Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nearly there

Waddling along at the moment. Today has been a little disapointing, but we keep moving onwards.

Tried a new antenna for the main tv but reception was a little spotty. Picked up most of the channels really nicely but didn't pick up all the channels. If we can't get decent reception out here then there isn't much point in getting a PVR. Maybe once we move back closer to the city?

At least internet has been sorted out. More or less, that's another battle and I'm tired. Off to bed now... though I should have something interesting  for tomorrow.

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's getting closer

Woohoo! I've upgraded my music box a bit. It's now running Windows 7 and I splashed out and got some better software including a DAW. I haven't had a chance to play with it yet, but I'm hoping that it'll really get my production levels up.

I'm looking at a couple of microphone setups. My choice at the moment would be a Behringer B1 Condensor microphone. They are supposed to be pretty decent and they are cheaper than most condensor mics (which are better than standard dynamic mics). The downside is that they need phantom power to run which needs to be supplied by the mixer.

My current mixer (Behringer UB502) is pretty nice but it is a basic unit that does not have phantom power. So to run a decent mic I need to upgrade the mixer. I'm looking at the Behringer 1204USB which is pretty nice but carries a hefty price tag. I'd be looking to drop about $500 between the mixer and the mic (plus some cable and a pop guard and probably a stand).

Considering that my voice ain't that crash hot and that I have not recorded any lyrics since setting out (repeatedly) to record more lyrics, it makes me wonder if it is worth the effort to spend that much on a microphone. It will definitly be worth it if I manage to collaborate with someone who can sing, but not yet.

So before I can splash out on a mic and mixer I need to release my fourth album (which is where I am stuck at the moment). On the plus side, if I can get my music output up, then I'll be picking up the mixer, mic and assorted bit but also a camera and some accessories for that as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Microphone hunting

For some bizarre reason I wanted to record a podcast. No idea why, since I don't actually have anything to say. As a part of that I was looking around at different options for recording vocals - more specifically, recording several people. I had an idea for a long-form serial setup for a podcast (like a telly drama but audio only) with a constant on-going story.

Then I realised I don't have enough friends to do that.

So I dropped the idea, but I'm still looking at options for recording several people at once. We'll see how I go.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Upcoming Election

Well, it's nearly that time again. A Federal election in Australia and people are wondering "who should I vote for?"

Actually, I think that the majority of people have no clue and no desire to find out about the election process. You get tricked a little because most of the ads by the bigger parties will be promoting the two main leaders (Gillard and Abbott), but unless you live in their electorate then their names won't appear on the ballot.

Why? Because most people in Australia have been "Americanized" and think that they are voting for who will be President / Prime Minister. This is not true - people vote for their local members and the party with the most members normally makes it's leader the Prime Minister. People don't vote for who gets to be the Prime Minister which is why there was no major issue with Gillard kicking out Rudd and taking over. It wasn't a coupe.

The two best things people can do is:
  1. Do their homework. It takes all of three minutes to go to the AEC website (that's the Australian Electoral Commission) and click the big "who is on the ballot" button. This will let you find out the names of the people who will be on the ballot tomorrow. Most people will be surprised to find out that there are not three candidates, but fifty five. And none of these names will be familiar. By doing a bit of research, people will be able to decide how they will vote before going to the polling booth.
  2. Use their own preferences and vote for a minor party first, then the big party.
How it works in Australia is that all votes go the the person that vote was cast for. If there is no clear winner, then whoever got the least votes has their votes moved to the #2 spot on those votes. This repeats until someone is the clear winner. This is the simple version on how the preferences work.

If people just vote for the big parties Labour and Liberal) then they are shoe-in and we get more of the same. If people vote for minor parties first (like the Shooters Association, the Climate Skeptics or the Australian Sex Party) then the balance of power is distributed and it means more stable political policies since the party that ends up in power can't just arbitrarily make new policies that benefit small sections of the community, they have to take a broader approach.

