Did Adobe actually mock up these Mac OS X screenshots on Windows? (Yes… I’m pretty sure they did.)

So, for reasons I’d rather not get into, I had to break down and install Flash Player in Safari today. (OK, I’ll get into it briefly… due to a rather obscure bug, Chrome — my preferred browser — has been crashing repeatedly on me whenever I try to upload a file. Long-term solutions aside, I had an immediate need for a way to use a Flash-based file uploader, so I had to install Flash in Safari.)

On the final page of the Flash Player download process on Adobe’s website, they offer a series of helpful screenshots to guide the most novice of Mac users through the process of locating and running the installer. Only… no, wait. Those can’t be real Mac OS X screenshots. The fonts are all wrong! So is the anti-aliasing, if you want to get really geeky about it. They’re mostly Arial, with the trademark overly-hinted anti-aliasing of Windows. Strangely though, it looks like the text label under the disk icon in the first screenshot is in Helvetica.

The real telltale sign for me though was the white mouse pointer arrow. Mac OS X has a black arrow. (The Mac has always had a black arrow, and Windows has always had a white one… presumably one of Microsoft’s infringement-suit-skirting superficial changes to the GUI in the early days of the Mac/Windows rivalry.)

I have come to expect subpar user experiences from Adobe, a company whose products I once loved so dearly. But this really takes the cake. I can’t even quite comprehend how screenshots like these were produced. It’s impossible to get results like this on a real Mac. Do they have some weird proprietary in-house Mac emulator that runs on Windows? (Actually, that might explain a lot.) Did they actually meticulously create these “screenshots” in (the Windows version of) Photoshop? Or do they have a Windows application specifically designed to generate fake Mac screenshots for all of their documentation? I’m at a loss to explain it, but there’s no way it wasn’t significantly more work than simply, you know, taking screenshots on a real Mac.

See for yourself… (Note: The image is slightly scaled down here to fit the page. Click it to view at full size.)


#rpm12 day 1: So far, so… good?

True to the spirit of RPM (I guess), I got things started last night at midnight. I think I succeeded in establishing my process for this year’s challenge: I recorded one complete piece of music, and now I am planning to set it aside and move on, recording another tonight.

On most of my albums, as soon as I finish recording a track, I begin fiddling endlessly with the mix and master, and I’m usually even already starting to nail down track sequence and titles for the final album.

This time I’m trying to exercise restraint. I did make a rough mixdown to listen to in iTunes, but I will leave all matters of final track selection, sequence, titles, and even mixing and mastering until I’ve recorded EVERYTHING and have a chance to step back and see how it all fits together.

The piece I recorded last night consists of 7 layers of increasingly chaotic Animoog synth tones, with a minimal, processed FunkBox beat bolted on to (barely) hold the proceedings together. It starts off deceptively serene, then quickly veers off into chaos, while still managing to be fairly listenable. I’m not, after all, making Metal Machine Music here. (Yes, Lou Reed’s 1975 is-it-a-joke-or-not album of industrial electronic minimalist noise is one of my favorite musical punching bags.)

So, I consider day 1 (or, more accurately, night 0) a success. I think.

One problem I have yet to resolve: most of the apps I’m recording with have stereo output, but the technique I’m using to capture sound from the iPhone into GarageBand on my Mac is mono. I’m using a 1/4-inch (mono) guitar patch cable, plugged into an 1/8-inch adapter, plugged into my iPhone’s headphone jack. The other end of the patch cable is plugged into my Behringer Guitar Link USB interface. It captures the sound well, but… mono. It’s not so bad with a piece of music like what I worked on last night, where I’m layering multiple tracks in GarageBand (so having mono input is slightly preferrable), but it’s not going to work for everything. I know some of these apps allow you to record directly within the app, so in some cases I might do that, and then just drop the resulting WAV files into GarageBand for further editing.

Hey, I know that guy!

