Betting on the wrong horse, part deux

Boy, I woke up to some bad news today: Gibson has decided to cease all development of Cakewalk branded products! That means my beloved DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Sonar Platinum will not be updated anymore, perhaps ever! Of course there is a chance that someone will buy up the assets and continue developing it, but for now the future looks dark. Windows has been great in supporting older software so I will be able to use Sonar for the foreseeable future, but for the first time since I started producing almost 20 years ago, it looks like I must seriously consider moving to a different platform. I can’t believe it….

It’s been a fantastic journey, starting from Cakewalk Pro Audio 8, which I believe came out in 1998 and I acquired in 1999 with the purchase of a Peavey Studiomix, and quickly upgraded to version 9. Over the years I’ve messed with other DAWS, from the ‘industry standard’ ProTools (hate it!), to various versions of Cubase friends have, to Logic on the Mac, but I always felt Sonar was the best and not only because I knew it so well.   Companies come and go, always knew that, but somehow I never thought one that serves its customers so well and make such a stellar product would just up and quit one day. Let’s just hope someone comes in and buys out the code and other assets and continues away from Gibson with the development…

iOS 11

From AnandTech’s forum:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just one example of an increasing number of critical reviews of Apple’s latest operating system for phones and pads. Pretty much exactly as expected, as more and more functionality is tacked on, various screen sizes, changes to navigation, the code base becomes more unstable and unpredictable.  Bottom line is, the Ecosystem is far from perfect, and in fact going down in reliability, while prices are going up! What is going on? LOL

Cardboard

Cardboard? Really? A post about packing material? No, this is about Google Carboard, the most inexpensive way to experience VR! Really, I paid $10 at Best Buy for its Insignia version and it is AWESOME! I’d been reading about it for a while, but when my neighbor let me try the one his wife got at work, I knew I had to get my own.

Unsurprisingly it uses your cellphone to do the rendering and not all are supported, but his iPhone 5S worked great, my Nexus 5X even better, but my Huawei Honor 5X did not because it lacks a Gyroscope. You download the Cardboard app from the Play Store and off to the races with a built-in demo. There are a lot more apps available and the Titans Of Space one is my favorite so far; it’s an exploration of our Solar System, free of charge, with a $3 narration pack available. On my 1080P screen there’s definitely a “screen door effect” but it’s wonderfully enjoyable nonetheless. The head tracking works great, the effect is quite amazing. There’s a limited version of Google Street View too, which allowed me to stand in the middle of the town square in Alphen aan den Rijn through a 360 degree panorama someone took, but for the full experience one needs a proper headset like the Vive or Rift. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

FTP

Many, many moons ago, before the World Wide Web, before Facebook (no, there weren’t dinosaurs roaming the earth) there was already such a thing as the internet. Email has been around for a long, long time, but there was also a need for transferring large amounts of data and so came to be FTP: File Transfer Protocol. It’s been around since 1971 or so, believe it or not, and is today as ubiquitous and useful as ever. The beauty of it is, that it’s incredibly universally supported; instead of HTTP, using FTP://www.ricobelled.com will connect to my server and ask for login credentials, directly in Windows Explorer, and any web browser out there, allowing the user to upload and download files without the need to use third party services like DropBox. There’s support for this on any machine out there. I can do this on my Nexus 5X, right in Chrome, or download an app. Even a DOS machine from 1988 can get and send files this way, any LINUX machine….

I have 100GB on my hosting account, more than enough to deal with the kind of files I do this way. If I do a session, I can set up a secure way to send audio files, without anyone else having access. You see, anytime you use YouSendIt, technically they own in some way the stuff you submitted. Read the Terms Of Use, they are incredibly complex and all-encompassing. And I’m not even talking about security; what happens if their service is hacked?

Unfortunately, it’s also a great example of how Apple is taking us backwards, without many people even realizing, and how dangerous it is to lived in a “walled garden” ecosystem like the Big Fruit’s. Let me tell you a story.

