My "State of the Line" Address

2016 Update: This post references a now-defunct blog I once operated, Across the Line. The blog covered the intersection of music & technology. Many of its posts, including all original content I wrote, have been imported into these archives.

Hello friends.

It’s been well over a month now since I re-launched my Across the Line domain as this experiment in blogging. I’ve received a fair amount of feedback from close friends and casual readers alike on what they think works and what doesn’t. As a reader of my blog, I’d like to take some time to share these findings and my plans (read: “best guesses”) for the future.

Finally, a new music app for the iPhone (not the iPad)!

I’ll admit it: I played with an iPad yesterday. A colleague of mine brought his to the office and, low and behold, had loaded it up with a few piano/synth/drum machine apps. I played for a good few minutes before I drove a few people nuts by making 808 beats.

So, here comes this news from Propellerhead Software that they have released a new iPhone app version of their ReBirth composition software.

From Propellerhead’s PR:

ReBirth faithfully emulates dance music’s three backbone devices: The Roland TB-303 Bass synth and the Roland TR-808 and 909 drum machines. Combine these with FX units, fully featured pattern sequencers and a quick-acting, scalable iPhone interface and you’ll soon be making techno on the train, trance on the tram or beats on the bus. 

More info and pics at the link. Via FutureMusic.

"Apple, take note."

Tech giants Google and Apple have been in a bit of a spat lately as the two companies’ smartphone platforms (Android and iPhone respectively) vie for their peice of the martket. With their unofficial motto “Do No Evil,” Google is known for taking an open, transparent approach, exemplified by their recent decision to no longer cooperate with the Chinese government. While also a supporter of open source software, Apple is more so known for locking in customers by making exceptional products that use proprietary technologies.

For all its market-disrupting success with its iPhone App Store, Apple still encounters bad blood from time to time by banning content from the iPhone. As Wired.com points out, rather than banning a controversial music video by artist M.I.A., YouTube (which is owned and operated by Google) took another route.

From Wired:

Contrary to news reports that YouTube removed the violent video, the site simply put it behind an age-restricted click-through. That renders the video impossible to find unless you already know the URL.

Indeed, Google’s policy represents a more open and nuanced approach than what Apple is doing with its App Store. There, presumably overworked employees decide whether to censor content before it even shows up in the store.

This approach is a better way to handle problems than arbitrarily banning the content before it is ever available, as Apple does with the iPhone. As the article’s headline says, “Apple, take note.”

Apple is shutting down Lala.com -- And why it matters

Lala.com will be shutting down on May 31 this year. The move comes after Apple’s purchase of the music streaming web site a few months back. Apple’s instant benefit from the purchase of the site was top-ranked results when users search for songs on Google. However, what Apple truly benefited from is the acquisition of a team that knows how to do music over the internet, or “in the cloud.”

When tech insiders speak of music in the cloud, they’re usually referring to an extension of the purchasing a song through a digital music store like Apple’s iTunes. Such a cloud-based service would ideally include storage of the song on the user’s computer but also access to that song from any number of devices connection to the internet. Put simply, you could buy a song on iTunes, you can play it on your computer, your iPod, iPhone as you can today plus over the internet on your friend’s computer, your computer at work or even your car.

Bill's Favorite Album of the Year 2009

The criteria I use for this tradition is simple: When I think back to 2009, what is the album that I will remember listening to and liking the most. This “award” is not an endorsement of superiority per se but a snapshot of what I enjoyed at this point in time.

This year’s winner is:
Flyleaf - Memento Mori

And the runner up is:
Third Eye Blind - Ursa Major

Picking my favorite album of the year on my birthday is a tradition I started last year. I noticed that I’d selected a favorite album around my birthday a few non-consecutive years in the past.

My thoughts on Apple's new programming language restriction for iPhone apps

With the announcement of some new features in Apple's iPhone OS 4 yesterday, I have to say, it will be nice to be able to leave the Pandora app but have its music still playing. The big thing for me though is Apple's new restriction on programming languages. They've essentially made it impossible for Adobe or Microsoft to make software that can compile applications as iPhone apps. I understand Apple's business motives (John Gruber has a good summary up on the topic), but it just doesn't sit right with me. Between the app store and this programming language restriction, Apple has the iPhone entirely locked into their proprietary development ecosystem, as I'm sure they want. However, I saw some speculation that Apple is actually trying to damage Adobe so they can acquire them down the road. I'm not saying it's plausible, but they certainly have ability to do it.

For the most part I'm mad simply because I was looking forward to making iPhone apps with Flash CS5. I have years of Flash and ActionScript experience, but haven't touched anything resembling Objective C since undergrad. With the looks of it, I will have to suck it up and learn how to build apps the Apple way after all if I ever want to make one of my own.

Music Production on the iPad. (Or why I might cave and buy one yet.)

Now that the iPad is (finally?) out in the wild, here are a few reasons that just may intice me to cave and buy one yet.

I’m pretty jazzed after reading through the great round-up at Create Digital Music of apps designed to use the iPad to make music. For me, I’m excited to try the iPad out for a few different purposes:

  1. Practically speaking, it would be a great MIDI controller for my software synths, by using it to drive Reason and Pro Tools. I have a MicroKorg, but the portability of the iPad, to easily sit it on my lap, would be unparalleled. I’m curious to see how the latency is though.
  2. As a control surface for Pro Tools. I’ve never had one, so I’ve always controlled Pro Tools with my keyboard and mouse.
  3. To use it as a live musical instrument. This will certainly require some imagination on my part, but mark my words, I will make this happen. After all, inspiration is out there.

Now I just need to actually pick one up, but I promised myself I wouldn’t get the first generation.

Wrigleyville: Where bartenders skip Johnny Cash songs

This weekend, my good friend Jason and I went to an unnamed bar in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood. I will not name the bar because I at least attempt to have at least some level of class. Our first impressions were low, but after all, we were there to begin with so they couldn’t be too high.

Our conversation included music and tattoos as usual, so that naturally lead to the recently deceased photographer, Jim Marshall. Marshall shot many an iconic photograph in his day, including famous shots of Hendrix setting his guitar on fire and Cash flipping his middle finger. John Mayer did a great write-up of Marshall and the Chicago Tribune featured the photographer in this Sunday’s edition. 

In Conversation: Thoughts on the iPad

Following the announcement of the Apple iPad earlier this week, my friend Adam Pavlik, a life-long die-hard Apple fan and shareholder himself, posted to Facebook his thoughts on the new device. Now, when I say Adam is an Apple fan, that is slightly an understatement. While I got my first Mac in 2004, Adam grew up in a home with them and never owned another brand computer that I know of. When I commented on his comments, he commented on mine, and a back and forth of a caliber like I never anticipated ensued.

I am re-posting my conversation with Adam's permission here for two reasons: 

  1. You never see a conversation like this on Facebook. (Frankly, I feel sorry for the other two guys who were tagged in the post because their inboxes were filled with our uber-nerd-fest.) After all, and this is a completely subjective and unscientific observation, most "dialog" on Facebook consists of "OMG lolz!!!1!!one!" and "ur dumb."
  2. Adam and I both make what I feel are valid points and managed to summarize a good portion of the news swirling around the media about the iPad. It saves me from writing a blog about it myself. My friend and roommate Josh and I for one have conversations like this all the time about myriad topics, including Apple of course. It's just that I've never seen an instance where the conversation was so well-documented and played out in a written form.

 So without further adeu, here is the conversation itself: