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    Wednesday, December 08, 2010

    Ads are off...

    Well, after a trial period of a couple of months, i've decided to turn the ads off! I kind of always knew this would happen, even with a comfortable ~40 daily visitors, i had earned.... wait for it..... 89 pence.

    This certainly isn't an amount to be taken likely, that is 89 penny sweets right there! Instead, I will be posting affilate links and suggestions occasionally. However, i will state now, that these links will ONLY be for products I highly recommend!

    That's all for now, But let me suggest you visit my professional blog / portfolio online to see my latest work. It's at http://samharman.com

    Many Thanks
    Sam

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    A New Era...

    Today, I have an announcement to make. I have created a new blog, with a custom domain, and my own hosting system. This new blog will also function as my professional e-portfolio documenting work I have done both in university and in the real world. So without further ado, you can find my new site at...


    If you visit you will see I have started porting some of the various posts over to the new site. This process will take a while, as the new site will be a lot more focused on audio technology and programming as these are the fields I am looking to work in when I leave university.

    The new blog is powered by wordpress and hosted on my own server. I have been with blogger for 3 years now, and it has served me well until this point. I can just get so much more customisation and flexibility with a wordpress system, especially run on my own hosting service.

    So what may become of this blog? You may well ask. Well I intend to keep the blog running, and nothing much will change, but the posts you see here will be more personal and less formal that those on my new site. You may have noticed that I have added some ads to the sidebar and main body of this blog, I'm getting a steady stream of about 300 unique visitors a month, so the ads are a way of partially funding my new site. If you'd rather not see them, then i'm open for discussion and will remove them again.

    I think that's all I really have to say at the moment, except I hope you do visit my new site, and let me know what you think! I'll update you all on how the final year at university is going in another post (suffice to say, i'm pretty damn busy!!)

    Once again, thanks for reading! Feel free to leave lots of lovely encouraging comments below the break!

    Wednesday, August 04, 2010

    How I use my iPhone

    I was inspired to write this by a recent post on TiPB, detailing how a student uses his iPhone on a day to day basis. This post is about how I use mine!

    It starts first thing in the morning (about 11:30 for a student), with the alarm rousing me from my morning slumber. Then begins the seemingly never ending cycle of hitting the sleep button, and being woken up, and hitting the sleep button, etc etc

    Once I finally decide to wake up, I check my emails for the day which is useful to find out about room changes or cancellations (in which case, back to bed!) I also check Facebook and Twitter in case... well I don't know why I check these actually, I just do! Then if I'm really bored, I'll check out the BBC site to see if anything amazing has happened overnight (it never has.)

    So, then I get up and do the usual boring (but necessary) tasks, like eat, wash, etc. I then open the single most important app on my iPhone for university: iStudiez Pro. This app is brilliant, it contains a digital copy of my timetable, for all lectures, seminars, and labs I have to attend. It contains any assignments I've been set, and deadlines I have to meet. It has results of my previous assignments or exams and lets me calculate averages at the tap of a button. In short, this app is central to my organisation as a student.

    iStudiez Pro also has excellent integration with the iPhones contacts, so I can send an email off to my lecturers right from the app. Which brings me onto the second most important use of the iPhone. Email. I have a constant stream of email to me wherever I am. I can be the first person to know the results of assignments, or when lectures have been canceled.

    Obviously, the iPhone is a phone, and of course I use it every day to text and call my girlfriend at university elsewhere. It also keeps me up to date with the weather forecast, and train times using the National Rail app (expensive but worth it!)

    Another app worth mentioning, which isn't part of my daily routine but has proven to be very useful indeed, is the Tesco clubcard app. Essentially a digital copy of your bar code which can be scanned at the checkout to collect points!

    Other apps used on a daily basis, but that are not worthy of more detail because their use is obvious are: Dropbox, Skype, MSN, Camera+, Allowance, and Maps.

    Anyway, that's just a bit of information about how I use my iPhone as a student at university. Thanks for reading, as always all comments and suggestions are welcomed!

    Saturday, July 31, 2010

    Minimalism

    This post is all about minimalism, and how I see things.

    Western society today is in a lot of trouble, global recessions, housing market crashes, etc etc. I think the sole reason for this is the commercialised world that we live in. You are taught from an early age, that you must do well at school, to get a good job which pays well, so you can have lots of money, and buy lots of nice and expensive things. This idea is forced into our minds throughout our childhood and continues through into our adulthood. 

    The items we desire change, from newer and bigger toys as children, to newer and more expensive luxurious cars as we get older. But the idea is exactly the same, the more stuff we have the happier we will be. 

