Category Archives: My Gear

So I bought a mechanical keyboard *clickety clackity*

So after several months of noticing one of my coworkers, Alex, using a Das Keyboard at work, and needing a basic USB connected keyboard that I can switch back and forth between my personal computer (Microsoft Surface Book that I use for things like writing on this blog, creating music in Ableton Live, and drawing doodles and comics in various art programs) and my work computer in my home office, I decided it was time to grab a clickety clackity mechanical keyboard. #oldschool

New mechanical keyboard clickity clacking all day long

A photo posted by C.K. Sample III (@cksample3) on

At first, I was looking at ridiculously priced options like the Das Keyboard line of mechanicals, but ultimately I ended up grabbing the “budget” AUKEY Mechanical Keyboard for about $60. I’ve had it for about a week now and am loving it so far. It’s very loud when I type, which I have found has the added benefit of forcing me to pay attention to people when I’m dialed in to meetings. I’m finding myself less often getting pulled into “Oh, I’ll just reply quickly to this Slack someone just sent me” while I’m having a conversation with a coworker via Hangouts. That’s a definite positive. Also, the RGB functionality of this keyboard is cool. There are several different default settings you can toggle through. I currently have it set to trigger a rainbow pulse of light from each key as it is pressed that spreads out across the keyboard as if you’ve just caused a ripple in a stagnant pool of water. Neat. Also, you can program the keys individually via the keyboard itself, although I have yet to figure out exactly how to do that following the somewhat sparse instructions in the manual that came with the AUKEY.

One other cool thing: I think this is the first time I have used an actual full-sized keyboard in over a decade, but hello highly useful dedicated number keypad! I love you.

Here’s a relatively okay video overview of the AUKEY that I found in a few minutes of searching YouTube, because I’m too lazy and beleaguered with kids to actually attempt recording something to share with you:

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Korg Minilogue + Arp Odyssey on iPad Pro + Apple Camera Connector Kit = Pretty Cool

After reading about Korg’s new iOS app that emulates their Arp Odyssey, I decided to pick the app up on sale for $19.99 last night (introductory price). It sounds really good. I was thinking “Man I wish I had a good Bluetooth controller to play it, though” (like this one), when suddenly I thought, “I wonder if the USB out on my Korg Minilogue could let it act as a MIDI controller for my iPad…”

I then spent a few minutes digging through drawers to find the appropriate USB cable and my old school Apple Camera Connector Kit (USB version) attached to a lightning adapter, slapped that onto the iPad and connected the USB to the back of the Minilogue. I then ran a stereo mini cable from the headphone jack of the iPad Pro (remember when all devices had headphone jacks? #nostalgia) out to the audio in on the Minilogue. Then, I turned on the Minilogue and turned down all the Mixer controls to 0, so that the Minilogue itself wasn’t generating any sound.

Since I had the sound out on my iPad Pro going into the audio in on the Minilogue, playing the keyboard then resulted in whatever sound was dialed into the ARP ODYSSEi app coming through the Minilogue and passing through all the filters of the Minilogue, giving me all sorts of extra control over whatever sound the ARP ODYSSEi was pushing through. I could also turn up the mixer volume for VCO1, VCO2, and NOISE on the Minilogue to blend the sounds on it with what was coming out of ARP ODYSSEi. I spent about an hour last night just playing around with this setup and it sounded great.

And now I know I can do this with other music apps on my iPad, so I’m pretty stoked.

Also, I’ve been meaning to mention this forever: if you’re like me and you only have so much room for a “music studio” in the corner of a home office or playroom, then I highly recommend getting a Yamaha THR10C 10-watt amp. It’s got a small footprint but gorgeous loud sound with modelling controls to make it sound like various classic amps and to even dial-in and save your own sets, and it has both a Guitar and AUX in with separate volume controls. I’ve been running my keyboard and drum machines on a sequencer loop through the AUX in and plugging my guitar in and playing over it for lots of cool solo-music-man time. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually record something that sounds cool and share it.

Specifically how the iPad Pro isn’t a computer replacement

 

I recently grabbed an iPad Pro 9.7, and the new Logitech Create keyboard case for it. It’s nearly the best little laptop / tablet I’ve ever owned, because the way it handles multitasking both works and keeps you focused on whatever main task you should be focused on. Of course, it works best with apps that have been built with multitasking in mind, but you can still switch between multiple apps easily enough where it just sort of works. However, there are unfortunately a few deal-breakers that prevent it from being my new computer.

The main one is that iOS assumes that you never need to connect to physical media. Apple sells both a USB and SD Card adapter, but they’re really only focused on connecting as a way to import images or movies (although the USB connector can also work for connecting MIDI keyboards and MIDI controller devices for music, which is cool).

Unfortunately, that still leaves tons of use case scenarios on the table where you still need to have a regular computer around and an iPad Pro alone won’t suffice. For example, last Wednesday night, I played some rock and roll with my little jam band of friends in Austin. I recorded the entire 3 hour session on my Zoom H4N audio recorder. The H4N is not a wi-fi capable device and saves all it’s recordings to an SD Card. I can use Apple’s SD Card adapter to connect the SD Card to my iPad Pro, but doing this simply opens up an image import dialog and there is no way to see, hear, playback, or copy over the files on that SD Card.

