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1
Apr

A Half a Year with Rocksmith

A Half a Year with Rocksmith

It is now 6 month since I bought Rocksmith for the XBox 360 and for most parts I played at least 1 hour per day. Without any doubts I am making progress and playing along a song is for most parts an enjoyable past time. In addition when I am under pressure in a song I am sometimes surprised that I find notes quickly or slide over the fretboard quite accurately. There are already a few song that I can play lead over 90% mastery on full speed and new songs like the Matchbox 20 pack was quite easy to get the basics down. That said I am now struggling to master any songs except Blitzkrieg Pop. Either there a chord progressions that make me trip off or fast solos that are difficult to conquer. For example there is a very short part in Self Trap from Playground Kings that elude me now for 3 months to master. So far the most effective way to master them is to play the slowly (70 or 80%) until I can play it with closed eyes. Then I increase the speed and repeat the procedure. When I feel under pressure or overwhelmed then I am too fast. Funny thing though is that when I finally get the hang of it the riff seems rather mundane and slow.. I guess this is mostly due to the fact that I now can relax and enjoy playing it.

Lately I discovered on how to cheat Rocksmith and even though I don’t do it regularly when it bugs me with a song I have no inclination to learn I might use it to get pass that mission. I am not sure if that is really cheating of it that was the intention from the creator. At the end I am interested in learning the guitar and not to accomplish as many missions as possible.

Some of the songs have a strong and powerful bass sound and so I decided to buy an Ibanez SR250 bass and learn the bass as well.

Currently I am wondering where I will be in another 6 months. It would be great if I could play the most popular chords quick and effortless, find the fret on the fretboard blindly and that I could do bends easier, quicker and with less effort. Maybe mastering 15 more songs (2 now) would be great as well. Finally playing along a song outside of Rocksmith would be really an accomplishment especially if I could play with my kids.

Looking back it was a fun half a year with some great accomplishments and I am looking forward to the next 6 months.

  • Andy
2
Dec

Rocksmith 2014: Six Weeks In

Slowly but surely I get the hang of Rocksmith 2014 (RS) making it easier to work around issues but also get good enough so that I can play parts of a song play at full speed and difficulty and even managed to play a song (The Kinks: You got a Hold on Me) at Master level where the notes are not displayed but still there are a few cues where I am within a song.

That said I did not play any lessons for the past 3 weeks because with issues by the guitar detector. Currently I am away for six days – still took my accoustic guitar with me to keep up with playing and to further strengthen my fingers. Even though my fingers are still not fast and precise enough for many difficult cord changes like to a Bm or doing the full F chord I am slowly getting better and sometimes I am surprised that some chords work without looking.

After working many hours in the Session Mode where one can jam alongside a virtal band I am now back learning songs. Before the brake I was working on Queen’s We are the Champions which was simple but for the full complexity it suddenly becomes very diffiult. Many additional notes requiring quick finger changes on the left as well as right hand side are tricky and making it very difficult to keep up especially when I play the entire song.

For most parts RS works well and is fun to use but some parts of the playing a song is not very user friendly and can limit the fun or sometimes be just frustrating. I do understand that detecting what notes especially when played in a chord or special techniques like a pull off is hard to do but at least the program should mitigate this. I would suggest the following enhancements to Riff Repeater but also to the Lessons and Song Atack:

  • Add a fly-over over the song so that the player can move forward and backward on its own pace and inspect difficult parts and seqences
  • Add further information about the previous mistakes made into the fly-over to see if the note was played late, early, to low or high, wrong string, wrong chord etc. Make the mistakes visually more visible as well.
  • Use the additional buttons on a Joystick like the XBox to provide shortcuts into the Riff Repeater (increase / descrease speed and difficulty, toggle level-up and auto-continue). Preferably let the player select the button layout.
  • Provide interactive tutorials on the various aspects of the game. For a multimedia game the old-style textbook tutorial are out-dated and hard to understand.
  • Remember previous settings in the Riff Repeater so that I don’t have to set them every time when I go back to learning that song.

I am looking forward to go back playing with RS again and hope that some of the things will be improved over time. As soon as I am progressed enough to be able to play the songs I like I will go ahead and buy additional songs or even packages. For example there is an Albert King song that peeked my interest. I also want to play around with the Rythm Guitar mode as soon as I am done with my 60 days challange (I think I am around 40 days).

