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Monday, December 8, 2014

Computers & Music: Isolating The Ground Loop

Hey Internet, it's been a while.  You know me, I don't write anything here unless I get inspiration.  Well I've got some.

In this installment I get to combine by technical knowledge with my other passion: music.  This servers as a simple lesson to anyone looking to use computers as part of their music setup.

I happen to know a lot of folks in the DJ biz and for the most part they're "old school".  I put that in quotes because old school DJing is pretty much vinyl and turntables.  The turntables are still around but they work with CDs now (you can still buy vinyl records and turntables though but they're really expensive these days).  With the rise of digital music in the past decade though most modern DJs uses a computer in mix.

Now before I go any further, I need to make a disclaimer.  This post is meant in no way to question what DJs are doing these days, how they do it and with what equipment.  There are a lot of DJs out there who are fine with their CD turntables.  This post is meant to give some simple advice to the guys using a computer as part of their DJ setup.

Ok, now I want you to listen to something real quick:

This is what a ground loop sounds like.  It's a high pitched whine that emanates over your audio system.  You don't even have to play anything for this to occur.

Why does this happen?  There's a perfectly good scientific explanation why but I'm not getting into that.  Here's a trick I've pulled with a couple people having this issue (fortunately they were using laptops so it was easy to explain).  All I would ask them to do is pull the power cable out of the socket.  That's right, the source of that noise is the power cable.  More specifically it comes from the ground.
There are a few solutions you can employ to get rid of the whine.  The do-it-yourself solution is to cut off the ground or try to yank it from that slot.  I really don't recommend that one but I've seen people do it.  The second solution is to use a power cable that doesn't have the ground.  Most of the replacement universal power cables come with no ground.

Chances are if you're using a desktop computer then none of these options work for you.  Well there's another solution: purchase and install a ground loop isolator.

It's pretty simple to use and it won't break your bank.  You just plug this in between your audio source and your mixer.

If you're been having this issue with your system and this entry helps you out I'd really love to know.  Leave me some responses  in the comment section.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Lessons Part 3: Wile E. Coyote

I bet this one comes a a surprise to you.  Maybe it's because I already got you used to comic book characters in my previous posts.  Believe it or not I learned some very valuable lessons from Wile E. Coyote.  If you're unfamiliar with the character (How IS life under that rock by the way?), he's consumed by one goal: to capture and devour the Road Runner.  It's a task that he hilariously fails at repeatedly.  If he ever DID catch Road Runner it wouldn't make for much entertainment now would it.  Anyway, let me get to the point.

1.  The best laid plans don't always work

Wile E. Coyote is a genius.  Granted a super genius.  His plans are thorough, precise and inexplicably well funded (Thanks ACME!).  He only continues to fail at his goal because the universe is set in favor against him. For me though, Wile E. Coyote as a tiny bit of a role model.  See I too am a pretty good planner and I too have watched many a great plan crumble in failure.  That's sort of the way life just works.  We can plan things to a T but then life happens and stomps on your plans the way Rick James would grind his dirty boots into your couch.  You'd think that Wile E. Coyote would be the poster boy for giving up though but....

2. NEVER give up.

He doesn't.  Ever.  When his plan fails and gets shot to hell, he goes back to the drawing board and makes a new plan.  We all know he's going to fail, but he just picks him self right back up and tries again.  You're gonna hate me for this, but I always rooted for Wile E.  In a fair world he would have caught a Road Runner every episode.  The world though is far from fair, but that doesn't mean we should just pack it in and give up.  In fact there's really only one reason (besides the whole being the bad guy thing) that Wile E. never accomplishes his goal.

3.  Keep cool

This is where Wile E. sets himself up for the final failure.  He goes a little nuts, gets a tad obsessive and then pulls out ALL THE STOPS.  So he had a few setbacks.  By the third try or so though he gets a little desperate and goes into overkill mode.  I mean he pulls out plans designed to turn his potential meal into a grease spot.  Had he continued on a sane track, who knows; he might had hit that one plan that works.  The moral of the story: keep cool.  When you lose your cool, things easily go from bad to worse.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lessons Part 2: Spider-man

1.  With great power comes great responsibility

This is the overarching message of the Spider-man.  If you aren't familiar with the character's origin story you must have been living under a rock for the last 20 years but here's the short version.  When Spidey first got his powers he tried to cash in on them (hey, he was in high school).  The event though shorted him so he ended up walking away disappointed and with much less what he was promised.  As he was leaving though he had an opportunity to thwart a robbery of the same people who shorted him but he let the robber go out of spite.  Turns out the robber ended up killing his uncle.  Spidey exacts his revenge and vows to live up to the lesson his uncle was always trying teach him. 

"With great power comes great responsibility" though is an oversimplification of Uncle Ben's message.  Explained further it means that if you have it within your power to do good and make changes for the better you have an obligation to your fellow man to do it.  It kind of takes on new meaning when you get superpowers and that's a good message too.  It was Abraham Lincoln who said:
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
Trust me, it's difficult not throwing your weight around when you have license to do so.  Fortunately I'll always have this lesson I learned from Spidey.

2.  There's nothing glamorous about doing good

Spider-man has another running theme.  He's actually a hair's breath from poverty.  These days he pulls an Avengers salary but he wasn't always living so high on the hog (and honestly I can't even tell you if he's still an Avenger).  There was a time he supported himself by taking pictures of Spider-man in action and letting the paper he sold his pictures to trash Spider-man as a public menace.  Spider-man endured this though because he was doing good and making a difference despite being misunderstood.  What Spider-man did was kind of a metaphor for most average people.  He had all our problems.  He had trouble making ends meet, paying the bills, even keeping a job because he spent so much time in his dual persona.  Despite being Amazing, Spider-man was a lot like you and me.  You and me...can be Amazing. :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lessons Part 1: Batman

I haven't done a series in a long time.  Let's do a series!  Here's how I'm doing this.  The next few blog entries are going to all be about fictional characters that have taught me great lessons in life. 

