160 The Hard Way (PC HD Upgrade)

Since I’ve been working at home from time to time this fall I needed to install a bunch of software on my machine, and the inevitable finally happened: I ran out of hard drive space. Rather than deal with perpetual offloading stuff to another drive I decided to get a new bigger hard drive and swap the old one out. Since my old computer died I’m down to one computer, which went from being my music studio computer to my everything computer. So I also decided I’m gonna get a new machine for the studio sometime this winter. And it’s gonna be a Mac, my first new one in over 10 years. I was a long time Mac user, practically from the beginning in the 80’s, until Paul Allen personally forced me to switch to Windows when I worked for Interval Research Corporation, his secretive Silicon Valley think thank. But Vista looks like a total dog that jumped the shark, and PC hardware design reminds me more of Soviet-era cars with each year. Meanwhile the Macs keep getting better and better. Not only are they sleek and shiny and integrated and all, but they include Linux and you can run Windows on ’em still. Best of all worlds.

But that’s a few months away. I needed to upgrade the hard drive to my PC now. Never having done this before I did a bit of research and determined Norton Ghost looked like a good way to go. However, since my machine is a laptop and Ghost is designed to run with a workstation, the directions provided didn’t fully work, and the project turned into a bit of an adventure.

Luckily, I have an old, old PC that runs Win2K lying around, and also luckily Jeannie wanted to help me with this project. So we thought we’d do an upgrade on that machine first as a test. We have an old external hard drive case for laptops with a PCMCIA adaptor, and Jeanie has a box full of old hard drives she salvaged from somewhere. So we off we went. The process was complicated by the fact that the old HD was on its last legs, and in fact died while we were backing it up. We got the C drive (which was the boot drive) but the D partition was a mess, and it took a bit of time to determine what had happened. The only way to go was forward. We swapped the drives but the machine wouldn’t boot. Instead an alert came up advising us there was a problem with the pageSys file. Over and over in a loop. Norton says to set some jumpers on the new drive in this situation, but that advice is for 2 internal drives on the same bus in a workstation, so it looked like we were out of luck.

The internet to the rescue. It turns out all you need to do is reset the master boot record. (Bet you already knew that!) To do that you need to boot in DOS mode and run the magic command:

fdisk /mbr

and all is right again. The computer doesn’t have a floppy drive, but we were able to put the original Windows Recovery CD in, boot off of that, exit the utility app and we found ourselves in DOS.

On to the main act. We put the new 160 GB into the sled and ran Norton. We tried to boot of the system disk from the old machine, but the new machine wouldn’t let us, because the new machine runs XP. We found a DOS boot disk image on the internet and burned it to a CD. Thanks, Internet! Then we did the hardware swap, which on this particular machine meant taking quite a bit of it apart. Put it all back together with the new drive and booted, and…
Nothing. Hung mid-boot. Not even an alert. Now we were glad we did the experiment in win2K, cuz it was the same problem with the pageSys. So we put in the CD and spun up in DOS and said fdisk /mbr then it came around.

I ran some apps and everything looked cool. After some poking around, a couple of little things seemed off. I ran proTools and for some reason SampleTank was running in trial mode, and I had to go to their web site and get a new authorization code, which is bogus it’s running on the same machine. And I’m gonna need a new code when install it on the Mac.

It reminds me of that movie where the doctor says “technically the procedure is brain damage, but its no worse that say a night of heavy drinking.”

Flex Development and Weekend on Long Island

Work has been — well, programming can be a challenge, especially when learning a new language while trying to write a software application on a deadline. I’ve been deep in the steep part of the Flex learning curve, with its monumental edifice of pre-built components, loaded with design and usage assumptions. I’m trying to forge our designer’s interactive, animated, curvy concept into Flex’s prefab boxes. I’m particularly having difficulty with the HList Component, which does not give the developer the power and flexibility one would want or expect. Seriously, for example you can’t turn off rollover highlighting of a list item without also suppressing the event that the rollover action generates. Oy! Over and over with stuff like that. I feel like I’m trying recreate a wood carving out of Legos, and am running into the same limits as you face in real Legos: either it looks blocky or you have an over-reliance on specialized, one-off pieces.