Cheers – Andy

28
Nov

Rocksmith 2014: 3 Weeks Review

When I first saw Rocksmith 2014 (RS) I was intrigued but also feared that this is more hype and that it would not deliver. Now after 3 Weeks I can say that it was worth its money and that for the most part it delivers. There are a few things that do not work well and some of them can be very frustrating but at the end of the day I don’t care what a computer program says about my progress but what I feel I did accomplish and I feel I accomplished a lot.

Before RS I could barely play some chord, played 5th fret pentatonic scale and some 12-bar blues. I had lessons for roughly a year about 20 years back and tried to learn playing the guitar with some books but it never could keep myself disciplined enough to play everyday for a given period. Since I started with RS 3 weeks ago I played everyday at least 1 hour or more on various things learning songs, techniques, jamming, composing a guitar sound, scales etc. Slowly but surely I can move my hand blind on the fret board and pick the correct string a the correct time. Sure I make a ton of mistakes and I am still have a hard time to trust my feeling to know where my hands are meaning I will look down more times than I should. Compared to when I started I am much more fluent, confident and use less force in my hand playing the guitar.

Currently I am working on the old Police song “Every Breath you Take” and playing it at 100% difficulty and 70% speed is my limit. My left hand tiers out way too fast and I am tick off by a problem way too easy but I start to be able to recover from it. RS has the ability to reduce the difficulty by reducing the number of notes or the difficulty of the chords but sometimes that is can be a burden in the long run because the flow of the fingers can be easily disrupted by additional nodes, chords, bends, slides etc. That said it helps to get the feeling of accomplishment and for the overall rhythm of the song.

One of my missions was to clear a song on medium difficulty with few mistakes. This is called score attack and it focuses less on the accuracy but rather on the consistency of the playing. What I mean is that it only scores a “strike” when many notes / chords are played wrong in a row and after 3 strikes the player failed the score attack. For example the song Blitzkrieg Pop by the Ramons have many fast power cords but few variations. So even if one missing a chord here or there one will pass.

Looking back I was skeptical about it but I thought I cannot waste more than a few bucks and some hours but now I am hooked onto Rocksmith and there wasn’t a single day in the past where I did not exercise an hour or more and it does show. I could play Blitzkrieg Pop (not a difficult song by any means) in a few tries up to 80% difficulty. Also I remember chords like A5, E5, C5, Am and so on and I have not much difficulty playing scales like the Pentatonic Minor, Aelion etc over the fretboard so that I now can start jamming more freely. And I also completed 110 missions about songs, lessons, jamming, games and setting up a tone.

The only thing that is sometimes frustrating is the sometimes unreliable guitar detector which decides if a note / chord was played correct or not. Sometimes it helps to re-calibrate it or to increase the volum on the guitar but sometimes it does not work right. This is especially frustrating in the lessons because there one is stuck trying to get passed a little exercise. Finally there are a few things that I would love to be improved. First I would like for RS to tell me more precisely what was played wrong and why and secondly I would like to review the song and my mistakes more easily and quickly like in a fly-over. Also I would like that the Riff Repeater would remember what I did the last time and that I take advantage of the additional buttons on the joystick. For example use buttons to increase / decrease speed, difficulty, switch on and off the acceleration and level-up. This would increase the user experience because when I have the guitar on I want to play and not fumble around with a joystick.

Rocksmith is a great and fun way to learn to play the guitar. More fun that any book will provide and more feedback than any DVD. Even the silly games are useful and can and will improve a player’s skill. The songs are great and with enough energy and stamina anyone can master them. Even for players with less time available than me to exercise can benefit as long as they do it consistently. I only took the lead guitar mode in Rocksmith and so I cannot talk about the rhythm or bass mode but I don’t think these are much different. Still for any players jamming with a band the Session Mode will improve their improvisational skills a lot. There are a ton of different instruments, pre-set Bands to choose from and afterwards one can change the scale, root and much more to get the right session. When I took guitar lessons 20 years back I used a little box that would play a very basic blues band but ran around $200. With RS I have blues, funk, pop, metal, rock etc bands which can play nearly every scale, complexity and speed. The session mode would have been enough to make RS worthwhile but with the songs, games and lessons it is a steal.

  • Andy
29
Oct

Mac, Lion and the Lost Installer

Imagine you have an older Mac (like my Mac Book Pro 15” from 2005), you have Lion installed (last OS that it takes) and then you want to give this one to someone else.
Now the first thing that you for sure want to do is to erase the entire content of your hard disk and then re-install Lion from scratch to be sure that the new owner does not have access to your data.
If you have a Lion Installer Thumb Drive you can now reboot your Mac while holding the Option key. Then you select the ER Built (USB Icon) drive.
After the Installer comes up you can go to the Tools menu section, select the Disk Utility and format your boot drive. After this is done restart, hold the Option key and select again the Installer Thumb Drive.

