The Gutenberg editor and other crappy things about WordPress.com in 2020

My day gig is involved with aggregation of big data, some via a WordPress plugin that’s been a staple of our product line for quite some time. The feedback I receive day in and day out from team members and clients is that the Gutenberg editor is just horrible. Is there a doubt that the folks are WordPress are not aware of how, dare I say HATED the Gutenberg editor is? Considering the CLassic Editor plugin was released within 60 days of WordPress 5.0 launch the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

In the time I spent away from WordPressdom there’s been many changes to WordPress.com reader. It used to be a hotbed of creatives sharing experiences walking you through some interesting concepts. Now I’m finding a bunch people posting crossword puzzle answers and soccer moms posting bible verses. What the heck happened? Thank goodness for the folks reviewing music and writing stories that are active. I’ve come to one conclusion:

I can’t find folks writing on subjects I favor with the newer Reader tools. 

Admittedly while less active I continued to read the people that I had followed on a regular basis. Over a period of time people stopped writing and my Reader feed became shorter and shorter. 

I used to find authors to follow by reading either Freshly Pressed which was chosen by readers recommendations, or a section that no longer exists of all blogs posted by time stamp. I really missed sorting through all the new blogs that were written in real time. That was my favorite part of the reader, How sad they did away with that section. WordPress even has a support knowledge base article showing you how to get featured on the now sunsetted Freshly Pressed:

https://en.blog.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/five-ways-to-get-featured-on-freshly-pressed/

Since I’m somewhat of a Unix geek I was hoping there was a variable or variable string where I could see what was being posted in real time. For the non-nerdist a variable sting is all the gibberish you see in a URL when you shopping on lets say Amazon. 

You can still find all the newest articles with this hack. In the search add this variable:

?=all

And search for that string. Because WordPress has some heavy cache you can only do this a few hours apart. If you search this variable string too often it will return the same results. 

Sometimes hundreds of entries per hour located are there. It was a great place to connect with other bloggers. Now there seems to be no way to connect other than searching keywords which is so bad!

Addictive Drums 2 and OddGroves.com

I have now fully migrated over from Tooncrap’s inferior drummer to XLN Softwares Addictive Drums 2. There are specific downsides to all the virtual drummer plugins I looked at. The final decision came down to Addictive Drums 2 and Steven Slate Drums 5. Both products have the equivalent quality sound of having a properly mic’d up drum kit in a live room. Both have MIDI content of live drummers playing in real time that can be kept as is are altered by a number of methods such as a MIDI controller or even just a mouse. The important thing is they sound just like a real HUMAN Drummer not a drum machine. 

The final decision came at the use of iLok pace DRM (digital rights management) for Slate Drums 5. The entire Pace system is built so poorly I’ve had to wipe entire operating systems to rid the OS of the intrusive bug ridden software. I made a decision 10 years ago that I would not use software that required iLok pace DRM. I stand by that decision, it’s saved me thousands of dollars over the years. For the record, if Slate Drums 5 offered its own DRM like everyone else does I would have gone that route. 

Addictive Drums 2 is not without its issues. AD2 has a sub mixer like all popular virtual drum software has where each drum has its own microphone. With AD2 they did not mic each one of the cymbals which is my preference. Only the overhead stereo and wall microphones on the sub mixer pickup cymbals. While placing each drum on its own separate track resolves that issue I generally use a plugin such as this for demos not full productions. This makes arranging songs more cumbersome and time consuming. As for me, at the end of the day, as long as it sounds good I’m willing to put in the time. 

