My guitar rig…

Posted September 7, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Guitar Playing, Hobbies, Music

In all the ‘year of gear’ posts, I don’t really think I’ve discussed what has worked and what hasn’t.  I figured it might be a good time to go over what’s working for me for my guitar playing, and what hasn’t…

First up, pedals…

Things I can’t live without now:

One of the best pedals I’ve picked up lately is the Wampler Ego Compressor.  This is an awesome compressor that is very quiet, and has some great features.  One of the best features is the parallel compression dial.  This allows the original signal to go through unaffected and to be mixed in with the compressed signal.  This allows the pick attack to still come through while the rest of the signal is compressed.

Second ‘can’t live without’ pedal is the ISP Decimator II G String. This is a great noise gate pedal that has a very unique feature.  The pedal has two inputs and outputs so that you can run the pedal in two places in your signal chain.  I have the noise gate first in my effect chain, right after the guitar, and also as the first thing in my effects loop on the amp.  This setup eliminates almost all noise when I’m not playing.

Finally, my TC Electronic pedals.  The main one is the ‘can’t live without’, which is the PolyTune 2 pedal.  This is an amazing tuner that I’ve never had any issue with.  I *might* switch it up for the new PolyTune 2 mini pedal, if all the features are there :).  I also use the TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb, the Transition Delay, and the Gravy Chorus.  Great pedals that are easy to dial in and get a good studio sound.

More to come!

New tools to solve an old (.NET Web Service) problem (and an apology)

Posted August 24, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Software Development (C#)

I ran into an interesting problem today…  One of my clients is converting a Windows app’s database and business logic to web services.  The transition has been surprisingly smooth.  Well, smooth up until today.  Since we are using the old, .asmx web services, passing user defined classes via the parameter list is almost a black art.  We were trying to pass a class, BusinessObjectFoo, from the Windows application to the web service.  The web service has a parameter that accepts BusinessObjectFoo, and both the client and the server reference the same library that contains the definition for BusinessObjectFoo.  This should be a no-brainer, and just work, right?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t.  Microsoft abandoned .asmx improvements in .NET 3.0, and left some rather serious holes in the functionality of .asmx web services.  The ability to pass a user defined class via the web service parameters happened to be one of them.

The crux of the problem is that when the client application pulls in the service reference, Visual Studio creates a new definition of the class from the web service’s WSDL rather than matching the class up with the libraries.  (Apparently, this works correctly with WCF services).  We tried several different solutions to try to allow passing the object via the web service, but no luck.

Enter my apology… in reviewing code for my normal job, I’d run across something that had been added to the code base with no explanation.  That code was for Automapper.  I got aggravated at the developer for throwing another ‘new toy’ into our project.  I did do a little reading on understanding Automapper, but didn’t see why it had been added. After today, I apologize to those devs, this one looks pretty helpful.

Back to the story :)

What need to be done was to move the data from the normal, shared class into one of the web service / auto generated classes.  The first try was to use an object copy routine.  That didn’t go so well.  After that, I realized that I should try the AutoMapper NuGet package, as both objects had the same field structure / interface, just different implementations.  That’s when reading up a bit on Automapper, and trying it really saved the day.  Instead of writing a big, honkin’ copy class between my shared object and the Web Service object, I just mapped the two with Automapper.  Then, it was just a simple map call to populate the correct object with all of it’s data.

VERY easy, and saved a ton of coding!

Everything old is new again (or the more things change, the more they stay the same)

Posted July 6, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Computers and Internet, PowerShell

Trends tend to go in cycles.  With computers, we’ve seen the old become the new back to the old, and back to the new.  Take the transformation from mainframes to PCs back to big servers.  Same thing has happened with computer languages.  One of the most notable things has been the rebirth of the command prompt…  In the dark ages, mainframe / Unix admins used the command prompt to manage the system because nothing else existed.  Then came the GUI tool.  Wonderful!  Visual!  Easy to see, easy to learn.  Unfortunately, difficult to automate.  For one or two servers, that wasn’t a problem.  As tools like Amazon’s Cloud computing, and Microsoft’s Windows Azure become more prevalent, though, managing by GUI becomes very difficult.  For Unix / Linux systems, there is a very rich scripting ecosystem.  But what about for Windows systems?

Enter Windows PowerShell

PowerShell started as a way manage systems via the command line using .NET, and has expanded to encompass everything from Exchange to SQL Server to Windows Azure.  The current version of PowerShell is vastly different from the original v1.0, with almost all commands being pipe-able and reusable.  The new remoting features are amazing.  There is even a built in web site to allow accessing the command line via a web server.  Yes, Unix/Linux admins will go ‘so what, this has all been done with Unix before’.  This is VERY true.  It’s just nice to have this built into Windows as a native component rather than as a third party add-in.  Also, PowerShell is built around .NET with all of the latest and greatest concepts such as fully dynamic objects and duck typing.

