Sunday, March 7, 2021

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Send them to Pete at: ReleaseNotes@
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October 12, 2006

Sole Survivor

With the benefit of upgraded drivers, it looks like my MOTU 2408 is the sole, properly functioning piece of computer audio gear to survive from my old control room. And, with the help of some very cool folks on the Adobe boards, I can now at least use Audition as a short-term solution for multitrack audio recording, until I find something to replace my long lost, but still beloved StudioVision.

In theory, I could also dump the input into Garage Band on the Mac, but I don’t have a Mac with slots, so the 2408’s card can’t connect. This would limit me to 2-channel-at-a-time recording unless I either bought a new interface or a new Mac. At this point, I guess I’m leaning toward a PC solution in the control room so that I can use the computers I’ve got, but I’m willing to hear folks out if they’re passionate about one platform or another.

I also picked up a Midisport 8x8 MIDI interface which will be replacing my old Studio 5. Reading around on the net, I've heard mixed things about this one, but it seems like one of the few interfaces out there that handles more than just a couple of inputs along with the MIDI outs. (I want to be able to capture input from both my PAD-8 drum pad and whatever keyboard replaces my old D-10 as my new MIDI keyboard controller without having to duck under my mixing console and rewire every time I play a new instrument).

But for tonight: back to guitar (and trying to get my speed up on the chord changes on Jenny Was a Friend of Mine)


October 10, 2006

Studio Obsolescence

To my great shame, I haven’t done any serious recording in my studio for a long, long time. Long enough, as it turns out, for my already aging software and recording interfaces to become utterly obsolete. Not obsolete as in, “no longer the coolest thing on the block” but obsolete as in, “Won’t work at all with any current hardware or operating system.”

While things are now at the Totally Broke stage, it’s hard to pin down where the path to studio obsolecence began. Was it a couple of years ago when my aging PowerPC 8100 studio computer bit the dust? Or years earlier when I decided to buy a secondhand, and already obsolete PowerPC 8100 because it was the fastest Mac available which still had both the Nubus slot I needed for my digital media interface, as well as the round serial ports I needed to drive my Studio 5 MIDI interface?

Heck, I would have bought myself almost a decade of breathing space if I had avoided buying a Nubus-based Audiomedia II card as my digital interface in the first place, but it seemed like the most prudent and well-supported option at the time, and was itself a huge upgrade from the original Audiomedia I card I'd had on my --wait for it-- Macintosh II. (Oh, how I used to laugh at all my unsophisticated coworkers, trying to record their monophonic, 22KHz, 8-bit sound with their MacRecorders when I had a $695, state-of-the-art, 16-bit, 48KHz audio-processing card which could (in theory) handle up to 4 channels of sound!).

Thankfully, the centerpiece of the control room, my Mackie 32x8 mixer has aged well, and is still able to turn in a solid, quiet performance only a shade off from the digital mixers that rule the roost today. My outboard effects rack, however, is decidedly vintage by now, and in a modern setup, almost all of it would be replaced by software plugins, powered by computers sporting dozens of times the processing power of my departed PowerPC 8100.

Tonight was a bit sad, as I carted armloads of manuals, floppy disks, and copies of obsolete sequencing and patch management software from long-dead companies out to the trash. Not even eBay has use for these anymore, and the last time I checked, the going bid for a formerly top-of-the-line Studio 5 MIDI interface was $16. That one will be heading for the rubbish bin as soon as I get it unscrewed from the rack.

Over the next couple of weeks, I need to figure out what to keep (if anything), and what the key pieces are that I’ll be building the revived studio around.

One of the key questions is the what to do for a computer. While I’ve always been a Mac user in the studio, I’m down to a Mac Mini for my current Mac boxes, and that seems a dicey choice from a processing power standpoint (digital multitrack audio and video is one of the few things that truly taxes a modern computer), plus it lacks the slots I’d need to install the card I use for my current audio interface, a MOTO 2408 Mk II. Unfortunately, in current Mac land, slots are considered “Professional level", which in turn means a couple of grand for a fully equipped system. This would more than annihilate the savings I’d get from upgrading my ancient Mac sequencing software to the current version, instead of buying new. And heck, even if I did that, would I be facing yet another upgrade cycle in the near future with the Intel switchover?

A PC-based laptop solution would be great, but even though I own an underused, but stupidly powerful Dell laptop, I wonder if it'd handle a 32 channel mixdown (it well may--anyone have experience attempting such a thing on a laptop?). And even then, I'll need to locate decent audio/MIDI sequencing software to run on it, as well as a multi-channel interface.

Anyone have advice to offer? Or should I just scrap it all and stick to comics?

 


October 4, 2006

Atomic Avenue Beta 2:
Rocket Ships and Rock ’n’ Roll

Three years, four months.

Without checking the receipt, that’s about as close as I can guess as to how long ago it was from the fateful night when I first hit on the idea of Atomic Avenue while having dinner with my buddy Greg at Palo Alto’s Macarthur Park. And now, after all that time, it’s finally up and running—still in round 2 beta, mind you—but with live transactions. Actual money exchanged for actual comic books.

There’s still work to do, of course (there’s always work to do), but after three years and four months—the last of which was spent almost entirely at the office—the system is finally ready to rock and roll. And, quite frankly, so am I.

As a bribe to myself to help me get through the final push, I promised myself that when it was all over, I was going to go down to Guitar Center, pick out a guitar, and learn how to play it. Personally, I blame Guitar Hero: possibly the funnest game I’ve played in years, in combination with my drummer’s urge to see what it was that the guitarists in all the bands I’ve ever been in were doing which made them so darn popular with the girls.

So, when it looked like we were finally ready to enter live testing on Atomic Avenue, I enlisted the help of my friend Peter Stanley, guitarist and frontman of Doghouse Riley, who helped me pick out a nice little Paul Reed Smith job in the unfortunate color of “Tobacco sunburst.” While it wasn’t my first choice of finish, it sounds terrific, and I hope someday to have playing worthy of it.

So far, it’s been a blast (and surprisingly easy to start picking up —although I’m not sure whether Guitar Hero or years of drumming, with a smattering of bass and keyboards, gets the credit for that). It’s also a real treat that you can track down tablature transcriptions of just about any popular rock song to learn from—a luxury I never had on any of the previous instruments I’d worked with.

Right now, I’m working my way though “Jenny was a Friend of Mine” off the first Killers album (and wondering what to do when faced with the five (!) overdubbed guitar lines of that song). After all this time, though, it sure feels good to get out of the office for a bit and play some music.


(If you’re a guitarist with any sage words of wisdom for a beginner, please let me know. You can also write me at if you’re interested in joining the beta of Atomic Avenue)