I'm beginning with Batman.

Because he's Batman!
Batman is pretty over-hyped these days.  He IS hands down the coolest character in the DC Universe and the lessons he taught me are sorta why.

1.  You don't always have to like someone to work with them.  It's all about the mission.

Let me tell you a story from my IT days (and I'm going to keep this vague to protect the innocent).  At one point we had a policy on ordering computers.  They had to come with dual core processors.  Well the guy in charge of signing off on our orders didn't agree with me that the Core 2 Duo was a dual core processor.  He was wrong.  Way wrong.  But he had authority so I kept firing emails at him that proved my point and truth be told, I didn't like this guy.  It wasn't until I actually got to meet and talk with him though that I realized we had the same mission...we just wildly disagreed on how to accomplish it.  But I was able to convince him despite not liking him.  You'd be surprised how many people can't stay on mission because their personal feelings get in the way.  Sometimes, the mission is more important.  If you want an example of this, go check out some old Justice League issues with Batman and Guy Gardner.

2.  It doesn't matter how smart, strong, capable and independent you are.  Sometimes you could use a helping hand.

One of the hardest things for me to do is asking for help.  A lot of people are like that.  So it's incredibly humbling to watch the Batman ask for it.  Not to mention he's mentored a slew of Robins to be as good as he is.

3.  Never underestimate the power of hard work.

Batman stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe even though he himself doesn't have any powers.  That alone makes him an inspiration seeing how much he can accomplish with just hard work.

So who's gonna be next?  Stick around to find out.  Next Bat Time.  Next Bat Blog.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Karaoke Wishlist

Last night I was poking around Karaoke Version and picked up two tracks.  I actually sung both of them last night: The Transformers by Lion and the Family Guy Theme.  It got me thinking about which songs I really wish were in karaoke but aren't.  Here's a short wishlist (and I'm just gonna link the videos just so I don't flood this entry with embeds):

1.  The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

This song has gotten me pumped up many a morning.

2.  Midnight Show by The Killers

Hot Fuss had a lot of great songs on it and most of them are available on karaoke.  Unfortunately this one isn't and IT'S MY FAVORITE!  Dontcha hate when that happens.

3.  It's A Jungle Out There by Randy Newman

Y'know given how much Hollywood just LOVES Randy Newman you'd think this would be on karaoke.  Also it was the Monk theme song for most of the seasons it was on TV.  Nope, can't find it.  But I found Family Guy.  Go figure.

4. Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat) from Mortal Kombat The Album

You might think you haven't heard this song, but trust me you have.  It was used heavily in the promos for the first Mortal Kombat movie but the song was out way before then.  I actually had the entire album at one point.  It's not a hard song to sing but this would be loads of fun at karaoke.  I'd be a bit wary though of inciting play fighting among the drunken hordes. :)

5.  Monkey Man by Toots and The Maytals

You've heard me say this tons of times.  There's an incredible shortage of reggae, calypso and soca songs in karaoke.  The only staple is Bob Marley and you can't even find all of his songs on karaoke.  Anyway, I don't remember where I first heard this song but I've always liked it and wished it was on karaoke.

6.  No Disturb Sign by Beres Hammond

Same deal as #5.  Great song but not available on karaoke.

7.  Code Monkey by Jonathan Coulton

My own personal theme song!  Y'know considering they used a riff from this song as the intro theme to a TV show of the same name it would be more popular.  Unfortunately that show appeared on G4 which isn't a standard Cable channel.

8.  The Aqua Teen Hunger Force Theme

#1 in da hood, G! :)

9.  Fett's Vette by MC Chris

Ok, I admit I heard this one on Aqua Teen too but it's a cool song and it was in the Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

10.  Pretty much any and all local artists

I can't tell you how many times I get a local at my show and they ask me if I have karaoke for local artists.  I'm talking Jam Band, Spectrum, Pressure Busspipe, you name it.  True story though, I actually have a karaoke version of Jam Band's Music From The VI.  It's not something I advertise regularly though because it usually triggers a rush of people looking for calypso and soca songs that simply don't exist in karaoke.

So there's a very good chance I may start to dabble once again in creating my own karaoke tracks.  The software I used to have (and lost access to) costs around $100.  I've looked around but there really is no better suite so I'll most likely be ponying up that money.  If I do though, what does your wishlist look like?  Maybe I'll make it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The 7 Deadly Sins...of Waking Up For Work

I was considering doing this as a fun, jaunty image and posting it on Facebook but then I though, nah let's give it the full on blog treatment.  Oh and if you don't think this is geeky enough I'm using images from Full Metal Alchemist (and fair warning I'm using the characters from the 2003 anime).

SLOTH

Sloth is your natural state when you're in bed.  Yeah you know you should get up like RIGHT NOW so you can be on time for work...but the bed is just soooo comfortable.  At this point you've already hit the snooze button on your alarm like 10 times already and may have even gotten as close to waking up as touching a foot to the ground.  Since this is your natural state, in order to wake up you have to replace it with another sin.

GLUTTONY
BREAKFAST!!!! Gotta have breakfast NOOOOOWWWW!!!  I remember in my college days getting up early was an eternal battle been sleep and food.

LUST
Um, I think this one is self-explanatory.

GREED
Gotta go and make that money!  Cash rules everything around me.  Greed will get you up.  Especially if there's something special you were looking to buy sometime in the near future.
 
 WRATH
There are some days you show up to work just because you know it'll piss somebody off to see you.  Some days you just want to get to the office and show those idiots at the office how it's REALLY done.  Anger can be a great motivator.

