General Technology


A Pilgrimage to Asheville for a Moog Music Tour

Moog Voyager 40

MiniMoog Voyager 40

It was 1982. Dr. Robert Moog (rhymes with “vogue”) was visiting the campus, giving master classes in the afternoon and presenting a lecture on music synthesis in the evening. I was a senior music major at Furman University, and a DJ with WPLS, our campus radio station. Somehow I landed (mostly by begging) the assignment of interviewing Dr. Moog for the radio.

Dr. Moog was gracious, and turned my bumbling, star-struck questions into a wonderful interview. He made me sound good. It’s now years later, and I wish I had a copy of that recording. Alas, with the ephemeral nature of magnetic tape, it’s probably long gone.

I’ve always held an appreciation for Dr. Moog, Ray Kurzweil, and other early pioneers of electronic music. Some years back I was amazed to learn that Dr. Moog had moved to Asheville, NC, and further still, had re-established his company, Moog Music, in the area. I knew that I would have to pay a visit. It was always on my list of “that’s something I’ve gotta do someday.” I finally made the pilgrimage yesterday with my friend, Ken Cothran. (more…)

Super Simple Timelines


I’m just getting around to writing about this, and I’m probably late to the party as far as this product is concerned, but I’ve discovered a very simple, very effect way to create timelines for websites.

Back in the 1990s Tom Snyder Productions made some of the coolest EdTech software around. One of my favorites was Timeliner. Users could input dates and events, then print out long timelines on fan-fold printer paper with a dot-matrix printer. Along with Print Shop, it was one of my go-to tools for classroom printing.

Timeliner is still around, and has been updated to take advantage of modern technology. I haven’t played with it in ages, so I don’t know what the new version has, and, quite frankly, I no longer need to. I’ve found a much, much better (and free!) product in Northwestern University’s Knight Lab’s Timeline JS. (more…)

iMake Music


1985 MIDI Demonstration with Commodore64

It seems timely that the lowly Commodore C64 was introduced 30 years ago this week. The C64 was my introduction to music technology, and my gateway to the larger world of instructional technology. I used the C64 with a MIDI interface and some very basic sequencing software to control a Casio CZ101 keyboard, a Korg DW6000 keyboard, and a Yamaha RX15 drum machine. I used these devices with my music classes, as well as to create music for various personal projects. The setup was simple, elegant, and it worked. Many computers and software packages later, the technology has improved, but I still haven’t found anything to capture that initial magic – until now.

The iPad is ideally suited for portable music production. I’ve been playing with several apps since I got this thing back last spring, but over Christmas I’ve really been exploring its capabilities. I also go my first iPhone right before Thanksgiving, so I’ve also been looking at both devices and how they can work together, both for live performance and for music sequencing and recording.

By now just about everyone has seen YouTube videos of smart phone bands.  There’s NorthPoint Church’s iPad/iPhone band playing Christmas music, and Geico’s infamous commercial asking, “Do people do dumb things with smart phones?” While these are cool (and I’d probably be right in there with them, given the opportunity), I want to explore the personal applications for making music.

So, over the next several posts I’m going to be taking a look at different aspects of iOS music. I want to look at the devices as Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), look at aspects of musical synthesis, and look at recording, sampling and effects processing. I’ll also show you a few accessories I’ve picked up to make these devices work together very nicely, and also integrate into my current home studio. I can’t guarantee that the music will be stellar, but it should be fun.

In Praise of Old Tech



This time of year I get lots of questions that go like this: “What’s the best [insert current popular tech device type here] to get for my [insert spouse, sibling, offspring, parent, or pet name here].” I know the reputation I have as a gadget guy, and more often than not I feel like a mobile multimedia production studio with the amount of cameras, GPSs, and other gear I have on my person at any given time.

As much of a gadget guy as I am, I found myself lingering longingly at the leather-bound journals in Barnes & Noble the other night. There was something about the tooled leather, craftsmanship, and total non-tech feel that appealed to me with the romance of a by-gone day.


Unfortunately, I tend to be a perfectionist on certain things. I would feel guilty spending this much on a journal just to mess it up with junk. I’d need to find a purpose for it – perhaps if I were spending lots of time traveling abroad. It would also have to be in my best handwriting, and I don’t think I could bear if I made any mistakes and scratch-outs. Of course, I would also need a suitable writing implement.

MontBlanc.png by RndConnections on Aviary

Perhaps something that can’t be easily edited and can’t be shared online immediately has its place, even in today’s tech-driven world. 200 years from now that journal could still be read.  I don’t know if the same could be said for my postings on this blog.

RIP Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs

I’m a latecomer to the Apple world, but seem to have bought into it wholeheartedly with an iMac, iPad, and three different iPods (although I have an Android phone.) The world has lost a visionary.


iPad – First Impressions


Our district purchased several iPads for special ed and for our ESOL teachers. I’ve had one for a week to put it through its paces and see how it might work, and how we might design some staff development. I can see the educational benefits of iPads in the classrooms, and I’ve seen some excellent results form kids working with them. However, from a personal standpoint I’m still conflicted as to whether I really like it, and how useful it might be compared to other options. Since I already have a netbook, Kindle, and iPod Touch, the device just seems redundant. Personally, I probably wouldn’t buy one, but if I didn’t already have these things, would it be a good choice? My very first thought was that it was just an overgrown Touch.

New iPad

Coming from a laptop/netbook experience, my first impression was that the shortcomings of the iPad are numerous…

  • No USB connections
  • No easy way to transfer files
  • No real GPS functionality for maps
  • NO FLASH!!

