One Giant Leap Motion

This post is inspired by Scott Hanselman’s recent review of the Leap Motion (Leap Motion: Amazing, Revolutionary, Useless). I found (and still believe) his comments about it failing to be a solid UI replacement for traditional devices like the mouse (Minority Report, like the Hoverboard, continues to be a pipe dream) to be true, but I countered that I found the term “useless” to be rather unfair.

Although I fancy myself a developer, I’m not much of a tinkerer, so I hardly have the time or patience to try to create anything with this device. Consequently I can’t speak at all to how useful this thing will be for the average consumer. But the moment I discovered it several months ago, I immediately saw the potential for one scenario; my other passion: music.

In my spare time I like to play around in my studio and on the decks, mixing and producing electronic music (yes, tech events, I am free for booking at the next big conference after party!). The Leap Motion looked like it would make a fantastic controller for manipulating sounds on the fly with the flick of a wrist.

I preordered the device, sight unseen, the day I discovered it. It just got here a few weeks ago, and I am already blown away by how awesome this thing is.

Geco: It’s all About the MIDI

My controller of choice for mixing music is the Traktor S4, which can respond to MIDI signals to control virtually any parameter in the DJ software. The Leap Motion itself doesn’t output any MIDI signals, but thankfully the geniuses over at UWYN already solved this problem with the Geco software (available for both Mac and Windows, and at $9.99 worth every penny!). Not only does this software convert motions from the Leap controller to MIDI, but it exposes a whole RANGE of inputs based on both the position, motion, and orientation of your hand and fingers.

startup_configpanel-3-

This makes for potentially DOZENS of simultaneous control messages you can manipulate simultaneously, assuming of course, you have a) the hands (check) and b) the coordination (I’m working on it!).

I especially love how the “hand present” maps as a trigger (rather than a knob/fader). Combine this with the multiple input mapping of Traktor and you can use it to toggle on effects or switches only while your hand is present, then sweep the parameters of that filter with different hand motions.

traktor-midi-preferences-3-

Best of all, the software differentiates between hand “open” and “closed”, allowing you to switch between parameters literally on the fly.

The Geco documentation page explains this better than I ever could. In addition if you want to see in action many different ways the Leap Motion can be used, check out their Video Tutorials as well as this cool beatboxing video making the rounds on YouTube.

Shut Up and Play Some Music

I can talk more about how I set this up on my machine, including the Traktor mappings, if anyone is interested. But in the meantime, I recorded a quick and dirty 8 minute demo of how I am trying to incorporate this into my routine. It’s a little rough as I’m still getting used to flailing my arms around without looking like a total jerk. I also only mapped a tiny subset of the available parameters to the filter, reverb, and beatmasher, but hope to be able to expand this as I get better at it (see previous sentence about flailing arms).

There is slight, but noticeable lag every now and then, especially when attempting to manipulate more than one controller with a single hand, but I’m hoping this will improve as both Leap Motion and Geco continue to evolve.

I’ve posted the video over on my DJ blog, and embedded it below from my YouTube Channel.

Please feel free to send me any questions, comments or suggestions (or event bookings; you can pay me in conference tickets and beer!).

All in all, the $80 Leap Motion (plus $10 for the Geco software) was a no-brainer investment and welcome addition to my (and any) studio. Tricky perhaps, but useless? Never!

Another Year Another Upgrade

So much has happened since I last (again) stopped updating this blog. I’ve been granted the rare and fantastic opportunity to join the team at Falafel Software as a developer. I’m seriously having the time of my life working on exciting new projects and even new platforms like Windows 8 and Windows Phone!

As a result, however, I did need to make a few life changes. The most important being that I have suspended my freelance services indefinitely (hopefully permanently!) as long as I continue to work with the Falafel team. That time was certainly a fun ride, and I gained a ton of experience that has been instrumental in getting me where I am today! But now I’m happy to be a part of this fantastic team, and dedicate 100% of my time to Falafel and its customers.

