Recording a Demo DIY Style – FREE ebook

March 5th, 2008

Way back in 2005 I started writing a beginners guide to recording a demo using a PC. This was to be my first big foray into the info-publishing business. Basically the book was pretty much finished and resided on the computer until now. I just opened the Doc about an hour ago and made some minor changes. It’s probably still full of typos but the content is pretty good.

I was planning on selling it but the information is nothing new and is easily found elsewhere. So if you looking for a step-by-step guide for recording vocals and instruments into your computer through to mixing, then download Recording a Demo DIY Style. The ebook is licensed under creative commons so you can share it as you wish. I’ll probably convert it to HTML and run some adds on it to make some money that way. So this will probably be done in 2010. In the meantime here’s the pdf.

No DVD audio playback with Windows Media Player

January 26th, 2008

Another problem I’ve had with DVDs is that I couldn’t hear the audio when I played them on the computer. I had checked all of the obvious things like having the speakers turned on and having the volume up. I don’t often have the need to play DVDs on my computer so hadn’t bothered to get to the cause of this until now.

I was able to rule out a hardware fault as I could hear the audio on some discs but not others. I thought that it may have been a fault in the audio cable that runs from the CD/DVD drive to the audio CD Line In on the motherboard. It turns out that this cable isn’t even required. It was a software issue relating to Windows Media Player.

Windows Media Player does not have a built in AC3 or DTS decoder. Therefore audio will not work for these types of DVDs. AC3 or DTS are licensable technologies that developers of DVD playing software have to pay for. Therefore the cost is transferred to you. I guess that Microsoft was too cheap to include this for their media player. Or if they did the cost of Windows XP would be more.

But there is an easy fix. After some googling I found this forum. There is a reverse engineered open source audio decoder for DVDs called AC3 Filter. Apparently this will fix the problem in most cases fairly reliably. I downloaded and installed it and played the DVD and the audio now worked. I didn’t need to change the default configuration but if you need to, there are plenty of options to tweak.

DVD-R discs that wont play in DVD players

January 25th, 2008

I’ve been trying for ages to create DVDs on my computer that will work on my DVD player. In theory, with a little knowledge and know-how, it should be pretty straight forward. In my case, this was not so. By doing a bit of research, I was finally able to successfully create discs that will actually play on a DVD player.

The DVDs that I make are photo slideshows for clients of my wife’s wedding photography business. For each wedding, there will be around 150 images that we create a slideshow of using Microsoft Photo Story 3. This software does really nice transitions that look quite elegant. You have the option of outputting your project in WMV format in DVD quality at 768 x 576 along with a few other formats.

The authoring software I use is Adobe Encore CS3, which is an excellent product for creating menus and planning the project. What it isn’t good for is transcoding WMV files into a format suitable for DVD. Apparently many of the shipped codecs are quite screwed. I was receiving a PGC error before the DVD burn would even start. I read a good forum that discussed how to fix PGC errors. This lead me to software called Sorenson Squeeze which is used to pre-encode your movie so that Adobe Encore doesn’t have to.

One of the common pitfalls in producing DVDs is the use of cheap media. TDK are fairly reputable as are Verbatim. My main burner is a Lite-On that is about a year old.

I was now ready to burn my DVD project to disc. Encore completed the burn without error messages. The disc would play fine on my computer however it would not play in my Panasonic DVD player. For a while I believed that my DVD player was not compatible with burned media. This issue was frustrating as I didn’t know which was at fault. Was it the disc or the player or a combination of both?

Later I read about a technique called Bitsetting. This is where you use special utility software to change the Book Type of your disc to trick DVD player into thinking the disc is a DVD-ROM. DVDs that are mass replicated are identified as DVD-ROM as the book type. They are not burned with a laser. Instead they are created with a stamp that is from a glass master. It costs hundreds of dollars to do this and is not a viable option for a one-off disc. Bitsetting does not work on DVD-R. It only works on DVD+R/RW discs. As it turns out none of my DVD writers were compatible with the software so I had to try something else.

I contacted a local DVD authoring and replication outfit in Auckland called Express Video mainly just to find out the cost of making a glass master. I wondered how they went about creating one-off DVDs for clients and if they had any issues with discs not working in their clients’ players. I emailed Jon and the advice that he gave me was to use quality media (They use Verbatim DVD-R discs). He also said to burn the discs at a slower speed. All of my previous attempts were at 16x. I tried again at 8x speed. This disc played but the audio and video kept dropping out. The slowest speed that my Lite-On writer would do was 6x. On this attempt, the disc played with fewer video and audio dropouts but it was still far from perfect. I found another older DVD writer under my desk. I considered scrap and I didn’t even think it was working. I’m not sure what brand it is but it allowed me to burn my DVD at 1x speed. At last this disc played flawlessly on my Panasonic player.

So if you’ve had problems creating discs that will play on DVD players, maybe this advice will help: Use quality DVD-R discs and burn at the slowest speed possible. Good luck.

Innovate next-generation synergies

January 11th, 2008

Since the birth of the internet we have seen it empower compelling metrics that has lead to innovation of leading-edge partnerships. Besides this we have seen it recontextualize leading-edge infrastructures through the extension 24/7 architectures. That’s right, the web is sweet as bro.

