The Art of Avoiding Distraction

.. or the inescapability of a never-ending stream of bullshit between you and productivity.

I've been into making electronic music for a couple years. I completely removed a computer from my setup at least a year ago. It always seemed that anything I wanted to get done was just pulling teeth, and before I knew it, the hour I had planned to spend jamming was spent fighting with a driver update, or signal path routing issue that reared it's head in some update rendering my gear mute. Or sometimes just the tool itself.

I seem to have been thrown distractions left and right for the past month, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to rant a little bit :-) Also the reason I didn't have the energy to make any posts last week (I try to post stuff Mondays/Wednesdays).

flash back to a little over a year ago

I had bought a copy of Logic X for my DAW. Not the cheapest solution, but not the most expensive by a long shot. I was working on getting the VST set up for my Ultranova** and although it was installed and working, I couldn't get the display to come up in Logic. I was absolutely puzzled. I consulted the manual many times. Even different versions. The window was split into 3 screens, and the VST editor should clearly be the bottom window taking up nearly a third of the screen. The window was there, but contained two virtual knobs that had nothing to do wit the VST. It just wasn't there. Absolutely maddening. I spent hours trying to delve through the menu trying to discover if I had missed (or enabled) a secret setting, preventing me from seeing the proper window. Nothing. Eventually I came across a lonely post on a message board that said to move the mouse over the screen boarder and drag it up to make it larger. Once I got to the size of about half the screen, the VST editor appeared. Fuck me. No indication that the window needed to be made bigger, or that content was being hidden. Once I knew what the problem was, I tried to dig into the official forums to see if there was an explanation for this bullshit. There wasn't, but they did have an officially accepted solution: buy a bigger monitor. You only get that one chance to make a first impression, and I could never really invest myself into Logic Pro after that...

** At the time I purchased my Ultranova, the latest software for Mac was broken. It seems they didn't package the driver in their latest build, so it was required to remove the software, install the next oldest package, and then upgrade over top of it. No directions about this; had to figure it out myself. I take every opportunity to let people know this, to save them a day of troubles. If you have an Ultranova, and the driers are not working on a clean install: Downgrade/upgrade. (Maybe they've fixed it by now).

flash back to ~3 weeks ago

So being DAWless for the last year has been fine and great. All my gear is synced, and works perfectly when I boot it all up. I don't get as much recorded as I like though. I saw a sale on Ableton Live just shy of a month ago, and decided to pick up a copy. I really like the scene/clip workflow, as it is laid out very much like how I work with my hardware.

After playing with it for week in between Thanksgiving things are going well; I figure I'll give Overbridge a go for my Elektron boxes! Get it installed and ready to go... whoops! Going to need to upgrade the firmware on the Analog 4 to work with this version of Overbridge. Ok, not so bad. With that done, I'm ready to go! Or, at least I would be if it would make a sound. Why isn't it making a sound? Plug headphones directly into the A4, and hear it; it's not MIDI. Open up the separate Overbridge config app, and see the main L/R channels are up, bu the channels are muted. Unmute them, and now we're jamming! Get a few bars going, until I try and add a different MIDI track for the A4. Track 1 plays. I figure it's on a global midi track (it was) and switch over to track 2 on the box. Track one is still the only thing playing. After a half an hour of troubleshooting with no working solution, I calmly powered down my gear, unplugged my gear, and deleted that project. I'll just keep routing everything through my Octatrack and capture audio through my Saffire Pro 40.

flash forward a few days

It's about 12:30 am. I've been playing with Ableton for the last hour, but sleep is ready to drag me to the depths on my feet or not. I power everything down and head to the bed room. I notice my light is off, which isn't terribly unusual, but I also notice my fan isn't running. "Why did my wife shut my fan off?", I thought. I go to click it back on only to see the switch still in the on position. Sure enough, the breaker had kicked.

12:37am I'm in the basement staring at a 3 month old arc fault breaker that wont reset. Did it go bad, I wonder? I read a bunch of people complain that these breakers go bad quickly. Do I have anything on? It's just the bedroom on this breaker. While I'm going through scenarios in my head, a tapping sound starts to register in my brain. "WTF is that", I ask myself. "Is it the breaker? Is the breaker clicking?" I look around, and then see a drip of water coming from the bottom of the breaker box and falling into the ledge below; hitting it with a fat tap. FML. 12:45 am, I just want to be asleep, and I'm opening up a leaking electric panel. Water. Trickling. Everywhere. Turns out there was a crack in the mains line outside after the meter. Water was soaking into the wire and being funneled directly through to our breaker panel. Didn't get much that weekend, what with getting a whole new breaker box installed.

flash back to 2 weekend ago

I notice reports that the motherboard on my big-rig VR PC has enabled Thunderbolt 3 over USB C. Well, I thought, that would be handy. I could run my Saffire Pro 40 off of that, and also any cameras for streaming and I wouldn't have to hook everything up to my laptop all the time. Head over to the Drivers page, and sure enough, they have Thunderbolt drivers and firmware upgrades listed. Exciting!

Wrong. Not exciting. Infuriating.

A days worth of fucking around with it yielded the lesson that they only "sort of" enabled Thunderbolt support. Oh, and then they took it back out in the latest BIOS update (guess what step #1 was int he process!) Of course, they didn't take the drivers down. Nor did they remove the option in the BIOS to turn it on. Oh, they left that in, but just disabled it so it didn't actually do anything because fuck my Saturday.

flash back to last weekend

I'm having some coffee, talking with my wife. "What are you're plans for today?", she asks. "I'm going to take the rest of the day to make music and chew bubblegum, and I'm fresh out of bubblegum". Hold my calls.

I'm in my room for less than 30 minutes before I hear through the door, "Mark, we have a problem".

"Do we?", I replied. "Do we?"

"The ceiling is leaking".

FML. At that point, I had one of those Clark Griswold Christmas Vacation laughing fits, as I shut my gear and my computer; tucking everything away. So long, Saturday.

and here we are

It seems at every possible moment I have had free time in the last month, something has reared it's ugly head to suck the life out of me. I certainly fed into it in some cases, and some things you just can't avoid. Some times you just need to step back, and ask yourself "Is this [read as fucking with drivers] really important right now?" or say "*waives hand* This isn't the free time you're looking for" when your house starts weeping like the Virgin Mary, but with all the miraculous fanfare. It's important to remember that things come up, and all you can do is go with the flow. There's always next weekend :-) And if something comes up, you'll have something else to bitch about in the next weeks blog X-D