    But the thing is, it's not true! 

    It just leads to us buying more and more stuff, which leads us to want a bigger house to put this stuff in, so we borrow money to afford the house, and now we have the house, we need more stuff to fill it up, so we use credit cards to borrow yet more money to pay for stuff which makes us happier, right? Wrong. Pretty soon, it starts to spiral out of control and you can't afford to pay off the debt.  Oh, and don't forget all those subscription services like Sky TV, Mobile contracts, Super fast broadband, that you need to pay for monthly, to actually USE some of that stuff you've brought. So now we owe incredible amounts of money, but it's okay, because we're happy remember.


    It's not all about the money either, we then have a large house which needs heating, which uses resources and harms the planet. We have a large luxurious and uneconomical car that uses far too much petrol.

    Minimalism means surviving on just what you need, and it's a journey i've only just embarked upon. I used to be wound up in the world of buy, earn, buy more. Those who know me, will know how many gadgets I used to buy, and own. Many of them I still own, and use regularly. But I won't be buying any more, unless i NEED them, and I am also giving away those that I don't need. It's a long process, and I doubt I'll ever really get my possessions down to the bare minimum, but i'll enjoy trying, and reap the benefits in the process.

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Multiview App

    Hello Dear Readers,

    As you may know, I have opted to take the iPhone programming route with my dissertation project. Today I have been working on my iPhone Programming, and just have a small app to share with you all. This is a simple application that switches between two views and has buttons with pop-up messages. I have added a flip animation between the two views to make it look better. You can see the basic app in the video below.

    video

    This app was made following instructions and guidance from the brilliant 'Beginning iPhone 3 Development' textbook by Dave Mark and Jeff LaMarche. Now obviously this app was made purely to teach myself and bears no practical purpose.

    I did cover various new things when developing this app today though, including multiple views, animation, UI Alerts, toolbars, etc... So my next step is to combine this with my previous 'Hello World' app to get textbox functionality within different views!

    Many Thanks for reading!

    As always, all comments and/or help is very much appreciated!!

    Sam

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    iPhone Programming

    So, I've started working on my dissertation. Yes, I know i don't even start my final year of university for another 2 months (or something), but i've decided to give it a go anyway. Now, when I started university as an eager fresher on my first day I was excited to be learning all about Music Technology. This excitement continued right up until the moment the words "C++ Programming" appeared on the projector.

    Ask any first year student at Bournemouth University studying Music & Audio Technology and they will tell you that programming is the bane of their life. And I felt the same, we all did! Anyway, the end of term rolled around and our first assignment was set. That was when something strange started to happen, We all tentatively started work (Well, I say all... I mean those who didn't leave it till the night before!! You know who you are!! :-) ) and we coded, and googled, and coded, and googled, and daniwebbed, and coded some more, and suddenly I realised that I was actually enjoying myself quite a lot! Turned out that I got a 1st in that programming assignment.

    Roll on to the present day, and my head is now full of classes, objects, inheritance, buffers, loops, heap/stack/and pile errors, memory management, garbage collector and all kinds of other programming jargon. And guess what? I've decided to do a programming based dissertation...

    Except, it's not just your standard C++ VST Program (which are hard enough), No. I've decided I want to teach myself an entirely new language, on an entirely different platform. As the title of this post would suggest, it's Apples iPhone! And that is why i'm sitting here attempting to start my dissertation.

    So far, progress has been made. I have followed instructions and explored enough to create a typical 'Hello World' app. And then used my limitless creativity, to expand the functionality to a 'Goodbye World' app. I know, Brilliant isn't it?

    My Very Brilliant Hello World App
    Well that's the stage i'm at right now. I have 2 areas to cover for this dissertation; iPhone programming, and core audio. Neither of which I have any knowledge about and both of which i believe use different programming languages, C++ for the core audio, and Objective-C for the iPhone.

    Well, I have quite a task ahead of me, so expect to see posts of this nature on the blog for the next year or so. It seems that i'm destined to be an audio programmer, and if I can program for Apple devices then so much the better. I think there is a lot of potential in the iPhone / iPad devices in terms of audio that has yet to be realised.

    Anyway, It would appear that i'm rambling now. So to all those non-computery folk I apologise for a very geeky blog post, and to those that are interested: Thank you for reading, and please feel free to leave any comments you may have.

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Minimalism / The Mac Plan

    Firstly, i'd like to apologize for the lack of content recently. I've had a very busy year at University, and have just finished the final exams for the year. Over the summer I hope to spend more time updating the blog with lots more articles relating to Apple, Music Technology, and More. But now, for the topic of the day...

