1934 Postcard from Dutch East Indies

My mother gave me a postcard that my grandfather send on August 24, 1934 from “Indië” (as the Dutch would call the nowadays Indonesia) to The Netherlands. The family is enjoying a vacation in Soekaboemi (nowadays Sukabumi), a village located in the mountains, 70 kilometre south of Jakarta. The name of the site where they stayed was named “Hotel en Boerderij (= Farm) Cramer”.

The message is:

“Dear Mother and Ida (his sister),
We amuse us here well and it is deliciously cool
X (mark on the front side of postcard) is the small cottage where we stay. Furthermore
receive regards from Louisa (his wife), Elly (daughter) and Cor (my grandfather).

noi 060

noi 061

iPhone 5s Panorama photos

On my short journey in Turkey I used the new Apple iPhone 5s panorama option to take some beautiful panorama photos. Once you get into the hang of things it is rather easy to use.

Click this link to go to my Apple Photo stream:

You will see:

  • View from hill in Milete (Miletos)
  • View from the ancient theater in Priene
  • View from the main square in Izmir
  • View from the harbor in Izmir
  • View in Ayvalik
  • View from Troy towards Gallipoli
  • View from the ancient Troy theater
  • View from the ancient Pergamon site towards modern day Bergama

iPhone 5s review

Since a few days over here (The Netherlands) Apple’s new iPhones are gradually becoming available in the non-Apple stores, like AMac and MediaMarkt. After holding out with my iPhone 4 for 3 years, I gradually became quite frustrated with the loading time of applications like Whatsapp and Twitter, so I decided to jump on the iPhone 5s wagon. Although I originally shopped for the space grey model, the only availbale model was the ‘champagne gold’ one, so I purchased that one. I was a bit afraid that it would be a bit over-the-top but the colors are really very beautiful, which can generally be said when you see and hold the phone. I have been looking at the Galaxy S4, HTC One and LG G2 but personally I think none of its competitors comes close when talking design and use of materials. It is in a league of its own. Because I also purchased one of Apple’s own cases the champagne gold look is regretfully not visible anymore, it’s now more a black cover (case)/white front phone.

After purchasing the first thing to do was to get my data from iPhone 4 to the 5s. It was a  painless process. All my data was transfered perfectly. I guessed that part of the transfer process would be that my apps would be transfered, but that was not the case. I solved this by going to the App Store and re-install the necessary apps. I wasn’t too unhappy about that because it allowed me to re-evaluate what apps I wanted to install (over the cause of a number of years, your need for apps is certainly changing, so I could get rid of apps like MSN Messenger ;)).

I must say that after one week of using I’m not totally friends with Touch ID, Apple’s way of getting access to the phone by registering your fingerprints. While it is a great idea and  will save you a lot of swiping, I noticed that my iPhone does a poor job of recognizing my thumb, despite of some re-learning. My index finger is better recognized, although certainly not a 100% score.

The thing you will really love about the iPhone 5s is its sheer, crazy speed. To simply explain this: I fully understand the stories I have read about people who feel motion sick about operating their iPhone.

The second thing I noticed is that Siri has made great improvements, understanding what you ask ‘her’. It is now really easy to do all kinds of more or less complex tasks, my favorite one adding reminders and opening apps. As long as you talk English, Dutch is not supported (yet), I really find Siri becoming an useful tool, despite people who think otherwise.

I have already discussed before iOS7 in a separate review, mentioning it is more of a refinement of previous iOS versions than a radical revolution in OS-land. To me it still remains a double edged sword. I still find it hard believe they killed off all those beautiful design elements (like for example the icons they used for Garageband and Pages) and now we are stuck with some lame ultra basic, flat design decisions. I’m also not too fond about the new keyboard with the small Helvetica Neue font and big white keys (in some cases you are presented with a keyboard where those colors are reversed and is much more to my liking). But, on the other hand the OS has become so much slicker and better equipped with functionality that makes live easier. Apple also clearly have put lots of energy to improve apps like Reminders or Voice Memos that are now more a joy to use than before iOS7. In the photo and video department things are now really on par with competitors, for example you have the option to shoot your videos in slow motion.

So if you come from a pre-iPhone 5 phone and you are not frightened by Apple’s hefty pricing (I’m not saying that it is unreasonably priced), purchasing the iPhone 5s is much of a no-brainer. You will own a beautiful designed and -for now- blazingly fast phone.

