Saturday, November 07, 2020

Diecast Cars - introducing Diecast Cat!

 My nine year old daughter and I both LOVE Diecast Cars, and all miniature diecast toys, so we have launched our first ever joint project - diecastcat.shop

Diecast Cars website
Our Diecast Cars online store

We have been collecting, sorting and cataloging diecast cars for some time now, so it feels good to get the site up and running! Go take a look, we think it's cool!

https://diecastcat.shop/

Monday, October 19, 2020

Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard manual in English

 Following on from my previous post about the Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard I decided it might be useful to post the English version of the manual. It's pretty slim; just a small single sheet of paper, but it does contain some key combinations that are essential to getting started.

Click the images of of the manual to view the larger versions.

The entirety of the side of the 'manual' that is printed in English (sort of)

A closer look at the bottom half of the English SK64S manual
A closeup of some more of the essential keyboard shortcuts you'll need to use this great little keyboard


If you found this blog post helpful please consider buying me a pint...


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard on a Mac OS

Why have I bought a mechanical keyboard for my Mac?

If you don't care about why I bought the Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard scroll down to get to the setup and Mac OS troubleshooting information.

If you found this blog post helpful please consider buying me a pint...

I learned to type on a huge old Microsoft Natural keyboard, many moons ago. Since making the switch to Mac about ten years ago I've never really got on very well with either the kebyoard on my Macbook Pro or the Apple Magic Keyboard I use for my Mac Pro (Cheesegrater). After typing on a 'big' keyboard my whole life trying to use the Mac keyboards felt horribly claustrophobic.

So recently I have been trying out different keyboards. I tried the Logitech MX Keys Advance first. The keyboard was wonderful. Brilliantly responsive and smooth in every way. Even the keys felt smooth to the touch, it was gorgeous. But there was one problem I just could't get past. Because my Mac Pro is a 2011 model I couldn't connect the MX Keys using Bluetooth. It did not work at all. So I connected using the Unify dongle. The Unify dongle worked great... most of the time.

I can type fast. Really fast. Getting into a 'flow state' while typing is really important. So having the keyboard disconnect for even a few seconds is a real problem. It interrupts my work and I lose that crucial flow state. So after about a week. I had to send the keyboard back. It's a lovely product but not right for my application. 

The problem I then had was that having seen the way forward with regards to bigger, more reactive keyboards going back to my Apple Magic keyboard made it feel even worse than it had before. The edges of the device and the keys are so abrupt and sharp. It feels bad. Considering most of my work involves typing having this 'contact point' that felt horrid is a problem.

Given that wireless connectivity is known to be a problem on all old Mac Pro computers I decided flow state and a reliable connection was more important than a lack of wires. So I made the decision to buy a wired keyboard.

So I looked for a new keyboard. This is when I fell into the rabbit hole of mechanical keyboards. After much shopping around and reading of reviews I decided I wanted to buy the Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard. 


Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard
The Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard I use on my Mac


Epomaker Skyloong SK64S Mechanical Keyboard - lessons learned

I made this choice even although I couldn't find much info on how well the SK64S performed on Mac OS. I could see reviews on The Epomaker Skyloong SK64S on Amazon, written by Mac users. So I figured things couldn't be all that bad for us Apple users.

This mechanical keyboard is Bluetooth capable, but I partly choose this model because it can also be used as a wired keyboard, and was delivered with a USB C style lead.

When the device arrived I fell at the first hurdle; I couldn't even get my Mac to recognise the keyboard. That's when I found out the control software on the Epomaker website support pages is for Windows only. So I tried my next logical place to hunt for information, the mechanical keyboards sub on Reddit. I didn't find a ton of joy there either. 

I've got the Gateron Optical Brown switch option and I'm amazed with how wonderful this keyboard is to work with. I want to keep it. So I decided to write this blog post so that when I solve the problems I'm having then other Mac users who buy this keyboard will hopefully find answers easily than I have.

The 'manual' that came with the SK64S is a single sheet of paper that appears to cover almost every keyboard made by the manufacturer. So no joy there either.


Problems (and some fixes) for the Epomaker Skyloong SK64S

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Ableton latency even with no plugins loaded

Ableton latency problem

I am posting this here in the hope that when I solve this latency problem Ableton others will find this post and be able to also solve the latency problem for themselves.

I have exhausted the knowledgebase on the Ableton site and the user help section is now closed. I'm at the stage that if I can't fix this I'll have to abandon Live and go to Logic, which is not what I want to do.

I have an infuriating latency echo, even on a brand new project with no plugins loaded at all. I have been using Live for years but have not had this problem before. No hardware or software changes have happened recently.

Here's where I am:

  • Ableton 10 Suite
  • macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 
  • Mac Pro (mid 2010) 
  • Memory 32gb 1333 MHz DR3 
  • 1tb SSD system drive 
  • Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 2048mb
  • 2nd gen Focusrite 6i6. I have updated the control software, the drivers and the firmware.


I have tried all buffer sizes.

Latency does not exist in any other bit of software on my computer, all of which route out through the Focusrite interface.

I have tried reinstalling Ableton.

The problem persists regardless of the size of the sample I'm playing, the device I'm using (hardware and software) and also happens with live microphones.

I have installed the Focusrite latency software they make available at https://support.focusrite.com/hc/en-gb/articles/208736249-How-can-I-improve-latency-using-my-2nd-3rd-Gen-Scarlett-Clarett-USB-interfaces-on-Mac

The Ableton setting 'reduced latency when monitoring' is activated but appears to make no difference whether on or off.

I'm running out of ideas :(

Friday, September 04, 2020

Ipswich Gigs changes... again!

