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Look At All This MIDI - Part 1

Let's shift gears for a bit and talk about music. And more particularly, MIDI and such devices that I've owned for making music.

I grew up owning a Commodore 64, and knew the basics of synthesis from the manuals of that, but never had any tools for working with it. When I was a teenager was about the whole time when the internet was getting started, and MIDI's were the thing as it was before the MP3 and during the days of dialup. Our family computer wsa a Packard Bell, with a custom sound card/modem called the Aztech 2320. It had two MIDI playback modes, a built-in OPL3, and a software wavetable that was licensed by Packard Bell, but I think a version of Brookstree Wavestream. I didn't discover this software wavetable until a few years after we owned the computer, and after being accustomed to just OPL FM music, oh boy did the "real" instruments of the wavetable blow my mind.

In my 9th grade year, I was gifted another computer from a neighbor who had just finished up some computer coursework at is college. It was an NEC, but by that point NEC and Packard Bell were one company, so it had similar hardware as the family computer, including the same Aztech 2320. He originally was using it with Linux, but I didn't understand it at the time so reimaged it with the Packard Bell's image disc, and gained access to the Wavestream wavetable. From some random shareware disc, I think, I found a software for editing MIDIs, and then I first started to dabble with that.

As the years went on, into my adult life, as Windows moved on the standard Windows GS wavetable came around, but it's not all that great. I still kept the old computer around just for the other wavetable software, when I wanted to use it, but that's a hassle to work with so wanted to find some other thing. Somewhere around 2011-2012, I discovered the Roland MT-32. This was far before the retro gaming computer scene emerged, and MT-32's were something nobody wanted, so I picked up one for dirt cheap, but found the LA synthesis engine interesting but complicated to work with, and it didn't sound as good as I hoped, so I ended up shelving it.

Being that I'm a Touhou fan, this is where the Studio Canvas line of course enters. The fandom is obsessed with the SD-90, the device ZUN uses for composing, and trying to make things sound like his work. I became interested too, but not for the same reason. I simply didn't know there was any modern hardware like that anymore, thought it was all late-80s/early-90s stuff like the MT-32 and the SC-55 or the Yamaha MU-80. The original Studio Canvas line has three versions: the SD-20, SD-80, and SD-90. Each one served a different purpose: the SD-20 was a pared down version with the wavetable, but without any aftereffects units, limiting it to only the General MIDI 2 standard of chorus/reverb settings. The SD-80 adds 3 FX units, and the SD-90 also adds external connections for microphone/guitar/aux audio processing as well. I ended up going for the SD-20, just because of what I was looking for, which got some scoffing from a few others in the Touhou fandom (least of which was for them thinking it was inferior for having "less" presets than the SD-80/90, but one of the banks of presets on the larger devices is simply existing voices with preconfigured FX units, so there's nothing actually lost that post-processing elsewhere can't do anyway). A few years later, though, I traded it up for a SD-90 anyway, wanting to have the on-hand FX units rather than post-processing ones on the computer (though when I first got it I didn't even understand what most of the effects even did) and finding one for a great deal that was much less than what they usually sold for. To have an additional sound set from Yamaha, I also bought the MU-128 which was near the top of the line for Yamaha's offerings. I considered Korg's equivalent offering as well, the NS5R, but never did find one at a price I wanted to pay. Somewhere in here I also bought an SC-88, although I don't remember why exactly, then sold it off to a coworker (without the power supply, because the one that came with it was bad but it used the same one as the MT-32 so I just used that).

Some years later, I picked up an iPad, mainly for use when on planes rather than trying to use a bulky laptop in cramped economy tray. On there I discovered the Sound Canvas VA, which is a software recreation of the previous line of Sound Canvases, and particularly the SC-8820. This only had one FX unit, compared to the three with the SD-90, but a much larger and more varied preset list. And when I found that it also existed in a PC version as a VST for DAW usage, that eliminated the FX limit because multiple instances can be run. At that point, honestly, I lost interest in the SD-90 and wanted to use SC-VA going forward, so I eventually sold off the SD-90, netting more than I paid for it since I had bought it at a steal price originally.

On the iPad I also eventually found something else, too: Korg iM1. Another software recreation, this time of Korg's M1 workstation from 1988. The M1 was not simply a preset device, but was designed to let you custom edit the sound patches to be exactly how you wanted. I had dabbled with a few things over the years that were like that, but beyond the basics of ADSR that I had learned from Commodore days, I could never really wrap my head around them. But Korg iM1 was different. Because it has an absolutely beautiful layout, that breaks it all down perfectly to understand.

To be continued in part 2...

Date posted: 16 March, 2021
Tags: musicmaking

Four-Year Summary

So there are a number of reasons that I didn't update the blog for the last four years, but there were a few big ones that stopped me where I did left off and not get back to it. Let me break them down.