Speaking of sound……

One of the kits I purchased with AD2 was recorded at Sound City where Nirvana Nevermind was recorded. Being a native Angeleno raised in Los Angeles Sound City has always had a reputation for having a very good sounding live room especially for drums. The list of Records recorded there in past includes:

Fleetwood Mac, Rumors

Foreigner, Double Vision

Tom Petty, Damn the Torpedos

Pat Benatar, Crimes of Passion

Rage Against the Machine, self titled

Tool, Undertow

Red Hot Chili Peppers, One Hot Minute

Kyus, And the Circus Leaves Town

Slipknot, Iowa

Mastodon, The Hunter

Everclear, Return to Santa Monica

Just to name a few. This studios pedigree is well known in the industry and by many artists such as Dave Grohl who produced the documentary Sound City about this studio. Go listen to any song from any of these above titles and you will hear amazing sounding drums in the mix and if you haven’t seen Sound City yet you can see it on Documentarytube.com

Step two of this plan to migrate over from tooncrap was to purchase some creative content to load up to Addictive Drums 2. I’ve had some OddGroves libraries that I have used for almost a decade. OddGroves.com is not only a MIDI content company but it’s also literally a Jazz fusion band from Sweeden. I came across the band on YouTube maybe 7 years ago and was blown away by the guitarist Per Ulfhielm’s tone. His guitar tone is brilliant as well as his playing! I didn’t find out they published MIDI content for virtual drums until a bit later. The company was just starting out back in those days. 

The drummer in this band is a Berkley College of Music alumni Magnus Brandell who is a monster player and the session player on most of the OddGroves.com MIDI libraries. Most of the OddGroves catalog of MIDI groves are in odd time signature but not all. I like to write tunes in odd time signatures so their MIDI grooves are perfect for me. Plus using these libraries is like having Magnus Brandell in the live room on a kit. Like I said this guy is a monster of a player. 

There you have it. Replacing Tooncrap inferior drummer was a lot of work. Staring at a User Interface of a company that has just screwed over a great number of their user base in a cash grab would have been worse. I’m trying my best to refrain from making this entire entry about a software company that’s a bunch of greedy asshats. I wanted to move on and work with companies that conducted themselves in a professional manner thus, XLN Audio. 

This change also gives me the opportunity to share how great of a company I think Oddgrooves.com is. Per Ulfhielm and Magnus Brandell are a class act that are really good at helping their customers. Per has answered numerous emails over the years usually in less than 10 to 12 hours. The email I sent him at the beginning of the week was a page of questions. He wrote back quickly letting me know he had received my email and that he would answer later on in the day. The email came back over to me at 10:00PM from his time zone which I really appreciate. If he’s working that late you know he cares about his clients. 

I’ll leave you with a little bit of Per and Magnus playing in their band OddGrooves not to be confused with the OddGroves.com MIDI grooves. Same blokes but different products. Enjoy!

Revisiting: The Bugera 1960 Infinium part Trois

Now that I’ve had this amp for coming up on a year I wanted to chat about putting it through its paces. After looking further into the design this amp is not 150 Watts it’s a true 100 Watts. As people have mentioned this amp is very loud. However, it’s not any louder than my JCM 800 or my old Carvin X-100B. While I wish I would have held on to the early 80’s JCM I don’t really have a need for that much amp. Since the gig I was ramping up for fell through I still don’t. But…..

There is so much I like about this amp. First and foremost having a class A point to point wired amp even if from Asia is a different kind of beast. I say point to point loosely, when I purchased mine the description did note that. Now that I’ve seen the inside not so much buying that one fully. It is more touch sensitive than almost any amp I’ve ever played. Slight volume and tone rolls on humbuckers create large tonal differences. It is made to Rock and Rock it does, it weighs a lot. The specs online say 47 lbs which is wrong, the amp is far heaver. 

After playing it through both a 2 x 12 open back cabinet loaded with Celestion Classic Lead 80-s and a 4 x 12 with Celestion vintage 30’s it growls. The 2 x 12 is a convertible that can switch to closed back as well. The tone difference between the two types of speakers was minimal with closed backs. The Vintage 30’s break up a bit quicker and are just slightly more throaty than the Lead 80’s but the Lead 80’s have tighter more prevalent low mids. 

