Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No Off Switch

An annoying new trend in electronic devices has quietly crept upon us. While we were busy being dazzled by our gadgets’ myriad abilities, they lost one important ability: the ability to be shut off.

Recently I bought a new audio interface and external hard drive. Neither of them has an off switch. You have to physically unplug them from the computer for them to be off. I find this both surprising and unnecessary. Would it really have been that difficult to add an extra 10-cent part so I don’t have equipment running all the time when I’m not using it and I don’t have to crawl behind the computer to shut it off?

I’m not sure what the manufacturers are thinking when they do this. Perhaps they’re afraid of the idea of “out of sight, out of mind” and want to keep me aware of their existence by whirring or by flashing lights at me all the time? Are they too horrified by the notion that parts of my life may involve activities for which they are simply not necessary?

Or perhaps it’s merely a symptom of our 24/7 always-on wired society - a metaphor for what our 21st-century lives have become? I’m not entirely sure, but this year, regardless of which holidays you choose to celebrate, take some time and stop for a bit. Give yourself and your loved ones the gift of an off switch.

Happy Holidays from Omnimusic.

-Dave Hab

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Close Shave

Years ago, I had written some music for a big corporate show. At the show, during rehearsals, they decided one of the percussion sounds I'd used was sticking out too much. Apparently it was drowning out the voiceover.

As the composer, this is not your favorite thing to hear. After weeks of putting this all together, you'd think someone would have thought of this sooner. In their defense, I guess it wasn't obvious until they played it on the 56 whale-sized speakers at the venue.

The producer called me in a panic. I talked him down from the ledge and told him I'd take care of it. I quickly made the changes and posted the track for them, which they downloaded on a laptop and threw into the video just as the show was about to begin. Talk about cutting it close!

Sometimes computers are your friends.


-Dave Hab

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nerd Corner: SYSEX gone bad

I once had a SYSEX dump go bad. If you know what that phrase means, then
a) I’m sorry, and
b) Welcome to NerdWorld.

All the settings and sounds for an entire composing project were corrupted, and (of course) the client needed changes. I found that my MIDI interface had glitched and had randomly duplicated certain blocks of data. (either that or there were some nasty karma elves taking revenge on me for something.)

Looking at a healthy batch of SYSEX data for comparison, I had to try to figure out where the corrupted blocks were and delete them by hand. Lest you be impressed at my hexadecimal acumen, let me quickly say I was guessing a bit. OK, a LOT. Ever had the feeling you're trying to perform surgery while handcuffed and blindfolded...without a medical degree and with only that 7th-grade science class anatomy poster to guide you? That about sums up what this was.

After several hours of this, no one was more surprised than I when it worked! Everything came up just fine and I got busy making the necessary changes to the track. However, this experience does not top my list of fun things to do on the weekend...or, for that matter, any other day that ends in “y.”

-Dave Hab