…and lots of other pesky problems that prevent it from doing what I think it should be able to do. The lack of Flash is especially bothersome, because it prevents me from using slide shows on Flickr, and even using the admin screens of this blog effectively. won’t work at all on it, and Google Docs is a real bother. (more…)

Research Tips with a Camera


As I was doing the research for my post on South Carolina’s Tricentennial, one point was driven home – you just can’t find everything you need on the Internet. That’s a lesson our students often forget. Sometimes you just have to crack open a book or make a trip to the local library in order to get the information you need.

I have, however, found a couple of tricks to make library research much easier, especially if you’re working with reference materials and other items that have limited circulation, or that can’t be removed from the library. I’ve found these techniques especially helpful in places like the South Carolina Room of the Greenville County Library, where the items are often one of a kind, and need to be protected.

I always have an old-fashioned pencil and paper for taking notes, but my research tool of choice lately has been my trusty Nikon S70 point and shoot camera. Today’s cameras have such high resolution and memory is so cheap that it’s just as easy to snap a picture of a page in a book to review later. You can zoom into the photo to read the text clearly, and it saves a ton of money on photocopying. You can also snap photos of images and illustrations, as well as bibliographical information for proper citation later. (more…)

Fun with Anaglyphs – Part 4


anaglyph still life

In the previous parts of this series I looked at ways of creating anaglyphs with Photoshop, both from old stereoscopic images and from a set of two images shot with a hand held camera. But what if you’ve already got a photograph and want to “fake” a 3D image? Well, I think I’ve worked out a method of doing that, too.

So far I haven’t found any tutorials online for creating fake anaglyphs in Photoshop. I did find Jim Long, who has done an excellent job of converting 2D images into 3D cyan-red anaglyphs. Jim as quite the gallery not just photographs, but also of classical art rendered both as stereoscopic images and as anaglyphs. Here’s his version of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa:

I don’t know what process Jim is using, but he manages to maintain color on the images very well. He also has a link to a supplier of 3D glasses with one of the most extensive inventories I’ve seen. (more…)

Fun with Anaglyphs – Part 2


Middle Tyger Library MG Anaglyph

In my last post I talked about discovering that the South Carolina Digital Library has a new collection of 3D images. They have taken old stereographs from the Civil War era and have converted them to anaglyphs so that they can be viewed using 3D glasses. As I was thinking about how they did this, I found myself playing the part of Jeremy Clarkson and wondering, “How hard can it be?” Turns out, it’s not very hard at all. If you’ve got some basic Photoshop skills, creating anaglyphs is as easy as adjusting colors on different layers.

I figured it might be wise to start with a non-anaglyphic stereoscopic image and see if I could turn it into an anaglyph. One the best sources for this are the old historic stereographs like the ones in the SC Digital Library’s collection. Unfortunately, those are not in a format that’s easily downloaded. Besides, USC has already converted all of those into anaglyphs.

A quick Google image search found what I needed. This image even had reference points showing which parts would show up in 3D…


The next step was to figure out how to apply the coloration in Photoshop. I found this excellent tutorial from the “other” USC, and adapted it to my needs.

I cut the image in half along the dividing line, and pasted each half as a layer in Photoshop, with the right eye on top and the left below. I then changed the opacity of the upper layer so that I could adjust the position.

As you move the layers on top of each other to align them it becomes apparent that there is a focal point where everything seems to comes together. Usually this is in the middle of the image, but not always. The parts of the image away from the focal area will not align, but that’s OK – it’s part of the effect. Here’s how the Southern California tutorial illustrates it:

With the images aligned, it’s time to apply the coloration. First, change the opacity of the upper layer back to 100%. Since I had magenta-green glasses, those were the colors I needed. With the right eye layer selected, I went to Image, Adjustment, Levels and brought up the Levels menu. I selected the Green channel, and changed the upper Output Level from 255 to zero. This the left blue and red channels, which combined to give me my magenta layer.

Anaglyph Levels

I then selected the lower layer, the left eye layer, and adjusted its levels so that the red and blue channels were zero, leaving green.

The final step is to set the blend mode of the upper layer. This should be set to “Screen” so that the green and magenta are visible.

At this point your anaglyph is done. You could just as easily create a cyan-red image. For the left eye set the green and blue channel levels to zero, and for the right eye set the red channel to zero. You will probably want to crop the image so that it only has what you want, then save it as a separate file. Here’s my final result:

stereoscope magenta green  anaglyph

So that’s the process in Photoshop. There are plenty of old stereographic images out there with which to practice. If you want to create your own images, there’s another great tutorial at this site.

In Part 3 of this series I’ll talk about how to take your own photographs that can be converted to anaglyphs, and in Part 4 I’ll show you how to create fake anaglyphs from existing photographs in Photoshop.

A Few Google Flaws


The past several posts I’ve been singing the praises of Google. However, all is not perfect in Google Land. There have been the occasional really bad ideas – Google Wave, for example – and the abandonment of some really good ideas, such as Google Notebook. In this post I’m going to stay away from the more published flaws that Google has had to endure. Instead, I’ll cover just a few things that I’ve found to be a bother.

I’ve already mentioned that until only recently, group accounts could not be used for Google Maps, Picasa, or other many other Google products.  That really limited the effectiveness of those accounts.  Fortunately, that has been corrected.  However, there are still a few things that are not quite right. (more…)

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