Another Major Shift

After all my posts opining about Apple, macOS, Dell, and Windows, I’ve thrown my hands in the air and given up looking at new computer hardware. I have a ton of reasons which I’ll write about, but the main one is that I’ve become dismayed thinking about the amount of second hand computers that exist while companies churn out new product for ridiculous prices. As a friend of mine recently said: “I like the idea that Apple is making high performance chips that are low on power consumption but I can’t, and won’t spend that much money on a computer.”

After looking into the second hand market, I headed to a local, mom and pop PC store and marveled at the WALL OF LAPTOPS they had on display:

WALL OF LAPTOPS

These are all second hand/refurbished. And they have more than these stored away in the back. They have old old computers, not so old computers, and newish computers. Give them an idea of what you’re looking for and they’ll hook you up. Why would anyone buy something brand new? Performance? The ability to run whatever is shiny and new?

Well …

I ended up purchasing a refurbished HP EliteBook  850 G3. The model is around six years old and came with an i7 6600u, 16GB of memory (which I upgraded to 32GB thank to an extra stick of ram I had lying around) and a 512 SSD. Supposedly the CPU is not Windows 11 supported but who cares?

In another twist, I decided to flatten the hard drive and give Linux a run for its money.

After doing some research, I settled on Fedora Jam as it’s geared towards music production and so far so good.

I’ve got my Tascam US16x08 running using ALSA – which came with Fedora Jam and needed no configuration – and it all works with Mixbus32c. I have to say that, so far, Mixbus runs so goddamned smooth on Linux, which makes sense considering it’s based on Ardour.

My usual go-to and longtime favorite DAW is Reaper, and it turns out they have a Linux build.  I managed to get it installed and running but, at first, it would not pick up the Tascam. I kept at it over the past few days and now it seems to be running just fine – although under JACK rather than ALSA. I mean ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Music aside, I’ve managed to set it up Fedora as a full-on desktop environment running KDE Plasma and with all my usual apps (Firefox, Spotify, FocusWriter) as well as a good number of Open Source alternatives. The most pleasing surprise is a video editor called Kdenlive. it’s go just the right amount of features that I used in DaVinci Resolve and Premier Pro to make it just right without excessive bloat.

I’m also loving how well a new release of Linux runs on six year old hardware. When I first brought the laptop home, and before I nuked the drive, I gave the Windows 10 install a spin and it was a little sluggish. Fedora, on the other hand, is running like a dream.

Linux has come a long, long way since I seriously tired it last. I know it will never overtake Windows or macOS – I mean, it’s been poised to take over for as long as I can remember – but wow, it’s so much better than I remember.

So far so good.

A Call To Action

Last year I decided to try my hand at content creation on YouTube.

I ended up doing five videos which picked up a grand total of twenty one subscribers, got some comments, and one video got well over a hundred views. Nothing earth shattering, but kind of cool since I didn’t tell anyone at all I was doing this. I never promoted my channel in any way, other than posting the videos here (and I haven’t told anyone about this site either).

While it was fun and I learned a little more about video editing, I came to realize that the sheer amount of time needed to keep a channel going is simply unsustainable for me.

The effort it takes just to get a piece of content done is amazing. Scripting, lighting, sound, shooting, editing 1 all takes time. A lot of time, which is something I have precious little of.

Now I know there are those out there that who would simply pshaw at not having enough time 2:

“You need to sacrifice everything to make it, man!”

“You gotta hustle, man! You gotta griiiind!”

Listen, the Hustle/Grind Culture thing is toxic and grossly misleading. Like everything else, there are a lucky few who manage to break through the cracks and make it. For everyone else, the grind becomes expectation, and hardly anyone achieves the promised pot of gold.

The Grind only leads to burnout. Which leads to stress and illness.

An old manager said to me regarding raises and promotions: “There are rarely salary bumps. We reward hard work with more work”.

