Useful Keys

If you had asked me ten years ago, whether I find the keys we are going to talk about in this post any useful, I would have said NO. But ironically, I use them quite a lot these days and I cannot live without them as well.

Home and End Keys

If you program or do document editing a lot you will understand the importance of Home and End. There is no quicker way to get to the start and end of a line.

Ctrl + (Shift) + Left/Right Arrow

Ctrl + the arrow keys, can be used to move over words rather than characters. Can be really useful for programming and document editing. I cannot live without this. Just makes navigation faster and easier.

Using Shift along with this combination helps you select words rather than selecting characters as is the case with Shift + Arrow Keys

Page Up/Down

Again, for people who handle many lines of code on text editors and huge documents, there are no better friends than Page Up/Down. Scrolling can be the most annoying thing sometimes on the mouse and these keys work like a charm in these situations.

F2 Key

F2 is one of those keys you cannot live without whether you are browsing files in a file explorer or working in an excel. F2 can be used to rename a file or edit a cell swiftly. It is very handy.

Ctrl + Shift + T

This combination is extremely useful on browsers. They reopen closed tabs. The function may prompt you to ask if this is really that useful, but once you start managing tabs in the order of 10 to 15 or more, you will start realizing the need for it.

 

Those would be my top five. Of course the obvious ones like Ctrl + S for save; Alt + Tab for window switching; Super + L for locking the pc and just the Super key for entering into the search menu on Ubuntu are really important too. There are a lot of shortcuts that pertain to specific software and are really useful, but I wanted this list to be as generic as possible.

 

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Good Uses for Old Phones

We live in a day and age where mobile phones are as common as shirts and pants. There is a good possibility that a lot of good phones that are lying around in your house which can be put to good use. Here I list a few ways in no particular order. Some of these functions can only be performed by a smart phone, some by ordinary phones as well.

  1. Download Manager – If you have a slow wifi connection at home, your downloads might take a really long time to complete. If you have an old android phone lying around, you can install a torrent downloader on that and any sort of download manager that you need and start downloading. You might have some old memory card lying around as well. If that is the case, then well and good. You are all set for your download journeys. This is less power consuming as opposed to leaving your desktop on all the time as well.
  2. Timer – Timers come of good use in a lot of places. For example, in the kitchen; when you want to time your game time, tv time and so on. There is one good technique called the pomodoro technique that works based on the principle of concentrating for 20 minutes and then relaxing for five. Repeating this set three times and then taking a long break for 15 mins at the end of those three cycles. It can help you be more productive. I have tried it and it works. Use your old phones for that, you will save yourselves from the distractions of all the notifications from your current phone.
  3. Music Player – Your current phone may have a lot of space, but I am sure you would want more. Why not push all the music to your old phone and just have the hits on your phone. This works well if you don’t own an iPod and you probably don’t need to. An old phone works really well for this.
  4. GPS Device – How many times have you been frustrated with maps and GPS consuming your battery like crazy. Why not use an old phone for that. You don’t have to worry about your phone going out of battery at the end of the journey. Sure you can use your car charger but isn’t it less fussy to just forget about having to charge your phone all the time.
  5. E-Reader – If your old phone has a good screen you can use it as an e-Reader and save battery on your current phone.
  6. Backup Phone – When you have your old phone lying around for any use mentioned above. You will have it charged. This will come in handy when your current phone dies and you don’t have a power bank with you.
  7. Fitness Tracker – Install a fitness tracker that requires just your accelerometer and your GPS. You will again not have to worry about your battery draining in such activities.
  8. Donate It – Last but not least. Rather than just keeping in a shelf and letting it die, give it to someone who really needs it. You will have earned their love.

Yahoo’s Multiple Email Support

Gmail is my primary. But i have been using Hotmail for a really long time now and loads of people still have my hotmail contact. I love the clean interface it has to offer, but lately i’ve been forced to work of a wifi that is configured with a proxy server and Hotmail just breaks like crazy on it. So i was looking for a ‘web’ solution(i know you’d scream mail client, but no) and there came Yahoo. I linked it up with my yahoo mail, which also provides you 1TB of email storage by the way(huuuuuuge), and it just clicked. The syncing was flawless and I gotta say i love what yahoo has done with their mail over the past few years.

My Email Read-Reply Algorithm

Keeping your mailbox clean is a daunting task. Keeping track of whats important and what to reply to within the limited time you have can be even more troublesome. There is a simple algorithm that runs in my mind when i’m Reading and Replying Emails.

Select Case Importance

Case: Very Important

Read and Reply

Case: Important

Read

Reply if it will take less than 5 mins

Case: Normal

Read if it takes less than a minute

Reply if it takes less than 2 mins

Case : Not Important

Read if I have no work and if it takes less than 10 Seconds.

Move to Archive.

Do not reply

Case: Spam

Open. Skim for 5 Seconds.

Delete if it is spam

Move to inbox and follow algorithm above based on importance.

End

This way I don’t have emails piling up in my mail box. This applies to SMS as well.

How do you manage your mails?

Hyphen and Minus – MS Word

The Story
For long, I have always been confused about how word creates a hyphen in some places while it is just a short minus in other places. If you are wondering about the difference, the hyphen is usually longer than a minus in MS Word. Quite curious as I am, No one ever bothers about such small things as a hyphen so I have never searched about it anywhere. But recently I stumbled upon the solution.

How
It just so happens that when you add a minus plus a word after that and a space after the word, the minus becomes a hyphen when you hit space. It doesn’t matter if you have a space between the hyphen and the word though.