Having said that, I'm calling this election as a landslide victory for Liberal, making Gillard the first female Prime Minister in Australia and also the shortest serving (about two months). Labour were already on the way out with the mining supr profits tax and Gillard's back-stab of Kevin so close to the election was a destabilizing influence. Australian's don't like traitors and they don't like change.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Giving it a try

Today I tried a new feature for the website. I am seeing if I can get the current (latest) post on my blogger blog to show up on the front page. Yes, this can be done (I've already done it). I may even write up a bit of a tutorial on how to do it as well later on.

At any rate, the purpose of this update is to test the image function. Here's an image:

And here's alinks list:

Whee! Now to see if it worked...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Change default search engine country Firefox Ubuntu

Ha! Took about an hour or so.

I'm running Firefox 3.6.8 on Ubuntu 10.04 and for whatever reason, I didn't end up with the default settings that I wanted (probably my fault at setup). At any rate, what I wanted to do was change the default search engine from google.com to google.com.au (sounds easy, right?).

Now, if you want to change the search engine, it actually is quite easy. In the search bar (top right box) there is a drop-down next to the current search engine favicon which will let you change between the different search engine. Mine lists Google, Yahoo, eBay, Wikipedia and a few others. What I want to do is change google.com to google.com.au which is a little harder.

I'll save you the boring details and jump straight to the solution.
  1. Open the terminal, type gksudo nautilus (don't use sudo, you want gksudo which will give you a graphical interface)
  2. Find the searchplugins folder. Mine was in /usr/lib/firefox-3.6.8/searchplugins (if you can't find it, run a search for google.xml in your system, that's the file you want). It may also show up in other places (like /usr/lib/.mozilla/ depending on your system). Also note that the 3.6.8 bit will depend on your version.
  3. As an extra step, in my system it had two more folders, en-GB and en-US and a google.xml file was inside both - you may have both, neither or something else.
  4. What I did was copy the google.xml file and rename it google-au.xml (this is so that if I stuff anything up, the original file is still there).
  5. Inside that file, find every instance of .com and change it to .com.au (or to what you need, like .co.uk). There are about three or four places to change this. I also changed the short name to Google AU so that it would make it easy to see which I was using in the drop-down list. Ignore everything else.
  6. Save the file, close Nautilus and re-start Firefox.
With Firefox re-started, it was easy enough to use the "Manage Search Engines" option at the bottom of the drop-down and move the AU version to the top (and the US to the second spot so I can quickly change to US if I need different search options).

I initially only changed the xml file in the en-US folder (I assumed that was the one being used) but it didn't work. I re-did the above except that I just copied the google-au.xml file over into the en-GB folder and then it worked. This was also the payoff for making a new file rather than just editing the original file.

My biggest problem in getting this changed was that most places that said how to make the change either had the simple solution of altering the order of the drop-down or had the difficult solution of editing the google.xml file but omitted that you had to be in Nautilus with root permission in order to do it (if you just use "Places" to navigate to the file you can only read it, not edit it).

After that the rest was easy. Now, just need to buff out the fore-head shaped dents on my desk...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blurgh - getting too hard

Video editing - it isn't supposed to be this hard.

I've used both Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro and found both of them to be quite superb. I'm currently on the market for a basic but decent video editor. Ideally, I'd grab one of the Pro programs, but there are some minor considerations (like cost and hardware) which make it unfeasible.

I've been looking at a number of different editors and I can't say that I'm overly excited by any of them. There is a good round-up of the various different editing programs available here which shows a variety of different options. I like that they focused on the "home user" market and I'm surprised that Adobe Premiere Elements came in third. I may have to have a look at the ones that came in first and second. Or at least download the trial versions and see how they go. Pity the trial versions are over a gigabyte!

Of course, this is all moot since I have not been creating any music! Gah, I really need to get into gear with this. If I can't produce when I have the time available, how am I supposed to produce when I am time poor?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Next weeks' plans

So here's the skinny;
  • Need to finish and publish fourth album.
  • Need to make at least one video clip and upload (two or three is better)
  • Need to get going on lyrics and songs.
I think I may be going about this the wrong way. I've been so busy wrapping myself into circles that I've lost sight of the bigger picture. What I need to do is get cracking on production rates. I already know I can't do quality, so I have to go for quantity.