The Tonal versatility of the Bugera 1960 is very broad. Most of what I heard online was that classic Marshal JCM 800 Eddy VanHalen tone, but this amp has much more. It goes from a slightly overdriven Plexi, to a mid range Bonamassa-ish, to a full on Matt Pike High on Fire with slight EQ and volume changes. Once your setup for the included JCM Randy Rhoads mod it absolutely goes BOOM! The first day I played it in a sound treated room I was really blown away by the versatility. 

The amp does have a Master Volume but it’s on the back. The PCB boards are only 3 ply so taking it around the world is not likely a good idea. Beyond those 2 things the amp is nothing short of amazing. I’m just quite careful when I move it. If I ever get a standard gig where I would use this head I would invest in a road case which costs as much s the amp. I like the amp that much!

One of the newer (at least to me) gear vloggers Elmo Karjalainen did a review after I purchased this head. He’s reviews are truthful and he has no problem calling out something in a product if he sees fit. He had some cool Yngwie tones in the video for sure. Here is his review from last summer:

Cool Free DAW Drum Plugin

I haven’t purchased the new Drum plugin to replace ToonTracks Superior 2 or should I say Tooncrap (lol) Superior 2. If you remember previously myself and a decent chunk of the Superior Drums user base are not happy without industry standard upgrade pricing but rather a greedy cash grab. ToonTrack charges the user base full price for an update to version 3.To put it bluntly screw that! While I’ve already decided on Addictive Drums as a replacement I wanted to see if any cool freeware was out there. Surprisingly, there was more than I anticipated. 

One that really stood out was Power Drumkit 2. Power Drumkit 2 works just like Superior, EZ drummer, Steven Slate, Addictive Drums, BFD , etc. It has one good sounding kit and serendipitously a lot of MIDI groves that are drag and drop just like the industry standard plugins have. Did I mention Power Drumkit 2 is FREE? Yes, the whole version is Free in both AU and VST versions for Mac and PC. 

After instal I did have to reboot before Mac OS / Logic X would pick up the new Audio Unit. A simple read through the FAQ answered this quickly. I think the samples sound good especially for Rock but more importantly they are not all compressed. There is a sub mixer like all the paid drum plugins have but with a simple compressor for each drum. While I prefer to use the compressors I own this is a nice feature. 

The media / grooves / MIDI work just like all the paid versions, drag and drop into the DAW. Once in the DAW you can quickly change up the MIDI for fills and nuances. One of the cool features is you can compose the whole tack during playback and pull the entire percussion arrangement into the DAW. I like that workflow quite a bit. One other plus is everything works, I’ve found no bugs which is not usually the norm in freeware. I’ve had a  lot of fun playing with this plugin the last few days. 

Overall I think this is a really cool plugin and my hats off to the developers Daniel Mitschang-Manda and Kurt-Schumacher who continue to work on it. There is a donation page which I would encourage you to donate if you’re going to use the plugin. Let me know what you think about Power Drumkit 2 in the comments below and enjoy the video walk throughs. 


Having an old Mac Around can be handy

Having an old Mac around can be handy. In my case a late 2012 MacBook Pro. I have the older version of Master Writer which is A very overpriced piece of software but one that has no competition in the Music industry. Yes there’s a few apps out there that do some of the Tasks MR does but nothing really comes close. I want to preface this with noting that the owner of Master Writer. Berry is one of the most disingenuous people I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with. I in no way endorse him or his company, on the contrary if you decide to do business with Master Writer know it’s all about separating you from your money.  

However, If you write lyrics it’s the only software I’ve found that can actually assist without overthinking your creativity and keeping to your original vision. I guess I would describe the software as something that doesn’t get in the way of your flow. 

