Featured Post

Friday, December 16, 2011

MozyHome Backup Service

What do you do to backup your audio/video data? This is a solution I tried and am not happy with. You don't have to read the article to comment about how you handle backing up your data. Please comment with solutions you've found.

Now for the article which is about my experience with MozyHome Backup Service.

If you're like me, you've got reams of data that needs to be backed up regularly.

Back in July 2010, I signed up for Mozy UNLIMITED online backup service (two years). It was a great deal which they no longer offer -- about $44 a year (it's WELL above that price now for very limited storage).

I have about 900 gig backed up on Mozy. I have a lot of HD video and high resolution audio which is storage space hungry.

My computer (4 core, 8 gig) often slows to a crawl and I'm always on the hunt for what's doing it. Recently, the CPU usage gadget showed 6 gig of memory usage with nothing but my browser running. So I open the Windows Task Manager and click on the Processes tab. Then View/Select columns, adding Memory - Private Working Set. It still didn't show a program using anywhere near that kind of memory.Then I clicked the "Show processes from all users" checkbox at the bottom left. What an eye opener! Even though I'm the only user on this computer, evidently the Windows system is a user, too, because the list of processes expanded to well over twice the size.

And guess what was using 6 gigs of memory? mozybackup.exe

According to the Mozy Knowledge base article "Why is Mozy using up so much RAM and CPU? [83279]," mozybackup uses CPU time and memory when it scans for new files to backup. RAM usage is in direct correlation with the number of files selected for backup and the number of files that have changed or been added since the last backup. The article also says that after a backup is complete, increased RAM usage may continue to be reported until another application or process requires the additional RAM already assigned to Mozy. It further says this is not cause for concern unless Mozy’s RAM usage does not decrease when another process or application could use the RAM and it causes your system to do more paging and use more swap space on your drive.

This was the cause of my concern, and Mozy was not releasing the RAM for other programs to use, slowing the system down to unusable.

Here's the solutions Mozy suggests in their Knowledge base article:
  1. If your scan takes a rather long time to complete, you may consider reducing the number of files selected for backup.
  2. You may also consider reducing or eliminating unnecessary reboots and avoid quitting the backup process as a complete scan will begin again after each of these actions.
  3. If you find that Mozy uses more CPU than desired during normal computer usage, reducing your backup selection should also help remedy this.
  4. If you feel Mozy is using more RAM than should be necessary, you may consider reducing the number of files selected for backup.
This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever read! Because Mozy cannot write software that behaves, Mozy users are supposed to cut back on the files they back up. "Uh oh, Mozy is taking up too much CPU/RAM -- I'd better stop backing up so many files. Hey, Grandma's gonna be dead soon -- I'll just delete all the photos of her to save space."

And who EVER does an "unnecessary reboot?"

And I can't quit the program because it has to start all over if I do?

If Photoshop or Word or any of the video/audio programs I use can "remember" where I was even when the program crashes, why can't Mozy remember where it was in cataloging the status of files?

And what's with needing 6 gig of RAM to get files ready to upload?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Korg Nano Series

Quite a while back I decided to try the Korg nanoKontrol and nanoPad. The price was certainly right (about $60/each). The Kontrol worked fine after I found this post on untidymusic.com. That post has info on getting it working with versions of Sonar before X1, but it's easy enough to find the settings now under Preferences). The Kontrol has continued to work well for what it's intended to do.

The nanoPad was a completely different story. It was what I discovered to be a piece of junk. More than half of the pads didn't work reliably or at all. Checking the internet, I discovered many people having problems with it. I wrote Korg and asked what the deal was. They never replied. I sent the thing back. While I'd received free shipping to get it, the well-known company that sold it to me actually charged me for return shipping even though they knew it was defective. Needless to say, I won't do business with that company again -- and it's not the cost of the shipping, it's the principle of the thing. Thankfully, there is plenty of competition in the musical equipment arena.

The really weird thing about the nanoKontrol is that it has nine faders (along with a rotary and two buttons for each fader). If you think of something that's intended to work with a computer, nine is a strange number. Computers like 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc. The Kontrol can handle 32 tracks through the use of four "scenes." Since each scene has nine faders, when you get to scene 4, only the first five faders will work (9+9+9+5 = 32).

I got tired of having the fun of thinking "I want to control track 25" -- let's see, the second scene gets me up to track 18. So I know I need to be in scene 3. 9 plus 9 equals 18. 25 minus 18 equals 7. Ah yes, slider 7 on scene 3. Now, what song was I working on?" Of course labeling would be the answer. So, here's my label. Print it in landscape mode. Cut it out close to the numbers and put the numbers directly below the buttons to the left of each fader. I used some stick paper paste on the back of this strip to hold it steady while lining it up. I had the faders all the way up and out of the way. When the label was in place, I lowered the faders to make sure they would travel all the way to the bottom. Then I raised the faders again and put some clear tape over the label, folding the extra tape down the front side of the Kontrol.

