Monday, January 26, 2009

Ma'am, There is Not an Animal in Your Attic

Today I was exonerated! I know they talked about me; thought I was crazy. But no more. Now we are working together, again, to downsize: we're ready to rid the house of whatever animal is setting up a workshop in the attic.

The exterminator came in to check and remove traps he had placed a few days ago. These traps had been placed 3 times already in the past few weeks, with no evidence of success. This morning, the exterminator left, saying very politely, "You might be hearing something late at night in your walls, but I don't think it's an animal!" I told him I would not ask for more traps; I'd watch and listen and let them know if any new evidence became available that might help them.

It wasn't that I was letting them out of their contract easily; they have been to my house 5 times already during January. The first time, I complained of animal noise in the attic, and they found a hole through the wall in the gutter. They patched the hole and left 5 traps. The second time, they came to check the traps. Three traps had sprung, but no bait had been taken and no animal had been caught. The exterminators came back several times and placed traps in different parts of different attics (we have 3). A supervisor even rechecked the entire roofline from a ladder.

The logical situation would be that with a hole patched, an animal would be trapped in the attic and would either go for the bait or would die of starvation somewhere within the walls and would stink. Nothing happened. But nights, sometimes 11:30, sometimes 1:00, and once at 4:30 AM, my husband, I, or both of us would hear noises and would listen and try to locate the noise. I went outside, shined flashlights, listened with my ear to walls, sat quietly staring at ceilings...and heard animal activity. I think Santa's workshop might be relocating to my attic! There is scratching, scraping, banging around, twanging, pitter-patter, sawing, and gnawing.

Then, this morning, after the exterminator left with his traps and his opinions, I heard scraping and gnawing above my head, during business hours for the first time. I phoned the exterminator and he came back...and heard it! He set more traps. He believes me now. I hope we get the animal(s) out before they have a problem or cause a problem.

Friday, January 9, 2009

How I Got Taken and Decided to Rush

I read the reviews of the USB turntable on Amazon twice - once before choosing this turntable (Audio Technica) for my wish list and once while I was climbing the learning curve to learn the software. I noticed one of the reviews both times - someone said something about the software only being available for 30 days. I did notice that the review was about a year old, so I figured that whatever software worked for only 30 days had been changed. Surely there would be more complaints on Amazon if they were selling a machine with software that would last only 30 days without making you pay for an upgrade!

When I first started using the Cakewalk Audio Creator LE software, it told me to I would have register it within 30 days or it would stop working. It told me that all I had to do was key in my email address and they would send me a key for registering. I decided to wait a few days and test the machine and be sure it was going to work for me. I had entertained the idea of digitizing all my albums within 30 days after Christmas and returning the whole turntable to Amazon for a refund; but then I decided that was really not appropriate. At best, the stylus wouldn't be in new condition. But I was prepared to send the machine back if it were somehow incompatible with my system or otherwise faulty.

After a few days, I was beginning to digitize my albums in earnest and I was getting tired of the popup window reminding me that I had 29, 28, 27 days left to register my software. I figured they just wanted to force me to receive advertising email or maybe they wanted a database of names or even a statistic about the number of buyers of the machine. So, I cratered and registered the software. The next day, a new popup came up. It said that the mp3 encoder module of the software would be available to me for only 30 days, after which I would have to upgrade or not transfer files into mp3, which was, of course, what I was doing.

So, I got took! Had I waited for 30 days to register the software originally, I would have had 60 days total with the mp3 encoder. 60 days would have been more roomy for this project. Trying to get it done within 30 days has me humming all the time but rarely having time to hum the same song twice!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Digitizing Old Record Albums Has to Be Done in Real-Time

Digitizing Old Record Albums Has to Be Done in Real-Time
Listening to the old albums while playing them on the USB turntable has, of course, been somewhat of a distraction. Today the big draw was “Camp Mataponi in Prayer and Song.” This album was recorded in 1964, two days before parents’ visiting day. On the prayer side, there is a service, with several very sweet solos. The camp owner, Sam, actually announces the soloists’ names; but I don’t remember any of the girls. Their clear tuned voices remind me of my daughter when she was that age.

