Who's drumming with needles?

Welcome to drummingwithneedles.com. The content here is provided by me; Robert van Loghem, Rhenen, NL. A guy who develops for iPhone/iPad and is interrested in lots-o-biking.

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Wait for it, 1, 2, 3, doing the mobile


Do i prefer vinyl records?

No i don't. In fact i don't prefer any medium, be it vinyl, cd, or some downloaded digital thing. When i listen to music on my home stereo the sound quality has to be at least ok. With ok, i mean, no distortion, relatively-uncompressed and does not sound like a 128kb mp3, where I hear a constant ocean when I should be hearing cymbals. I've got a 1200 piece vinyl collection, some 500 CD's, 450 tracks bought online and 1 Album-USB stick ;) by Mr Scruff on Ninja tune. It has to be about the music! but sometimes I catch myself prefering sound quality above any other quality and that is something dangerous.

So preferring a single quality above something else is dangerous to me. But why? I think that there is more to music then one single quality, sound, composition, sharing (how share-able with other people ;), complexity, impressiveness all come mind. (some of those qualities are a bit personal and vague ofcourse!) So I try to not prefer one to the other but judge them on different qualities. Sometimes it can be hard to not fall into the trap of just focussing on sound quality because I've got a pretty good sound system which is like Simon Cowell of XFactor coming down on an unsuspecting and innocent sounding music piece with a bolt of lightning if it does not sound right. When I first got my Speakers aka Maxima's I thought I could throw away 50% of my music collection because it sounded terrible or so-so. Thankfully I had learned that while sound quality is important! it is not the bar to which the rest must be compared with. Take for example, Peter Broderick, sound quality, so-so, but the composition and the arrangements give me goose bumps!

There must be something more to music then sound quality and that is something I have learned in the last 3 years! It is also about other qualities. Beautiful music sounding bad is beautiful music sounding bad ;) But i still enjoy THE beautifull part of it. So do i prefer vinyl records? No i don't, i like the sound and the spinning black disc, but other media has its uses too and that is where the real enjoyment starts. Wherever i am, i can always equally enjoy music be it on my big speakers or doing the dishes while my iPhone is playing some mp3 from LCD Soundsystem. I enjoy them both and equally. In the end it is all in my mind. 


It's not the end result that counts, it's how you get there

That is what Bert Monroy says at the end of every Pixelperfect show that my girlfriend and i watch on Revision3. The show is about how to create digital paintings in Photoshop. Yes, the paintings at the end are indeed wondrous to look at but, just as looking at Bob Ross working, it's the way he creates them that keeps us coming back to enjoy watching the show every week.

When i was a kid, i used to dream how it would be when i was 20-ish. Be a DJ, do cool work in IT, buy any gadget i would like. I realized my dreams. I DJ-ed on some big festivals, traveled abroad, do cool work at one of the best IT companies in the Netherlands and i can almost buy any gadget i can set my eyes on (if my purse allows it ;) ). Was i happy that i fulfilled my dreams? No i wasn't. In fact, as soon as i reached a milestone in my life, e.g. DJ in London, i would immediately set another one. e.g. DJ in Japan. I felt empty, always looking forward into the future, never looking back or living in the present and enjoying the fact that e.g. i played at the Lowlands festival (one of Hollands biggest music festival). I wasn't enjoying my life until i started applying Bert's motto; "It's not the end result that counts, it's how you get there".

I first understood it when i was building my new speakers, Scanspeak Maxima's. These were going to replace my 16 year old Visaton ones. The Maxima is very big and it would take me, together with my dad, a long time to build (6+ months). When i started, i dreamed about how they would sound, spend time with friends, family and my girlfriend putting on some great music! At the time, in my mind i wasn't busy with building them, they were already done. The building-part was just a hurdle that needed to be taken as quick as possible. Again, i wasn't enjoying myself, the enjoying part would come as soon as the speakers would be done. I knew from past experience that as soon as the speakers would be done, i would not enjoy them but just set a new goal and dream about the new thing. How frustrating...