Still need to set myself up properly in order to get busy with music creation. Software that needs to be obtained / upgraded:
  • Go Vista to Win7 for music box
  • Get better editing software (Adobe Premiere Elements 8?)
  • Get better music making software
So much to do, so little time to do it. No matter, so long as I am doing something, then I can only improve, Also, will probably want a book showing how to use said editing program as I want to take advantage of the features (such as transitions, effects and titles).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Songwriting for dummies - don't bother

In my feeble attempts at becoming a musician, I decided to start with the lowest easily accessible book, Songwriting for Dummies.

For those who are interested in getting this book, here's a summary of the information contained within this tome: write what you feel and make it good.

It's a pretty impressive effort on the part of the authors to pad out that short concept to over 300 pages and they manged to get my thirty dollars, so props to them. Still quite disappointed with that purchase though. This one page at SongLyricist.com provided more useful information.

Oh well, live and learn.

On other matters, I've now watched the dvd of Let the blood run free which I picked up off eBay (it's no longer available). It turns out that it's not the show that I thought it was but I still found it amusing. The humour is dated and it's very much hit-and-miss but it does have moments that made me laugh like a manic.

Not highly re-watchable but worth the $20 I dropped on it. Would I recommend it? You really have to be in the right frame of mind for it to be worth watching. It was made to look really low budget (a car chase scene is done with little toy cars on a scalectrix set) and a lot of it was improvised (it originated as a cabaret stage show) but not in the same way as Who's line is it anyway.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Oh yeah...

What I'd been posting about before...

I need to get my game face on. It's Friday already and so far I have not written or recorded any lyrics, now video recorded and composed no new music. I really need to lift my game and get busy.

On the plus side I have worked out two options:

  1. Get a Mac - this would be around $1,500 for a basic, entry level model but would come with iLife and Garageband which would make things easier. 
  2. Get Windows 7 ($130), Adobe Premiere Elements ($100) for editing, Fruity Loops ($160) for making music and a video camera ($300) and I can use my existing computer for around $700 and as a plus, still be able to use all my old software.
Not much of a choice really.

Now really frustrated


I just had a long post all written up and ready to post and I went and deleted it! Noooo!

So far, ScribeFire has been like totally awesome. I've now done more updates on this blog in the last fortnight than I have in the entire rest of the year combined. But having a "undo" button would be reeaallly nice when one accidentally deletes a long post in progress. Or an auto-save.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Multi-flash setup?

Well, I've now got several flashes for the 300D (three actually). They're Yongnuo Speedlite YN460 flashes - basically a cheap knock-off of the Canon Speedlites (which cost several hundred dollars - each).

The idea is to be able to get light flashes onto the subject from different sides at the same time.

Obviously they are not going to be anywhere near as good as the proper Canon flashes, but I'll have to have a play with them to see if I can get some satisfactory results out of them. I tried it once with one of the flashes mounted on the hotshoe on the camera and the result wasn't very good.

In other news, the copy of "Let the blood run free" mentioned a few posts ago has come through which is quite nifty - very fast delivery and it wasn't even express - just regular mail. I'll pop it into the machine tomorrow and have a watch and see if it was worth the expense...

Also, I temporarily have the Kogan hi-def camera again for a few weeks, so hopefully I'll be able to produce another video clip or two in the next fortnight.

Watch this space!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Preparing for increased output

Well, I have been looking at different options that are available in order to increase my music and music video output.

Increasing video output is relatively easy. I had been comsidering the old "get a Mac" solution that everyone else has been suggesting. Since I don't have a Mac I figured I'd look into it (since that would mean that I'd have all systems - Windows, Linux and Mac).

But computers aren't like Pokemon.

The cheapest option would be a Mac Mini (which is just a box) and use the old keyboard, monitor, etc. However, even this "cheap" option is still $1,500.

