Recorded on December 29th, 2016
I had ignored the daily prompts to update to iOS 10.2 long enough. I finally gave in the other night, and figured that over-the-air iOS updates had gotten good enough that I would lazily skip my usual ceremony of only doing updates connected via USB to iTunes. Dumb move. I lay there in bed, starting a precautionary full iCloud backup (as I always do before an update), and waited for the phone to update itself over wifi and then reboot. But then a message popped up saying that the 10.2 update couldn’t be completed at the moment or some such. Hmm. And then it went back to the home screen.
Well, I thought, since the phone still works, I’ll just delete the downloaded 10.2 update and try again another night with the USB cable and iTunes. But the phone started acting slower and more unstable. I thought I was out of memory, so I deleted a bunch of apps and the 10.2 update. By the next morning, the phone was barely usable. I did three hard resets, and after the third one, the Apple logo on the black screen never went away. Ever. DAMN. It was like that the rest of the day at work, and I couldn’t get past it.
Luckily I found some super helpful articles from David Payette (ex-Apple employee) on what do do when your iPhone is stuck on the Apple logo, and then how to put it in DFU mode and restore/update from iTunes when all else fails. It took about 90 minutes to finally get all my stuff back in place, but I was able to do it at all only because I always have iCloud backups of the device running at night. You must turn those on at all costs!
Recorded on December 22nd, 2016
While pressing NanoStudio into service today, I realized that it doesn’t allow any control over velocity curves. A NanoStudio organ sample I was playing from the Alesis Micron sounded weak, because real pipe and electric organs don’t respond to velocity. If only I could filter out velocity messages from reaching NanoStudio.
Midiflow does this and way more! I remember 30 years ago reading a review of the Axxess MIDI Mapper in Keyboard Magazine. It allowed for a zillion ways to reprogram and reroute MIDI notes, channels, and controllers into any way you cared to twist them. Well now you can do this same stuff in an iOS app, and it’s much easier to program than the Mapper.
Midiflow is like AudioBus for MIDI. You can string together inputs, modifiers, and outputs with a different configuration for each song. And NanoStudio has a good enough MIDI implementation that you can force it to “listen” to Midiflow’s virtual MIDI outputs and ignore the system MIDI bus. Midiflow can also respond to MIDI program change commands, and it can even send commands (like its own program changes) to a destination app when you load a song setup. It has a MIDI monitor so you can see the actual numbers flowing out of a controller if you need to debug something. You can also set it to filter out some or all notes from reaching a sound generator. It’s just too great to even believe. If you have any kind of MIDI rig going with hardware controllers and soft synths in an iPhone or iPad, you need Midiflow.
Recorded on December 19th, 2016
This is not so much a post as it is a question: For the iPhone, is there a better, more performance-oriented MIDI sampler app than GarageBand? I’m blown away by what GB can do with imported samples when you have plenty of time to deal with it. But in the heat of live performance, it really kills the momentum to wait any number of seconds for a song sample to load. Bandmates tend to want you to be ready for the next song yesterday, so I need something idiot-proof and very fast so I don’t keep anyone waiting. Hmm.
Recorded on November 17th, 2016
To pick up where I left off after writing about Nuzzel, I did set up a Twitter list of just the people that I started following last week to keep up with the Orange One’s, uh, transition. I muted all those people in Tweetbot, so that my timeline looks pretty much like it always did, with tweets from friends, web designers, app developers, musicians, etc. Mutes in Tweetbot don’t translate to any other apps, so I run Twitteriffic to just monitor the new Orange One list, where those tweets can still come through. I can dip in and out of the “fun” tweets with Tweetbot, where missing some is non-critical, and not miss the parade of unraveling real-world events (and learn what to do about it) with Twitteriffic.
We were both depressingly caught in Twitter’s clutches, wasting entire evenings scrolling through tweets from people smarter than us, our mouths agape, eyebrows raised higher and higher. It’s crazy to do this, but putting up a two-app firewall between these two helped me a ton.
Recorded on November 16th, 2016
In these times of dumpster fires in the White House and jaw-dropping headlines seemingly every hour, Twitter is the only place I can manage to watch it all unfold. I don’t even follow all that many people, but my timeline has quickly gotten out of control this past week.
Nuzzel is a handy iOS app that aggregates the articles linked to by your Facebook/Twitter friends or the people they follow. I had tried it briefly a year or two ago, but that was when I followed fewer people and didn’t feel the need to try to “keep up” (God help me). I remembered it today and re-installed it and it’s still a great tool. You miss the personal flavor that immediately surrounded each link, but you can also avoid scrolling through 10 tweets that all point to the same article. And you can still dive in and the see the original tweets from friends if you’re curious.