    Minimalism. The pursuit of a simple life, with few distractions or possessions.

    I have found myself reading certain blogs like Zen Habits, Mnmlist, Minimal Mac, and Unclutterer increasingly in the last few months or so. In doing so, I have realised how much completely unnecessary clutter and rubbish I have accumulated over the last few years. Since I had my first saturday job, I saw most of my income as dispensable, and proceeded to buy various gadgets and gizmos as soon as I could afford them. A fact i'm sure most of my friends including my girlfriend would provide testimony to!

    Enough is enough, I have decided to rid myself of most of this gadgetry, and focus on quality rather than quantity. Many of you know of my passion for Apple products, few know of my previous hatred for Apple products. Suffice to say somewhere along the line, i was converted.

    My current mission, is to sell / give away / recycle all of my old 'PC' or 'Windows' based technology. By this I mean, pretty much everything; Keyboard, Mouse, Various additional screens, Old speakers, etc etc. I call this 'The Mac Plan'. The aim of this is to fund myself a brand new Mac Mini (2010). Now while this may sound nothing like minimalism to you, the fact is, that I can now fit everything my old desktop PC machine is capable of, into a package less than 20x20x4 cm. In addition to this space saving, the Mac Mini is confirmed to use between 7-8W of power when idling. Compare this to the relatively gargantuan 500W power supply in my desktop machine, thats a huge difference!

    At £649 for the base model, it's not cheap for the specifications. But as with everything Apple, you are paying for a fantastic design, and a fantastic operating system. In addition to this, saving space is very important to me right now so I think it's a premium worth paying. I couldn't think of a better solution for me right now, than my current laptop for university, paired with the Mac Mini at home.

    If you're still reading this, then you may be thinking that i've just said I need to rid myself of gadgets followed up by talking about how I intend to purchase another one. And you'd be right, thus rendering this entire post pretty pointless. But as you've got this far, i'd like to thank you for reading and keep a look out for some 'real' minimalist posts here very soon!

    Thursday, May 06, 2010

    My latest mix...

    Check it out here: http://bit.ly/awDa1o

    All comments are welcome and appreciated!

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    Mac setup for musicians...

    This post has been somewhat inspired by a recent post at Mac AppStorm, they called this post "The Ultimate Mac Setup For Musicians". Whilst the post was a good read, and outlines various different pieces of software, one reader pointed out in the comments section that this was essentially all the post was, a list of software. So in continuation of that post, here is a post detailing what you will need to get you started making music on your Mac.

    Now, everyone knows that all new macs come with iLife, which includes garageband. Now you can use garage band to make music, but if thats what you're into then this post really isn't for you! Some of you may remember back to last year, when i detailed a comparison between two DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) Protools Vs Cubase. I direct you to this article to decide which of these fits your preference best. Essentially ProTools is best for audio recording, and Cubase is best for MIDI. There will be the hardcore logic fans out there who argue that logic is a contender, but in my personal opinion, logic is simply a 'professional' version of garage band (That's not to say you cant do advanced audio editing with it, I just wouldn't !! ).

    Anyway, so you've decided on your weapon of choice (and by weapon, i mean DAW!). The first piece of hardware you will need is an interface (fancy term for sound card). Obviously, if you have decided to choose ProTools, you will either have purchased a Digidesign soundcard (Mbox / 003 Rack / etc as the software comes with the hardware!) or you will have to have gone down the ProTools M-Powered route, which means you require a compatible M-Audio interface. It is worth mentioning here, that Digidesign hardware is very unreliable on both Mac and PC when you try to use the interface for anything other than ProTools, for example iTunes or iLife programs on a Mac tend to cause kernal panics at shutdown.

    Regardless, If you have gone down the Cubase or (*ahem* Logic) route, you will need a standard interface. There are literally hundreds of possible choices here, Personally I would recommend anything by Edirol, E-MU, or if your a guitarist then I would particularly recommend anything by Line 6. I would advise going for an external USB or Firewire sound card, as they are portable, and often powered off the USB socket themselves (saves lugging around that hefty power adaptor!). Personally my interface of choice is an Mbox 2 Mini (when running ProTools) and an Edirol UA-25EX (When running cubase and everything else). The Edirol interface is now branded as Cakewalk, and has excellent Mac support!

