Virtual Drumming with Freedrum

I recently received the Freedrum virtual drumming kit, which was one of the most interesting kickstarter campaigns over the last few years for me personally. I was supposed to get it for my birthday and have been waiting for quite some time to try it out.

freedrum


Freedrum sensors as MIDI controlers

Basically Freedrum created motion sensors with bluetooth connectivity that can be attached to drum sticks as well as shoes for tracking hand and foot movement. The sensors are connected via bluetooth to a mobile device, an iPhone 7 in my case. With the corresponding iOS app the sensors can be calibrated and allocated to right and left hand as well as right and left foot. One might also use the Android app, the Windows 10 or the MacOS app instead.

The connected sensors can then be used to control a MIDI instrument in apps such as Garage Band, Logic X Pro, Ableton Live 9, DM1 Drum Machine, Groovebox etc. and utilised to play virtual drum sets. For people traveling a lot this might be a good option to keep on grooving on the road. Although Freedrum advertises the sensors in live band situations, I somewhat doubt that this will be a dominant usage for the devices. Since I am living in an apartment with no option to play a analog or electronic drum set, the sensors are a nice option to keep practising.

Although I was pretty excited in the beginning, the sensors lack functionality and the software still seems to be pretty beta. I am willing to wait a few more months for updates and keep you updated. Until then, you might want to check them out for yourself… In any case, it is an awesome idea.


Update on working with an iPad Pro

Back in November 2016 I wrote about my decision to work with an 9,7″ iPad Pro exclusively. I stopped using any other computer, sold all my Mac equipment and only kept the accompanying Apple Watch and iPhone. I opted for a Logitech CREATE keyboard and the Apple Pencil and hoped that this step might change my entire tech outfit.

iPad Pro and Apple Watch

I kept using this setup for about 9 months and was quite satisfied with the iPad Pro’s performance even under advanced workloads. Over the last months I traveled quite a lot and considered the iPad Pro a tolerable load despite the bulky keyboard enclosure. It truly was a glimpse at the post-pc era and almost felt like I could finally make it happen.

-> tl;dr


Back to the Macbook Pro

Still I decided to sell the iPad Pro and go back to working with a regular Mac. I did a 2 week test run with Apple’s 12″ Macbook (before the hardware update announced during WWDC 2017) and although I really like the form factor and rosé gold option, the performance was rather disappointing. So in the end, I ended up were my journey began, with a 13″ Macbook Pro. So why you ask?

Among the main reasons are things like app switching, sandboxed data silos, drag and drop and more importantly limited functionality in pro apps. During WWDC 2017 Apple announced new features for iOS 11 on the iPad, such as the Files app (potentially solving some of the pain surrounding sandboxing), the new dock and drag and drop implementation. I think these are overdue features and I highly appreciate the effort towards a more pro operating system. Still I think there is a lot to be done in order to make the iPad a true desktop replacement (… unfortunately I might add).


Workflows on the iPad Pro

For one I would have expected that Apple’s acquisition of Workflow would enrich the possibilities for advanced work on the device. But so far, no improvements are in sight… and this is a compromise to begin with. The Workflow app allows the automatisation of long click-through processes, which is all good but the problem is that automation is required for rather simple stuff in order to make up for lost time in comparison to working on a desktop machine.

The more app switching and file manipulation is involved, the longer everything takes. This is not due to the iPad Pro’s computing power (which is amazing), the user input in iOS just takes forever compared to MacOS. This is no issue while surfing the web or writing a blog post but even creating keynote presentations with loads of images and videos from the web takes much longer than it should.

Simplest image editing involves various apps and might even entail several up- and downloads to cloud storage solutions such as iCloud, Dropbox or Google Drive. Not considering data plan implications, this takes forever and more often network issues disrupt the process wether you are using the workflow app or doing it manually.

ACERE 2017 slides


Pro Apps on the iPad Pro

And than there are pro apps… or rather lack thereof. Although the iPad Pro is advertised as a desktop replacement device and surely delivers in terms of computing power, memory and battery life, most developers of 3rd party pro apps are falling short of delivering desktop class functionality to their apps. Also many web based solutions are not working properly in either Chrome or Safari on iOS, making advanced edits difficult (e.g. Google Spreadsheets, Dexter or even WordPress).

The apps I used (or had to use) range from Keynote, Microsoft Office and iMovie to Adobe Creative Cloud Apps, AutoCAD and Omnigroup apps to name a few. All of these lack features they provide on a desktop machine and all of them take much longer for many similar tasks even if their UI is highly optimised for touch interaction and Apple Pencil input.

