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Revision takes to the road :: Grease powered groove

Most people have heard of cars that run on vegetable oil. More and more people are converting their vehicles to b e able to run on alternative fuels. For about $1,000 you can purchase a conversion kit online that will add a second tank to your car for vegetable oil while the original contains diesel fuel. The diesel fuel is only used to heat the vegetable oil until it can flow freely enough to be used as the primary source.

Revision, a funk/rock trio from Ithaca, NY, travels in a van powered on grease. These guys should receive medals or something. Let’s look at their merits:

1. First off, they’re spreading funky music and good vibes to people wherever they go
2. They travel around in an alternative fuel-powered vehicle
3. There latest album was released on USB thumb drives which can be reused once the content is downloaded off of them

How cool is that? On top of that, they’re good natured, hard working, talented musicians with something to say. Check them out.

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Instant Holograms? :: Super cool technology

I happened to see this on photographer Chase Jarvis’ blog and I thought it was quite cool. This technology allows users to see a hologram created by image recognition software running in tandem with a web cam. It’s being called “Augmented Reality.” Now, if that seemed like totally unrecognizable geek-talk to you, then here’s the the best way to understand it:

It’s actually something the GE has put together to create what appears to be a bit of a renewable energy viral marketing campaign. You can actually print out the sheet of paper and do this yourself.

Imagine what this technology could mean for the future? You could hold up a sheet of paper with some funky shapes on it and then see a presentation appear on the screen before you. How cool is that?

Technology changes too fast! :: Zoom H4n

By the time you’ve finished reading this post, chances are at least one piece of technology has been replaced by something smaller, more powerful and easier to use. As an audio engineer, I experience this stuff on a day to day basis. I may purchase a new pre-amp just to see someone come out with a better version with added functionality only weeks later. 

These occurrences are even more common around this time of the year with the music products industry. It’s been almost a month since the Winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) trade show took place and companies and releasing their new products for the year. 

I experience a love/hate relationship with this trade show; I love checking out all of the new gear that is soon to hit the floor. There are all kinds of amazing improvements being made, particularly in recording and synthesis. But I hate when a piece of gear gets replaced by the “mark II” version or worse, becomes obsolete altogether. 

Today, it’s my Zoom H4 handheld recorder (reviewed here). It seems that Samson Technologies (the parent company for Zoom as well as the amplifier company, Hartke) is releasing the H4n. Now realistically, I knew this would happen at some point. But why now?

The worst part, is that the new version is packed full of all kinds of great new features. Here’s a quick list:

  • Built-in X/Y stereo mics record at either 90° or 120°
  • Four channel simultaneous recording using built-in and external mics
  • Digitally controlled, high-quality mic preamp for improved audio quality
  • Large 1.9-Inch LCD screen and improved user interface for easy operation
  • 24bit/96kHz Linear PCM recording for pristine recording
  • Built-in reference speaker to check recordings
  • Shock resistant rubberized body for improved chassis protection
  • Broadcast Wave Format (BWF) compatible time stamp and track marker
  • Records on SD/SDHC media of up to 32GB for maximum recording time
  • Variable speed playback capability for “phrase training”
  • Stamina mode enables 10 hours of continuous battery life
  • Onboard mid-side matrix decoder for additional miking possibilities
  • Built-in mounting joint for tripod and mic stand mounting
  • USB 2.0 port for faster file transfer
  • Optional remote control (RC4) available

 

One of my favorites has to be the ability for the H4n to record to up to 32GB cards. That’s a major downfall of the H4. I can only go up to 2GB in card size right now. It hasn’t been horrible, but to not have to switch out cards during a longer session would be wonderful. Another great feature has to be the 4-channel simultaneous recording capability. Now you can record with built-in mics as well as external mics at the same time. This is great when you’re recording direct from a sound board but also want to get the room sound. Also, the H4n has a built-in mount now for attaching it to a stand. Ironically enough, I came across the H4n as I was searching online for the possibility of getting a new cradle for my H4 (I seem to have misplaced it…). 

What does this mean? Well, I’ll likely be selling my H4 and picking up the H4n in the near future. I’m a victim of technological progression. What can I say?

 

The new H4n by Zoom

The new H4n by Zoom

Back again!

It’s been a hard two weeks, not having my MacBook Pro around. I brought it in to Small Dog Electronics (S. Burlington, VT), my local Apple dealer, to have the optical drive and top case replaced. Little did I know, the avalanche was just beginning to form.

Here’s a quick run-down of the events that occurred:

12.13 : Bring laptop to Small Dog Electronic under Apple Care (a $300 purchase I made with my Mac to cover it for 3 years) 

12.15 : I receive a call from Small Dog Electronics telling me that I need to plead my case for coverage by Apple Care to Apple. So I call up Apple and deal with the usual hierarchy of not-so-knowledgeable people. (I wouldn’t expect this from Apple though…) Finally I was told that I would receive a call later in the week telling me if they’d cover it.

12.16 : I receive a call saying that it will be covered by Apple Care. I stop by at Small Dog to pick up my Mac and back up a few things onto my external HD.