So far I have come along the completion line! I have been watching completion lines of various ilk all day: the bright green box that moves me along the song’s wave, so I can divide the recording into tracks, and which can be elongated or squeezed, thus squeezing the wave. I don’t dare elongate or squeeze on purpose, as I fear it will cause me to have to rerecord the record, which I have had to do about 5 times and haven’t yet figured out why for any of them. Then there is the completion line as each track is being saved as an mp3. So, it’s natural I would see life as a program completion gauge today!

Right now it’s the Radha Krsna Temple album of Krishna Consciousness. I have always loved this album! The cover is kind of creepy, with a picture of two of what I think are dolls but just might be real women, dressed in full dresses with pinafores over the dresses and beads and flowers, and jewels. I won’t further try to guess whether they are women or dolls. The album was produced by George Harrison, who was very musical and chose great tunes to put on this album.

For some reason, probably the distraction factor, I seem to be averaging about 5 albums/day. This might be fine if I were recording after dinner…only. But it’s all day! Each album plays on the turntable and gets recorded. Then it takes a few minutes for me to go into the sound wave graph and place markers where each track starts and list the name of each song. Then there is a processing phase where the computer does the processing that changes the track from a sound wave (not a wav file) into an mp3 file. I could choose a wav format, but I have chosen to use mp3. The digitizing step takes a while, and I have to click on “OK” before each track. So, if I leave the computer and come back, I might have to click “OK,” meaning that all the time I was gone there was little processing being done. Or, if I am in the middle of an email message or checking a website or 3 and I don’t stop to click on “OK,” then no processing is done while I’m doing the other things. Thus, the distraction factor is dragging out the process of getting these albums done. Sometimes I just have to stop all else and listen…or sing along! Sometimes I have the volume on very low, so I miss the music; some of these times I end up playing back the sound track recording because I just have to hear it!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Digitizing Old Record Albums

Today the distraction time all went to the new USB phonograph. It's like a futuristic machine out of the past! Steampunk! It handles so like an old turntable, with it's delicate stylus and trying to gauge the exact place between two tracks. But it's a USB tool, and it digitizes!

How many hours did I spend trying to get the thing to play through my computer speakers while recording? More than I spent figuring out the Cakewalk software for recording! There was a setting deep within my control panel, where the "line in" was turned off. Thanks to the person who posted an answer to someone's question about "USB turntables" and "no sound," and mentioned that the input on a sound card is usually blue. I had openings with blue, black, and yellow; and none worked, because of the setting that was wrong. But it was nice to focus on the blue, so that when I did find the setting and change it, Toto sang out of my speakers immediately.

The first moment I heard the record played directly on the turntable and through the headphones (because I couldn't get the sound to come through the speakers [see above])brought me back to the days of quality hifi. I could hear that advantage that turntables have over CDs. There was a little richness, a little "it's 1975 again." But I am going to digitize and downsize my record collection. It's not large any more.

Digitizing LPs is a realtime process, playing each entire album. Saving the songs means staying by the computer, too; and the sheer magnitude of the job makes it prudent to not do too many other computer things at once. At one point in the afternoon, perhaps the apex of the burden on my computer, the recording software crashed and I lost half the side I had recorded. The wave pattern on the screen looks like something fell on the record player and scratched the record! But it just stopped recording at some point. Or it recorded but couldn't save half the recording. Or something. It happened later in the day, too, when I was recording after having watched La Dolce Vita mostly in fast forward mode. The second time, I rebooted and used the audio software with no other programs running, and it performed immaculately. So, my plan is to get a lot of reading done while recording at the computer, so that I can be there to click as each track needs to be OK'd and so that I don't use too many computer resources and slow up my process by losing tracks I have recorded.