Willful ignorance and the pundit conundrum

Today Macworld published a projection piece of mine called Apple’s HomeKit Hub May Already Be in Your House. I needn’t regurgitate the article here. The gist is that an Apple TV could operate as the arbiter between you in some distant location and the <gag> “Internet of Things” </gag> in your home. Among the positive reactions (hey, even a link from John Gruber’s Daring Fireball, which is always worth a woo-hoo) I saw a couple of “Hey, I wrote about this [x weeks before Breen did] where’s the love!?” comments. 

I doubt that these remarks were the result of anyone thinking that I’d read their work and then cribbed from it. Reasonable people understand that the Web is a very big place and no one can travel every inch of it. But it did cause me to once again examine what I do and don’t read.

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Stream my album, "Of Eve" for "free" on Spotify and Beats

I've been a fan of (and subscriber to) streaming music services for years. And it recently dawned on me to put my money where my mouth is and make my solo piano album from way back when—"Of Eve"—available from a couple of services. You can find it on both Spotify and Beats Music.

If you know anything about the economy of music distribution via streaming you know I'm not doing this for the dough. It's past time that artists got a sweeter cut when their music is streamed, but that's a subject for another post. For the time being I'm simply interested in more people hearing what I sounded like in my youth.

Another Galaxy Vintage D test

I've been playing the Galaxy Vintage D virtual piano for the past week or so and (I think) am starting to get a better feel for what I want from it. I've just recorded another tune with it using a configuration I've called the Polite Setting. To get rid of the middle octave "twank" tone I dialed down the Colour knob, gave the piano a bit more space by adding a touch of Concert Hall reverb, and increased the resonance a touch. It's not the kind of tone that will "cut" in an ensemble setting, but as a solo piano I like it.

You can give it a listen by visiting, as usual, the Music page. I've created a Vintage D section within the Bits & Pieces area.

Paying for the (virtual) piano

I've been working more with Logic Pro X lately and generally like the sounds and synths that come with it. But I've been looking for the killer grand piano sound and I may have found it in the form of Best Service's Galaxy Vintage D virtual grand piano. It operates within Kotact Player and sounds pretty sweet. I've yet to tweak it much—I'm not entirely thrilled with the middle octaves as I find them a little too ready to "twank" when hit hard, but I think I can make some adjustments to tone it down.

If you wish to hear a sample, check out Galaxy Vintage D Test in the Bits and Pieces section of the Music page.

Dropping Dropbox: The choices we make

[Consider this a Take 2 on my earlier Leaving Dropbox piece]

While I’m generally a pleasant enough fellow—kind to small children, animals, and restaurant staff—I do have one obvious failing: When there’s righteousness to be had, I glom onto it like a half-price toaster on Black Friday. My family and friends have learned to put up with it with a gentle rolling of the eyes, but in my professional life it’s still a bit dicey as I catch the occasional “There he goes again” vibe from colleagues and readers.

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And so I leave Dropbox

I seem to have this habit of diving into one service or another, enjoying the experience, and then discovering someone’s dropped something large and smelly in the water. In the case of Facebook, which I abandoned in 2010, it was over the company’s cynical disregard for its users’ privacy. In these days of NSA peeping that may sound a little quaint, but at least the NSA has a good story—“Security!” it harumphs. “Why without us glomming onto every bit of information about you TERRORISM!!! ON OUR SHORES!!! THE CHILDREN!!! THE MUSHROOM CLOUD!!! THE UNFRIENDLY CUSTOMER SERVICE FROM OUR NEW BEARDED AND TURBANED SHOPKEEPERS!!!”

At least I think that’s how it goes. I sometimes get lost in all the capital letters.

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Anatomy of a set list

As some people know from following me in other areas of my life, I’m a member of the Macworld All-Star Band—a somewhat highfalutin name for a gaggle of guys who have some connection with the Macintosh community. The members of the band include Paul Kent on guitar (the guy who runs Macworld/iWorld), Dave Hamilton who operates Backbeat Media and plays drums, guitar player Bryan Chaffin from the Mac Observer, man-about-town and bass player Chuck La Tournous, “Dr. Mac” Bob LeVitus on yet another guitar, and UC Berkeley IT guy Duane Straub who also plays bass. I play keyboards.

Each year “leadership” of the band rotates among the four members who have spent the most time in real bands—me, Paul, Dave, and Chuck. This year it was my turn. 

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Plagiarism and the divine drop

"Oh lord, Breen’s on again about plagiarism."

Honestly, I had no intention of “owning” this issue, but this Twitter comment in reaction to my So, Plagiarism piece got me thinking:

This is more like a daily thing in the blog world. Doesn’t warrant a thorough investigation of a single person.

Typically this would be the kind of setup where I proceed to sternly lecture a young blogger about the good old days of decency and decorum. But he has a point. Why go after some piss-poor site like iMacland? Its articles are barely written in English, it seems to benefit from no advertising, and until I started yammering about it, no one had heard of it. Why draw attention to it when this kind of thing goes on day-in and day-out?

