Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
 

Archives: July 2011


July 14, 2011

Alesis iO Dock Mini Review...

by Chris Randall
 



My Alesis iO Dock showed up in the mail today. One thing I should say right from the start is that it Just Works. There ain't nothing fancy about it, and this is roughly akin to reviewing a 2 in / 2 out audio interface with MIDI. In fact, that's exactly what it is.

One reason I hardly ever use the iPad in musical endeavors is that I fucking hate the Camera Connection Kit method. First off, you essentially have to choose between audio and MIDI. Secondly, your iPad slides all over the damn place, and is constantly in danger of getting yanked off the table/shelf/top of the keyboard where it is sitting. Third, the 30-pin connector is a serious weak link in the chain, being both dense and delicate. It is, in short, the ass end of suck.

This solves that problem. It's cheap. It's plastic. It's got "Alesis" written all over the top. These are indisputable factors that make it less than enticing. However, it gives you a pretty good audio / MIDI interface for your iPad that Just Works. It also acts as a MIDI class compliant interface via USB, so you can just jack it in to the USB port of your computer and not have to fuck with MIDI cables at all.

In operation, the mic pres sound like cheap mic pres, because that's what they are. They work, but I wouldn't want to do location recording of a string quartet with them. The output is HOT AS FUCK. I'd repeat that if I didn't already boldface-cap it.

For apps that support CoreMidi, it Just Works. If the app shits MIDI, it comes out the out holes and appears via the USB, no problem. If the app can listen to MIDI (e.g. Korg iElectribe) then it Just Works as well. Nothing to see here.

Anyhow, if you're expecting some masterpiece of industrial engineering, this will be sure to disappoint. It is the same build quality as any other piece of mass-produced gear from a nameless factory in China. You get what you pay for. Now, that said, it makes the iPad a useful musical instrument, where before it was just sort of a toy. In that respect, it is well worth the price. I bought it here.

Worth noting: as I mentioned in the previous post on this subject, there is at least one similar product I'm aware of that is a couple months away from release. As far as I'm aware, this product has more or less the same feature set, but is significantly cheaper. So you might want to hold off. I will state here and now that it won't be better, per se. It will, however, be less expensive.

As an aside, the Korg Monotribe has begun shipping. I bought one from these guys. $229, which seems about right. I'll let you know when I get it, of course.

 
July 11, 2011

Audio Damage Update...

by Chris Randall
 

Well, with a couple hiccups, our new framework for porting older products (e.g. those without the newer "flat" UIs, everything released after Tattoo) that we first tried with Dubstation seems to be standing the acid test. We're going to give it a couple more weeks, but at this juncture I'm willing to say that we are now able to port the entire existing product line to 64-bit, so it's just a matter of doing that.

Now, this transition is going to be a bit problematic for AudioUnits users, but hey, you bought in to a format made by a company that changes its mind a lot, and you gotta roll with the punches.

The main thing to note: all the upcoming new versions will be stereo-only as far as AUs are concerned. We're done paying homage to Logic's ridiculous stereo-fying habits, which play fast and loose with the entire concept of turning mono channels in to stereo ones. The process should either be entirely transparent (like in Live) or not subject to change (like in Cubase and any hardware studio). So if you want to use a stereo effect on a mono channel, you need to do it as a send, like a real producer.

Anyhow, since we have bills to pay, and updating existing products to 64-bit means almost nothing in the way of income, we're going to release another new product before we do the rest of the line. This next product will be built as a VST3, and use Steinberg's provided methods for making a VST2.4 and AudioUnit. It will, as a result, have sidechaining and all the other features available to VST3 users. We're essentially learning a new format here, so our testing process will be a little more strenuous than normal, but we're pretty sanguine about the concept at this juncture, and expect this to be fairly painless, as we've already overcome all the hard parts. (Theoretically.)

Anyhow, that's where we're at. I have a Google+ account now, and my profile can be found at gplus.to/Crandall. If you're rollin' with the Big G, you can find me up in there. Since I don't have the Book Of Faces, I'm not exactly sure what I'll be using the G+ account for, but it's there, and will no doubt contain pithy prose of the sort you already know and love. G+ doesn't seem to have the obvious commercial angle that FaceBook and MySpace had, so making band and company pages to "like" seems fairly pointless, at least at this juncture. I'm sure they'll fuck it up down the road, though.

 
July 5, 2011

Jaymar My First Piano...

by Chris Randall
 



I'm working on the music for an iOS game, and in one of the level songs, I wanted a little lietmotif played on this 1950s toy piano I got. Unfortunately, the keys stick so bad as to make it nearly unplayable, so I decided to take a few minutes and make a multi-sample of it.

Since some interest was expressed on Twitter in this set, here it is. This is for Live Sampler, so you need Live Suite or you have to have purchased Sampler in order to use it as-is. Of course, the audio file is just sitting in there, so you can pull it out and make your own sample. It's a single mono file. I did it at 44.1/24, because these iOS tracks are all at 44.1/16, being the canonical format of iOS audio. I recorded it with a single home-made piezo mic, through a Purple Biz Mk pre-amp and a Drawmer M500 compressor to a Mytek 8x192 A/D/D/A.

There is a distinct "click" sound when you release the keys on this little piano, and I added that as well, as a single sample. It's the first layer, and if you don't like it, you can just mute it. I sampled every note, starting at C#, because the low C is broken on the toy.

Anyhow, here's the file. Enjoy, and as always, if you find commercial use for it, like all my samples, a Paypal donation is appreciated but in no way mandatory. Hit the "free shit" link to the right; the donate button is at the top of the page.

