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Archive for September, 2008

For quite some time now I’ve been looking to buy gear for recording.  Since I just got a brand new MacBook, I felt now was the right time.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about MacBooks, and nothing but good things about Mac’s general performance for music applications.  In fact, many professional recording engineers use Mac Pro with Logic Studio software for recording, editing and mixing music.  When buying my MacBook I had them preinstall Logic Express which is basically a trimmed down version of Logic Studio.  Its a step up from the GarageBand software Mac is now including with their machines.  I also bought the MacBook with 2GB RAM, 2.4Ghz, and 160GB hard drive in order to have enough power and speed to do what I need to do.  I made sure to ask my more computer savy friends if it was worth going to the machine with more memory, and they basically screamed yes at me!  so I did.

The next step to building my home studio was doing some research.  One week ago I didn’t know much about home recording.  I have done recording at a friends home studio (check out Tim McGivern on MySpace), and I have played live music, but someone else is always running all the equipment.  I knew that there were different types of mics, and that mics are very important.  If you have a crap mic, then all the best software in the world isn’t going to make you sound nice.  I knew that I needed some sort of panel to plug into prior to the computer, and I knew I needed a good set of headphones in order to mix and master the recorded product.  To get me further along in knowledge, I visited the Pro Audio section of Guitar Center.  Some musicians out there don’t really like Guitar Center, and I can understand why.  I see it as a place to go try out instruments and talk to people who know way more about stuff than I do.  They also have excellent sales every now and then.

I learned all about preamps, interface’s, phantom power, condensor microphones, instrument microphones, microphone combos.  I learned about monitor headphones, monitor speakers, firewire vs USB, latency and on and on.  I hit the internet that night to find out more.  After a few hours researching I bought the following gear for $367 at Musicians Friend:

MXL 992 LARGE DIAPHRAGM CONDENSER MICROPHONE

MXL 992 Large Diaphragm Condensor Microphone

MXL 992 Large Diaphragm Condensor Microphone

I also got a mic stand for this.  Its a boom stand, so the placement should be very easy.  This mic has had fantastic reviews.  5 stars in a lot of cases.  Everyone from home studio recorders to professionals like this baby.  I know that microphones are the single most important thing when it comes to having a recording you can be proud of, so I spent some time looking into them and reading review after review.  The negative thing people said about this mic is that the shell is a little flimsy, so you have to handle it with care.  I’m going to treat it like my baby.

PRESONUS AUDIOBOX

PreSonus Audiobox

PreSonus Audiobox

So it seems that the preamps is another important piece.  This little guy is going to take the signal I give it from the microphone and turn it into something that the computer software can use.  This is what delivers the signal to the computer.  The higher quality the signal, the better your recording is going to sound.  This little puppy plugs into the USB port (which has more latency than Firewire) and again, has rave reviews among home recording artists out there.  PreSonus is widely known for the quality of their preamps.  The preamp is what creates the signal delivered to the computer.  Of course, I’m not being too technical here because I don’t really know much more than this.  I’m sure there are better explanations out there.

AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-M40FS PRECISION STUDIOPHONES

Audio Technica ATH-M40fs Precision Studiophones

Audio Technica ATH-M40fs Precision Studiophones

These headphones, again, good reviews for mixing recordings.  The only negative is that after a few years the padding starts to chip away.  Oh well.  The price was great.

I’d love it if anyone reading has an suggestions on how to make the set up better.  I’m planning on setting the mic up for mono recording to get a live feel.  This will mean placement of the mic halfway up, and a bit above the fret board of the guitar.  I’ll experiment with distance from the mic.  I’m pumped!!!

Enjoy the Sounds,

Tim


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Bicycle tools are somewhat expensive.  If your like me and don’t like paying for labor you can do yourself, but don’t want to buy tools that you might be able to make a lot cheaper, then you’ve come to the right spot.  I have made a few tools from stuff you can buy at any decent hardware store.  Just about all of these tools have been made in some form or fashion before this, so I’m not claiming anything, I just want to share my knowledge.

Headset Cup Remover: This one is easy.  Take 12″ piece of 3/4″ copper tubing and cut two slits about 4″ long as on-center as you possibly can.  (You can also cut just one slit, but you sacrifice having even pressure on the cup when you go to smack it out.)  In other words, the slits should have the same distance between them on both sides.  For cutting I use a craftsman version of a dremel tool, but a hack saw and vice may work as well.  When your happy with the slits, carefully separate the two prongs.  Copper has a low yield strength, so take care in separating the prongs.  You want to try to bend the full length of the prong as opposed to just at the joint.   At the end of the tube you want the separation to be enough so you can slide the 3/4″ uncut end into the head tube and pull the prongs into the head tube until you hear the tool “click” into place.  One or two hard smacks with a hammer will pop your cups right out.  The copper will not damage steel cups no matter how hard you hit it, so don’t back down.  The less hits to remove the cups, the more times you’ll be able to use the tool.  Copper is soft and will deform when you hit it so you might be able to get two or three uses out of one piece.  If you plan on removing cups on a daily basis (or more than just a few times) buy a remover tool.   Once I start removing cups on a regular basis, I’ll switch over to a real tool, but for now, that length of copper tube sitting in my shop is good enough.  Here’s a photo of my latest one.  Its a one slit deal.