We bought the parts, wood and started building. With my iPhone i took a lot of pictures of the work we did. Whenever we started on a new part, i would take pictures, whenever we finished a piece, i would take pictures. When i wasn't working on the speakers, i would sometimes look at the pictures and it occurred to me that, i was enjoying the progress we made. Wow, i wasn't thinking about the finished product! I felt proud about building the speakers, glueing, sanding, painting, seeing how far we had gotten within 4 months.

For me there is a comparison between looking at the Maxima building pictures and watching an episode of Pixelperfect. I see progress and of course some mistakes ;) It makes me feel great inside. So i started doing that in every aspect of my life, not by using pictures but by being aware. Whenever I'm doing something, I think about where i was, where i am now, where I'm going to, but most importantly, how i got there! Seeing the "...how i got there..." part has changed my life. It's weird but i'm happy, i found it! I'm still doing the same things as i have always done, but the things i do make me feel good inside. Only because I'm aware and proud of the things i do to get somewhere.


Discovering music...

The music sound sourceOn the 17th of april i went to the Utreg United party with a friend. But before we went she let me listen to some nice new electro. Thus i discovered some nice new artist names which I'm going to be spending money on. Downloading it from iTunes, buying it in the shop or looking out for some excellent vinyl.

The thing i love about music is discovering. It's always a great sensation to hear a new track and getting goosebumps, learning/growing to love it, sharing it with friends and family. You can find a diverse range of music in my iTunes and vinyl library ;). From Alan Parsons Project to Kilimanjaro dark jazz ensemble, jazz to breakcore and back again to minimal classic. I'm open to listening to new music and there are a few good ways of finding it. In this post i'll tell about a couple of my favorite ways of discovering new music! 

Ye olde shop.

You know where you go into a store and a man/woman stands behind a desk and sells you music. There are loads of these shops in the city centre of Utrecht and most of them are terrible because they cannot recommend me any music based on my taste. It's the reason why i started buying music online. Nevertheless there are a couple of exceptions; The first; Metro record store, the second; de Jazzwinkel (the jazzstore). (there are more exceptions of course) Why do i keep going to these stores? Well, it's because they are run by music lovers with a great deal of knowledge. Whenever i go to these stores, i want to hear something new! i ask the owners if they can recommend me something. I listen to a couple of records they select, pick the ones i like and leave with a couple of cd's or vinyl records. I'm a lazy person and in my mind there is nothing better then to just say; "Could you recommend me some new music that sounds like a cross between Miles Davis and Toytronic" and they come up with Nils Petter Molvaer. Great!

iTunes store.

You can of course fill in any online store here that you want but the reason i say iTunes store is because i have a couple of Apple products. iPhone and Apple TV. So I'm locked down into the Apple eco-system. The cool thing is i can get recommendations, watch out for new releases, it lets me buy music on a saturday night at 00.10 from the couch. What i usually do to discover new music is type in the name of an artist i already know, like Johan Johansson, go to the album and look at the recommendations. One of those was the album Float by Peter Broderick and oh gosh! wow is it beautiful, minimal classic! Goosebumps!

Friends and Family

This is my all time preferred way and the one i was talking about in the beginning. People showing off their music. It's great, especially with an excellent bottle of wine, cheese and a good sound system. What i like to do is ask someone to let me hear some new music he/she has recently bought or some of their classic stuff which gives them goosebumps. I just make some notes and order the music i liked the next day. I think about 70% of my music collection has been bought this way and i look forward to spending yet again a day/evening with some friend on the couch listening to music.

But of course the thing that makes discovering music with friends and family the best for me, is a people social thing. The music is just a bonus ;)

ps. i want to shout out to DJ Illusive and DJ Westrum in remembrance to the Biltstraat sessions. Every thursday night, listening to great music all night long! ah, always the amazing atmosphere! oh the good ol' days........wanna know more? i'll soon blog about it.