ENVY
Envy is a much trickier one to use.  I find that sometimes to get up I have to convince myself that there's a better resting place somewhere else in the house.  For me that's a struggle between the bed and the couch.  The couch easily loses this argument.  So when I'm in bed I really REALLY have to convince myself that the couch is better.  Of course as I get up to seek the other resting place, instinct kicks in and I end up in the bathroom brushing my teeth instead.

PRIDE
Pride is almost as bad as envy.  Pride usually involves to desire to show off.  Think of it as a tamer version of wrath.  You want to get to work and show off your stuff not for the satisfaction of a job well done but to stroke your ego.  You can also substitute this for wanting to show off some clothes ensemble (this works better for the ladies; although I have been known to strut a bit when I show up wearing a tie).
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

5 Things I've Learned About Budget Tablets

Like most good lessons, I learned this one the hard way.  A few months ago I bought my mom a budget tablet from Walmart.  I knew it wouldn't be great but realizing she doesn't need top of the line equipment to check email and play Candy Crush Saga I figured she'd be ok.  So when I finally got it I realized why it had the price tag it had.  I'm here to impart you with the knowledge I have earned so you don't make the same mistakes I did.

1.  If the budget tablet is under $150 and it boasts a certain amount of memory, chances are you can't readily use all of it.

This one can be a bit misleading since you NEVER have access to all of the memory advertised.  Usually it's negligible.  Budget tablets do something FAR more insidious.  They divide your memory into the base memory and NAND memory then add the two for advertising.  So what does that mean?  Well sifting through the technical mumbo jumbo that even I'm not sure I understand it comes down to this: You'll have around 1 GB for the Android OS and apps and whatever the remainder is in free space.  Now if you're running the most current version of Android you can probably move apps into that free space using certain apps but you're bound by around 750 mb of "slack" space.  To see if you're device is configured as such you'd have to try before you buy.  It's best if you do this in the store.

2.  Not all budget devices are Google approved.

This is a big one.  Google approved devices have access to the full slew of Google apps like Youtube, Chrome, Gmail, etc.  The most important app though is Google Play.  Google Play is the app you use to get more apps.  Granted there are alternatives to Play but it makes the experience of owning a tablet less enjoyable.  You'll also find you have to sideload a lot of popular apps since you can't install them directly from Play.

3.  They're made from cheap materials.

You'll feel it the minute you pick one up.  They don't feel "solid".  They actually feel like toys.

4.  The screens are terrible.

They're so blurry!  They remind me of old GameBoy screens.  To be fair though, I'm used to using this bad boy:
5.  No bells and whistles.

Among the list of things to expect a budget tablet NOT to have: Bluetooth, dual cameras, ANY camera, good sound, no microSD port, no microUSB port, GPS, and a recent version of Android.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Facebook Messenger Is Moving

I don't know how this happened but July has turned into Facebook Month on my blog.  Weird.  But anyway....

Those of you who use Facebook mobile may have noticed a rather annoying message when you tap the Message section.

Who the F is Marissa?!
Yeah, if you're like me you probably just ignored that message and when on with your day.  Turns out they announced they would do this since way back in April.  Just so you know now, if you want to keep using Facebook Messenger prepare to get a separate app.  It just so happens that NOW they're rolling out the change.

Now you're probably thinking why would they even considering making a whole separate app just for messaging when it works so neatly with the main app.  The reason is that Facebook wants to branch out Messenger.  How much of an improvement is a standalone app going to be?  Take a look at the product description:
Instantly reach the people in your life—for free. Messenger is just like texting, but you don't have to pay for every message (it works with your data plan).
Not just for Facebook friends: Message people in your phone book and just enter a phone number to add a new contact.
Group chats: Create groups for the people you message most. Name them, set group photos and keep them all in one place.
Photos and videos: Shoot videos and snap selfies or other photos right from the app and send them with one tap.
Chat heads: Keep the conversation going while you use other apps.
Free calls: Talk as long as you want, even with people in other countries. (Calls are free over Wi-Fi. Otherwise, standard data charges apply.)
Even more ways to message:
Bring your conversations to life with stickers.
Preview your gallery photos and videos without leaving the conversation--then choose the perfect ones to send.
Record voice messages when you have more to say.
Extra features:
Know when people have seen your messages.
Forward messages or photos to people who weren't in the conversation.
Search for people and groups to quickly get back to them.
Turn on location to let people know when you're nearby.
See who's available on Messenger and who's active on Facebook.
Create shortcuts to get to any conversation right from your home screen.
Turn off notifications when you're working, sleeping or just need a break.
Stay logged in so you never miss a message.
Hmm, I see Facebook is looking to muscle in on a couple of other apps I already use like Text+ and Skype.  Also, don't forget Facebook recently acquired WhatsApp so expect that to be integrated as well.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Blocking Facebook Game Requests: 2014 Edition

Would you believe it's been a whole year since I've tackled this?  Believe it or not this is the one post to my blog that I share and gets shared the most. Well, like I said the first time Facebook changes stuff all the time and the process has changed slightly.  So let's walk through how to do it these days.

****Disclaimer*****
As far as I know you can only block game requests on the browser version of Facebook (i.e. Internet Explore, Firefox, Chrome, etc.).  Meaning you have to do it on a PC, Mac or Linux computer.  Mobile versions, you probably won't see the request at all so no biggie.

Step 1:

On your main feed, look over to your left and look for this dialog:
Of course this is from my Profile.  The section you're looking for is Games Feed.  Click on it.

Step 2:

You'll be presented with all the most recent game posts that showed up on your wall.  It should look like this:

Now next to each instance there's a little arrow pointing down.  It's a little hard to see.  Click on it once and you'll get some options.  Most of them you don't want to use.  "I don't want to see this" simply removes those posts from your news feed (just THOSE posts).  "This is Spam" reports your friend and I'm pretty sure you don't want that either.  "Unfollow *friend name*" means you won't see any more posts from your friend at all.  The option you want is "Hide all from *game name*".  Not only does it  hide all the game requests from your one friend, should any more friends start playing you won't see their requests either.

