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3rd November 2013

Tumblr

In 4 days time we leave our rental house here in Kingston, Tasmania and head off on a month long journey around this great nation we call Tasmania Australia. I’ll be posting plenty of updates on Facebook and Instagram. To aggregate all my Instagram pics on a sort of photoblog, I’ve set up an account on tumblr, so if anyone’s interested, you can follow me at :

http://pbaggas.tumblr.com

There’s now a feed of these photos on the right side of this blog too.

Also my boy Luke wanted to set up an account where he could post pics for his friends to follow, so his photos will be posted at :

http://lukebaggas.tumblr.com

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Categories : Australia, Blogs, Internet, photos | 0 Comments

1st November 2013

Kindle Matchbook & Paperwhite

A while ago I made a comment on Facebook about how it would be cool if they gave people eBook copies as well whenever you bought a paper copy of a book. I buy a lot of vinyl records and very often they include a coupon to download a digital copy of the album as well, giving me the best of both worlds. kindle-matchbook1-300x245Also, Amazon offer a feature called AutoRip where many of the records and CDs purchased from them entitle you to download an MP3 copy as well.

Well now Amazon have released a service along these lines for books – Kindle Matchbook. This service offers a cheap Kindle version for some of the books you have purchased through Amazon. Supposedly these Kindle versions cost between free and $2.99 but on my list of available books they are all $2.99, immediately making the service a bit less attractive than the free AutoRip for music. Unfortunately the selection of available books is far from comprehensive – of the hundreds of books I’ve purchase from Amazon in the last decade, only 71 are currently available under the Matchbook program, and no books published in the last 2 years seem to be available. It seems a little random as to which books are available and which publishers. It also seems that new or recent release books may not be available.

To take an example, one of my all time favourite authors is N T Wright. I have bought most of his books from Amazon over the years, at least 30. In my list of available Kindle matchbook titles there are about 7 available.  The most recent one available is “After You Believe” from Harper Collins. In September I got his new book “The Case for the Psalms” also from Harper Collins, but this is not available on Matchbook. This is a slight bother for me as I am currently reading this book and may not finish before we head off on a month long road trip next week – being able to get the Kindle version (even for $2.99) would have been great so I don’t have to take the hardback book on the road with me.

Anyway it may not be perfect but at least it’s a start – hopefully as time progresses more titles will become available, including newer releases, and possibly the price will come down as well.

 

Kindle Paperwhite

On matters Kindle, in view of our upcoming travels I recently decided to bite the bullet and get myself a Kindle device, since the glare and weight of reading on my iPad were beginning to get tiresome, as well as it being virtually useless for reading out in the sun. I got the new Kindle Paperwhite (ad-free) and I absolutely love it – easy to read in any conditions, lightweight, no eye strain, and simple to be use with the touchscreen (I never really like the old button navigation on the older model Kindles).  I am finding already that I am reading faster and for longer. It’s an absolutely fantastic, simple device that excels at what it is designed for. I also have the Amazon wrap around leather case which complements it perfectly.

kindlepaperwhite

It breaks my rule of not carrying around multiple devices but I am so glad I went for it, especially since I’ll be upgrading to a new, lighter iPad in the near future as well, which should keep my total device weight down.

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Categories : books, eBooks, Gadgets | 2 Comments

29th October 2013

What’s good about Tasmania – Part 2

Here’s a few more good things about living in Hobart :

4. CONVENIENCE

Hobart is a capital city, but it is the size of a big country town (pop approx 200,00o). So it has most of the facilities, but without all the traffic and other problems of big cities. I have really enjoyed being so close to the CBD (intially walking distance in 2012, a 10 minutes drive in 2013) – great for shopping, attending sporting and cultural events – the symphony, a multitude of festivals and exhibitions, and of course a great choice of dining options…

 

5. FOOD & DRINK

Tasmania is increasingly marketing itself as a culinary destination. Obviously it can’t compete on the same scale as Melbourne, but for it’s size it’s hard to beat Hobart for choice of restaurants, many of which I have had the pleasure of trying. Further afield, Tasmania prides itself on it’s fresh produce and the like, if you are into that kind of thing. They are increasingly also being recognized for their beverages as well with some highly regarded whisky distilleries (I don’t know enough about whisky to comment on how good they are) and vineyards. I haven’t really found any Tasmanian red wines to rave over, but some of their whites are very good indeed. And of course the beers, with the traditional south (Hobart) vs north (Launceston) rivalry being represented by Cascades and Boags respectively. A true Hobartian wouldn’t admit it, but I’ve found that I’ve come to prefer the taste of Boags, which is a far cry from my first taste in 2008 when I could barely get through half a glass – that was before I (intentionally) acquired the taste for beer though.

 

6. PROXIMITY

Tasmania is a funny place in that it suffers from some of the tyranny of distance that WA does, with Bass Strait being a significant physical, economic, and cultural barrier. In some ways the isolation feels even more acute here than in WA. But Tassie does have the advantage that it is only a short, cheap 1 hour flight to Melbourne, or 90 mins to Sydney. I was lucky enough to do a couple of solo weekend jaunts to Melbourne and one to Sydney, but unfortunately our attempt to do a family weekend in Melbourne had the kibosh put to it when we had to disembark from a broken plane from an airline which I won’t name (but which rhymes with Steiger)

7. SCHOOLS

It seems a little crazy listing schools as a good thing in a state which has some of the worst educational outcomes in the country, but if you live in the right areas and/or have a bit of money to spend, there are some excellent schools here in Tasmania. We were lucky enough to be able to send our kids to two of the best private schools in the state and I’ve been very impressed – not only excellent educational standards, but fantastic teachers and an outstanding number of opportunities for the boys to try a bunch of things to which they would never otherwise been exposed – including a huge range of sports, camps, leadership and academic extension, and playing stringed instruments in an orchestra. And in comparison to equivalent schools in Perth (which we could never afford and which are too far away from our home anyway) these schools are great value – fees at the top schools in Tas are about a third the cost of the best schools in the bigger capitals.

There are also some very good state schools around the south of Hobart as well, but you have to know which ones are the good ones and live in the right area. The biggest flaw that I can see in the Tasmanian educational system is that their state high schools stop at grade 10, after which kids have the option of going off to “College” for year 11 and 12. This creates an unnecessary “graduation” point at year 10 at which stage a lot of children don’t choose to complete their schooling.

 

 

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Categories : Tasmania | 0 Comments

28th October 2013

What’s good about Tasmania – Part 1

In a little over a week we’re about to depart this green Isle and head permanently back over to “the mainland” but before we do I thought I’d mention a few of the good things about living in Tasmania, specifically Hobart. Obviously there are also some not-so-good things but they are better shared over a cold beer with friends, rather than on the net. But what are the good points about living in Hobart :

1. VIEWS

Virtually everywhere you go in Hobart has impressive views, either of towering Mt Wellington or the glistening waters of the River Derwent. No-where in Australia is there another capital city with a proper mountain as it’s backdrop, and I love how depending on where you are in Hobart you get a different angle on the mountain, from the step (and cold) views from South Hobart to the broad foresty vista from Kingston to the river-bridge-city-mountain combination seen from Eastern shore suburbs like Rosny. Just like Perth people divide their city into north and south of the river, Hobart is strongly divided between west and east, and it is arguably the Eastern shore that offers the best views.

We have lived in two homes in Hobart – one had great views of the yacht club and the river across the road. The second house was a bit further out, but had views of the river out the front window, and an awesome view of Mt Wellington from the back of the house. There was something cool about waking up and looking out my bedroom window and seeing a snow covered mountain in winter, with even better views when I went upstairs for my morning coffee. Which leads me on to the second point…

2. SNOW

Residents of Victoria and NSW may not be quite as spun out by this, but for a Perth boy the novelty of living somewhere where I could regularly see snow was pretty amazing. And again, this is the only capital city where you can drive 20 mins from the CBD and be in a snowy wonderland – at least you can on the rare snow days on which the road to the pinnacle is open. The Hobart council has a nasty habit of closing off the road whenever there is much snow, thus depriving the city of one of it’s best assets. A long discussed push to build a cable car up the mountain seems to be starting to gather some momentum, but in this conservative anti-development state I’ll believe it when I see it.

The best experience we ever had in the snow was our first. Last Easter we drove to the Mt Field national park, about 90 mins from Hobart, to enjoy a snow covered landscape and heavy snowfalls – all of which you would never encounter back in WA.

3. NATURE

It almost goes without saying, Tasmania is naturally beautiful. Mountains and rivers and forests and beaches – an abundance of great spots to visit all within a relatively small piece of land. Be aware though, driving times for a set distance are far longer than on the mainland, where you can usually guestimate averaging 90-110km per hour. In Tassie, thanks to all the mountainous winding roads, averaging 60 – 80 km per hour is probably more realistic. It makes for long (and sometimes tiring) days driving a relatively short distance – but the sights are worth it!

Mt Wellington from our home in Kingston 2013

Mt Wellington from our home in Kingston 2013

 

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Categories : Tasmania | 2 Comments

17th October 2013

2013

First update for 2013, and it’s mid October! Sorry blog.