Ipswich Gigs

The Ipswich Gigs website has been run by me, and only me, since about 2003. Mostly. When Facebook came along it made Ipswich Gigs redundant for a few years. Then the reach of events on Facebook dropped through the floor so I started the website up again. It's a not inconsiderable amount of work to keep the site up to date, but (at first) all the local promoters and bands used to let me know what was going on.

By 2019 the mailing list had dwindled from over 3,000 to just 500, and less than 10% of email recipients were actually reading the gig listing emails I sent out every week. To be fair, some local promoters got really good at promoting their events, not just on Facebook but on other social platforms and *gasp* by actually putting up posters and handing out flyers at gigs! Some venues (like The Smokehouse in Ipswich) also got really good at promoting themselves. Fantastic!

By 2020 running the site was becoming a losing battle. In an attempt to revitalise Ipswich Gigs I started covering events in nearby towns, which brought in the lively scene in Bury St.Edmunds and amazing venues like The John Peel Centre in Stowmarket and Colchester Arts Centre. But the visits to the site, the size of the mailing list and the number of promoters I could get gig details from dwindled to a trickle. Then with the COVID-19 Pandemic in March 2020 the trickle stopped, er, 'trickling' and ceased entirely.

COVID meant I had six months off running the Ipswich Gigs. It was only when (for the worst reasons) I had a break from running the site that I realised just how much work it was. I work for myself and have reached the point where I just can't justify the time or expense of running a website that it appears very few people either need or use. It's not just resource-drag on my time maintaining the gig listings and trying to promote the site, it's also the hassle of maintaining a website that is constantly under attack from hackers. Not just a few, but thousands a week. It's nothing personal on the part of the hackers; the site runs on Wordpress and has been a going concern since 2003, so it's a 'legitimate target' as far as ner-do-wells are concerned.

So that's it. I've had enough. It has been 17 years of running this site by myself and something needs to change. I've reached this point before and asked for help, but nobody came forward.

I'm not mincing off by shutting the site, I've just tried everything within my power to make it work and I have to face the reality that it's just not needed any more. In fact even to me the concept of going to a website that serves a single purpose these days just seems a bit, well, antiquated.

On a more positive note, I will continue to update the Ipswich Gigs Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Reddit profiles. So feel free to follow whichever of those suits you.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Avi's Suffolk Bagels!

My mate Avi Kniznik has started a proper bagel bakery right here in Suffolk. Avi was born in Toronto and grew up there, but moved to the UK when he was in his twenties. He lived next door to me for many years and was always into baking and cooking. I was fortunate enough to be a test subject for some of his baking experimentations.

So when Avi told me he was starting a business making and selling proper bagels I wasn't surprised. In fact I was thrilled. I've been chatting to Avi on the phone a lot recently about his new bagel business and the fillings he's doing are things I've not seen outside of the east end of London. Home-cured salt beef being one of the most notable. There are plenty of vegan options available too. I was quite inspired by Avi's decision to start a bagel business so I interviewed him for my new podcast, you can hear that episode here...

So no matter where in the UK you live, I heartily recommend you buy yourself some proper bagels from Avi (via his website), you won't be disappointed! 

Get yer bagels at https://www.bagelorbeigel.co.uk

Bagels made by Avi


Friday, July 17, 2020

One of the worst jobs I've ever had

Many years ago I used to work in the grain lab at a large company who shall remain nameless (they're near Woodbridge).  I was a temporary worker each summer, for about four months during the harvest.  It was my job to climb onto the trucks and take samples and whatnot.  That bit was okay.

When there were no trucks coming in it was my job to 'level' the grain mountains in the stores.  These were hanger size buildings and the grain mountains were around 80,000 tons.  It was our job to convert the mountain into a sort of plateau.  If the grain was stored in a mountain rather than a plateau it would overheat and rot.

Moving around 40,000 tons of barley or wheat was not nice.  Especially in warm weather.  For safety we had to wear wearing rubber waders (giant gum boots) and a face mask.  We used shovels to sort of shove the grain around.  You started the job crouched in the narrow gap between the top of the grain mountain and the roof of the warehouse / hanger.  At this height, this close to the roof the heat was unbearable.  Not in a 'ooh that's a bit hot' kinda way, but in a 'I've opened an oven door but can't close it again' kind of way.  The considerable heat rising from the grain wasn't much fun either.

We took a thermometer into a store with us once and it maxed out in seconds.  Levelling grain was the nearest to actual hell I think I've ever experienced, and I once fell of a fast moving car and gouged the skin my face and back. 

The heat mixed with the dust in the stores turned our skin red raw.  No amount of anti-histamines would offer any relief from the horrific itching.

After two summers I learned that the fella who operated the conveyor belt that unloaded the trucks had the ability to use the hydraulics on the conveyor to ensure the gain was distributed evenly.  He just choose not to. 

I asked the conveyor operator why he didn't use the little lever that existed expressly to move the end of the conveyor in a sweeping motion, so the grain didn't end up as a mountain.  He just sort of shrugged and wandered off.  This one person and his apparent laziness caused hundreds of man hours of pointless, hellish labour.  Backbreaking, hot, itchy, unbearable work that was so bad I dare say it convinced me that not only was manual labour 'not for me', but it also made me realise that I never wanted to have a job that was futile ever again. 

Hard work doesn't phase me. Pointless hard work that is very easily avoidable phases me considerably.  I did that job two summers in a row. 

For eight months over two years I wore that mask, schlepped around in waders and suffered needlessly.  So if you are going to tell me wearing a mask when you go shopping is a hardship, you will not get any agreement from me.