Saturday, June 30, 2012

iMac speaker buzz annoyance

I tend to use my iMac for a lot of stuff.  I dual boot Linux on it and find I use both operating systems about equally.

I recently had a strange problem start occuring when listening to iTunes: a strange buzz noise that would sound every once in a while.  At first I though maybe I had some corrupted mp3 files.  I could never get the sound to repeat at the same place on a song, though.

So I did what anyone should do when experiencing something like this: think of anything you recently did that may be caused the change.  For me, it was adding an external hard drive the day before.  However, the external drive wasn't even connected when this was happening.  Still, it seemed too big of a coincidence to NOT have something to do with the external hard drive being added.

After googling a bit, it appears that speaker buzzing is pretty common on iMacs, especially when you have a recording studio set-up with monitors and an audio interface like I do.  The problem is a ground loop issue, and some people solve it by getting rid of the ground in their outlet plugs!  Okay, I think I'll pass on that approach.  Others buy special cables to help eliminate the problem.  Others power their monitors on a different circuit.  Since my speakers already were powered on a different circuit, I was having trouble even thinking where to begin on this.

Then I got lucky.  I was looking at images of various cables on Amazon that were supposed to solve this problem.

Then I remembered something.  When I added the external hard drive, I had to unplug my Bamboo tablet.  Since I use a non-Apple mouse and keyboard, the 4 usb ports on my mac are almost always used:

  1. USB Keyboard
  2. USB Mouse
  3. USB Audio Interface
  4. USB to External Hard Drive
To make switching components easier, I used a high quality USB extension of about 2 feet so that I didn't have to reach around the back of the iMac to change components.  I had added it to the Audio Interface USB cable and would swap the interface out for the Bamboo tablet, etc.  

Removing that 2 foot USB extension solved all the problems.  Except for having to reach around to swap USB components, of course, but that I can live with.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Human Nature has it's good parts

I don't mind if you use this image elsewhere!

Spent most of the day today getting some php scripts to work on my personal site.  While wrestling with the fact that browsers are ****ing anal, I had to do a lot of scrambling to figure out what was going wrong on the server that had worked fine on my local development server.

And of course the answers were all out there.  Not on some big PHP or SVG site, but on forums where other programmers were nice enough to help others deal with the same problem.  That reminded me of something I wrote a long time ago about copyright law and how it goes against the human nature of those in the teaching profession.  It's even in their vernacular, as they say "well, if you don't mind, I'm going to steal these plans from you and use them with my class."

That drives me nuts.  What kind of atmosphere are we in when teachers feel that way about lesson plans that they use in their classrooms?  Teachers are constantly altering lesson plans to adapt them for different students.  They are also constantly creating their own tests, activities, and examples to use with their students.  Too bad the slimeball lawyers have made everyone gun shy about doing what is natural to us: sharing with others.  Enough already.  Amen.  Break.

Of course there are excellent publishers out there that have entered the new millenium, and we need to support them as much as possible.  Also, one of my oldest complaints was about Key Curriculum posting teacher creations in Geometer's Sketchpad on their site and then keeping all copy rights to them.  Well, it appears that has changed and they now have a Sketch Exchange site where teachers can upload their sketches.  The sketches themselves are Creative Commons licensed, and you can download them even in "lurker mode."

Of course, I still use Geogebra instead, as I find it easier to use.  :-)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Inkscape crashing in Ubuntu 12.04 (on iMac 27")

Just thought I'd document something that was really bothering me a lot lately: Inkscape kept crashing whenever I'd try to use the "generate from path" commands.

I'm pretty good at searching for hours and finding what I need to fix something.  Since Inkscape is one of my main applications, I thought it was deserving of the attention.

After finding surprisingly little about this, I decided to try running the development version of Inkscape.  Here's how I did this.

First, I choose to use synaptic for this:
 sudo apt-get install synaptic 
Then, I had to add the development build to my sources:
sudo add-apt-repository

In synaptic, check to confirm that you have the development repository added:

After uninstalling your current Inkscape, use synaptic to install the development version:

Worked like a charm.  I wish I had more to report on what was causing the crashes, but this was a problem that I spent a lot of failed attempts to fix it.  So, I was just happy to have it working again.