2020-08-25 News – Sticky Situations

Startups tap a new talent pool: Pandemic-weary college students

I’m just going to lead with this thought: college students, please continue to get your degrees!

I used to manage a team of roughly fifty employees, and I had plenty of college students and interns. We would frequently extend internships, and occasionally bring interns on as full time employees. Often this was done to help retain talent, but I would always talk to these employees to make sure that they would continue their school.

However, a handful of employees over the years just never went back and completed their schooling. Is this necessarily bad? My concern is the potential wage gap difference. Sure you can learn a lot on the job, but employers are frequently interested to see what prospects have accomplished. To somebody looking through resumes and seeing somebody that hasn’t completed their schooling, it just leaves a lot of open questions.

In one particular case, I had an employee that was just tired of Computer Science, and ended up shifting to a Project Management profession. This certainly makes the argument easier against completing the program, but I just feel that there is so much value in finishing off on parts of your education. It gives a measurable sense of accomplishment, helps foster perseverance and tenacity, and shows that you are can be committed to yourself and your own development.

For those college students getting offers, I congratulate you! Just take the time to think about your own circumstances, and understand that there is value in completing your program.

Bridgefy, the messenger promoted for mass protests, is a privacy disaster

Trust, especially in software that you use to keep your communications private, is quite important. Bridgefy has some very powerful features for establishing a decentralized network, but unfortunately it has a lot of security issues.

The article articulates quite a few ways in which people can pretend to be another person, steal messages, track social interactions, and take down the entire decentralized network. For those who need to have this kind of networking, this is definitely not the software to use at this time. Good news though, is it appears that the company is investigating replatforming the technology to offer what’s “on the tin” and will hopefully get the software functioning to the level promised.

For me though, it’s pretty hard to trust cryptographic technology these days. There is so much deep knowledge that you have to have in order to understand the technology and how to use it safely. When things go wrong, they really can go wrong!

Pulling It Back Together

I don’t know about other folks out there, but the way the world has changed over the last few months just seems like another planet. My wife and I are doing everything we can to keep our daughter in as socially normal atmosphere as possible, but we’re really keeping to ourselves otherwise.

It’s been weird too, because just as COVID-19 broke out I was starting a new job, getting ready to meet new people, and drive new projects. My job is fully online now, which is a larger change than I anticipated. Previously I was traveling a lot, getting together with people to make sure we were moving products, and overall very highly connected. Now I am keeping people focused in meetings, helping get programs on the rails or stay on the rails,

A lot of this has led to me just being rather lethargic the last couple of weeks, which has led to me not really bothering to write posts, work on music, put artwork together, or really be engaged in a whole lot. I’ve known that this is problematic, but I hadn’t really been doing much either. I suppose it has just been all of the little pressures over time just making me feel down.

Today I really decided that it is a new week, and it is time for me to “hoist myself up by my own petard(sp?)” as my grandmother used to say. I’m going to start working on writing both blog posts and music more frequently again, and see if I cannot get a comfortable backlog together.

I’m usually a pretty positive person, and now’s as good a time as any to get back to being positive and making sure that I am helping others.

2020-08-24 – The Big Melt

Articles and videos that hit my feed and some thoughts on them. Just my opinions… take it or leave it 🙂

Apple apologizes to WordPress, no longer requires free app to add purchases

When I read last week that Apple was removing the WordPress app from the Apple store I thought things were getting a little strange. The application never had payments in place, and you had to go to the WordPress site to pay for your subscription. I suspect that given everything going on with Epic and the Fortnight fiasco that Apple is just getting overly sensitive about companies removing their ability to get a 30% cut.

At a high level I get it, creating an online store, payment processing, and all that is expensive. These big companies need to protect their base or risk somebody coming in and taking their lunch, but on the other hand Apple is one (of many) companies that seem to be taking more than their fair share of the value.

I digress though, Apple has backed down from their removal of WordPress, and has reinstated the application. Interesting times for Apple iOS developers to keep a pulse on for sure.

480%+, why is Nintendo worried?

During my MBA study I did a lot of research on Nintendo, and I’ve tried to keep up with where Sean Malstrom is thinking the Nintendo direction is going. It does look like troubling times for Nintendo as they are stuck between console generations for Sony and Microsoft, and it is unclear what exactly they will be putting out for hardware or software over the next year.

