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Cat Cards Past and Present
December 27, 2017

Most Christmases, my clever cats create their own greeting cards. Here are a few they've sent out over the years.

"May all your Christmas ornaments be knocked to the ground and battered around until they break into tiny pieces and get stepped on by the dog."
Kittling, 2006

"I want lots of presents."
Kittling, 2007

"The holiday season is all about sharing. Sharing makes people feel good. I want you to feel great this year, so please share 95% of your food with me. I like chicken and steak. Thank you."
Snickers, 2010

"Okay, Arthur... smile! Smile bigger! Excellent, now hold that pose," said Snickers. "Trust me, I know the system around here. A photo like this is gonna net us four, maybe five bags of treats at Christmas!"
Snickers and Arthur, 2013

Snickers, Arthur, and Viola, 2014

Viola, Snickers, and Arthur, 2015

Viola, Snickers, and Arthur, 2016

"What's Christmas without mistletuna?"
Arthur and Snickers, 2017

Just Another Day in Computer Hell
December 18, 2017

[Head's up! This article gets pretty technical. Read at your own risk.]

I was traying to install a virtual instrument library on my studio's PC the other day, but the installation kept failing toward the end. While investigating the problem, I discovered that my PC's system drive had maxed out. At 60GB it's not a big drive [don't laugh! SSDs were expensive five years ago!] but I don't recall that drive ever using more than 35GB.

Since I was installing the samples from the library on a dedicated samples drive, I assumed I must have unwittingly maxed out the 60GB system drive with other programs over the past few months. I immediately placed an order for a new 250GB SSD, and in the mean time, I decided to delete some relatively unnecessary programs from the 60GB drive. One of those programs was Cubase 8.5. I already use Cubase 9, and I keep Cubase 7 around for when I need to work on older projects that use 32-bit plugins. The 8.5 version is only nice to have on hand in case someone who uses 8.5 farms out a project to me, but that would be rare, so I deleted 8.5 and a few other things to give my system drive a few gigs of breathing room.

I attempted another installation the library, but once again, it failed, and my system drive showed that it had maxed out. So now I knew the installation of the virtual instrument library was the culprit, but I didn't know why, and I didn't know where my system drive was filling up.

The next day, just by pure luck, I stumbled across a post by someone on a music composers forum who complained that when he installed a virtual instrument library by another developer, he noticed the files had installed to two locations — on his samples drive, and in a particular user subfolder on his system drive. I navigated to the same folder on my PC, and sure enough, sitting there were about 25GB of files from the library I had attempted to install! I deleted the files, and my system drive had resumed to its normal state.

The problem was caused by a default drive path in the program itself which could only be changed after installation. During the installation process, you could set the drive path for the samples, but the program itself still defaulted to its own samples path, so the samples would literally install to both paths. The workaround I figured out was to install the program and just one set of virtual instruments. Then I opened the program, changed the default samples drive path, installed the rest of the instruments, then deleted the first set of instruments from the system drive. It worked.

And then I ran into a problem.

Cubase 7 wouldn't load. It gave me a Windows registry error. The deletion of Cubase 8.5 had inadvertently removed some files from my Windows registry which Cubase 7 required to work. I had no choice but to reinstall Cubase 7. The download of Cubase 7 from Steinberg's website did not install, so I grabbed my original installation disk to install Cubase 7.

And then I ran into a problem.

None of my three of my optical drives would read the disk! I knew that two of my drives were starting to show their age by acting up, but all three turned out to be toast. So I jumped online to order three new optical drives.

And then I ran into a problem.

New SATA optical drives are cheap and plentiful, but IDE optical drives are no longer being manufactured. Due to their rarity, buying a new one on the secondary market will set you back $75 to $150! (A few years ago, these drives cost twenty bucks!) One of my optical drives is SATA, but since my other five SATA ports are being used exclusively for hard drives, I have a PCI IDE controller installed for optical drives. Fortunately, used IDE optical drives are plentiful, but they are used, so their life will be limited. I bought a whole stack of drives figuring half of them will fail within a couple years. (Optical drives are cheaply built; their lasers and/or drive mechanisms typically fail within five years.) I installed new optical drives, and successfully reinstalled Cubase 7.

So now I have this new 250GB drive that I didn't really need, but decided to replace my 60GB system drive with it anyway to avoid future problems like the one I just encountered. But making a copy of a disk doesn't work for a system disk. A system disk needs to be cloned, not copied. I downloaded cloning software, and after several attempts, I found the "sector-by-sector" setting and got the job done. (An added bonus is that if my new system disk were to fail for any reason, I could simply swap it out for the original disk and be ready to roll within ten minutes.)

And then I ran into a problem.

Programs that use soft licensing, as opposed to using a dongle, tie themselves to your hard drive's unique ID number. When you change hard drives, even when you make an exact clone of one, your soft-licensed programs will fail to run. None of my IK Multimedia products would run. Each one had to be reauthorized to work on the new hard drive. Fortunately, IK Multimedia allows for up to ten reauthorizations per product. It took some time to complete since I pretty much own every IK Multimedia plugin there is, but my soft-licensed programs are now working again.

Since I happened to be working with hard drives, I decided to make a change to my 1TB project disk. I have the disk partitioned with three simple and one logical partition comprising a total of six volumes, each volume its own drive of around 166GB. I use one drive per recording project. Since I'd never use anywhere close to 166GB for a single project, I shrunk each volume down to around 125GB so that I could add two more 125GB volumes/drive to the logical partition.

And then I ran into a problem.

With Windows' disk manager, you can't merge unallocated space on a disk, which is what I needed to do to create two new 125GB volumes. I had to download partition management software to do that. After a few attempts, I got the job done. I was able to move the existing six volumes to the front of the disk. When I did that, the unallocated space that ended up at the end of the disk had automatically merged, allowing me to add two new volumes/drives to the logical partition. This change to the disk will make it more convenient to work with multiple recording projects.

If you've ever wondered why clients pay $30 an hour for my studio services, now you now. :)

Does It Seem Like I've Been Ignoring Your Texts?
December 14, 2017

I've just confirmed that my mobile phone is randomly not receiving some calls and texts, and this problem could have been going on for several months. I don't know if the problem is with my phone or my provider, so I've decided to switch both. Unfortunately, I have about three months worth of non-refundable funds applied to my existing prepaid account, so I'm going to burn through those funds before I can port my number over to the new provider.

During the next few months, if it seems like I'm ignoring your texts, I'm not. Please resend them. If you get a busy signal when calling, please try again later. I apologize for the inconvenience!

Ackowledging Outstanding Customer Service in 2017
December 10, 2017

Good customer service is not the norm these days, but there are a few places that still know how to deliver it. Of all the places I've done business with over the past year, I'd like to acknowledge the ones that stand out as having provided customer service of the highest caliber.
  • Family Video/Marcos Pizza, 1715 S. 76th St., West Allis
  • Goodyear Auto Service Center, 10757 W. National Ave., West Allis
  • Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals, 3670 S. 108th St., Greenfield
  • Mufflers Plus, Inc., 9200 W. National Ave., West Allis
  • Music-Go-Round, 7425 W. Holmes Ave., Greenfield
  • Pro Tan, 2930 S. 108th St., West Allis
  • Spirit of 76 Veterinary Clinic, 7606 W. Lincoln Ave., West Allis
  • Visionworks, 2761 S. 108th St., West Allis

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