I also may need to break down and figure out how to use Twitter Lists.
Recorded on October 4th, 2016
Because it’s so easy to add reminders with Siri on the iPhone, there are quite a few short-horizon tasks that make it out of my TaskPaper “trusted system” and into iOS Reminders. Stuff like, “get gas when I leave work” and other really dumb things are perfect for Reminders. But there’s always some weirdness with it, especially if you sync with a MacBook. I had a few reminders that I marked as completed or “remind me tomorrow” on the MacBook this morning. After I got to work, this is what my phone’s lock screen looked like:
I can’t find find anyone reporting exactly this problem on the Apple discussion forums. Most of them write in to say that reminders just disappear from Notification Center, but I don’t think I’m having that happen often. This blank-reminder issue (or reminders that just never clear, even after marking them as done) is what I see most of the time.
Reminders, I want to trust you with more and more, but this kind of thing feels rickety.
Recorded on October 2nd, 2016
Recorded on September 12th, 2016
I’m sick, so tonight’s post is very short.
For keyboard practice just now, I needed a specific choral sample, something like the famous “ARR1” sound on the Fairlight CMI. I found just what I needed on the Karma-Lab Forums. Someone had posted a ZIP file with a handful of WAVs collected from a Fairlight library. I opened the ZIP in GoodReader, extracted the files, saved the ARR1 file to Dropbox, and imported that into the Sampler instrument in GarageBand on the iPhone. I tweaked the ADSR a bit and presto! Breathy, early-80s vocal sample goodness.
Recorded on August 30th, 2016
After hearing Gabe and Jeff talk on the latest Nerds on Draft about how good Waze has gotten, I launched it today for the first time in a couple of years. Waze has definitely been polished, and it feels and looks smarter and smoother. You can tap your phone or wave a hand in front of the front-facing camera to make it listen for voice commands, and then tell it stuff like “Drive home” or “Stop navigation”. And my favorite new thing, which apparently has existed for about two years already, is automatic parking reminders. I don’t know how this works because I turned navigation off as I got close to work this morning, mainly so the Waze voice wouldn’t talk over Nerds on Draft. But when I got out of the car, it silently made a note of where I parked. When I got close to my car after work, I opened Waze and there was an icon showing where my car was. I don’t care if it’s creepy. I love stuff like this.
Recorded on August 7th, 2016
For an upcoming gig, I needed a way to play a LinnDrum pattern. I figured there had to be an app out there, and boy is there: FunkBox to the rescue for $4.99. It sounds pretty much exactly like what I remember a Linn sounding like, but you do give up some control over tweaking the sound. For $4.99, it’s a fair trade-off.
I wish I could easily take a video screenshot of my iPhone playing this pattern (with sound) so you could experience all of it. There are four other sounds in the pattern that you can’t see here. Trust me — it’s fun!
Recorded on July 25th, 2016
Some really smart friends of mine were talking excitedly about the Duolingo app this past weekend. All I needed to hear was “iOS app for language learning” + “doesn’t cost $200” and I was sold. I finally got a few minutes to download it this morning. After getting two minutes into the skills assessment section of the French module, I was hooked. I found that I remembered just enough vocabulary words from my five years of middle school and high school French to start making me feel pretty smart. I haven’t even finished the assessment, but I’m excited to get back into it and see where some actual lessons lead.
It’s embarrassing that I’m 45 years old and I know practically zero Italian, German, and Spanish. Maybe this will be a shortcut to some bare-bones knowledge. We’ll see!
Recorded on July 22nd, 2016
I’ve been playing an Alesis Micron keyboard along with some songs in my iPhone iTunes library and using an old Mackie mixer to combine the two signals. I kept thinking that there must be a way to do that without the outboard mixer. There is! GarageBand can run in the background and will accept an audio input, such as that from an IK Multimedia iRig Pro. You can monitor whatever you’re sending to GarageBand and then switch over to the Music app and play existing music tracks. Both apps will continue to play. You just have to enable the “Run in Background” option in GarageBand. Here’s how:
Connect your keyboard or guitar or some external audio source to an audio interface like the iRig Pro. Then connect its Lightning plug to the iPhone.
Use the Audio Recorder function in GarageBand:
- Tap the instrument plug icon in the upper left to get to the Input Settings. Turn on the Monitor:
- In Settings, turn on “Run in Background”:
- Now switch over to the Music app and play a track. Presto — it’s 1985 again and you’re ready to be on the cover of Keyboard magazine:
Recorded on July 11th, 2016
I won’t go into too much detail here for fear of spoiling the surprise, but I just bought the Capo app to learn some keyboard parts for a band project. We’ve come a long way from the last time I did this, where I loaded up mp3s on my 20 GB iPod and scrubbed back and forth to play song sections over and over. Music-learning apps these days allow you to slow down songs without changing the pitch, loop sections forever, and will detect chords for you automatically. Capo even has a super-cool isolation feature that lets you remove all of the center vocal so you can focus on the instrumental parts you want to learn. Awesome.