On our last tour of Eastern Europe with Keiko Matsui, we did the first 7 shows with the amazing Lords Of The Sound orchestra from Ukraine. In fact they were so good that it we recorded the show in Odessa to send as an guide to the conductor for the orchestra that was going to do our last show in Tbilisi, Georgia. We ended up with a stereo board mix from the monitor system minus brass/perc, a mono track of just brass and percussion and a stereo track from a camera out in the audience. It came to me to mix those together and make mp3s to send out. Now we had to get them there but it was imperative that they were transferred securely and accessible anywhere. These are NOT to get out in public, so I set up FTP access on my server and send out the login info. Guess what? The iPhone users could not get to the files, Safari just displayed a search result for ftp://ricobelled.com! OK, I figured just use Chrome, since that works perfectly on my Android: no luck, same result! Wait, what? I looked into it and sure enough, browsers on iOS can not do FTP access! That means on an iPad too by the way! That’s right, your $1000 Pro has a neutered browser, all the while Apple is trying to tell you it’s a capable computer.

Of course there are FTP clients for iOS, but at this point, the iPhoners had given up, “this is too difficult!”. I explained to the boss I cannot in good conscience use those services that others blindly surrender all their data to, gave the MP3s to the tour manager who took it from there. It’s frightening to me how easily so many are giving up their autonomy, choosing perceived ease of use over true control. Trust me, FTP is not hard to use; as a matter of fact, I would say it’s easier than those services, not in the least because it allows you to access data in a multitude of ways. For instance, try the FireFTP plugin for Firefox, or logging in straight from Windows Explorer and Dragging&Dropping straight to your local drives.  Plus, it doesn’t change unless you want it to, where with Dropbox you’re dependent on ever changing interface options.

Safe or sorry?

“He left his car window open!” he says to the guy the next to him in the line behind me at Starbucks. He’s talking about me, so I turn around and, assuming he believes I did it by accident, tell him “don’t live in fear my friend!” He doesn’t get it….he says it again “He left his car window open!” Mind you, we’re in Sherman Oaks, where I’ve lived for 16 years now, certainly not a place in which one has to worry about what happens to a car which isn’t hermetically sealed…..at 11:30AM in the parking lot of one of the busiest Starbucks around.  This guy isn’t even a native, he strikes me as Middle Eastern, perhaps Iranian. I tell him again “don’t live in fear my friend!” I can see him thinking, puzzled, but he’s not buying it. Fault of the ‘main-stream media’? I don’t think so…

When old becomes new

Another win for Windows 10!  My good friend Brad Rabuchin’s machine we put together in 2010 stopped booting up properly; he hadn’t done a proper backup in a while (?!?#@?#@?) so the first thing to do was to save the data. Because it’s a desktop, it was easy to remove the drives, hook them up to my machine, and then pick and choose what to move over to an external 2.5″ USB disk. We were able to get everything, so the pressure was off. Now how do we move forward? Windows repair wasn’t working and neither was doing a system restore to an older point in time. At this point a fresh reinstall on a new drive (thus keeping the old OS install intact just in case) is what I like to do.

Seven years ago SSDs were first becoming ‘affordable’, but at $200 for a 64GB drive we chose to use a spinner, a 750GB Hitachi, hooked up to a 1st generation i3-530, 4GB of DDR3 and an Echo Gina 3G PCI audio card with Windows 7. You know what? Those specs are more than enough to run Windows 10, so we just bought a 500GB Samsung 850 EVO and installed the OS fresh, everything worked perfectly and just incredibly smoothly, booting from off to usable in mere seconds, just like a modern machine. Even that old Gina was purring along, with rock solid performance at 64 samples by the way for running Sonar at full real-time input monitoring.

After making sure all the data was there in under Windows 10, and having seen that the BIOS was set to IDE instead of AHCI for the SATA ports, I figured that perhaps that was keeping Windows 7 from booting. Sure enough, it now booted just fine from the old OS drive. But, what a difference in performance! All because of the SSD, it’s now a whole new computer! Microsoft was kind enough to let us install 10 with the old serial from 7 and Brad is ready for another at least 5 years with this thing. If needed, he can pop in an i5 or i7 and double the CPU performance, there’s room for another 2 DIMMS to go to 8GB of RAM for $50 or so, but even as it is, it’s a totally modern feeling machine…… seven years later!