I have a family that I love and I work to make sure they’re happy. I have a good job that I enjoy. Both of these things take up a good chunk of my life, and I jealously covet my time outside of work and I refuse to ignore this for a small slice of the YouTube global audience.

I’m well past the time in my life where I could make it in any artistic career. In my late twenties, I made a conscious decision to stop pursuing art as a career and, for lack of a better term, I “sold out”. I got trained up in computers, snagged a job in IT and have done pretty well for myself and my family.

Music, visual art, video creation are fun for me. It’s what relaxes me during the down time that I do have. Why ruin that by hustling and grinding away my free time to pump out YouTube videos that won’t even guarantee any kind of success?

I made a conscious decision: I’ve deleted the Low Budget Lifer YouTube channel. I didn’t even want to keep it up as a “hobby” or whatever, I wanted to be completely off the platform.

I am still playing around with video creation, and any that I complete will be will be posted on this very site. When I want. How I want.


1: Then there is the obsession with stats. When one of the videos got enough views to open up the stats a little more, I stared going back again and again and again to look at the graphs and charts – even though there was very little happening.

2: This fucking guy. I could do a whole rant about this dude because: JFC, really?

 

“Because Joe Rogan Uses It”

This is a great video about Shure microphones and how you don’t really have to drop serious cash on things to get a great result.

Remember, just because it’s expensive and all the famous people use it, doesn’t necessarily make it the best. You can work with what you can afford and still get a fantastic result.

Free Your Mind

I’ve been bashing away at the seven-ish songs I have in various states of progress. It’s slow going to say the least but the motivation is there. I’m currently working on the following:

      1. Writing and re-working (and practicing!) drum parts
      2. Writing Lyrics
      3. Tearing songs apart and building them back up again

Number One is fun and loud even though it’s a reminder that I haven’t been practicing, which is embarrassing.  The ideas are there but my execution is very, very rough. It’s all practice, practice, practice from here.

Number Two is somewhat difficult. The last time I sat down to pen lyrics was with White Lake Mountain. Writing words for for that band wasn’t what I’d call burdensome; it was stoner rock so I drew from Science Fiction and Fantasy. No inspiration required.

This time I’m running up a steep hill. While I have some half baked ideas, I’m having a hard time coming up with topics to write about. I’m not into love songs, or party anthems. With a few exceptions, I’m not really keen on political words. I’m also no longer the angry dude I once was; I’m happy in life. I also don’t like super lazy lyrics.

For now, I’ve dusted off my thesaurus and am chipping away at words. Hopefully good things will materialize.1

Number Three is, right now, the most important part of this whole process.

I took a two week break from the songs and then went back and listened to what I had with fresh ears. What I heard made me realize that I had fallen into a pattern. Most of what I had consisted of the same orchestration and arrangements: Guitar chords using the standard verse-chorus-verse-chosrus-overly long bridge-verse -chorus.

I like the bare bones of all the songs, but in their current state, they sound predictable. The lengths were all around five minutes and the arrangements were nearly identical; I was reminded of that Nickleback How You Remind Me Of Someday mashup.

It was time to get out the jackhammer.

I’ve stripped two songs back to just drums and bass and have removed the semi-flashy, dad rock guitars. It’s back to root notes and four on the floor beats and rearrangement.

So far so good on all fronts. There is good stuff to be found here. I just have to be patient and wait for it to show itself.


1: I have to write lyrics in a notebook with a pen. I’ve tried tapping on my phone and/or laptop and jut can’t make it work probably because pen and paper removes the distraction of the internet.

It’s Alive!

At the end of February, I posted about my beloved 11″ MacBook Air finally giving up the ghost.

This morning I was reading that the last of the 11″ MBA’s were being added to the obsolete list and I started thinking about the error icon I saw:

bork bork bork

I looked it up. And found that it was most likely an issue with the SSD. For a goof, I pulled the laptop off the shelf, removed the back and and found …

There was no screw holding the M2 SSD in place. How in the … ?