 
July 3, 2011

Terms of (Dis)Service...

by Chris Randall
 

This is a subject which will no doubt be incredibly un-interesting to you, but which should be paid attention to. I'm not gonna do it in the neck-bearded "Information Wants To Be Free" bullshit arm-waving way, and neither am I gonna give in to the "well, I'm sure they mean well..." frame of mind. I'll just present the facts, and my interpretation of the ramifications, and let you come to your own conclusion.

On Friday last, DropBox, a service we all know and use (it figures heavily in to the Audio Damage workday, for instance) changed their Terms Of Service, and specifically the rules regarding the rights to your uploaded files, to read as follows:

We sometimes need your permission to do what you ask us to do with your stuff (for example, hosting, making public, or sharing your files). By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service. This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services.

Now, any musician that has ever done work-for-hire will recognize that wording. It is the general "I made this, you paid me" boilerplate that we see all the time. So what's it doing here in the DropBox TOS? And why do I care? The problem here is that the wording is so vague that it serves as a catch-all for any possible scenario. Of particular note is this bit: rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display

Now, any normal, reasonable person would be all "well, they need to, e.g., make thumbnails for your Public folder, blah, blah, blah." And that's fine, and totally acceptable. They want licensing terms that remove any possible potential lawsuit from that. I can accept that. The problem isn't that, but rather that the wording is so broad as to include virtually any scenario they might feel is appropriate. They say "[t]his license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services." That makes perfect sense on the face of it, but what does that even mean?

Now, you're thinking "Chris, you've gone off your rocker. Any reasonable person knows exactly what it means." And you're absolutely right.

But I'll tell you what I'm right about: lawyers are not reasonable people. And the boards of large corporations aren't reasonable people either. And these people make their living exploring the hazy area between the intent of a contract and its actual wording. And they make good livings. And they're way, way better at reading and interpreting that intent than you or I are. Sure, DropBox is run by reasonable people. Now. What about next week when it is purchased by Yahoo. Or Google. Or the marketing company that bought MySpace?

Now, it doesn't have to be like this. Look at, for instance, the relevant passage in the TOS of Box.net:

By registering to use the Services, you understand and acknowledge that Box.net and its contractors retain an irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use, copy, and publicly display such content for the sole purpose of providing to you the Services for which you have registered. In the event that you give Box.net the right to distribute your content, additional terms may apply to Box.net's usage or distribution of this content. You continue to retain all ownership rights in any User Content you provide and shall remain solely responsible for your conduct, your User Content, and any material or information transmitted to other Users for interaction with other Users. Box.net does not claim any ownership rights in any User Content.

This is much less open to interpretation, and still makes perfect sense. Or how about SugarSync? Same thing:

After setting up your account and downloading our Software, you can select the Files you want to sync and/or store. You can change the Files you want to sync or store whenever you want. In order to make the Service available to you, we need your permission to sync and store your Files. Accordingly, you hereby grant to SugarSync a license: (i) to use, copy, transmit, distribute, store and cache Files that you choose to sync and/or store; and (ii) to copy, transmit, publish, and distribute to others the Files as you designate, whether through the sharing or public linking features of the Service, in each case solely to provide the Service to you.

So, I'm going to give DropBox a few days to pull their collective heads out of their collective asses and get with the program. But the simple fact of the matter is that their wording is so broad that it includes virtually any purpose they could conceivably come up with, and that's simply unacceptable.

EDIT: I don't know if this blog post or my letters had anything to do with anything (although, in my defense, I was quoted in several blogs of more, uh, respectability?) but on Tuesday they updated their TOS to define "stuff" (one of my major complaints) and clarify the points of contention. It is essentially in line with the other two TOS I quoted above now.

 
July 1, 2011

And Away We Go...

by Chris Randall
 



We've just put Dubstation 1.5.2 in the AD store. With this update, Adam has theoretically mostly conquered the problem of porting our older stuff to 64-bit.

On the Windows side, it should Just Work. On the OS X side, things might get a little dicey. We've tried to make a 64-bit AU that can pick up existing sessions in Logic, and it seems that we have succeeded. But as always, doing a major update to a plug-in like in the middle of a session is stupid. If you do it, and you have problems, don't cry like a little girl.

Now, some other notes about the OS X versions:

1. We're trying out a new installer package that obviates the separate authorizer applet. If this doesn't experience problems once it gets out in to the world, then this will be our method going forward on the OS X side, at least until Apple deprecates PackageMaker in favor of only selling things through the App Store or some other stupid shit like that.

2. This build REMOVES PPC ENTIRELY. If you're a PPC user, do not do this update. It's pointless to you anyhow because you can't run 64-bit anything. Assuming this build passes muster, we're gonna turn the firehose on and update the whole remaining product line in one fell swoop. When we do that, we're removing PPC builds from everything. If you plan on continuing down that lonely, dismal, underpowered road called PowerPC, you should take this opportunity to archive all the Mac installers in the store, because any updates after today on older products are Intel only.

3. With this update, Dubstation goes from being a "real" AudioUnit to a Symbiosis-wrapped VST in AU clothing. This is a fairly major architectural change as far as your DAW is concerned. We've made every effort to ensure that the new Dubstation picks up all existing saved sessions without any drama. The one place we're experiencing a tiny bit of oddity is if you saved a session in 32-bit Logic, with a 32-bit pre-1.5.2 Dubstation, and open it in 64-bit Logic where it uses the new 1.5.2 64-bit version. If you notice anything peculiar in this scenario (or, well, any other scenario) please drop me a line at your earliest convenience.

Anyhow, that's about it. There are no internal changes to this version; it is mainly to provide 64-bit versions to those that need them. If you don't need a 64-bit version, you don't really need to do this update at this juncture. Hit your account in the AD Store to grab the downloads.
 

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