The Way You Look Tonight

When my ole friend Johan went to St. Maarten to help install the upgrades he designed and built for a friend’s house, he actually did the manual labor with the local crew, all locals. Interestingly, they were very surprised to see a white dude working with his hands,  but funnily, in true Island spirit, Johan told me every time a bus would arrive at the stop right out front, they would all drop what they were doing to see if any pretty girls were coming out! As a matter of fact, a large percentage of human men is quite obsessed with the ‘hotness’ of women.  See, there’s acknowledging a female’s beauty, there’s the desire to be inside her, the hunt to get the highest number of attractive ones and then there’s picking the one based mostly on what she looks like. Even though the Holland I grew up in made no secret of the human body (boobs in all their bouncy glory in Fa commercials in my distant memory) it’s actually one of the least  over-sexed places I remember, and accordingly the place where looks are not quite as important as others.

So, is it bad to pick your mate based on the way she appears? In my experience the way your partners looks matters less the longer you are together; the most gorgeous face gets old pretty fast when the words coming out rub you the wrong way, and the most hideous defect becomes one of those constants our brains are so amazingly designed to tune out, to free up bandwidth for the things you were hoping to hear. At the same time, we cannot deny that a healthy person has a certain leg up, and that for the strength of the herd more intercourse between healthy specimens is a positive. It most places in the world, it keeps a population from becoming obese. And for that very reason, our desire for beauty is hard-wired; it can be tempered, but should not be denied, because it can be, and in my opinion is being, exploited; to our detriment!

When combined with our biggest Achilles heel (that humans are vulnerable to picking an ideology and following its mantras without questioning them) exploiting our desire for beauty has become the tool of choice in marketing. Perhaps with cars most do take a test drive, but more and more products are bought purely on the way they look. I’m not gonna name names, but we all know it’s true. Problem is, unlike with humans, the ‘beauty’ of products has literally nothing to do with its functionality. We’ve just disconnected the benefit of our vulnerability from the mechanism by which it works.

iPhone X

Can you believe it? It’s only been ten years since the release of the first iPhone and mankind, at least around here, has been turned into an army of Zombies staring down at a tiny screen most of the day. To be precise, not everybody is addicted, and even though most of us, me included, have bought a smartphone, there are even some left, interestingly in my experience with far above average intelligence by the way,  with the dumb variety. For the last few years Apple has not really been a technology leader anymore in this field, hopelessly behind in screen quality, resolution and even physical design, only ahead in pure processing power of its SOC. Still, diehard fans keep touting that the ecosystem “just works”, contrary to empirical evidence by the way, found online and in my personal experience.  I’ve discussed all of this extensively on these pages so I won’t get into it again, but listening to Howard Stern today it became even more painfully obvious.

Here’s a guy who can buy anything he wants; the incredible $1000 starting price of the iPhone X means absolutely nothing to him. Except: he doesn’t tell it that way! In describing the built-in planned obsolescence of Apple products he sounds genuinely irked. The discussion gets most interesting when he discusses FaceId, the “improved” replacement for TouchId. Now let me tell you, perhaps my favorite part of my ($250!!!) Nexus 5X is the fingerprint reader! As long as my finger is dry, it works almost flawlessly, more than 95% of the time unlocking my phone before it’s out of my pocket. Stern is worried that the facial recognition of the iPhone X is worse than the fingerprint reader on his current model, which he says fails at least half the time. Robin, his sidekick, concurs. Wait…what? You’re paying top dollar, for a device with less than stellar specs, and one of its main features works 50% of the time? I’m not making this up, or exaggerating, this discussion really took place. A little research on the interwebs reveals that as a matter of fact TouchId hasn’t worked all that well for a significant number of people, although it works perfectly for many.