In addition, I’ve also folded my Sitefinity Guru blog back into my personal blog, and am going to be shuttering that site, blog, and video series. The existing posts will remain, but since I want to channel all my writings through Falafel, all my new Sitefinity and other software related posts will now be posted on the Falafel Blogs. Specifically you can follow my blog posts here.

This personal blog will remain mostly as a sounding board for my rants (like my recent issues with Nokia and Windows Phone, which by the way STILL continue to vex me), as well as anything worth announcing (like new side projects and music). In addition, you can always find me on Twitter at @SelAromDotNet.

I’d like to thank any readers who found my posts helpful, and I hope you will continue to follow my updates on the Falafel Blogs. If anyone is interested in taking over the SitefinityGuru domain and Twitter account, please let me know, otherwise I’ll just keep it to redirect the old posts into my site.

Until next time (next year probably!) thanks for reading.

THIS is why Windows Phone and Nokia are going to Fail

Today started out pretty exciting. I had at last received my $500 reward card for winning second place the March Tech Affiliate Sweepstakes for my app Console.fm for Windows Phone. With this, I planned to finally upgrade me and my wife to brand new Lumia phones, our first WP8 devices, which we’ve been waiting MONTHS to get.

Unfortunately, instead of ending with this post being a bragging "look at my new Nokia Lumia WP8", it’s a testament to the inevitable and utter failure of the platform, and the near giving-up point of a true, loyal supporter.

The Long and Painful Journey

First, some background. I apologize if you don’t like long stories, but I feel it’s important to understand exactly where I’m coming from to truly grasp why this is such a bitter disappointment.

My first smartphone was a used Palm Treo 700w Pocket PC. The iPhone had just taken the smartphone space by storm, but being a staunch Windows user (and a complete Apple hater!) I was proud to brandish my inferior Windows Mobile device, no matter how bulky, clunky, and junky it was.

Despite it’s failings, it did work well for people fully on the Microsoft stack, which I was (and continue to be). I liked it so much that I ended up buying two additional Pocket PC devices over the years (the Dell Axim x51v and some Viewsonic device, BOTH of which I still have today!) and found them valuable and used them every day.

But great phones they were not. Besides the fact that they were slow, nobody wanted to build apps for them, and with good cause, as let’s face it, the platform really sucked. I tried to learn to program for CE and it was the most dreadful time I ever spent inside Visual Studio.

But still, I chugged along. Partly because I was a fanboy (and DESPISE Apple and Google and everything they stand for), but mostly because I genuinely like the Microsoft stack. When the time came to upgrade my phone, all my friends had nifty androids and iphones, and I chose the HTC Touch Pro, as it was pretty much the only Windows Mobile device Sprint offered at the time.

If you’ve ever used the TP, then I don’t have to tell you what a GODAWFUL PIECE OF JUNK that phone was. Six months later, HTC released the Touch Pro 2 and I was PISSED because I had wasted my money on their first POS and thanks to my contract, I was stuck with it.

I read a lot of great reviews about the Touch Pro 2 however, so when time came to upgrade, I went for it. Not really because I thought it was a great phone (it wasn’t) but rather because once again, it was the ONLY FREAKING CHOICE available for Sprint.

So I gave in, thinking "screw it, it may not be the best phone, but I believe in this platform and I’m going to support it". At this point Windows Phone 7 was more than just a rumor, but I had no idea when it would be coming out, and I sure as hell didn’t think Sprint was going to get one right away (they didn’t).

So I bit the bullet yet again, and threw my support behind the Microsoft Stack. And holy crap did it once again kick me in the ass. I don’t know what people were saying about the Touch Pro 2; I found it to be several steps BACKWARD. The freaking thing didn’t even have a god damned FLASH for the camera!

The TouchFLO 3D was a complete resource hog, and everything ran like a anesthetized sloth dragging a dump truck through a a pit of molasses. I found some custom ROMS that made the phone BEARABLE, but it was still a nightmare, having blown good money on crap phones I couldn’t even GIVE away (they’re still rotting in a drawer somewhere around here).

And yet, I never gave up. "They’ll get it right someday," I thought, and just kept chugging along.