The only way for me to get that audio onto my iPad is to first upload it to a computer, then either sync it over iTunes or load it onto iCloud or some other cloud service so I can access it via the iPad.

This is just one failed use case, but there are many others. We all have lots of data backed up on multiple storage devices that aren’t in the cloud and aren’t images. Currently there is no way to connect that data to an iPad Pro without going through a computer.

This is stupid. Apple, you need to fix this if you are serious about making iPads the future of computing. If it’s just marketing and you’re too busy thinking about building connected cars, then you can ignore my recommendation that you fix this and allow the ability to access external storage and all data types via some sort of file manager.

Ditched my Cintiq Companion and upgraded my Surface Pro 3

So yesterday, I went to the Microsoft Store at the Domain, and traded in my just under a month old i5 128GB Surface Pro 3 for the top of the line i7 500GB model. I did this with funds I made from selling my Cintiq Companion this past week on Amazon Marketplace for ~$78 more net profit than I originally paid for it (thanks to getting it this summer when Wacom was running a summer ~$500 off sale + Cintiq Companion’s being hard to come by currently while everyone awaits the release of the newly announced Cintiq Companion 2). Aside: If you want to sell old gear fast at reasonable prices, you should really investigate using Amazon. Everything I’ve listed there has sold at asking price in under a week. This time it was just 2 days. The process of setting up the new computer has been rather seamless. I had to transfer some files that I hadn’t already backed up to OneDrive while in the store, but once I got home, all I had to do was reinstall the apps that I hadn’t purchased via the Microsoft Store. Everything else was already syncing automagically via OneDrive.

So the reason for all this, besides having a separate personal machine from my work machine, which has been great, is because for all the things I’m really interested in doing right now, like working on Bosh and Bill and crafting children’s books with Jackson, the Surface is great. Not only that, but as a digital drawing device, it’s good enough to get the job done and to help me not obsess about everything being perfect. I need to become more fluid in my cartooning and relax. 256 levels of pressure is better for that than the 2K+ of the Cintiq Companion. That being said, I totally will eventually want a Companion 2 when they come out, as the screen resolution increase + the ability to use it just as a Cintiq when attached to another computer are both really cool and I do *love* Cintiqs. But that doesn’t change the fact that I need to be doing more doodling on actual paper and quick digital cleanup work rather than obsessing over the tech and the Surface is right-sized for me doodling more everywhere digitally.

Also, the difference in price between the Surface Pro 3 upgrade and the money I made from selling my Companion results in some extra money to go towards a nice large format scanner and some non-digital art supplies.

Added bonus: I no longer feel cramped on my Surface in terms of hard drive space, so I’m actually free to move more of my photos to my OneDrive archive via Lightroom than I had to date. I’ll eventually be able to stop carrying around the 2TB Seagate drive I’ve been using for keeping my photo library portable, and rely on a combination of OneDrive, plus the internal drive on this Surface, with the Seagate becoming a true external backup solution rather than a “my hard drive isn’t big enough solution.”

Aside from all this, I’m working on a big blog post about software development and engineering that I think many of you may like once I actually finish it./

I love my new Kindle Voyage

Kindle Voyage
Thanks to my in-laws, Curt & Marian, I got a brand new Kindle Voyage (WiFi with Special Offers) for Christmas, and so far it’s been a great upgrade from the low end model Kindle that had replaced my Kindle Paperwhite that I broke over a year ago (flew out of my bag while I was slinging said bag into the trunk of my car; Kindle Paperwhite landing screen down on the parking lot pavement). The 300 dpi screen is definitely noticeably sharper than previous generations and the lighting has been improved since the Paperwhite came out. It’s now very even, with no noticeable dark spots and the auto-adjust appears to actually light things properly rather than making the screen brighter than is needed in a dark room.

The screen refresh time is near instant now, too, so greatly improved over old school e-ink readers. This makes the browser on the device actually usable. Even the on screen keyboard is quickly responsive now thanks to the touch screen. I love the buttons on the Voyage and even don’t mind the slight bit of haptic feedback you get when you click on the forward and back buttons (which are really less buttons that clickable parts around the border of the screen). The weight of the Voyage and its size are good for reading one-handed in bed at night, and since the light is produced by LEDs shining from the sides vs a backlit display like on your tablet or phone, it doesn’t cause the same sort of eyestrain or bad I’m-about-to-go-to-sleep-and-staring-at-a-bright-LED-screen mojo that people are doing all kinds of studies about. It’s more like reading with your lamp on, except you can have the lamp off, the Kindle Voyage on and just flick it off when you’re ready to sleep.

A page from Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 1 on the Kindle Voyage
A page from Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 1 on the Kindle Voyage

Comic reading is great on the Kindle Voyage as long as you’re reading something that is black and white. There’s a comic reading mode that shows you the full page and then zooms in on each panel as you click next page and previous.

Also, the Family reading set up means that Kristin can finally have her own fully separate Kindle and we can stop the nonsense of sharing one account, polluting each others “last page read” and libraries. There’s also the standard FreeTime time limited kid modes that are available on the Fire tablets, which I think will come in handy once Jackson is just a little bit older and I trust him with my Kindle.

In any case, it’s a great upgrade for a focused reading device.