My thoughts on Macworld 2008 and the Macbook Air.

Apple Macbook Air

Every blog in the world has to run a story on everything Steve said last night and I will play along. What did we get? A new super light laptop the Macbook Air, a Network backup system for Time Machine called Time Capsule, a new Apple TV and iTunes Movie Rentals and more applications for the iPhone.

There is no reason for me to get into the specifications because they are all at Apple.com but here is what I thought was important to take note of.

Firewire IconWhile the Macbook Air is completely gorgeous and lust worthy, it won’t make a great pro-audio machine because of what it is missing: a Firewire port. USB 2.0 is fast but it pushes data in packets and from everything I read it’s not ideal for multi-channel pro-audio. In fact, I believe Digidesign does not even support USB 2.0.

Time Capsule is a good product. It gets the stack of Lacie drives you have for backup off your desk and hid away. I would have liked to see the concept go one step further and be a true network storage device instead of only for dedicated backup.

Apple TVThe new Apple TV paired with iTunes Movie Rentals is a game changer. The price is now just about $200 for the unit and it no longer needs to be paired to any computer. Once they get tons of movies available it will be like having Netflix but without having to wait for the postman. They have all the movie studios on board and the price for rentals is right on target. As a musician having YouTube, podcasts and flickr on Apple TV is fantastic. It puts your own content right there next to the big boys stuff, “Hey Dad… want to see my new music video?”.

Lastly, there were new applications for the iPhone and iPod touch. The SDK is coming and later this year new iPhones. There are going to be tons of music software for the device. Mini sequencers, drum machines, controller apps. It’s going be great!

What did you think of the announcements?

10 cool music toys to look forward to in 2008.

Happy New Year

LinnDrum II. Originally called the BoomChick the new MPC killer from Dave Smith and Roger Linn is already making a ton of noise on pro-audio blogs around the world. All drum machines are cool and this one looks meaty! Did I say one? Actually there will be two! The “Analog” edition will sport 4 voice analog synthesis and an extra 27 knobs. link

Linndrum II

Future Retro XS. They said it was coming in 2007 but they missed the mark. But the delay doesn’t dampen the excitement. Why not? It’s a real analog monophonic synth with 64 knobs and a MS20 style filter that can self oscillate. It’s semi-modular allowing you to use cables to patch and re-route the signal path. It has Midi and CV. The audio demos and videos sound awesome. $1299 is the right price too. link

Future Retro XS

Gforce S.O.B. The fine UK software house Gforce that’s responsible for software synths Oddity, impOSCar, Minimonsta and the new VSM have been teasing us with an Oberheim OB8 emulation for some time now. The screenshot below is from a Sonic State video in which Gforce was demoing another product and just so happened to flash the SOB! If it doesn’t appear in 2008 then it never will. link

Gforce SOB

Ableton meets Cycling ’74. One of the things Pluggo makes is a plug-in called VTheremin. This lets you use your computer’s iSight or chat camera as a virtual Theremin. This is one of the many creative things they do and the reason I am thrilled they have partnered with Ableton. I can’t wait to see what the partnership brings. link

Vtheremin

Touch Screen Madness. When I installed the new Mac OS “Leopard” on my computers I was a little bewildered as to why anyone would want Cover Flow in the finder. Then I thought to myself, “This would be cool if I could use my finger and flick through these documents like on an iPhone”. Duh! I had the same thought when using Quickview. People: these are sure signs a Mac “Touch” is coming. I can’t think of another industry that will benefit more than musicians from this technology. On screen controllers, keyboards and mixers and going to be super enjoyable! Invest in Kimberly-Clark now (they make Kleenex): KMB (NYSE) link

Mac Touch

Chimera SM16. Everyone should own a real analog sequencer. Everyone! Expect Chimera’s new sequencer to be Continue reading →

10 Macintosh Dashboard Widgets for pro-audio.

Apple Dashboard IconWhen Apple first released Tiger one feature I didn’t really like was Dashboard. It looked pretty but on my 12″ 867 G4 every time I hit F-12 the computer would slow down to a crawl. Even when the widgets would appear they would all take a good 20 seconds to fill up with whatever info they were grabbing from the internet.