In addition I had to do some coding over the past few months and got tired of the limited options in iOS apps. Even for little css/js edits I prefer Coda for MacOS over the Coda iOS App, not to speak of my recent efforts with Swift/Xcode for which there are no viable options available for iOS at all.


What will I miss?

The one thing that is definitely faster and more efficient on the iPad Pro is reading and marking up PDFs. Although regular web surfing and watching videos is very comfortable on the iPad while sitting on the sofa or lying in bed, I can live without it. Reading however ist much more comfortable on the iPad and is the most important feature I am about to miss.

ACERE 2017 schedule

I read a lot of documents, ranging from scientific journals and magazine articles to project reports and strategy documents among other things. I really enjoyed Papers for iPad (the best scientific reading and reference managing app I know – with still ample room for improvements I might add) and often used Dropbox in conjunction with Adobe Acrobat or GoodNotes 4. Papers is available for the MacOS as well, so everything is synced but I am still missing the comforts of reading on an iPad.


tl;dr

I am confident to be better off with the Macbook Pro as long as the pro apps do not offer more pro features on iOS. But still I am not sure wether the pain with the Macbook Pro while reading will be so intense over the next few months, that I might have a look at iPads once more down the road.

Apple acquired Workflow – The powerful workflow automation tool for iOS

When I was talking about my iPad Pro desktop replacement experiment, I mentioned Workflow, a powerful automation tool I use for tasks of many kinds on the iPad and iPhone. It lets you connect various features of many iOS apps in an easy to use interface that often reminds me of Apple Automator on the Mac, an application that Apple is slowly fading out in my opinion… or at least that is what I thought.

Workflow iOS app
Workflow iOS app

As it turned out, Apple just bought Workflow in March 2017, giving me new hope for more professional capabilities on iOS devices. Right now, the app provides the easiest way to generate workarounds for the various restrictions of many system and third party apps on iOS. For many things that are simple to do on a desktop machine, tasks need to be distributed between several iOS apps and chained together. Doing this manually takes forever, with Workflow it only takes longer than on a desktop machine.

With the acquisition I am hoping for a deeper integration into iOS that would allow for easier usage of workflows within and between apps. Also, I would consider it a good idea to broaden the number of preconfigured workflows to specifically target typical desktop tasks. If Apple is really serious about the iPad as desktop replacement, there is still much left to be done.

So I am looking forward to whatever will happen next.

How the Apple Watch (somewhat) changed my life

When Tim Cook introduced the Apple Watch, I was very excited and enthusiastic, as any good Apple fanboy should have been. This blind enthusiasm and the desperate need for something new to change the world was not impaired by the watch’s price tag in any way. Since we all know that Apple is working on becoming a luxury brand, everything seemed pretty reasonable for a paradigm shifting, game changing new device that would redefine time itself. For some reason, I opted for a Apple Watch Sport with a 42mm wristband and could resist the urge to choose the stainless steel version for just twice the price.

Trying on the Apple Watch - 4

 

Not much happening with the Apple Watch

Now, after almost 11 month and the recent Apple Watch OS 2.1 updates, things are still pretty slow with the Apple Watch. I am not talking about somewhat disappointing sales figures Apple is not really talking about for some reason (although these numbers seems to be growing and the Apple Watch will be great business in the end), but rather the slow adoption of the ecosystem by third party app developers. Up until today, there is basically no app whatsoever I am using on the Apple Watch apart from Apple’s own system apps. And I feel like I tried them all. Sure, 1Password, Airbnb, Camera+, DriveNow, eBay, Evernote, Foursquare, Lufthansa, Things, Uber, Withings and Yelp have updated their apps for Apple Watch, as did many others. But whatever they are doing, it’s not much. In addition the apps are so slow, it takes them forever to load and any potential advantage over taking out the iPhone and starting the apps gets lost on the way.

Here are a few screenshots of some apps I use on my iPhone. Make up you own mind wether their Apple Watch implementation blows your mind:

 

Still the Apple Watch changed everything for the better…

Although I am deeply disappointed by the Apple Watch ecosystem so far, I am still more than happy with my purchase. Finally I have full body contact with an Apple device. Apart from that, I enjoyed the sketch feature for a few weeks but it wore off pretty fast. What didn’t wore off, however, was how I use the Apple Watch for notifications. And this changed everything for me.

Until before I was constantly checking my iPhone for news updates, message notifications and all that stuff just because of the fear of missing out. I could have deactivated most notifications on my iPhone, but I really like their way of keeping me informed without having to start a bunch of apps. So basically I suffered through buzzing notifications every day for years. Also this led to me (and everyone else for that matter) being constantly on the phone, isolating myself from social interactions in some way.