Master Writer 2 while feature rich is a train wreck in the technology department. It runs on the JAVA platform which the originators no doubt were talked into by the developer. You can’t even resize the UI window. However the features and tools built in are useful, brilliant and well thought out. My largest challenge is having an OS that will not only support JAVA but also a 32 bit application. The answer for me was to purchase a Mountain Lion disk from Apple:

Mountain Lion

Once I installed Mountain Lion I updated the version of Java and installed Master Writer. The challenge and accept process was difficult because master writer wants to force you to update to their cloud solution. I wasn’t going to be forced and I made it clear that lawfully they could not make me do so. This is and always has been a major downside of master writer and it’s owner. The upside here is I can take the MacBook Pro anywhere and I really don’t use it for anything other than writing (Journals, Day Job, email etc.). 

Sometimes keeping that old Mac around can be beneficial. Most times dealing with charlatans is not. 

Drum Simulator Plugins and the Challenges they bring

I have been diligently working on putting back together my studio from the move. There’s been quite a bit of procrastination but Necessity is the mother of invention! I’m focussing less on the sound reenforcement and more on the hardware and software now which seems easier.

A few months back I went to go install Superior Drums 2 which I’ve used heavily since version 1. I came to find out that Superior 3 had come out but when I went to upgrade I had to pay full price. I have every product Toontrack has ever published so I’ve spent a great deal of money with them.

I was completely bewildered when I found out I could not upgrade superior 3 and that I would have to pay full price for the upgrade. They only offered an upgrade for a year and decided to make everyone pay full price after that. I gasped when I read this online. I’ve never seen a company do this before, everyone offers upgrade pricing. I just upgraded NI Komplete from version 8 to version 12 for $199 US.

So I ask myself why the short upgrade window? Further more it looks like you can upgrade the entry level product but not the flagship product line. This has left me scratching my head. As a person who’s day gig is working for a Software company that sells subscriptions just like ToonTrack I can only conclude the management of the company is clueless, struggling monetarily or just plain greedy.

My guess is the first since most companies like these are run by musicians. I know the users are pissed off, all over the internet people are complaining about ToonTrack, one person even called them ToonCrap lol! The first two threads are from toontracks own forums, take a look for yourself:

https://www.toontrack.com/forums/topic/superior-drummer-3-upgrade-discontinued/

https://www.toontrack.com/forums/topic/superior-drummer-3-upgrade-3/

https://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=504253

Tell me their clients are not furious.

Before I pay full price for a software upgrade I already own I wanted to look into alternatives. The first alternative would be Steven Slate Drums 5. I have other Slate libraries and they sound great. I downloaded the free version and the UI is fantastic. The thing that could make this a deal breaker is they use iLok / Pace for license management. Let me be clear, I have an iLok and have used Pace. The products they make are shady at best. I’ve had computers crash from the iLok license manager. That may be a deal breaker for Slate ad much as I like the company and admire its owner.

One top contender is going to be Addictive Drums 2. I’ve already researched they do not use Pace / iLok. I have several libraries of addictive drums 1 that are sampler based. They sound excellent and now that they have an actual UI of their own they are a top contender. Also they have a free trial which is just a no brainer. Companies that don’t have trial offerings are lacking IMHO. Addictive Drums 2 is what I’m spending the rest of my Sunday afternoon with.

Another contender is Native Instruments Studio Drummer. While I have the latest version with Komplete 12 I suspect Studio Drummer still runs on Native Instruments Kontakt sampler. This is a deal breaker. Once you’ve used the EXS 24 sampler, even though the UI is a bit dated there’s nothing else that compares for me. I will check out Native Instruments Studio Drummer and see if it’s a viable solution.

Next up is BFD 3 by British software company FXpansion. I used BFD 2 on an EP and for some work I did with ARS Technica. While BFD 2 sounded decent the software was very buggy and the attitude of the folks that worked at FXpansion was quite unprofessional. They were such knuckle heads the ARS Technica project was sidelined because of it. I doubt this will be an alternative but I will look into this. You can hear BFD 2 on SIXX AM’s first record The Heroin Diaries.

Those are the alternatives to Superior Drums 3 I will be looking at and testing. As of now it’s looking like Addictive Drums 2 is the front runner only because Slate Digital used iLok / Pace for DRM.