There are two main reasons for the lack of updates. One is that this site had a problem with malware a while back. Not sure if it’s fully gone now, but I didn’t have the time or energy to do much about it, and the site seems fine now. Secondly it’s just been a busy and tumultuous year. We certainly have managed to see a lot more of Tassie, including visits to Strahan on the West coast, Cradle Mountain, the East Coast, Cockle creek, and a weekend at Burnie. I’ve done a couple of weekend trips to Sydney and Melbourne, for medical and coffee purposes.

Anyway, the biggest news is that we are getting ready to leave Tasmania in 3 weeks from today and move back to Perth. Living in Tasmania has been an interesting experience for us, but for a few reasons it is best that we move back home to our community in WA.

So the removalists come in 3 weeks, and as it takes a few weeks for our stuff to cross Bass Strait and the Australian continent, we have decided to use that time to do a mega road trip, covering all 6 Australian states and 2 territories. Hobart to Devonport (via East Coast Tas), then across Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania, then leaving our car with family friends in Melbourne, hiring an RV and making our way up the East Coast, with the main stops being Canberra, the Gold Coast, Townsville, and Cairns, but obviously making numerous stops along the way. From Cairns we head across Northwest Qld into the NT, stopping in Alice and Uluru before heading down and across the Nullarbor to home.

If this blog is working, and I have time, I will try and post some updates here, but more reliably, for all our friends, I’ll be posting plenty of pics on Facebook I’m sure.



Categories : Personal | 1 Comment

29th August 2012

My digital filing cabinet – Evernote

Evernote is a piece of software that is becoming an increasingly indispensable part of my life. I don’t really use it for writing or taking notes, but as a searchable repository of just about any piece of information I may need access to in the future. The trick is that I am storing it all in one application, so I will never need to wonder where I have saved something on the computer, or where I have stashed a bit of paper – If it’s worth saving, it’s in Evernote!

Some of the things I use it for are

  • saving all bills, statements, letters or any other paper pieces of information I want to retain. I scan them as multi-page PDFs using the Mac OS Image Capture app. Once uploaded to evernote, these PDFs are then searchable.
  • Restaurant / take-away menus – all those things you get in your mail box and when visiting the local Chinese etc. I have them scanned for access on my Mac and iPad/iPhone for whenever we decide to order in.
  • Manuals : product manuals for guitar effects and other products. These can be scanned in or often the PDFs can be downloaded and then dropped into Evernote. Much better than keeping a big box of manuals like I used to do… still need to scan/download a lot of our old appliance manuals but I’ve got most of my guitar ones in there already.
  • Wine : only just started doing this one, but I now have a notebook for remembering wines I like. This can take the form of an iPhone snapshot of a bottle label in a restaurant, or a written note, or copies of tasting notes for wines I’ve ordered.
  • General Reminders : if I’m out and about and see something I want to check out later, or a book I might want to read at some point, or just about anything, I will take a snapshot and save it in a reminders/interest notebook.
  • Article clipping : Newspaper articles imported directly from the awesome PressReader app; Web articles clipped using Evernote’s great web clipping applet; or even scans of paper documents that I want to read later, or save for posterity
  • Cards (eg business cards, various membership cards, licenses etc) : scanned or a phone snapshot (even photos are text searchable)
  • Work documents : patient handouts, psychological tests, and any other docs I might need to print out in the future
  • Important emails : registrations, passwords, significant correspondence, or anything else I may want to refer back to. I just ‘Print PDF to Evernote’ from within the mail app.
  • Book quotes : take a snapshot of a book page; or export from Kindle app. [still need to streamline how I do this]
  • Social media : this is still a work in progress as well, but I’m also now archiving all my tweets, facebook updates, foursquare checkins, instagram posts etc. This is all automated using the wonderful website ifttt.com. The idea being that if I ever want to look back and say when did I do that, say that, go there? then it will be easily searchable in evernote rather than having to search back through the various social media platforms.

That’s a quick summary of most of the things I’m using Evernote for at the moment, but this is just scratching the surface of what this program can do. The web is full of hundreds of ideas for putting this digital filing cabinet to use. The other thing I love about it is just how broadly accessible it is. I have the software installed on 2 Macs, my iPad, iPhone, and work PC (Win 7) – there is also a web interface so you can login from any computer.

Next phase is to look through my real-life filing cabinet and see just how much of it I can import into Evernote (and probably throw a bunch of it away regardless)… increasingly moving towards a paperless life :)

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Categories : Apple, Computers, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Personal, Software, Technology, Windows | 1 Comment

27th August 2012

Traveler – Jerry Douglas

I’ve been using Spotify  for a few months now and it has radically transformed my consumption of music. I’ve been able to discover and listen to a broad range of different and interesting music, yet my music budget has gone down dramatically. I’ve barely bought an album since signing up for the $11 per month Spotify Premium service ** (the fact that my record player is broken may be a factor in this as well). But today, for the first time, I’ve found an album that I immediately thought “I must have that CD or LP in my collection” : Traveller by Jerry Douglas.

Jerry is a virtuoso on dobro/slide guitar, and would be familiar to fans of Alison Krauss + Union Station, whom I’ve enjoyed for a number of years. I have one of his other many solo albums, but this new album Traveler is in a different league. As well as a selection of excellent and interesting instrumentals spanning a range of genre from blues, to bluegrass, and progressive rock, there’s a number of songs with guest contributors including Eric Clapton, Marc Cohn, Alison Krauss (0f course), and Mumford & Sons and Paul Simon. The latter two artists do an amazing version of Simon’s track “The Boxer” which so perfectly fits the style of Mumford & Sons it would not be at all out of place on their own album. Of course it’s tastefully augmented by Douglas’ wonderful dobro playing. It would be worth getting the album for this track alone, but there’s so much other gold on there to be found. “Going to Fortingall” is a really nice 6/8 instrumental soft bluegrass track, and “Something You Got” features Clapton in fine blues vocal and guitar form. A wonderfully rewarding album – if you like blues, bluegrass, folk, rock, (even Spanish guitar!) or just appreciate damn fine music then you should check it out for sure.

 

** Spotify is fantastic as a music consumer; however I have my doubts about how viable this model is for artists – but I’ll leave that discussion alone for now.



Categories : iPod, music | 0 Comments

3rd August 2012

My current favourite website

If This Then That - http://ifttt.com/

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Categories : Personal | 0 Comments

27th July 2012

Motorised Lego Tram

Recently I’ve discovered a new hobby, or maybe re-discovered is more accurate. I’m no longer afraid to admit it, I’m an adult who likes Lego! When I’m spending time in the Lego section in Myer or K-mart or Toyworld I’m looking just as much out of my own in interest as for the kids… it all started in earnest after we got Owen a freight train for his birthday in June. Since that time we have started working on our own Lego city, with a surplus of trains! Thus far we have our original yellow cargo train 7939, the red passenger train 7938, and a blue tram from the now discontinued 8404 Public Transport set, which also come with an awesome green bus and a few other things.

The problem with the blue tram is, although it fits on the standard lego train tracks, you have to push it around by hand. What we need here is more power!

To make this happen I got hold of two things -

1. a set of lego power functions elements (remote control and receiver, battery box and train motor). 2. Another blue lego tram (on it’s own, without the bus and the rest of the stuff from the Transport set), which I sourced from Bricklink – the unofficial Lego(R) marketplace, which is a much better place to get Lego than eBay, by the way.

I left the original set of 3 cars pretty much intact and used the new set to create an additional passenger carriage, and most importantly, a central motorised carriage. There was one other guy on YouTube who had motorized his 3 car tram but at the expense of losing one and a half carriages worth of seating, and what’s the point of having a high speed tram if there’s no room for people to sit?! So I like my 5 car solution much better, for that reason, and for the fact that the engine car is completely self contained.

Without further ado, here’s a video of my creation :

YouTube Preview Image

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Categories : Lego, Trains | 3 Comments

27th July 2012

Picture Perfect

In lieu of my posting many updates from Tasmania on this blog, here’s another blog by my lovely wife where you can see many of Jen’s and my pictures : http://pictureperfect-jenni.blogspot.com.au/

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Categories : Personal | 0 Comments

16th July 2012

Pedal Board 2012 – Update 2

Looks like my pedal board is soon to be coming up into active duty again, so  thought it was time to give it a quick spruce up and revamp.

 

The main changes are :

1. Addition of  ISP Decimator G-string noise-gate pedal : never been a big fan of noise gates in the past, but then I’ve never had to practice in rooms with electric heaters before either! This is a very good gate. It doesn’t suck out too much of my clean tone, but really cleans things up when my dirt pedals are on. And I always have the option of switching it off altogether if I’m playing really quiet, delicate stuff.

2. Removed large Boss FV-500 volume pedal and replaced with smaller FV-50 – cause I needed more space.

3. Now using Boss FV-500 pedal (on left) as expression pedal to control the Strymon Timeline (mostly set to control delay mix) – notice the Tasmanian-flavoured preset :)

4. Tuner pedal is now out of the chain, and coming out of the ‘tuner out’ of the G50 Wireless, so I can have always-on tuning. Can still mute using the volume pedal.

 

 

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Categories : Effects, Guitar, Pedal Board | 0 Comments

10th May 2012

Attributes of highly successful people

Just thinking about what might be some of the common attributes of highly successful President and future PM?individuals? Are these things innate, or are they things we can work on? What are the things that make a Barack Obama, Tony Abbott, Gillard, Howard or any other successful leader in their field stand out?

