Irregular Verbiage
from the desk of Colin Nicholls

I put on my robe and prophet hat

June 12, 2010 12:03 by colin

Six months ago, I went on record* as saying:


  • In eighteen months, no-one will be talking about "the Cloud".


I may have to re-qualify that statement:


  • If your business plan has the word "cloud" in it, you're doing it wrong.


The point here is that "cloud computing" is not Web 3.0, or a revolution in IT architecture, but much more about economics and risk.

As usual, Bob Lewis says it better and is more deserving of my Prophet Hat. 


* ok, maybe it isn't written down anywhere. But I said it out loud at least once.

Categories: Computers
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Windows 7 can't see SMB-based network attached storage without a hack

June 12, 2010 11:17 by colin

I'm sure it's all in the name of greater security, but I don't really care about that. My new Windows 7 studio computer could not back up my projects to my Network Attached Storage (NAS) box. Not a problem in XP, but in Windows 7, no matter what credentials you try, you get an error message "invalid username or password".

Not very helpful, and in fact, misleading. Here's what you need to do to enable connectivity:

Windows Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Local Security Policy

Then, in the hierarchical list of options on the left, select Local Policies > Security Options.

On the right side, scroll down the list and configure the following settings:

Network security: LAN Manager authentication level = Send LM & NTLM responses
Network security: Minimum session security for NTLM SSP based (including secure RPC) clients = No minimum (clear both checkboxes)

After this, I rebooted, although that was probably unnecessary.

I can now browse and copy files to the file shares on the NAS box. Hooray! 

(solution obtained from

Categories: Computers
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Windows 7 : My Idea? Clearly not *grits teeth*

May 20, 2010 14:54 by colin


"I'm a PC and Windows 7 was totally my idea" - Microsoft Marketing Campaign, 2009


My Windows 7 out-of-box experience was less that satisfactory.

Actually, it sucked.

Once I got past the standard "Running Windows for the first time" wizard  - you know, entering a username, selecting the network type, etc etc - I was presented with a nice clean Windows desktop. Ahhh...

And then all hell broke loose.

First, Windows Update downloaded and installed some patches and prompted me for a reboot. Already? IT'S BEEN 15 SECONDS, PEOPLE! Give me a break.

At the same time, some Dell Backup software pops up and says I really should create recovery disks, and I really should do that immediately.

At the same time, some McAfee Anti Virus software pops up and says I should register immediately and get updated virus signatures, immediately, before I do anything else.

There's more: Each of these frelling dialogs had at least three different possibilities for clicking on. Close boxes, Next buttons, hyperlinked text everywhere... What's a regular person to do?

OK, so I chose Windows Update, and pressed Reboot Now. Seemed like the safe choice. Perhaps I was wrong. I don't know.

Hey guess what - when do you that, and you log in after the reboot - those other dialog wizardly things don't show up. It's just like policemen, when you want them, you can't find them.

So how do I create my recovery disks now? It turns out that you have to drill down into the Start menu - which no longer shows you a nice expanded menu of all the sh*t installed on your computer, by the way - and find the Dell Backup software, and poke around until you find the right combination of options that allows you to create the recovery disks.

It's a serious deal, creating recovery disks. You have to put a DVD blank in the drive and then press GO and then don't do anything until it's finished, or the process might not be successul. So I set it going.

In the middle of this process, McAfee pops up again. I Can Has Registration? Pleeez?

Then Windows Update is back. You've Got Updates! GIVE ME A FRELLING BREAK.

*deep breath*.

After 20 minutes or so, I had my recovery disks, I'd uninstalled McAfee (DO NOT WANT, THANK YOU VERY MUCH) and set about configuring Windows Update to "Annoy only". Well this brings me to the Microsoft Windows User Interface Designers:

Guys: Who decided that the Windows Configuration would be better served by a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' novel running in a Web Browser? YOU ARE RETARDED. YOU ARE SO RETARDED THAT YOU ARE NOT EVEN HUMAN.

