDI for our synthesizer and effect hardware love what Cockos has done here. There is now a whole separate Track MIDI settings window that lets you define custom track lists for your synths, send FULL SYSEX to/from them, and define custom interface knobs to control parameters (effectively levelling the playing field between MIDI hardware and VST/VSTi plugins). This has made my life a lot simpler, and for that I am grateful.

While this is just a sampling (pun intended) of the new features, I hope this prompts someone out there to check out this software. The “demo” of the software is completely uncrippled unexpiring shareware. This means you can use it forever for free with full functionality, but that after 30 days they do expect/hope you will pay the $60 for a noncommercial license or $225 for a commercial (which they define as making more than $20,000/year) license. I paid for my license (a rarity for someone who loves Open Source software for its freedom) because I greatly respect the developers (only 3 of them AFAIK) at Cockos and the community of respectful and helpful users they encourage by such an open usage/licensing policy on their software.

Pretty soon I hope to have time to actually post some of the music I’m making in Reaper, but in the meantime, you can go to Kether’s page and see some music I did post (made in Ableton Live before I used/knew about Reaper).

Raven on a Rainy Monday

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Somehow this feels appropriate. It’s a chilly, dreary Minnesota Spring Monday, and I’m trying

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out a new blogging software called “Raven“. So far it seems

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slick and not prone to many of the bugs that plague a lot of other blogging software. I wish it themed the input area like your blog (like Windows Live Writer does). As for why I’m not just using Windows Live Writer, it just “felt clunky” to me. No actually concrete reason. I haven’t tried the 2009 version yet, and maybe I should, but so far I like this Raven program. Oh yeah, and I really like Open Source, which Windows Live Writer is not, and Raven is.

I could also make an Application Shortcut to my Post in WordPress page, or use the “WordPress This” bookmarklet, but an actual client is nice because it provides a way to go to one spot where I can post on ALL the blogs I have (four, not counting Twitter).

I’ll keep you posted (No pun intended) on how I like it. I’ll also make a post soon with an update on “everything else”.

behind, between and forward

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

So over the last weekend, I built a deck behind my house, with the help of my two brothers in law and my father in law. It’s been really nice to do some work with my hands again, after quite a long time of investing my brainpower totally in technology issues and SQL programming. Doing all this work outside also gave me a great opportunity to reorganize my workshop (shed) to be functional for such a project, which is a very gratifying task to complete. I just hope I can keep it organized…

Otherwise I’ve been working on music steadily, and last week Dave and Tomtom and I had Kether practice as a band, which went very well. Tomtom had to leave early (to practice with one of the other bands he plays in) and Dave and I took the time to fix a slew of technical problems we’d been having, which was also gratifying. I’ve very firmly switched to using Reaper as my main (and pretty much only) music composition/editing software. The cheap price (free until you decide to pay for it, then $50 for a noncommercial license), ease of use, regular (sometimes quite significant) improvements/bugfixes, and huge amount of interoperability (supports VST and DX plugins, MIDI, ReWire, and more) make it pretty compelling. Oh yeah, and it’s rather fun to play in ;-) My wife could definitely attest to the amount of time Reaper has sucked away from my life..

Speaking of sucking time away, work is insanely busy right now, as the new school year just started on Tuesday, and now is the time of year when everyone wants their data RIGHT NOW. Overall this year has started much smoother than previous years, and between moving our server infrastructure to VMWare and moving our Website (to Drupal) and Moodle to being hosted offsite, I think we have plenty to look

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forward to.

That, at least, is a nice change.


Monday, April 7th, 2008

No, I’m not referring to the Nine Inch Nails records (good as they may be). I’m referring to the fact that our server was hacked into and broken pretty badly.  Due to Jamie (the *real* sysadmin of this server) working hard, and me fixing MySQL, the server is back. Thanks Jamie!