Partly because I (and others who’ve joined in) can. It’s relatively easy to follow the tracks of people like this and expose them for the frauds they are. But digging down, why the outrage over plagiarism when far worse transgressions litter our lives?

To me, it’s an offense against the best aspirations of our species. We bipeds, among all the creatures crowding this world, have the unique awareness of self. This awareness allows us to ponder and propose, navel-gaze and theorize, extend the Me to the Us. If there’s a divine drop in us, it’s these gifts of insight and consideration. Whether through words, images, audio, or architecture, each of us can express what it is to be human.

The plagiarizer denies the divine. He contributes nothing. He simply takes and, like an animal, sprays his scent over the stolen goods to claim ownership.

So why investigate a single person when this is a daily occurrence? Because each instance dulls our humanity. Rampant or rare, this is not something that merits complacence. 

So, plagiarism

Earlier this week, a Macworld reader posted a comment to an article I wrote last summer, indicating that in a Google search for the topic he found another’s site take on the issue. Clicking through he discovered that it was a poorly ripped-off version of my piece—written the day after, mangling a lot of the English but still pulling phrases and words directly from it, and even using my screenshots (one of them from this very site).

(Should you wish to compare the two, you can find mine here  and the cached version of the plagiarized piece here.)

As someone who writes a lot and that writing gets noticed every so often, it’s not uncommon to have your stuff lifted—sometimes a little and other times more than a little. It can happen honestly—where someone thought they had the right to use it (even without credit)—or, as in this case, when it’s just a sleazy form of theft from someone who thought they could get away with it.

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To get it right, don't get it wrong

Some months ago I whipped out a little screed called #prdonewrong where I griped about how badly some PR agencies and developers handle the press. I used that screed as the basis for a talk I gave at the most recent Renaissance conference in San Francisco. As a result some people have passed around a link to the original #prdonewrong.

And that led me to wonder if perhaps I could refine the screed based on second thoughts that resulted from the talk.

Ah, the circle of life. 

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The Incomparable Christmas Special

Jason Snell’s The Incomparable podcast featured its second series of radio plays in the recent Christmas Spectacular episode. And, as with the show’s first foray into radio drama, I was asked to contribute theme and incidental music. Here’s a bit of background on that work (as always you’ll find downloadable versions of the pieces on the Music page—suitable for ringtoning and other non-commercial uses).

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Another day, another podcast theme

Just quick fast like rabbit: 

I threw together an opening and closing theme for Clockwise, a new podcast from TechHive. You can find a copy on the Music page.

Only thing worth comment is that the original version had no drums. That was a problem as it wasn't grounded or driving enough—too airy fairy. I left it in that state over night and then got up the next morning with fresh ears. The need for drums was then obvious. 

Sometimes sleeping on it helps. 


The worst gig ever

Some recall San Francisco, July 1984, as the heady month in which the first woman—in the form of Geraldine Ferraro—was nominated for Vice President of the United States in that same city by the bay. I, however, can testify with complete confidence, that in that convention week I experienced the worst gig of my life. And, worse yet, at the hands of one of the presiding members of the Democratic Party. 

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Two in the Bush

Before there were geeks, there were nerds. And before nerds, the sand-kicking crowd satisfied itself by mocking an equally unhip group of individuals: birdwatchers. Caricatured as binocular-sporting, sky-scanning, baggy-pantsed ornithological eggheads, birdwatchers couldn’t be more square. And while nerds have indeed had their revenge, birders still find themselves classed as oddballs by the rest of the population.

This explains my reluctance when, one day some 20 years ago, my wife announced, “My father is coming over this weekend and if we don’t want him hanging around the house with his nose in a book, we’ll have to go birding with him.”


“We. Get some comfortable shoes and dig out your dad’s binoculars. There’s a bird guide on the shelf. You’re not worming your way out of this one.” Pun intended or not, I was on the hook.

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Instant Eno: Ambient music in a moment

I’m old enough to have spent a lot of time with reel-to-reel tape decks—everything from the 2-track machine my dad purchased when I was a kid to a 1-inch 16-track deck my band acquired for our studio. And in all that time I’ve been fascinated with the idea of multi-tracking—recording something on this track, overdubbing something else on another, bouncing those tracks to yet another tracks, and on and on until—not unlike building layers of paint on a canvas—I’d created a rich soundscape.

The idea of tape-based performance entered my teenaged consciousness when the guitar player in my band-at-the-time (The Fabulous Sandblaster) purchased an Echoplex EP-3. This was a tape-based effect that recorded what you’d played and then played it back in real time. If you ran the tape quickly you’d hear the delayed signal pretty quickly. If you instead used a slower speed, it could take quite a while for the previous sound to play, which provided you the opportunity to play over that recording in such a way that you could accompany yourself. The EP-3 additionally had the ability to record each take as you played, so after several passes you could create a mountain of sound.

Later, in college, a trumpet playing friend did a portion of his master performance improvising over a tape loop that worked similarly. In that performance I learned an important lesson in regard to this kind of performance.

Better vague than wrong.

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