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Moving to Vista– Part D’oh

We have been looking at Windows Vista (TM Microsoft) for a few weeks, seeing how it will affect Sagebrush products. View the first part here.

Sound Recorder is diminished. The Sound Recorder accessory in WinXP could be used to transfer from one Wave format to another, or record in several different Wave formats. It could also do some other tricks, like cut, copy, paste, and do simple effects like echo, change speed, or change volume. The new Sound Recorder only records in WMA format (with the exception of a special version of Vista), at a reduced bit rate, and that’s about it. Ouch.

The list of installed ACM codecs has moved (to a strange non-obvious place). Click on Windows Media Player-> Help-> About-> Technical Support Information and look under “Audio Codecs“. Here is what I see:

No MP3 ACM codec is included, or is limited to decode-only! The files L3CODECA.ACM and L3CODECP.ACM are included in the Windows System32 directory, but don’t seem to work for encoding. Double-ouch! This will have a big effect on three or more Sagebrush products. The good news is that the LAME ACM codec appears to work on Vista; the bad news is that the MP3 patent has not run out, thus we cannot distribute this codec.

“Stereo Mix” appears missing as a recording input, but is really there. We explore this thoroughly in a tutorial. Microsoft had a chance to re-work the sound mixer and record mixer to fix some user-interface problems, but it seems they introduced new ones. The old mixer programs under WinXP had problems where some inputs were hidden, unless you looked in menu Options-> Properties-> “Show the following controls”, which has resulted in several support calls for us. Now Microsoft is hiding controls in a new way.

In the next part of this series, we plan a closer look at User Account Control under Vista.




How to Record Computer Output Audio– Vista Edition

(View the original tutorial using WinXP.)

Hi, I’ve got a problem perhaps you can help me with. I need to transfer an organ suite I wrote to CD so I can send in my application to a music composition class over summer. My sheet music editor doesn’t have an easy way to write to CD. Can you help?

Sure, we can do this! Your music editor can play back music for you to listen, right?

Yes, I know how to set this to play through my computer or through my MIDI keyboard.

For our mission, we will play through computer speakers. You’re on Vista? This appears harder than on XP, but once you know the trick, it can be done (as we will see later). Your computer is taking MIDI note information and converting, or rendering, into digital audio (and eventually analog voltage) and sending to computer speakers. We’ll just use RecAll-PRO (or other full-featured audio recording program) to record a Wave file. Then we use the software that came bundled with your CD-R drive to make an audio CD. Now, some CD burning software isn’t capable of transcribing .WAV file formats to the format necessary for writing to CD, so let’s configure PRO to record in the correct format. We want PCM (No compression) Wave file, 44100 sample rate, stereo, 16 bit.

View rest of article.




Theremin Patent

A patent for the original theremin, the other-worldly musical instrument that inspired MouSing, can be found on Google-Patents here. Patents this old do not presently have machine-readable text. A close viewing of the patent image suggests that optical character recognition software would be challenged, with plently of stray dots, optical noise, and characters that run together.

A couple of years ago, before patents this old could be viewed on-line at all, we went to the local patent repository and made our own copy to digitize, with the goal to convert to html. The Google/USPTO link actually obtained a better image than we were able to produce. The paper is thin, and text tends to bleed through from the other side of the page. Still, with some effort, we were able to convert to text, which we present here:

METHOD OF AND APPARATUS FOR THE GENERATION OF SOUNDS

Application filed December 5, 1925, Serial No. 73,529, and in Germany December 8, 1924.

This invention relates to sound generating apparatus or instruments of the type embodying an electrical vibrating system. It aims to provide a novel method of and means for producing sounds in musical tones or notes of variable pitch, volume and timbre in realistic imitation of the human voice and various known musical instruments. One object of the invention is to provide a simple and inexpensive instrument capable of producing musical tones according to the method embodying the same, the pitch, volume and timbre of which sounds may be varied over a wide range, and with delicate graduations.

An instrument embodying the invention comprises a sound reproducer. such as a telephone receiver or loud-speaker, connected to an oscillating system adapted to be controlled or affected by an object or objects, such as the hands or fingers of an operator held in relative position in proximity to an element of the system. For example, an electrical oscillating system including oscillator tubes of the electro-ionic type may be employed, and the circuits of the system may be so correlated that the frequency or frequencies of the electrical oscillations will vary in accordance with the variations in the electrical capacity or other characteristic of the controlling circuit caused by the movements of external objects, such as an operators hand or fingers as above stated. The operator’s hands, or the objects moved by him are not required to make physical contact with the instrument, but if the instrument is arranged to permit such contact, the generation or production and control of the sound is not effected directly thereby as is the case with the ordinary musical instruments.