Having said all that, PowerShell is one of my top things ‘to learn’.  After checking out the initial Jump Start Course on the Microsoft Virtual Academy, I’ve been trying to ‘live in PowerShell’.  It certainly makes sense when working with multiple machines.  The remoting alone makes managing multiple web servers in a farm easier.

Fun stuff!

How I learned to stop worrying, and like Window 8.1.1 (Update 1)…

Posted July 1, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Computers and Internet

I had an interesting experience this evening…

One of my friends / family / customers was still running Windows XP on a 6 or 7 year old machine, and was concerned about Windows XP security support finally being cancelled.  The person loved the machine that I had built for them, but just wanted to upgrade.  So, my suggestion was to get a new SSD, and put Windows 8.1 Update 1 on it, as the person didn’t use many programs on the computer, mainly email, surfing, and some Microsoft Office.  The idea got approved, and I ordered a SanDisk Extreme II SSD and a copy of Windows 8.1.

Tonight, I was able to get by and install the new drive and software.  Challenge #1 turned out to be that the current hard drive in the computer was PATA!!!!  Have seen THAT in a LONG time.  I didn’t think that I had a SATA cable, but we were lucky enough to have the box from the original motherboard that did have the SATA cables in it.  Disaster #1 averted :)

After that, the install was *fairly* smooth.  The combination of Windows 8.1 and the SSD made the old computer MUCH faster.  Boot time dropped from over 2 to 3 minutes down to 23 seconds.  Plus, the screen looked a TON better.  The person had been running a 1920×1080 monitor / TV at a much lower resolution, so the screen looked terrible.  With Window 8.1, we were able to leave the resolution at 1920 x 1080, but change the scaling to 180%.  MUCH better!  The text was sharp but easier to read.  The system was faster and much more responsive.  Pinning the apps to the task bar felt very ‘mac like’ for some reason :)  Adding a network printer was so simple, it wasn’t even funny.  All in all, an excellent upgrade for a minimal amount of money.

Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin Duo quick review

Posted June 22, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Guitar Playing, Music, Recording and Mixing

I’m an equipment junkie, I’ll admit it.  The amount of guitars and recording equipment I’ve played with is well above the average hobbyist.  There are a LOT of promises out there, and rarely does the hype live up to the reality.  The Apollo Twin does live up to the hype, and more…  Now for the full story.

I’ve gone through several prosumer audio interfaces in the last couple of years.  Everything from an M-Audio Delta 66 all the way up to the Avid M-Box 3 Pro.  For the most part, none of them have been truly exceptional.  There’s always been issues of some sort with every one of them.  Getting an interface that works 100% of the time has been an absolute challenge.  My last interface, the M-Box 3 Pro was so bad, I was calling tech support to get a resolution.  After over a year and a half, 3 firmware updates, and updated drivers, the interface STILL wouldn’t work correctly, and the issue seemed to be pretty prevalent on the user forums.  Things got better over time, but it never did work correctly.

At the beginning of the year Universal Audio brought out the Apollo Twin.  To me, and my studio usage, this seemed like an ideal interface for my setup, but there was one problem.  The interface is a thunderbolt interface, but it only had one thunderbolt port.  I use an Apple Macbook Pro with thunderbolt, and I drive my external monitor off of the thunderbolt connection.  That was a real problem until the CalDigit Thunderbolt expansion showed up.  That has an HDMI port that allowed me to drive my monitor, and a second thunderbolt port that would allow me to connect the interface to the computer.

Last weekend, a fortuitous turn of events allowed me to get an Apollo Twin Duo without breaking my budget.  I was expecting good, but I’ve been jaded enough by lots of interfaces to be expecting some trouble.  Fortunately, my fears were completely unfounded.  The setup of the interface was very straightforward.  There is a link to a video and driver downloads in the box.  Following the instructions was simple and straight forward.  Once I finished, everything just WORKED.  Amazing!!!! So, I pulled up a some audio, and hit play…  I had to scrape my jaw off the floor.  I thought that the M-Box 3 Pro was supposed to be the top of the line audio.  The Apollo blew it away.  The detail on what was coming out of my speakers was freakin’ AMAZING.  For some reason, the stereo separation is much more apparent on the Apollo.  When I brought up one of the projects I was mixing (my own band’s live show), I was flabbergasted.  I had been struggling to get some balances correct.  With the new interface, I was able to hear it, and correct it almost instantly.  Because the interface is PCIe over Thunderbolt, the buffers and latency are incredible.

I did run into one issue when I first set the interface up… apparently, I had bought one that had been tested and returned to the place I bought it from.  This meant that the first night I had it, a Sunday, I couldn’t register to get all of the plug-ins that are part of the package.  I sent a support ticket in, and called to Tech support the next day.  They were able to clear up the registration very quickly, with a minimum of fuss.  They did a great job.

