Wednesday, November 7, 2007

GarageBand 4.1

(For those not in the know, GarageBand is Apple's make-your-own music program.)

GarageBand 4.1 is part of the iLife 08 suite (also comprising iPhoto, iMovie, the .Mac Web Gallery, iWeb and iDVD) and is the logical 'next-step-forward' from previous versions.

Although most of the advertising and many of the articles about it dwell (at great length, sometimes) on the new Magic GarageBand, I found that I whizzed through that aspect in about five minutes. Woohoo, you can choose different instruments to play exactly the same piece of muzak.

The real difference lies in its speed: the app is a real hog of processor power and I still find myself quitting out of all unused apps before launching it - a bad habit from G4 days - but unless you're attempting a really ambitious project it's not really necessary anymore. In fact, I've had the warning window that I've exceeded my number of tracks appear before I've had the dreaded "Some parts of this song have not been played..." window (which means it's too big and the computer's not coping and you have to save it as a song in its own right and then start up another one and import the song you just saved as a single track...phew!).

Another plus is the introduction of an Arrangements feature - amazingly handy and time saving, especially if you're using a theme repeatedly in your song, as it allows you to denote parts of it as 'verse' or 'chorus' (or whatever you want to call them), and to copy and paste them and move them around and change their order. Unfortunately, if you decide you want the 'verse' section, say, to be a little longer, you can't just drag the bar to extend that section and push the next section along (if you drag the bar over, all you're doing is extending the 'verse' part to include a few bars in the next section. You need to create a new section and then move it to the end of the one you want to extend; It's a lot less stuffing around than doing it the old way but there's a lot of room for improvement in the Arrangements area.

There are a lot of little tweaks on features that were in the older versions of GarageBand; one of my favourites is a drop-down menu on lops that will display the family of loops - very good when the loop you have is close but not quite right, and you can thus easily chose a better one without having to wade through the loops menu (which has also been expanded - goody! New noises!)

New features also described for the app (which I haven't used yet, but I can see they'd be a good thing) include multi-take recording, support for 24-bit recording and notation, and a greater range of effects you can apply to your tracks and instruments (which I've tinkered with, acknowledged there are more than there used t be, and made a mental promise to investigate further, one of these days, when I have time...)

Overall: it's still intuitively easy to use, and it's still a good app, better than it was, but could do with yet more tweaking in some areas.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What one should wear at a fashionable Japanese dinner...

A straw poll was conducted by the Daily Telegraph this week (with no mention of the total number of respondents!) to ascertain public understanding of the Kyoto Protocol.  Respondents were asked to select a description of Kyoto from a set of multiple options: a) A Korean car, b) The treaty that ended WWII, c) An agreement on carbon emissions and d) A Japanese banquet dish.  

Almost half of the people surveyed answered correctly, identifying Kyoto as an agreement on carbon emissions, but close to half of those who answered correctly admitted guessing the response.  38 percent thought the Kyoto Protocol was the treaty that ended World War 2, and 14 percent thought it was a Japanese banquet dish...

This is very much a current topic, and makes me wonder - is it really our school system that is letting us down, history-wise, or is it simply that the average, man-in-the-street Australian chooses to be massively uninformed?  This is a topic which all Australians should have heard of (it's been very much on the news for at least the past few months) whether it is mentioned in school or not, which would indicate that the craptacular poll results stem less from a namby-pamby syllabus and more from a high percentage of the respondents being apathetic, lazy, disinterested and possibly just plain stupid.

But they'll be allowed to vote at the upcoming election, where they can exercise their opinions as to the shortfalls of the education system and our position on global matters of environment...