Post From Class

This post was made in class!

Posted in News

Twenty Ten Child Theme

I’ve just developed a new theme called Twenty Ten Weaver. It is a child theme for the new WordPress 3.0 default Twenty Ten theme.

This theme allows you to tweak almost everything about the default theme – colors, fonts, sidebar organization, and much more. Best of all, it comes with a bunch of predefined ready to use (or tweak) for you site.

You can check out the new Twenty Ten Weaver theme at my new site –

Posted in Web Development | 1 Comment


So I’ve decided I want to create a WordPress plugin. Given my previous experiences, the best way to do that would be to use my Ubuntu Apache Virtual Machine to serve a site to develop on. It has been a while since I used that virtual machine, so I had to do some updating. There are several articles I wrote earlier on setting up a LAMP platform here.

So the first thing I found out is that there is a new version of Ubunto just a few days away from release. And I’ve also switched my router to a new version since I wrote the LAMP posts. So I’ve updated a few things in my earlier articles.

I will probably update to the new Ubunto in a couple of weeks, and will follow up then.

Posted in General comments | Leave a comment

New Website

Not that I don’t have enough to, but I’ve started a new website called It is devoted to helping Indie Artists find the best web resources to help promote their bands.

In the process of building that site, I’ve learned even more about WordPress. While not available for the free version here on, the self-hosted version available from allows you to add plugins from a selection of thousands. While designing the new site, I found several plugins that allow me to build an essentially self-organizing web site.

After some long thought and design for cagegories, I’ve been able to use the “Blog in Blog” plugin (with a few others) to create the site. Now that the site is set up, I can simply write a post, give it appropriate categories, and auto-magically, the post appears on the appropriate pages of the site. And the site is now set up (as is this one) to send a Twitter message about the new post. Very magical. I will be writing about how IndieAve was built on that site, so if you’re interested, you might want to follow there too. I’ll try to post those within the next couple of weeks.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Why a working musician uses Pro Tools for audio production

Been doing lots of stuff lately – mostly related to Ivory Drive.

Van, my musician son, wants to experiment messing around with composing using some of the synths for real instruments. Van uses Vegas for his video stuff, and has made some very good audio mixes, too. But it really it doesn’t have comprehensive support for all the synths. We’d used Cakewalk Sonar in the past, but wondered just what was really the best now.

I’ve recently become friends with a working musician who is also very good with computers. So I asked him what he thought. So, here his answer. Sure beats all the wishy washy reviews you can find on the web!


Hey Bruce!

Van has good taste!  🙂  I actually started using Vegas all the way back since version 1.  I originally began using it for audio production, back in the day.  But, I no longer use it for audio, but it is still my video editor of choice.  I love it over anything else for video work.

I also started with Cakewalk very early on.  I went to Cakewalk after moving on from Vegas and I liked it very much.  It has a bunch of stuff right in the box that is very useful, and the MIDI capabilities are really great.  My younger brother (who is extremely talented and produces a lot of local bands) also started on Vegas and later migrated to Cakewalk.  It can also be a fairly cost-effective way to get going.  Both Cakewalk and Vegas, as I’m sure you know, are PC only.

Now, all that being said, for audio production now I ONLY use Pro Tools LE (fully upgraded with the music production toolkit, etc).  I’ve got to tell you that I resisted making the move to Pro Tools for a very long time because I’m not one to jump on bandwagons.  I liked what I was using and found it to be very good and everything I needed to do what I needed it to.  And, frankly, even though Pro Tools has had the market share, it wasn’t always necessarily the best program.  (That has changed in the last few years, though.)  Plus, I’m just extremely loyal and kind of like not doing things just because everyone else is.

But, I found that it was becoming very difficult to work with studios who are ALL on Pro Tools because the session files between programs are not compatible.  Working in Pro Tools now is so convenient because I prep demos (temp tracks) and have an entire song laid out with all the sections marked and tempo adjustments, ritards, etc pre-mapped so that any recording that is done in a pro studio is done directly into my session files.  This is VERY convenient.  I just show up with a hard drive with all my files and they open it up on their system.

