Category: Geek Alert!

24
Apr
2021
14:57

Setting Up My Behringer Xtouch With Reaper

I have used Reaper as my Digital Audio Workstation software for about 15 years now and absolutely love it. Recently I decided it might be nice to get a physical control surface to use with it. I initially got a Korg nanoKONTROL to dip my toes in the water. It’s a decent little surface, but I very quickly realized that if I was going to go this route I wanted to go all the way and actually have motorized faders and all the bells and whistles, so at the suggestion of many other users I got a Behringer Xtouch. The Korg unit had taken a lot of setup and tweaking to get it working with Reaper. The Xtouch works right out of the box though with only basic functionality mostly. I thought I’d document my journey for posterity in case I ever need to remember what all I did or in case it can help anyone else.

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09
Apr
2021
1:55

Reverse Engineering A VLC Media Player Skin

Summary of this post: inane geeky technobabble about reverse engineering a “skin” for VLC media player. Ye have been warned.

I use VLC as my media player. Like most folks, I wanted a dark skin for it (which they have supposedly been working on a default one for years now). There are lots of user created skins you can use. I have a very specific taste in what I want. Dark, minimalist, compact, I want to see the actual volume percentage, and I want the progress bar to display current time/time remaining. Most of the skins, I couldn’t stand. I found one that almost met all my needs though. Darklounge. The only thing was it had a progress bar that displayed current time/total duration.

I looked into how to edit skins. There is an official skin editor that is ancient (as are most skins). I figured changing that one thing should be pretty simple. I downloaded the editor. Oh, it needs Java Runtime Environment. Ew. This is too much trouble for my tiny change. I find lots of other skins to try. Jump through hoops to download them. None fit the bill. I decide to bite the bullet and try and install JRE just to do this and then I’ll uninstall everything. The skin editor still thinks I don’t have JRE. I read somewhere about setting a JAVA_HOME environment variable in Windows settings. I do that. Hey the editor starts now but I can’t for the life of me get it to even open the skin I want to edit. Again I abandon this project and try every possible other skin to see if any are good enough. Nope.

More research. I discover that the skin files (.vlt files) are actually just .zip archives. I change the extension. Windows can normally open those by default, but not this one for some reason. So I fire up 7zip which CAN read the archive. It’s just a bunch of .png files and one .xml file. So what I need HAS to be in the .xml somewhere. I look up the variable that skins use. I find the “$D” variable for “Duration” and change it to “$L” which is the variable for “Time Remaining.” Save the archive, and BAM! Perfect! I finally have my dark, minimal, compact VLC skin with volume percentage and that displays current time/time remaining. I do a highly satisfied victory butt dance in my chair. I’m practically Neo in The Matrix*

*That is sarcasm as, while this wasn’t necessarily “simple,” it’s fairly elementary amateur tech stuff.

29
Mar
2021
0:35

Beez McKeever

Sure most people are probably asleep at 6:40am. Some are even getting up or already up. Me, I’m laying in bed trying to sleep but instead getting an idea for a very silly song about having a crush on the Prop/Costume Diva for #MST3K and singing it into a voice memo in bits and pieces so I’ll remember it the next day. Quite probably the most niche song I’ve ever written. And that’s saying something.

I then also decided to record a full studio version and video for that version in all it’s power pop glory!

04
Oct
2017
22:18

The Magic Of Radio

I can’t remember the last time radio was a part of my life. I got my first vehicle somewhere in the mid-90s and from that point on it was CDs, iPods, iPhones, and podcasts. The last real, strong radio related memories I have are laying in bed on Sunday nights during high school and listening to Dr. Demento from 10 until midnight.

Recently, my friend and band mate, Karl, was espousing the SiriusXM Beatles channel and I was intrigued. I have the capability in my car but have never subscribed since I have more than enough podcasts, audiobooks, music and Spotify to fill all my time. However this Beatles channel sounded cool and I wanted to check it out so eventually, after encountering a mountain of annoyances and technical problems in the research and signing up stages alone (bad form, SiriusXM), I finally managed to sign up for a free 30 day trial of their streaming service.

I found myself lying in bed trying to drift off to sleep to all things Beatles and feeling a little of that magic again. Feeling a connection to the world as these waves streamed in to my bedroom live. I had no control of what played (though there is on-demand content as well if you like) and no idea what would come next. I found it especially appropriate to be reliving this with The Beatles as they often spoke of the influences they heard on the radio that had such a hug impact on them. I felt a kinship knowing that John, Paul, George and Ringo probably spent many a night listening to these magical sounds of rock and roll streaming into their bedrooms.