There is now a "2" series for the nano. And they made the math on the nanoKontrol2 more human friendly, with eight faders. I searched Korg's site for 2 series user's manuals, and they don't have them up as of today. I certainly hope Korg fixed the pad problem on the nanoPad2.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sonar X1 -- Using CAL

Sonar X1 is fantastic software. It's fast. The user interface is a pleasure to work with. I cannot say enough good things about it.

My relationship with Cakewalk goes back to Cakewalk 1.0. MIDI was relatively new then, and the "King of the Hill" was Sequencer Plus by Voyetra. For some reason I was attracted to Cakewalk. I guess I made a good choice given the growth of the product over all these years.

What's been funny to me over those many years and iterations of Cakewalk and Sonar is that a little part of my time comes with each copy. Back in the early 90's (late 80's?), Greg Hendershott had a Cakewalk Application Language (CAL) contest. I was intrigued with the idea of extending what Cakewalk could do. So I wrote several CAL scripts  (C-MPLMIT.CAL, C-NTROLR.CAL and HIVEL.CAL) to do some things I needed to do. I sent them in, and a few weeks later I got a check from Greg -- for 2d or 3d place :-). If you go to the drive where you installed Sonar, look in \Cakewalk Content\SONAR xxxx\CAL Scripts, and you'll see these and other CAL scripts.

CAL can be very helpful when there's no built-in command to do what you need. If you're trying to do something that's not native to Sonar, check out the CAL scripts that ship with Sonar and the ones on the internet.

But, as always, use caution in making any edits. Make doubly sure you have the correct data selected. CAL can take many, many steps which may not appear in your History and possibly cannot be undone. If you want to select all the data on a single track, always click the track number to highlight it.

And, best of all, start each project with a filename like "Name of the Project-W01" -- which means Working 01. When you intend to make a major edit or delete tracks/data, don't depend on Undo. Save the project as "Name of the Project-W02." Then, in a disaster you won't have to figure out where in undo history you need to revert to. You just close W02, reopen W01 and save it over W02 to continue on. When you complete your project, you can save the final under "Name of the Project" and you can delete the Working copies if you wish. "Better safe than sorry!"

To find out what a CAL script does, open the CAL file in Notepad, Wordpad or other such editor. There should be an explanation of what the script does (at the top of the file). You can find the Sonar CAL routines in the folder/directory noted above, or you can open a Sonar project containing at least one MIDI track.

If you open a Sonar project, you have to select at least some MIDI data to get to the CAL scripts (otherwise Run CAL is grayed out). Then, use Ctrl-F1 or (menu Process/Run CAL) for a list of available scripts. To see inside the script, right click it and select "Open with" to choose Notepad/whatever editor.

The other day, I opened a project file I'd saved weeks ago. That project contained one track with lots of instrument parts, each on it's own MIDI channel. I wanted to split the instruments out. I could have saved the project as a Type 0 MIDI file and dragged that file back into the project where Sonar would automatically split the MIDI channels to different tracks. Or, I remembered a CAL script. Looking for it, the name was "Split Channel to Tracks.cal." I selected the single track by clicking on the track number and ran the script. It did just what I wanted ...."

Except it put blank tracks for channels without MIDI data. Easy enough to delete. But I thought, maybe I can come up with an edit where it won't create blank tracks. Also, the CAL moved the data to the new tracks (by cut/paste, and I wanted to archive the original track. What if I gave the user a choice in that, too?

So I edited "Split Channel to Tracks.cal." I couldn't locate my early Cakewalk CAL docs, but thanks to Ton Valkenburgh's excellent Sonar MIDI-Kit site and his hard work on a CAL Programming Guide, my memory was refreshed (and I learned some things I didn't know before).

You can download my edited CAL script -- "Split Channel to Tracks-Choices.cal"

Try some CAL scripting yourself next time you find a need and can't find an existing script :-)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Brian Schmidt's GameSoundCon - Knowledge, Contacts

Brian Schmidt has created the Game Audio Conferences of the year. Brian is truly a Renaissance man, with an appreciation of the art and the business of game audio. He began his career in game audio in 1987 as a composer, sound effects designer and music programmer for Williams Electronic Games in Chicago writing music and creating sound effects for pinball machines and coin-operated video games. While there, he was the primary composer of the video game NARC. His main Theme from NARC was later recorded and released by The Pixies. In 1989, Brian left Williams and became one of the industry’s first independent game audio composers and sound designers, where he worked on such games as John Madden Football, the Desert Strike Series, and the award winning Crueball. Other credits include Guns and Roses Pinball, where he worked closely with Slash to create a truly interactive Rock and Roll game experience.