Single Slit Homemade Headset Cup Remover

Single Slit Homemade Headset Cup Remover

Fork Crown Race Setter: A crown race must pressed or tapped down with even pressure all around it.  For 1″ steel forks I use a 1″ copper sleeve and a 1″ by 24″ steel pipe.  Grease the race, slide it into place and twist it while putting downward pressure.   By doing this you should be able to get it started onto the crown evenly.  If it didn’t happen evenly all around, start over or skip this step.  Next, slide the copper sleeve onto the steertube, and then the steel tube.  (A 1″ piece of steel tubing typically has an inner diameter of 1″.  A 1″ steertube typically has a outer diameter of 1″ so the tool should slide right onto the steertube.)  Turn the whole thing upside down, center the copper sleeve on the race, hold the fork blade and steel pipe in and tap until the pipe on the groud (or floor) until the race is fully seated.  Sometimes a slam is required to fully seat the race.  Here is photo of my trusty tool.

Homemade Fork Crown Race Setter

Homemade Fork Crown Race Setter

Headset Press for 1″ Headsets: This can be made using a 3/4″ stainless steel piece of all-thread, brass bushings, washers, and nuts.  The bushings must be softer than steel, so brass is a good choice because it is a copper alloy, and bushings will typically come in plastic, rubber or brass.  Bronze is fine too (it is also a copper alloy) so if you find bronze bushings, your good to go.  The size of the bushings should be 3/4″ inner diamter, 1″ sleeve diameter, and 1-1/4″ flange diameter.  A good hardware store should have this size.  The press is to be constructed as shown in the photo below with the head tube and headset pieces in between the brass bushings.  All headset cups are a bit different, so when setting up the press, experiment to see if the sleeve end of the bushing, or the flanged end of the bushing fits on better.  More often than not, I find the flanged end applying the pressure to both the upper race and lower race to be the way to go.  Assemble and slowly tighten one nut while holding the other in place.

Homemade Headset Press

Homemade Headset Press

Dropout Alignment Tool: Start with two steel eyebolts, four nuts, and four stainless steel washers.  I use 3/8″ eye bolts that are about 8″ long.  3/8″ translates to about 9.5mm, so they are just a hair too big to fit into front fork ends.  To fix this, I ground off as close to 0.25mm on each side as I could making flats on either side of the bolt.  I recommend lining the flats up with the eyelets so that your eyelets are parrallel when installed on the fork.  I also ground the threads off the end of the bolts so they would not get caught on each other if they happen to overlap (this would happen in a serious case of dropout misalignment.)  Rear dropouts are typically 10mm, so fit is not a problem.  Just make sure you have them seated as far back as posible.  Here is a photo of mine:

Homemade Dropout Alignment Tool

Homemade Dropout Alignment Tool

Other Frame Alignment Tools: I’ve also used a 2×4 and a piece of string to align rear triangles.  Use Sheldon’s cold setting method.

Other Homemade Tools: I’ve heard of people making their own repair stands, and truing stands as well.  I can imagine how this is done, but I have not done it.  I bought both.

Enjoy your ride!

Tim

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Visit my new blog The Sustainable Cyclist for more talk about bikes!

I tend to look at bicycles whenever they’re in range of my view. I’ve noticed something that people have done to there multi-speed road bike more often lately that doesn’t make a lot of sense unless your in a emergency situation. I’ve seen a lot of this here in New Orleans, but used to see it every now and then while living in Cambridge, MA.

Mountain bikers are familiar with what I’m talking about. When they crash out in the woods and destroy their rear derailleur, a quick fix to get home is to remove the derailleur, and shorten the chain while keeping it tight on a rear cog of their choosing. With this set up they are able to carefully ride their bike home.   I’ll get to the carefully part in a minute.

There is a strong trend these days towards simplicity in bicycles.  Single speeds are flying off the shelfs, and many people are converting their old steel road bikes to fixed gear.  I am proponent of this and ride my fixed gear daily. Its simple, fun, and easy to maintain.  A perfect city bike.

I have a feeling that people are taking a dangerous shortcut to obtaining that desired single speed bicycle and not removing the multi-cog freewheel, but just pulling off the derailleurs and shortening the chain around a cog of their choosing. Take this post in Bike Forums for example.  I’m Tradtimbo in Bike Forums.  My responses in that discussion expand upon what I’m talking about here.