I’m not sure if I’ll actually subscribe when my trial is over (I also hate the fact that they still use the outdated annoyance model of making customers call if they want to cancel), but the content of The Beatles channel has been cool enough to at least make me consider it.

29
Apr
2015
9:57

Middle Earth: Austin

Elly and I just mapped out Austin as Middle Earth just based on names. Dwarves live on Oltorf. Common Elves on Woodland. High Elves on Riverside. Hobbits on Pleasant Valley. Orcs on Slaughter. Sauron’s fortress in Mordor is in The Domain. The Ents are at Arbor Walk. And there’s a major defensive fortress at Rundberg where the renowned Riders of Rundberg reside. Beware the Balrog in the Mines of Manchaca. Gondor would be The Capitol.

23
Sep
2014
10:16

iPhone 6 Mini Review: Love It!

I’m one of those geeks who got up at 2am to order the new iPhone. After 5 phone calls to mostly incompetent AT&T representatives due to various order issues, I did indeed receive my phone on release day!

I’d always wanted an iPhone that was a little bit bigger but not too much. The iPhone 6 is perfect for my tastes. I was worried that I would wish I’d gotten the Plus but I’m happy I went with the regular. The Plus does have even more battery life since it has a bigger battery, but even the regular 6 has the best battery life of any iPhone yet.

I love the feel of the phone. Something about the glass of the screen feels better than any iPhone before it. Solid and smooth and just nice to touch and tap on. I was surprised how much bigger the phone seems than my 5. I didn’t think it would be much difference but it really feels larger in the best possible way. The screen looks far better to my eyes as well. Everything just looks sharper, more detailed and more vibrant. The whole phone just feels very well made, sturdy and very high quality. While I do like the new form factor, it can be difficult to pick up off of flat surfaces due to the rounded sides, but I don’t mind. We will see if this changes when my case gets here. It’s so thin, that I don’t think adding a case (which I really only do to preserve resale value when I inevitably upgrade) will really impact the general sleekness of the phone. I stopped using screen protectors several iPhones back and have not regretted the decision. The glass feels so much better and is very sturdy and scratch resistant. Your mileage may vary of course, and I am generally very mindful and take care of my phone without being too focused or obsessive about it. I’m just a little more attentive when pulling it out of my pocket to not fumble or drop it.

I’m also loving the whole touch ID to unlock the phone. I was surprised how fast it responds. I push the home button and leave my thumb there and it unlocks almost immediately. It took me a day to unlearn my muscle memory of pushing the home button and then swiping to unlock, but I got used to it fast. I didn’t use a lock code before because it was a pain. Now with touch ID, I don’t mind it at all. There have been a handful of occasions when, for some reason I wanted to unlock the phone with another finger besides my right thumb (which is the finger I used to set up touch ID) and in those cases I just have to type in the code since you can only set it up with one particular finger. I don’t know if I prefer the new power button placement on the side, but I don’t have strong feelings either way. I do find that I occasionally accidentally turn my volume down a notch with the opposite finger when pressing the power button to lock the phone with my thumb.

The speaker is also much louder and sounds better to me.

As for iOS 8, I’m pretty happy with that too aside from them taking “camera roll” view out which was far more efficient, in my opinion, than having to view collections. I just want all my photos in one big easily scrollable view. I can make albums if I want to.

Overall I’d say I am completely satisfied and love the new iPhone 6. It’s everything I wanted it to be and have no regrets not getting the Plus.

30
Jul
2013
14:17

Why I Choose the iPhone

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had the conversation with people asking “Should I get an Android phone or an iPhone?” on social media. Every time it happens I’ve thought “I should just make a blog post so I don’t have to keep typing out my thoughts on the matter,” so here it is!

Short answer: iPhone

Long answer:
Before I made the jump into the smartphone market, I did a lot of research because that’s how I am. Hell, I do the same thing if I’m thinking of a new toothbrush. I always painstakingly research and read and think, and ponder and weigh proc and cons and get opinions and check forums and reviews and try things out and everything else I can think of to do. In the end, I decided (and still feel) that the iPhone is the best smartphone out there. And this is coming from a PC user who loves all things Google, so that’s saying something. I’m someone who wants to love Android, someone who constantly re-evaluates and dips my toes back in the water hoping that this is the time that I finally convince myself to make the switch, but as of yet that hasn’t happened. Why? Well, that’s hard to answer and it’s all subjective anyway so there is no right or wrong, but for better or worse, I’ll try to remember as many points as I can.