The promise from Nintendo had been by merging the console and handheld line into a single system that we’d get more development on the Switch platform. I think the expectation from consumers was that this would mean more high quality software coming out from Nintendo, but instead we’ve continued to get releases at about the pace of a single system.

Clearly hardware continues to be difficult to develop, but it’s hard to see what the consumer benefits are. Nintendo is allowing many many ports onto the system, but a lot of this is shovel ware, and not really worth the asking price. You can see this because there are just so many sales going on all the time.

Nintendo used to be the platform that stood for quality, but they seem to have switched to a platform of quantity. I know market dynamics have changed over the years, especially as downloadable software has greatly reduced the cost of software delivery to consumers, but I’m just not sure where all this is headed.

I had not been aware of the business term Melt Up before, but I think I can guess at what it means. At any rate, gave it a quick read of the definition of Melt Up. I was pretty close. What is scary is all the advice saying “Invest cash now”, but the immediate problem is if you invest now, when should you cash out? The stock market is already legal gambling… but telling people when to buy in but no wise words on when to cash out so they can make a call for themselves is scary. I suspect I’ll be trying to look more into Melt Up over the next few days.

7 Mistakes Many of Us Are Making With Our Money During the Pandemic

This article hits a few concerns I have in general, but in particular for things that try and give financial advice. So I’m going to provide opinions as my responses, but please, go find an actual financial advisor for actual financial advice!

  1. Not Pocketing $225 for watching the news – I’m sorry, but I am already concerned about how much of my personal data that big companies have about me. Do I really want to invite more of this into my home? This is also an “up to”, so how much money can somebody realistically make? It feels super intrusive to me, but I’d love to hear somebody’s experience using this. For me though… not going to get into my home.
  2. Passing up $500 in Free Stocks – Again, another piece of advice with an “up to” tag associated with it. Do you really want to sign up for a stock platform, especially Robinhood. I am sure people have made money on this platform, but I have read countless articles of users burying themselves in debt because they don’t really understand their leverage or risk. I’d be super leery of this app myself, I might check it out, but I already have access to well established stock brokers.
  3. Not Setting Aside $1M For Your Family – How many of us are really insurable for a million dollars? Especially for $8 a month… the people being referenced getting it at this rate must be younger. Any place reputable I have gotten insurance from will do a phone screened interview, but for this kind of money they are absolutely going to want to see you in person to do a health assessment.
  4. Wasting Hundreds on Homeowners Insurance – It is probably worth shopping around to see if you can get a lower monthly fee for home insurance. There are deals out there, and it is possible Lemonade offers better rates. I’d check things out though, as I’ve only ever gone with local insurance companies myself.
  5. Not Buying a Piece of Amazon, Google or Another Company – I would like to point out that owning stock in a company is different than owning the company. Also, these billionaires made their money building their company from the ground up, buying stocks in an established company is not the same as investing at the ground floor. Sure you can make money in the stock market, but I’d caution that you really need to understand a lot of how the market works before considering investing in it.
  6. Wasting Money on Car Insurance – This is another one where I’d say it pays to keep your eyes open and look once in a while. You can get savings by bundling this with your home owners insurance as well. It’s always worth calling your current insurance agency, let them know how your habits have changed, and see what they can do to work with you.
  7. Paying Your Whole Credit Card Bill – Well I have to absolutely agree with this. I know it is tough times right now, but absolutely spend within your means, credit is absolutely dangerous and can turn into a crazy downhill slide. I’d be super careful of any of these agencies that say they will consolidate your debt for a fee though. I know too many people who have taken this step, only to find out they are paying another company to do nothing but take their money, and then they have more interest and late fees piling up.

Be very, very cautious of what you do with your money!

Waves H-Comp Hybrid Compressor is FREE right now and on sale through August 30th

I know I haven’t usually posted plugins or anything… and maybe I should… but sometimes a deal is a deal. Just happened to see this when logging into the Propellerheads site and stumbled upon the shop to see that the Waves H-Comp plugin is currently free at  https://www.reasonstudios.com/shop/ on sale for $49 through August 30th… and with promo code FREECOMP it is free. Just grabbed it yesterday. I still need to install it and check it out, but hard to pass up a free plugin, especially when it is usually going for $200.