Also, the last two upgrades for Pro Tools have really put it at the top of the field in terms of functionality.  They have VASTLY improved their MIDI functions, and they are now as good or better than Cakewalk in that regard.  One of the best things about Pro Tools is that it is designed to alleviate most of the issues that plague those doing music production on computers (with dropouts and weird glitches, crashes, and so on).  If you set up your system to match their approved specs, you will have an efficient and much more stable system than you would with other software.  It takes a bit of getting used to if you’re coming over from Vegas and/or Cakewalk.  But, it was well worth it.  I have found it to actually be much more intuitive and I can work MUCH faster in it than I could in the other programs.  (Oh, and my brother finally switched to Pro Tools and said that he will never go back.)  Another nice thing about Pro Tools is that it can be used on a Mac or PC.  (It’s actually one of the very few that can be.)  I am running a boot camp on an 8-core Mac.  I have Pro Tools installed on both the Mac and PC side.  But, I only use it on the Mac side.  Though, I originally started with Pro Tools on a PC and it worked just fine there.  I’m just a Mac guy at heart, and its just more stable there, so that’s where I spend most of my time when doing audio production.  But, one can get started using it on a PC now, knowing he could always have the option to move to a Mac in the future.

I’ve been fortunate to work with several composers, arrangers, orchestrators, producers, film scoring guys, etc and most of them are using either Pro Tools, Logic, Digital Performer, or Cubase.  (In that order.)  These are definitely the tools of choice for professionals.  It’s not that Cakewalk can’t be used for pro-level work, but these guys are gravitating toward industry standard apps for ease of file-sharing, etc.  I’m seeing Cubase used mostly for guys doing programming and electronic types of music.  Logic is used by a lot of television composers as well as electronic-based genres.  Film composers and orchestrators tend to gravitate toward Pro Tools and Digital Performer.  For more traditional acoustic music, I’d definitely recommend Pro Tools LE, though.  It is especially cool because of its integration with Sibelius (notation software) so you can instantly convert your midi score material into a printed score for musicians.  (I used to use Finale, but won’t touch it now since Sibelius is now just as capable and much easier to use.)  And, you can find some reasonably priced PT systems to get you in the game, without breaking the bank, and that come with a bunch of extras that give you some great features right off the bat.

One last thing about Pro Tools that I love is that it has a host of virtual instruments that are designed specifically to run in PT, and will not run in any other application.  For instance, they have the most realistic Rhodes and Wurlitzer emulations on the market (Velvet).  I use it and have played the original instruments and absolutely love it (and highly recommend it).  Here’s a link to Velvet at Sweetwater:

Just so you know, many of these programs have academic discounts.  I like as they have a good selection of audio stuff and tend to have the best deals.  Though, there’s also and

For acoustic piano, that’s such a highly subjective thing because every piano sounds so different and opinions vary amongst pianists as to what sounds good to their ear.  I will say that I record all my piano tracks from an actual acoustic grand.   That being said, I’m not opposed to virtual acoustic pianos, but have never found one that I felt was “it”.  So, here’s a link that kind of gives a rundown of a few options: (I have one called “Acoustic Piano” from Native Instruments, but I never use it because it is not genuine enough for my tastes.  However, my brother owns it as well and has gotten some very amazing results from it.  Most good piano emulations should sound perfectly acceptable in a mix.  But, when doing solo piano stuff, Van will probably be much more picky – as I would be.)  Oh, and I’d stay away from GigaStudio.  I’ve had nothing but problems with it.  I made a pretty big investment in it years ago, but I won’t even touch it anymore because it was so buggy.

Finally, for symphonic stuff, I’m using Kontakt by Native Instruments.  I love it.  It is also very reasonably priced (especially at the educational discount). I’ve found it more than adequate for most production needs.