Here’s a few ideas that I came up with, but I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks. If you are on my facebook, better to respond below this post there as it’s a better place to have a dynamic discussion than on blog comments.

Attributes of highly successful people :

  1. Self-discipline
  2. Strong sense of purpose and ideology
  3. Reading – most successful people are heavy readers, devouring books (my problem is I read a lot of books but am terrible at remembering what’s in them)
  4. Systematic and organised
  5. Can manage on a minimum of sleep; are early risers
  6. Strong communication skills
  7. Interpersonal skills – can engage with individuals, larger groups; can “work a crowd”

That’s just a few for starters. All of these things can be worked on and improved upon, but I wonder if some people are just blessed with that special mix of attributes conducive to political success? Would love to hear other people’s thoughts..

Obviously there is a whole other spiritual dimension too, but I’m focussing here on generic attributes which contribute to success in politics, business, academia, the church or any other field.

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Categories : Politics, Religion | 2 Comments

7th May 2012

Origami iPad Keyboard Case

Finally my iPad has matured into a fully fledged laptop replacement, with the addition of an Apple wireless keyboard and an inexpensive Incase Origami keyboard case.

Last week I was trying to use up some surplus rewards points on a credit card I am hoping to close soon, and the only thing I could really find within my points budget was another Apple wireless keyboard. I already have one for my iMac at home but I figured this would be useful to pair with my iPad. Typing on the iPad onscreen keyboard is fine for short things, but for longer documents, blogging, long emails etc, it can be slow and tiresome. This keyboard works great. The only problem was having to prop my iPad up on something to be able to use it at a decent angle for typing, but after a brief search I discovered this origami keyboard case, which folds down to protect your keyboard in your bag, and folds up to provide a secure stand for the iPad, in landscape or portrait orientation. It works perfectly. The only difficulty I found was that portrait mode on my laptoo was a bit unstable, but in landscape mode, or in either mode on a desk, it works fine.

Just one my nail in the coffin of my poor neglected laptop.

 



Categories : Apple, Gadgets, iPad | 3 Comments

3rd April 2012

">Pedal Board 2012 – Update 3

Time for another pedal board update, the third and probably final one for 2012.

You may have noticed this year my updates have been less frequent, due to :

(a) tighter financial circumstances so being more frugal

(b) wasn’t in a band for the first 6 months, although now part of the team at Grace, and loving it

(c) pretty happy with the combination of pedals that I have, no major yearnings for more, so less changes

(d) doing my best to keep away from that den of temptation, The Gear Page

 

But here’s my latest update. I wanted something to fill the gap between a looper and a long delay, to provide long sustained notes, or pads to play over, and decided the the Electroharmonix SuperEgo fitted the bill perfectly. It’s a simple pedal that basically samples the note or chord you are playing at the instant you press it, and sustains until you switch it off. You can tweak the decay of that sound, and also put extra effects in an external loop to add chorus, vibrato or whatever. Very practical and useful effect.

 

The chain is as follows :

  • Line6 Relay G50 wireless
  • ISP Decimator G-string    (to loop)
    • Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-200
    • Wampler Leviathan Fuzz
    • Analogman King of Tone
    • Wampler Paisley Overdrive
    • Timmy
    • Boss FV-50 Volume
    • TC Electronics NM-1 Nova Modulator
    • Strymon El-Capistan dTape echo
    • Strymon Timeline Delay (with Tech-21 Midi Mouse for preset switching)
    • Strymon BlueSky Reverb    (loop return to ISP)
  • Electroharmonix SuperEgo
All installed on a PedalTrain PT-3 pedal board with my CIOKS DC-10 power supply mounted underneath.
All sounds good. No plans to change for now. Next update in 2013 hopefully :)

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Categories : Pedal Board | 8 Comments

14th March 2012

Lunching around Hobart

Many of my friends would know that my favourite meal of the day is lunch. I especially enjoy lunch if there is a nice view, a good book or good company, and sometimes a good glass of wine too!  So it will come as no surprise that one of the things I love about Hobart is the smorgasbord of great places I can to go have lunch within easy distance of my work and home.

Today I was in the CBD running an errand for Owen, so I was short of time, and also feeling a bit strapped for cash. So I decided to head down to the Hobart waterfront and try out one of the floating fish and chip shops they have moored along the docks.

The first one I came to was Flippers, just a stone’s throw from the main thoroughfare of Davey St. Walked down the gangplank and placed my order for some Trevalla (which seems to be the standard fish here in Tassie) and Chips.

 

 

 

Sat down by this statue of Louis Bernacchi (an early Antarctic explorer who attended the same school that my boys go to), enjoying my food and taking in the views of the harbour on a lovely autumn day. While I was there a couple of Japanese fellows somewhat ironically stopped to take their photos in front of the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling ship Bob Barker. Obviously Hobart port don’t strictly enforce the anti-pirate flag regulations that Fremantle do.)

 

Then I strolled back to my car, enjoying the views of the harbour, city, and mountain before the short drive back to work. Hobart is indeed a great spot for lunching!

 

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Categories : Tasmania | 0 Comments

10th March 2012

Pedal Board 2012 – Update 1

Since my last pedal board update we’ve moved all the way across Australia and over Bass Strait to the city of Hobart in the island state of Tasmania. As a result of this big move I’m no longer active as a church worship guitarist, but for the moment am just a simple bedroom guitar player… so I thought I should change my board around to a more bedroom sized board.

Consequently I’ve put aside my humungous Diago Tourman hard case and replaced it with a PedalTrain 3 board. It’s relatively more compact, but still large enough for me to fit in all the essential pedals. It also has the advantages of being sloped, to provide better access to the upper rows of pedals, and has enough room to mount a power supply underneath. With the help of a power drill and a couple of screws, my trusty CIOKS DC-10 power supply is cosily mounted underneath the middle at the top, with just a single power cord for the whole board.

 

Signal path is as follows :

  • Line6 Relay G50 wireless
  • Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-200 – possible the most accurate stomp box tuner around
  • Wampler Leviathan Fuzz
  • Analogman King of Tone
  • Wampler Paisley Overdrive
  • Timmy
  • Boss FV-500H Volume
  • TC Electronics NM-1 Nova Modulator
  • Strymon El-Capistan dTape echo
  • Strymon Timeline Delay (with Tech-21 Midi Mouse for preset switching)
  • Strymon BlueSky Reverb
So it’s a slightly smaller board than my old one, but still very versatile in terms of the sounds I can achieve. Even if/when I possibly start playing in public again, I think I’ll still keep this setup in preference to my old board – since it’s a bit more portable and takes up a lot less stage realestate. Plus it’s a bit less ostentatious!
My only problem is that I am getting an intermittent crackly sound through my amp, which has nothing to do with my pedal board wiring. I think perhaps I may need to replace the tubes, which is a bit annoying as it’s less than a year old, but then I guess the rigors of our 4000km drive across Australia may have been a little much. Not sure if there is anywhere in Hobart I can buy tubes or if I will have to source them online.
EDIT – 14/03/2012
So I ended up ordering some replacement tubes off a place in Melbourne via eBay – I went for JJ tubes : a pair of match EL84 power tubes and a set of three gold tipped ECC83 12ax7 preamp tubes.
They arrived today and it was quite a straightforward process to replace them. The trickiest parts were removing the back panel of the amp – firstly because there is a lot of screws – make sure you use an electric driver. Secondly the panel was very stiff the first time I tried to get it off – it did get easier after I’d pried it loose the first time. The other tricky part was removing the left hand preamp tube, which has a metal collar around it’s base – took a while to tease it out. Both these problems were the same as encountered by the guy in this helpful video, which I discovered part way through :
YouTube Preview Image
I’m pleased to say, changing the power tubes completely fixed my problem of a weird crackle in the amp, but I proceded to replace the preamp tubes anyway while I was at it. Overall I’m very glad I did – even though the amp sounded great originally, it sounds even better with these tubes – a richer tone with more depth as well as more of that famed Vox chime. Very happy :)

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Categories : Effects, Guitar, Pedal Board | 3 Comments

8th March 2012

KONY – a can of worms

So the world has woken up today with a new, unfamiliar name on it’s lips : Kony. In what has to be one of the most startling marketing campaigns in history, hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions by now) of people have suddenly learnt the name Kony – but it’s not some new product or soft drink or gadget (although in other news, the new iPad was announced overnight as well) – Joseph Kony is a depraved rebel leader who has killed, abducted, and abused thousands of people, especially children, in rural Uganda and surrounding countries.

If you’ve somehow missed it, here’s the brilliant video that is circulating regarding Kony, and the campaign to stop him :

YouTube Preview Image

Now I have a confession to make – unlike most of the world I knew about Kony before yesterday. I’ve known about him since the first time we went to Uganda in 2006. Kony was a constant topic of conversation around Kampala, and was often front page news. But I’m not bragging about being in the know, since I didn’t do anything about it – I didn’t talk about him on facebook or blog about it (except a brief mention here) or write to the government or anything. To be fair though, what’s one lone Australian guy to do? But this time it’s different – where one person can’t make any difference, maybe millions can?

I find this Kony campaign interesting in a couple of ways.