A couple weeks ago I went to a wedding on Long Island for Jeannie’s cousin. It was on Friday afternoon, so I left work early and we were able to get out of the house on time with the kids. On the trip out it started to rain, and then turned into a severe thunderstorm, and naturally traffic was massively backed up to the point that by the time the wedding was over we were only halfway there. Well, I thought to myself as the wipers swished back and forth energetically but futilely, this is easier than writing code.

We dropped the kids off in Wantagh and proceeded to Babylon. Thanks to Nick & Lisa for watching the kids! They had a great time. Lizzy is now a fan of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. By the time we got there the rain had pretty much stopped. Got to the hall. Pointless valet parking. The parking lot was right there, but everyone had to wait in line, and the parking guy spilled my CD’s and maps all over the front seat. I can’t understand the format of the Long Island wedding. The meal is stretched out over the whole night, constantly interrupted by dancing, but only a few songs, not a real set. On top of that the music was EQ’d badly, with the mid-bass too loud drowning out conversation. There must be some “club” effect they use. It was a I good time anyway. Got to see lot of Jeannie’s family. Denis and Sarah were in town. Jeannie and I did take a nice walk around the harbor, spotting cabin cruisers. And we did stay ’til the end and danced, which is something we don’t get to do very often. Stayed on long island overnight and spent the next day at Jeannie’s sister’s house, with the whole clan. Like I said easier then writing code.

Been Busy

Since the kids went back to school, it feels like we’ve been continually busy every day every waking moment for the last nine weeks. Working all week and every weekend something going on. It’s gotten to be the time of year already when it’s still nighttime when I get up in the morning, which is never much fun. I feel like I’m several weeks behind in writing about what’s been going on, so here’s a general update, to be followed by some more specific posts.

Work has been busy for me, building a major new application while learning a new language. More on that later. Lizzy has been busy too. Third grade is a big year. She’s building skills and discipline. She needs to memorize her multiplication tables, so we made up some flash cards and I’ve been drilling her every night. It’s been paying off, but requires persistence. She also started flute lessons, so we have to make sure she practices, which requires supervision too. She’s been at it a few weeks, and about a week ago had her first big breakthru, where she was able to consistently get a good tone where the pitch is not overpowered by the should of breathiness. She was very proud, as well she should be.

It’s been an unseasonably warm fall until this week, but now fall is finally here. I’ve been both raking the leaves and then mowing the lawn cuz the grass is still growing. Wearing shorts and no jacket. Now we’re getting into the heavy part of leaf season, so hopefully we’re done mowing for the year.

I’ve also been trying to keep my outdoor workout going as long as possible into the fall, even though we’re now into the dark half of the year. I had been going out rollerblading 2 days a week after work, more and more into the twilight as the weeks went on. Then I decided to switch to biking, since that’d be safer and easier in the dark. (I don’t jog cuz of an ankle injury from years ago.) I found the old clip-on headlight for my bike, and was happy to discover it still works. I find it hard to exercise enough in the winter, so hopefully I can keep this going a while longer.

Bari Town

After listening to my last mix of Heat Wave, I decided the tenor sax didn’t really need support on top in the form of an alto, but instead it might sound really cool to add in a lower voice from the bari sax. As luck would have it, my brother Martin loaned me his bari a while back, and it’s been just sitting there. I haven’t played bari since high school, and Martin warned me that he had intonation issues with the really low notes when we were working on the BZ album, so I was a bit hesitant to use it up till now. Well, I noodled around on the horn for a while, and found it very playable, with a good tone, and once I was warmed up I was able to get the low notes quite solidly. Easier than my tenor in fact, no leaky pads. My intonation issues were actually with the notes in the top half of the stack, G to B, but maybe that’s just a question of where I tuned the horn. Anyway, the part went down fairly quickly and came out great, and added just the right reinforcement to the horn section, and now here is a new mix. Thanks Martin!

I think this first batch of tunes is pretty much in the can now, until it’s time for final mixdown and mastering. I’ll be starting a new batch of tunes soon, but I think I’m going to change gears for a while and concentrate on origami for a spell.

Tracks Updates

Before I launch into the next set of tracks for my new album, I thought I’d take a listen to what I have so far. I find it’s good to this to a group of songs. So burned a CD for the car and uploaded them on my iPod for the train ride. Listening to mixes on inferior systems in noisy a environments is a good way to make sure it degrades gracefully, as important features of the music can’t be heard. Overall it’s sounding good, but I made a new batch of mixes.

