Friday, December 28, 2012

The Power66 System

So, I've gone through some refinements on my 5U modular system. Here's a pic:

The main changes, this year, are a reduction in sequencers (since I'm using computer sequencing a lot of times with this guy), and the addition of some Buchla-like modules to the top-right corner. These include a Sputnik WCRS, Dual Waveform Generator, Voltage Controlled Filter and MegaOhm CdS. So, basically, this is a two-voice system, but with whack-a-doodle voicing options. Great fun!


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why iConnectMidi?

Hopefully, this picture explains why I'm such a big fan of the iConnectMidi...

Yup - a little $50 portable USB keyboard for my little portable modular. Very fun!

(The connection between the two is the iConnectMidi, set up to flow the data directly from the keyboard, through MIDI, into the Doepfer A-190-3 MIDI interface. Works a charm.)


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nook Simple Touch : The Christmas Disappointment (review)

A pretty wonderful Christmas this year for the family - once we all got over our quick bouts with the flu. Present opening went rapidly, with a relatively late start (the kids let me sleep until 6 am!). All was great, with the main gifts being Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch readers for each of the boys (ages 6, 8 and 12).

Why the Simple Touch? First of all, the price was reasonable - we got them for $59 at the Target Black Friday sale. We'd done our research ahead of time (or so we thought), and found that the Nook franchise had the best selection of early reader books, which is perfect for our 6 and 8 year-olds. It is also focused on reading (not games and apps), so when the kids are on the Nook, it means that they are compelled to read. Sounds perfect!

So first thing in the morning, wrapping paper flying, we start getting things wired up. We started by charging all three Nooks up and registering them with Then we used the on-device browser to find and buy a couple of the reasonably priced kids books we'd identified as winners for the kids. Surprisingly, none of them were showing up on the browser, so I hit the computer, found one of the books, bought it and tried to push it to the Nook.

No can do. I did a little diving, and tried all of the explanations, but to no avail. I dashed off a note to B&N customer service and went on to other things. Later, I decided to do a little more digging - and this is where I found out that we, as conscientious parents, had gotten scammed.

When we were doing our research, we'd seen huge lists of books that were available as Nook Books: The I Can Read series, DK readers, Arnold Lobel and Cynthia Ryland and others. Here's an example of a page for one of these books:

Looks good, no?

It's a Nook Book, "Available on NOOK devices and apps", and should be a great read for my 1st grader. Except it doesn't work on a Nook Simple Touch. Why? Possibly because it has color illustrations, or maybe it has an aspect ratio that doesn't work - or some other possibility. I can buy it, but I just can't put it on the Simple Touch devices that we purchased.

Let's look into why I think of this as a scam. First of all, all the identifiers are that this is a "NOOK Book", so there is no indication of a limitation to the devices. Looking more closely at the availability statement:

We see that it self-identifies as working with NOOK devices. Sounds good, right? My Simple Touch says "NOOK" right on the box, so I should be good, right? It is only when you click on the question mark in this little corner of the display that it reveals the evil truth:

Oh. No NOOK Simple Touch. I searched throughout the site, and found no indication that certain books were limited to certain devices. I also can find no way to search for books that are guaranteed to work on the NOOK Simple Touch, so I can't even prevent myself from seeing the 90% of kids books that are unavailable to me (or, more importantly, to my kids). My 8 year-old can enjoy the Magic Tree House series, so he at least has something (although it is precious little). But the 6 year-old is cut out of almost every book he would want from Barnes & Noble, and the device is going to end up being a doorstop because he won't find any joy in it whatsoever.

I have to admit being a stupid consumer, I guess. Up to this point, we've been Kindle users, and there are no limits to the content that can be used on any Kindle device, whether it is an original Kindle or the latest Super App-Laden Geegaw. I just assumed that this was the case for the Nook, too - and I'm paying for that assumption. I guess all the reviewers that discussed the superiority of the Nook are focused on Tom Clancy novels and never bothered to look into Curious George.

You can guess how this makes me feel about Barnes and Noble, the NOOK, the stupid B&N Membership I've been paying for and all the money I spend on them. My family likes books, likes e-books and likes shopping. But at this point, I'd rather recommend a Bernie Madoff investment opportunity than suggest anyone support them. A huge disappointment on our Christmas morning.

Thanks a pile, NOOK!