So if for some reason you don’t get the hyphen you probably must’ve hit Enter instead of space.

Sweet! 🙂

100 Newbie Hurdles – Part 5 – MIDI Ports Explained

Previously I wrote an article that explained MIDI and VST. But there is more to MIDI than that. There are a lot of good things you can do with the MIDI ports, both in the studio and on stage. I’ll try to cover a little about what these ports can do from my personal experience.

MIDI data is transferred from keyboard to other MIDI devices and vice versa through MIDI cables. You would need one or two of these cables depending on the kind of configuration that you would be using. Usually one is enough for most common tasks.

A Midi Cable

A Midi Cable

Configurations

Keyboard Rear Panel

Keyboard Rear Panel

Shown in the image is the rear panel of my Keyboard. This I took from my keyboard manual. On the left are the two MIDI ports on my keyboard and this can be connected to either your Audio Interface, Sound Module or any MIDI operable machine which would have the same two ports or just the IN port alone. Please note that the OUT of one device is connected to the IN of the other device and vice versa.

A sound module is a device that contains all the sounds that you would commonly find in a keyboard in a small box which can be used with a MIDI enabled keyboard. So your keyboard does not need to have a lot of sounds. Just needs to have MIDI and you can add many sound modules as Racks for performance or in the studio. It’s a box of all the cool sounds in a keyboard but with out the keys. Cool right?.

The basic configuration is connecting the OUT of the keyboard to the IN port of a Sound Module or Audio Interface. What happens here is that the MIDI data from your keyboard is now fed to the Sound Module and based on these notes, audio in the form of wave is sent from the sound module to the speaker or line connected to it.

In the case of an Audio Interface which is further connected to your DAW, this MIDI data is routed to your DAW, where it uses the VST in the DAW to convert MIDI data to audio or the MIDI data can be saved as it is. Yes of course, your DAW doesn’t work like a sound module, it saves the MIDI data and produces audio dynamically at the moment ‘when the track is played’, which can be done again and again.

So this seems like you can do everything with this one way connection from the OUT of the Keyboard to the IN of the Audio Interface. What is the use of the connecting it the other way round, i.e from the OUT of the Audio Interface to the IN of your Keyboard? This is where it gets interesting. This will be covered in detail in the next part because it is one super cool thing to do and I think it deserves a post on its own.

Thanks for reading.

If you have doubts, comment (preferred because others can make use of it too) or mail me at johananj@yahoo.com.

Make some music yo’all.

100 Newbie Hurldes – Part 4 – What is Midi and VST

Modern day music production has reduced the cost of music production by a huge margin. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for MIDI and VST. House, Techno or any sort of Electronic music contains almost no real audio recordings at all. So lets understand MIDI and VST shall we.

MIDI
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. What MIDI is a set of musical parameters that are transferred via a Keyboard to your DAW or a Sound Module. What are these parameters? Usually, its a set of ON/OFF, Note, Velocity parameters and Foot Switch info. There are much more but lets stick to these common things for a start.

MIDI Notes

Image of MIDI Notes in Ableton Live

Lets imagine a scenario where a key has been pressed in the keyboard.

  1. The ON parameter tells the device the keyboard is connected to that there has now been a key press.
  2. The Note parameter tells the device that the a particular note like for example a C3 or a D#3 has been pressed in the keyboard.
  3. The Velocity parameter tells the device that the particular key has been hit with such and such velocity, which ranges from values 0 to 120.
  4. The OFF parameters tells the device that the key that was pressed, has now been released.
  5. The Foot Switch info tells when the Foot Switch in the Keyboard was pressed and when it was released.

The velocity parameter can be really useful if you are using these midi notes to play a dynamic instrument such as the Piano in which the velocity at which the key is hit is really important. For more info contact Wikipedia. I do not want to give redundant info here.

VST
VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. What this means is that you get the ability to do somethings that you would traditionally do in a studio through hardware, inside a computer now, and totally virtually. Be it an effect or a complete instrument, a VST can simulate it through Digital Signal Processing Algorithms and Samples.

FMMF - An image of a Virtual Instrument available for free online

FMMF – An image of a Virtual Instrument available for free online

There are basically two types of VSTs. Plug-ins and Instruments. Plug-ins include effects like Reverbs, Delays and Choruses and Instruments include, well, Instruments. Almost all of them. Almost every instrument is now available as a Virtual Instrument. So what this can mean to you is that you do not have to buy these physical instruments at a higher cost but rather buy the VST which is a software package at a lower price and install them on your pc and sync it with your DAW. The disadvantage is that, it is not as real as a recorded version of the real instrument. More on that later.

A Virtual instrument is normally two kinds. One is built purely out of algorithms and the other one is built with samples. If you consider a piano, sometime a software algorithm or model is designed such a way that it produces the sound of a piano when inputs are given to it. These Virtual Instruments are pretty lightweight. Example: The instruments in Ableton live such as the Acoustic Piano and the Electric Pianos. On the other hand there is another set of Virtual instruments that are created based on Sampling. Each note on a piano is sampled/recorded at different velocities for example and they are made into a virtual instrument after some software polishing if you will. This kind consumes a lot of disk space. But of course they tend to be more realistic. But sometimes, there is not much of a difference, which says how good our DSP Engineers are getting.

Virtual Instruments work with MIDI and in turn can make your music production real easy. The MIDI notes can now be sent to your VST and in turn an instrument can be played based on those MIDI notes and Audio Signal can be received from it.

Comment, Like, Share. Drop me an email at johananj@yahoo.com if you need some specific help. But it is advised you comment.

Thanks for reading. Make some Music Yo’all