Recorded on July 11th, 2016
On the latest Nerds on Draft, Gabe and Jeff discussed many areas of life that still have friction in them, and task management reared it’s ugly (i.e. always welcome) head. They talked about their struggle with the idea that the ultimate mythical task management system should be able to handle tasks, projects, time-based reminders, and calendar items all together. Those certainly seem like they should be relatable somehow, but there’s always friction between the edges of those systems.
When the subject of TaskPaper came up, the consensus was that text file-based task management systems are good at defining what tasks need to happen to get something done, but that apps like Apple Reminders are better for getting you to do dumb things like taking out the trash on a certain day, at a certain time. You have to use each system or app for what it’s good for, even if everything isn’t frictionless. It was so good to hear them articulate exactly this eternally unsolved problem in a way that sounded like they had been eavesdropping on my brain.
I know that every time I try to press TaskPaper into doing things that are better handled by Reminders, it breaks down. I need to get better at routinely actually looking at TaskPaper/Taskmator, so that I can go back to trusting it. This afternoon, I went crazy and sliced out the items that were in the “Today” pseudo-project in my
Current.taskpaper mondo master file into a separate
Today.taskpaper file. If I’m really good, I’ll start it fresh every morning, like a blank sheet of paper, populated with choice tasks from the Current file.1 It’s not quite the way TaskPaper is intended to be used, but I was already breaking the model anyway by having projects like “Today”, “Sunday”, “Monday”, etc. I’m thinking this way because:
- I love the idea of a Field Notes notebook and Bullet Journal-type syntax for today’s tasks, but I’m just not going to sustainably sit down every morning and take the time to manually recopy the undone items to the next blank sheet. I’d love to be that guy, but the practice never stuck every time I tried it. Better to use the laptop/phone clipboard to make that slightly more efficient.
- If I’m not going to use paper for this, I need a digital Today file that’s small enough to use with iOS Taskmator (which doesn’t like big TaskPaper files). Editorial can also do this, but it’s overkill, and since I use it for so many other text-editing jobs on the phone, my TaskPaper-formatted files are never open by default in Editorial.
- If I want to spend most of the day working through a list of stuff that I really want to get done today, I’m more likely to do it if that list is physically short. Not just filtered to be short, but actually a really short file, where I can cross stuff off and feel good about seeing it in an Archive section down at the bottom as the day progresses. And it can’t have all the countless other contexts and projects that tend to fill up the Current master file. Seeing that stuff every time I want to see just the Today list is too demoralizing and overwhelming, even if it’s all off the bottom of the screen.
- I use Drafts to prepend inbox items to the top of my TaskPaper files. As robust as Drafts, Dropbox, and text files are, I believe it’s a bad idea to repeatedly prepend stuff wirelessly to your main, long, canonical TaskPaper file all day, as many times a day as I’ve been doing it. If something goes wrong during that transaction and data gets corrupted or there’s a Dropbox conflict, it cannot be allowed to scramble the big file that has all my projects defined in it. I’d rather prepend those inbox items to a super-short Today file, and do them today if they need to be done today, or slot them into a Later project in that file to pull into Current all at once at the end of the night. (Or better, leave them entirely in Drafts if they don’t need to be done today and process the Drafts inbox at night.)
So that’s what I’m trying. Fingers crossed.
Wow. They do say that if you want to figure something out, you should write about it to discover what you really think.
Note to self: Figure out a way to automate that. There’s nothing like an empty refrigerator to motivate you to discard the unhealthy past and fill it with healthy foods.) ↩
Recorded on July 9th, 2016
I know I spend too much time researching cameras and lenses I don’t have. It’s not the way to become a better photographer. The better way is… spend more time taking photos. Duh. But to do that also means spending time processing/editing photos (in Lightroom, for me). I thought about the time I spend in Lightroom, which I love, and wanted to do more of it, but also wanted it to not take over life. I thought, “there must be a non-sucky app for tracking time for personal/creative projects”. If I found that, it’d also be good to use for tracking time spent blogging, editing photos, working on music, etc.
I found this Forbes article about just such apps (I know: Forbes — just deal with the annoying quote of the day). From that article, Hours looks pretty good. Also, Eternity Time Log gets insanely good reviews on the App Store. I’ll give them both a try and report back later.