Apparently your memory is so limited that you actually like going around and around in circles and getting nowhere because you don't realize you are stuck in a loop. That's the only explanation.

And don't get me started about The Ribbon(TM). I noticed it in WordPad and was momentarily taken aback because I knew I hadn't installed Office 2007. Alas, the RETARDS working at Microsoft managed to get their excuse for ignoring the last decade of computer user interaction standards wedged into Windows 7 into at least two of the built-in applications. Thank goodness I never actually use WordPad or Paint.

Enough ranting.

The Good: The stuff that is invisible.

I'm not talking about the frelling transparent windows when I say invisible. The transparent UI crap can all be disabled, thank goodness, and the Windows Classic theme is at least bearable. No, by 'invisible' I mean the multi-processing, multi-threading goodness that permeates the OS:  Inserting a disk into the optical drive no longer freezes Windows Explorer. Things like that. When it works, it works better than Windows XP. Most of the stuff under the hood is an improvement. Networking, hardware support, etc etc.

If only the UI people hadn't messed around with what wasn't broken. It'd actually be a pleasure to use.

Categories: Computers
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May 20, 2010 10:07 by colin

This little piggy, thinks he deserves an upgrade. - The Prodigal Sounds, "The God Program"

ROSSINI is the name I have given to my new Digital Audio Workstation computer. It's a Dell Studio XPS 9000, with an i7-920 processor and 8 GB RAM running 64-bit Windows 7.

First, the good:

It's a great case, with plenty of room. I specifically ordered it with only one hard drive. My older DAW, KABUKI, has two hard drives: the OS and software lives on the primary disk, and the SONAR projects and music archive and related files reside on the second. My plan was to lift drive 2 out of KABUKI and install it as the second drive in ROSSINI. This plan worked perfectly.

There was one drawback (dawback?): I also transplanted the PCI audio interface (M-Audio Delta 66) from KABUKI into ROSSINI, but ROSSINI only has one PCI slot, and it is right at the edge of the motherboard, which means that the back panel - the metal strip with the connections on it - is located in the last available slot, right at the bottom of the tower case. The 15-pin D-connector couldn't actually be plugged in because the curved plastic base panel of the tower case overlapped too far, preventing the plug from aligning with the socket. 

You can sort of see where I'm talking about, in this picture from the Dell web site:


Not a problem: Set big-ass soldering iron to "imolate" and perform case mod. Now there is a nice (well, "scorched") cutaway in the plastic lip, just the right size for the D-connector.


One reason for the upgrade is because M-Audio finally came out with 64-bit drivers for the Delta-66 (and the other interface I use, the Midisport 2x2 USB). I love the Delta, it's been rock-solid under Windows XP in KABUKI for the last 5 or so years, so I didn't see the point in upgrading until I could go fully 64-bit.

A word about Windows 7. I'm only using it because I want 64-bit. Under Windows XP, even if I had maxed out the computer with 4 GB RAM, Cakewalk's SONAR could only access a maximum of 3.5 GB, and of course it is sharing the 4 GB with Windows itself. Under 64-bit windows, any 32-bit process can access a full 4 GB, if available. And of course, a 64-bit native application is not limited at all.

SONAR 8.5 is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, but I am planning on sticking with the 32-bit version for now. I use a lot of 32-bit plugins - VST and DXi effects and synthesizers - that, although they would probably mostly work in 64-bit SONAR, would require a translation layer. I'm fine with the 32-bit version. A 4 GB memory limit is still more than twice what I was getting on KABUKI. In upgrading to ROSSINI, my sonar projects also have twice as many processor cores to abuse. (KABUKI was dual-core, ROSSINI's i7-920 has four cores - eight if you count hyper-threading which I'm not sure that I do).

