First real problem with the Mac

As I detailed in my previous post, I ended up getting an iSight for my mac mini.  First problem that I have is that the Mac mini only has one Firewire port.  I have two Firewire devices.  I have an M-Audio FW-1814, and now the iSight.  So, I started off getting a Belkin Firewire hub.  I first tried running the iSight through the 1814 pass-through.  That seemed to work, until I ran the iSight updater.  Then the computer ‘grey-button of death’ showed up near the end of the iSight update.  From that point on, the only way I can get the iSight and the 1814 to work together is to plug the iSight in AFTER the comptuer is running.  This still gives the ‘grey-button of death’.
 
Anyone else hit this problem?
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Getting back into the groove

Wow, last week was one of the best weeks I’ve ever had in my life! 
 
It started late Friday with my yearly review.  That went VERY well, it seems that my boss is very happy with my work.  Now, I’ve just got to work harder to get better…
 
Saturday was working in Miami, then doing a quick stop at my favorite music store.  They had gotten a new guitar in, which I got to demo for a good bit.
 
Sunday was a ‘shopping spree’ day.  I needed some new work clothes, and being that my birthday was close at hand, I had a good excuse to drop some money at Macy’s.  Next, I was able to pick up a Mighty Mouse for my Mac.  Finally, I hit Best Buy for an add-on pack to Rollercoaster Tycoon 3.  I also found a new chair in Best Buy, but wasn’t able to pick it up because it wouldn’t fit in my car!
 
Monday was my birthday.  Usually, the office that I work in passes around a card and does birthday cake.  I was being nice and unobtrusive, so that they could ‘surpise’ me… Hey, it’s a wonderful gesture.  Unfortunately, the only person who was surprised was me, as nothing happened at work… (More on this later…)  After work, I was determined to get the chair, so I managed to drag one of my friends who has a Jeep out to help me get the chair.  He and his girlfriend helped me get the chair, then they took me out to dinner.  Once I got home, I put the chair together fairly quickly.  All in all, it was a great birthday.
 
Tuesday, I poked my head into our Office Manager’s area, to check on the ‘birthday list’.  (Hey, I got missed last year because of a hurricane.  Two years in a row is unacceptable<grin>).  Turns out that someone thought it was the 29th.. WTF!?!  Ok, maybe 15 could be transmuted into 29 somehow…  Ended up with a nice card and cake at the office.  Then my friend Rick came up, and we had dinner, and hit the mac store again.  He wants more guitar lessons, and since we live about 30 minutes from each other, he ‘helped’ me get an iSight for the mac.  He’s already got one, so we are going to try to work out lessons via iChat.  It should prove to be interesting.
 
Wednesday, I ended up at a happy hour with one of my friends that I used to work with.  I had a lot of fun, and was able to catch up on the going’s on of several of my co-workers from my old company.  I even set up a meeting with one of my other old co-workers, because I was going to be in Tampa for the weekend for work.
 
Thursday and Friday were preparing for a community opening (I work for a home builder).  Friday I set up the iSight and got it to work fairly well (More on that in another post).
 
Finally, this past weekend, I worked the launch.  After a bit of a screwup at the rental car company (NEVER, EVER rent a car from Payless), I was able to help out with a very crazy launch.  We did extremely well.  There is a little bit of personal stuff that happened durin this time that has me VERY positive on life.  Plus, I was able to stop by and catch up with one of my old co-workers.
 
It’s been a good week.  I’ll have more news later…

Wow, oh wow, wow!!!!

So, I’m a product whore, what can I say?  I like to talk about things that I use, or will be using, and whether they work or not…. What does that have to do with this post?  Well, this morning, while reading Harmony-Central, I noticed a new product announcement.  Duh, yeah, that’s all Harmony-Central is good for, but I digress…  Line 6 has announced a new product called the TonePort.  At first, it was, ho-hum, ANOTHER computer guitar recording interface, yawn.  Then I saw the software….
 
Incredible!  Guitar, bass, and voice effects, all by one of the premier audio modelling companies.  Why would I get my hopes up with this?  Most of the computer-based guitar modeller software sound worse than the hardware devices 15 years ago (Ack!  I can’t believe I REMEMBER playing guitar that far back!)  Why should Line 6 be different?  Well, because the software is already done, and out in the wild.  The software looks to be based upon the Guitarport software, which has *dramatically* improved since it was initially released.  Plus, Line 6 has offered ‘Model Packs’ that allow one to upgrade software and hardware for a reasonable price.  I’m sure those will show up for the TonePort quick enough.
 