1. Firstly, it shows what a strange new world we live in – the power of social media. We’ve already seen this in some of the recent uprisings in Arab nations, but I don’t think a full scale mobilisation of this sort has taken place in the West. Amazing how in the space of less than 24 hours, suddenly everyone is talking about a story that has been ignored for over 20 years, and with still very little coverage in the mainstream media.

2. Secondly, although I deplore Kony and would be overjoyed to see him brought to justice, I’m still not sure what the specific goals of this campaign are. Is it just to maintain awareness of Kony so the US Govt will maintain it’s limited assistance to Uganda? (assistance that has so far been very unfruitful over a number of years), or is it ultimately to the the US Govt to commit even more resources to the hunt for Kony?

In the middle of all that, what do we as Australians (and other non-US citizens around the world) hope to achieve by being part of this? I’m happy to share this story, sign their petition, maybe even wear a shirt and post some stickers around – I think it’s long overdue that it is brought to the world’s attention – but I don’t know what more can be done from an Aussie perspective. Will writing to our local parliamentarian or foreign minister (I wouldn’t even bother with our useless PM) make any difference? What practical steps do we hope to gain from that kind of action here?

Also, it’s unusual for such a big grassroots movement like this that this is anything but a pacifist campaign – we are used to things like “save the rainforest” “feed the children” “forgive the debt” “free Aung San Su Kyi” etc which all have peaceful aims. This campaign is specifically designed to bolster a military presence to capture Joseph Kony (although many would also be happy with seeing him dead, in my opinion he should be caught alive and brought to answer for his crimes). But would catching Kony be enough to stop the LRA? Who’s to say another leader wouldn’t rise up in his place and the crimes continue? Perhaps in calling to remove Kony we are really calling for a full scale military intervention to defeat the LRA? Would the US Govt have the stomach to send it’s soldiers into one of the toughest areas of the world?

And then, if Kony is captured, and the LRA is defeated, what about other evil warlords in neighbouring Congo? We hear about the LRA and Kony and the invisible children in part because Uganda is a relatively safe and accessible country where westerners (like me) can visit and hear and bring back stories like this. The DRC is a much more inhospitable and dangerous place to visit, so even though similar or worse atrocities are happening there, it is even further under our western media radar. Would it be fair to defeat Kony and then send all the soliders home, while the carnage continues in Congo? And if you were to commit troops to Congo, well that’s a quagmire far bigger than Iraq or Vietnam…. (think Equatorial Kundu, any West Wing fans out there)

So you can see this whole Kony thing potentially opens a big geo-political can of worms. I’m not saying I’m against it – in fact I’m in favour of stopping Kony (especially because I have a personal connection to Uganda) and any other similar war-criminal – but I just think we don’t know where this could lead…  Most likely, nowhere much. Obama will do the safe political thing and just maintain a minimal effort to stopping Kony. Eventually they will get him, we will all celebrate and the troops will go home, whilst the inhuman crimes in the deepest parts of Africa continue to be ignored by most of the world. Anything more will require some kind of ‘new world order’ that I doubt we are ready for just yet.

As is always the case in Africa, there are no simple solutions…

 

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Categories : Africa, Uganda | 0 Comments

6th March 2012

Catching Up

As I took the bins out in the rain this morning, and looked across at the Derwent, I was thinking that it still spins me out sometimes that we are here, living in another city on a big island on the other side of Australia. It feels like we have been here for ages and we are settling in very well in all areas of life, but just once in a while I just stop and think “Wow, we really are here!”

Our big trip over here in January now feels like ancient history, and it occurred to me that I never got around to blogging about it or posting photos (although my facebook friends got a lot of photos on the way across). So in lieu of a detailed story of our big road trip, you can check out all the photos on my flickr set : 2012 Perth to Hobart Road Trip. I’m in the process of adding some descriptions to the photos, which will make it a bit more interesting, but there’s a lot there, including photos from every hole on the Nullarbor Links Golf course (the world’s longest!), the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, National Sports Museum, and much more…

Otherwise things are falling into place in most departments here. We love the suburb we live in, convenient to the city, easy walk to the river, shops, cafes etc – short drive to work and school etc. Our rental house is a bit cramped and old but it’s worth it for the location. The boys are thriving in their new school, and we are thrilled with the opportunities they are getting there. Owen has developed a passion for cricket, and as it was too late in the season to get him into a team, we have started private coaching for him, with a really nice guy who is an ex state player. He is doing very well. As I mentioned in a previous post we have found a great church and are starting to get to know a few people there.

Work-wise I am enjoying my new practice. It’s a great location, close to the beach and with plenty of good lunch options within easy distance (It’s less than 10 minutes to the CBD so the options are endless). The patient mix is good – not too many old people, increasing numbers of kids, and a lot more travel medicine – which means I’m finally starting to put my Masters of Tropical Medicine and Public Health to good use. The only problem is that the billings here are still a lot lower than before so finances are still somewhat of a stress.

Anyway I’d better get back to work, but thought it was worth giving a quick update so you all know that we are doing well, and loving in here in Hobart.

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Categories : Australia, Family, General Practice, Housekeeping, Paul, Personal, Tasmania | 1 Comment

29th February 2012

iPad 3

Good news for Apple fans – there’s a new iPad being released next week.

I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. The most touted improvements are a much higher res screen, faster processor, and better camera.

But for me, especially since I’m in a new job not earning as much money, I don’t think I will be upgrading any time soon, unless Apple unveils some other killer feature that compels me to want one. And I can’t imagine what this sort of feature will be. I’m very happy with my iPad 2. It’s become an essential tool in my daily life. But I never find myself sitting wishing the screen was better (last time I did that was my iPhone 3Gs), I rarely use the camera except for the occasional skype or Facetime (but use my 4S camera all the time for snaps), and the iPad 2 speed is pretty zippy as it is. The only thing I regularly wish was different with my iPad was more storage capacity – but that’s just my silly fault for going for the cheapest 16Gig model instead of splashing out for a larger one. I’m continually having to delete stuff to free up more space on my iPad.

So iPad 3 sounds exciting – I’m sure it will maintain Apple’s dominance in the tablet market. But unless they have a big surprise in store it’s probably not for me… at least not just yet.

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Categories : Apple, iPad | 2 Comments

26th February 2012

Special Sites

Following on from my last entry, here’s a few more links I recommend. These sites also are heavily focussed on Hobart, but they are ones which hold a more personal relevance for me :

1. OwenRocks.com – Owen’s website where he is planning to put in more updates about his new life in Hobart. Most recently you can see some episodes of his YouTube show “Kids vs Tasmania” – with another one coming in the next couple of days.

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2. Tassiefamily.comA New Tassie Family. This wonderful new blog looks at some great places to see and things to do around Hobart, from the perspective of a freshly arrived family, like us. I should probably also mention that it’s my lovely Jennifer’s site :)

3. Hobart.org.au – this site is actually the new domain for our new church, Grace Church. Despite being on the ‘wrong side’ of the Derwent River from us, we’ve really begun to feel at home at this church. Very friendly with great preaching and worship, and a strong vision for outreach to Hobart and the world beyond, including our other favourite country, Uganda. Keeping an eye out for their ads on buses around Hobart.

4. Hutchins School – this is the school the boys are going to, which is very close to where we are living. Not only is it a very high quality education, but it seems to be very genuinely caring, and the boys are both settling in very well.

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Categories : Blogs, Tasmania | 0 Comments

9th February 2012

Hobart Blogs

A couple of Hobart blogs I’ve found worth checking out :

1. Moving to Tasmania – very valuable content here on Sarah’s page, which discusses a lot of the idiosyncrasies of Tasmanian life. Has been a big help to us in this process.Tasmania flg mug

2. Mumma Needs Coffee – a local cafe blog – specifically relating to good places for “yummy mummys” and “funky dads” (I guess that’s me) to go with their youngsters. I’ve only scratched the surface of cafe culture here in Hobart, and for the most part it’s pretty good (no FiveSenses though so far) – this blog will be a useful reference in my continuing, slow exploration of the cafe scene.

Will keep an eye out for more blogs and list them here as time permits. Hope all my mainlander cuzins are going well. Found it interesting watching George Clooney’s brilliant movie The Descendants last night where they mentioned “the mainland” … perhaps Tasmania is to Australia, as Hawaii is to the USA? :)

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Categories : Blogs, Coffee, Tasmania | 0 Comments

19th December 2011

From Safety Bay to Sandy Bay

… if I were creating a new blog that would be the title I think. Not that I live or have ever lived in Safety Bay, but it’s close to where we are, and I went to High School there, so I think it’s not too much of a stretch to use Safety Bay in the title…. sounds much more catchy than “From Port Kennedy to Sandy Bay”

Anyway, where the heck is Sandy Bay, some of you might be asking?

Sandy Bay is a suburb just to the south of Hobart, Tasmania where we will be moving in January 2012. Many of our friends have known this for a long time but I’ve never gotten around to mentioning it here for anyone who might stumble across this poor neglected blog.

In search of a new experience and adventure for our family we are relocating to Hobart. We finally found a rental house in Sandy bay close to the beach and shops and the CBD (5 min drive).  I have decided which medical centre I want to work at (5 minute drive away), and we have the kids enrolled in some great schools (also 5 minute drive or 10 minute walk away) – Hutchins for the boys, and St Michael’s Collegiate for Mia. (you guessed it – 5 minute drive!)