Update dec, 1st 2013:

The working of Touch ID seems to be more problematic than originally thought. I did some rescannings of my thumb, but I have the impression that when Touch ID is in use the recognition degrades after a few times of use. My index finger fares better, around 80% recognition. But with the way I hold and use my phone, the thumb is the only viable option. I have made 2 scans of my thumb, but the recognition remains problematic.The recognition process is somewhat goofy and unclear. Most of the times a recognition is followed by a motion feedback which -I suppose- is the signal to lift your finger. But sometimes one can lift and press without motion feedback. Graphic representations of the lines of a finger are shown with the small lines getting bold and red while scanning. But whether this graphic is supposed to mean something or is just some fancy, silly indication remains unclear.

Last but not least I’ve wondered what the option “Require Passcode” in the Settings Menu is supposed to mean. One expects something like “15 minutes”. “30 minutes” etc. but it only gives one option “Immediately” that can’t be changed.

I hope that Apple cleans up their act in new iOS versions with this stuff…If not I’m afraid I’ll skip Touch ID altogether, which would be a shame because if it worked it would be very cool.

Time for some Soundcloud statistic updates

First song to break 1000+ plays:

500 Plays in just 18 days:

Oh, and welcomed 600th follower!

Review Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady

cover janelle monae electric lady
The cover of Janelle Monae’s album Electric Lady

Her 2010 album ‘Archandroid’ was an overwhelming and virtuoso fusion of all kinds of genres from classic, through jazz, pop, new wave to contemporary genres like r ‘n b and hiphop. The aboslute masterpiece on the album was the song “Tightrope” where all these elements blended perfectly together. I always felt the album was a joy to listen to from the first to last second. All these different styles never felt forced, on the contrary the music flowed -literally- from one song into the other, leaving the average listener the impression that Janelle Monae was on her way to become the next big thing after Prince or Janet Jackson.

Three years later Janelle has partially lived up to that expectation. She is not (yet) a superstar like Lady Gaga or Rihanna and probably that has much to do something with her humble personality and her attitude to impress through her music instead of an abundant lifestyle.

So now there is ‘Electric Lady’. 19 tracks, but you can tick off three tracks, because they those contain DJ’s doing a show, the kind of radio stations I try to avoid ‘in real life’. The style of the album is somewhat similar to ‘Archandroid’ although the songs are more statements in their own right and they are less connected to one another.

There is still much to enjoy on the album, I could admire and enjoy the professionalism that went in it, but from an emotional standpoimt ‘Archandroid’ had a bigger impact on me. To me things seem to take off after ‘Suite V’ inroducing the seond part of the album where the songs take on a more jazzy direction, think Stevie Wonder and Minnie Ripperton. Maybe if you could have any criticism it would be what I would call the ‘Lenny Kravitz – complex’. That is that as a listener you stop listening to a song as such but are trying to discover which classic song they took as a model for the song on the album. So for the song ‘Ghetto Woman’ I’m still wondering if it was Stevie Wonders’ ‘Golden Lady’ or ‘Boogie On Reggae Woman’.

Maybe it is not completely fair to expect a second ‘Archandroid’, that probably was a once in a lifetime milestone. But ‘Electric Lady’ holds up perfectly in its own right and still outshines 95% of all music released these days.

Logic Pro X review

Apple really put Logic user’s patience to the test by working 4 years on a new release of their professional audio application, Logic Pro. But last week, without much hassle or rumble, suddenly appeared a new App in the App Store: Logic Pro X.

Logic Pro X

Logic Pro X new logo

If I should in one sentence characterize what the assignment of the developers was, I’d say: “Simplify the application in such a way that Garageband users can make the transition to a more complex application without a steep learning curve for the new application”. As an occasional Garageband user I can say that they lived up to that expectation, but also put at risk the loyalty of the regular Logic Pro user.

The interface has some dramatic changes, the transport bar is moved to the top of the screen and has been been simplified, although one can choose to make it more ‘Logic Pro 9′-like. The color scheme has undergone its most dramatic change since Logic Pro appeared on the market. I would say it has become more ‘American’ than ‘German’. The background has become more dark but there is an increasing use of colored and more skeuomorphism throughout the application, like the realism now visible in faders, buttons and rotary knobs. This does not always turn out to be a success: when placing black text on dark grey background I find things hard to read, something that never happened when I used Logic Pro 9.

The launch date of Logic Pro X seems rather odd. They did not make any real major anouncements and the introduction is a few months ahead of the launch of both the new OSX version (Mavericks) as well as the much anticipated new MacPro. In my case, using a 2008 MacPro with Snow Leopard (like probably most Logic Pro users) it makes it not easy to decide when to upgrade. Logic Pro X is only avalaible for the most current OS (Mountain Lion 10.8) although reports surfaced where people install it -with some manipulation- under the previous incarnation of OSX: Lion (10.7). But installation under 10.6 is a no-go. Installation of a new Logic version can be quite challenging. Not really for Logic itself but mainly considering you will have to re-install all your plugins, which can be a daunting task considering all the different protection schemes.

