Any organisation still using Windows XP should write down this date: April 8, 2014. After this point there will be no updates, no security fixes and no support. Office 2003 users will be in the same boat. To put that in perspective is it estimated that about 40% of desktops still use XP with Windows 7 finally passing them at 44%. Of those 40%, many have not considered their upgrade path as yet and while the OS will continue to work for a long time it will become more and more vulnerable. Hackers love XP as it is so well known to them and is often used as a springboard into organisational systems.
Does a 7-inch tablet really make sense? What can you do on one that you can't do with your smartphone? While the same argument could be made for larger tablet devices, a 10-inch tablet is significantly larger than the average smartphone.You can use a large tablet to display readable sheet music, for example, so on this question I am with old Apple: 10 inches are better than seven unless you don't have a smartphone.
If you want to make your own music you will need to get a few things. You need some way of getting audio and MIDI information into your computer, a digital audio workstation of some kind, a microphone, some cables, some creativity and a lot of time. As far as an input device goes, these days you don't need to spend a lot of money. After some research I recently purchased the Focusrite Saffire 6. It can handle two input devices at the same time, such as a vocal microphone and guitar, and has a MIDI in and out based on a USB 2.0 system. Focusrite has excellent preamps which were part of the selection criteria but you could do fine with say a Mackie equivalent.
Most people want to build drum, bass and backing tracks typically based around phrase loops. Fruity Loops or FL does that quite well and has excellent online tutorials and user support forums. For something a little more powerful, the available options include Cakewalk Sonar, Pro Tools, Reason, Cubase and others. Product extras vary but include plug in effects, drum loops and sounds. For a basic creation path start with the drums to give the beat, add the rhythm, bass, the vocals, then any other pieces you may want to put on top, like guitar solos. A regular Shure SM58 microphone is an excellent starting point for input but as far as the creativity is concerned that is all up to you.
I love technology and the latest from the California Institute of Tech (Caltech) brings us one step closer to Skynet. Researchers have developed self-repairing circuits as complex as a millimetre-wave power amplifier, the kind of thing you'd find in any self-respecting communications, imaging or sensing system. The Caltech technology allows circuits to reroute around problems including being hit by a high energy laser. In testing that used just this kind of punishment, the self-healing system was able to detect the faults, route around them, and continue to function at near-optimal efficiency. Healing occurred in under a second and the technology helps to save power by finding the optimal paths. The aim is to push this technology into more complex chips that will be essentially indestructible, just like in the Terminator movies.
Love them or loathe them, Microsoft has had success with the Kinect device. The ability to control things on a screen by moving and waving your hands has taken game playing to new levels and changed the meaning of being "up in arms". In response to some other market challengers, Redmond has released some of the code to the open source community to allow developers to build their own code samples. Why is Microsoft doing this? Apart from the competition, it allows them to get code samples and ideas to improve the Kinect platform. If you want to play around, go to the Microsoft's CodePlex site to find out more.
Since the original Kinect release, hackers have built Linux interfaces and developed all kinds of applications not originally envisioned by Microsoft and this has led to an expansion of the technology into both commercial and non-commercial applications. Where this might end up is anyone's guess but I do have one world for you _ holodeck. The serious competitor to the Kinect is the Leap Motion device due to be shipped globally on May 13. Read about it at www.leapmotion.com.
Moving into the new century, the Boy Scouts of America have created a merit badge in Game Design. A programming badge is set to be introduced at the BSA's 2013 Jamboree in July with badges for computer-aided design, animation and advanced computing to appear next year and in 2015.
Be thankful if you are not living in Australia where the current government is trying to raise the cost of the internet for all its citizens by implementing an inefficient, poorly planned National Broadband Network.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at email@example.com.
About the author
- Writer: James Hein
Position: Database Writer