WP7 Arrives

When I finally held my first Windows Phone device, there was no hesitation; I was completely sold! After all my suffering on the old Windows Mobile platform, this was finally something I could be proud of! And as a developer, I was blown away by how easy (and fun!) it was going to be to develop for the platform. I couldn’t wait!

Unfortunately, waiting is all I could do. None of the carriers wanted to back the platform, and Sprint didn’t even HAVE a WP7 device for MONTHS. And when they finally got one? ANOTHER GOD DAMNED HTC DEVICE!

That’s when I found T-Mobile. Although their WP7 device was also a (god damned) HTC, it was at least a nicer, slimmer device (didn’t have the bulky keyboard of the Arrive, nor the sliding parts that were absolutely going to fail). Unfortunately, I was still on contract with Sprint.

"Screw it" I said, "I want a WP7 phone!" So I once again bit the bullet, paid the ETF fee and switched, getting a snazzy new WP7 for me (and droids for the family). I paid a pretty penny to get out of that contract, and even more for the phone.

I wanted it THAT MUCH.

Fate is a cruel jerk

I loved my phone. Despite the fact that it was an HTC, the WP7 platform more than made up for it. This thing was GREAT and EVERYTHING I wanted in a phone. At long last, my journey through the muddy waters of crappy phones was over.

Fate had other plans.

Not two months after I got the phone, it slipped out of my hands and fell to the ground.

Concrete ground.

I was devastated. The new phone I fought tooth and nails for was destroyed, and I barely even got a chance to use it.

And since we had switched carriers, I couldn’t even use one of my crappy old Sprint phones while I tried to get a replacement!

I ended up having to borrow my parent’s crappy clamshell phone (thank GOD they used T-mobile) for a month while I scoured craigslist for someone who was selling a used HD7.

Eventually I found a guy who sold me one for $150, and once again I bit the bullet.

I wanted it THAT MUCH.

The phone itself worked well enough, except I discovered too late that the light sensor was damaged. So when I make a phone call, I have to manually turn off the screen with the power button, otherwise I would hang up on my caller with my face. The camera also didn’t work, but I managed to get that fixed.

But the phone never really quite worked right, and to this day (yes I’m still using it) I still have to turn off the screen every time I take a stupid call.

And I won’t even get into the fact that T-mobile didn’t release a 7.8 upgrade and basically took a big dump on all us WP users, including my wife who has a Lumia 710.

I also won’t discuss how T-Mobile offered an LTE capable phone without actually making it LTE capable.

NOR will I go into the other dump Windows Phone loyalists got from Nokia and ATT who decided to make the flagship Lumia devices carrier-exclusive so that even if I wanted to (or could afford to) I could never get one!

And yet, despite all these experiences, I’m still happy with my Windows Phone.

I like it THAT MUCH.

Left Behind

So fast-forward to today. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this tirade, I received a $500 gift card and I knew immediately that I wanted to spend it towards two new Lumia 810 phones for me and my wife. At long last, I would finally be on WP8, with a solid, decent phone no less!

Aaaaaand that’s when I discover that T-Mobile freaking STOPPED SELLING THE 810 literally a freaking DAY before I was going to buy it.

At this point I am seriously starting to suspect that I am in some kind of Truman Show which has the sole purpose of driving a man insane just slowly enough so that he can’t see it coming.

I then discover that they are still selling the refurbished 810, and for a slim $240 and hope is temporarily restored. I log on to my account and try to purchase.

If you can’t guess what happens next then you haven’t been paying attention.

The refurbished Lumia 810 is NOT an option for existing customers to purchase!

The only way to get it is to open a freaking NEW ACCOUNT.

Rescue Me

I figure this HAS to be a mistake. Surely I can call and place an order. So I dial up customer service. I’m sorry, what I meant to say was that I dialed up "customer service".

My journey through the automated answering machine is enough to fill another one of these ranty posts, but suffice it to say after 30 minutes of what eventually turned into a screaming match with the automated system, I was finally put in touch with a human being.

Who promptly told me they couldn’t sell me the phone either, because it wasn’t in their system for me to buy on my account.