Problem

If you were unlucky like I was then you will see a dialog that says:

There was a problem installing Mac OS X. Try reinstalling

What the ….?

First I thought the thumb drive is bad, then I doubled checked that both the Thumb Drive and the Mac’s boot drive are OK. Finally, just before giving up, I googled the problem and found an Apple Discussion that discussed the problem and had a solution.

Solution

It turns out that I had to reset the PRAM in order to be able to Install Lion again. As much as I love the ease of use of OS X sometimes it comes with a huge price tag. I would never have thought of this and I was spending a considerable amount of time to try to resolve it before I searched the Internet. It would have been nice if the Mac could give a hint of what is the problem and not just displays this somewhat useless Dialog. Especially considering that this is rare but still possible scenario for a regular Mac user.

At least I got passed that issue and could installed Lion again.

Cheers – Andy

22
Jul

CQ 5.5 and Link Rewriter Failures

In CQ 5.5 one can rewrite links by extending a RequestRewriter interface inside an OSGi service. This way links can be dynamically adjusted to external views or can be adjusted to internal conditions. In my current project we use this extensively and for most parts it works fine. That said for a few pages that did not work at all exposing internal structures to the client. It took me a while to discover the cause but fixing as quite simple. Read more »

5
Jun

ByWord Publishing Test

Update

You might not see if but it did what I expected and converted Markdown to HTML when it published it to my WordPress site – bummer. Maybe they fix it later but that renders it unusable for me. There is also no way to update a page because after the publishing the link is lost and there is no way to retrieve a post from the blog.

I would expect that there is a flag that allows me to post in Markdown and a way to list all my posts so that I can update their content because I post in Markdown. Right now I am better off using MarsEdit on the Mac and Post on iOS. I don’t mind spending $5 on a good add-on but this is just half-done with link bloggers in mind.

For now I give two thumbs down for the Byword Premium even though I enjoy the App and I am willing to spend money on good updates. That said the Publishing is not well done or designed.

Original

This is my first test to see how the Blogging Support from ByWord Premium works and if it is usable for my purposes. I am mostly concerned if they do send the plain Markdown text over or if they convert it to HTML which would make it completely unusable for me.

Let’see – Andy

10
May

Thiebaud White Cake: Version 1.0

A few weeks back I bought the book Modern Art Desserts from Caitlin Freeman at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. For my son’s birthday I decided to bake the Thiebaud White Cake. As you can see here it come out alright:

My Thiebaud White Cake

2. How I did it

Making the cake took way longer than expected even though I knew that it takes quite some time to finish a layered cake. So first I made the cake but when I baked it the cake did not rise enough to create four layers. So I made a second cake which rose a little bit higher but still created the unwanted dome shape. Then I made the Italian Buttercream which turned out good even though denser than expected. A few days later I created the macerated strawberries and the sirup. FInally I cut the two cakes in two layers each and cut off the dome shaped top, warmed up the butter cream and assembled the cake. Buttercream is like plaster where any rough surfaces or imperfections can be filled up and covered over.

3. Lessons Learned

3.1 Cake

I still don’t know how to make a good, fluffy and level cake. The first cake came out bad because I forgot the sugar and when I added it later the batter did not look good and so it was not a surprise when it did not rise well. The second then looked great and it rose good in the beginning but in the second half of the baking the edges fell down and I got a high dome which meant I had to cut of a big chunk of the cake.
I have another recipe which uses whipped egg whites to make it rise rather than baking powder. Next time I will try this instead.
But maybe it is just my lousy oven that is responsible for the problems or my baking skills. One thing I might want to try is to cover the cake pan with aluminum foil to avoid a draft. I guess the only thing that helps is to try again until I succeed.

3.2 Butter Cream

Making the Butter Cream worked well until I had to add the butter at the very end. The cream deflated and became dense when I had all the butter added. Even though I took the butter out of the refrigerator early and cut it into pieces it still was cold inside the cubes. In another recipe they whip the butter and add it in one step to the base. The whipped butter has a more uniform temperature, is soft and when added all together it is much faster done.