With the Apple Watch I can basically use a different notification scheme, allowing me to focus only on the most important messages. That means turning most notifications off. Now my iPhone is in silent mode most of the day, not vibrating anymore. Anything that might be of real importance to me will come through to the Apple Watch, everything else just has to wait until I actually use the iPhone.

The results are: I am using the iPhone far less than before and I am not taking it out of my pocket while in meetings ever since. This is a liberating feeling, I can tell you that much. It allows a whole new level of concentration on the moment. In addition I also feel much more calm, since I  filtered out so much noise. It’s a huge improvement over how thing where before. This sounds like a tiny little issue, but in fact it changed my daily routine for good and for the better. This alone was totally worth buying the Apple Watch.

 

… even without wearing it

In addition I might add, that I haven’t worn wrist watches in the past years, although I really like them as a fashion statement. This led to me forgetting to put on the Apple Watch from time to time. Since I arrived in Sydney I left it at home to save my wrist from the otherwise unavoidable tan lines. The most interesting part ist, that although I haven’t worn the Apple Watch in almost 4 weeks now, I didn’t change my iPhone routine. This might be great. So even if things don’t pick up with the Apple Watch in the future, I broke my terrible iPhone habits… hopefully for good.

Music Man Luke III

ricfreak:

New kid on the block…………….Steve Lukather Music Man

Luke III

Music Man Luke III, totally the stuff I’d want if I had any skill …

Also I would love the AMPLIFi TT by line6, a totally kick ass tabletop multi effect with a remote app for iOS or Android. for just 188 €.

AMPLIFi-TT-by-line6

Shot on iPhone 6

Apparently, there is a new showcase of photos taken with iPhone 6 on Apple’s Homepage. According to news at at macrumors.com it is just the beginning of a larger campaign:

“[…] involving 77 photographers, 70 cities and 24 countries. Apple will be featuring photos taken with an iPhone 6 in print media, transit posters and billboards across the world.”
Source: Apple Showcases ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ World Photo Gallery on Homepage

Pull, Merge, Push – Online Music Collaboration

When I tried Composer the other day, I especially liked the approach they took on collaboration between musicians. They really seem to think of it like working with repositories when it comes to managing input from different sources and keeping track of revisions etc.

Online-Music-Collaboration

Source: Online Music Collaboration, https://www.composrapp.com November 16 2014

So maybe there’s is github for musicians in the making, or at least there should be. What they really should do is, is provide an environment to share and collaborate on music/audio data, coming from any digital music production environment such as protools, Logic, Cubase, Ableton or any audio editing solution like Audition etc.

Obviously, it would be necessary to enable playback of any audio format and at least allow basic meta data to be reviewed on any project files from any system to make this a worth while effort. If one for instance could review takes, mixes and things like that with realtime controls to enable/disable revisions to let the differences really stand out… that would be quite a tool for creative professionals.

Update: Apple tried something like this in a limited capacity for videos with Final Cut Pro Server, but it was kind of a flop and the product died after only 3 years…

Composr – Online Music Collaboration

Composr – Online Music Collaboration

Although I think the idea for this app is absolutely awesome, I am not quite sure what to make of it. In the end, for something real the app just lacks the functionality of any basic recording setup. Also in chrome the performance is pretty poor, even the metronome is laggy… I did’t try the iOS App I must admit.

Collaboration is nothing new to music production although I admit, it is hard to find people to collaborate with on the internet. Once you find them, I suppose it is easier to work with conventional solutions like Logic or Garageband etc. and share files and projects via Dropbox or Google Drive.

Still, I am looking forward to see what the future might bring…

An evening with my Impossible Instant Lab – Creating Instant Photos

Since my bedroom wall is supposed to be decorated with Polaroid instant photos, I spent an evening with my Impossible Instant Lab, developing a series of photos with an iPhone 5 and the Impossible iOS App.

impossible-lab-1

impossible-lab-3

impossible-lab-2

The result being a bunch of color and black & white photos soon to be displayed in my personal little art gallery.

It comes at a price, though. 8 instant photos produced with Impossible Instant film sum up to 20 €, not considering the price of the instant lab. That one actually dropped recently from around 250 € to just 120 €.

So now is a good a time as any to start your instant photo experience even if you don’t want to buy an analog Polaroid camera like my Polaroid SX-70 Landa Camera.

Eve HomeKit Accessories

In September 2014 Elgato introduced Eve Smart Home Sensors supporting Apple’s HomeKit. I am not quite sure what to do with them really, but I am convinced I need stuff like this…

I can’t wait for a connected home. I would even consider renovating on a large scale to make it happen. For more information on the Elgato Eve sensors visit https://www.elgato.com/en/eve

eve-homekit-accessories-1

Source: eve – know your home, October 9 2014 

eve-homekit-accessories-2

Source: eve – know your home, October 9 2014