In 1998, Brian was recruited by Microsoft to lead the direction of game audio technologies. While there, he joined the then-fledgling Xbox organization as the primary architect for its audio and music system. Brian has been credited with bringing Interactive Dolby Digital Surround Sound to interactive gaming through his efforts at Xbox where he also created the original Xbox startup sound. During his 10-year tenure at Microsoft, Brian continued to drive and advance game audio technologies through tools such as the award-winning “XACT” (Xbox Audio Creation Tool); the first-of-its kind tool to provide interactive mixing for video games. Brian was also responsible for the overall audio system of the Xbox 360 game system, including the XMA audio compression format, winner of the G.A.N.G. “Best New Technology award” and finalist in IGDA’s “Best new technology” category. Brian is currently a consultant to the video game industry working with companies large and small.

Brian received undergraduate degrees in music and computer science from Northwestern University in 1985, where he created the first dual degree program between the School of Music and the Technological Institute. He went on to complete his Masters degree in Computer Applications in Music in 1987, where portions of his thesis work was published in the Computer Music Journal and presented by invitation to the AES special conference on Audio Technology. While in school, Brian worked as an apprentice to film and jingle composer John Tatgenhorst, where he learned to appreciate the art and science of putting sound to picture.

Brian currently sits on the advisory board of the Game Developer Conference, is a founding board member of the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.) is a former steering committee member of the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group (ia-sig) of the MMA (MIDI Manufacturers Association), and has been a featured keynote speaker at The Game Developers Conference and Project BBQ. Brian was also a member of a select group of ten game audio professionals who successfully lobbied NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences -- "Grammy" awards) into making video game soundtracks eligible for the Grammy Awards.

The locations for the 2010 conferences were Seattle, NYC and San Francisco. Dates and locations for the 2011 conferences will soon be available on the website.

By the way, besides attending this conference, you can join the organizations that are linked above to put you in the loop for opportunities in game audio. Contacts, knowledge, talent and luck are the keys to getting into any  business.

The link to GameSoundCon is http://www.gamesoundcon.com.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Important Activities for Composer Education & Development

I recently received the following email:

I'm a humble game composer from Russia.

What exactly were you doing while being a beginner? I mean, what activities are the most important for composer's education and development?


What I did as a beginner may or may not have any connection to what the typical composer needs to do to become educated or develop as a composer. From my earliest recollections I loved sound -- especially music. I found that I loved harmonies better than the melody. I just sort of knew how to harmonize. I sang a lot along with recordings and later with my younger brother who loved to sing melody as much or more than I loved to sing harmony.

A bit later, I took up several instruments. I never became an expert at any of them. They didn't play enough notes for what I heard in my head. Only a big band or orchestra had enough notes for that. But I played in bands and studied music theory in my head, learning chord structures (thanks mostly to guitar). I took songs apart and learned what each individual instrument was playing. This was tremendously helpful in developing a good ear. I got to be the guy in the band who wrote out all the chord changes. I got to where I could hear one instrument in a recording from the start of a song to the end. This came in handy when I started recording backtracks for singers (this was before karaoke).

Eventually, I started taking apart my favorite classical music, writing out the score just by listening to each individual instrument part. This meant that I go to know the piece inside out because I had to go through it over and over, layering a new part each time.

I also got involved in group singing, including Barbershop Quartets and choruses. This helped me develop an appreciation for how to balance the parts to best support the melody. It helped continue to develop my love for harmony, too.

All of the above was in the days before computers and non-linear audio editors. Being able to slow the tempo without affecting the pitch of the piece would have been wonderful, but it may have kept me from learning some of the lessons I did in listening to the pieces at tempo.

I have always loved a wide range of music. If it had emotion, I didn't care if it was classical, swing, pop, rock, world, whatever. All music with emotion has a lesson to teach. So I listened to all sorts of things to find music with emotion.

I've never taken a course in music composition, but I've taken many thousands of lessons. Listening to and playing with other musicians were some of the best lessons. Listening to music that was not run-of-the-mill included some other better lessons. Doing anything that stretched what I thought I could do was always a lesson, too.

Taking courses in music and composition probably would have decreased the learning curve for me. I think someone who wants to do something musical for a life's work can learn a lot from courses.

There is also a lot of information available on the internet. For classical music, an example is the interactive version of Rimsky-Korsakov's Principles of Orchestration -- available at http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/forumdisplay.php/77-Principles-of-Orchestration-On-line. This is thanks to Gary Garritan. All sorts of information on more modern musical styles is available all over the internet, with many video tutorials, too.

To me, the most important thing of all the above is developing a good ear and a good understanding of chord structures. These, along with learning music software will enable you to bring what you hear in your head to reality.

I hope this helps you in some way. Good luck in your creative endeavors!