A few thoughts… I initially thought that this was a reason rack plugin, and it appears that it is not. It is a VST (and maybe audio units?) plugin. So you can still use it within Reason Studio, but you’ll need to run it as an external effect. This is obviously fine, but you won’t be able to use it as a standard rack plugin if that is your jam.

Haven’t checked it out myself yet, but did pick it up and got a license without paying a dime.

On the Edge

This track comes courtesy of my Eurorack build. I am working on trying to clean up content I have recorded on the 4MS WAV RECORDER, and found this. It was reasonably complete enough that I figured I’d just post it up as is. There isn’t anything too fancy going on, but it was fun to put together.

This isn’t really a finished project, and was something I was more interested in playing around with some ideas for a live performance. It was really just pulling together a bass line, some drums, and a freaked out probably over processed evolving space sound. From there I just used some basic mixing components to evolve some of the sounds by turning knobs.

There is another version I recorded where I played around with the tempo to drive some crazier parts of the production, but it’s not terribly coherent, so I decided I will probably just farm it for sounds in a future song that I’ll put together.

Electro Funk – Robot Love

This track has been a bit of a labor of love… haha. I decided to jump into the next challenge for Electro Funk, and was listening to a lot of tracks from the era. If you want to check out the main post on MPC Forums for the Electro Funk Challenge, well go on over here. Been a lot of discussion again, and I think it was the third page I dropped a number of YouTube videos, most of which are in the right style.

So where to start? Well… I created a track, and then promptly lost it. I was sending an SD card to my brother in law to check some things out, and I forgot to make a backup of the project files… and whoops, I had left the project file on the SD card that I sent him. This set me back quite a bit. I hemmed and hawed quite a bit, but ended up deciding to just restart the track from everything that I had learned.

The first track had the following values:

  • Keep it to mono synth only
  • Emulate drum machine sounds
  • Go vocoder crazy
  • Very limited effects

The track was pretty good! I ended up recording several takes through some guitar pedals to see if I could add any sound to it. Unfortunately… I also forgot to save the project… *ugh*. So guess what… the only version of the song that I have is the processed tracks, that are a bit muddy. I have uploaded one of the takes, just for comparison.

From loosing the project file, I seriously considered just bailing on the challenge, but figured I should take another stab at it. Through getting things kicked off I had learned a bit about the style, and figured I could give it a passable, if potentially only fair shake.

To work on starting over on the track I figured I’d throw everything away and go fresh. I immediately decided I’d rather go for a more rock drum sound instead of focussing on drum machine style sounds. I felt a bit more connected to the sounds in the genre that used real drums, that was my reasoning, so I went with it.

Next up, I worked on getting an 808 bass line going. This was something that I hadn’t done in the first iteration of the track, as instead I had tried to build out my own bass sound that I thought could compete. Maybe it could have, but the track I posted above you can hear, it is a bit muddy. This new track the 808 cut through a lot better. One thing that helped with the sound was turning off timing correct for almost all of the sounds. It was a bit of a struggle at first to get the drums, keys, and everything to gel, but it gives so much of a better sound. The swing may feel subtle in some ways, but at least for me, it totally works.

From here, I just messed with a few sequences to get some sounds going so I could flip through my Moog Voyager and find some great mono synth sounds. For both tracks, the focus was on keeping the synths monophonic, but in this new track I figured I’d stretch into using analog guitar pedals for effects. This added a lot more variety to the sounds on offer, without really having to do too much. Since I was focussed more the second pass through on being efficient, I really just used the Looper on my AKAI MPC Live mk2, and this gave me plenty of two, four, and eight bar loops that were very workable. On the other hand, I didn’t spend any time on building out key groups or drum kits, so… *shrug* save yourself time now, pay for it later in the future if you want the sound again?

Originally the new track was going to be called Funky Alligator, and was to be instructions for how to make the drink “Funky Alligator”… I figured it was cornball enough for lyrics that it could be fun and catchy, but driving the audio through a vocoder kept crushing it into just unintelligible enough that it wasn’t worth it. I probably needed another hour or two so I could get enough takes to have it be “okay”. Fortunately my brother in law came through with sending me back just enough of the original project that I could at least recover the lyrics. They were practically a drop in replacement, and honestly, still sounded fine by my ears… and just needed some mixing to get it to sit well with the rest of the track.