But, I plan in the future on upgrading the sampler in Pro Tools (called “Structure”) to use one or both of these amazing libraries

(Oh, and here’s an amazing, but extremely expensive acoustic piano:

Anyway, hopefully all of that helps in some way.  I’ve spent too much time learning software and technologies that end up going the way of the dinosaurs that anymore, I just want to stick with what I know will be around for a while.  Fortunately, Pro Tools lives up to the hype, and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone.


So, there you go. Some real reasons to use Pro Tools.

Posted in Software | Leave a comment

Macs, WordPress, Ivory Drive, T61

No posts recently – mostly because my energy has been diverted to Ivory Drive.

I am so a Mac guy now. Just upgraded to Snow Leopard. As usual with the Mac, a totally trivial experience. Now I’m waiting on Windows 7 for the rest of the family’s machines – just can’t get them converted to Mac. Will have to copy all their data files (most are on XP still), fresh install the Win7 upgrade, reinstall ALL the apps, reinstall their data. How long will that take? At least Win7 looks like it will finally be a bit stable.

WordPress is so wonderful. Can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone wanting their own site. You can make it blog-like; or standard web page like, with or without a blog. With the proper web host, you can get it running within an hour. But then you will likely want to spend another bit of time picking a template you like. That’s the hardest part, in some ways. And then you add content. Not all that hard to learn the interface.

But most recently, I’ve been working on promoting my son’s band, Ivory Drive ( Been building a couple of web sites (one Dreamweaver based, the other WordPress). Also there are dozens of other web sites available to promote music.

Far and away the coolest site I’ve found is Artists (almost all of them unsigned independent artists) upload their songs, the listeners on the site vote democratically on the songs they like the best, and out of all the music submitted, the best rise to the top.

It works! You can hear music on thesixtyone (T61) that you simply don’t hear anywhere else. These are rising or part time bands and songwriters who write fantastic music that don’t get played on the radio, and are mostly known in their local area, if at all. But some of the songs are fantastic. And the songs that make it to the top song list are really good.

And if that’s not enough, T61 is really structured as a game. It can be very addicting to play – finding great new songs, picking the best songs to up your own score, going on quests to find new music, interacting with the other players. But in the end, the game really does pick the best music.

So I’ve been working on Ivory Drive, and not doing much new development. Used my Mac/Ubuntu development to do a lot of the Ivory Drive stuff, but now that it is stable, I’ve probably not booted Linux in a couple of months. But you have to do what is the most rewarding at any moment. I’ll keep up with periodic updates here – mostly when I find something that I believe might be interesting to someone else.

Posted in General comments | Leave a comment

Boot Camp + Vista 64 WILL work on early pre-2008 Mac Pro

Apple began supporting Vista 64 in Boot Camp on some post-2008 Macs, including the Mac Pro. Unfortunately, the 64-bit Boot Camp drivers are found on the OS X install DVD. If you have an early pre-2008 Mac Pro, there is no explicit support for Vista 64.

In reality, you run the Boot Camp installer from a Windows directory on the OS X DVD after you install whatever version of Windows on a Windows partition. So if you can get access to the 64-bit version of Boot Camp, you can copy the Boot Camp Windows directory to a flash drive, or a CD or whatever. You can borrow a friend’s late version of an OS X DVD, or search google for “boot camp 64 bit vista drivers torrent” and download from a torrent. (Apple really should provide a place to download Boot Camp and not force its loyal users to a torrent, but that’s another story.)

There apparently are some issues with the EFI boot support on the early Mac Pros. I’ve had problems trying to install Windows 7 64-bit onto a boot camp partition. (I have 4 drives on my machine, so I can have 4 different boot camp partitions). In fact, I’m still trying to get that to work, and that’s how I ended up installing Vista 64-bit. Since I couldn’t get Win7 64 to even boot from the DVD, I decided to try Vista 64 first.