For the meantime I have installed Logic Pro X under a different partition on my MacPro to see what has changed and what is new. The full installation is so vast, if I remember well nearly 50 Gb, probably some alarm bells went off at my Internet hosting provider.
The first thing after installation I notice is that, despite the different lay out and new features, you will have hardly any interruption of workflow. You still can import your files from previous versions without a glitch and the workflow did not change in such a way that you will have to constantly keep the manual in reach. 32-bits plugins are no longer supported, luckily all my plug-ins have 64-bits versions. But as I progressed I would find that some elemental functionality like ‘Strip Silence’ has gone or is tucked away somewhere deep into the application.

The most important changes are:

This is a new way of making the routing and grouping of tracks easier. This could of course be done with previous version but as your number of tracks increased, it became a hard to keep all the routing under control. Also the folder option in the pre-Logic Pro X era was so clumsy that I never bothered to understand it. This has now all changed for the better.

OK, so you will from now on have a number of drummers at your disposal (and  each one has its own name, like ‘Gavin’, ‘Robin’  etc.). These drummers can lay down all kinds of patterns, fills and breaks, which you can influence by dragging sliders and where you can vary between things like ‘complex/simple’, ‘loud/soft’  as well as the intensity of the hits. ‘Drummer’  is something you can choose as you create a new track, so it is at the same level as ‘Software instrument’ or ‘Audio recording’. It does not take a scientist to see this will start a nice sub branch of all kinds of ‘people’  you will be able to ‘hire’  in future releases, like ‘Guitarist’, ‘Horn Section’ or ‘Percussionist’. At first the Drummer seems somewhat restricted, but the great thing is that you can drag the Drummer tracks to Software Instruments tracks and that opens a new world of possibilities. You are now able to do fine edits to the Drummer’s patterns or replacing the Logic drums sounds with those of your own instruments.

Midi FX
Those are now at your disposal through the channels, where you can easily add them to your tracks. No more complex handling through the notorious Environment window, which by the way is only available by setting a check box for ‘Advanced Midi Options’. personally I would have loved to have seen a Midi FX representing a grid where you can design patterns for your drum machine plug-ins (think about a generic form of what you can do with the Ultrabeat sequencer).

Pitch Editor
This feature was already expected through the rumours before the Logic Pro X launch. It only works on a mono channel, but it’s intuitive and makes the use of complex handling through applications like Melodyne in most cases superfluous.

Retro Synth
All the effects and synths that already were there in Logic Pro 9 have not changed. But with all those virtual analog style synths that recently were released (NI Monark, Waves Element, Uhe Diva to name a few) Apple could not stay behind and presents us ‘Retro Synth’. A very easy to use synth where you can switch easily between a 2-VCO analog, sync, wavetable or FM synth. It sounds pretty impressive to me.

iPad Remote App
Last but not least Apple is presenting us an iPad Remote app that has a plethora of functions to use with Logic. It has the more traditional (in the sense that there are other Apps that can do this) mixer window, but it also has a Maschine like button interface where you can add and edit your key commands. And it has screens where you can strum chords or make optimal use of the multitouch screen, for example by gliding through various scales, like Dorian, Blues etc.. Very reminiscing of what you can do with Garageband. The iPad Remote App even goes so far that you can edit the most essential functions of plug-ins and instruments through a new function named Smart Control. With Smart Control you can handle the most important functions of a plugin and can also be used within the Logic Pro X application itself.

Besides the above described changes and added features there are literally hundreds of little things throughout the application that make life a little bit easier. But only the main new features make the purchase of the new version more or less a no-brainer for ¢ 200  or € 180. We received more or less what was expected in the rumours advancing the laumch. Maybe one of the few things that popped up in those rumours and are not available in Logic pro X are the virtual modelings of mixing desks.

As an intense user of Logic Pro versions you may find that this upgrade was more aimed at enabling Garageband users to make the step to a more professional program. Some things that you were used to in the older Logic Pro versions may simply have been gone or moved.

Be aware that if you own an older Mac Pro and/or older operating system it might be wise to hold off the purchase until OSX Mavericks and the new Mac Pro have been introduced and then do one ‘big’ transition in one time.

Photo shoot

Friday, 7/5/2013, there was a photo shoot and photographer Richard Bremer took a number of shots in the working place. This is Richard’s favorite picture from the session.

Cone Ewald Kegel

Cone Ewald Kegel