My best guess is that when I took that machine apart a couple of years ago to  replace the battery, I forgot to put the screw that secures the M2 drive back in place. And in the time between then and now, the SSD managed to wiggled itself loose.

I have this tiny, external drive that holds a 128GB M2. I took it  apart and removed one of the screws holding the M2 in place. I then went to the Mac, re-seated the SSD, put in the screw, put the back cover on.  plugged it in, hit the power button and …

The Mac is humming away running a software update. Who knows how much longer it has, but I’ll take it.

Roots of Inspiration

It starts with a metronome; common time, seventy beats per. I just turn it on and let it play: tick-tock-tock-tock tick-tock-tock-tock.

I pick up my guitar, an older electric with mismatched pickups. It never seems to stay in tune for more than ten minutes at a time. I’ve just learned to live with it.

Start simple. Em. Then G. Back to Em. G again. I learned this nearly thirty five years ago; the basic of basics.

tick-tock-tock-tock tick-tock-tock-tock.

Just start somewhere. It’ll show itself eventually.

Em. G. Em. G.

I try adding in other basics; the variations of A minors and F sharps. Maybe even a C. They’re all bland. Everyone has heard them before.

Pause. I sip my beer.

tick-tock-tock-tock tick-tock-tock-tock.

Em with G again, but a slight mistake makes it G add9. Without thinking about it I bend the A up slightly. For a just breath, it becomes a G ♭3.

There it is.

tick-tock-tock … I stop the metronome. Play it through a few times; Em, G add 9, bend to G ♭3 for a 16th of a beat then bend back down to G add 9.

I hit record in the DAW, let the click run for an 8 count then play the new bit for about two minutes just so I have it.

Stop recording. Listen back. Smile.

“Yeah, there it is.”

-=-=-=-=-=–=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Dramatic, isn’t it? I mean, it is the truth, but come on.

Continue reading “Roots of Inspiration”

A Sorta Update

Covid is still a thing. And there were truckers everywhere protesting about … I’m pretty sure they don’t even know what they were protesting about in the end. Needless to say I’ve been a bit of a shut-in. Or rather, more than I normally am. I’ve gone shopping for groceries, but haven’t been looking for good deals on music equipment. Like most others, I hope we’ll be in the clear at some point in the near future and can move on with whatever the post pandemic normal will look like.

In lieu of that, here’s a sorta update.

Continue reading “A Sorta Update”

Ashes To Ashes

Midsummer 2011, I purchased a base model 11″ MacBook Air; 1.6 Intel Core i5. 4GB ram. 128GB SSD.

This past week I went to turn it on. It gave me this:

bork bork bork

I held down the power button until it turned off. Hit the power button again and…

… nothing.

So this was it. It didn’t go put with a whimper. It just decided to pack it in.

For ten and a half years, this little MacBook Air:

    • Was my portable recording unit across two bands; countless demos and jams were recorded using GarageBand and Reaper.
    • Powered MainStage at home, rehearsals, and on stage.
    • Was my backup when my work computer freaked out (and, at one point, used for a full year because a company I worked for didn’t provide computers).
    • I’ve written who knows how many blog posts on it.
    • Was my teleprompter when recording video.
    • Was very decent at photo/image editing thanks to Pixelmator.
    • Has traveled with me to many countries. It was so small I just tossed it in the front pocket of my carry-on; I didn’t need an extra laptop bag.

In all those years the MacBook didn’t have a single issue. I did replace the battery in 2019; it wasn’t dead, it just wasn’t holding a charge for any more than an hour and and that just comes with age and heavy useage.

That’s value.

RIP little MacBook. You more than earned it.

Never 100%

I was working on a new video detailing the last few months of 2021, but we all know how my video & audio work is going.

In the meantime, I’ve been transcribing my video scripts to blog posts. I don’t feel pressured to finish videos because I’ve no plans to become a full time YouTuber. It’s been six months since my last video and no one is kicking in my door looking for a new one. This is just fun for me.

So what’s been happening? Let me tell you …

Continue reading “Never 100%”