So as you can see, Facebook made this process slightly easier but also kinda dangerous.  Here's an alternate method that might be a bit safer.

Step #1
On your main feed, look over to your left and look for this dialog:
Looks familiar eh?  This time choose Games instead.

Step #2
You'll end up here:
Look at the top for Activity and click on that.

Step #3:


 Here you'll get a list of all the requests that were personally sent to you as well as who sent them.  If you want to block the game just click on the X right next to the Accept button.  It automatically hides the request and gives you the option to block the game completely.

That's it for the updated version of this.  Keep in mind that most people who play games on Facebook really have very little control of what is shared from the game.  When they sign up to play, those games get access to their friend list.  So if you get a request, don't flip out.  Just block 'em and move along.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The 10 Things I'm Tired of Seeing on Facebook

Yes folks, that is my actual "Joined Facebook" placard.  Hard to believe it's already been 5 years since I jumped on this crazy train.  It seems like only yesterday I asked someone what Facebook is and if I should join.

I'm not gonna lie, being a Facebook member has been a rewarding experience.  I get to keep up with my friends and family and they get to bear witness to my awesome adventures.  But there are days I log in and you can hear the sound I make when my face hits my palm from clear across the room.

All of you in Facebook-land who are probably reading this because my blog updates on my wall, I want you to know in advance (as sort of a disclaimer) that I love you guys.  I like to think we're friends for a reason.  But some of the stuff you guys post just has me like...ENOUGH!

So yeah, you didn't come here for this rant.  You came here for the OTHER rant.  So let us commence the list of the 10 things I'm tired of seeing on Facebook.

1.  People bitching about game requests

I think we've all see someone posting about game requests at some point.  There used to be a time when Facebook was a huge social hub for online games.  You don't see it as much now but there are people who still love them some Facebook games.  The reason this bugs me is if you're complaining about getting requests for games there's a 75% chance it's because at some point you actually opened the game.  That's all it takes for you to be added to your friend's list of people who also play the game.  So they innocently assume you're into what they're into and they'll fire away requests at you.  The other 25%, that's people actually being annoying and inviting you to play.  Still, the BIGGEST reason this bugs me is that it's sooo easy to just block a game one time and you'll never see any feedback from it EVER AGAIN.  It's like 2 or 3 mouseclicks!  My point: stop whining and take action.

2.  Wrongheaded partisan blog posts passed off as real news

I've learned a long time ago that people can get really heated on Facebook when it comes to politics.  I actually used to write a lot about politics until I got tired of dealing with knuckleheads who can't disagree without being disagreeable.  These days I read over political posts, I might chime in for a sec and maybe I might like a couple comments but on my own wall nuh-uh.  Hey, this is America.  If you hate Obama and love posting all the negative news stories about him go right ahead.  But for the sake of sweet baby Jesus could you at least share REAL NEWS.  Blog posts are opinion...and everybody has one.  There's no fact-checking on blog posts.  Blog posts are immune from actual journalistic standards.  Try this as a test:  You really like that blog post?  Do a Google search for whatever the post is about.  If you can't find at least one credible news source with the same topic, it's probably BS.

3.  Satire passed off as real news

This one has taken on a life of its own recently.  I think at least once a day I see a post where someone is all distressed of complete works of fiction (and I'm not talking about Twilight fans).  The Onion, The Daily Currant, World News Daily, they're all satire sites but they do a really good job of fooling people into thinking their stories are real.  So much so that even real news outlets get fooled.

4.  Hoaxes (especially really old hoaxes)

Here's a brief list of things that you might of saw or read that actually didn't happen:  Nobody can pop popcorn using just their cell phones, Bill Gates will not give you money for sharing a photo and neither will Southwest Airlines give you tickets for sharing theirs, the minimum drinking age is not being moved to 25, you cannot summon the police by entering your ATM PIN backwards and you're friends are not stranded in a foreign country where they need you to wire them money.  Do some research before you share something that seems to outlandish to be true.

5.  The obligatory "Share This If..." posts

WE DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS!

6. TV/Movie Spoilers

If you watch a show and at miss it, if at least 10 of your friends watch the same show just don't log on to Facebook until you seen the show.  There will be spoilers.  People WILL live blog what their watching.  This is why I got a Hulu account.  If only they could get Walking Dead on Hulu.  Then my life would be perfect. :)

7. My friends in flame wars over stupid shit

Really, you're better than that.

8.  Those games where you have to post something stupid if you comment or like a friend's post

These games are stupid and disingenuous to your friends. Any of these look familiar: 1) Damn diarrhea 2)Just used my boobs to get out of a speeding ticket. 3)Anyone have a tampon. I'm out. 4) How do you get rid of foot fungus. 5)Why is nobody around when l am horny? 6) No toilet paper, goodbye socks. 7)Someone offered me a job as a prostitute but l' m hesitant. 8)l think l'm in love with someone what should l do? 9)l've decided to stop wearing underwear. 10)l still love my ex. 11) l really don't know how to tell anyone and l'm sick of hiding it l'm gay. 12) Guess it was 2 good 2 be true l'm pregnant. 13)Just won $7000 on a scratchy. 14)l've just found out l've been cheated on for the past 5 months.

Stop.  Just stop.  I tried to play along one, but it was just too stupid to keep the charade up.  Oh and you're not doing a damn thing for Breast Cancer Awareness by playing this game.  Don't delude yourself.

9. Babies

I don't know if I'm just noticing it more or we're in the middle of the next baby boom but I swear I see a new baby in my timeline every day.  I'm very happy for you and your family though.  I'm just being crotchety at this point.