Reviving the Yamaha DX7s, part 3

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

[Note: this is Part 3 of our saga. You may want to start with Part 1]

Well, it’s all done. It’s actually all been done for most of the week, but I haven’t had time to post about it. My DX7s is totally working, and everything tests OK. And it was the pitch wheel. Sort of. (more…)

RT73 (Belkin 54g USB) on Ubuntu 7.10

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

1. The Back Story [Note: If you just want to know how to make the adapter work, skip to section 2] In my previous post, I mentioned that my music pc’s hard drive bit the dust. There are few things that can make an IT person’s heart sink like turning on their computer and hearing “click click CHUNK CHUNK CHUNK” and then SILENCE, followed by a nice “INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER” message. Thankfully I had backed up at least the majority of the content that I really cared about. So I went to Micro Center and bought a new Seagate 250GB SATA drive. Yay. Now, to reinstall the OS. (more…)

Reviving the Yamaha DX7s, part 2

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

[Note: this is Part 2 of our saga.  You may want to start with Part 1]

So I finally had time tonight to look at the DX7s.  I was planning on spending a bunch of time tonight working with my new Presonus Firepod, but that didn’t work out as I had hoped.  Presonus sent me the unit, but no power adapter (even though there was even a tag on the box from the factory that said “include power adapter before shipping”)!  I’ve emailed Presonus customer support about it, and based on my dealings with them so far, I expect we’ll be able to work something out.   It just means I have to wait even longer to use it.


Power Trip

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

I still haven’t had time to work on the DX7 more, but I have gotten slightly farther on my music studio. Today after work I dropped Jill off at her parents’ house and then went home. There I boxed up my old Nady CL-5000 (mk I) Compressor and got it ready to sell. I then went to Uptown (Minneapolis) and got my friend (and Kether’s guitar player) Tom, and from there we went to the St Paul Music Go Round, where I traded the CL-5000 and some cash for a Furman PL-8 Power Conditioner. I’ve wanted a (more…)

Reviving the Yamaha DX7s, part 1

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Yamaha DX7s

I wish I had been taking pictures of this whole process. In case you haven’t been following along, I have a Yamaha DX7s which, since it’s “inception” in the late 80’s, has seen many owners and a lot of disregard. Two keys were broken, along with the pitch wheel being “wobbly” and the battery needing to be replaced (considering the amount of leaked acid on the battery, I’d guess for several years). Since I know the value of the DX7 (a really impressive partial list of users can be found here) I took it upon myself to “revive” this one.


yet another new look, and some arrivals

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

So i’m trying this theme i made. Like I said in the previous post, I was going for something brighter and more “fluid”. This theme (which i’ve dubbed “Hydrostatic”) is totally fluid-width, with really simple layout. I’m sure I’ll change it a

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ton more times before I finally submit it to the WordPress themes codex, but I do plan to submit..

In other news, two of my packages finally arrived.. apparently a few days ago! The delivery man just put them by the side door (which we don’t use during the winter) last week, and I never noticed till today. Thankfully the boxes were sealed shut and they seemed ok, but I figured I’d let them sit at room temperature for the rest of the day before I plugged them in. Nothing for several hundred dollars worth of 14 year old electronics like sitting outside for several days during a Minnesota winter…

At least they came. I also got a notice from Presonus that my Firepod (an FP-10, technically) shipped last week, and should arrive on Tuesday! Then I’m just waiting for the replacement keys for the DX7s, and I can finish putting my studio back together. I really do plan to post pictures.

Long Mobile Post, v2

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

So as I sit on hold with the tech support from the company who makes our finance database, I’m taking another stab at making a longer news post. There are three things

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that overshadow everything else in my life right now, and I’ll go through them in order of importance/insanity.

