Using Alfred to send quick email messages

October 28th, 2013 No comments

I’ve become a huge Alfred fan, it’s a real time saver. The Powerpack is a worthwhile upgrade as it allows you to build all kinds of quick workflows.

A workflow I use a lot is one that lets me send an out-of-band quick email message to someone. It’s incredibly convenient to be able to just hit Option-Space and type into Alfred

jim please call Mary in an hour

and have that message be sent as an email to Jim.

Here are the pieces you need to be able to do this — I assume you have Alfred and the Powerpack and know how to create workflows. Obviously customize for your own names. You will also need to have Python installed. I use Python 3

1) Download the zipped python script  quickmessage.py then uncompress and save it in a folder on your system. (NB I found the original version of this script on the net and modified/cleaned it up to suit my purposes)
1a) Edit that script to define your own mail hosting server, username, password etc…..same info you have specified in your regular email program.

2) Add a new workflow called Email jim with the following items in it. The contents of each block are below

2a) jim

2b) /bin/bash
Put the full path to the quickmessage.py script first. That’s the path in which you installed the python script
Replace the parameter to the -r option with the email address of the recipient
Optionally change the content of the subject line

2c) Post notification — this provides confirmation that your message was sent

3) Off you go!

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Recommended software, Tips Tags:

Dear iOS Control Surface Developers – please support TCP

November 2nd, 2012 1 comment

I have worked with several control surfaces including LemurMidi Touch, TouchOSC and I am currently checking out TB MIDI Stuff which seems to be very sweet.  I use these apps on both iPads and iPhones to interact with the live keyboard rig I use with The Security Project and Beyond The Wall. They all work pretty well for sending OSC messages back to a laptop.

Last week I decided I’d like to dedicate an iPad as a virtual remote mix controller with bi-directional support for my main faders so that no matter how I changed them (from laptop screen, from iPad, from a pedal or a knob on a physical keyboard), everything would stay synchronized. Further, I wanted to be able to change the name of each fader as I change songs so that it’s obvious for which sound each fader is responsible.

Turns out that that all the Control Surface developers are using OSC over UDP. UDP is unreliable and although you mostly won’t notice a missing packet when you’re adjusting a fader, if your packet is supposed to change the label of a fader but gets lost, your label doesn’t get updated and that’s a real problem. It’s particularly noticable in a wifi environment.

To solve this, these Control Surface apps really need to support the TCP so that delivery of packets is guaranteed. I contacted support at several companies but they all seem to feel it’s a big deal and so not likely to happen soon.

However, I realized that there would actually be a very simple way for these companies to support TCP. All they really need to do is create a simple TCP server (which can be done trivially using the free GCDAsyncSockets library), listen for connections from the outside world and then just forward anything received to the UDP port at localhost (127.0.0.1). Then their existing UDP socket will get the data and process it just like any other received packet.

So come on guys, what’s taking so long?

P.S. I actually tried to build a simple standalone app for the iPad that would receive TCP packets from the outside world and simply forward them to a listening UDP port on localhost. It only took about 1/2 hour in total (including learning GCDAsyncSockets) which is why I know this is easy to do.

Unfortunately Apple restrictions prevent such applications from running continuously in the background so unless I revert to an old version of the iOS and jailbreak it, I’m out of luck.

Cleaning up your view of FB

September 16th, 2012 No comments

A few days ago, I posted a reference to a plugin that lets you reduce the clutter as well as hiding stuff you don’t want to see in facebook. I found out later that my posting had somehow disappeared. Ignoring for the moment how that might have happened (the answer seems rather disconcerting since I know I didn’t remove it), I figured I’d repost the information someplace other than on my FB profile.

Go to http://www.fbpurity.com/install.htm where you will find the plugin for various different browsers. I have only been playing with it for a few days but it does seem to do a very good job of letting you manage what you want to see and more importantly what you don’t want to see.

Categories: Recommended software Tags:

My keyboard rig for the Security Project

August 16th, 2012 No comments

The Security Project was created early in 2012 to perform the early music of Peter Gabriel. A key feature of this project was the inclusion of musicians who performed or were otherwise involved with Peter Gabriel the first time around, about 30 years ago. I was invited to join this project a couple of months later and we just performed our first show at B.B. King in NYC on August 11th.