So what else does this most amazing iPhone ever do: wireless charging (Samsung introduced this years ago), an Amoled screen of lower resolution than what’s been available for years, 3GB RAM (a little over half of what the Note 8 has)….. oh yeah, and animated poop emoji that follow your facial expression. Most people I know who keep their iPhones on the table during dinner and ready to pounce at all times, use that fingerprint reader to incessantly wake up their device without picking it up; how will that work with a facial scanner? Only time will tell…

Galaxy Note 8

Did anybody out there watch Samsung’s presentation of the Note 8 today? I’m betting not very many of you! I’m sure it’s gonna be quite a nice piece of kit, but it’ll set you back $1000. That’s right, as much as a touch screen XPS 13! The event was surely cringe-worthy, as the Korean giant’s have been in the past, but there really isn’t that much innovation here. Bigger screen? Of course, 6.2″ but with a super tall 18.5 to 1 aspect ratio; 6GB of RAM, 64GB of flash, but still with an microSD slot and a regular 1/8″ headphone jack! So did Apple not want you to be able to connect your favorite cans without a dongle? Dual cameras? Of course, what is a phone that can’t blur the background behind that glorious shot of your tasteless gluten-free dinner?

And then there’s Bixby, yet another personal assistant waiting to become your best friend. I must say that Google’s has become better and better and that I hear iPhone users bitch about Siri as much as ever. Cortana is really good too, but how many of them do we need? When it comes to security, Google is head and shoulders above everyone else, and its ecosystem is available from many manufacturers. Tying your world of productivity to one brand is not smart, especially in this time of accelerating change.

All in all, unless you have money to burn, I think it’s not a smart buy, no matter how nice. Other than the S-pen, it offers nothing of consequential difference over a $200 phone. If we look at the screen size for instance, the new “6.3 inch” display is an interesting one: because of the extra tall aspect ratio (18.5:9) it ends up being exactly as wide as the Note 2 (!!!!!) screen, just a little taller. That means that for 16:9 content it will literally have the exact same image size as a 5.5″ phone. That’s right, it might be a better quality display, but my $200 Zenfone from 2 years ago already allowed for that size.

Mostly I don’t understand why one would want to watch videos on a tiny screen anyway; buy a Moto G and a decent 10″ tablet, and you still spend less than half. The idea that spending a lot now and then use it for many years is wise? Who knows what will be available even 2 years from now. Trust me, at that time Samsung, just like Apple, will be doing lots of things to subtly convince you to buy the next BIG THING.

Clear me

Nobody likes to wait in line. As a matter of fact, I think we’re getting more and more impatient collectively. As a traveling musician, twiddling your thumbs gets more time than playing your instrument, especially in airports, and standing in security checkpoint lines is a big part of it. Pre-check is a time-saver, but as more and more of us sign up for it, and the TSA randomly assigns access to non-members, even its lines can be long at times. A possible solution: Clear, a privately run system that makes sure you are who you say you are, through background checks and biometric identification. For no less than $179 per year, you get the privilege being personally escorted right to the metal detector, bypassing the need to show your boarding pass and ID to a TSA agent. There are ways of getting it cheaper, with some credit cards giving discounts and Delta going all the way to making it free for Diamond elites. It does save time, but how about the company running it? Mind you, this is a private business!

It always blows my mind how little concern most show for their digital security, especially in this land of scaredy cats. The fear around here is hardcore, everything locked at all times; I literally have to constantly tell people to NOT close the door when they come into my apartment, their default behavior clearly to pull the door shut and lock it immediately, even when I live in a gated apartment building and the door was wide open when they show up! And I’m talking about people who’ve been coming to my place for many years! But when it comes to the digital world just about everyone lives recklessly; if I got a dollar for every iPhone user I’ve heard desiring a way for his phone to stop ‘bugging’ him about security updates…. You see, the inconvenience that possible changes in the OS could cause trumps the increase of protection.

So, let’s talk about Clear again. When you sign up, they get your fingerprints and an iris scan. But who are they? Obviously their machines are linked to some kind of database. Is it safe? Properly protected?  Right now the damage of that data being stolen is probably pretty limited, but let’s not forget that digital things can be stolen without us knowing and stored for later use. Who knows what kind of security we’ll have and for what in this crazy future that lies ahead. Who knows if the company behind Clear will be around, what will happen to its assets! The last iteration didn’t last very long….. in my opinion we’re setting ourselves up for some pretty serious trouble.