    Now you have to make the most difficult choice of all, You have your DAW, you have your interface. You just need some monitors (for those not in the know, speakers are referred to as monitors in the music industry, as you are 'monitoring' your sound!). Now, you can spend anything from £50, to £50,000 (Maybe a slight exaggeration for home musicians) on monitors, and as with interfaces, there are hundreds available. A few of the choices you have to make are, whether you want active or passive monitors. Active monitors have built in amplifiers, whereas you will need a separate amplifier to power passive monitors. You will need to decide how much power you want, this is measured in Watts and essentially translates into how loud the speakers will be. Remember, studio monitors are all about the quality of the sound, and NOT the loudness. So make sure you take into account the frequency response, Most studio monitors will come with a frequency response from 20Hz - 20Khz, as this is the range of frequencies our ear can pick up. However, it is important to look at the frequency response graph of a speaker, as it is important to have a flat frequency response (this is also true of microphones) as you will be hearing a truer sound, the flatter the line. Below is an example of a good frequency response graph, and a bad frequency response graph.

    Below is an example of a flat (Good) frequency response

    Whereas Below, is an example of a non-flat (Bad) frequency response


    So, Armed with this insider knowledge, My personal recommendations would be to check out cheaper offerings from Alesis, but if you're looking to spend a bit more, then Genelec Monitors are a firm favourite in the industry. Personally, I run Alesis M1 Active MK2 monitors, which can be brought for a fairly reasonable price today. The new version of these monitors is the Alesis M1 Active 520's. A good friend of mine has these monitors, and is more than happy with them!

    Right, now you have everything you need to get a good quality sound from your Mac. You need to get sound into your Mac! You can do this in two ways, either record the audio information using a Microphone or a DI-Box, or using MIDI. MIDI stands for (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and esentially all you need to know, is that you can purchase a MIDI keyboard (USB / Firewire / or MIDI ports) plug it into your mac (or interface) and play musical information into the DAW. This can then be picked up by a VSTI (Virtual Studio Technology Instrument) and turned into audio information. For the purposes of this post, i will talk only about MIDI keyboards. Microphone choice is such a vast topic, I will cover this in a future post.

    MIDI keyboards come in all shapes and sizes! (Well okay, they don't, they all look like keyboards, but anyway...) You have a number of different choices and options, you can get different sizes. e.g. if you're not a grade 8, classically trained pianist, a 25 key, semi-weighted solution will probably suffice. But midi keyboards are available up to 8 octaves, with fully-weighed keys for the more traditional pianist! I could talk for days about MIDI and the benifits, etc, however right now, i'm going to give you a few suggestions of keyboards. The M-Audio Axiom range is a relatively comprehensive solution, available in 25, or 49 key versions. If you're looking for something a little simpler then the Oxygen range, also by M-Audio should suit you well.

    Now, this post just brushes the surface of music creation on a Mac. But the intention was to cover some of the hardware you will require to start producing music at home. I am considering making this a series of posts, covering everything from Microhpones, to Synthesisers, to Outboard Gear, and Virtual Instruments. Well, If you're still reading, then I applaud you, and thank you! If you have any specific questions please don't hesitate to ask in the comments!

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Remix...

    Hey All,

    Just a quick update, i've just completed and handed in my remix of 'Dance Little Sister' originally by Terence Trent D'Arby and it's online for you to listen to. Just hit the link below...

    - Click here to listen

    It's the first remix of this type that i've done, and would appreciate any and all feedback!

    Thanks for reading!
    Sam

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Apples latest creation...

    Well it's official! Apple have a press event on the 27th of January where they are rumoured to be introducing a tablet computer, a new version of iLife and a new iPhone OS. Which is all nice and all... but I can't help thinking that Apple has been playing it safe recently.

    A tablet PC is boring. I used to like Apple for their 'Think Different' slogan, and they actually used to apply it to products. The apple tablet could be so great, but i'm betting it wont be! I bet it will be an average specification for a huge price and that it will do everything it's been rumoured to do; eBook reader, web, video chat, etc. This stuff is all fine, but its also stuff I can do on my £200 netbook!

    Why not do something exciting with it Apple, Why not have a space on the tablet to dock your iPhone, or allow bluetooth tethering for 3G wireless. Why not make the tablet, the new 10" netbook or even a small iMac? It would be simple, Add a stand and devise some form of docking the tablet. Allow us to use it as a small secondary screen for our Macs perhaps. Let it run the full OS X operating system and incorporate multitouch to the entire OS. Build a DVD drive into it, show netbook makers that it can be done! Build in a TV receiver, let us record and watch back live TV. Put wireless 'N' inside it, let us use it for online gaming.

    Now i don't doubt that the tablet will be capable of doing some of these functions. But i bet they will be locked into iTunes and iLife, and the App store, and be boring! Come on Apple, you make some great products! Please let the tablet be exciting!