Building a passive attenuator

I purchased that quite large 150 Watt point to point hand wired Bugera 1960 guitar amplifier. I’ve posted a few short blogs about the amp. I certainly had to wait long enough to get it from Musicians Friend but that’s another story. After seeing (or should I say hearing) Matt Pike play a vintage single channel Marshall at the Sleep show on 4/20/2015 at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, I was hooked on that single channel Marshall tone. It was a sight to behold and witness!

You can still purchase the Marshal 100 Watt super lead reissue but they are $3500-ish. That’s rockstar money. I had looked for an alternative since that show, I found it about a year ago when a friend told me about the Bugera 1960 infinium. I’m not a stranger to the brand, I have a vintage 22 that’s my go to gig and jam amp. It’s loud all hell, a little too loud and it’s really good at taking pedals on the front end. I paid $250 out the door at GC years ago for this little amp and have hauled it all over in 2 different states. My buddy Chris nicknamed that amp “Mo money Mo problems.”

When I started looking at specs for the 1960 I was blown away. It is truly point to point wired, this is the inside of the chassis:

I’ve had my shiny new amp in a friends commercial studios live room and a large rehearsal space in the last 2 weeks, it’s loud! I’ve owned both Marshall and Carvin heads before, none were as loud as this amp. Unfortunately it’s far too loud for my house, but I would love to play the amp at home and do some recording with it. I need an attenuator, DI box and / or speaker emulator of some kind.

My Goals are as follows in order of importance:
• Bring the amps high volume sizzle to a reasonable live speaker volume.
• Create a DI environment so I can record the amp direct.
• Speaker emulation and sound manipulation.

Another blogger I follow named Chuck (who I don’t know but writes great articles for musicians) is looking into the bipolar other aspect of this. He’s looking at using amplifiers to record direct. That is not my main goal but a secondary goal that’s a priority. You can read his article on DI and impulsive amplification here at Chucks Guitar Geekery!

The products I’m searching for are not very abundant. Many attenuators I’ve looked out simply pull -20 DB with a switch. -20 DB will not be nearly enough for this head, not even close. The other issue I am seeing is a decent reactive attenuator is pricey. They range from the $250-ish to $1295 price point. Most I’ve seen online are not attenuators first but DI and speaker emulation. That’s making this project even more elusive.

What’s available:

Universal Audio Ox Amp Top Box street price is $1295 as is the new Boss WAZA . The last time I saw Nuno he was using a UA Ox amp, his tone was spot on. Once again $1200 is rockstar money far out of what I am willing to budget. Rivera, Two Notes and Radial make models in the $400 to $600 price range. That’s still really pricy without being able to test drive one but I do like the UA Ox amp, a lot!

Bugera actually makes a passive unit for $99 but passive is not what I’m really interested in, or is it? When I did some research into passive attenuators I found there wasn’t much to them. Most are just two 1/4” input jacks and a 100k pot.

I have all of those parts in the man cave with the exception of an enclosure. I ordered an enclosure from Parts Express that was supposed to be here yesterday. With the snow storms blowing through my state have been I doubt it will arrive anytime before Saturday.

The two things that I feel like I am accomplishing with this project are: One, not spending a ton of money on something I have zero experience with. Any musician can tell their G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) stories, some worse than others. Two, keeping it D.I.Y. is always fun, challenging and cost effective. I will share here when I’m done putting it together.

Bugera 1960 Infinium Part Duex

 

Since I last shared regarding the Bugera 1960 Infinium price increase new and nice developments have occurred. Guitar Center / Musicians Friend rolled back their pricing to last year retail. I have to admit, I pulled the trigger and expect the 1960 to arrive near my birthday.

Listen here as to why I’m so obsessed with this Marshal Plexi Clone:




Does MarinerSoftware.com actually have any employees?

I am saddened to report that Mariner Software has officially left me without any support on a new product PERIOD. My first purchase from Mariner Software I date at around 2002, I have been a customer for 16 plus years. As I had previously mentioned I was having issues with journaling software I have used daily for some time, the now infamous MacJournal. 

