Get a better business/customer relationship model: A rant about Microsoft and M-Audio

I have recently had some poor experiences as a customer.  You may be reading this and say “Well, who hasn’t?  Get over it.”  I could.  I could also move on to buy different products, but I feel the need to say something, because what these companies are doing is plain wrong.  So, my decision is to write, in hopes that in by writing, a conversation may develop and people learn from it.

The companies in question are M-Audio and Microsoft.  Microsoft goes without saying they have been blaming users since 1975.  My issue comes from the fact they have decided it is the users’ fault that the Lumia 1020 will not be upgraded to Windows 10.  Instead of owning up to their own problems and fixing it, they have decided to roll the responsibility onto the users.  Jerkwads.

On to M-Audio, which exists under the umbrella of InMusic.  A number of years ago I purchased a Delta 44 soundcard for my recordings, which has been a great workhorse of a DSP.  It has allowed me to have a modest number of ins and outs for my own purposes, and it has done me well.  The Deltas have been great cards for people who have purchased them, but since M-Audio has changed hands between Avid and InMusic, they completely dropped support for the Deltas, refusing to develop new drivers since Windows 7.  I have contacted them several times and petitioned them to upgrade their drivers, as their drivers are completely dodgy in their current state.  Their customer service people shelved it as “in consideration”, which basically translates into “We’ll be nice to your face, but we’re really not going to do anything about it”.  M-Audio used to support their legacy devices, of which the Delta cards are very much that (being made during Windows ’98 days).  They clearly are not that type of company anymore.  Instead, like Microsoft, opt for a business/customer relationship model of forcing upgrades on the consumer by pulling support from older products.

As to my phone, I will likely be moving on to an iPhone.  I have enjoyed Nokia for years, but they are not the company they used to be.  Regarding my issue with my soundcard, I am happy to say that I have upgraded to an RME HDSP 9632, with a Behringer ADA8200 ADAT interface:

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RME HDSP 9632 and Behringer ADA8200 gracing the studio.  Sounding good so far, and I have a lot of peace of mind with this solid combination.

How does a business stay relevant or viable?  In other words:  how does it keep making money?  Does it do so by making products so new and cutting edge that people want to buy the latest and greatest?   Alternatively, does it do so by forcing old products out of relevance by no longer servicing older items, thus forcing consumers to upgrade?  These are things I think of when I am considering my own business models, in light of my own experiences as a customer of M-Audio and Microsoft.  I think “be awesome” is a good business model to adhere to.

The Quest for Mountain Mahogany: Part 2

Mountain Mahogany

Mountain Mahogany

With my recent interest in making uilleann bagpipes, I have become aware of the importance of rainforest wood conservation.  I have been searching for a North American wood that is a suitable alternative to woods like ebony, cocobolo and lignum vitae.  In my research, I determined the wood I seek must be very dense, suitable for turning, and in such abundance where harvesting would have a negligible impact.  Mountain mahogany interests me greatly because the density is very comparable to ebony, has a wonderful color and figure, turns well, and is an abundant shrub.

The aim of my research is to find specific locations where the shrub could be found of sufficient diameters for my purpose.  Failing this, I hope to find a commercial source, but usually these options wind up being a little pricey.  I have made phone calls to Forest Service offices and the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming, and was able to determine a few areas to look.  I spoke with a field officer at the BLM Field Office in Casper, WY, and had a very nice conversation.  The field officer was helpful and indicated there were specific stands that she could personally show me if I ever came out in that direction, though the shrubs were small and may or may not suit my purposes, but she hasn’t personally measured them.

Regarding specific locations, I am redacting the information discussed to avoid the potential problem of people going out into the countryside and harvesting this shrub which is critical to the survival of deer, elk and other fauna in the area.  It literally is the number one food source for these animals during the winter months.  My hope is to find stuff that requires management, such as the mahogany that is burned in control burns to avoid problems of forest fires, or “high line” situations such as described by this biologist:

I am publishing specific locations in a private entry for my own documentation.

Letter to Angry Mother at School

Dear angry mother dropping your kid off behind me,

I pulled forward in the drop-off lane far enough to give you enough space so as to give your child the closest route to the door on this cold morning.  I am sorry I didn’t have the additional foresight to know that you would pull your front bumper right up to my rear bumper.  Because of I left my crystal ball at home, you proceeded to honk at me because I was in your way.  I wasn’t sure if you putting your front bumper right up to mine was completely my fault, but when I looked at my Magic 8 Ball, it said “Outlook not so good.”  I then proceeded to pull forward further to give you ample space to pull out of the lane.  After giving you the space you required, I must have realized that for you, this space was not enough, at which point you proceeded to blast your horn at me again.  I did not possess that realization at the time, so again the fault is mine.  When you were finally able to pull out after making a scene with your impressionable teenager in the passenger seat, you then demonstrated to your child how to deal with anger and lack of logic by flipping me off.  I should have realized that you don’t know how to park or handle your own emotions and logic.  For this I offer my sincerest apologies for not accommodating you in every fashion so that you wouldn’t have to subject yourself to becoming a bad parent.