Conclussions…

Well I’m not totally sure I nailed the electro sound. I feel like I hit the synth sound, but possibly went a bit too far with the number of sounds and some of the guitar effects are a little too much more than I heard on most of the tracks. The vocoder sound is also not really an authentic vocoder, and is instead a PO-35. Does this matter? I’m not sure, it’s in the right ballpark, but I’m not sure it is a home run.

For the next challenge, assuming I jump head first into it, I might take this a step further and intentionally work on two different tracks so I can pull out the best of both worlds again. Honestly, it didn’t feel like as much a waste of time at the end as I would have thought, and really helped me get out of my own head space and consider quite a few factors differently.

All told, this was all put together with an AKAI MPC Live mk2, a Moog Voyager as the king, a PO-35 for vocals, and a mess of Chase Bliss guitar pedals to add effects. I did very light mixing duty in Ableton Live, just enough to track things in and out a bit better, but there aren’t any effects, chopping tricks, or anything else to speak of. This fact is definitely getting me to think that the Akai Force might actually be something I could jump more into for working on tracks if I wanted to go that route for audio work. We shall see.

Electro Funk Challenge Key Groups

As part of the Electric Funk Challenge over on the MPC Forums I ended up with a bunch of extra key groups and a drum kit that I didn’t end up using. Well I used it for the original track that I put together, but nothing made it onto the finished track.

Here’s the in progress track, that just got too muddy, and I lost the project files and haven’t felt like recreating this thing…

First up… here’s a bass sound I recorded off of my Moog Voyager. My initial thought was to create something that was not an 808, but could bounce through the track. While I like this Bass sound, it also isn’t the 808 that I think you need on an Electro Funk track.

Next up… this is a pretty straight up Sawtooth synth patch on the Moog Voyager, it does pretty well cutting through the track.

I mean… this is pretty smooth. I dig this sound and hopefully you will too.

The Blazed sound is probably my least favorite out of the box, and it probably needs a bit more filtering to be tamed. I wanted to do something with the high end… and if you listen to my track you’ll probably hear where it wasn’t working so great.

These drums come courtesy of the PO-32 Tonic. I was trying to recreate some of those harsh drum machine sounds, and I do like the drums here, unfortunately in the track that I posted above you cannot really hear the drums because the track got too muddied.

Anyway, good luck and have some fun with these sounds!

Listening to Podcasts – Apple Podcasts vs Overcast

I’ve been listening to podcasts for a number of years now in the iOS environment. I keep going back to Apple Podcasts every major release or new hardware deployment, but it just never sticks for me. The feature set is absolutely fine as it is, and if there were no other options I would probably stick with it.

Apple Podcasts

I upgraded to a new Mac, and have decided to give the Apple Podcasts app another spin. One thing that jumps out immediately is that it is not sync’ing podcasts across my iOS device and my Mac. Perhaps this is a feature that should work, but I would expect like most other Apple apps that this would be pretty simple to setup. There is an option under preferences to sync between devices, but it just doesn’t seem to do anything. I suppose I could search for how to do this on the internet, if it is there, it might as well not exist if it is not easy to figure out.

Still, I downloaded a few Podcasts that I listen to into the app, and the interface certainly is pretty easy to search for Podcasts and it is not too complicated to play things. This is something that I could see telling people to use. It does come with any of your Apple devices after all.

On the other hand, I guess I have been spoiled…

Overcast

I have been using Overcast for a few years now, and as a free app, it is what I would expect to be essential to download for anybody who likes to listen to podcasts. Yes it does have ads, but they are quite out of the way and not obtrusive for operation of that application. If you don’t like the advertisements, you can get a yearly subscription. The yearly subscription also lets you upload files directly into Overcast, which sounds like a pretty handy feature. I have not subscribed and have not used it, but I can certainly envision using this feature one of these days.

Sync’ing podcasts between iOS and iPad devices has been super easy. As a result of writing this blog post I checked again to see if there is a Mac app for this, and unfortunately there is not. Maybe when we can run iOS or iPad apps on our Mac this will become an moot point, but if you do need to sync between many devices this might be a sticking point.