I purchased their iOS MacJournal app around a month ago. When I decided to sync it up with my MacBook’s MacJournal it quickly turned into a train wreck. Not only did the Journals not import from iOS it deleted many entries on the MacBook. I use this software for everything from Personal Journals, Blog entries, to do lists etc. It actually worked very well for that for many years and I was a very happy client.

I email Mariner  support from their website and say Yo mates WTH? They actually respond “Yeah the developer tried to make that sync work with drop box a while ago here’s a KB.” I respond I’m more concerned with the Journals that I lost during the sync, can we work that problem please? Crickets, nothing. I respond several times via email asking for an update, no returned message. This goes on for weeks. 

I was so unhappy with being shut out of any help for weeks I finally did something i’ve never ever done before, I flamed them on social media. I really disliked doing that. I’ve never purchased software from a well known vendor that dropped off the face of the earth like Mariner Software has. I really didn’t know what to do, I’ve never had any trouble with support in 16 years. Mariner Software advises “we sent that on to the developer some time ago, we will send this again.” That was 6 days ago, no response at all. 

The moral of the story here kids is DO NOT BUY SOFTWARE FROM marinersoftware.com 

Ramping up the creative process

I had to very abruptly move this last summer. I moved back into my old neighborhood after being gone for 3 years which had changed for the worse. I could not stay there and feel safe any longer. I had a heroin addict OD on my front lawn and the neighborhood had turned into a den of drug dealers. All my friends except one family had moved away.

This really threw a curve ball into putting together my creative space. I am now at a point where I have a space in my home but it needs a lot of work especially sound reinforcement. That is going to be pricy and I’m thinking maybe I should just mix my projects elsewhere. The room I have available is like an reverb chamber, it’s so wet in here I feel like I need a hoodie on my head.

As I ramp up for the rest of winter and spring I am having to rethink my process from A to Z. Not because I want to, because some of the technologies I was using 3 years ago have changed and much so for the worse.

One of these technologies is MacJournal, my go to daily writer for over a decade. MacJournal has been a train wreck since i installed it on my new Macbook Pro. It looses journals entries during sync from the iOS app (Which I just shelled out more money for) and Dan Schimpf the author does not seem to support it any longer. It’s a shame because it was such a fantastic piece of software. Sadly his website has a copyright year of 2016 in the footer, the sign of slow software Vaporware and yet it has an SSL certificate. Very odd indeed.

The Distributor Mariner Software doesn’t even try to support the product. Back when people actually used MacJournal Mariner would hand off Tier II requests to the developer Dan Schimpf, not so now. It’s just no longer supported at all it seems.

I looking for a suitable replacement I have quickly come to the conclusion that there isn’t one. Day One seems to be the leader in Journaling software, I have been using the iOS version on my iPad pro for a few years but rarely. When reviewing the MAC OS app for purchase it quickly became a fucking joke. Everything is stored on their cloud with zero flexibility for backups in the new version, at least not that I can find.

Day One also has a subscription revenue model, that model is garbage. The subscription model is nothing but an avenue to increase top line revenue at the end users expense. At $35 US per year it’s a bloody joke, what’s next? It looks as though Journey may be my only alternative. I am downloading the trial today, if it doesn’t hit it out of the park in the first hour I am going back to word. At least I will know where my content is.

The next mode of technology I had to replace was MasterWriter which I have also used for more than a decade. For writing song lyrics and basic charts MasterWriter was the best tool out there for years. Then they also got greedy and went to a subscription model like Day One Journal did. I have been down this road in my daytime gig, it’s not something I am willing to spend personal finances on.

I did find a replacement, I don’t know how well it’s going to work out for me but it wasn’t expensive. After a few nights of chatting with other writers on some of the boards most of the MasterWriter community moved to a program called TuneSmith. I’m not sure if this is a viable replacement yet, I figure I will know more in a few weeks.