As reparation, I offer this advice:

1.  The space in front of your car is your responsibility and only you have control over that, not the person in front of you.  You do not have control over the person behind you.  If you needed space in front of you to pull out, then Miss Miss, you should have used your noodle to give yourself that space.  Bad parent!  You get time out!  Set an example for your teen, who will be learning to drive in a couple years.  Most driving instructors would advise that you allow yourself enough space in the front of your car so that you are able to pull out.  Perhaps this useful guide will help you (in cartoon form, so as to make this really simple):

2.  I would also suggest getting yourself into anger management counseling.  This may help with your troubles setting an example for your teenager, who is likely to mirror your techniques right back to you when he is in his hormone-induced ragefests.  Bad parent!  You get time out!  Use your noodle instead of your middle finger to deal with issues.

Peace to you,

Justin

P.S. — In case you haven’t noticed the past two years I have been pulling forward after dropping off my autistic son, who requires my wife escort him safely to the door, while I wait for my wife to return.  But then again, who am I to say you should be considerate?

The Quest for Mountain Mahogany

Mountain Mahogany

Mountain Mahogany

In recent months, I have been gifted with a lathe by a family member.  It was a very nice blessing, and I will be posting on that restoration project shortly.  This post is mostly for myself, to document my search for mountain mahogany.  Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) is a shrub of the Rosaceae family that is extremely dense–denser, in fact than ebony.  It grows in large part in the western part of the United States, generally in high altitude regions and chaparral.

I have been searching for North American wood alternatives for bagpipes.  When I found out that mountain mahogany grows in abundance in my home state, Wyoming, I got excited.  I called my dad up and asked if he knew anything about it, which he didn’t but said he would sniff around and ask.  He called a little bit later and said he talked to a guy that looks for different kinds of woods, who said it grows all over the place like sagebrush.

So, a plan is pending to get out there and look for some.  In the meantime, I’ve been doing some footwork to find locations to harvest, how to harvest legally–and failing that, to find suppliers.  This elusive shrub is rarely found at lumber suppliers, and I have only been able to locate two of them.  It’s generally not sold, hence the hard work I have been doing to find it.  I have spoken with some folks at the Sheridan, WY U.S. Forest Service office and discovered little more than I know of it.  I am currently trying to reach out to the Bureau of Land Management to see what they know of it.

Today, I found out how to identify locations using Google Maps, so I am going to direct attention to this map:

This is a location where a BLM controlled burn of sagebrush and mountain mahogany took place, and if you switch to street view, you can see what the shrubs look like:

New Garden for 2014

I’ve had the garden up for a while, I just haven’t bothered to go out and take pictures until I got my Nokia Lumia 1020.  I stepped out this morning and snapped away, and you can view the pictures below.

I have learned a bit from last year’s garden successes and mishaps (such as the overload of cucumbers and lack of tomatoes in spite of my humungous plants).  I have arranged my tomatoes toward the end of one bed instead of in a row, and placed them in cages; so far I have 6 Beefmaster plants and 2 Brandywine (I think).  They are good strong plants and they are looking good so far.  Next to those in rows I have cucumbers and summer squash.  In the next bed I have 12 red pepper plants, 6 jalapeno, and 6 habanero.  This year I have given them plenty of space and only have one double-row of peas growing along the edge, and some lettuce at the end on a bare patch I had left over.

Before I had started this garden, one of the lettuce plants grew from seed that I planted the previous year, and just popped up from the soil after snow melt!  This let me to reading on planting stuff in the late winter, such as lettuce, snow peas (probably why they are called snow peas), and others.  This gives me a plan for a more efficient garden that I will need to think on and plan for next year.

The long bed along the house I planted garlic, shallots and onions to give advantage of the full sun that we get on that side.  Most of my garlic and shallots died after the hard winter that we had, but the shallots are growing happily with flowering scapes; I’m definitely looking forward to harvesting the seeds for future plantings.  I have enough garlic in the bed to keep me happy for now, and to hold us over through the winter.

