Archive for the ‘computers’ Category

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The best thing you will see on the internet today

March 6, 2014

I found it on io9.com: velociraptors replaced by cats.

I’m just thinking about other movies where this would be awesome…

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My arranging book is now available!

March 4, 2014

Arranging book 2.2.14 cover

I know, I’ve been teasing it for months, but it really is out now! It’s available as a pdf ebook from Marketing Vision Partners for $ 30. I invite you to go take a look! Here’s the Table of Contents page:

Arranging book TOC

While I don’t think anything I put in the book is exactly controversial, I have included quite a bit of material that is based on my years of writing, judging, and working as a band director. One of my goals of the book was to help young band directors not make some of the mistakes I made, or that I have seen others make…hence the “Band Director’s Guide” part of the title. You don’t need to be a working band director to find value in the book, but if you are a marching band director, you will – even if you never plan to arrange a piece of music yourself.

There is an accompanying web page on my publishing site for owners of the book. I hope to expand the materials on this page in the near future so that it can be a resource for those interested in the art and practice of arranging for the marching band.

It took me about three years to write this, off and on, and I think now it has information you will find useful. I hope you enjoy the book!

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Adobe Creative Cloud is a blessing and a curse…

January 17, 2014

About two years ago I needed to get a copy of Adobe InDesign for layout of my marching band arranging book, which is finally almost done! We looked at the prices for that and for Photoshop, and even though I could still sort of qualify for the education discount, it was pretty pricey. Then we looked at the Adobe Create Cloud service. The price per year was about the same as for buying two apps as standalones, and since it would update them and I had access to the entire Adobe suite, it looked like a pretty good buy. The educational discount ran out and it’s $ 50 a month now, but I’ve found I try (and use) apps that I never would have because I wouldn’t want to spend the money on something I might use occasionally.

The latest one I’ve worked with is Adobe Muse, which is a little WYSIWYG web page development tool. It’s easier than using DreamWeaver, especially if  you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles on your web pages. It uses an interface that looks a lot like InDesign, so I was good there. It’s sort of like a hybrid of those two bigger programs.

Muse isn’t available as a standalone, which is too bad. (Although you can do a monthly charge for it, separately, for $ 15 a month.) I’ve not had to do web page design for a couple of years, and using it is a lot easier than getting myself up to speed on the new version of DreamWeaver just to do a few simple pages.

The other advantage to the Creative Cloud service is that it keeps watching for updates and asks you when you want to update. At first the updater was somewhat buggy, but it seems pretty stable now.

Adobe CC isn’t for everyone, but if you use Photoshop and one more Adobe app, it will probably be competitively priced against the standalones. I’d be interested in hearing if anyone else likes or dislikes the Creative Cloud service.

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iOS7 thoughts

September 22, 2013

I updated both my iPhone 4s and my third-gen iPad to iOS7, and everything worked fine. I think the default typeface is pretty light, making it a bit more difficult for those of us with older eyes, but it is a kind of a refreshing change…although it tends to look more “Windows-8-like” than I expected from Apple. But the apps seem to work fine. I’ve encountered no problems or speed hits.

But, I have one issue not really related to the update: I am going to move up to a new iMac soon from my aging Mac Pro. I’ve done the research on how to back up the iPhone first, and all of that, but the process still seems very tedious and fraught with potential disaster. Does anybody have a good, simple way to do this?

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…and now we’re back to normal…

April 29, 2013

After my post about the unusually large number of spam and bot hits this blog received recently, the number of hits have dropped off even from the average before the assault started. Sorry, bots, if I said something to annoy you…

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Spam! Spam! Spam!

April 17, 2013

I’ve not been posting for a while because of parent medical issues. However, Monday, April 15, the site got about five times the usual number of hits for any given day. Thanks, spambots! And some spam comments are sneaking through the filter. Where are these people? What makes them want to create spam messages? If they are that good, wouldn’t they want to use their skills for something better?

My gmail account has been receiving a lot of variations on the old Nigerian money scam messages lately. Like, a dozen a day. The spam filter is catching them (thanks, Google) but sheesh! I guess if you can get to a billion email accounts and only a very tiny fraction click on the thing, that still could be tens of thousands of idiots waiting to be sucked in.

Oh, well. First world problems, I know. Anyway, I don’t have much to contribute right now. I’m not watching much news or politics, and nothing else has struck me lately. I’m sure that y’all have been hanging on every word…

Later.

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Few posts over the next few weeks

February 28, 2013

Sorry, campers, I know you hang onto my every word. Family medical issues will keep me away most of the time until about May 1. I know you can hang on that long without my observations!

I really recommend that you check out Jerry Pournelle, at www.jerrypournelle.com. I think he’s the original blogger, and his commentary and that of his readers covers science, science fiction, politics, music, health care, education…a very wide range of topics. He is a very wise man and a kickass hard science fiction writer. In fact, he and Larry Niven owned most of the hard science fiction real estate for about 20 years, and both are still writing, together and separately!

See you around the intertubes. Keep your heads down.

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Sayin’ something nice…about the Jawbone ICON + Nerd

February 19, 2013

jawbone

 

This little tiny thing is the Jawbone ICON HD + The NERD.

I’ve not had good luck with hands-free audio for driving. I have a Plantronics Voyager Pro that works passably with my iPhone 4S until I put the phone in my pocket and start walking. Then it cuts in and out, every time. It doesn’t fit in my ear very comfortably and the sound is so-so.