I currently have 3 Windows partition – 2 on drives with only Windows partitions, and one shared with my Tiger boot drive. My Leopard drive is Mac only. One of the drives has Vista 32 and is my “main” Windows installation. I sometime run it from boot camp when I need all for cores (video editing with Vegas), but mostly run that from VMWare Fusion. I then installed Vista 64 on the other Windows only drive.

Once I had a copy of the 64-bit Boot Camp drivers, everything went very smoothly. My Vista install disk is an original upgrade version, so that took the install once without the serial number, then an upgrade install over that version. The 64-bit version will NOT upgrade over any 32-bit version of Windows, so you need a clean install first. This might be part of the reason that Vista actually supports the no-serial number install – to get Vista 64 installed. Takes twice as long, which is a pain, but in the end, I had a working Vista 64. Without Boot Camp, the video and ethernet worked fine. No sound or bluetooth.

I used Winclone a bunch in this process. Once I got the non-serial number Vista 64 installed (i.e., not activated yet), I installed Boot Camp, made an image with Winclone to be safe (didn’t need that image in the end), then reinstalled with the upgrade serial number, activated, and applied SP1 (SP 2 will be ready any day now). I then used Winclone to shrink the NTFS partition to allow the image to be reinstalled on smaller partition, made the image, then re-expanded the NTFS partition. At this point, I had a fully Boot Camp functional Vista 64.

I then built my Fusion VM for that partition, which required a second activation, which went through automatically. From what I gather, you get a couple of new activations every few months. I’d previously used the serial number for my Vista 32 Boot Camp and VM, but that was a while ago. Whatever, since all these copies of Vista are on the same physical machine, they all are legal. Too many activations may trigger a manual phone activation, but as long as you make it clear you are installing your Vista on only one physical computer, you’ll get the required activation code.

So for my next step, I’m going to try Windows 7 64-bit again. I created a smallish Windows partition for that on my Tiger drive. I’ve used Winclone to copy the working version of Vista 64 to that partition, and it boots smoothly – no 32-bit vs 64-bit EFI problems some folks seem to be experiencing, but which seemed to make a boot from the Win7-64 DVD not work. So I’m going to try to upgrade my second copy of Vista 64 to Win7 64. You supposedly have to edit the Boot Camp installer to get it to work on Win7, so I’ll see. I’ll try to follow up with that experiment.

But I guess the main point of this post was to confirm that you can really use the newer 64-bit Boot Camp drivers on early, pre-2008 Mac Pros.

Posted in Software | Leave a comment

HP Support Experience

I just had a very interesting experience with HP customer support for my new Mini 1000.

The Mini 1000 netbook comes with Microsoft Works 9 pre-installed. I think that most people pretty much dismiss Works as not very worthwhile. Well, since I had just gotten my Mini on the way to the airport, I really didn’t have the opportunity to install Word or other word processing solution.

Turns out the Works 9 word processor is pretty good. Seems to me to pretty much be Word 2003. Can read, modify, and save any Word format, including the newest docx. Supposedly the spread sheet can handle pretty much any Excel file.

But my Mini 1000 has just a 16Gig SSD, and I wanted to reduce space and put on a different word processor, so I uninstalled Works. After a bunch of messing with alternate word processors, I decided that Works 9 was actually the preferred solution for my netbook. Here comes the part about HP support.

Having a small 16Gig drive has some consequences. First, the Windows XP restore is turned off. Second, no HP recovery partition.

Almost any HP computer you buy will use part of the hard disk for a recovery partition. It allows you to restore your system from scratch, and in more recent versions, recover drivers and other included software, including Works if it was part of your original package. You also usually get a restore CD/DVD. My Mini came with a CD that had the bare OEM Windows XP installation disk, and a DVD with drivers and most of the extra software included with the Mini version of XP. But no copy of Works to reinstall.