Keep an eye on this blog for regular updates about our adventures in Tasmania… also Owen’s website http://www.owenrocks.com has been revamped at he will be posting stories there too, so check that out as well.

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Categories : Personal, Tasmania | 1 Comment

2nd September 2011

Doesn’t get much better than this

Surely this must be one of the strongest starts to an album in the history of recorded music…. sounds wonderful on vinyl too! :)

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Categories : music, U2 | 0 Comments

21st August 2011

Social Reading

Amazon Kindle developers take notice – I have an idea for you, or any other eBook platform that cares to listen.The next advance in eBook reading is what I’m terming “social reading.” This takes the explosion of eBook readers and combines it with your old fashioned book clubs and combines it with social networking like Facebook.

Kindle already incorporates a feature like this in an anonymous rudimentary form – you can see what passages other readers have highlighted. What I imagine however takes the basic idea and expands on it. Link your Kindle with your Facebook account or even just your amazon.com account and then you could share your highlights and comments with other users, and from there have a discussion thread about the passage. What a great way to enhance your reading of a book, to take part in a discussion about it’s contents and to see what others have said. Such a feature could be limited to your online friends/contacts or could be publicly open to any readers anywhere.

Anyway that’s my idea. I doubt I’m the first one to come up with it but it just came to me while reading. If any Amazon developers want to talk more about it, please feel free to get in touch :P

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Categories : books, eBooks | 0 Comments

16th August 2011

Pedal Board 2011 – Update 4

The Final Update

Well here it is – what is hopefully my final pedal board update for the rest of the year.

My list is empty. I now have no further Pedals that I’m intending to get. I have sold a lot of guitar gear this year including pedals and amps and have arrived at a rig that I am truly happy with. The final pieces of the puzzle were the awesome Strymon Timeline delay, and finally a new tube amp – a Vox AC15C1. To complement the amp I also added a footswitch to toggle the amp reverb and tremolo, and a Lehle Little Dual A/B/Y switch so I can switch between the “normal” and “top boost” amp channels or use them together.

Put the new rig through it’s paces on Sunday, using almost all of the pedals, and I have never been more contented with my tone.

 

Signal path is as follows :

  • Line6 Relay G50 wireless
  • Korg PitchBlack Plus Tuner – also acts as an A/B switch so I can plug in a second guitar in addition to my wireless
  • Boss AW-3 Auto-wah – with manual control by Boss FV-500L (right one – uses as expression pedal)
  • Wampler Leviathan Fuzz
  • Wampler Ego Compressor
  • Wampler Paisley Overdrive
  • Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe Distortion
  • Tim (Paul Cochrane)
  • Boss FV-500L Volume (the left one)
  • Strymon El Capistan (tape echo) – with Favourite Switch
  • TC Nova Modulator (mods including chorus, tremolo, flange, vibrato etc)
  • Strymon Timeline Delay <—> Tech 21 Midi Mouse for preset switching
  • Strymon Blue Sky Reverberator
  • Boss RV-5 Reverb
  • Boomerang III Phrase Sampler / Looper
  • Lehle Little Dual A/B/Y switcher
Power is the CIOKS DC-10, for everything except the Boomerang, which uses a separate supply. And the only other pedal on the board is the Vox VFS2A footswitch for amp reverb and tremolo switching as mentioned above. Cables are Lava solder free cables, and the case is a Diago Tourman pedal case.
So that’s it for now. As I said I have no current plans to buy any more pedals, and am limiting my visits to The Gear Page so I don’t get tempted by shiny new things. Only guitar related item I seriously want right now is a decent acoustic, but that will have to wait, since we are in a phase of saving, paying off debt, and doing whatever we can to get our house to sell (which is not much – we are at the mercy of the market unfortunately…)
Besides, maybe now that I have my ultimate rig I should actually focus on something more important, like improving my playing. :)

 

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Categories : Effects, Guitar, Pedal Board | 2 Comments

10th August 2011

Kindle Highlights

Ok so I just discovered another Kindle feature today that is making me even more of an eBook convert. I like the way you can highlight stuff in Kindle (I’m using the iPad app rather than the actual Kindle device), and I like the way it also shows you what other people have highlighted, but beyond that I wasn’t really aware of how you can put it to use.

For a long time I’ve been a compulsive underliner in books but my problem has always been how to keep track of what I’ve underlined or how to find quotes later, without just flipping through the book.

The nice feature I’ve discovered in Kindle is that you have a webpage in your account where you can view all of your highlights and notes from all your Kindle books. Much easier to scroll through these, or use a text search, to find what you are looking for than having to flip through a whole book. You can also clip these highlights for use in other applications such as Evernote (or just about any software  I guess). HT to Michael Hyatt, whose blog I discovered this useful information on.  Read the link for more information about this feature and how to integrate this with Evernote.

Another thing I’m starting to appreciate about Kindle is the instant gratification of seeing a book recommended on a blog or by a friend, and being able to download and start reading it within a minute… although there are obvious risks in this as well if you are not disciplined in your book buying (a trap I have fallen deeply into in the past).

Finally the other simple good thing I’m appreciating about Kindle is that it is a space saver. As much as I still love the physical form of books, with a big move on the horizon for us, the thought of packing up my library of books and shipping them to our new home is quite daunting. Hence my leaning towards eBooks at present I am not compounding that problem. It’s also much better for travel and keeping what I’m reading with me at all times.

So I’m pretty much a Kindle convert now. For myself I wouldn’t buy the Kindle device itself as I love my iPad and the all-in-one functionality it gives me, but Jen is quite keen on the smaller form factor so we’ll probably get one for her in the next few months – perhaps when the next generation Kindles are released. Presumably we should be both be able to share the same library of purchased Kindle book titles which will be cool.

 

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Categories : Apple, books, eBooks, iPad | 2 Comments

26th July 2011

Randomness

Time for another one of those posts where I list a few things I’ve been into lately. Work is a little quiet today, which I’m blaming on being the first day of school term. It’s been busy the last few weeks so hopefully today is just a temporary blip.

Music / Entertainment

- Bon Iver – loving the new album by Bon Iver – very atmospheric stuff; it’s like post-rock with vocals; and the first song is named after Perth :)

- Wicked – we saw this show last weekend at Burswood. Very entertaining. If you get the chance to see it then make sure you do.

- West Wing – watching our DVD collection of this show again. Definitely one of the best shows ever.

Computing / Tech

- Lion – the new Mac OS seems noticeably zippier, but I’ve had a few random crashes and it’s taking a while to get used to the new scroll bars and spaces; seems like a definite step in the right direction but I haven’t really come to grips with all the new features yet

- iPad Apps – no huge new discoveries lately; my Most used apps are :

  • PressReader for news (now including Tasmania Mercury but still no Western Australian papers)
  • OnSong – Music chord chart display app
  • Tab Toolkit – awesome guitar tab where you can download “Power tabs” where you can listen to a midi audio track that follows the music. An amazing way to learn songs
  • Pocket Bible – still the best Bible software around despite being widely ignored in reviews. The iPad experience is phenomenal.
  • NoteMaster – useful notetaking software which syncs with Google Docs
- Google+ – seems like a nice interface but I cannot see this really competing with FaceBook – the sheer volume of people already on FB will make it virtually impossible for G+ to compete. Google needs to accept that this ship has sailed already.
- PS3 – enjoying playing Test Drive 2 Unlimited with the boys. Starting to get the hang of it despite some early frustrations trying to earn my driving license :P
Guitar stuff
Have been progressively selling some of my old guitar stuff to fund new stuff, as part of an effort to de-clutter our house for sale and to be financially prudent, but still get the new stuff I want.
- Vox – got a new Vox AC15C1 amp which sounds fantastic. Great to finally have a Tube amp after all this time and it makes a big difference. It’s a smaller amp but plenty loud enough and has brilliant chimey cleans.
- Strymon Timeline – this new delay pedal is perhaps the best effects pedal I have played ever. The delays sound so good and even the more weird sounds are usable. I’m fortunate to have one of only a handful of these in Australia so far.. to my knowledge I was the second person down under to get one :)  Pics and a pedal board update coming in the next week or so…
News / University / The Future
So this week I finally graduated from James Cook University with a Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (with Distinction). Nice to have that behind me. It was a good course and Townsville is a great place to visit, but I’m glad to have it finished and now we can move on to ‘what’s next’…  In the long term the degree will allow me to practice more seriously in travel medicine and hopefully eventually do more overseas aid/missions work, but for now it’s just a nice looking certificate and some extra letters after my name, which is now officially : Dr Paul Adam Baggaley MBBS MPH&TM FRACGP DRANZCOG     Just waiting for my new business cards to arrive…lol
The next big thing is too big to mention on here until it’s official, although some of you will know already what we have planned.  Suffice to say that sometime in the next 6-12 months there’s a big change coming, and when it does I’ll probably be blogging here a lot more regularly again. For the moment we are waiting on the lacklustre housing market, but once we have some definite news I will be sure to post something on here… in the meantime my friends can catch me on Facebook for updates.

 

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Categories : Current, Effects, Guitar, iPad, Mac, music, News, Paul, Personal, Tasmania, Tropical Medicine, University, West Wing | 4 Comments

18th May 2011

Pedal Board 2011 – Update 3

So here’s the hopefully penultimate pedal board update for 2011.