My essential OS X "general" applications, top 5

Last week my brother visited me at home and told that he bought a new Macbook Pro 15". He has used Windows for years so he is quite new to OS X. The question he asked me was; What do you consider are essential applications? Well, it depends what you use it for. I use the mac to do Video, Audio, Development, Gaming, Pictures and the usual browse, mail, twitter and write stuff.

In all the above usage scenarios i will post my top 5 apps! starting with this post for the general stuff. The general stuff is what i need to get around on my mac and makes me feel comfortable (and perhaps warm and fuzzy inside) and isn't part of the standard OS X Leopard installation.

So without further ado, i bring you;

1. Quicksilver by Blacktree

The idea of the OS X dock (the thing living on the bottom of your mac) is to launch regularly used applications. If you use mail a lot, you add it to the dock, with one click you can launch it. It also functions as a task switcher. Launched applications are also shown on the dock with a blueish-dot beneath them.

I use so many applications regularly that my dock became huge! It was a pain to find them. Thanks to a colleague and friend of mine Viktor, i discovered Quicksilver. This app lets you launch other apps by just typing in a few letters that can correspond with the name of the app.

For example; If i want to launch "Safari", i just type in the letters "sf". Quicksilver then matches the letters with the name of the app, in this case "Safari", shows the Safari icon, i press enter and it is launched.

So how do you launch Quicksilver? It is automatically started when i login to my mac. It shows itself as soon as i hit the key-combo "ALT-SPACE". Quicksilver has become my preferred way of launching applications and doing some more advanced things ;) But i'll let you watch Merlin Mann and Leo Laporte do a demo of Quicksilver.

2. Disk Inventory X by Tjark Derlien

Have you ever had the problem that your hard drive was full and you didn't know what was eating the disk space? Well then this application is for you! Disk Inventory X scans your hard drive and shows an image of all the files! The bigger the file, the bigger it shows on the image as a colored block. Click on the block, and it tells you which file it was! Instantly hunt down those big files and remove them from your hard drive.


3. Perian Components for Quicktime by the Perian guys

I'd like to play any video or audio file without having to think how to open them. Heck, i'd even love to use the quicklook feature of the Finder! Whenever you get an divx, xvid, mkv, dts, dolby digital file and you try to open them with Quicktime it will fail. I know a lot of my friends use VLC to play any digital media file but it's a bit buggy and does not enable quicklook.

Perian to the rescue! This isn't actually an application. It's a set of media decoders for Quicktime so you can play some of the more common non-Apple media formats out there. When you install it, the only thing you get is a preference pane in your system preferences. But the cool thing is that you can open that avi/divx file within Quicktime. You can even add and play the movie in iTunes.

4. Fuzzy Clock by Objectpark

It's a clock for your menu bar. But instead of saying "10.17", it will say "quarter past ten". This is the fuzzy part. This clock isn't precise and to me it is less distracting then a clock that changes every minute ;) It's hard to explain but if you keep checking that damned clock every time and you want something more easy and relaxing to the brain and eyes, give Fuzzy clock a try.

5. 1Password by Agile Web Solutions

This has been a life saver! How many times did i forget passwords and user accounts for websites, devices and so on. Now comes 1Password. This application holds all your password information and more. It can be protected by just one master password that you have to remember. It integrates with browsers, for example; whenever i go to the Utreg Massive forums, i click the login button, click on the 1Password icon in Safari, select "Login to Utreg Massive" and hey presto, i'm logged in. It's easy as pie.

It also generates passwords for you, currently on the web, all my passwords are different, all are generated by 1Password. The generated passwords are impossible to remember. So if someone (evil) would get my password from a website, it would be of no use to him because it is only used for that particular website.Generated passwords are thankfully impossible to remember

So what do you do when you don't have your computer with you and you want to login onto a website at a friends house? 1Password has an iPhone application that lets you synchronize passwords. Whenever i want to login to Utreg massive when i'm at my parents house, i launch 1Password on my iPhone, type in my master password, go to the Utreg massive password entry and voila, the password is displayed! i can then start logging in.

Well, that's it for these 5 apps! I look forward to sharing my top 5 audio apps next time.