Adventures in MIDI

I recently purchased a USB Audio interface after several years away from recording any digital audio. I went with the Tascam US-2×2, having read great reviews online and knowing that I could trust Tascam with my recordings. My earliest home studio recordings were on the Tascam Portastudio 414 Mkii, which was part of the later tape based versions of the Portastudio line of products.

My goal with this audio interface is to record a weekly podcast with a friend and to use my iPhone and iMac to record some music. I also wanted to experiment with something I had never really used much: MIDI.
Surprisingly, with all the hours I spent recording music, I never recorded using MIDI. I would always record my keyboard as a direct digital recording, and any MIDI tracks I used were loops.

Once I had everything I needed, I set it up and connected the interface to the iPhone, and my Alesis QS 8.1 (which is now 18 years old!) and played a note with the Alchemy synth on Garageband… nothing happened. I spent several hours trying various settings, looking for help online, and other regular troubleshooting options. Nothing worked. I could use a direct input to the interface, but MIDI would not function as it should. I gave up for the night.

I decided to try a different keyboard and I remembered I had my old RockBand 3 keytar lying around. After a few years of non-use and some forgotten batteries, I had a major battery leak to clean up. Once that was taken care of, I decided to connect it to my iMac – it worked! So then I tried to connect it to my iPhone… it did not work.
This leaves me completely at a loss as to why MIDI is not working on my iPhone even though I know that it should. At least for now, I have an extremely portable keyboard I can use at my iMac without having to drag a 65 lbs weighted keyboard up to it.

Small victories.

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Adventures in MIDI

Programs in the App Store

After many years of wavering, I have pretty much shifted to saying apps instead of programs, and I’m not sure I like it.

I really didn’t have much of a choice, considering the place where I get “programs,” be it for my iPhone or my Mac, is called the App Store. I’m not even sure how much I like these app stores. I don’t have much a of choice with my iPhone, but on my Mac, whenever possible, I avoid the official Mac App Store because I prefer to get apps directly from the developer whenever possible. The Mac App Store is also really slow and buggy, even on my relatively powerful iMac.

Then there’s the iPhone. Wandering into the iOS App Store without an idea of the specific app I want to buy is an overwhelming experience. The amount of garbage that’s in there that is either useless, terrible, ugly, and in some cases dangerous is something Apple should be embarrassed about. Issues can range from not being optimized for recent iPhone models, to causing severe battery drain (hi there Pokemon Go!), or to pretty much tracking you.

The thing is, I don’t use many apps because I live a clutter free digital lifestyle. The problems the app stores have don’t affect me too much. The biggest problem these stores have brought me has been changing my brain to calling them apps instead of programs, and that makes me a little sad.

Programs in the App Store

Air Pods are Tempting

Those Air Pods are really tempting, but I’m not sure I want to be dropping almost $250 on them. I have good Apple in-ear buds and I think that money will be better spent on a new iPad in the spring.

My first generation iPad Mini is starting to feel its age and I’m really interesting in the 12.9 inch iPad Pro. The money spent on the Air Pods would pay for a Smart Cover, a case, and a storage upgrade, so I think I’ll hold off for now. They’re really nice looking though.

Air Pods are Tempting

The Price of Innovation

On October 27, 2016, Apple has announced new MacBook Pro laptops with an innovative new feature: the Touch Bar. It’s a really interesting concept, with fantastic possibilities for productivity. The thing is, these new MacBook Pros are by far the most expensive products we’ve seen in a while from Apple.

Apple seems to be forgetting about the regular consumer that wants to buy a Mac because they’ve heard they’re easier to use than Windows machines. In Canada, the least expensive MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar is $2300, although you do get a lot of computer for that price. It’s not over-priced for what it is (there’s amazing tech in these MacBooks), it’s just that if you want to get started with the Touch Bar, you’ll be paying quite a bit.

Now, you can still buy the March 2015 MacBook Air for a much more reasonable $1200, but I worry that they won’t be keeping that model updated. For now, it’s still a really great Mac that will work well for most non-pro users. Apple, however, has a history of letting consumer models fester without updates and in. a few months, it’ll be really hard to recommend that Mac to family and friends that want to get a new laptop.

The Price of Innovation

Video Games in 2016

I’ve been having a hard time getting into playing video games this year. I haven’t bought anything new in a long while (since MGS 5 The Phantom Pain), and nothing much has been able to hold my interest. I’m trying to get into The Witcher 3, which by all accounts is an excellent game. I’m not too far into it, and I’ve been trying to play it since the end of last year, when it was on sale for $30.

This weekend I managed to get a little spark of interest going and as we start leaving the summer, I will hopefully get into it more, because it’s exactly the type of game I’ve always loved – an epic fantasy role playing game. It’s basically what I dreamed of what I wanted a video game to be when I was playing The Legend of Zelda in 1987. Almost 30 years later, I can play it in my basement, and I’m hardly spending any time with it.

Video Games in 2016

I forgot my camera

I was planning on bringing my DSLR to Disney World this year, but it was the one thing I forgot to pack because I didn’t add it to my list. I enjoy taking pictures with my DSLR because I have a lot of options available to me, but I was stuck with the camera on my phone. Luckily, in 2016, the camera on a cell phone is pretty amazing.

I have an iPhone 6S and Apple actually has an entire ad campaign dedicated to the pictures people take on with their iPhone. I definitely took pictures (and shot video) – over 450 of them. Of course, not all of them were great, but a lot of them were. It also gave me the chance to really experiment with my shot framing, since I don’t have a telephoto lens to rely on with my phone. Although I was disappointed that I forgot my camera, once I was there, it was nice not having to carry it around. As great as it is, it does get in the way.

Here are a some nice shots i managed to get of the iconic monuments at a few of the parks:

I enjoyed this year’s family vacation and I’m glad that I was able to take some great pictures even though I didn’t bring my “good” camera. If you have a modern smart phone, you can be pretty sure you’ll be able to shoot some good photos and videos. Well, as long as you don’t shoot your videos in portrait mode… please don’t do that.

I forgot my camera