As my computers and internet got faster I started using Dashboard for games like the great Asteroid clone from Christopher Marks. Lately I’ve been adding in useful little helper widgets on the recording studio machine. Here’s 10 Macintosh Dashboard widgets for pro-audio. Please note I took the descriptions of each widget from either Apple.com or the developer.

10. GuitarChords. Just pick a note and type of chord. Then watch as the widget displays how to fret that chord on the guitar. Scroll up the neck and see alternate ways of playing that same chord. Next, press the play button and hear what each of these chords sounds like. When you get tired of that, flip the widget around and change the tuning on your guitar. Ever wondered how to play a E-flat augmented chord in Open G tuning? Now you can find out. Download

9. Scales. Get lazy, and look up your major/minor scales or go crazy and write all your songs in Super Locrian and Six Tone Symmetrical. For a reminder, the widget says “Learn Your Scales”, in case you don’t have a music teacher to tell you that everyday. Also for your displeasure, this widget has the look and feel of Macintosh System 7. Download

8. Chord Reference. You choose a note and chord type. This ergonomic widget will display simply the notes composing that chord on your guitar. Your ear is the limit. This is a port of the original classic shareware for Mac OS in 1994. It hopefully offers an ergonomic interface for chords, one you’ll find useful and easy-to-use. Download

7. ittyBittyMIDI. A Dashboard Widget for Mac OS X that allows you to quickly monitor MIDI signals on your computer. You can use it to either monitor all MIDI devices or Continue reading →

Missing letters when typing on a new Macbook Pro.

Macbook Pro Keyboard

Yesterday I received a brand new Macbook Pro, 2.2GHZ with 7200rpm internal hard drive. It has Leopard installed, an LED screen and all wonderful things you would expect from a new Apple Computer. It’s amazingly fast, bright, silent and I can’t wait to use it in a live situation. The huge boost in power is going from a 12″ 876MHZ G4 is going to open many new doors during the performance. I will be able to add a ton more effects and multiple video streams.

Unfortunately I am having what maybe a serisous problem or defect with my machine. Every now and then the computer won’t type a key I press. Often it’s the first letter in a word and many times it happens when I switch into a new window and start typing.The new keyboard does have a different feel from the old Powerbook so I thought it could be user error. But after this happening for a few hours I decided to look online for an answer to what’s going on and I found this thread:

ELP! – first letter always missing!

To my surprise this is a known issue that some people are having. I tried every suggestion recommended to see if it would fix the problem. First, under Trackpad in the Keyboard and Mouse System Preferences I disabled “Ignore accidental trackpad input” and clicked “Ignore trackpad when mouse is present”. Next, in the Universal Access panel under Keyboard I put the Acceptance Delay on Short. None of these things fixed the problem. I then thought maybe its a Energy Savings issue where the computer is going into a low power mode then having an issue waking up fully. I went into the Energy Saver System Preference panel and clicked off “Put the hard disk(s) to sleep whenever possible”. I also moved the sliders to “Never” for “Put the computer to sleep…” and “Put the display(s) to sleep…”. Nothing has helped and so today I will call tech support. If they don’t have a real answer for me I will ask them to exchange this machine for me.

Do you know anything about this issue?

Update: After going back and forth with tech support and trying a few other things like zapping the Pram and using a guest account the problem did not go away. Apple is taking this machine back and sending me a new one. I’ll do a follow up post when the new computer arrives in about 10 days.

Update 2: I received a new replacement Macbook Pro and have been using it for a week. Here are my findings. The first letter missing issue has been resolved. This replacement machine does not have that problem. However, there is something that I have noticed. This keyboard has such a short throw that unless I am sitting upright in a good position I mistype. I think many of the comments I have seen on the Apple Discussion forums are from people simply not liking the keyboard so much. I am now used to it and currently love everything about this machine. I highly recommend having your computer switched out for a new one or repaired if it has the first letter missing issue.

Update 3: I hate to say this but the replacement computer is now exhibiting the same ELP behavior. I am pretty surprised. My next action is to bring it in for a repair at Gravis.de in Berlin. It’s free but I will be without the machine for 5 days. I have up to a year of free repairs so I may wait a few weeks and see if anybody figures out the exact problem on the Apple Discussion forums.

Update, February 20, 2008: Apple today pushed a software update and firmware update for the keyboard issue. It details the problem exactly so I suspect this will fix it completely. link

photo credit: aditza121