Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man


New Directions

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

At one point, I actually had a topic schedule here at Outside The Box. I had different topic categories to write about for each day of the week. I did that for a couple of months actually, until work got the best of me, and I had to drop a few of the balls I was juggling.

Through no fault of my own, I'm going to end up with quite a few more hours of time to write in the very near future. The question remains: What should I do with this unexpected windfall of time?

I think this will be an excellent opportunity to write about some topics I've been itching to dig into. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep politics out of it- I have no interest in discussing the current elections. I will however cover things like projects I'm working on, culture shifts (and how that affects us), and movements in the tech industry.

I will also be working on setting up ways to sell my work, so I can keep bringing quality content to you, my loyal readers and friends!

Besides writing fiction and blogging, I'll be working on publishing non-fiction e-books and making music (under Creative Commons) for people to use in Podcasts or Youtube videos. I'll also be working on projects at home, for business.

If you're interested in letting me help you with my creative talents, let me know!

Filed under: Creativity, Music No Comments

Homemade MIDI Filter

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

One of the goals I wanted to do with my guitar stage setup was to be able to control everything the Adrenalinn3 pedal does with two different MIDI foot controllers. This is interesting at least, challenging at best. You can't just combine the output of two pedals, because the Linn doesn't know which pedal the commands came from, and even if it did, it doesn't know what to do with them.

I looked into off-the-shelf pieces to do this, and there were a few that were close, but none of them could do what I needed without custom ROM hacking. I wasn't really interested in that (for time constraints) so I looked into something simpler, easier, and definitely cheaper.

Enter the humble Arduino. This amazing little piece of technology takes a cheap microprocessor and packages it into a board the size of a credit card, with a voltage regulator, and input/output pins. The tools to program them are free and (mostly) easy to use, and they even make DIY add-on kits that let you expand what the board is capable of.


Wanted: Swiss Army MIDI Workstation

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

One of the goals of my guitar setup is to be able to use it in 3 different configurations:

  1. Hardware only
  2. Hardware/software
  3. Software only

Ideally I'd like to be able to exactly the same things with each, but hardware costs money! A lot of money. For instance: a hardware looper that syncs with MIDI clock starts around $400. That's more than what I paid for my whole laptop! It's becoming increasingly obvious to me that dollar for dollar, software is the way to go.

But I'll never completely eliminate hardware, and I don't think I should. It's not that I don't think software is reliable: my laptop runs effects for hours without a hiccup. But you still need hardware for interfacing things together. Controllers, pedals, mixers, etc.

So I guess the question is, what's an acceptable mix of hardware and software? If I say hardware only, I know exactly what I'd need to buy, and it wouldn't be cheap.

For effects, i.e. amplifier models, delays, etc. I've got it covered in hardware. That's easy, and I can control everything without a laptop. Everything syncs to the MIDI clock (delays, drum machine, etc.) and everything works. I'd still like to be able to use the Master Control to select drumbeats and the ART pedal to control effect presets... but because of the way the Linn handles that, it will require another piece of hardware to insert Bank Change signals so the MC will only switch drumbeats. Not ideal, but doable.

In order to control the Adrenalinn's drum and effect presets with two separate MIDI controllers, it requires injecting "bank change" messages into one of them to change the A3's preset mode. This isn't very complicated, except that there's currently no piece of hardware that will do that. However, for about $30, I can build a hardware MIDI filter out of an Arduino Uno board, and it looks something like this: (This is the actual MIDI board I will be using with my Arduino)


Proof Of Concept: Live Looping

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As I wrote about last week, I'm usually inclined to flit from one project to another. The problem with that is that I rarely get to finish anything. I spent more than an hour working on arranging and testing my music gear last night. Was it productive? Well, yeah, I think so. But was it critical? No, not really. Why did I do it, then? How does that fit into my vision of getting things done?

Honestly, I don't know. There's a reason for it, of course, and it's one of those things that I will have to do eventually. Why did I work on it instead of other things? I don't know. It was forefront in my mind, and I had to get those ideas out, so I just ran with it.

Where am I going with this?

Basically, with all the things I write about coping with ADD, you'd think I'd have a better grip on that stuff. And then I get an idea, and I go all Doc Brown and stay up working on some mad scientist thing that may or may not ever actually get used.


Music Monday: Software Amps

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Here's Dweezil Zappa endorsing Native Instrument's Guitar Rig 5. I've used this software, it's actually pretty good, very flexible, awesome sounding, and costs about $200.

There are now several kinds of software amplifier emulators, some of which are 100% free and are just as good. The biggest advantage to using a software guitar setup is that you can not only configure it in ways that a physical setup can't be, you can pack dozens of amps and effects into a laptop and bring them with you. You can also share those sounds with other players!