This is dangerous.  Multi-speed freewheel/cassette cogs are designed to be able to disengage the chain so the derailleur can push it onto another cog.  The newer the freewheel (or more recently cassette) the easier it is to “push” the chain onto another cog.  The cogs are also designed to engage the chain onto its teeth when the chain is getting pushed onto it from an adjacent cog.  Different things have been used over the years to aid in this transfer from one cog to another.  I have a bicycle from 1979 that has grooves in the top of the cog teeth in order (I’m guessing) to “grab” the chain when getting pushed from an adjacent cog.  These days, cassettes have ramps and unique tooth profiles to aid in shifting from one cog to the next.  The rear derailleur has the job of keeping the tension in the chain, isolating chain swing, and switching the chain from one cog to another.  Keeping the chain in tension serves two functions.  The more obvious one is removing slack from the chain during and after shifting from one cog to another.  The less obvious one is removing slack in the chain when the top portion of the drive train is fully engaged.  In order to explain this last part more imagine yourself in a standing sprint.  The top portion of the chain between the chain-ring and rear cog will be under tension and the bike will slightly flex in the direction the chain is pulling on the rear cog.  Every bike flexes differently, but the rear derailleur keeps the chain tension relatively constant on the lower portion of the chain.  The rear portion of the chain may also swing during a standing sprint, but the rear derailleur isolates that swinging to between the lower pulley and the chain-ring.  Also, since the lower portion of chain is in relatively constant tension, the swinging is minimal.

Now, remove the rear derailleur and imagine standing up and sprinting through an intersection.  The drive-train becomes fully engaged and the bike flexes slightly.  The bottom portion of the chain becomes slack and begins to swing.   The presents a very real possibility of one of the adjacent cogs “grabbing” the chain if the swing is large enough.  If the adjacent larger cog grabs the chain, then we have a terrible situation.  The chain is not long enough to accept the additional teeth of the larger cog, and the distance between the center of the freewheel/cassette and the center of the bottom bracket will want to get smaller.  The chain will either break due to tension overload, the wheel pulled out of the drop outs or, more likely the bike will buckle and fold itself in order to get the distance between the previously mentioned centers smaller.

To avoid this very real scenario in pursuit of a single speed, the multi-cog freewheel should be removed and a single speed freewheel added, or in the case of a cassette, all the undesired cogs should be removed and spacers added to keep the chain line correct.  Also, there are a number of off-the-shelf single speed kits for cassettes out there.  The last point I have is that the multi-speed freewheel on old bicycles is one of the heaviest components.  One of the goals of a single speed rider is to reduce weight.  Well, with this setup, they’re not reducing much, and making a more dangerous bicycle.

Enjoy the Ride!

Timvi

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I have finished fixing my bike that fell off the roof.  The major problems were a bent fork, bent frame, and bant rear axle.  All fixable things.  I made some frame alignment tools from a 2×4, some string, large stainless steel eyebolts, nuts and washers, and got the frame and fork back in alignment.  I removed the bent axle, destroyed bearings, and essentially replaced the guts of the rear hub.  I put on new handle bars, and kept the Avocet saddle.  The left pedal got a bit mangled too, but it still works.  I’m so happy to have her back.

Ahhhhhh

Ahhhhhh

Ooooo!

Ooooo!

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Well, Florida was a vacation. We split the drive this time stopping at Pine Log State Forest in Ebro, Florida. I stayed her once before back in 2005 when I was visiting John in St. Petersburg on my two month long road trip around the States. I knew a sweet spot to camp, but unfortunately, that sweet spot was closed because the area was being used for bow hunting. Ah well! We had to settle for the RV spot right in between a dirty, barely clothed woman living in a RV with her mom, and Billy Bob redneck and his girlfriend who played 80’s rock really loud from the trunk of their 1979 Chevy Malibu right next to Sand Pond. To some this may have been sweeter than the secluded, grassy spot, right by a beautiful stream I had planned. oh well. It was only a night. Sand Pond, one of the main attractions at Pine Log State Forest, was low and was more like a mosquito breeding puddle. Fun. The southeast desperately needs about 6 months of straight rain to recover from this dry spell. As you can see here, there is a part of South Carolina still in D4 – Exceptional!!!!

We arrived back to New Orleans with an apartment all lined up.  Syrah and I have been loading up our apartment with all the goodies we brought down, and our wacky, but really really nice landlady gave us a whole bunch of free stuff to help us finish furishing our abode. We still have a few key items to pick up, but we’re looking good. Syrah began her program, and I have been picking away at the to-do list. I still have no official job, but I haven’t really looked either. The local bike shop is looking for mechanics, and an old rich lady needs chores to be done. No worries here!

I hope everyone is doing well. Chances are there won’t be much more to say on this blog, but if anything interesting happens I’ll try to get it up here!!! Come on down and visit if you like! I haven’t experienced it yet, but this city sure looks like its going to be fun to party in!!!

P.S. Syrah’s computer has seen its last start-up.  The dear machine is no longer with us as of Monday September 8th, 2008.  It will be missed.  The hard drive has died.  There may be a glimmer of hope to get the info off of it (including many years of photos).  Everyone should back up there hard drive in at LEAST forty-three places so this doesn’t happen to you.

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We’ve been living the life of typical snowbirds here in North Palm Beach – predictable, comforting, calm. Daily activities include: biking to the beach; watching the Weather Channel & CNN; walking to the grocery store across the street to get ingredients to make french toast; reviewing medical abbreviations & notes on carbohydrate counting for diabetics (Syrah); taking mini math & physics tests to get certified as a tutor on http://www.wyzant.com (Tim); eating ice cream; watching lizards; doing laundry; and best of all, working on our synchronized dance routine in the pool behind the apartment building!

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