3.3 Macerated Strawberries

The recipe asks for way too many strawberries. I just used about half of them. One problem I ran into is that the strawberries were too big, not soft enough and so messed up my cake layering. Next time I will slice the strawberries evenly so that when I place them between the layers they berries are a good and level foundation for the next layer.

3.4 Assembly

Next time I’m going to cut the cake into layers using a strong thread instead of a knife. This way I should get more even and equal thick layers. I also will use a decorating bag to build the wall at the edge of a layer to keep the strawberries and their juice inside. The biggest lesson I learned is to make sure that the strawberries create an even and not too thick layer in between the cake layers otherwise the cake becomes uneven and therefore hard to finish and decorate. Also the top layer can break if bend. My cakes were broken anyhow because of their dome shape when left cool off inverted but a bend can make them break even more. Another lessons is that there is nothing like too much butter cream. Until I am getting good at creating such cakes I will make at least one quarter more butter cream than the recipe asks for. The butter cream can help to glue pieces together, to even out gaps and to cover up mistakes.

Conclusion

Some of the instructions in the book are misleading making me confused (like the preparation of the Butter Cream) and at other steps I would like to have more instructions. For sure the recipes are not for beginners and require some expertise in baking and making butter creams etc. On the other hand only making cakes will give me the experience I need to become better at it.

– Andy

19
Apr

Markdown with Poster

Update May 13th:

Having tried Blogsy I am not really a fan of their Markdown Support. Blogsy gives a blank editor and I later converts everything into HTML which is what I don’t want because I upload and store my blog entries as plain Markdown text. This way I can keep editing it on any Markdown editor I want on any system (iPhone, iPad and Mac). As far as I can tell there is no support for images, files etc.

In my quest to use Markdown with my WordPress Blog I am now using Poster on the iPad to write a post. As with MarsEdit images are again the big thing. So I uploaded this Image Image of Pool Samples but Poster is adding this a plain HTML. I could remove the HTML and place it into a Markdown format but I would have expected that when it does support Markdown that uploading an image would add the image in Markdown.

Let’s see if I Blogsy does a better job.

18
Apr

CQ Workflow Presentation

On Wednesday, April 17th I gave a Presentation about Workflows to the OC CQ User Group which ran for about 2 hours.

So here are the Slides as PDF file, 16MB. Before you look at them I want to point a few things out:

As a Developer I need to figure out how to make things work and so most of my time is spent on figuring out how to deal with problems, bugs or other shortcomings of a Framework. Therefore problems are more important and I focus on way more that on the things that work without a problem. On the other hand I want to give my audience as much help as I can to deal with problems they might have or they might run into in the future. So don’t take my long list of bugs, traps and pitfalls as an indication that CQ Workflow is too buggy and unreliable.
In addition keep in mind that Workflows has two major parts. The coding which I covered a lot but also the business component which defines what to do in the Workflow, by whom and in what order. Because this is an iterative process it makes developing Workflows more difficult because changes might require a redesign of the Workflow.
All in all CQ Workflows need a strong commitment by the developers as well as by the stakeholders because they will take time to get it right and to make it acceptable for the enduser. That said I think CQ Workflows can do amazing things and be a big time saver (especially in crunch time) if setup right.

Have fun – Andy Schaefer

BTW: The session was tapped and so I think it will be posted on the User Group page soon.

15
Apr

CQ Workflow Tutorial: Export Workflow Models Quickly

Update (5/17/2013):

There is a bug in the script when there are more than 10 files. This part will fix it:

# Do not change any of these
INDEX=1
FILES=$TARGET_DIR/$PACKAGE_NAME-*.zip
for f in $FILES
do
    echo File Name: $f
    FILE=$f
    NTEMP=`echo ${FILE##*-}|cut -d . -f1`
    echo NTEMP: $NTEMP
    if [ "$NTEMP" -gt "$INDEX" ];
    then
         INDEX=$NTEMP
    fi
done;

So far I did not discuss how to manage the project even though if you look at the final project files I posted at the end of the Post you will see that it contains the Workflow Models as well.
In General I always keep the Workflow Models in my VCS (often my personal GIT as well as the Client’s VCS) just to make sure I have a track record of all the changes and can see how it evolves over time but also to have a way to easily undo a problematic current version. Because Workflow Models can only be edited inside the CQ Workflow Model Editor we need to find a way to export them quickly, easily and fast otherwise we might loose changes. That said I never to export the workflows directly into the VCS but rather export them into a temporary folder and then use a DIFF tool like Delta Walker for the Mac to move them over even if I just copy them without ever merging. Read more »