I have finally got my hands on the Timmy overdrive and swapped my second hand Tim for a new one. If you don’t have either of these pedals then you owe it to yourself to get on the waitlist. Paul Cochrane is a great guy who makes awesome pedals at a very reasonable price. Get on the list now and you’ll be thankful in 5-6 months time.

Also I’ve rectified my fuzz deficiency with the Wampler Leviathan fuzz. Brian is another top notch pedal maker with an excellent range to choose from. This pedal can produce some pretty wild fuzz growl but you can also dial it back for some relatively more subdued tones as well. A great pedal which adds yet another optional to my tonal palette.

The other pedal I’ve added is a Boomerang III looper. I sold my old Digitech JamMan looper and upgraded to one of these babies.  It’s very responsive and versatile and has no adverse effect on my tone. I’m still gradually exploring what this pedal can do but if you’re in the market for a live guitar looper you should have a serious look at the ‘Rang.

Signal path is as follows :

  • Line6 Relay G50 wireless
  • Korg PitchBlack Plus Tuner – also acts as an A/B switch so I can plug in a second guitar in addition to my wireless
  • Boss AW-3 Auto-wah – with manual control by Boss FV-500L (right one – uses as expression pedal)
  • Wampler Leviathan Fuzz
  • Wampler Ego Compressor
  • Wampler Paisley Overdrive
  • Timmy
  • Tim (Paul Cochrane)
  • Boss FV-500L Volume (the left one)
  • Strymon El Capistan (tape echo) – with Favourite Switch
  • TC Nova Modulator (mods including chorus, tremolo, flange, vibrato etc)
  • TC Nova Delay
  • Boss DD-20 Delay –> with external tap tempo
  • Strymon Blue Sky Reverberator
  • Boss RV-5 Reverb
  • Boomerang III Phrase Sampler / Looper

All are powered by the CIOKS DC-10 power supply (except for the Boomerang) and on a Diago Tourman pedal board.

I said this is the penultimate update as I only have one more pedal I’m intending to add and then my board will be “complete” (yeh right). That is the Strymon Timeline delay which will hopefully be released sometime in the next month. I’m already in the process of selling other stuff to finance that one – they should have called it the Strymon Messiah instead of Timeline – the expectations are so high for this pedal!

After that I will be in retirement from the pedal market for the time being as we desperately try to save for adoption (which is looking increasingly less likely to happen) and possibly moving.. so my attention turns from the pedal market to the real estate market..

 

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Categories : Pedal Board | 3 Comments

18th May 2011

PressReader for iPad

Obviously one of the killer uses of tablets is for reading news, magazines etc. And there’s a bunch of apps around which allow you to read the news in various ways. Some are aggregators of news from various sources, and many are apps which get news from a specific service (eg NYT, Slate, ABC, The Age, The Australian, BBC etc) Many of these apps are now moving to a paid subscription model, but as far as I can tell, there is still a lot of content in their physical newspapers that is not always on the net.

So what if you like reading newspapers the old fashioned way, flicking through the pages, browsing the headlines and reading what interests you, seeing the pictures, the layout, even the advertisements? If so then I have the perfect app for you – it’s called Press Reader. This is an app which allows you to download full copies of thousands of actual newspapers from around the world. You can then swipe through them like you’re reading a real paper, and then zoom in on the articles that interest you, or even have it read to you in audio. As a news reading experience it is hard to beat – it gives you a similar experience to reading a proper newspaper with all the convenience of the iPad. One of the papers I get on there is The Australian, and I actually think the PressReader experience far surpasses the physical paper, which I’ve always found unwieldy due to it’s large size (especially on planes). This app is perfect for the traveller.

The app itself is a free download and you are allowed to try out 7 full newspapers for free. After that it’s a subscription model either 0.99USD per paper or US$29.95 per month for unlimited downloads. When you think about it, the monthly plan is awesome value compared to subscribing to the physical paper. I now get 4 newspapers automatically downloaded onto my iPad every day for the price of less than one actual paper per day (and I could theoretically download much more than that if I had the time to read them).

Also if you subscribe you can read the same papers on your desktop through their associated Press Display website. The app works on your iPhone as well (although it’s nowhere near as cool) and there is one for android.

The range of papers available is very impressive, but not exhaustive. In Australia there is a good selection of national and state papers including The Australian, The Age, Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun etc however there are some big gaps. For example there are no Western Australian papers like The West Australian or Sunday Times. The Tasmania Mercury is another one I was interested in which was not there. If you live in some of the Eastern capitals I would have no hesitancy in recommending this app but if you are only interested in Perth or Hobart news you may want to wait… having said that I tweeted the company regarding these missing papers and they sent me some encouraging, albeit cryptic, replies – so watch this space.

Notwithstanding this I would strongly encourage anyone with an iPad to download this app and give it a try. It may not be for everyone but as far as I’m concerned it’s quickly become one of my top 2 or 3 most used apps on my iPad. It’s that brilliant!

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Categories : iPad, News | 0 Comments

28th April 2011

eReading

I’m currently re-exploring the world of ereading. Although I’m usually a major early adopter of new technology I’ve been slow to jump on this bandwagon for two main reasons. One is that until I got my iPad recently I’ve not had a really suitable device for ereading. I’ve tried reading on my iPhone and haven’t found it a super comfortable experience (although I did read the entire Dune series of novels on my Palm Pilot whilst working in ICU back in 2002).

 

The other reason is that I like physical books – I like holding them in my hand and (perhaps more importantly for me) like collecting them. It’s the same reason I’ve never fully embraced digital purchasing of music (although I rip all my music to MP3) – I just love having that physical product to collect and hold.

But now, with the convergence of recently getting a usuable reading device (iPad 2) and also with thoughts of possibly moving house making my book collection seem a hindrance in some ways, and in other ways a sad indictment on my excessive accomodation to wasteful hoarding consumerism – with all that eReading seems a more practical and viable proposition.

The iPad 2 certainly is the perfect device. Just the right size that it’s comfortable to read anywhere. I never liked the idea of a dedicated reading device like a Kindle. I’m sure it’s good to use but I want one mobile device that (in combination with my phone) will take care of all my reading, media, and internet needs.

Unfortunately Apple’s iBooks app doesn’t live up to the potential of their device. Actually that’s not entirely true – the app is beautiful and a joy to read on. The problem is the iBooks store, which has an appallingly poor selection of books – at least the Australian one does anyway. Aside from some free classic novels I’ve downloaded, none of the newer books I was interested in buying were available in the iBooks store.

The Kindle App is very similar to iBooks in it’s function, and the Amazon store has a much better (though still not exhuastive) selection of books. It would be nice if the store was incorporated into the app instead of redirecting you to a website in a browser, but the process works okay. I decided today I wanted to read the new book by Christian writer and scientist Francis Collins (as an antidote to an irritating podcast I found myself listening to), and within a minute I had the book on my iPad. The super strong $A at the moment makes the Kindle store very attractive too.

So at the moment it’s Kindle for the win. I haven’t looked at any other eReading Apps so if anyone has any other good suggestions with a good range of books to buy and download, I’d love to hear it.

Bible Apps

Finally, a very brief word about Bible reading Apps. Once again the iPad experience of reading the Bible is a joy compared to the iPhone. The larger screen makes for a more pleasant, versatile and powerful experience.

I just want to mention my favourite Bible app. Everywhere I see the YouVersion Bible app mentioned which seems by far the most popular (including on the church webpage where I found that dodgy podcast). But do yourself a favour and check out Laridian’s Pocket Bible. This is a super powerful Bible app which allows for split screen mode so you can have a number of Bible translations (or notes, commentaries, dictionaries, devotionals etc etc) on screen at the same time – don’t know why YouVersion doesn’t have that. It also has excellent search, bookmarking and note taking facilities. All the Bibles are downloaded onto your device (iPhone or iPad or iPod touch) which means no worrying about having an internet connection. And there’s a huge range of translations available for this software. The other great thing about this company is that once you buy a title from them once you can then use it on any device which supports their software. Over the years moving from Palm to Windows Mobile to iPhone to iPad I’ve built up a huge collection of Bible versions from Laridian which I have been able to to transfer to new platforms and devices without any extra cost. It’s great.

Screenshots are below – click for larger images…

 

 



Categories : Bible, books, iPad | 2 Comments

26th April 2011

Five day weekend

Wouldn’t it be awesome if every weekend had five days? It’s been great having these five days off work to celebrate Easter and ANZAC day. And there’s only three more work days until another weekend (hopefully those days will be pretty busy to compensate for all the time off… I fondly remember what it was like to get paid public holidays).

Anyway this five day weekend has been good – lots of relaxing around the home, reading, playing music, getting a few odd jobs done, playing with the kids, and watching movies. We’ve been watching The Godfather Part II which is so long you practically need a long weekend to get through it. Love playing the theme on my mandolin too!

… think I might schedule another 5 day weekend for the second half of the year…

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Categories : mandolin, Movies, Personal | 0 Comments

10th April 2011

iPad for Worship

Recently I got an iPad 2, which is a wonderful thing in so many ways. At some point soon I’ll list a few of the useful apps I’ve discovered thus far, but for the time being I just want to discuss how useful I’ve found the iPad as a worship musician. Actually all of the stuff I’m talking about isn’t necessarily specific to the church music setting – you could use it just as well in any live music environment.