Update (Feb 12th, 2013): The Security Project just completed a short tour in the Northeast in four states, ending with a second performance at B.B. King in NYC.

Update (April 16th, 2014): The Security Project just completed another tour that included about 12 shows in the Northeast and a couple of shows in Canada (Montreal and Quebec City). A highlights video from that tour can be found here.

A number of people have asked me to describe the keyboard environment I am using for this project. Given that there is in fact much more going on than can be seen from just looking at it from a distance, I figured it was time to write it up.

Keyboards

I am using four physical keyboards, set up in an L shape. An important point to understand is that there is no correspondance between any particular keyboard and any particular sound that is heard.

On my right is an Akai MPK88 weighted MIDI controller underneath a Yamaha AN1x. The Akai is nominally used for piano parts but does get used for other parts where necessary. For example, in Family/Fishing Net, I am controlling the low blown bottle sound that appears at the very beginning, the flute loop that also appears at the beginning, and then later the picolo. I’m also playing bass on it at the points where Trey plays solos. The AN1x, although nominally a full synth, is used only as a MIDI controller and its internal audio is not connected. The sliders on the Akai and the knobs on the AN1x are used to control volume and/or other real-time effects as needed.

On my left is a single manual Hammond XK3-C underneath a Korg Kronos. The Hammond is often used solely as a MIDI controller and only occasionally is its internal sound engine used, for example in the early part of Fly On A Windshield and on Back in NYC. The Korg Kronos is mostly used as a synth engine and the sounds it produces are often being played from some of the other controllers. Occasionally, I play the Kronos keyboard itself but as often as not, in that mode, the sounds that are heard are actually coming from somewhere else. (I’ll get to “somewhere else” in a moment)

Update(December 15th, 2012) : The Hammond XK3-C has now been replaced by a Nord C2D (a dual-manual organ) and provides much more flexibility in terms of both organ playing as well as effectively giving me two MIDI controllers which is very useful.

Update(July 7th, 2014): While I am still using 5 keyboards, the Kronos 61 and Nord C2D have been replaced by three Roland A800 Pro controllers. The bottom two are (by default) routed to the Gsi VB3 Hammond Emulator plugin on my laptop. The Yamaha AN1x has been replaced by a fourth Roland A800 Pro and the Akai weighted controller has been replaced by a KronosX 88 which now takes on both the roles of synth engine where needed and weighted controller.

Pedals

On the floor, under each pair of keyboards, is a Roland FC300 MIDI pedal controller. As well as five foot switches, there are also two built-in expression pedals. Several extra expression pedals are also plugged into the unit. These pedals perform different operations, depending on the song. For example, in Rhythm Of The Heat, foot switches are used to turn on or off the background single string note that is played throughout much of the song as well as the deep percussive Pitztwang note that comes in at the end of many vocal phrases. In Humdrum, the same footswitches are used to emulate the deep Taurus bass notes that are heard in the last section.

Eigenharp

The Eigenharp is a highly sensitive controller that transmits high speed OSC data as keys are played. The keys on the eigenharp detect motion in three dimensions and are extremely sensitive, allowing guitar or violin style vibrato to be easily played. In San Jacinto, I am controlling the volume of the three marimba loops. I am also playing the string orchestra part in the middle (actual sound was coming from the Korg Kronos) and then the Moog bass and steampipe sounds at the end. Those last two are produced by two soft synths running on my laptop, more on this later.

iPads and iPhone

An iPhone and one of my iPads are used to run Lemur, an app that implements a touch sensitive programmable control surface (with sliders, buttons, knobs and so forth). These are used for real time control of various sounds. The iPhone was used to start the whole show from the back of the room, where a touch of a button triggered the Rhythm Of The Heat loop that is present though most of the song. It was also used to generate the same Pitztwang sound when I was not behind the keyboards and able to reach the pedal.

A second iPad runs Scorecerer, a product developed by my company that displays sheet music and annotations as well as sending commands back to the computer to change all settings as we move from one song to the next in the set list.