First, there’s the fact that my wife Jill is due with our son on December 12th! She and the baby are doing well, but this means a LOT of planning and preparation and thinking about all sorts of baby/family stuff I’ve otherwise never really payed attention to. I’m excited for the baby to come out and meet us, and don’t feel as nervous as Jill seems to feel, but I can’t say I blame her – I don’t have to actually give birth… (more…)

“Mobile Blogging” with uBlog

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

After making a few failed attempts to blog from my palm using the OpenSource software “Plogit”, I’m trying a smaller (and much less

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feature-rich) one called uBlog. We’ll see how this goes…

Software Sunday

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

Please excuse the alliteration. I’ve been playing around on my computer today and tried out (or at least tried “for real this time”) some new software that I think is work mentioning..

The first is Pidgin, which is not a brand new IM client, but instead the newest version of the ever popular GAIM IM client. It seems that the GAIM folks were sued by AOL (oh come on) and decided to change the name instead of fight it. At any rate, they seem to have also used the opportunity to release a product that is rather substantially different (and better) from any previous version of GAIM. Try it out.. it’s probably better than whatever other IM client you’re using…

The next thing is SongBird Media Player. SongBird is a media player built on top of Mozilla Firefox. Really. Instead of just trying to be an “OSS iTunes” (which is does very well), its focus is that it will catalog ALL of the media you consume, whether it be your iTunes, your MP3 collection, your favorite Internet radio station, or even your favorite music or video website. You can use it to “play the web”. Neat huh? It’s still in development (the official 1.0 public release is expected sometime this year), but you can go check it out and see where online media is going. Seriously, ditch Winamp already!

While I was surfing around on the SongBird website, I also ran across a similarly named (and just as interesting) project, also based on Mozilla, called Flock. Flock is sort-of a replacement for Mozilla Firefox. More specifically though, its Firefox “modded” to be WAY more useful on Social Networking sites (like WordPress blogs like this one, or like Flickr). It has a builtin Flickr photobar, builtin blog posting clients (which I am actually using to post this entry now!) and many other enhancements to make the “Social Web” easier and more fun to traverse. If you are a blogger or Myspace-er or Flickr-er, you really ought to try this out…

So that’s what I’ve been playing with in my “spare time”, in between working, and working on my new my new record. Ahh, the Internet…

All sorts of new…

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

So many new things to talk about. Obviously the theme looks pretty new, especially if you haven’t been here in a while. We also got a new digital camera, which was a very nice investment. This will be especially nice for our trip to Ireland this summer! Expect a flickr site very soon.

Also new this week is the new Tool CD, “10,000 Days”. I am buying a copy tonight, and will post a review of it once I’ve gotten to let it sink in. So far though, what I’ve heard has been “typical Tool”, which is to say “amazing!”.

There was more, but I’m sure many of you will be shocked to discover that I don’t remember it. More when I do.


Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

After spending much time working on my Wedding website and brushing up my CSS skills, I did a rather quick CSS rewrite of this site and (in case you didn’t notice) ended up changing the appearance very drastically. It scales a LOT better now (down to 800×600 at least, though it was made on my laptop at 1400×1050 resolution) that I’m not using tables, and is easier to parse. One major and obvious change was to “lighten up” quite a bit. This was mostly done for a change and because on many monitors the old theme was dark nd rather difficult to read. This one should look fine to everyone and is much easier for me to edit as well. I’ll go ahead and say my obligatory “please email me with any suggestions or comments”, not that anyone ever actually has, but it seems worth saying for some reason.

Whatever. I guess I like it better, anyway…

VST Support in Linux

Friday, April 28th, 2006

So after much trial and error, I got VST support (think Cubase, or Fruityloops, or Ableton) to work in Linux. I have since installed MANY free VSTi’s (a great list can be found at . Some of the more interesting ones on that list are made by ArcDev noise Industries (, and after some emailing back and forth with him, he asked me to write a short synopsis on how to get VST Support to work in Linux. I accepted his challenge.

Here is an “alpha” version of my “Short Synopsis on how to get VST support to work in Linux“. Enjoy and feel free to contact me with questions!