Marfa My Dear being a cover is not really destined for the record, but it still seemed it could stand some improvement. I mainly reduced the level of chorus on the vocals, reduced the effects on the piano, and boosted the sax and the bass guitar. Added a peak limiter to the master out.

Letter From Home, also a cover, and therefore an oddity for the hypothetical box set. This one was just an effects tweak too:  reversed the order of the chorus and delay in the effects chain on the horn, and it’s a good deal nicer to my ear. Also boosted the bass guitar a tad and added a peak limiter to the master out.

Heat Wave is the first original song in the new batch, and I put it aside when I got to the first rough mix. Now I’ve come back to sharpen it up. Now I’ve added a clav part to the chorus and bridge to give a little rhythmic counterpoint to the piano and bass. I also cleaned up the sax part and added some effects for the sax solo, and adjusted the levels of pretty much everything. For a while I had been thinking the horns weren’t bright enough, and maybe I should double the part on alto. But not the tenor sounds a bit more on top, so that may not be necessary.

Angel Or Alien of course is the song I developed over the summer. I made one more mix that cleaned up the lead synth and added some percussion in the middle section. I did a few experiments after that with backing vocals and more percussion but wasn’t satisfied with the result. I have one more thing I want to try, adding some drum fills in the tutti section, and maybe some atmospheric synths in the very beginning and/or end.

So enjoy the new mixes. Now I’m trying to decide what to work on next. I have lots of songs that are partway developed, but I narrowed it down to two that are pretty are along and also relatively short.  One is an instrumental in 9/8 in the key of E minor; I did a demo of it years ago. Another is a sort of bitter twisted stride number in 7/8 in C minor that I wrote in 2004 or so. But then just today I wrote a new song. I’ve been looking to do something really simple, in contrast to all these crazy chords and meters I’ve been doing. I came up with a riff I like based on the change C, Em, F in a classic R&B soul groove.  Today as I walking back from lunch I came up with a lyric and melody, and nice love song to Jeannie. So I’m excited about this and think it’ll hop to the top of the queue.

Fotoz 2007 Summer I

It’s that time again. I just put up two new photo galleries from this summer, June and July. I probably have about 3 more galleries to post to get thru to the end of the summer.


These galleries are meant for friends and family, and are password protected. If you think you are friends and/or family, and need a password, please send me an email.

Also, I created an index page for the public galleries, since I now have more than one. You can expect that to grow in the time ahead, albeit in a more random fashion.


Meanwhile, here’s a sampling of the pix.

Music People People Music

Last weekend we went upstate to visit my parents and brother. The lovely weather continues in the northeast, with temperatures in the 90’s for the ride home yesterday, and some good fall foliage viewing along the way.

While we were there we had a chance to catch Martin’s band, the Jennerators. Martin plays sax and guitar and sings. They’re very good, playing Motown and party rock with excellent harmonies and solid musicianship. It’s material everyone knows, so for a group like this it’s all in the delivery, how much they make you wanna get up and dance. The lead singer Jenn has a great voice for material like Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, and the band is tight and solid in the groove, and they really carry it off and have fun at it. You can check out their web site and upcoming gigs here. Apparently Martin has also begun sitting in with The Rebel’s Posse, the Jennerator’s lead guitarist’s other band.

Meanwhile, my friend John Neumann is getting ever closer to releasing his new album Quiet Revolution. He’s named his “group” Tea With Warriors, and set up a web site for the project. You can check it out here.

Figs and Roses

Happy October, everybody. Or should I say Rocktober! We’ve been so busy of late I missed mentioning some important markers of the change of season. So, happy fall equinox. Happy harvest moon. Happy birthday Martin!

This may be the mildest September I can remember since leaving California. We haven’t turned our heat on yet; we haven’t even taken our air conditioner out of the window yet. But now there’s more darkness than daylight. Pretty soon I’ll have to stop going rollerblading after work. I guess the good news I tend to do much more origami in the winter.

Almost at end for the yard and garden too, apart from the copious raking in the weeks ahead. The first leaves are just starting to fall. Our new grass has come in nicely. Our fig tree’s best year yet.