Rack

On the floor between the two sets of keyboards (and under the computer stand) is a rack containing two MOTU 828 MkIII audio interfaces a MOTU MIDI Express XT (an 8 port MIDI interface), the base-station for the Eigenharp, a network ethernet/wifi router and a power supply for the entire system. Power, audio, MIDI and USB connections (as required) from keyboard controllers and pedals are connected directly into this rack. The MOTU 828s allow me to route each sound generator (e.g., VST instruments, VST effects, Max audio, external audio from the organ and Kronos)  to independent audio output channels that go to FOH and . It is also connected to an audio receiver that returns a feed of all the instruments (except my keyboards) from the monitor mix. That feed is then mixed back in with the keyboards so that I can control how much of my rig I hear relative to the rest of the band. The router is used to allow the iPhone and iPads communicate with the computer. The reason for  many audio outputs is so that different kinds of sounds can be EQ’d seperately and so that the volume of sequences can be controlled relative to other keyboard sounds for monitoring by other band members.

Update (Feb 1st, 2013): The latest version of the CueMix software that controls the MOTU 828s now responds to OSC for remote control. Consequently I have added a third iPad (iPad Mini) that runs TouchOSC with templates for the MOTU hardware. That allows me to easily adjust the volume of the band mix I’m receiving without having to interact directly with the computer. Ultimately, I’ll take some time to reverse-engineer the actual OSC data that’s being sent out after which I will be able to use MaxMSP (see next section) to send the same data, thereby allowing me to control that volume from a slider on one of my keyboards rather than having a third iPad.

Update (Jan 12th, 2014): The two MOTU 828s have been replaced with two RME UCX audio interfaces. The benefits are improved sound quality as well as reduced latency and improved driver performance. The CueMix software has been replaced by RME’s software called TotalMix for which there is also OSC support and an iPad app so everything else remains unchanged.

Computer

The entire system is completely controlled by a Macbook Pro running custom software I developed using the MaxMSP programming environment. A description of the custom software can be found in other blog entries on this site and the extensions I developed to integrate the Eigenharp into MaxMSP can be found here.

Everything that happens is processed through this software environment. When a song request is received (from the iPad running Scorecerer), MaxMSP will load all the required soft synths, set up the appropriate MIDI routings (i.e, which parts of which keyboards play which sounds), route the audio to the appropriate outputs on the MOTU device and respond to real time controllers (knobs, sliders, buttons and pedals as well as the Eigenharp) to control volume and other parameters (e.g, filter cutoff, attack, decay, reverb or whatever is needed) for the specific song.  MaxMSP is also responsible for generating the real-time loops, both MIDI and audio and in some cases is also adding extra harmonies depending on what I’m playing.

Here is an example of some of the configuration created in MaxMSP for San Jacinto.

Soft synths and effects

While some of the sounds heard are coming from the Korg Kronos and Hammond organ (even if they’re not being played from their respective keyboards), a variety of audio plugins are in use. The most important of these are Native Instruments Kontakt and Reaktor, the GForce Oddity and Minimonsta (yep, Arp Odyssey and Minimoog emulators respectively), and the AAS UltraAnalog. Effect processing is mostly done with Native Instruments GuitarRig and IK Multimedia AmpliTube. However, some effects are done directly with MaxMSP. I used to use Arturia plugins (I love their Moog Modular and Arp 2600) but I had too much grief with their copy-protection scheme and so had to drop them.

Credits

Jerry, Trey, Fuzzbee and Brian are amazing!

Larry Fast provided me with samples and loops for some of the songs and his guidance and insights as to how some sounds were originally created and performed was absolutely critical to recreating the experience.

Jim Kleban provided me with great information as well as RMI and ARP Prosoloist samples for the Genesis songs we performed from the Lamb album.

I’d also like to thank the support team at Cycling74 as well as many users on the Cycling74 support forums. MaxMSP was a core component in making this project workable.

Norman Bedford gets a prize for organizational expertise.

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to Scott Weinberger for inviting me into this project and giving me the opportunity to achieve one of my lifelong dreams.

Conclusion

I hope this information is of interest and please feel free to submit comments and questions. I’ll do my best to respond as time permits.

Using Max with the Eigenharp Alpha

April 26th, 2012 No comments

April 26th, 2012

A new website has been created that focuses specifically on using Max with the Eigenharp. Please visit http://max4eigenharp.com for more details as well as for the Max patchers to support the Eigenharp.