Once I was able to get the plug-ins installed and working, I did a bit of testing… nothing scientific, just replacing some of my other plug-ins that are models of similar equipment to the Apollo’s plug-ins.  Again, blown away is the least I can say about them.  Just switching to the LA-2A compressors in the latest package was like taking a video from 2D to 3D.  The detail is just amazing.  And, the preamp modeling is just crazy.  Running the included 610-B on a guitar input before sending to Amplitube warmed up the signal significantly.  I imagine that running it on vocals is even better.

Ok, enough gushing… what are the drawbacks?  #1 is that for a basic interface, it is expensive.  It’s worth it, but that’s hard to explain.  #2 is the endless parade of plug-ins are not cheap in two different ways.  One is money, and two is the processor requirements.  I can’t imagine buying the Twin Solo with just one processor.  I’ve already pushed the Duo to 50% processing power with just a small number of plugin instances.  Fortunately, it is fairly easy to expand the processing power by buying the expansion units.  I’m hoping that Universal Audio will start making the expansions with Thunderbolt instead of Firewire (and have pass thru functionality!).  I can see an OCTO processor in my future if I keep using the plug-ins!

All-in-all, the Apollo Twin Duo is a great piece of equipment for anyone recording or mixing and doesn’t need a ton of I/O.

Free Eventide Channelstrip plug-in (registration good through July 8th, 2014)

Posted June 9, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Guitar Playing, Hobbies, Music, Recording and Mixing

All,

Just a heads up, Eventide is giving away a free channel strip plug-in.  Check it out from the Logic-Pro-Expert site:

http://logic-pro-expert.com/logic-pro-blog/2014/06/09/free-plugin-logic-pro-eventide-ultra-channel-249-value.html

Predictions for Apple’s WWDC event

Posted June 1, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Computers - Apple Mac OS X

So, tomorrow is Apple’s WWDC (World Wide Developer’s Conference) keynote speech.  This is the first Apple-note of the year, and it’s going to be primarily focused on developers.  So far, the banners have shown iOS 8 and OS X 10.10.  What else is are we in store for is anyone’s guess.  I have my own predictions :)  I have 0 (zero) knowledge of what’s going to be done tomorrow, and even less facts, but I like to at least think through what *could* show up!

  1. 4k iMacs.  Yes, I know that Jim Dalrymple said ‘nope’ to a tweet saying no iMacs, but if you read the tweet, it is says ‘low cost iMacs’.  Why do I think that 4k iMacs are gonna show?  Well, for one, OS X 10.9.3 just came out with a complete 4K update.  Why do it now?  The current 4k capable macs have been out for a while (the retina MacBook Pros and the Mac Pro), so there’s no need to have the 4k feature added for them.  If it’s for a product that is due later in the year, then the update could have been addressed later.  I think that the 4k features had to be added before something could ship.
  2. If 4k iMacs show up, I bet a new Cinema display will too.
  3. Updated Mac Mini.  No one I’ve seen is mentioning how old the latest mini is.  The last update was almost 2 years ago.  It certainly can benefit from the updated Intel chipsets and Thunderbolt 2 connectors, not to mention that a lot of the Mac Pro tech could be used on the mini (1 TB SSD anyone?)  I’m wondering if Apple is doing a Mac Pro like make over on the mini. That would be REALLY interesting.  A Mac Pro with only one video card, maybe only two Thunderbolt 2 connectors, and only a few USB 3.0 connectors, and 1/2 the size of the Mac Pro…
  4. I don’t see a Retina Mac Book Air coming to light tomorrow.  The Air’s just got an update a month or so ago, even if it was just a small bump in specs, and a price drop.
  5. Something totally new???? WWDC has been interesting the last couple of years because Apple has been using this Apple-note to do the VERY high end products.  2 years ago, the retina Mac Book Pro.  Last year, the Mac Pro.
  6. I’ve seen someone pining for a 17″ retina MacBook Pro.  I have the last model year 17″ Macbook Pro, and the one thing it DOESN’T need is to double the resolution… 1920 x 1200 is bad enough!!!!  My eyesight isn’t that good anymore!!!! :)
  7. Please, no demo like the Anki drive tomorrow.  That whole thing was awkward and Microsoft-ish.  I think the Anki stuff is cool, but it was long, and not terribly pertinent to the Dev focus.

I have no real ideas about iOS 8 and OS X 10.10.  I’m resigned to the fact that OS X will probably get the iOS 7 flat treatment.  I bet that there will be a new Xcode release or announcement.  Apple is practically screaming ‘Developers, Developers, Developers’, so Xcode seems like a logical talking point.  The Healthbook rumors are getting interesting.  I hope that iBooks for iOS and OS X get updated.

At least tomorrow will be interesting!!!!


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