First off, let me say that everyone is different. What we like as individuals is different. Our needs, wants and how we use our phones is different. For this reason, it’s really almost impossible to base your choice off anything other than experiencing it yourself, but unfortunately, most of don’t have the luxury of “living” with two different phones for an extended period of time and seeing which we personally like better. Before I had my own iPhone, I had played with many friends phones to at least get a taste. I dated someone who had an Android phone and so had a lot of experience playing with her phone and helping her with it (I’m a very naturally technically apt person so I end up being tech consultant to lots of my friends as well). I’ve borrowed friends’ phones as often as I can to play with them as well.

My first reason is choice of phones. If you get an iPhone, there’s nothing to choose really other than whether you get the latest model or an earlier one. With Android, there’s overwhelming choice. Which brand? Which version of Android is it running? Which “overlay” user interface do they use on that phone? Normally, I’m all for choice, but for me personally, I don’t like this. I feel the iPhone is an easily definable quantity and you know what you’ll be getting and the experience will be the same no matter what. I am not a fan of Apples benevolent dictatorship attitude of “we know what’s best so you don’t need choice” in general, but for me, it’s a good thing when choosing a phone and they have gotten better about that over time, introducing at least a little more freedom and options but still nowhere near Android. That being said, I still like the iPhone best.

In all my experiences with Android phones, it just felt clunky and kind of pieced together. I found the user experience often unintuitive and clumsy, especially for any non-tech-savvy people. And it will vary greatly from phone to phone. Overall, it just never “felt” as good as an iPhone to me.

9 times out of 10, when I wanted to suggest an app or play a game with someone on an Android phone, that app was not available for Android. In the best case scenarios it became available later, long after the iOS version was out. Being that iPhones seem to be the dominant phone, most app developers tend to concentrate on it first. I have only ever encountered the reverse scenario once (I want to play Ingress, dammit!). Most of my top used apps are not available for Android.

Intercompatibility between iPhone users is better and more consistent. This one is harder to explain, but there’s things like Facetime (not that I really care about that), iMessage (which can be handy, especially if you have a limited text plan and don’t want to use some third party app that many times requires others to have the app as well and/or won’t show as your actual phone number), but more importantly there all kinds of little things that just work like they should. Again, with Android, you’re at the mercy of individual manufacturers, carriers, OD version, etc. For example, I can text contact, addresses, a Google map location (yes Google map, not Apple maps) and such and it just works. I remember some of these simple operations just didn’t work when sent to a friend’s Android phone. They would get the text but couldn’t open the information. Now, I have no idea where the breakdown is and it very well could be Apple’s fault in the way they implement it, or maybe not. I don’t know. The point is, I know certain things will work with other iPhone users but will be hit and miss with Android users (who knows which of the various phone/carrier/etc combinations they have).

I’ve found so many tiny, little things about iOS that are just great thinking and programming, but are so mall that people may not even know about or notice them but just take them for granted. So much so I have a hard time thinking of them right now. One is the fact that the camera knows its own orientation (which I’m sure is probably true in Android as well). If I want to use the back camera to take a picture of myself (I refuse to ever use the word “selfie” as it makes me cringe…just typing it made me wince a little), it’s very awkward and precarious to hold your phone right side up from the bottom of the phone, with the back facing you and try to press the camera button on the bottom of the screen. So on a whim, I turned the phone upside down, so now I could hold the whole phone as normal but my index finger could easily reach the camera button which was now at the top of upside down phone. When I snapped the picture, it was saved with the correct orientation (i.e. no matter which way I’m holding my phone, the picture is right side up and wasn’t taken upside down even though the phone was upside down.) I’ve often discovered simple little things that made me think “that’s smart programming.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there is a lot about Android phones that are awesome, and probably some things that I would like even better but overall, nothing has been able to touch the iPhone experience for me. For you, it might be a completely different and opposite experience. Even as long as this post is, I’m sure it’s only the tip of the iceberg and just what I could think of off the top of my head. Nothing is going to tell you what your experience with a phone will be like or how much you personally will like one over the other. If you do seek out opinions though, try to find opinions based on facts, usage, etc., and not just blind preference for one over the other. I find that most people on both sides of the fence don’t offer much that is helpful but just zealous “Mine rules and other one sucks!” In fact, I find this subject so volatile and often Jihad inducing, that I’m disabling comments on this post. I hope this may have been helpful i some way and that in the end, you end up with a phone that you are happy with, no matter what it is!

I also really like the new “ear pods” that come with the iPhone 5. I’ve always thought the default iPhone earbuds were actually really great quality but the Ear Pods are the best yet.

And I know I didn’t even touch on Windows phones but, frankly, they’ve never entered into these conversations. In my limited experience with them, I thought they were actually quite cool but they’re just too much of an underdog for me to ever consider using one. If I had that much trouble with apps not being available on Android, I imagine Windows phones would be exponentially worse in that regard.

If other things come to mind (as they surely will), I’ll update this post.