[untitled song]

For several years – stretching back to my college days, actually – I’ve been writing these little songs. Some are pretty good, some are just OK, some will never see the ears of day. Ever since technology allowed anyone to turn their computer into a recording studio, I’ve been recording some of these gems with varying results (you can check out my SoundCloud page for examples).

My interest lay dormant for a few years until a took I few online courses through Coursera; specifically, Berklee College of Music courses in Songwriting and Music Production.

Since then, my passion for music-making has been renewed, and I’ve been working more in my “studio”, which lately has been my iPhone, set up with Garageband iOS, Audiobus, AmpliTube, AmpKit, and various other apps. Readers of this blog (the three of you) will already be familiar with my arsenal of axes.

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve completed a song, and I’m ready to begin work on another project. I’ve decided to take the reader along with me on this journey, which may take a couple of months, or the rest of the year. It might yield something I’m happy with, or I may scratch the whole thing. We’ll see.

At the moment, the only thing I’m starting with is a guitar riff, which is demonstrated in this video:

(The instructor, by the way, is Griff Hamlin, my guitar “teacher”. I’ve been working with a couple of of his DVD courses, and they’re really excellent. Check out Blues Guitar Unleashed.)

The riff is my starting point; it’s likely that exact riff will be different by the time the song is finished. Or maybe not. I may play around with the riff a bit, then set it aside and write some lyrics. I never know where I’m going to end up once I’ve started, or how I’m going to get there; that’s part of the fun, the excitement, and the self-discovery.

I’ll be back when I have something for you.

Random Thoughts #2

Ya see, this is why I don’t promote my personal brand and monetize this here blog thing. It’s been over a month since I’ve made any entries. Not that I can’t find anything to write about, it’s making the time to do it that’s my problem.

Anyway, a few random comments to catch things up:

• The computer problem outlined in my last post has been resolved successfully. I did have to install a new hard drive (and, naturally, strip a screw while putting everything back together, which resulted in one of the plastic cosmetic covers sticking up ever so slightly higher than the other). And I did blow $80 on a data recovery program that didn’t work for me (my own damn fault; I didn’t read the program description close enough to notice that it would not work on a striped RAID array). But with a step-back-and-rethink and the help of a wonderful free program called Pandora Recovery, I was able to recover the photos, documents and most of the music I’d lost. And I now have two 500GB external that I back up everything to on a regular basis.

• I loved loved loved the season finale of Lost! I had kept all Season 5 episodes on my TiVo, and went back and rewatched the entire season, and found it quite satisfying (although I’ll miss Elizabeth Mitchell terribly). I have complete confidence in the creative team that the Final Season will cement Lost’s place in TV history as one of the best series ever.

• The 24 season finale, however, seemed oddly disappointing to me. A bit of a let down, really. Don’t get me wrong; bad 24 is shelves above most other dramas, but after 23 rockin’ hours, the ending left me cold. It didn’t rock my world. The Season 7 DVD set was available to buy the next day, though. (Lost? You hear that?)

• Go see Up. After careful reflection, I think it’s my third favorite Pixar film (nothing can replace Buzz and Woody on my list). The story has always been Pixar’s strength, and this one is no exception. It’s a life-affirming message that applies to everyone. Well, everyone except for the young girl sitting a few rows behind me who loudly told her mom that she didn’t want to watch this movie anymore. But I bet by the end of the movie she was glad her mom told her to shut up and watch (or was that just a wishful thought I had?).

• Next gen iPhones are rumored to be available Monday. Still going back and forth as to whether or not I want to take the plunge. OK, you got me. I want to take the plunge.

OK, Loyal Reader. That’s enough for now. I shan’t wait another month to post again. Good bloggers post daily. Let’s see if I can do that.

Is There A Computer Doctor In the House?

Alrighty then, here’s my predicament:

Last week I started getting little messages from my computer that one of the hard drives in my RAID array was failing (I have 2 250GB drives in a RAID 0 array). It didn’t look like I would be able to save it, so since I’m running Vista Ultimate, I used their Complete PC Backup and Restore feature to back up my entire hard drive onto an external USB drive; programs, settings, files – the whole shebang. I ended up with a .vhd file of almost 180 GB.

I settled the issue with my hard drive, built another RAID array, reinstalled Vista, yada, yada, yada, and went to restore the whole shebang. But Vista said, “Backup file? What backup file? I don’t see no backup file.”