View complete patent.




Random Friday: What We Flix

As Netflix newbies, we tend to pay undue attention to our movie queue. When we’ve used the service for a few months, will we stop obsessing over the list so much? Currently,

We appreciate long tail businesses that give lots of choices, and allow the process of choosing to be fun.




How to Record Audio From MIDI Output or Anything Else

Hi, I’ve got a problem perhaps you can help me with. I need to transfer an organ suite I wrote to CD so I can send in my application to a music composition class over summer. My sheet music editor doesn’t have an easy way to write to CD. Can you help?

Sure, we can do this! Your music editor can play back music for you to listen, right?

Yes, I know how to set this to play through my computer or through my MIDI keyboard.

For our mission, we will play through computer speakers. This procedure will be a lot easier if you are running on an XP machine instead of Vista. You’re on XP? Great! Your computer is taking MIDI note information and converting, or rendering, into digital audio (and eventually analog voltage) and sending to computer speakers. We’ll just use RecAll-PRO to record a Wave file. Then we use the software that came bundled with your CD-R drive to make an audio CD. Now, some CD burning software isn’t capable of transcribing .WAV file formats to the format necessary for writing to CD, so let’s configure PRO to record in the correct format. We want PCM (No compression) Wave file, 44100 sample rate, stereo, 16 bit.

Read rest of tutorial…




Recording Office Meetings

If you use software to record office meetings, beware of unintended consequences.




Moving to Vista

We have been looking at Windows Vista (TM Microsoft) for a few weeks, seeing how it will affect Sagebrush products. Here are some of the issues we found:

  • No WinHelp available. We preferred WinHelp .HLP rather than HtmlHelp .CHM because it supported older flavors of No WinHelp availableWindows (back to Windows 3.1) and for the way it handled context help pop-ups, but now we finally have to migrate to .CHM. We evaluated several help editors, and found none that perfectly imported WinHelp files, so we expect to do a good bit of fixing by hand. We settled on one HtmlHelp editor program, immediately got stuck on a software bug for a couple of weeks tech support could not reproduce, and finally got around the problem by moving the editor to a different computer.
  • Running install programs that are not signed alert the user with a dramatic warning message. Purchasing a code signing certificate is an added expense we would prefer to avoid, but might be reluctantly forced to endure if this becomes the accepted industry practice.
  • The final beta for Vista appeared to have hardware DEP (Data Execution Prevention) enabled as default. This breaks our programs due to the programming framework library we are using. Fortunately, the released Vista does not have DEP enabled by default, but we have updated our programming library to fix the problem.
  • The sound card mixer control has changed. Several of our programs have menu items Options-> Preferences-> Mixer Play Control and Mixer Record Control, which calls an external Windows program. The name of the Windows program has changed and the appearance and control layout have changed significantly. Another common menu item, System Multimedia Properties, has also changed the way it is invoked.
  • We used a particular .EXE compressor program to save user disk space, which appears to be incompatible with Vista.
  • The way we implemented Options-> Preferences-> General-> Launch program at system boot seems to be broken under Vista.
  • Some of our File-Save dialogs don’t work. We’re looking into it…
  • Vista has a whole new layer of pop-up warning dialogs termed User Account Control (UAC). When we start testing our programs with standard user priveleges instead of admin privileges, we expect to encounter a lot more issues. Now, we fully expect a lot of home users will run as admin and won’t see a problem, but we need the software to run in a corporate environment with a megalomaniacal IT department (but not this IT) that won’t trust regular users with much power. We’ll save this for another post, when we are brave enough to test…



Hello, World!

Welcome to the bright shiny new Sagebrush web blog! Our plan is to post each weekday on topics related to Sagebrush Systems products, including audio, software development, fair use, DRM, audio soundscapes, telephone recording, gadgetware, product applications, and more.

Friday is reserved for “Random Friday” topics, typically fun or mildly interesting matters thoroughly unrelated to Sagebrush software.

Now, we are cognizant of statistics demonstrating most new bloggers rapidly burn out and cut way back on post frequency. If that happens here, then so be it, but perhaps until that fateful day we will be inspired to add several technical articles and other content to enrich the corporate site.

So, on with the show…