One of the first things I thought the iPad would be useful for is to display my chord charts. I have a big library of chord/lyric charts in PDF and Word format and so I thought it would be great to display them on my iPad instead of having to print them out each week, with just a simple swipe between songs.

I’ve found an app which does not only that, but so much more. OnSong is a fantastic app for iPad (and iPhone), which allows you to import all your chord charts from PDF, Word, and others. These files can then be sorted into collections (books), weekly set lists, or sorted by artist, key, or topic (once you have your library set up). Your existing files can then be easily displayed in whatever order you want, changing page with just a swipe of a finger (or not… see below). Files can be imported through iTunes software via Wifi, through a ‘cloud’ service like DropBox or MobileMe or there is a search box which can search online for songs. You can also add sticky notes on top of your displayed files for what ever extra notes/reminders you need to write.

So as a program for displaying your files it works a treat, but this software has so much more potential. If you convert your songs to the OnSong format, you will then be able to access a whole raft of very cool features such as transposing the song into whatever key you want, adjusting fonts, sizes, and colours, a clickable chord library, metronome, linking to audio files and much more. You can even add a monitor out to your iPad and use the software to control lyric projection – it will project the words (without chords) on a nice background while still displaying the chords on your iPad. Not sure I want that kind of responsibility controlling the words whilst playing guitar and singing, but it is a very cool feature! I’ve attached a bunch of screenshots I took at the bottom of this post.

The only frustration I have with this software is that the process for converting your PDFs into Onsong file format is a little buggy. It would be great if it worked smoothly every time, but there generally needs to be quite a lot of further editing of the files in order to get them to work. I’m getting the gist of it but it’s still a bit of a slow process. Even so I think it’s worth the effort, and even without the conversion it’s still emminently useable just for displaying my existing PDFs.

Finally I just want to mention something that takes this software from being just very cool to being super awesome. With an AirTurn BT-105 bluetooth page turner and my trusty old Boss FS-6 dual footswitch I now have handsfree control. The two pedals can be used to move back and forwards through my song sheets without having to stop playing my guitar. Brilliant! I’ve posted a photo below from their website below which is pretty similar to my setup.

If you’re a musician with an iPad already then you owe it to yourself to check out this inexpensive software. If you’re a musician without an iPad, well it’s one more reason to think about getting one… (I’ll mention some of the other cool music apps I’ve got sometime soon.)

Finally, here’s a YouTube video I found which demonstrates a few features of the software :

YouTube Preview Image

 

… Cross posted to Warnbro Worship Team blog

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Categories : Apple, Church, Gadgets, Guitar, iPad, music, Pedal Board | 0 Comments

2nd March 2011

Pedal Board 2011 – Update 2

Time for another pedal board update – I expect this will be the last for a little while, since I have much fewer gear purchases in the pipeline as I get serious about paying off debt and saving for Ethiopia…

Pedal Board March 2011 - Click for larger image

Signal path is as follows :

  • Line6 Relay G50 wireless
  • Korg PitchBlack Plus Tuner – also acts as an A/B switch so I can plug in a second guitar in addition to my wireless
  • Boss AW-3 Auto-wah – with manual control by Boss FV-500L (right one – uses as expression pedal)
  • Wampler Ego Compressor
  • Wampler Paisley Overdrive
  • MXR Distortion III
  • Tim (Paul Cochrane)
  • Boss FV-500L Volume (the left one)
  • Strymon El Capistan (tape echo) – with Favourite Switch
  • TC Nova Modulator (mods including chorus, tremolo, flange, vibrato etc)
  • TC Nova Delay
  • Boss DD-20 Delay –> with external tap tempo (the little green switch bottom left)
  • Strymon Blue Sky Reverberator
  • Boss RV-5 Reverb

All are powered by the CIOKS DC-10 power supply.

This update officially ends my use of multi-FX units, as I have retired my TC Nova System from the board. I was only using that for modulations most of the time, so decided to replace it with the Nova Modulator – allowing more space on my board for other stuff such as the Strymons. Speaking of which, the El Capistan is definitely worth the hype. This is a pedal with great sounds which enhaces my creativity immensely. And the Blue Sky is great also, although I’ve not had much time to play with it and come up with favourite settings just yet.

Next pedals on the list are the Strymon Timeline when it comes out, and one of the new Boss loopers. Oh and I’m also still waiting on a Timmy and new Tim at some point. Going to try and stick to my policy of not buying new gear, and anything I do get (such as those pedals above) will be funded by selling old stuff. Our adoption could happen any time from 2012 onwards so I really need to get serious about fixing my finances before then.

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Categories : Effects, Guitar, Pedal Board | 11 Comments

22nd February 2011

Bad from Good or Good from Bad

Just had an interesting theological idea that I wanted to write down, as I don’t have those sort of ideas very often :P

It seems to me that an integral part of human nature, a key consequence of our sinfulness, is a tendency to bring negative results out of good things. This is borne out over and over again in the story of Israel, with their misuse of the blessings God had given them. It’s very often true in the history of the church as well. And it can be clearly seen in the history of our world in the last couple of hundred years – amazing advances in science and our understanding of the world (resulting from our God given creative intellect) yet leading to consequences such as the atomic bomb, environmental degradation, and vast global inequalities of excess and poverty. Another example is an improved understanding of creation itself and it’s origins being illogically misused to justify atheism and at it’s worst some of the most terrible atrocities humankind has seen (eg Stalin, Pol Pot)

The opposite observation can be made about God. A key aspect of His personality is that He brings good out of bad. The Bible abounds with examples of this – such as the stories of Joshua (esp Gen 50:20), the Exodus, Lazarus, and indeed Creation itself (bringing order out of chaos (Gen 1:2) – whatever your particular views are as to the process and speed with which He did that.) And of course the ultimate example of this is the crucifixion and then resurrection of Jesus – bringing life out of death, taking the worst of human sin and bringing salvation!

I’m sure other greater minds have written books on this subject before, but it only just occurred to me today. It’s an interesting concept to think about, and also a key way in which we can seek to be more like God – becoming “Good out of bad” type people, instead of “bad out of good”…



Categories : Philosophy, Religion | 1 Comment

21st January 2011

Pedal Board 2011 – Update 1

Non-guitar playing readers can tune out now (if the title didn’t already switch you off)…

It’s time for a long overdue update of the current state of my pedal board (here’s the last update, from Dec 2009). It’s undergone a radical remodelling over the past few months, with a number of new additions, and I’ve got it to a place where I’m pretty happy with the sound… for now.

First the basic infrastructure.

The board itself is a Diago Tourman hardcase, which I love. Very rugged case, easy to carry around, and to set it up all I have to do is lift off the lid, plug in a couple of power plugs and one lead to my amp and I’m ready to go.

Power is the CIOKS DC-10 power-supply, which I have mentioned previously. Heaps of power, no hum. Tremendous.

Pedal Board 2011 - Version 1 - Click for larger pic

Now the pedal signal chain is as follows :

  • Line-6 Relay G50 wireless receiver <–> Boss TU-2 tuner (Tuner out)
  • MCFX A/B box (for plugging in a second guitar in addition to my wireless)
  • Boss AW-3 dynamic wah <—> Boss FV-500L expression pedal for manual wah control (also sometimes use this for Nova system expression pedal)
  • Wampler Ego Compressor
  • Wampler Paisley overdrive
  • MXR Distortion III
  • Paul Cochrane Tim overdrive/boost
  • Boss FV-500L volume pedal
  • TC Electronics Nova System (used mostly for mods, pitch effects, sometimes delays & reverbs)                  <—> Tech 21 Midi Mouse for patch switching
  • TC Nova Delay (for rhythmic delays)
  • Boss RV-5 (modulated reverb)
  • Boss DD-20 <—> MCFX tap tempo switch
  • Digitech JamMan looper (most of the time I leave this at home if I’m not using it to save space and to avoid needing the extra AC power brick, which is annoying)

Pretty happy with that setup at the moment. It gives me all the tones I need, with plenty of versatility and has virtually no extraneous noise. I’m also really loving the wireless – the Line-6 digital wireless is brilliant technology – very clear sound with virtually no dropouts and huge range. Even though I’m not running all over the place I’m still amazed how much better I feel not having a cord tying me down.

Still got a few plans to change it though over the coming months, including a new Tuner and some Strymon Pedals (can’t wait to try the new Timeline delay), so watch this space…

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Categories : Effects, Guitar, music, Pedal Board | 6 Comments

6th January 2011

2011

Happy 2011 to all! Hope this is a fruitful year for everyone!

some facts about 2011 :

  • it is the year of the Rabbit, in the Chinese calendar
  • it is also the international year of truth about Islam, according to the counter-Jihad calendar (Yikes! don’t think I’ll be subscribing to that one… lots of nutty stuff hitting my email lately)
  • it is the year of the Cricket World Cup, to be held in South Asia (yay!) – my brother will no doubt be supporting the Canadian national cricket team eh? And with the current Australian team, that might not be as crazy as it sounds.
  • according to the Ethiopian calendar, we are currently in 2003, until New Year on September 12.
  • U2 will be taking their 360 tour to South Africa, South & North America… and if I won the lottery my first purchase would be tickets for myself and Jen!