10.  People who post long lists about things they're tired of seeing on Facebook

.....I'm pretty sure I must be the first.  Right? :D

Monday, June 2, 2014

Everybody Was Karaoke Ranting

Hah!  See what I did there?  Meh, probably not.  This'll help:




But look at that I've managed to burn this much space and I haven't even gotten into what this entry is about.  Obviously, it's my karaoke rant.  It's actually been quite a while since I posted anything karaoke related in my blog, so let me just jump right into the ranting.

1. I've had a rash of people in related fields (including other karaoke hosts) visit my show.  Most of them are ok.  I do like meeting other KJs and even DJs.  A lot of them though don't know their boundaries.  Last night for instance I had this one older fellow who decided he wanted to designate himself as the Official Intro/Hypeman for everybody.  I have another friend.  I love him to death but when he gets drunk he palms a mic and does pretty much the same thing.  All of them swear they're helping me.  They're all wrong.  What they ARE doing is burning valuable time where I could be getting someone on stage to sing.

2.  Guy #2 in #1 up there insists my show is "boring".  Which I guess is his nice way of saying I'M boring.  Honestly, I already knew this.  I'm not a showman and I don't pretend to be.  I'm a host and I know what my job is: a) Call people to the stage, b) Do my best to get them to sound good, and c) Encourage the audience to applaud them when they're finish.  Repeat steps a-c for each person.  Meanwhile manage a fair rotation that gives everyone a turn.  I know hosts who get chatty and don't seem to realize they have a long list of people who want to sing and not a whole lot of time to get them on stage.  Likewise I know hosts who insert themselves way too many times in the rotation.  The goal should be getting as many people on stage during the course of the night as possible.  I just came to the realization a long time ago that the show isn't about me, it's about YOU.

3.  Dancing on the bar.  Ain't nothing wrong with that.  Just don't do it around my equipment mmkay. :)

4.  Drinks near my equipment.  If you leave them there I WILL move them.  The only drinks I trust around my equipment are my own and even those are in peril.

5.  Freestylers, people who play instruments and people who want to sing their own songs.  Occasionally I'll allow it as long as the rotation is slow.  If I'm running the same 3 people over and over again, I don't mind.  If I'm managing a large rotation, forget about it.  I can't bump people who haven't even gotten on stage yet for karaoke for someone who's NOT SINGING KARAOKE.

6.  That doesn't mean I can't be bribed into it though.  This brings me to my tip jar.  I think my tip jar is the only tip jar where "tip jar" is just one of the functions it serves.  Let me elaborate:
  • In tip jar mode, it's just a tip jar.  Thanks for your appreciation. :)
  • In bribe jar mode, tips have the potential to get you on stage faster.  The bigger the tip, the quicker your turn comes.  Heck one guy tipped my my hourly rate once and I gave him and friends the VIP treatment.
  • Extra hour mode!  This mode is hidden.  I only tell very select people what this entails.  It's very simple.  If I make enough in tips to cover my hourly rate, I will (provided there's a crowd still there) stay an extra hour.  If the bribes add up then it's worth an extra hour too.

7.  Don't use the tip you left earlier to guilt me into doing stuff for you later.  If it was a really big tip, yeah I might allow it.  But $5 is only going to get you so far.  Also, tips you left at my last show count for nothing for this one.  Still love ya though. :)

8.  Don't tell me "I'm gonna take care of you".  When people are drunk they'll promise you the moon and back for their time to shine on stage.  Anytime I hear this I feel like the guy who let the hostages go before I actually got anything for them.

9.  I really pride myself on how I run a rotation.  I even have a few rules on how I work the rotation in the song books (which obviously nobody ever reads).  It's ok if you don't read them, I enforce them anyway.  Kind of how a cop will enforce rules you've probably never heard of.  That said, my rotation IS fallible.  Some of that things that buck my rules are bribes, people from St. John who need to catch the ferry, friends who know that you should only ask this favor of me if you really REALLY need it, sexual favors (hasn't happened yet but a boy can dream) and bribes.  Occasionally I'll do it for alcohol but I already have a free bar tab.  Some of the things that WON'T win my sympathy: a) I have to leave, b) My friends are leaving and I wanted them to hear my sing, c) I was outside when you called me.

10.  Don't ask me how you were.  My job is to encourage EVERYBODY. Even if you were bad I'll tell you you did good.  You get points for trying in this game.  Likewise, don't try to make me call anybody out for bad singing (because honestly bad singing is what karaoke is all about).  I do express some degree of excitement for really good singers when calling for their applause but I'd never comment on poor performance.  You tried.  I respect you for that.

11.  Occasionally, I will sing a song.  But on a busy night it's not unusual if I don't sing at all.  Like I said, this show is about YOU.  There's another reason I don't sing very often.  I'm trying to encourage people and it doesn't help if I show them I'm good at it.  Really good singers make it hard to get other people to sing.  I'm not saying I'M really good.  I don't suck, but I'm not great.  The going rule though is if you as the host rank in the top 10% of singers you shouldn't be singing.  Sometimes I'll sabotage myself with a bad song.  People are much more willing to sing after a bad song.

12.  Please treat my microphones as though they're little babies wrapped in swaddling clothes.  All that equipment you're using, it's mine.  I pay for it and if you drop and break it I sincerely doubt you'll contribute to its replacement.  Heck, some people aren't coherent enough to remember singing!  I know I don't make this easy seeing as I don't really have a safe place to rest microphones but at the very least put them back where you got them.  Also, DON'T keep the mics.  I need them for guests.  You ain't slick.  I know you want to jump in on somebody else's song and that's a no-no.

13.  I try to be as attentive as I can to everyone, but keep in mind that I don't have time for extended conversations while I'm working.  If you want to talk to me while I'm working, expect for me to break conversation frequently.