I have a set of Motorola S305 stereo headphones that provide reasonable sound for headphones of their size, but I can’t wear them in the car. (They also have pretty good range away from the phone.)

I’m doing a lot of long-distance driving, five hours or so at a clip, and I needed something better. I broke down and spent over a hundred bucks at Amazon on the Jawbone. And dammit, it was money well spent!

The thing has “HD” sound – I don’t know what that means for a monophonic, one-ear headphone, but it so far is way better than any other phone headset I’ve ever used. My wife says call quality on the other end is good, too, although I haven’t tested it on the road in my noisy Chevy Equinox.I wouldn’t want to listen to music with it all day, but I could listen to audiobooks with it for a couple of hours at a time, I think.

The NERD is the little USB dongle, obviously. While it is a Bluetooth dongle, it is a dedicated one – once you pair the Jawbone to it you can use it on any computer and it will still know to stay linked. And it can stream audio from the computer while you are waiting for a call on the iPhone, then it will switch to the iPhone when needed. That is way cool! The dongle does use up a USB port, but that’s OK with me because I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time I want to connect it to the laptop.

So far, I recommend it. We’ll see after I have it a while. I don’t know about battery life. The button layout seems smart and I can switch it from one ear to the other without too much trouble and without changing anything. I think it will make those long drives a bit easier.

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Hey, I’m on Google Earth!

February 17, 2013
No, really, it's us!

No, really, it’s us!

Last spring after my granddaughter’s preschool graduation we spent some time with one of her friends in a local park. The Google car drove by and we remarked that it would be something if we were included on Google Earth. And apparently – we were! Not tellin’ where, though!

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Really, Apple? What’s up with Pages and pdfs?

February 14, 2013

So…I needed to produce a short, 4-page newsletter in a hurry, and I decided to use an existing template I found in iWork Pages instead of creating my own in InDesign. I know InDesign, actually have been spending a lot of time with it, but I thought this would be just as fast or hopefully faster since I could start with an existing template that I liked. It had about a half-dozen page choices, fonts that looked pretty good with the design and even a color scheme I figured I would not have to tweak. (I eventually did, but that’s another story.)

It went together pretty well. Pages does some quirky things with flow from one column to another, but I got past it. I have to say, the column flow in InDesign is pretty darned smooth nowadays, far better than back when it was still PageMaker. Things stay where you want them.

I got the newsletter done in a couple of days, on and off, and sent a draft out to the board members of the organization for which it was being created. Nobody seemed to have any problems. I did one more proofreading pass, caught a couple of things, and then exported the PDF.

I checked the PDF in Preview.  It looked fine. Then I decided I was going to add metadata that couldn’t be easily added in Preview (at least, as far as I know it can’t) so I fired up Adobe Acrobat X.

It looked, pardon my French, like shit.

The text wasn’t kerned properly and the letters were not aligned along a baseline. It looked like one of those “kiddie” fonts that tries to duplicate a child’s printing. I zoomed. Still ugly. I zoomed some more. Still not good, but better. Finally I zoomed out to where I only could see one column on a three-column page at once. Finally it was rendering the type correctly.

I tried printing to a PDF instead of exporting. I tried printing to PostScript, then opening that in Acrobat. I checked it with Acrobat 8 and 11 – same issues. I tried the “Print to Adobe PDF” – how is that different from “Print to PDF” – yes, there are a couple of things you can tweak, but that’s it. It looked just the same.

I figured every Windows user in the organization was going to be laughing their heads off if this thing got out. I did some quick Google searches, and found that THIS WAS A KNOWN PROBLEM. WHAT THE FRAK? THIS WAS NOT A QUIRK, IT WAS A FRAKKING CONSISTENT ISSUE!

What good is Pages if you can’t export a PDF? Print is dead, to quote Egon Spengler, and I’ll bet 90 per cent of documents created in Pages are never intended for print.

It has an “export to ePub” function, for cryin’ out loud! But it can’t render a PDF properly? Even Word can do that!

Near as I can tell, Pages doesn’t embed the fonts. If the reader’s computer doesn’t have the font it will only render it properly at the resolution at which the page was created, or something. It couldn’t scale the type nor kern it correctly. There doesn’t seem to be a way to get Pages to embed the fonts.

Finally, I switched all the text that was originally in Baskerville to Minion Pro. I figured that font should be on most of the Windows machines out there. It was on every list of standard system fonts in Win7 I could find. I didn’t like the look of the page as much; I had to actually decrease the font size and increase the spacing between the lines to get it to come out right without rebuilding the whole newsletter.

The newsletter should come out quarterly; I will switch to InDesign for the next one. So much for Pages. It’s just never seemed to be quite ready for prime time. It’s sad, because it could be a pretty nice app – pretty interface, tools that mostly work the way you expect, low learning curve. But as far as I’m concerned, the PDF export issue is a deal-breaker.

I expect better from Apple. I really do. I don’t think of the Apple folks as superhuman; just as a company that cares about the experience the user has with its products. This is NOT a minor point, to allow it to render PDFs incorrectly. I don’t care how much bad blood there is between Apple and Adobe. The Quartz engine should make PDF conversion pretty simple, and it usually is. (Remember, the granddaddy of Quartz was a little thing called Display PostScript…for the NEXT computer.) This is a really sad oversight. I hope Apple fixes it, but it seems to me that updates to Pages and the other iWork apps don’t appear very often.

Sorry for the caps. This really bugs me, not only because I just found it out of luck, and then spent two hours fixing it. I just have higher expectations of software developers. PDFs are such a standard I don’t know how that could have slipped past in beta testing.