For me, the best feature of Overcast is the “Smart Speed” setting, which plays audio faster not by speeding it up, but by reducing silence and pauses that are natural part of language. Just with this setting turned on, I am often listening to podcasts at 1.2 to 1.5 times faster. You also have the ability to increase the play speed as well, which can get you an incredible speed increase for playing audio. Personally I am not a fan of listening to the podcast faster than what “Smart Speed” offers because I find it harder to concentrate on, but users have the option to manage several settings to increase or decrease podcast speed at your leisure.

Overcast also includes an option “Voice Boost” which effectively adds some compression to increase the overall volume of the podcast. I find this incredibly helpful in keeping a consistent volume level making it much easier to listen to a podcast and maintain a reasonable volume control.

Conclussion

It is probably no surprise, but I’ll be sticking with Overcast for the time being. I suspect that there is little to anything that Apple is going to do for now to improve their podcast app, but I will still keep an eye out for it or any other applications that might be worth trying out.

Taking a Break from Working on the Electro Funk Challenge

If you want to check out the MPC Forums Challenge… this time we’re working on some Electro Funk here. Yeah, I’ve taken a break from some of the Beat Battles to work on some songs… and so far this is fun, and a good opportunity to dust off gear other than the sampler.

Here’s my notes so far.

1) The use of samples is really sparse, and I don’t think it’s how we’d think of sampling today.  I do get a vibe of a much smaller sample set, where used, in the genre.  I’m hearing some similar sounds here and there… some fx hits or stabs… which I’m not totally sure if these are off of a sample record, or just from a drum machine… but for me it really indicates that there really isn’t any complex sampling, pitch shifting, etc… and these are going to sound inauthentic in this genre.  So for me, I’m likely going to avoid straight up sample tricks.

2) Very sparse use of FX… I’m hearing stuff like delay, chorus, reverb, tremolo, vibrato, flanger, phaser… frequently, and used to quite a great effect.  There might be a few others that I am missing, but a lot of this is pretty straight up FX work, and nothing too fancy or in your face, or when it is in your face it is super obvious “hello tremolo”.  I’ve got some guitar pedals I’m going to be using for this duty, but I’m going to likely use them sparingly because a lot of the tracks sound far more raw.

3) Monophonic monsters are on display here.  I mentioned I’m dusting off my Voyager, definitely creating key groups so I can do a bit more complex work without having to track out until it is time, but setting the key group programs to mono so I don’t accidentally get carried away.  When going for chords I am looking to detune my Voyager to get 5ths, or I might do some guitar pedal chorus work… we’ll see.  It does seem important to the sound though, and honestly, it’ll make it easier for me to think about smaller sets of notes to create the sound.

4) I’ve been noticing a fair mix of what sounds like live drums and/or drum machines.  I’ve got a four note polyphony drum machine, and I just sampled it raw, got 16 different hits out of it and I set the program to 4 note polyphony.  I may get more into note choking and such… but I am going to stick with what I’ve got setup so far.  It doesn’t seem too far off from the tracks that are drum machine only.  Probably going to have to study them more though, and see if I can pick out any more nuance.

5) Vocals, a lot of cornballery going on here.  Some of it is not, but I’m working on getting some vocoder work on some cheeseball vocals.  A lot of it is just coming out as unabashed fun, and something to stick into your brain.  So, nothing to take too seriously, but can add some really good rhythm and movement to the track.

6) Hearing some guitars and real bass out there… and might give playing something a shot.  However, I am not any good with a guitar or bass… so not sure about it… maybe a handful of chords or something just to see what I can do here.

I will be digging in some more tonight, curious to see what other’s are hearing and trying.

Jammin Keygroups

Oh before I forget… here’s a few key groups that I made, and I did say I would share.

The bells are sampled across a few octaves, but not tuned. Should just requires tuning the master, but I did not end up using them and got lazy. Since I am posting it for free, if you cannot do anything with it, well that’s on you! For those interested, this is sampled from Eurorack, in particular Elements is doing the heavy lifting, with some very minor FX on it to taste.

I mean come on, who doesn’t like a dope choir sound? This actually made the cut for the song… so you could use it to make the deep cut version of my take on Jammin.

NT – Laser HarpI know this isn’t as good as the signature Danoc harp, but since he’s still saying he doesn’t have a way to autosample, this is the next best thing. Maybe it is best because it actually exists? 😀