Now you are probably wondering WTF I’m talking about. Well, I don’t know either. This post was written with the help of the Web Economy Bullshit Generator. Next time you’re applying for a job in the IT workforce, give this thing a try and you’ll be sure to impress any potential employer. Good luck!

An Alternating Speed Metronome

December 12th, 2007

The metronome is an essential tool for musicians wanting to improve their playing speed. All metronomes have a variable speed control which allows you to select a tempo between about 30 and 260 BPM (beats per minute). I have developed a special metronome that can speed up or slow down over a period of time. This is useful for musicians as it allows you to start playing at a comfortable speed and gradually go faster. This metronome allows you to set the start tempo, end tempo and the time in seconds that you want the tempo to gradually change from start tempo to end tempo.

I developed this Java applet because I remember some of the difficulty I had when learning the guitar. I wanted to improve my speed and for some reason I found playing the faster tempos took a long time to master. When I was learning to play guitar, I found it easy to practice a drill in time at 110 bpm but to go to 120 bpm was very difficult. By starting slow and gradually getting faster, my guitar playing speed vastly improved. The best part is that if you set the time to change to something over two minutes, you do not even notice the tempo speeding up.

The applet should be running directly above this paragraph. If it is not then you probably do not have the Java Runtime Environment enabled or installed on your browser. You can download it from the above link.

The applet is very easy to use. Simply set the tempo that you want to start at with the first scrollbar. Next set the tempo that you want to finish on with the second scrollbar. Lastly set the time in seconds that the tempo will take to change from the start tempo to the end tempo with the third scrollbar. Once you are all set, click the Play button.

Captions Please – Part 2

November 13th, 2007

You know what to do. Leave a comment as a caption for this photograph.

Janice had to book an emergency appointment with her stylist.

Janice had to book an emergency appointment with her stylist. The 90s were just around the corner

Captions Please – Part 1

November 11th, 2007

I have not posted in a long time. There is no excuse really. But anyway recently I was having a clean out of the lab and I found some old computer science books from the 70s and 80s. Some of the pictures in these books are so funny. So I though I’d scan and share them. I thought of some funny captions for these but I think that you the reader could come up with some better ones. Unfortunately the book is in a skip now so I can credit it.

Please leave a comment if you have better captions.

Frank's iBrick was nice accessory to his hardhat

Frank’s iBrick was nice accessory to his hardhat

The TIX Clock

August 4th, 2007

While browsing the the Thinkgeek store recently, I came across the TIX Clock. This unusual clock uses flashing LEDs to tell the time. To somebody unfamiliar with the clock, it is pretty hard to read the time. It just looks like a bunch lights flashing at random. Below is a little JavaScript version I made. Can you tell the time?

The clock is made up of four numbers. You just count number of each colour. So if you have 1 green light, 2 yellow lights, 3 red lights and 4 blue lights. The time is 12:34. I made this clock for fun. I hadn’t coded anything in JavaScript for a while so I though this would be a good little project to kill some time. If would like to see the source, click here, then view the source from your browser

N is for Ninja

July 9th, 2007

Well. I’m on holidays right now. It’s raining outside so I’ve been playing ‘N’. To tell the truth I’ve probably invested about 15 hours of my time in the last week playing this platform game. ‘N’ is very addictive and I can’t leave it alone. It’s all about a ninja that has to go around collecting gold and avoiding robots whilst racing against the clock. This is not a graphics intensive game and you wont need a high spec computer to play it. And best of all it is freeware. It’s written in flash and features a realistic physics engine. You can download it from here. But be careful, you may not be able to put down either.


N Screen Shot

The In Sound From Way Out

July 7th, 2007

As I write I’m eagerly awaiting getting hold of the new Beastie Boys album “The Mix-Up”. This album is instrumental only. I really enjoyed the compilation they put out in 1996 called “The In Sound From Way Out”. This excellent release contained instrumental cuts mainly from their “Check Your Head” and “Ill Communication” albums. Anyways this is still one of my favourite Beastie Boys releases so I’m sure their new album will not disappoint.

Beastie Boys - The In Sound From Way Out

Now this gets me going off on a Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley tangent. Sometime after a bought the Beasties “In Sound From Way Out”, I came across an LP in an op-shop with the same name and similar cover art. I’d never heard of Perrey-Kingsley before. The notes on the back of the album mentioned that Perrey-Kingsley were pioneers of electronic music. All the tracks on the album were painstakingly constructed with spliced analogue tape.

Perrey-Kingsley “The In Sound from Way Out!”

I was hoping this album would sound something like the Beastie’s version however it was quite the opposite. This first time I listened to the album I wanted to throw it away as it reeked of seven varieties of bad cheese. I’ve had a few listens in the last few years. Each time I play it, I have more appreciation. After all, it is pretty ground breaking for an album released in 1966.

And now for another tangent, The Robotic Intergalactic Astro-Artists (RIAA) has released “Sounds For The Space-Set!!”. It’s free mp3 mash-up business featuring pioneers of electronic music with more contemporary artists. My favourites are Jean Jacques Perrey and Harry Breuer’s “Re-Entry To The Moon” with Rihanna’s “’Pon De Replay” and Timerlake’s “Sexy Back” with Three Suns “Caravan,”. There are 20 more tracks on there. Some are good and some are to be avoided.