Now, here’s my hopes… There are explicit specifications for Macintosh.  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE get the software to work with the Mac!  I might have to upgrade from a Mini to a Powermac just for that!  Also, on the Windows version, TEST WITH SONAR!  If the TonePort can feed Cakewalk’s Sonar with minimal latency through WDM drivers, I’d be very happy.
 
Now, to just be able to play the guitar better….

+1 on the age today…

I don’t want to make a big deal about it, but I wanted to at least say SOMETHING!   Today is my 33rd birthday.  I had a great weekend leading up to today. 
 
Friday, I had my yearly review at my job.  Seeing as how this was my first full year at my company I had no idea what to expect.  Well, to say the least, it went VERY well!  I’m very happy with my review, and it’s repercussions…   I look forward to working here for a very long time!
 
Saturday was working, drooling at the guitar store (they received a PRS 513 in, my impressions will follow), and setting up to start work on a side project.  As an aside, the side project was something that I had not touched in almost a year.  The components that I used in Delphi had ALL been updated.  Usually, that’s a daunting task, but the component guys have gotten a LOT smarter!  Everything went smoothly, and I was able to get my project running in about an hour.
 
Sunday was birthday gift day!  The last couple of years have been lean in terms of being able to spend for my birthday.  This year, I’m still keeping it cheap, but I have a different set of goals.  I did a little bit of clothes shopping (as I missed the father’s day sales this year).  My big ‘gift’ is going to be a new computer chair.  My old one is not very comfortable (it was a hand-me-down for GOOD reasons!).  I found two chairs on Sunday, but one was WAY out of the price range, while the other was out of stock.  Today, I should be able to get the new chair.  Plus, I hit the Apple store for a new mouse.

Lessons on using the Mighty Mouse

Lesson #1 when using the Mighty Mouse and Firefox, especially when
writing a blog entry… DO NOT TOUCH THE SCROLL WHEEL!  Left and
right navigate through your history, causing what was being typed to go
to la-la land!

So far, so good.  I was able to pick up a Mighty Mouse today while
out running around.  First impressions… I like the mouse. 
I like pushing the mouse down to click instead of pushing a
button.  I like the way the right button works, it just takes a
little bit to get used to.  The scroll wheel is VERY sweet! 
For one thing, it’s not direction limited, plus there is a lot less
travel area.  We have a winner!

Request a Beta 3 of Visual Studio 2005

Calling all Visual Studio .NET developers!  I don’t know how many people have started working with VS 2005 Beta 2 and/or the Community Tech Previews, but a critical issue has been raised.  Beta 2 was supposed to be the feature complete and no major changes were to occur.  Unfortunately, Beta 2 had a LOT of work left to be done.  There is a call for a Beta 3 build here.  I hate to say this, because I want to be working on VS 2005 too, but I voted that it is a VERY high importance.  Beta 2 was good, but ASP.NET 2 has some HORRIBLE problems… (try getting the web parts to work with a version of SQL Server that’s NOT the Express version).  The CTPs are good, but they don’t work with any version of SQL Server OTHER than the Express edition that is bundled with it.
 
Maybe Micorosft will build an RC in September or October…

I’m not a fan of Web-based programs

Here’s the setup… I use ASP.NET with C# to develop in-house software
for my company.  We can get away with programming ONLY for
IE.  That’s not TOO bad of a model.  Unfortunately, we have
begun to run into certain limitations that I would rarely think about
with OS based programs.  So, I figure that I’ll rant here, rather
than at work (my boss CERTAINLY doesn’t want to hear me whining about
things like this <grin>).

First off, to do web programming, a MINIMUM of three (3) languages are
needed!  I have to know C# for the server, HTML (yes it is a
language look up the acronym!) for the basic display, and Javascript
for the user interaction.  If anything fancy is to be done with
the display page, add CSS (which is a black art in-and-of itself), XML,
XSD, and now AJAX.  Bah!  What happened to writing the server
and client in the SAME LANGUAGE?  Why can’t someone come out with
C# script to use on the client, or javascript on the server?  What
ever happened to leveraging one’s knowledge?

