Monday, November 16, 2009

Darren Richardson saves the day!


He's the author of "Foundation ActionScript 3.0 for Flash and Flex", and he saved my bacon this weekend in dealing with a Flash project. For our Technical Foundations class at school, we have a significant project to accomplish, little in the way of preparatory information, and no high-level overview of the AS3 object model, interaction with the timeline/library or general coding procedures. I was suffering from the lack of inspiration that comes from being in the dark, so I headed over to B&N to see what they might have.

The answer is "One Million Flash/ActionScript Books". Too much, overwhelming and impossible to choose. More stalemate. However, I was quickly able to decode some of the issues: about 70% of the books are "hey, just copy this code and you will be Very Cool". Another 20% are about specific Flash/AS3 techniques, like multiplayer gaming, or Flash gaming, or something else about games. The remaining 10% are explanatory texts, and spend time on the concepts behind the environment as well as the groovy components.

Richardson's book stood out by having well-titled chapters, a good text-to-example mix, and the fact that I learned something 10 seconds into reading it! (For those following along, I was pissed because I couldn't figure out how to print something to the output window. Every ECMA-based language on the planet uses print() and println(). Of course, Flash uses trace()...). I spent the afternoon skimming the text, and in the evening I was able to deal with all of the video display issues that had stymied me - as well as adding some cool additions to the second-level scenes. As you can tell, my life was made whole.

Oh, and the Packers beat the Cowboys yesterday, too. How much better can a day be?


Monday, November 9, 2009

Top 10 List: Gear that I use...

Despite the fact that I've become almost completely virtual, there is still a requirement for gear of one sort or another. Not all of it is in daily use; in fact, some of it doesn't get used more often than once a quarter. But these are the things that either make my life easier or make me smile:

10. Bose L1 Mark II Personal Amplification System

This was a rather silly purchase for me: I'm not a singer/songwriter, which seems to be the target audience for this thing. But I do host singer/songwriters occasionally for gigs, and it meets the need exactly. It also turns out to be a great way to do one-off DJ gigs, larger scale installation bits and laptoppery. Sounds great, disburses sound nicely, and is a non-backbreaker. I love it.

9. AKG C-214 microphone pair

I was never a fan of the 414, and when I got these in for a review, I was less than overjoyed. A cheap version of a mic I don't care for? Why bother? Well, it turns out that these things sound good no matter what I put in front of them. I'm not sure about the difference between them and the 414, or maybe my ears have changed since I last used this series - I don't know. But the bottom line is that they are my go-to microphones, and I don't know what I'm going to do when AKG remembers I've got 'em and they want 'em back.

8. Apogee Duet audio interface

Simple, elegant, works perfectly and sounds a dream. I've recommended this to so many people I should have angled for a royalty. Dead-on favorite audio interface in the world.

7. Native Instruments Maschine

I bought this out of my habit of buying anything that is an attempt at an MPC upgrade. In many ways, it is much more than that - the library functions are wonderful, and the hardware/software integration kicks butt. However, what has me really excited about it is the hardware itself: it feels better than any of the drum pad things that I've gotten in the past several years, and completely out-classes the current generation of MPC's. Handles a light touch with grace, but is still willing to take a pounding.

6. Sennheiser PX100 Collapsible Headphones

I move around a lot, and having something easy to carry (meaning, not my HD280's) and good sounding (meaning not earbuds) is important. I also need something that won't hurt my ears and won't overwhelm with ear fatigue. The PX100's fit the spot, and I do use these daily - in fact, probably hourly. I've been working on a big modular system in Max/MSP, and try to squeeze in 10 or 15 minutes wherever I happen to be at. The internal speakers of the Mac won't pull off the frequency range necessary, and the PX100's get popped out and used constantly. Wonderful headphones, very comfortable and not completely unsightly.

5. Korg Nanopad

I've written about this thing before. It doesn't feel that great, and it's probably quite fragile. But it goes everywhere with me. It is the "controller that I actually have on my person", which makes it the controller I actually use. It's right here next to me, see? Oh, you can't see. Well - take my word for it - I always have it on me.

4. Synderphonics Manta

I've written about this one, too - especially on the O'Reilly blog. This is the only playable controller I've ever used, and anytime I have a chance to settle back and work with it, I always end up overjoyed. It has a Monome-like hand-built lovely quality, but somehow feels like using an instrument in a way that no button pack does. Love it, love it, love it. I have some Max patches that work with it, but Vlad Spears' Honeycomb interface is what I use most. In fact, I'm having a hard time finishing up this blog given that the Manta is *right*there*...

3. Seagate FreeAgent Go portable hard drive

Much more than a memory stick or other portable bit of hardware, I use the FreeAgent to carry my life around with me. I have a massive number of samples on this thing, the current 5 or 6 projects I'm mixing or mastering and a pile of personal music and video project that are in the mix. It is never my sole location for data (since there have been reports of reliability problems), but it is the way that things move with me. It fits in the camera pocket of my laptop bag, and gets popped out anytime I've got a free minute.

2. M-Audio Axiom-49 and -25 keyboards

I've had issues with M-Audio keyboards over the years, but the Axiom series works for me, feels right and has enough controls to make my life easy. I never use the transport controls, but the pads, knobs and (on the -49) sliders are really handy when working with bot Max and Ableton Live. There are other keyboards that have tried to entrance me (especially, lately, the Novation stuff), but they don't have a chance because I've found something that feels and looks right, and doesn't make a damned sound while doing it.

1. Apple MacBook Pro

What do you call something that you use 10+ hours a day? Does it cease to be gear and become a limb? I can't imagine not having this thing under my fingers, and it is more than my constant companion - it is also my cubicle-mate, confessional and writing partner all in one. I know there was a time when I didn't have this sort of attachment to a laptop, but I don't like thinking about it that much. The best gear I own.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Free (open source?) storyboard paper

After striking out at the school bookstore, I decided to dig online for someone willing to sell me some storyboard paper. How silly. Our friends at Konigi are more than willing to let me make my own, preventing me from ever having to leave my stinking fat-boy chair.

Have I mentioned how much I love the intertubes?