Read the rest of this entry »

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Categories : Adoption, Africa, Australia, General Practice, Paul, Personal, Tropical Medicine | 0 Comments

4th December 2010

Absolute power – CIOKS DC10

Just wanted to mention a phenomenal product I’ve discovered recently. The DC-10 effects pedal power supply from CIOKS.

I’m currently three quarters of the way through a major revamp of my effects pedal board, and along the way decided I needed to get a dedicated power supply, for two main reasons. One is so I didn’t have to use 4 separate “wall wart” power adaptors plugged into a power board which was messy and unsightly. Secondly, I discovered a whole lot of hum issues as I added new pedals which were very fussy about which power supply I could pair them with.

Theres a number of high quality power supply units out there of which the most popular seems to be the Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2+.  These are quite expensive to buy in Australia but unfortunately sourcing them cheaper overseas from the USA is not an option as they are 110V only.

Then I discovered the CIOKS DC-10. This has switchable 110/230V voltage and a number of cool features. If you look at their website it compares favourably to the Voodoo Labs pedal in almost every department. And I was able to get it for less than $200, compared to well over $300 for a PP2+.

Some things I like about it are :

  • isolated outputs solved all my hum problems instantly
  • plug socket is hidden inside the box so no plug poking out
  • multiple voltage settings with plenty of amps able to supply hungry pedals like TC Nova
  • cool indicator LEDs for each output as well as a pulsing LED for the whole unit

My Nova Delay pedal, which needs 12V, seems to be even sweeter with this than with the supplied adaptor. Also I’m running my Tim overdrive pedal at 12V, which seems to give it an even fuller sound than 9V. Presently I’m powering 12 different things off it and still have a couple of outputs free.

Who knew I could get so enthused about a power supply, but I truly love this unit! Check out their website for more info on this and their other power units.

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Categories : Guitar | 10 Comments

17th November 2010

Diago Tourman Pedal Board Case

Depressingly quiet at work again (where are all the sick people?) so wasting time on the net as usual. Thought I’d post a review of the Diago Pedal Board Case.

Recently I started revamping my pedal board and found that I had outgrown my old trusty Gator Pedal tote (with soft case) so I started looking for a bigger alternative. I also wanted one that had a hard case or flight case so as to provide better protection for my gear. I looked at the Pedal Train series but the Pedal Train Pro with flight case was prohibitively expensive and also only marginally bigger than my old board. Then I came close to buying a Road Ready pedal board and case on eBay but I didn’t quite like the structure of it, with these movable foam blocks.

And then I discovered Diago, which I believe is a UK company. Their boards come in three sizes – the small Gigman, medium Showman, and large Tourman. The Tourman is huge, a bit bigger than a guitar case : Width – 1020mm or 40″; Depth – 450mm or 17¾”; Internal Height – 100mm or 4″ (be aware the 100mm internal height is lessened by the couple of centimetres of thick foam in the lid. My TC Nova System unit fits very snuggly inside such that the top layer of buttons and controls leave a decent indent in the foam, but the lid still closes nicely) Having said that I’m on track to completely fill it up once my pedal board rebuild is complete (will post more details and pics in  few weeks…)

These are a black Tolex type case made of solid plywood, with metal reinforced corners, strong latches and a heavy duty handle. I have no doubt that this case will offer very reliable protection to my pedals and should last long term. The bottom half is your board itself, with a velcro lined floor (they include a roll of velcro for attaching your pedals). The top half is the foam lined lid, which delatches and lifts off very easily. I love the simplicity of just taking a lid off, plugging into power and amp and being ready to go in a few seconds!

I really like this case a lot. Compared to some of the other pedal boards like the pedal train, there are some things that might be perceived as a disadvantage, but I knew exactly what I was getting and they don’t bother me. Firstly, unlike the pedal train you cannot neatly route all your cables underneath the board, but as long as you are tidy with your cables this isn’t necessarily a big deal. The good thing is you aren’t having to lift your board up out of it’s case every time you make an adjustment.

Diago Tourman : not mine. I'm using the space much more effectively than this

Secondly it’s a flat board – no slope. For me a flat board is fine and the advantage is that it makes for a relatively low profile case instead of the huge ones that the Road Ready Effects case and PT-Pro have. But if a slope is important to you then that might be a consideration.

Anyway I’m loving this board. It’s simple, strong, effective, and you’ve gotta admit it looks very stylish. I look forward to sharing my updated board pics with you in a couple of weeks when it’s complete, but in the meantime if you’re after a board, look no further than Diago. (I’m no surfer but I almost feel “surfer-cool” giving board recommendations… nah I guess not :P )

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Categories : Guitar, music | 4 Comments

10th November 2010

Head trauma

Have you ever hear an old recording of yourself talking and thought “did I really sound like that?”, or read something you’d written many years before and been shocked of how lame or juvenile it sounded?

Sadly I had an experience like that last night. I’m in the process of updating my effects pedal board and have my eye on some new effects so figured it was time to dust off some old unsused ones and put them on eBay to raise some funds. Of course I needed to test them out before doing this to make sure they were in working order.

The one that disturbed me the most was my Digtech GNX 4 multieffects unit. For well over a year this was my main source of tone – and people back then used to tell me they thought it sounded good. But playing back through some of my old patches last night I was horrified at the sounds that were coming out of it. Simply ghastly. Metallic and thin sounding tones. Hard to convey just how shocking this experience was for me. Did I really ever think that this sounded good??

Admittedly I was probably using a different guitar back then and may have had the amp EQ’d slightly differently but man these sounds were dreadful. And these were both my own patches that I’d spent hours tweaking (on the admittedly very good software editor) and the “Supermodel” patches that I’d bought separately.

Oh and I noticed this thing has a tap tempo button – don’t recall ever having used that during the time I played it before… another sign of how far I’ve come – tap tempo is essential to my sound now!

I almost feel bad listing this on eBay (and hope any eBay buyers don’t come across this blog!). The other alternative is told hold onto it to bequeath to my son, who just started learning guitar last week, but I’m not sure I want to get him started on bad tone at such a young age… or is it a phase we all must go through?? (I’m just ashamed that this was only 3-4 years ago for me)

Alright, moving on from that painful experience, I’ll share some of my feelings about the other old pedals I tested, all Boss ones… all these were done plugged straight into the clean amp channel. I didn’t play around with any overdriven sounds at all.

AW-2 Auto Wah

Does what it claims to. A perfectly fine AW, fairly quiet when switched off. I was able to dial in an interesting tremolo kind of sound with the speed set to maximum. However I won’t be needing this as I have the Boss Aw-3 Dynamic Wah, which is an even better sounding pedal. It includes tap tempo and also allows you to plug in an expression pedal for traditional wah use. This is what I do, and I think as a pedal wah it sounds better than most others I’ve tried, plus I still have the flexibility of using the auto-wah if I ever want to (rarely do though).

OC-2 Octaver

I can remember I used to like this pedal but playing last night I felt the tracking was lacking a little bit. Still good get some nice tones, but I won’t be needing this as there is a handy octaver built into my TC Nova System, which is the core of my pedal board and which I use mostly for the sterling modulation effects including chorus, phase, tremolo, reverbs, pitch effects, delays (although I like to have a couple of extra delay pedals as well for different options). All the TC Mod effects are top class, which is why I can off-load these old Boss ones.

GE-7 Equalizer

I’ve discovered I’m not a big fan of equalizers any more. Just don’t have the patience I guess. And this GE-7 is quite noisy, so off it goes.

EQ-20 Advanced EQ

This one is nicer, one of those big Boss double pedals. It’s much quieter – hardly any noise. It has a whole lot more bands (10 I think) and you can store 9 presets in the memory. If you like EQs this is a better one to have and there is a huge potential to sculpt your sound here, but as I said I’m not an EQ fan, and it takes up a lot of real estate, so off it goes.

BF-3 Flanger

This one was the surprise packet of the bunch. From the moment I plugged it in I was getting nice flanger tone. I’m not a big user of flange and it’s one area where I’ve found the Nova system has not immediately yielded brilliant results, but this Boss gives sounds I could use. And it’s not super loud, at least as far as flangers go. Think this one might be a keeper.

AC-2 Acoustic Simulator

I didn’t hate this one as much as I expected to, but it still sounds like a fake acoustic – very tinny. Someone on Karl’s blog mentioned at some point that they use this for lo-fi sounds, but I’ve never really needed that, so I think this one’s gonna go as well.

PS-5 Super Shifter

Now this is a nice pedal. It tracks quite well and is fairly intuitive to work. My Nova system pitch shifter is not so easy to work but it tracks even better and the sounds are even nicer, so the PS-5 will have to go. Besides I don’t commonly use pitch effects anyway.

PH-2 Super Phaser

This was the big failure of the group. I couldn’t really get it to work. It just made an intermittent high pitched whine, even when switched off. I don’t remember knowing this previously, but I noticed last night this is one of those old Boss AC pedals which need a different adaptor. Will play around with it some more, but doesn’t look like it’s in workable enough condition to put on ebay.

Righto, that’s that then.

I still can’t be bothered putting these on eBay (I hate selling stuff on there) but just need to focus on the other new stuff I need want to get my motivation up.

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Categories : Personal | 2 Comments

9th November 2010

A shipment of the good stuff


Herdim blue picks : imported from West Germany via the USA – can’t find these anywhere in Australia. Definitely worth the effort though :)

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Categories : Guitar, music | 0 Comments