Second, anything interactive done on a web page is done through a
hack.  HTTP is a stateless protocol.  It was a great idea in
the beginning.  It’s now morphed into this weird transport
protocol that is still ‘supposed’ to be stateless but is nowhere close
to it.  Cookies, XMLHTTP requests, postbacks, and plug-ins are
some of the ways developers ‘get around’ the problem…  The real
problem is that we’ve extended the protocol FAR beyond what it was
designed for.

Finally, there is no standard on the browser side…  Developers
have to write specific code based upon specific browsers to get
consistent user experiences.  This causes double, triple, even
quadruaple amounts of code, and the experience is different for each
one. Try running MSN spaces on a Mac.  It works (sorta). Not very
satisfying, though.

There are solutions out there, and some more are coming.  Java’s
Applets are available right now.  The biggest issue with java
applets is that they got a bad name when they came out, oh, 10 YEARS
ago.  The machines couldn’t really run java well and the internet
transmission rate was slow, so people thought, ugh, slow program, and
takes forever to download.  That is definitely not the case
anymore, but few development shops use them.  Another solution
that is coming soon is WinFX (Avalon).  It’s Windows specific, but
it is .NET’s version of Java’s Applets.  It should be fast, as
it’s native .NET code, and the footprint should be much smaller. 
The biggest issue is that it is not cross-platform.  Hopefully,
Microsoft will get Rotor 2.0 out the door so that a Mac version of .NET
applets can show up…

Enough of my rant, I just had to get that off my chest.  Back to the regularly scheduled ‘light-and-fluffy’ programming!

Apple Mighty Mouse, quick overview

My friend Rick did a quick overview of his initial impressions of Apple’s new Mighty Mouse.  I had a few moments to play with one at a different Apple store, and I have a little bit different opinion.  Here it goes…
 
First off, I LIKE the current 1-click Apple mouse.  It puts a lot less stress on the finger by having the weight of the hand do the click, not the finger.  I have realized how much I DISLIKE the windows mice after just a few short weeks with my mac.  I don’t like the scroll wheel, as it hurts my fingers (I know, I’m a crybaby on this one).
 
After spending just a few minutes with the Mighty Mouse, I fell in love.  Right clicking will take a little bit of getting used to, but it seems intuitive enough.  The big surprise was the scroll button.  I was expecting something like IBM Thinkpad’s sensor, which is usable, but odd.  The scroll button turns out to be a little trackball.  It was very comfortable rolling the scroll button around.
 
Overall, I liked the Mighty Mouse enough that *I’ll* get one when I find one for sale…

Sometimes, it not about where you’re going….

Christine had great story about how she ended up driving to Naples (See comments) to see a movie because of a plane landing on I-75.  Unfortunately, she didn’t remember the movie!  While I could make a comment about the quality of movies in general, this entry is not about that…
 
One of my favorite sayings is ‘Life is what happens while you wait for your plans to develop’ (or something like that).  I find that it’s interesting that most people remember the journey much better than they remember the destination.  In fact, the journey usually teaches us far more than the end result.  Case in point… I’m starting to teach my friend Rick how to play the guitar.  Usually when you teach someone, the point is to learn something specific, ie, how to play a song, how to play a lead, etc…  Ultimately, though, what a student should learn is HOW TO GET TO THEIR GOAL FOR THEMSELVES.  Unfortunately, it took ME a long time to figure this out.  I hope that I can impart that concept better than my teachers.
 
Ok, back to the point… it just strikes me as interesting that the journey is usually much more important than the end result.  As a programmer, I have to debug programs.  I LIKE to do this.  But, I remember what is required to find/fix the bug rather than the bug itself.  In fact, the bug is NOT the important thing, understanding WHY the bug happened is FAR more important, so that next time I can write code that doesn’t exhibit the bug.
 
Last stupid saying for this post… ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish, you feed him for life’

It never fails…

I have a confession… I haven’t washed my car in a couple of months… Yes, it is a sin to own a Corvette and not keep it clean.  Time and money have just not converged until today.  So, I finally am able to get a nice car wash, get the wheels cleaned, vacuumed out, etc…  Of course, by 6 o’clock, a nice thunderstorm had moved in totally soaked the car.  Oh well…

OK/Cancel MUST DIE!!!!