Now, you gotta understand what’s in the backup file that I stand to lose. Not just your typical personal stuff like irreplaceable documents, photos, videos, my iTunes library (including the applications I bought for my iTouch), financial info, several GBs of Disney park music I’ve collected over the past year and was in the process of burning to CD, but also hundreds of buckaroonies worth of downloaded software that I don’t have physical disks for. “Well, why didn’t you back that stuff up?” you may ask. “Shut up,” I may answer. “I did back that stuff up, but now I can’t access it.”

I did some research on the problem, and found scads of people saying how wonderful Complete PC Backup and Restore is, and how easy it is to use, and I began feeling like an abject failure because I couldn’t do it. Then I started reading comments by people who were having the same problem as I was, so I perked up.

A couple of the options suggested:

Download and install Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, which has a feature called “Vhdmount” which, when coupled with a certain registry hack written by a MS engineer, allows you to mount the .vhd file as a virtual drive, from which you can access whatever files you want. I couldn’t make it work.

Use a program called WinImage, which also allows you to access and extract individual files with a .vhd file. It crashes on me every time I try to use it. There’s also an option for restoring a virtual hard drive to a physical drive; I get an unexplained error when I attempt this.

Download and install Microsoft Virtual PC, install a virtual machine, and mount the .vhd file as a secondary drive, from which you can extract whatever files you may want. Unless I’m doing something wrong (which is very probable), the maximum secondary drive capacity is 127 GB, and as I mentioned, mine is larger than that.

So that’s my need for a CD. Best-case scenario is a complete restoration from the backup file, but if that’s not going to be possible, I’d like to be able to pull certain files and folders out and salvage as much of my shit as I can.

So, Loyal Reader…any suggestions?

Read The Directions? Ha!

I’m composing this entry slowly but surely on my iTouch. Why not my trusty PC? Well…

If you follow tech news, you know that Microsoft has made public the current beta installation of Windows 7. I’ve been reading good things about it, particularly from an online friend who’s very enthusiastic about it.

Now, if you know me at all (and after all our time together, I would think you do), then you know I jumped on this right away. I made my way through three beta releases of Vista, so when it was finally released, I felt very comfortable with it while everyone else was complaining.

The Windows 7 beta is download only, and apparently Microsoft was overwhelmed with requests causing some server issues. But even when things were supposed to be moving smoothly, I still had problems. Off and on for three days I attempted the download (the file is close to 2-1/2 GB, by the way), but it would stop after less than 400 MB were downloaded. After a few days it dawned on me…Firefox is my browser of choice, and most MS sites won’t play nice with it. Sure enough, once I switched over to IE, my download problem ended.

The next step in this undertaking is burning the downloaded file – an .ISO file – to a DVD. My disc burning program of choice is Roxio Creator. I tried three separate times to burn the installation disc, receiving three different error messages. Of course, being the way I am, the thought of checking Roxio’s manual or online help never crossed my mind. Instead, I contacted my online friend, who suggested ImgBurn, a freeware burning utility. I downloaded and installed it, and on the second try, I had my installation disc!

(The first time I jumped right in and tried burning the disc after merely glancing at the instructions. Apparently I skipped a vital step.)

So now I’m ready to start installing the beta. My first thought was to install it on one of my external drives, which, of course, didn’t work because you can’t install an operating system on a removable drive. Huh. Who knew? Everyone but me probably.

Luckily, the hard drive on my Dell has a 10 GB partition, so I can install it there, right? No, because the beta requires at least 16 GB.

So we stick another partition in then. Of course, I’ve never actually partitioned a hard drive before, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

I searched Vista’s help pages and found what I needed, but the procedure they outlined didn’t work. For me, anyway.

Feeling frustrated, I searched Download.com for a freeware partitioning utility, found one that looked promising, and in no time at all I had it downloaded and installed.

The instructions looked simple enough, so I jumped in balls first: slid this here, renamed that there, and I was ready to go. All I had to do was reboot and I’d be ready to install Windows 7 on my new partition.

That was the last time I saw my desktop alive.

It boots to a certain point, and refuses to go any further. I’ve run diagnostic tests, checked the boot sequence, even bought it a nice glass of wine, to no avail.

I can get it to boot into safe mode, though, and the hard drive looks like it did before I started messing with it, but that’s the most I can do for now.

Hopfully a good night’s rest will do it some good. Tomorrow at work I’ll do some Googling and see what kind of help I can find.

And this time, I’ll be sure to read the directions.

UPDATE: The third System Restore did the trick. Yay! Now to proceed very carefully…