14.  No, I can't just pull the song off your phone and make it into karaoke.  It doesn't work that way.  No I can't plug your phone into my sound system.  If I'm feeling nice and we have WiFi I might find you the song on YouTube but you're going to be singing with all the vocals in it.

15.  I don't have any fricking room on my powerstrip to charge your phone!  I'll point you to where the free outlets are around the building so you can babysit it yourself.

16.  See where the speaker is?  Good.  Don't sing directly into it.  Speaker + microphone + your singing = FEEDBACK!  Also, kindly sing into the top of the microphone.  If you hold the mic to your chest nobody is going to hear you and no amount of my futzing with the volume is going to help.

17.  What's with all this screaming into the mic?!  Don't cop an attitude with me because I had to turn you down.

18. Don't name drop.  I don't care who you know.  Who you know doesn't affect what I'm doing.  And don't even tell me you're going to get me fired.  I didn't luck into this job.  There's a reason I'm the one doing it.

19.  Don't assume karaoke is what I do for a living.  I would like to.  Really I would.  However I like the security of my well paying 8-5 job (don't ask me how I like the actual job though).  Yes, I have a real job and I have to get to it right after karaoke.  Just one of the small sacrifices I make to show you guys a good time.  That said...

20.  Last one, I promise.  It's appropriate too.  It's something I like to call The One More Game.  When I decide the show is over (and you're not giving me a reasonable incentive to keep it going) it's over.  Opening it back up for one more song has DIRE consequences.  Right off the bat if I give you one more song, it plants the seed in everyone else's mind that I'm amenable to keeping the party going when I'm not.  Also keep in mind that if I make an exception for you there was a whole list of people I told no to and they'll be back to ask me why I let you sing but not them.  Ultimately my own sense of fair play gets into the mix and next thing you know I'm working for a free hour.  Nobody likes to work for free.  Nobody.

Aaaaaand that's my rant folks.  I'm sure I'll be back for another one in a year or so.  Got any karaoke rants?  Feel free to share.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Tech In My Car

I don't know if I ever shared this bit of information with you but my vehicle of 10 years, a 2003 Suzuki Grand Vitara, was in an accident last December.
You should see the other gu...oh wait, you can...nevermind.
It's a really long story how this all went down so I'm not going to get into it here (the folks closest to me know the details).  Point is as a result of this I've been between walking, safari rides and borrowing mom's car.  That is until about a week ago when I finally got a "new" car.
I put the new in quotes because it's actually used...but only for 2 years!  It's a 2012 Ford Escape XLS.  After 10 years of driving my Suzuki and 5 months driving a Toyota Corolla, acclimating to the Ford Escape has been challenging.  I'm getting there though.

Ok, now that I've gone though the back story let's get to the actual point of this blog.  Turns out that this car comes equipped with Ford Sync by Microsoft.  Here's something I learned real fast about it: in the beginning I didn't even really care.  Honestly, this weekend was the first time I really took some time to mess with it.  So far there's only one feature that I've come to use on a regular basis.  That's using my cellular phone as a Bluetooth audio source.  Originally I had a Monster FM Transmitter that I could plug my audio sources into and tune into it using the onboard radio.  Sync makes that obsolete.  It's a welcome change for me as sometimes there's too much interference in the radio signal.  I also managed to sync my phonebook with the car.  Not really sure how that's going to pan out.

What I'm noticing though is I STILL really don't care.  I get in the car so I can get from A to B.  Sync is going to take time and fiddling and I don't really fancy sitting in the car for extended periods of time just to mess with Sync.  So I'll be learning all this system can do in bits and pieces.  For now, the music is enough.

Friday, May 16, 2014

I'm Ready To Tell You My Secret Now

*whispers* I see drunk people.

LOL!  Just playing.  So I've mentioned this a while back all obscure-like on my Facebook page.
There's no way in hell I'm going to search my entire timeline for that post so enjoy this picture of a giant rubber duckie.  Rarrr! Duckie SMASH!
Well, the Daily News is taking way too long to announce all this so everyone's slowly dropping the secrets anyway.  So here ya go:


Yes folks, I did it!  Er, I mean Caribbean Saloon did it! (Tee hee).  This year's winner for Best Karaoke on St. Thomas is my spot at Caribbean Saloon!  Thanks to all the fans that voted.  It's truly an honor and it feels good to finally be able to brag about it. :D

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It's Zero Day

Don't dream, it's over folks.  Today is the last day of Windows XP support.  Today (provided you're using Automatic Updates) you will receive your very last XP patch.  Forever.

I've written a few blog entries on this so I'm not going to bore you with the details you've probably already read.  I'll simply wish XP goodbye and you good luck.  If you're stuck with XP, trust me when I say you're not alone.  Even yours truly is stuck with XP...at work.  As are many of my coworkers.  Don't ask.

Fare thee well, XP users.  See you on the other side.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Free Computing

Everyone has been there at some point.  There's something you want to do with your computer but then you find out that the software to do it is CRAZY EXPENSIVE.  Only people with no monetary worries haven't been there...so screw them.  This post is for the rest of us.  Here I'm going to highlight some software that's totally free and powerful enough to give even the paid software a run for their money.

How much is that?  Think fast!

Image Editing

The gold standard for image editing is hands down Adobe Photoshop.  The term "photoshop" is so well known it's practically a part of our everyday lexicon.  Some of you may have had the luxury of using the software in schools and universities and it didn't cost you anything.  Or for the students, perhaps you had a copy of the student version which was pretty inexpensive.  For the rest of us in the real world, we have to pay for Photoshop...and it's not cheap.  Elements (a "light" version of Photoshop) on average is about $80, but the full version of Adobe Photoshop can run you close to $1,000.