So far, everthing is running O.K, although I suspect some kind of memory leak is going on, possibly in the audio driver. After about 30 minutes of working and recording takes, I get a nasty burst of digital noise every time I press RECORD and SONAR stops playback. Well, it keeps advancing along the time line as though it *was* playing back, but no sound is emitted. I'm still working on diagnosing this - there are a lot of places the problem could be stemming from.

Eulogy (Doctor Who Season 5.3)

May 8, 2010 17:52 by colin

I really hope the Daleks are dead for good, this time. I'd say, Let them die with dignity, but they lost that a long time ago. I mean, Serving Tea? What is this, Not the Nine O'Clock News?

I had such high hopes for this incarnation. Considering the travesty he replaces, I felt it could only be an improvement. But now it's Spitfires In Space. Not even the "incredible" acting talents of Ian McNeice can save this episode. Yes, he let me down also.

The unending assault on the ears of the hideous soundtrack has rendered Doctor Who unlistenable as well as unwatchable, since about the third season.

Chris Eccleston was right to run from this show after only one season. While L was away a couple of weeks ago I rewatched a couple of episodes from Season One. It really did show promise. Alas.

Categories: Reviews
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Succumbing to the Inevitable

March 19, 2010 15:16 by colin

I have a theory that every competent electric guitarist will, at some point in their careers, inevitably enter into an affair with the Telecaster.

Leo Fender's prototypes were constructed in 1949 and the instrument was originally dubbed "the Broadcaster". The name was changed in 1952 for the mass-produced model, but this was accompanied only by minor refinements to the design. It's almost as if the archetypal electric guitar emerged fully-formed from the forehead of Zeus.

Arguably the World's first electric guitar design, the Fender Telecaster has a clean, practical look and an honest simplicity that remains unchanged today: A solid body, bolt-on neck, with two single-coil pickups.

With a reputation for both a melodious twang and a raucous screech, the Telecaster is an unforgiving instrument - if you flub a phrase or miss a note, you can be sure your audience will notice. Despite these limitations, or strengths, the instrument has found devoted players in almost every genre of popular music, including Country, Blues, Rock and Jazz.

It's also eminently hack-able - the affordability of the instrument and ability to hide numerous mistakes beneath its plastic scratch plate make it open to experimentation: Changing components, wiring, and even additional pickups.

Over the years, successful official variations on the basic design have been attempted by Fender, many of them very successful product lines in their own right, used by many talented musicians, and still available today: the T hinline, the Deluxe, the 1972 Custom. But you will always be able to find the original Standard Telecaster hanging on the rack in any reputable guitar store. It's a living fossil of the stringed instrument lineage: the "tuatara" of electric guitars*.

And so, if every competent electric guitarist will eventually enter into an affair with the Telecaster, then it is time I gave in to fate.

Here's mine. Meet 'Tara:

Beautiful, and eminently hack-able.

* OK, I know that strictly speaking, the term "living fossil" applies to species with no close living relative species. And clearly, I've just documented that the Telecaster is anything but that. Well, guess what: The tuatara isn't strictly a living fossil either. So 'Tara it is.

Categories: Music Studio Diary
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E Pluribus Unum

March 14, 2010 14:00 by colin

There were eight tomato seeds placed in this container three weeks ago.
And yet, I am delighted with the results so far:

The South-facing garage window gets quite a bit of sun during the day. Hopefully it will be enough to see this little guy through to potting stage.

Categories: Miscellaneous | Photography
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Testing BlogEngine 1.6

February 7, 2010 23:02 by Admin

This is a test post. Upgrade appears to have gone smoothly.

Update: Here we go again. Comments aren't working for me, currently. Changing themes back to standard to see if it is related to my custom theme.

Categories: Computers
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Thugs in Balaclavas

January 31, 2010 13:07 by colin

Every morning our back yard is besieged with a gang of American Robins. The male birds (I assume) have a black head and white eye-rings and they look like they are wearing balaclavas. The females have less-contrasting plumage but are still very colorful.