[Insert image of exploding head here, or if I can’t find one, I’ll record one myself because I’m pretty god damn close at this point]

The agent (who was friendly enough, no disrespect to people who’s fault this isn’t), then offered to transfer me to Sales, who might be able to sell me the phone outright. "Why not" I say "it’s worth a shot".

I’m placed on hold, and the first thing the automated voice says is something like "this department can not upgrade phones, we can only sell new lines."

GAHHHHHH

But I wait it out anyway, just in case.

I want it THAT MUCH.

Alas, sure enough, she tells me that there is no way for the sales department to sell a phone without a line, and offers to transfer me back to "customer service" for the upgrade.

I explain that they just sent me to her (a familiar story when dealing with T-Mobile "customer service"), and that if she can’t help me, it appears that no one can.

As a final attempt, she tells me that because T-Mobile no longer has contracts, I could theoretically buy two new lines, paying for the phones outright, then cancelling the service when they arrive.

Unfortunately, this means I’ll have to pay the full price of the phones, and although I have my reward card, it isn’t enough to cover the full cost of the phones with tax. I had planned to just bill them to my phone account and make a payment with the reward.

I considered the proposal of jumping through all these hoops just to get a phone I was BEGGING to pay for, and I realized that I’ve spent half a decade making compromises, going out of my way (and my wallet) to support a platform that never supported me back. ENOUGH.

I guess I just didn’t want it THAT MUCH.

It’s the Carriers, stupid!

So how does this all tie into my premise of the failure of the platform and Nokia? Should one lonely guy’s miserable (and likely unique) experience really have any relevance in this discussion?

Well, let me put it this way. I spent YEARS chasing this platform. Waiting for it. Sacrificing for it. Paying for it. and every step of the way, getting kicked in the ass by it.

And despite all that, I still have to BEG them to take my money.

I can go into any phone store anywhere (now INCLUDING freaking T-Mobile) and walk out with an iPhone. Or a droid. or a freaking BLACKBERRY. And indeed those stores are inundated with posters, ads, and working demos of these devices that you can pick up and play with.

And tucked over into a corner is Windows Phone. And it’s off. And broken. And none of the sales staff knows what it is. Or how to use it. Or has it in stock.

This couldn’t be a better analogy to Windows Phone users. Windows Phone isn’t a third class citizen because it’s a third class device. It’s a third class device because it is US, the owners, the users, the lovers, the supporters, that are treated like third class citizens!

Where is the pride and care that should be given to loyal users like us? Microsoft seems hell bent on just focusing on new customers that they’re forgetting the BILLIONS of us who are already here, BEGGING you to take our money.

I read recently someone defending Ballmer because despite Windows lackluster sails, Microsoft posted a nice 19% rise profit this quarter.

Well you know what? that profit sure as hell didn’t come from selling Windows Phones.

And what kills me is that it COULD have. Hell, it SHOULD HAVE. 19% rise in profit is good? Imagine what that profit rise would have been if Microsoft had their SHIT TOGETHER.

Windows Phone should have taken the smartphone space by storm. No it’s not going to topple the iPhone, or make a dent in the droid market share. But god damn it, it should be doing better than a measly 5% after THREE FREAKING YEARS on the shelf.

But no, they had to give exclusivity to AT&T alienating MILLIONS of potential customers. They had to let carriers take a creamy dump on the devices, shunting them to the dark corner of shame.

Windows Phone isn’t going to fail because it’s a bad platform that nobody likes. It’s not even going to fail because, even after three freaking years, nobody knows anything about it.

It’s going to fail because the people like me, who DO know it, DO love it, and DO want it CAN’T FREAKING BUY THE FREAKING THING!

Shut up and take my money!

Let me close by saying this: I’ve not given up on Windows Phone. Not only is it a joy to use, it is a joy to develop for. Building the Console.fm app was some of the best time I’ve had coding in years. There’s a special pride that comes from using your own app on your own phone.

So don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an "I’m jumping ship to the iPhone" like all those other lame-o’s who feel like they’ve won something by changing their minds.

It’s merely an expression of my severe disappointment in the platform and everyone involved who did everything completely wrong. It’s just a rant to demonstrate my utter frustration that I am practically BEGGING someone to take my money, and instead getting dumped on every freaking step of the way.