The alternative:  GiMP.
GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

GIMP is written and developed under X11 on UNIX platforms. But basically the same code also runs on MS Windows and Mac OS X.
Antivirus

When you think of Antivirus you're probably thinking of one of the two top programs:  Norton Antivirus and McAfee Antivirus.  You should.  They're great programs to use...if you can afford them.  They usually hook you in by offering free trials on new PCs.  Once they expire though you have to pay to play.  Either on can run you about $100.  You have to consider what you're really paying for though.  It's not so much the software, but the support that comes along with it.  Most people never even utilize the support so why not go with a free alternative.

The alternative: You've got lots of choices here.  There's Avira, Avast!, AVG, Panda, Microsoft Security Essentials, Bitdefender, the list goes on and on.  I'm a bit partial to Avast! but if you're not sure which one to go with you can check out the reviews.

Office Productivity

Documents, spreadsheets and databases are all by synonymous with Microsoft Office.  It is by far and away the most widely used productivity software.  If you want the pro version of it though it's upwards of $300.

The alternative: OpenOffice has most of the functionality that you can find in Office.  The best part is OpenOffice works with a number of different types of file formats.  Not only can you open your Microsoft Office files, but you can also open Microsoft Works, Wordperfect, and other office productivity formats.  Unfortunately though there's no equivalent to Microsoft Outlook in OpenOffice.  However if that's what you're looking for, you might want to try...

Email Client

Somehow Outlook has managed to become the most sought after email client, mostly because it's made to interact with Microsoft Exchange.  But if you're sick of you web interface and feel it doesn't offer the functionality you're looking for then you might want to try...

The alternative: Mozilla Thunderbird.  One snag though: there's no calendar.  If you really need one, Mozilla offers Lightning also free of charge.

DVDs

Microsoft is on a never ending mission to pack as much functionality into their operating system as possible so when they came out with Windows Vista they added something brand new: Windows DVD Maker.  DVD Maker allowed you to take a video file (or a bunch of video files) and encode them into a DVD that plays on your standard DVD player.  The catch though was it was only available on the more expensive versions of Windows.  If you had the basic version you didn't get this.

The alternative: DVD Flick is my favorite.  I think it's really easy to use.  DVDStyler is another.

Operating Systems

It's true.  You don't really need to pay for an operating system.  As you know, Microsoft Windows is the top operating system on the market today closely followed by the MacOS.  Both of which you have to pay for.  There's another alternative if you don't want to pay for an OS.

The alternative: Linux.  There was a time when installing a Linux OS was difficult for a new user.  Times have changed.  You can easily install a variety of Linux flavors and for the most part they're free.  There's a lot of them though so you'll have to sort through them all and find one that's best for you.  Fair warning though, there's no support system to back Linux up so if you have issues you're on your own (not completely though; sure you can find some help on online message boards).

Any other types of software you're looking for a free alternative to?  Let me know in the comment section.  Maybe I'll write a sequel to this post and include it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happy 25th Birthday, World Wide Web!

We've got way too many milestones coming down the tubes these days.  Here's comes another to cement our transition into old fogeyism (yes I invented that word).  Today the World Wide Web (not the Internet mind you) turns 25.


That kid's about to have some first time on the WWW.
I admit though I missed a few years.  I was finally exposed to the World Wide Web in 1994 when I started college at UVI.  That's right folks, I've been online for 20 whole years.  Where does the time go?  Got any bits of nostalgia you'd like to share?  Feel free to do so in the comment section.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Zero Day: This Is Happening Folks

About 11 months ago I warned you guys about Zero Day.  If you're too lazy to check that link, here's the deal in a nutshell:  Microsoft will end support for Windows XP on April 8th.  Yes, THIS April 8th.  If you weren't aware of it up until now and you've been happily plunking away on your XP machine you're about to get a rude awakening.  Microsoft will take to warning you via popups.


Starting tomorrow (provided you've been installing your updates regularly) you'll see popups warning you that support for XP is about to end.  You can disable the popups though just by checking the "don't show this message again" box, but it's seriously time to consider an upgrade.  Experts all agree that a zero-day attack is imminent.

That side eye tho.
On another note, it's pretty telling how "eager" everyone was to migrate from XP.  When I posted about this almost a year ago, XP had almost 39% of the market share.  One year later, it's only dropped 10%.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I'm Jingling!

I've been teasing you guys about this on Facebook for just over a week now.  Here's a little background before I being.  I discovered that the Virgin Islands Division of Personnel was holding a jingle contest.  At first I was meh.  Then I read the rules and discovered there's some serious cheddar at stake so I figured I'd punch out something.

I kinda surprised myself because it was really easy to write something.  Problem was I also had to sing it, record it and submit it.  Guys, seriously.  I was mortified at the though of doing this (which is super weird considering I host karaoke and am willing to sing almost any song thrown at me).
Well, on Saturday I managed to belt out my song.  I only did one take.  It took that much out of me that I wasn't ready to sing it any more than once.  I filled out the form and emailed that to the address provided along with the mp3 file and the lyrics to the jingle.  I had to resend the form (no they didn't ask me to) this morning because there was a signature space on it and I had to scan the form with my signature.

So now that I've officially entered, I'm ready to share this with you guys.  If I'm one of the 6 finalists you're going to hear it anyway so just consider yourselves in the know.

Looking Out For Me (Original Jingle by Hector A. Squiabro)

Government desk job
Don't move very much
Copying some papers
Then heading out to lunch

But GVI H.E.A.L.T.H. is looking out for me
Finding ways to stay healthy

They keep me in the network: dental, docs and meds
Evaluate my health risk so I can stay well fed
Then burn off all that energy with 10,000 steps a day
So I don't get diabetes, scurvy or dengue.