On the other hand, I already have a reasonably powerful computer that is getting under-used. I could get Windows 7 (currently running Vista - yuk!), Adobe Premiere Elements 8 for video editing, Acid Pro for music and keep using a slab of software that I already have and have enough change left over to buy an entry level high-def camera.

Looks like Apple is going to lose out on this one. I've used Final Cut Pro on a G tower and it is indeed awesome, but I can buy a car for the same price.

However, the point is moot if I don't step up my music production. So I should probably get on top of that first!

Monday, August 9, 2010

New video Up!

Well, slowly getting things done.

My song Svelte now has a video on YouTube! That makes my second video clip, this time from my second album, Jump.

This one is more of an experiment than the first one was. For this one I was trying out a video camera that I picked up off eBay. It's one of those low-profile "sports" type cameras that you mount on the side of your helmet or motorbike or skateboard or w/ever to catch all your "extreme" sports moments.

The camera itself isn't too bad for a $30 camera - but the annoying thing is that it comes with a time/date stamp feature. The really annoying part is that not only was this feature not advertised, you can't turn it off either! Dang!!!

Oh well, guess if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. :(

It'll still come in useful for some specific shots, but I doubt I'll be using it much.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Letting the blood run ... free

I've been on the hunt for a while now for an old Australian TV series called  Let the Blood run Free. It was on in the 90's or so and I have very little memory of it - other than finding it funny. The one thing that I can clearly remember is that it was a spoof show set in a hospital and the perpetual "patient" was shown as a man lying on the operating table except that his chest was just a ribcage. No skin, no organs - nothing. The man was clearly dead.

(Note that this was a low budget comedy show - they didn't have an actual cadaver, it was just intended to look that way.)

At any rate, it isn't available (EzyDVD sell it but are out of stock) but I was able to find someone selling copies on eBay. I've ordered one and will see if it was worth the $20 I dropped for it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Getting back on the bike

Not that anybody really cares, but I've started to get back into the old exercise routine.

As usual, I've added a page on my site to publicly track my progress. We'll see if this progresses longer or not.

In other news, I've got my copy of Ubuntu Studios! Whee! I've already installed it and have been having a bit of a play with it. There is precious little documentation around for it, but it seems promising so far. I've already had a bit of a play with the drum machine that it comes with which is fun and reasonably intuative.

I am a little disappointed that I didn't find a good video editor (like Cinerrala) bundled in, but it remains to be seen if I'll be able to make any video clips during the holidays.

I've already shot a bunch of test footage with a camera mounted on the bicycle to make a filler video clip with, but I got nasuous watching the footage, so I don't know if I'll be able to use it or not.

We'll see.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Still no sign

Ordered Ubuntu Studios a while back. It's a Linux based digital creation suite. It has music and video software that should work quite nicely with my existing setup and get me streamlined and producing more music.

However, the first disc that arrived had an error on it and would not install properly. So arranged for another copy and it still has not shown up (this was in March!) which is starting to annoy me.

No matter, I have some time off coming up, I'll have to see what I can do then in order to get some stuff produced during the allotted time. If I can get hold of a camera, I'll see about making another video or two. That would be sweet. Still in discussion with others about collaborating, which will be awesome, but I need to get my own skills up first in order to make sure that I can keep my end up and bring a decent amount of talent to the group. Maybe.

Gotta keep practicing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Getting Fit (again)

Well, back on the "let's exercise" train again. I'm going to do up a page on my main site (hopefully this week) and keep an on-line track of what I've done.

The current goal is simply to get <em>some</em> exercise each day (except Sundays). At the moment I have been doing okay, but it's winter and cold in the mornings so it's understandable if I miss a day or two (though I feel bad about it when I do).

Note to self: I also need more excuses to get out of the house and meet people.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Trying FireScribe instead

Well, this is my attempt to get more blogging done so that I can integrate my current (and much ignored) blog with my other assets.

I tried BloGTK for Linux and it was a sad, sad failure. It'd install but when I tried to run it, nothing would happen. Even updated the kernel and did a complete re-instal. At any rate, this is the first post to my blog from FireScribe