So with no XP restore, no HP recovery partition, and no copy on the recovery DVD, I contacted HP support. The first reply from HP was a set of instructions how to use the recovery partition. I replied the 16Gig SSD did not include a recovery partition, and that the the recovery DVD didn’t have Works on it. It took another round, but after a couple of e-mail exchanges, I think I finally convinced them that I didn’t have any way to recover Works. So they bumped the case to the next higher level.

This resulted in phone calls. After the first call, the support guy said they’d send a new recovery DVD with Works. A couple of days later, the same guy called back, and wanted me to try to find Works again on some media I already had. I again explained that I really knew what I was doing, and really really did not have anyway to recover Works from the originally supplied material. So again said they’d send a recovery disk for Works. Got a call again a couple of days later from same guy saying the replacement was on the way. Sure enough, a few days later (maybe 2 weeks from my first contact), a full retail copy of Works was delivered. And then I got another call to confirm I got the package from the same support guy.

So I guess I’d have to give HP pretty high marks for ultimately solving my problem. I don’t know that in the end that getting Works was actually worth the little effort I put in, and if I had been in a hurry I’d have been unhappy. But really, they ended up doing the right thing.

So I learned a few things from this.

1. HP really depends on the hard disk recovery partition for support.
2. The recovery DVD that came with the Mini 1000 was clearly built for that specific model – there were drivers that seem exclusive to the Mini 1000.
3. Apparently Works 9 is not included on all Mini 1000 models.
4. I got my Mini 1000 at Best Buy – a special model only sold through Best Buy. So there must be a whole bunch of Mini 1000’s out there with no recovery media for Works 9.
5. Not many people (like probably no one else!) have uninstalled Works 9 from their Mini 1000 and then changed their mind and wanted it back.
6. As a last recourse, HP will actually send a full retail box to support their machines.
7. HP can still make mistakes in their manufacturing – no one figured out that there was incomplete recovery media for small SSD installations.
8. Once you’ve gotten your service support elevated to supervisor level, they seem to be very comprehensive in the support.
9. I’m more likely than before to get HP products again.

Posted in General comments | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My new netbook

Guess I had promised a WordPress article. Actually the WordPress install was totally easy and trivial and worked almost instantly. My opinion now is that WordPress is the perfect website builder for a whole bunch of web applications. I’m in the process of converting my personal web pages to WordPress, and I will comment on that later.

But now I’d like to tell you about my new netbook. Just went on spring vacation, and decided to get a netbook at the very last minute – like on the way to the airport! I’d been reading all about them before, and decided I wanted a netbook with XP and a solid state hard drive. Hoped for a 6 cell battery.

If you search Amazon netbooks, you’ll find it isn’t that easy to get one to those specs. Mostly they seem to have fairly big hard drives and not SSDs. Turns out that Best Buy sells a special version of the HP Mini 1000 (1030NR) that meets my specs – except the battery, and for a pretty good price ($350).

The HP Mini comes in an 8 inch and a 10 inch version. I really think the 10 inch is worth the extra $50. And one thing I didn’t know before hand about the HP was that its keyboard really seems to the be the best available on any netbook out there – seems to be a universal comment in reviews.

So I got an HP Mini 1030NR. Has the standard Atom processor, 1 Gig RAM (easily upgradable to 2 Gig), a 16 Gig Solid State Drive, a 2 Gig USB drive in a custom HP format (really kind of neat because it does’t stick out of the side), a SD card reader, 2 free USB ports, a touchpad that works really well, and a very readable 10 in 1024×600 display. Battery life really seems to be 2 1/2 to 3 hours with the standard battery.

This netbook is pretty new, and HP has been a little slow getting accessories out. If you want an external VGA monitor, you’ll need an adapter cable which has been out of stock. There’s finally a 6 cell battery that should double battery time. HP doesn’t seem to have options for getting bigger capacity for the custom USB drive, but it really is just a Transcend JetFlash T3. There’s a nice inexpensive matching soft case, too.