Join H.E.A.L.T.H. & Wellness they'll help you to get well
To get more information just check with Personnel
All you gotta do is just decide to commit
H.E.A.L.T.H. & Wellness program will help you to get fit.
Fun right?  Did you sing it in your head?  You probably didn't envision the jingle the way I did.  So, if you dare here's the audio of me singing it:



*blush*
If that audio doesn't load here's a direct link.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

5 Ways Modern Consoles Are Different From Older Ones

There is a scenario involved here, but not one I'm willing to tell on this blog.  Here's the short version:  I'm picky about who gets to use my PlayStation 3.  In fact if you do want to use it I would insist I be present when you do.  I'm seriously entertaining the notion of hiding the power cable when I leave the house.  The idea of other people using my PS3 all random like kinda stresses me out.  I tried to explain this someone about how you really can't just let someone loose on a modern console (that is owned and actively used by someone).  I tried to explain that a PS3 is in no way like Super Nintendo.  Then I saw it: The glazed over look in their eyes.  I know that look very well.  I see it almost every time I try to explain a computing concept to someone who either doesn't get it or doesn't care to get it.  So here I am blogging about how modern console are different from older ones.  Here we go!

1. Modern Consoles Are Personalized

Back in the day, you were either Player 1 or Player 2.  In some extreme cases you could also have a Player 3 and 4.  If you were playing certain games you could probably enter your name and even save.  Today though, your consoles uses an account system similar to computers.  If you have a family computer you'd understand immediately but not everyone's that computer savvy.  On a family computer each person has their own account and things tied directly to that account.  There are some shared resources like word processing and spreadsheets, but the actual files each person makes is stored only in their own account.  On the PS3, your username is tied to your email address.  So in order to create another account, you have to create another email.  Frankly, it's not worth the effort to create a junk account for randoms to use.

2.  Netflix

I probably shouldn't be scared too much by this.  People who don't know how to operate a PS3 properly probably won't even be able to find it.  But the last thing I need is for someone to figure out how to use my Netflix account.  Seriously, it'll wreak havoc on my "Suggested For You" list.  Now I could create a guest account and I could set it to that guest account and switch it back to mine when I'm on it, but again not worth the effort for randoms.  Also, probably not a good idea to expose little kids to my previously watched list.  Breaking Bad could scar a kid.

3. Saved Games

Saved games don't work the same way they used to work on older consoles.  If I didn't want somebody to mess with my Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda, I'd simply remove the game from the collection and hide it in the sock drawer.  That's because all my progress was saved on the game itself.  When games moved to a more digital format, saved games were stored on memory cards which were also simple to remove and hide.  Now progress is saved on the console. This means that any old person can fire up your console and immediate start playing YOUR saved game...most likely screwing up your stats and forcing you to start over again from the beginning.

4.  My Wallet

No I'm not talking about a physical wallet.  I'm talking about a virtual one.

It's the one that says Bad Mother...never mind
I actually purchase PSN cards and keep a fair amount of cash on hand in my PS3 account (DCUO subscription).  There's no lock and key on this so if you are on my PS3 you can easily enter the PSN Store and go on a shopping spree on my dime.  Sure you can't actually keep any of the stuff you bought since it'll end up in my PS3 but that's MY money you're spending there all willy nilly, bub!

5.  Games Aren't Just For Kids Anymore

Wanna hear some interesting statistics:
  • The average gamer is 35 years old and has been playing games for 13 years.
  • The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 40 years old.  
  • 25% under 18 yrs, 49% 18-49yrs, 26% 50+ yrs (That's right 75% of gamers are adults)
  • 45% (Everyone), 12% (Everyone 10+), 28% (Teen), 15% (Mature) (55% of games are made for ages 10 and up)
So what I'm driving at is video games are a mostly adult market right now.  And the Entertainment Software Ratings Board has given developers license to make adult games.  Letting a kid run loose with a modern console is like giving a kid a movie rental card, telling him to pick out anything he wants and then leaving the store unsupervised while he does it.  You just know what section they'll end up in.

Are you picky about who you let mess with your video game system?  Let me know about it in the comment section.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Do IT People Really Do?

If you've ever found yourself asking that question, I ran across this neat infographic.  Notice it's broken up into specialties.  A lot of people aren't aware that IT isn't a general field.  We're a lot like doctors.  Take a look at the graphic and you'll see.

INFOGRAPHIC - What Do IT People Really Do All Day?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Happy 30th Birthday, MacIntosh!

Today we celebrate a milestone in personal computing.  Today is the 30th Anniversary of the release of the Apple MacIntosh.  In case you didn't know, the MacIntosh was "the first mass-market personal computer featuring a graphical user interface and mouse."  It was from this point that the game was literally changed.  Now, I've been known to give Macs (and Mac Users) shit from time to time but it's all in good fun.  Truth be told, all of my early computing experiences were on Apple computers.  The MacIntosh has the honor of being the first computer I learned networking on.

Please don't sue me, Apple.  Just tell me I need to take this down and I will.  Promise. :)

And hey, if you have no idea the kind of buzz that surrounded the MacIntosh when it was first released here's a nostalgic commercial that ran during Super Bowl XVIII:




Oh and while you're at it, check out Apple's celebratory page.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Vote For My Karaoke Shows!

You know how folks are always saying it's an honor just to be nominated?  Well it's true.
You like me!  You really really like me!
This year two of the locations I do karaoke at are nominated for Best Karaoke for the Daily News Best of the Virgin Islands 2014!

Now I'm gonna post the link again.  And I'm gonna make it big so you don't miss it:

https://bestofvi.com/fb/entertainment-and-recreation/karaoke

I really need your votes, my karaoke fiends.  This has been a dream of mine ever since I started doing karaoke.  I don't do it for the recognition, but a little wouldn't hurt right?  I have a preference, but I want you all to be honest about which spot you want to go to.  Wish me luck!