Categories: Photography
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Guitar Rig to the Rescue

January 5, 2010 01:24 by colin

I've spent about the last year re-working a track called "Listen" that I really and truly thought was finished and done with. It all started when two independent things happened: Firstly, I decided to purchase XLN's Addictive Drums software and improve the quality of my percussion tracks. This worked really well on my first experiment (a "new" track called ... well that's not important right now). As is the norm, before I finished the track to my satisfaction , I got heartily sick of hearing it . Thish appens on every musical project, I should plan for it. The only solution is to take a break; and work on something different for a while, and then come back to it, aurally refreshed.

I'd been getting a good bass tone on the new track, but I needed some practice, so I decided to give my fingers a workout and attempt to play along to the bass line of Listen. Now, the bass in Listen was originally recorded with a Chapman Stick, which requires quite different fingering, so this was not an insignificant challenge.

After about the second run-through, I was beginning to notice that it was sounding good. I mean, really good. It was kicking the track up a notch, to the point where I was considering that perhaps Listen actually should have the Bass on it instead of the Stick. Then I noticed some places where the drums were a little glitchy, could be tightened up a bit, given a more natural feel... and I could use XLN Addictive Drums on it, because after all, they sounded so much better than the sound module I used on Listen...

6 months later, with completely new drums, new bass (including a new bass melody in one section), some alternate synths, and some additional vocals, I was guiltily pleased with the results. And then...

This one time, I was in the car, and I put in one of my CD's and I heard the original mix, the one with the Stick, and I realized that it had something that the new version I'd been working on just wasn't delivering. The new version was great, don't misunderstand me, it was improved dramatically in many ways, but in the process something had been lost. Something I had to get back. What to do? It was apparent that - although the new bass line was great, and had triggered many other improvements - it really needed to be played on the Chapman Stick. Back to where the riff began, as it were. 

Time to go back to the Stick, and practice. A lot. I gained fluidity and clarity but the tone wasn't there. The Stick is a different instrument than a conventional bass guitar, even though they dominate the same frequency range (at least the way I use the Stick), and feeding it through the same signal chain that I used for a great bass sound didn't work. I have no idea what I used for the original Stick recording (yes, I keep notes, but they are not exhaustive), and this time I was getting nothing but rubbish sounds via external hardware amp simulators (my two stand-bys are the Line6 POD 2.0 and the Johnson J-Station), and getting really depressed about it, but in desperation I pulled out the Native Instruments Guitar Rig 3 LE plug-in that came bundled with SONAR 7. 

It was the first time I used it. I'm not a fan of CPU-hungry virtual amp emulators and the associated latency. But in GR3le I started getting interesting results very quickly. Things were looking up. So much so, that I took advantage of a time-limited deal for SONAR users, and upgraded.

All of which is a preamble to what I actually wanted to talk about: Getting the bass tone for Listen using Native Instruments Guitar Rig 4.

Because GR4 is a resource-hungry beast,and the Listen project is already pushing the limits of my studio computer, I created a new project and loaded up three pre-rendered stereo tracks for the drums, synths, and guitars. Then a new track for the Stick recording:

Here's the sound with just the drums accompanying - it's basically just the natural sound of the Stick through the K&K pre-amp along with a little compression from the FX bin:

Through the K&K Pre-amp:


Then I added Guitar Rig to the FX bin:

Guitar Rig is a lot of fun, because you can drag and drop icons around and construct a virtual equipment rack that represents how the audio signal will be processed. I created a rack with a tube compressor and phaser along with the typical bass amplifier and cabinet:

Here's what it sounded like now:


Pretty good... but it is missing some nice, clear, top-end frequencies. With Guitar Rig, you can set up a split to process the signal via two independent processing paths, so I set up a second "jazz amp" with all the bass and mids rolled off to add some shimmer in:

Here's what this second signal path sounds like, on its own:


What I then used for the track was a 65/35 mix of both:

The results:


I exported the resulting bass line out to a separate audio file and then imported it into the original Listen project in SONAR:


Yeah. I think that's just about perfect.