Unlike every other HP computer I’ve encountered in the past 5 years or so (and I own 5 other HP computers), the HP Mini doesn’t come loaded with any crapware at all! Amazing! This computer is ready to go out of the box, and you don’t really need to fix anything.

It does come with Microsoft Works 9. I’m still investigating this software. (At home, I’ve given up on Microsoft Word almost completely – I hate all the new versions for Windows or Mac. I use Pages.) But given that Apple seems unlikely to release a netbook soon, I got the HP. But Works 9 seems like an interesting piece of software. Judging from the capabilities and copyrights, the word processor seems to really be Word 2003 or so. I’m going to experiment with it to see if you can get it to save to rtf or doc format by default rather than the “native” Works format. I’ll follow up on that later.

So I really like my netbook. It turned out it was really nice to have on vacation. The small form factor meant it fit nicely in my carry on backpack – not much bigger than a book, really. We had WiFi at our vacation condo. And while our T-Mobile coverage map said there would be service, turned out we had no cell reception at all. So Skype to the rescue. If we didn’t have the new HP Mini along, we would have been out of easy cheap contact with our family. And a couple of the family had recently become addicted to Facebook Farm Town, so they got to keep up with that. And we could look up restaurants, use Google Maps, and so on. In the end, I’d say having the netbook really enhanced our vacation. In the past, it has been nice to get away from the technology, but I think I’ve changed my mind.

While I could have taken my MacBook, the small form factor of the netbook was really much better. And while we could have used our iPod Touch WiFi to check e-mail, and so on, the netbook was really much better.

So if you travel at all, and mostly need basic web access, then I really believe that a netbook is something to consider. Very small. Not too expensive. Very functional. You can even run most Windows apps, although it is probably too slow for photo editing (but great to upload your camera SD card to see the photos you’ve taken!). If you need lots of space for files, then a thumb drive or SD card is the way to go. But I find the 16Gig SSD plenty big for the basics.

Posted in General comments | 1 Comment

Adding phpMyAdmin to Ubuntu system.

OK – so where are we?

We have a working Apache2 server. We’ve created a couple of Virtual Hosts, and can access them from the outside world via

What’s next – setting up a usable mySQL system. The easiest way to maintain multiple mySQL databases is with phpMyAdmin. This is a standard Ubuntu package, and is very easy to install to run from the default Apache host. But a couple of notes first.

Note that ‘localhost’ is the default mySQL server name assumed by a lot of php software packages that you’re likely to use (such as WordPress). And under the setup we’ve built so far, it is the default site that is ‘localhost’. You can see this by opening a Firefox browser inside your Ubuntu VM (or real hardware), and entering “http://localhost” to the address box – and you will get the home page of the default host – which still should be at /var/www/.

Note that any domain names you’ve defined using to map to your Ubuntu server will use the default site unless you’ve set up some virtual site hosts. In the default configuration, /var/www/ is owned by root. This isn’t easy to work with – edit, etc. There are at least three ways to make it easy for you to use the default host directories. The laziest is to just chown and chgrp /var/www/ to your own username/group. You also could change the default Apache site configruation file to use a directory on your own home directory, or you can use symbolic links. I used chown.

OK – so let’s install phpMyAdmin on the default localhost directory. Here’s what you have to do. From a terminal, enter: sudo apt-get install phpmyadmin. It’ll do the usual stuff, and now it is ready to go. To use it, simply enter “http://localhost/phpmyadmin” into your local browser, or a domain name that maps to the default host from any browser. I won’t go into the details of using phpMyAdmin here.

I would just like to say I set up a similar Ubuntu server over a year ago, and it was not at all this easy. It seems to me you can start from scratch and install and build a complete Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop with Apacache2, mySQL, php5, and phpMyAdmin in less than two hours. I hope your installation goes as smoothly.

Next – WordPress.

Posted in LAMP | Leave a comment