By now, especially if you ever watch sporting events (since it seems to be in heavy rotation during them), you’ve no doubt seen this clever American Express commercial:

I’ve enjoyed this commercial since I first saw it, I guess because I am always inclined to see faces in inanimate objects anyway (the front ends of cars are really like this for me), and it’s an inventive way to play up this idea.

The commercial is also memorable for the distinctive cello playing. That’s J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major for those in the know. (Me, I knew it was Bach, but I had to look up the rest.) But who played that cello piece so distinctively? A virtuoso, to be sure. Was it Yo-Yo Ma? Can you name another cello virtuoso?

Well, here’s a name for you to file away in your brain for later reference: Robert Burkhart. He’s been a part of the classical music scene in New York (and toured the world) for the past decade. But I’ll always know him as Bob — the high school orchestra director’s son and one of my most entertainingly eccentric friends in high school. Bob is a great guy and I am absolutely thrilled for him over his growing success in the music world. Way to go, Bob!

If you like what you hear, Bob recently released a CD with pianist Blair McMillen. I picked up two copies — one for myself and one for my parents. It’s called 20/21. Check it out!

RPM Challenge: Day 1

So far, so good. Well, maybe not so good. But… so far, anyway.

I made up my mind a few weeks ago that I was going to start at it right away at midnight on February 1, so that’s what I did. I plugged away at a brand new idea for about two hours, but at the end felt very disappointed with my progress. I blame two things:

1. My piece of $#!+ electric guitar (MIM Fender Strat). Pickups buzz (minor problem) and the damn thing won’t stay in tune long enough for me to even finish tuning!!! (Yeah yeah… new pickups, shielding, locking tuners… no I haven’t done any of those things and no it’s not going to happen this month!)

2. Steve Martin. Yes, Steve Martin. I spent the 90 minutes leading up to midnight watching one of my childhood heroes systematically dismantle every remaining scrap of respect I had for his work while hosting one of the most miserably bad episodes of SNL I have ever seen, culminating in an appalling performance of a song from his new banjo CD. Yes, his banjo playing is competent, not great, but the song was crap! It wasn’t well-written, his singing is, well, not even singing, and it told a lame story that wasn’t even remotely funny. Boo! Why, Steve, why?

So, I slept on it. I think a good night’s sleep helped. I listened back to the bare bones of the song I started last night (because I had deleted a few instrument tracks from it in frustration), and it’s actually kind of cool, so I think I’m going to use it.

I started two other new songs today that seem to be going well. One of them is almost done, the other is maybe 50%.

My electric guitar is also being more cooperative today as well, and my bass sounds great! Unfortunately my bass plucking fingers are no longer up to the task — I’ve slacked off on bass practice too much and I’ve lost my calluses. 30 minutes of bass playing and I have a big nasty blister on the tip of my index finger! :o

Oh well… although I used to be very anti-pick on the bass, I’ve since mellowed and now probably use a pick 60-70% of the time when I play bass. And on this album, it looks like that’s going to be somewhere in the ballpark of… 100%!

Time to call it a day, with the kids returning and my parents coming to watch the Super Bowl on the big TV. But I may resume again tonight after kids go to bed.

One disappointment with myself overall so far: I haven’t branched out with instruments or recording techniques. But I think that will come.

Don’t buy my music on iTunes! (Yet)

I’m on iTunes…I was delighted — no, overjoyed — when I checked the iTunes Store today and discovered that my EP is available. But my enthusiasm was quickly tempered when I noticed that, curiously, all 3 songs appeared to have a running time of 45 seconds.

Curious, considering that the tracks are 4:36, 1:38 and 2:36, respectively.

…at least partially.

I decided to spend the $2.97 to see what a customer would actually receive, and sure enough, each track cut off right at the 45-second mark. So I contacted TuneCore tech support, with a fairly mild (for me) email explaining the situation and requesting assistance. I received a response a few hours later informing me that the files they had on their server were corrupted. I will be emailing this rep new versions of the files shortly, and hopefully within a few days the correct full versions of the songs will be available. Maybe I should try the same approach to get them to replace Magma’s truncated K.A. 3!