  • Death of a friend
  • One of my closest friends died about a week before my last entry. That did not exactly put me in the best of spaces for a while, particularly because of the circumstances. I have talked some about it on a thread on Reddit, and will probably repost that on here sometime later, so for now I'll not go into it further for now.
  • CMS Failure
  • The old blog/CMS software I was previously using, PivotX, had actually long since ended by that point. The final maintenance release was June of 2015. I had been running on that system since the beginning, or rather an older version of it simply titled Pivot, and it was really starting to show issues with that age with various weird bugs on the site. The developers of PivotX had moved on to start a new CMS, called Bolt, and I had actually started the process to convert over to that, but there was some issues with running it on my server with some configuration items that are on by my host being recommended to be off with whatever combinations of frameworks they were using to make Bolt. As I worked on this on and off, there were long periods of time where there was no talk and no update from the Bolt devs, and the future of it was uncertain, and that kind of drove me away from finishing the migration.
  • Other Projects
  • For about a year and a half, I was actually doing some major contract project maintaining a high-traffic site. Since I work full time, this means all my spare time was done working on this project and its feature development and maintenance, and so any spare time where I was working on that I had no interest in other programming, either something for this blog or any game development, with what free time I had. Once that contract ended, then I had time to start looking into more stuff. Which led right into...
  • 2020
  • What else to say? We all know how that dumpster fire went. My previous contract had ended around January of 2020, and so I only had a little time to start diving into other things before the world turned upside down. What's worse, early in 2020 I had started some new dieting, and so I was trying to adjust to that and the differences in how I felt because of that as the pandemic began. Then there was a major earthquake in Salt Lake City in the middle of March. A 5.7 scale one for the initial, with major aftershocks of 4 and 4.5 that same day as well as many smaller ones. That earthquake day hectically getting all my team at work ready to be able to work from home and going around and making sure the equipment was set in place to not be damaged from further earthquakes, as that was pretty much the day that they made the sure call that they were building up to as pandemic ramping up of everyone had to be set to work from home that day, building was closed after that. And for the first few weeks or so of that, I felt sick and really tired. Doesn't seem like I had Covid at that time, based on some later antibody tests I took for a study, but between just general earthquake anxiety and maybe something else I caught around then, I was not well for a while after pandemic started.

That's the four major things that happened before. As I started feeling better again last year, and could focus on doing stuff again, I decided to try and work on getting my blog back up and running again. After the experiences with the previous blog going EOL and not getting updates, and the general idea that it's bad to let web software languish because of how often security vulnerabilities come up with old not-updated software, I decided for a different approach. I already didn't have comments turned on, so there was no need for a web-based software to begin with. Instead I'd look into an offline CMS, that would just generate static pages for me to upload to the server. And after trying a few but not giving me the exact flexibility I wanted, I ended up deciding to make one myself that met what I wanted.

So that's what I did. I wrote my own offline CMS, which I just completed this week. Still some features I want to add to it over time, but it's usable now. And I'll go more into that work in another post.

Date posted: 24 February, 2021
Tags: regularspelling personal

Kept You Waiting, Huh?

Well that was a weird last four years, wasn't it?

This is just a short entry, to make sure my new blog software is completely working. There's a lot of reasons I let the blog go dead for four years, which I'll summarize later, but one of the reasons was needing to replace the CMS. Assuming this test works properly, then I'll be able to start making new entries going forward.

Date posted: 17 February, 2021
Tags: regularspelling

2016 Book Blitz - November (NaNoWriMo): The Inquisitor

Oh right, I forgot I needed to post this one too. 

Well, that doesn't look good now, does it? Let's take a look at it from NaNoWriMo's perspective.

Well there's the problem. Right there at the beginning of the month, there was hardly any progress for almost four days. That's because I actually had a migraine that lasted that enitre week, which made it really difficult to focus on trying to get any writing done, which made me fall behind for the entire month.

I actually spent a large amount of the month dealing with probably what was a cycle of rebound headaches/migraines, just piling up more and more from the painkillers and migraine abortives. In October and through November the Sumatriptan I had been previously perscribed for abortive that had seemed to be working just stopped, and I was perscribed a new one (SPOILERS: the new one doesn't seem to work either), as well as being put on a preventative as well, topiramate, which actually did seem to help once it did finally ramp up to the full dose. But I also let myself purge of all the painkillers at the same time, to try to break the cycle of the rebounds, and that probably in part has some impact on it as well. 

As we got to the latter half of the month, as you see, I was able to start to finally catch up to par with my actual goal rate from this year, but it took until literally the last day to make it to NaNoWriMo par itself, because of how much the beginning of the month had put me behind. So I barely scooted in at the last minute, but I made it. Not a failed NaNoWriMo yet. Would be a little embarassing to do so this year, too, consideirng I already met the NaNoWriMo challenge three separate months already this year. 