The sunflowers have been an utter failure owing to squirrels and chipmunks raiding the beds.  They usually nip off the top of the plants as soon as the seed germinates and pops out of the soil, but after the second pair of leaves come up, they leave them alone.  This year after a second and third planting, they went straight for the newly planted seeds.  I give up!!!  So, in lieu of sunflowers, I have dedicated a gaping hole in the sunflower portion of the bed to cilantro, and I may put some beets or carrots down.

Surprise Summer Squash--this plant is yellow!

Surprise Summer Squash–this plant is yellow!

Pickle barrel cucumber plants coming up happy and healthy.

Pickle barrel cucumber plants coming up happy and healthy.

Jalapeno pepper perspective.  These and the other pepper plants are very strong and healthy this year.  I have a good feeling about this.

Jalapeno pepper perspective. These and the other pepper plants are very strong and healthy this year. I have a good feeling about this.

Habanero plants are much healthier than last year.

Habanero plants are much healthier than last year.

Blackberries!  Hopefully I can get to them before critters do.

Blackberries! Hopefully I can get to them before critters do.

Shallot scape in full flower.

Shallot scape in full flower.

Cilantro popping up this morning.

Cilantro popping up this morning.

Sweet basil popping up this morning.  It's taking a while for these to come up this year.

Sweet basil popping up this morning. It’s taking a while for these to come up this year.

Studio update and a preview

Things are plugging along with some major hiccups; your prayers are coveted.  I’ve had quite a few system crashes related to my soundcard which I am presently working with M-Audio on resolving.  I did manage to get the general structure of most of my songs completed, guitar recorded, and today got some uilleann pipes in the mix!  Awesome!  You get to hear a snippet of things as they are being released!

What’s cooking in the studio

Here’s a little taste of the EP I have coming up, soon to be released.  Stay tuned!

Pesto Much?

Today I spent time making some pesto, following a modification of a recipe from Ottaviana’s Kitchen (an old Geocities site that is cached and no longer active).  The recipe follows:

3 cup fresh, packed basil
1 cup olive oil, extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup fresh parsley
4-5 cloves garlic, or to taste


Walnuts are a substitute for pine nuts, which are traditionally used in pesto.  Pine nuts give kind of a rustic, woodsy flavor, and I think a little bit of a richer flavor.  Walnuts give body to the pesto, but seem a little bitter.  I settle for walnuts because they are cheaper.  For the cheese, you can use Romano or Parmesan; I have also used Asiago.  Use as much garlic to your liking.  I like a ton of garlic, to which point the pesto is hot on the tongue once it is first ground.  My wife isn’t into that, so I have to tone it down (which is something I don’t understand as she is Italian).  Work in batches, get a little basil chopped up a little into your blender so it is easier to work with, top with the parmesan, walnuts and garlic.  Glug some olive oil, glug, glug, and grind away.  About the olive oil . . . don’t get hung up on the recipe.  Drizzle that stuff in until the blender starts to really mix stuff up and churn the mixture into a sort of smooth consistency.  If you’re fighting with the blender, then it probably means you have either too much basil in at the moment, or not enough olive oil.  Salt to taste, add pepper if you wish.

I brought in quite a haul of Sweet Basil from the garden (approximately 5 quarts packed).

Sweet Basil, ready to get washed

Sweet Basil, ready to get washed

And below, getting my ingredients ready for the NINJA!!!!

everything in place for a batch run of pesto

everything in place for a batch run of pesto

that's a lot of green

that’s a lot of green

8 quart pan, nearly full

8 quart pan, nearly full

feerst wee steer de pestooo, den wee salty-talty!  Bort! Bort!

feerst wee steer de pestooo, den wee salty-talty! Bort! Bort!

they come in pints?!

they come in pints?!

Garlic Dill Pickles

Okay, so we got some help from Brainy Smurf on the pickle front.  He is bravely dictating Papa Smurf’s favorite pickle recipe.

Some handsome cucumbers, washed and pokes removed.

Some handsome cucumbers, washed and pokes removed.

Brainy Smurf inspecting the cuke

Brainy Smurf inspecting the cuke

washed and rolled in salt

washed and rolled in salt

Closeup of the dill.

Closeup of the dill.

ready for assembly

ready for assembly

myself making sure I'm understanding the process and the recipe

myself making sure I’m understanding the process and the recipe

endgame

endgame

Drummer Dean Zimmer

My uncle posted this video about a guy from his hometown, and I couldn’t help but to post this.  This drummer is amazing, this will be a good 6 minutes of your time well spent.  I promise!