And yet, I won’t stop begging. Somewhere out there is a WP8 device with my name on it, and I’m going to find it. I may even give in, take a chance and buy another off freaking Craigslist if I have to, broken light sensors and all.

Because let’s face it, when all is said and done, I do still want it that much.

At least, I WANT to want it…

Windows 8 Woes

Today, rather than spending my usually productive morning getting things done, I have to waste this time installing Windows 7 back on to my PC.

Actually, what I meant is reinstalling Windows 7 after my Windows 8 RTM upgrade suffered some kind of horrendous crash, and failed miserably to recover, leaving me helpless, and worse, computerless…

Mid Year Update

As expected, this has been a busy year, but a good one. I’ve managed to accomplish or at least begin many of the goals I set out, including updating my site and producing some new music.

A Good Friday Indeed

What better day to log a life update than a holiday. Say what you will about them religious folk (and God knows, I do), but they do make for a good day off

Writer’s Block

I recently updated my website from Sitefinity 3 to 4 in an effort to rededicate myself to blogging and content writing in general (as you probably have already noticed, I suck at writing! more on this later).

2012: New Year, New Look, New Content!

After almost an entire year of distractions, procrastinations, disasters, setbacks, and beer, I finally sat myself down long enough to finally upgrade my site to the latest version of Sitefinity. With such a rapid, aggressive release schedule, Telerik has certainly kept me busy exploring the ever-increasing and always fantastic new features.

But as it does to everyone, the turning of the calendar to a new year has given me an opportunity to reflect, reset, and refocus.

Sitefinity Toolkit Moves to Codeplex

Now that Sitefinity 4 has been out for over a month, the time I have available for maintaining the Sitefinity Toolkit is quickly diminishing. However, I still receive frequent emails asking for help, suggesting new features, or reporting bugs. I’m glad that so many of you continue to find the toolkit useful, and I regret that I don’t have enough time to keep up with all of your feedback.

As a result, I am pleased to announce that, at long last, I am releasing the full source code for the Sitefinity Toolkit on Codeplex. All updates, discussions, bug reports, and feature requests should be directed to the Codeplex project so that they can be better tracked, responded to, and implemented.

Important Changes

Because the source code is now available, future releases of the Toolkit will no longer be compiled for every Sitefinity version. Only the most recent version (currently SP4) for ASP.NET version 4.0 will be publicly available on Codeplex; all other versions will need to be manually built from the source code, referencing the binaries for your project.

However, since they are already up, the downloads for the current Sitefinity Toolkit v1.2 will remain available for all Sitefinity and ASP.NET versions.

Whenever there is a new release posted, I’ll be sure to add to the documentation Instructions for building the toolkit for other Sitefinity and ASP.NET versions.

Future Plans

As I mentioned, nearly all of my time is now focused on the new Sitefinity version 4. However, I plan to continue to work on the toolkit, including new features and bug fixes as reported by users.

However, since the full source code is now available, please feel free to add your own modifications and share them back to the community. Any useful contributions will gladly be incorporated into the project.

This is my first ever open-source project, so I ask that you bear with me as I figure things out. But I hope that it is a successful one, allowing the project to continue to grow and be a useful tool for Sitefinity users everywhere.

Thank you to everyone for your comments, suggestions, and donations (which, by the way, are still welcome and very much appreciated)!

Teach kids science through electronic music

The Pepsi Refresh Project is awarding 250K to fund great ideas. As a lover of music, a dj, a producer, and former tutor, I can’t think of a better way to invest this money than on both education AND music, probably the two greatest things we can give our children.

The Moog Foundation wants to use this fund to teach children science using Electronic music, including Synths, Theremins, Oscilloscopes, and everything electronic.

If only they had this when I was in school!

You can help make a difference by voting once every day here: http://www.refresheverything.com/bobmoogfoundation

it’s free to vote so do it! they’re ranked 86th as of right now and have to move up to #1 or #2 before the end of December to win the funding so do it, share it, make a difference and keep electronic music alive for the next generation!