I did finish the book, too. On the first of November, in fact, I blitzed to the end. Ended up coming in at a little over 60k words, so shorter than the overall goal of 75k, but as I was writing the book I didn't really have enough story to write to 75k without making up unnecessary fluff. Actually ended up better than I was originally planning, which is the reason I blitzed to the ending on the last day, because I had an idea come to me as I was heading to bed on the 30th to expand the last chapter a bit, whcih I got up to jot down a note for, then as I was doing that I had another idea come with that that I realized would work well to tie everything together nicely, so I pushed forward the next day so I could write it while it was fresh. 

Four books done for the year. I meant to write this earlier in the month but forgot to, so I'll leave more for the full post-mortem on the year I'll put together tomorrow.

Date posted: 30 December, 2016
Tags: nanowrimo writing

Eliza’s Notes - 08: Age of Regression

Oddly enough, in a way the present day seems the most like Ildios to me. 

Not exactly like it, of course. We were more advanced than the way the world is right now through our more extensive use of magic. But in our day there were of course remnants of the Aughylian Empire around that nobody could use, ancient mystical technology that was simply collected and traded among the rich because it couldn't be activated. Whereas here it's everywhere, littered among ruined cities and thrown in gorges and rivers just to get it out of the way, but still otherwise just as mystical. And just as unusable. 

Society regressed once more. The wars of supplies led to much of the world's knowledge being destroyed in the crossfire, and as waves of people died out everything fell back to simple farming once more. So much lost, it hurts them to hear of it, as the eldest of the people alive tell stories to their youngest descendants, told to them by their eldest forefathers while they were at their youngest, of the way it was during the end days while the supplies were dwindling but the technology was still in use. 

I think what hurts this people more than anything else is that they can still see it all. They can see the road vehicles lying on the ruined streets, they can see the air vehicles lying in the fields where they fell from the sky and were too heavy to move. Scavengers search ruins of the cities for scrap metals and wood and tools that can be put to use in some way, and they all see all the wonderful conveniences of the past that can no longer be used anymore. For most of them, they don't even know how many of these things were even used, and their guesses can get interestingly wild. It hurts them that they know, they can see for themselves that the world used to be a better place, and there's nothing they can do about it. 

They live now in a simulacrum of what was lost, scrambling to be like how its told in the stories. Approximations of technologies of the past are used as best as they can. Animal drawn carts, both on free wheels and drawn along set path rails. Flame based lighting, either from candles or piped in gas where available. Where available, food is kept cool in boxes filled with ice, or in places where ice is not available in containers taking advantage of the evaporative cooling properties of water. To the people, though, it's seen as just an approximation, a reach toward the past that has been lost to them. Most don't realize that either they have either invented new technology to do the tasks without magic, or reinvented technology that already existed in the past that was then modified to work with magic when the crystals were created.  They could certainly do worse, as far as levels of technology are concerned. If only they would realize that they are looking toward the future, and not looking back to the past. 

Interestingly enough, the biggest advance has actually been the Evreux. With devastations to their underground systems, they had to go through and rebuild much of their infrastructure, giving them opportunity to overhaul and expand it. Using some of the technology we saved, combined with other technology they retained from the height of their civilization, they've created more advanced trains and other vehicles, increasing in speed and allowing for much faster travel between their settlements, as well as adding additional redundancy and alternate paths just in case something like before happens again. All of it based on more advanced technology and materials that require much less maintenance than before, allowing much easier use of the vast underground network.  

Along with expansion of their networks, they've also expanded their own underground towns and cities. With their belief that leaving the planet will lead them to disaster once again, they've adopted the idea since the time I first met them that expanding further into the underground will bring them more in tune with nature and the planet. They've developed new technologies to allow them to more easily grow food underground, which has allowed them to expand their population, and with it required them to build larger and more complex underground cities. Now complexes around key rail stations have expanded that can hold up to a thousand in them, or more as they expand further. Although, to their credit, they're not abandoning the surface, and have a policy of compulsory service among their people of living topside to grow and hunt for a time period so they better understand where they came from and where they are going.  

They've also taken the more advanced medical techniques and continued pushing them forward, again combined with their technology of the past. Implants and limb replacements have gone from clearly mechanical to indistinguishable from regular flesh, and requiring much less maintenance. Enhancements to supplement what has been lost by age are commonplace now. Age hasn't been kind to me myself, but thanks to several surgeries by highly skilled experts I've had knees and hips replaced, and enhancements to my musculature and nervous system to allow me the freedom of movement that I once had when I was much younger. I still look like an old woman, but in combat I would no longer move like one, something which would be sure to confuse anyone wishing to stand against me. 

As they've been expanding their technology, being the only human living among them has been... a little difficult. Their size compared to mine means some things are not well built for someone of my height, making things a little cramped for travel. Such as their rail cars, I have to more often sit on the ground to keep from bumping my head in the small trains traveling from city to the next. It's a good thing the trains are much faster than they used to be.

Date posted: 05 September, 2016
Tags: elizas_notes writing


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