12.17 : My Mac is sent to the Apple Depot for repair.

12.22 : I’m told that my Mac is back! But wait, Apple switched Macs and they sent the wrong one. Mine is actually on the West Coast. Great. Now I’m dealing with a bunch of extra junk. Meanwhile I’m wishing that Small Dog could have just down the replacement repairs in-house (as I was told by an Apple Rep that they would be). 

12.23 : I speak with someone from Apple about the situation, explaining what an inconvenience it has been for me. This is the good part; I ended up getting a complimentary copy of OS X 10.5.4 (Leopard) out of the ordeal. 

12.24 : Sadly, the Apple store on the West Coast sent my Mac back to the Apple Depot instead of directly to Small Dog Electronics. Apple sends my Mac out on the 24th.

12.25 : [Merry Christmas!]

12.26 : I stop by at Small Dog Electronics and pick up my Mac. Oh but guess what?!? Apple decided to wipe my HD! Good thing I back a bunch of stuff up. Sadly, my entire music library was not included in that back up (I think I’ll be doing that in the future). I was bummed that nowhere in my packaging documentation did it mention that they had to wipe the HD but oh well. 

So, I’ve been running installations, updates and upgrades since 2:00pm yesterday.

The good news, I have Mac OS X 10.5.6 Leopard now and I’m running Pro Tools 8 (more on that later). I also have a sleek, sexy new top case (including keyboard) and a new superdrive. It’s a good thing.

Moral of the story:
ALWAYS backup as much information as possible onto an external hard drive. If you don’t own one, you should. You can get a 1 terabyte MyBook for around $140 these days, there’s no excuse not to own one.

Also, don’t assume that the authorized Apple dealer/repair shop will actually be able to do anything. The only thing that Small Dog Electronics did was tell me something that I already knew; my optical drive was dead and needed to be replaced. On top of that, they offered to charge me $89 to “speed up the diagnostics process.” Amazingly enough, that was the fastest part of the ordeal (and I’ll save my $89 for something else, thanks).

Don’t just accept what you’re told when dealing with warranties, fight! I managed to get what I wanted (and rightfully so- it was the first time I was using my Apple Care plan and I paid for it to actually cover things when they happen) and get compensated for dealing with some shipping BS. 

[/rant]

Since I was unable to blog during the holidays, let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and happy holidays (whatever they may be).

iPod Touch :: Review

It’s been a few weeks since my 16g iPod Touch arrived. I’ve had time to use just about all of it’s features and test its capabilities. 

Out of Box:
My excitement was at a peak when I opened the box for the iPod Touch and slide the casing out. I opened the lid, pulled back the protective film on the iPod and smiled. I realized that this was most likely the last time I would see my iPod in such pristine condition.

The moment passed quickly and I pulled out the iPod and cable, quickly hooking it up to my MacBook Pro. I had to run a quick update to iTunes 8.0 but then I was good to go. The iPod Touch was fully charged and I threw an album or two on it before running to rehearsal.

Ease of Use:
I have yet to look at any sort of directions for the iPod Touch. Honestly, these days, you shouldn’t have to. Most of these things work right out of the box and, if needed, have dialog boxes that appear as you first set the unit up.

Putting music on the iPod Touch is just as easy as loading music on any iPod. Due to my huge library of music, a smaller library for the iPod Touch was created and I can drag and drop music into it. Downloading applications is simple as well. As soon as they’re downloaded, you can sync your iPod and you’re good to go. You can even download apps with Wi-Fi and not even use your computer.

Physical Design:
This little guy is light and skinny! I need to get it a protective casing our something because it does feel kind of vulnerable sometimes. While the front side (display) hasn’t gotten scratched at all and is supposedly quite scratch resistant, the backside is already “well worn.” 

The location of the four buttons is great. The “power” button is easily accessible on the top of the iPod and volume is just around the corner (on the side). The only thing that I didn’t like was that the “home” button (I call it that because it brings you back to what would essentially be your desktop) is so close to the touch screen that I’ve hit it during my finger frenzies of playing Pac Man. I guess it happens.

I’ve decided that the screen is the perfect size. I’ve read emails, surfed the web, read blogs, watched YouTube videos and scrolled through my photo library on it and was quite impressed with the quality and size of the images. 

WiFi:
Connecting the internet is so simple. It’s just as easy as connecting via WiFi on any laptop. The iPod Touch searches for the strongest signal and acquires it once you’ve entered the password (if applicable). You only have to enter passwords once so joining your usual network is automatic.

I’ve enjoyed the myriad of control capabilities that WiFi allows for such as the application Remote. This allows you to control iTunes on any computer as long as you’ve paired your iPod to that computer previously. I can access my entire library and play music in my dorm room without walking over to my laptop. This is quite nice when I wake up in the morning and want to listen to tunes as I rub the sleep out of my eyes.  

There are far too many awesome features to mention but suffice to say that the iPod Touch was definitely a good investment. A+!

ipodtouchfr