Zappa hits on a lot of these points, which are true for software setups as a whole. Obviously, some will sound better or have more features than others, but for the most part, they all work the same.

Some things to keep in mind when using a software amp (or any modeler, for that matter):

  • It can be as simple or complex as you want
  • It can do things physical setups can't
  • Just like an amp, it's going to have a unique sound
  • It may not "feel" the same, but that's not bad

Once you get past the idea of it not sounding like you "think" it should sound, you can start playing with the unlimited possibilities, and make something useful with it. Make your own sounds, your own set lists, play with effects and see what you can do. You are free to create!

Is a software amp/effect setup right for you? They're more flexible and cheaper than vintage/boutique hardware. If nothing else, it's a good tool to have in your arsenal. I, for one, have no qualms about using a laptop guitar amp simulator live. And if you try a free one, what have you got to lose?

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Caustic 3.1 In Linux

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As I previously wrote about Caustic 2 running in Linux with wine emulation, version 3.1 of Caustic has come out with loads of great new features. Simply put, it's now practically a full-blown electronic music production program. The Android version is $10 (well worth it) and the Windows desktop version remains free.

The list of improvements is substantial:

  • More instruments per project
  • New instruments
  • New features in old instruments
  • more effects
  • more MIDI functions (yay!)
  • Export features
  • UI improvements

I can't say enough good things about this app. The fact that it runs under Linux is even more exciting, as that wasn't done intentionally, but it works anyway. I highly recommend it.

Filed under: Music Continue reading

Monday Motivation

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As of yesterday, I weighed 165 pounds, which means I've lost approximately 10 pounds in the last 6 weeks. I think I'm going to focus on nutrition and building muscle mass at this point. Even though I could probably lose a bit more weight, I think I would be better served by increasing my strength and endurance, now that I'm within a few pounds of my ideal weight.

Here's some music to get you moving on this Monday morning.


New Laptop Considerations

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I'm getting close to replacing my aging (but still perfectly functional) HP 625 laptop. The kids have been using it heavily for school, along with the handful of other laptops (two Dells and an HP). My requirements for a laptop are a bit different than most people's, though... I need mine to be Linux compatible.

I'm looking at getting an HP laptop/tablet with a rotating screen, for a couple of reasons. First, the tablet function would be very handy for using it on a music stand, or as an e-reader. Second, I write a lot, so it needs to have a decent keyboard. Third, I don't like devices that separate the screen from the keyboard.

Possible candidates are the HP Elitebook 2760p, or the HP Elitebook Revolve 810 G1. Both come with an Intel i5/i7 and comparable hardware, but the Revolve is thinner, lighter, and more expensive. The only thing that doesn't work with Ubuntu is the fingerprint scanner (yet).

One thing I want to be able to do with it is use it as a mobile recording studio/performance laptop with Ubuntu Studio.

Filed under: Music, Tech Tools No Comments

Adrenalinn III Review: Part 1

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

This will cover the Adrenalinn III effects pedal, by Roger Linn designs. Since there's so much to this thing, I'm going to break it up into sections. The first thing we're going to look at is the built-in amp models.

Not only does this pedal have 40 different amp sounds (including bass amps), each one has (3) tone controls, plus drive and a drive "boost" control, so you can actually get a lot more than 40 sounds out of it. When you add in different pickup configurations, you can get almost unlimited tones out of it.

Here's the list of amps (the RLD ones are from Roger Linn Design, not modeled off of a specific amp):


Adrenalinn III Pedal Control Project

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

One of the toughest challenges in using the Roger Linn Adrenalinn III pedal (henceforth referred to as the "A3") is figuring out how to use it! The pedal is nearly perfect, and yet there are ways I want to use it that don't fit how it was intended  to be used.

For starters, the pedal is basically two machines in one: a full-blown digital guitar effect pedal, and a Drum Machine. You can connect the two, but I want to be able to use them completely separately, with two separate sets of controls. The pedal's buttons can control certain things, but can only change presets up/down. You can use external MIDI commands to switch presets, but you can do either FX or drums, or both together, but you can't use two different controllers to change presets separately.

My setup is a bit complicated, I'll admit. I have a rack unit that I want in the MIDI chain, for clock-synced delays AND preset changes. But I want the presets to change with the A3's FX presets, and NOT the drum patterns. I want the Molten Voltage Master Control (henceforth referred to as the "MC") to provide clock and PC only for drums... and a second controller to provide PC and CC messages only for the rack unit and the A3's FX side. I also want to leave the A3's buttons alone to turn individual things on and off. So how do I make this all work??