“You give ‘em what they want. That’s the role of journalism.”

“No, Maurice, that’s the role of professional wrestling!”

— from Northern Exposure

More GarageBand resource usage


I finally got around to testing my piano overload song on my other Mac, a dual 1GHz G4 tower with 768MB of RAM, booted off of a 4200 RPM external FireWire drive. The second CPU more than made up for the slower hard drive and lower memory, allowing me to add four more software pianos than I could use on the PowerBook.

Final total: nine software pianos, five software percussion instruments, a software acoustic bass, and seven sampled loops. I’ll try again when I finish rebuilding the fast internal hard drive, to see if that will let me squeeze in another piano.

Update: Nope, the faster hard drive didn’t make a difference. It looks like CPU and RAM dominate, and dual CPUs make a big difference (as they should).

Update: Past a certain point, more RAM doesn’t make a big difference, either (says the guy who just bumped his PowerBook to 2GB). It looks like 512MB is a good working minimum, and 768MB or so will handle just about anything a G4 or two can keep up with. Above that, you’re basically adding buffer cache to compensate for the speed of your hard drive.

If it saves one bird…


Propagandists for various causes are fond of taking an annual statistic and dividing it by the number of days/hours/minutes in a year to create A Scary Statistic. I have a new one for them:

Every second, 32 birds are murdered in the US by plate-glass windows.

Kinda puts that whole silent-spring, DDT-egg-thinning flap into perspective, don’t ya think?

SuperBowl Scandal


After reviewing the highlights of the game (which, for me, were the few good commercials), I used my DishPlayer to hunt for the Justin-strips-Janet scene that’s getting lots of negative attention today.

When we originally watched it, it looked very deliberate. If we hadn’t had the volume muted, the fact that his last words were “…gonna have you naked by the end of this song” would have supported that impression.

Watching it again, though, I’m convinced that Justin’s grab-and-yank was actually intended to remove the rest of her costume, leaving the bra intact. He just grabbed a little higher than he had during rehearsals.

The clincher was seeing the still photos that make it clear that she wasn’t wearing pasties. It was a nipple shield, held on by a piercing, not something the FCC would be happy to see.

I figure that by tomorrow, every fetish shop on the planet will be advertising “Janet’s Sunburst”.

Update: The official word from Janet’s fetishist, er, publicist is that it was in fact the bra cup that was supposed to tear off, but the red lace was supposed to stay behind, covering the breast. She also claims that it was set up after final rehearsals, without the knowledge of MTV or CBS.

Update: Sure enough, sales of nipple shields, and the piercings to wear them with, have gone way up.

Juxtaposition


MSNBC home page, just now:

At first glance, I saw it as a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” moment. Then I realized they were talking about a real whale, not an overweight American tourist. :-)

getting MIDI into GarageBand


First pass at a third-party MIDI importer for GB, courtesy of Bery Rinaldo. Much nicer than the previous workaround.

Variant Nigerian scam email


This one’s new: it’s targeted by last name, claiming that someone sharing your last name died in Nigeria, leaving $6 million in a bank account. The fraudster presents himself as an accountant at the bank holding the money, and offers to split the take with you if you’ll pretend to be the next of kin. The cool thing is that he sent it to an address that has never received a non-spam message, clearly establishing that he bought a low-quality mailing list instead of scraping web sites.

Best line: “I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you. From any breach of the law”

Actual clever wrinkle: the email address you’re supposed to contact is at the official-sounding “justice.com”. This is apparently a service of the legitimate site findlaw.com, a web portal for legal professionals. This may backfire on my new friend…

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GarageBand: adventures in UI design


GarageBand only allows you to have one project open at a time. This is not an obvious or necessary feature of a music program, but at first glance, it’s defensible in the context of Apple’s iLife package. For a bunch of more-or-less free tools designed for light use by non-professionals, allowing multiple documents adds the risk of clutter and confusion (not to mention memory management and engineering effort). iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD all work the same way, right?

Well, no, they don’t. iTunes and iPhoto simply don’t have the concept of multiple projects. Something is either in your library or it isn’t. iMovie and iDVD are single-project-based, but the projects generally have a much larger scope. I’m sure a lot of iMovie users wish they had an iPhoto-like clip library to store their favorite video elements in, but for the most part, few people are going to want to edit more than one movie at a time.

This is not the case for music, especially in an application that encourages experimentation. One of the very first questions I saw on the various GB forums was “how do I make my own reusable loops”. Tied with it was “how do I import MIDI tracks”.

The answer right now is “through painful workarounds.” To make your own loops, you export your performance to iTunes, find the AIFF file on disk, load it into the SoundTrack Loop Editor that’s part of Apple’s free AppleLoops SDK, manually mark it up, drag the tagged file into GB’s loop browser window, and then wait while the complete index of available loops is rebuilt. To import MIDI files, you download two third-party freeware packages and string them together to fool GB into thinking that you’re playing the music on a keyboard.

Even the simple act of cutting and pasting between songs is made difficult by the single-project design. You can do it, but only within the same session, because GB clears its private clipboard on exit. And it exits whenever you close a project. So, if your goal is “copy my cool bass track from RockDude into BluesDude,” the order of operations must be Cut, Open, Paste. Anything else will wipe the clipboard and force you to start over.

Sure, after you’ve done it a few times, you’ll adjust your behavior to match GB’s expectations, but isn’t that precisely the problem that consumer-friendly creative applications are supposed to avoid?

Objective nonsense


Take a good look at the way Time/AOL has framed the questions in this “objective” comparison of presidential candidates. Fair and balanced, they ain’t.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”