Posts Tagged ‘Mac’

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apples and oranges.

September 20, 2009

For close to 4 years now, I’ve been an Apple convert.  The time has passed by quickly, and I don’t regret making the switch one bit.  My first Apple product was technically my 40GB iPod photo which now looks like a giant brick! I can’t believe I used to carry that around with me! But then, I can’t believe I used to carry my walkman and 5 or 6 cassette tapes to school each day, nor that I used to have a little bag with my discman and a few CDs in it that I used to wear around me.  Something I forgot until my iPod had to be sent away for repair during my second year of university was that CDs JUMP.  How we’ve come to expect perfection!  Or I have, anyway – I have no patience for songs skipping, I have little patience for my iPod taking a while to get its head round a song I want it to play.

However, I never considered getting an iPod as becoming an Apple convert.  Once I saw how easily my iPod worked and how straightforward the menus were, I became interested in getting an Apple laptop, especially as my current laptop was slower than a dinosaur.  During my first year of university, I had lots of problems with anti-virus software and protecting my computer.  It became ridiculously slow, and in addition to that, the laptop I had had a poor attempt at imitating Microsoft Office.  In the end, I had enough, and just before Christmas 2005 I ordered my first Apple laptop, an iBook G4.  It took me a month to get used to the fact that there was no right-click button, that the tabs and x’s and everything were in different places.  Also to get used to the fact that as a Mac, my computer was practically already virus-immune without constant annoying updates from AVG and Spybot and Norton Anti-Virus.  The resolution and picture quality was far superior than what I had been used to, and although there were several software compatibility issues, they were a lot easier to overcome than I had feared.  The aforementioned Microsoft Office was no longer needed, as I didn’t require any spreadsheets, and I could open and create word documents in TextEdit.  So it was all good!

Of course, it’s not all been problem-free.  I’m now on my third iPod (which is just over a year old), a 120GB silver iPod classic.  I’ve had it just over a year, and apart from the fact that the click wheel only clicks in the headphones, it is behaving quite well. For a while it was working extremely slowly, but the iPod software update on Snow Leopard fixed it and it’s back to normal.  I have had a lot of iPod issues in the past, having to send back my iPod time and again and getting replacement ones.  Particularly in the case of my first iPod (the photo one), I got into a rhythm of hitting it and knocking it in order to get it to behave and function, which in retrospect was quite ridiculous.  My second iPod, a 5th-generation iPod classic with video, still works, though it went through a period of deleting itself of all my music which was why I got a new one.  Because I have such a huge amount of music (though 120GB is more than enough space, and I haven’t come close to filling this iPod yet, with 35GB still free!), having to reload it onto my iPod is a MASSIVE pain, and now I use a handy program called iLinkPod to back up my iPod every month or so.  It’s a great security blanket, and ensures that I never lose my songs (something which is a much more real concern with digital music – it’s far easier to lose a file than to lose a CD), nor my formatting – I am a little bit anal about how I categorise my songs and make sure that everything has the correct artwork.  So with my new iPod, I bought AppleCare to keep it under guarantee for a lot longer, and I feel a lot more secure now.  And everything is working fine!

The introduction of an Apple Store to Bristol has also been a great advantage.  Up until the opening of Cabot Circus last September, there was an Apple retailer in Temple Meads which was more or less hopeless when it came to fixing any issues that I had.  Problems with my first laptop and its CD drive went unrepaired because they were so pathetic in their service that I just preferred to persist with the problem than get it fixed by them. (When my CD or DVD would skip upon putting it in the drive, I would just beat the base of the computer and it would work.  Again, I am glad to say those days are long gone!)  When my hard drive finally corrupted (I think to be fair, that was my fault because in Spain, I would leave my computer on my bed and it would overheat lying on the thick blanket that I had bought), it was easier just to buy another laptop than get it fixed by them and face their judgement.  Also, their costs would probably have been close to the cost of another laptop anyways.  I bought my second laptop in Easter 2007, and I still have it today!  The one time that I had a problem with it, last Christmas when it would only work with the power adapter plugged in, I took it to the Apple Store in Cabot Circus, who repaired it and although they had said that providing a new logic board would cost £400 (a price I decided I was prepared to pay), they fixed it for no charge.  It was a lovely Christmas Eve present, and to this day I’m not sure if that was a mistake… I just got out of the store clutching my laptop before they could change their mind!

Updating my operating system to Leopard and recently Snow Leopard has kept my laptop current, and although it is 2 and a half years old now, I don’t feel that it’s been left behind or is lacking anything. I have got a Microsoft Office replacement now called NeoOffice, so that I can plot my anti-snacking spreadsheet and make a beautiful printable CV.  Using the real Microsoft at work has made me appreciate Apple all the more.  My Dell laptop starts up and shuts down so slowly; it installs updates at a snail’s pace; Microsoft Office is actually not that user friendly, with certain apparently-advanced functions being a rigmarole to discover.  And don’t rely on the help section – it only helps you with incredibly obvious things, and anything more technical is a struggle to even find according to their index system.  I conclude that their help sections must have been written by morons, and this week at work, I have solved my queries by using Google, seeing that the Microsoft help section had failed me so.  In short, I can’t see myself going back to Microsoft.