My sorjourn into the Macintosh OSX has brought a LOT of interesting User Interface issues to light.  Something I noticed today was that there is no such thing as ‘OK/Cancel’ buttons…  Yes, there are buttons, but they are labeled with the action that is to be performed.  An example of this is when I plugged my camera in, I got a dialog box that had the buttons ‘Import Photos’ and ‘Don’t Import Photos’.  Much more understandable than, ‘Do you wish to import photos?  OK/Cancel’. 
 
Now, I’ll be the FIRST to admit that I’ve added to this problem with the software that I’ve written.  By default, message boxes in windows are easy to set up with the Yes/No, OK/Cancel buttons.  Unfortunately, the questions that we programmers ask users are no where NEAR good enough for the user to understand what will happen.  How many times do you look at a OK/Cancel box and have NO IDEA what the computer is going to do if you press either one?
 
On the same subject, the NEXT/PREVIOUS buttons in wizards have the SAME problem.  As a user, I would constantly ask myself, ‘what’s ACTUALLY next?’  I mean WHY should I press next?
 
Why do programmers do this?  I mean, how hard is it to change the buttons to give a brief synopsis of what will happen when they press a button instead of these generic terms?  Again, as a programmer, I try to abstract things out.  The Yes/No/OK/Cancel dialog is an abstraction that *I* understand, but most USERS don’t. 
 
To all UI designers, it’s time to change, guys!  No more OK/Cancel/Yes/No dialogs and kill the NEXT on wizards!  Replace with a sysnopsis of the action to be performed, and watch your users get a better understanding of what your program does!

Amplifier Overview

I’ve been promising this info for my friend Rick since last weekend.  This is some basic information about guitar amplifiers, as he’s starting to learn to play.  (He’s picking it up quickly, too).
 
There are three basic types of amplifiers… Tube, Solid State, and Modeling.  Yes, Modeling is a type of solid state, but it has some significant difference, which I’ll cover in a bit…  Here’s a quick overview of each…
 
Tube amps are the original amplifiers, before solid state circuitry was available.  Tube amps get their name from the vacuum tubes that are used to increase the volume.  Tube guitar amplifiers produce a very pleasing sound to most guitar players, as the sound is smooth and round.  Tubes distort very easily and produce a very pleasant sounding distortion.
 
Solid state amps use the same principles that the tube amps, just using solid state components instead of tubes.  Unfortunately, early solid state amps produced very harsh sounds.  Solid state amps do not distort like a tube amp, so designers had to tweek the distortion sounds until they were ‘close’.  In the last 15 years, solid state amps have gotten a lot better, and players are using them more often.
 
Finally, modelling amps have popped up in the last 7-8 years.  These typically are solid state amps married to a computer that ‘models’ different amp sounds.  As computers have gotten faster, these amps have gotten better.  The latest crops of modelling amps closely match tube amps not only in sound but in feel.
 
More to follow…

Scratch the Pro article

I started to write an article on what it means to be a professional… Once I started reading what I was writing, I realized how pompous it sounded.  So, the article has been scratched.  I can sum up my ideas into one sentence:  Pros are people who make difficult tasks look easy.  Unfortunately, I’ve run across a lot of the opposite lately.  It seems like most people go out of their way to make the easy stuff look difficult.

Getting back into gear…

As Christine has pointed out, it’s been a week since I kicked up a blog entry… This is not it…   This is just a teaser…  I will have an entry up on being a professional up in a few minutes.  I’m also going to try to write an article on guitar amps for Rick.  That may take a day or two.  (Watch for that one Wednesday).
 
As to WHY it’s taken so long?  I am in the process of doing an ‘Apple Switch’.  I’ve been working with my Mini for a week and a half now, and it’s great, but there is one small problem… MSN Spaces does not work very well with Safari or Mozilla.  (no, I haven’t tried Opera yet).  So, for me to blog, I have to be working on the Windows box.  I DO still like and use Microsoft Windows XP 64, as ALL my music stuff is set up for Windows.
 
Maybe Windows Vista will help with my delimma… Nah, probably not…