However, there is one area of my life where I’m not willing to let Apple in.  The iPhone, while I appreciate is a marvellous piece of kit and has so many useful (and useless! 😉 ) apps as well as a slim touchscreen, iPod capabilities and Safari web browser, is just far too common.  I see it everywhere. In addition, it’s expensive and I’m not really into buying phones on contract (I get easily confused), so I prefer to buy them SIM-free and then just keep my standard O2 Simplicity contract, which gives me unlimited web browsing, and enough free texts and minutes for £20 to keep me satisfied. I see iPhones everywhere, and while they are pretty and fantastic devices, I prefer to be a little bit different.  I have the LG Prada II, which is a beautiful sleek black touchscreen phone.  However, it also has a pull-out QWERTY keyboard (one of the main selling features for me) so after a little bit of teething, I can text pretty damn quick. I also have the internet and a camera and all the other important things I wanted in a smart phone.  But for me, it is more beautiful than an iPhone, it has the designer name which makes it a little more special to me, and I have never seen another one being used in public.  I am confident that the iPhone is probably a superior piece of kit, but not by much – I am happy without all the extra apps, as long as I have my QWERTY keyboard, free internet browsing, emails, beautiful phone and unique phone.  The LG Prada II has taken me a few months to get my head around (the instruction manual is not very clear, and it does randomly do crazy things such as restart when I receive more than one email), but I have grown to love it and appreciate its quirks as much as its beauty and functions.  As I’ve only had it for 5 months, I’m not really looking into what phone I might get next (iPhone or otherwise), as technology these days (particularly with smart phones) evolves so quickly that I won’t even think about it until my current phone starts getting tired and a new one will be necessary.  However, I know that Dior have got a beautiful phone on their website…

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secrets (my first album.)

August 19, 2009

Tonight I want to share with you the first collection of songs that I completed between August 2006 and March 2007.  I was listening to the songs while wasting time at work, and I realised that before I debut my new material in the coming months, I wanted to take you through a history of my previous songs (don’t worry, there aren’t too many! 😉 )  I entitled my first album Secrets mainly because I was writing a song with the same title that ironically didn’t make it onto the album, but also because this album was the first attempt at my realising my own dream of creating a collection of songs that were “my little secrets”, as it were.  The sound of the album is sorta a combination of R&B meets dance via pop, and I’m glad to say that it is a long way away from the material that I create now (though a couple of the songs on the new album Quiet Storm do hark back to that sound).  The vocal production leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s only towards the end of the album (which were the last songs to be finished) that the songs begin to sound anywhere near polished. Nevertheless, I am so proud of these songs because they represent my first attempt at realising my dream of producing an album and being able to share it with the world, and it allowed me to get to grips with Garageband (the studio program on my mac, which is an application that I am still learning with every song).  And some of them aren’t so bad!  I hope that you enjoy the album, and I’ve provided a track-by-track ‘review’ with my thoughts behind the songs and the songwriting process.

DOWNLOAD SECRETS HERE: megaupload rapidshare zshare

Prophecy (Intro)
I wanted an intro to my album that was ominous and mysterious, so I liked the sitar-esque intrsuments.  The words are from the Book of Revelation, which makes it a direct copy of Madonna’s “The Beast Within”… but what the heck.  I thought it worked as an intro, I liked the idea of it being a “revelation” (because the album is called “Secrets”!), and I thought it led nicely into the pounding alien synths of the next track…

Reach Out
This is the “lead single” of the album, very club ready and the second song that I ever did.  Things I like about this song: the use of strings in an uptempo, the pounding bass and synths, the twinkling piano over the top, and the tongue-twisting chorus which proved to me that I write lyrics which are sometimes too hard to sing: “All my ladies in the club looking fly in your Moschino sexy sophisticated / All my boys ridin dirty flexin muscles flossin twenty” is a little bit more of a tongue-twister than I realised.  Things I should have improved: the chorus is in a slightly different key to the “just reach out just reach out” hook which comes after it!  Although I am certainly a singer before I am a rapper, the rap in the bridge is not my finest hour.  But I played the hell out of this on my ipod, and I was so proud so this song means a lot to me.

Confession (Prelude) / Checkin’
The prelude comes after I had just gotten into Joss Stone’s most recent album, Introducing Joss Stone, which used a lot of old-school instruments such as horns and live drums, so I was flirting with that old-school sound.  And then for “Checkin'”, I liked the contrast between the brassy horns in the prelude and then the cold, spiky electronic backing of the song itself.  In “Checkin'”, I actually combine those horns into the dance-feel of the song, and the beat changes several times throughout the song (particularly in the prechorus change to the chorus) which is something I feel makes the song fresh.  However, the vocal production on it leaves a little to be desired… So there are things I appreciate about the song, but also things that I wish I had polished a little more, once again.

My Man / I’m Coming (Interlude)
Again, this song has subdued vocals, and the somewhat restrained vocal production means that it fades into the beats a little too much.  This is one of the most R&B songs, and the straightforward ballad backing is something I think I did a really great job of.  The lyrics are also straightforward “keep your hands off my man”, but I turned it into a ballad rather than an uptempo, which is what usually goes along with a more fiery message.  The song is confident and was written a lot in the spirit of Monica’s “Sideline Ho” – you might be the one on the side, but I’m the main dude, so don’t even think of coming for me.  I like this one, and I wouldn’t mind doing another song with the same sort of music backing, just stronger vocal production (especially on the whispers, which are barely audible).

Respect Me
This is the first song I ever did!!! This brings back memories, I was sat on the sofa in the lounge, before I was due to go off to Spain, and I just started messing about with what sounded a little crazy on Garageband. I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I made my vocals skip, and then I started playing with the different drum kits.  The crazy beat is a product of going “C D E F G A” on one of the kits, nothing more, nothing less!  The siren is stolen from Beyoncé’s “Ring The Alarm”, and I wanted the same kind of fiery approach to the vocals, without the screaming!  The vocals actually came out pretty good, so on some of the songs I did in between this one and the last two songs on the disc, I don’t know why I didn’t put so much effort into the vocal production.  The handclaps in the bridge are my very own handclaps, which is why they sound a bit fuzzy, but other than that, I feel that this song holds up fairly well compared to others on the disc.

Reverse
One of the things that annoys me about Garageband is that you actually can’t reverse any portion of any of the tracks.  Not vocals, not anything (if anyone knows a way to do it, please let me know!).  So instead I slowed my vocals down in the chorus; “strato-stratosphere!” More questionable rapping in the verses, but the vocal run in the first prechorus – “daaaaaaaaaaaaaaanger” – is one of my finest moments! (and yes, it is all me doing that! No special effects!)  The concept of the “tetris beat” is adapted from Gwen Stefani’s “Yummy”, featuring Pharrell.  The straightforward 4-4 beat, combined with the odd space-alien synth and hand-claps (not mine this time) served as a simple club-ish backing.  I also liked the idea of the ” count 1,2,3,4…” which broke the song after the first chorus and gains attention.  This song isn’t bad at all, but excluding the Latin piano in the bridge, I wish I had done more singing on it and less rapping/speaking.

Say Anything
I think I did a great job with this ballad, which I presume must have been inspired by Janet Jackson’s “Take Care” from her underrated 20YO album.  I was listening to this song in the store-room, and this and the final song (the next one) “Yur Boi” are by far the best songs on this cd.  It’s a sexy, slow ballad that goes beyond the physical to really express how I can relish a lover’s company, not only when we’re talking but even when we’re silent.  True communication goes beyond words… but I still ended the song with a poetic spoken-word coda.  The bassline shudders appropriately, and the finger-clicks accentuate the subtlety of the whole song.  I can imagine Aaliyah singing something like this, as well as Janet Jackson.  I look fondly back on this song, which I wrote in Spain along with…

Yur Boi
Originally, this song was meant to share the sound of Brooke Hogan’s “For A Moment” (which is referenced in the very last line of the song), but midway through my stay in Spain, I rediscovered Jaimeson’s garage-R&B album, and I was listening to “Complete” and decided to change the song so that it had more of a drum’n’bass feel, which ended the album on an unexpected note that drew away from both the R&B and dance elements that had come before.  The melody steals a bit from Beenie Man & Mýa’s “Girls Dem Sugar” (the part where she sings “If I could be your girl” is the little snippet I stole, though I rejigged the rhythm and everything so it’s not recognisable until you compare the songs side by side).  I also wanted the lyrics to tell a story that surprised the listener – the first half of the song gives the impression that I’m blissfully happy with my lover, when as the song transitions into its less beat-driven second-half, it transpires that I’m alone and missing that person terribly, wishing that I could live our love over again.  The dénouement was reflected by the musical changes, where the drum’n’bass beat was subdued in favour of an acoustic guitar loop, strings and the piano melody which was pushed to the forefront.  On a couple of songs on Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, I was impressed by the way that Justin transitioned between the principal club-ready mainstream song, and the more emotional, heartfelt coda that segued perfectly into what came before and after.  I’m thinking in particular of “Lovestoned / I Think She Knows” and “What Goes Around… / …Comes Around”.  So I sought to recreate that sort of transition.  I think that the song turned out great, and apart from a couple of production quirks, it sounds quite fresh and legit, even today.  This song and “Say Anything” I think are the two best songs on the album, as they sound slightly more polished and have thus held up better with time in comparison to my newer material.

Once again, I want to thank you for reading, taking all these different journeys with me.  Please download the album (let me know if I need to re-up any of the links), and rest assured there is more (and a lot better!!!) to come. I hope that you enjoy reading the descriptions along to the songs and that they shed light on where and what I get my inspiration from.  I also hope that you’ll listen to my new music and see just how much I have matured and how far I have come, both musically and as a person.  From the bottom of my heart, thankyou 🙂