Solution for iPad that won’t charge

Got an iPad Pro that won’t charge? Tried resetting it and that didn’t work? Same here. I can’t guarantee a fix, but this worked for me and has a few times now:

  1. Let the iPad die – all the way. This may take a day or so, but let it get down to where it shuts off.
  2. Then hold the power button until you get it to start up again. Keep doing that occasionally until holding the power button results in the screen that shows the dead battery and power cable instead of starting the iPad. It might take a while for the battery to die enough for this to happen, maybe a day or two or three.
  3. See if it will charge then. Mine always has.

So, you might be wondering why I have had this happen several times. Well, it took me a while a to figure out the cause but I think I’ve nailed it down. It’s when I use a wired ethernet adapter. I’ve used two different ones, and it happens after it’s been connected for more than a day or so.

I’m in the process of doing a photo library export to a network-attached storage system, and that’s why I need an iPad up and connect to the net for days at a time.

Why does the long-term ethernet connection result in no charging? No idea. If anyone knows, please comment.

Zoom H1n As Only Recorder

In late 2021 we took a trip to my wife’s childhood home of Miami, Florida. We spent several days see some sites, visiting some folks, and spending time with her mother.

After the trip to Maine earlier that year where I brought the MixPre6ii and multiple mics, I decided to try the other end of the spectrum. I brought only my Zoom H1n.

For wind protection I brought a foam I’d bought online, and over that the Zoom furry from my H2n. I’d figured it would be enough. Only half right. It worked ok for mild breezes, but the 10mph on the beach required the high pass filter and even then wind was audible.

Sitting in the 3rd row of a minivan trying to catch banter between the driver and front row passenger doesn’t work very well, but noise reduction helps – more on that in another post.

Handling noise is not so great. It’s pretty intrusive to the recordings vs. a normal handheld mic. The noise can be avoided with careful handling, but any movement between hand and recorder is noisy.

Startup time is a problem with large memory cards, and with smaller (4GB) cards its down to 4 seconds.

Sound quality is good enough for clear intelligibility, I didn’t really have an issue with the sound quality while listening back. With music it might be different but the combination of voice and general sounds came through ok. The MixPre6 has less noise, and it paired with a ‘real’ microphone sounds better, but not game-changing better.

The level control is a bit fiddly – between 5 and 7 it doesn’t seem to have much effect based on the meter, but above 7 it ramps up quickly – so I just left it at 5-6 and that worked for most everything. I did not use the limiter, but did use the high pass filter sometimes.

Setting the filename to be the date & time made post processing pretty easy. It would be better if I could add meta data to the recording while it was in the recorder, like the MixPre. I missed the bluetooth functionality a bit.

I started out using nimh rechargeable batteries, but picked up lithiums during the trip.

Warning: If you set the battery type to lithium you will not be able to use nimh batteries until you get it set back. This may require a fresh set of lithiums to get the battery level high enough to allow the recorder to run

Battery life with lithiums was enough for most of not all the trip. I will definitely use those going forward.

I like that the H1n is small enough that it doesn’t attract much attention. It can be set down on a bench or thigh, or even tucked into a shirt pocket (with substantial risk of noise when moving) for hands-free operation.

I don’t like the wind protection. It obscures the level control, and isn’t strong enough in anything more than a stiff breeze. I’ve purchased a Rycote windhover, which seems to be more effective.

Would I take it again or is there a better alternative?

While the H1n is small enough that it’s not much bother to take along, I think there may be better options that would have me very tempted:

Tascam DR-10x

Bigger package, omni mic, better wind protection, mono only.

Zoom H2n

Better wind protection, front and back stereo could be mixed to mono, has pre-record

MixPre + regular mic

Best sound quality, very big package, better metadata and longer pre-record.

Tascam DR-10x Review First Looks

Just got a Tascam DR-10x to play with. I was looking for something with lower handling & wind noise than the H1n, less size than the MixPre, and wasn’t concerned with stereo for a lot of what I do. $137 delivered.

Mixed bag so far, but I don’t think I’ll be sending it back. Size is awesome. Starts fairly quick even with a 32gb card. Headphone output is pretty minimal, but I wasn’t expecting much from an AAA powered device.

It is designed to work with dynamic mics. No phantom power, and there are four mic gain settings: EXT, Low, Med, High. The manual says that EXT is for ‘external input, Hot pin unbalanced.’ So, I had confined myself to the other three settings and started testing the mics I have.

Beyer M58 – Works well on low or mid gain, virtually no handling noise, but it feels like I’m holding a billy club. With the foam on it’s pretty windproof but it is comically large.

AT8004 – Lots of handling noise, best on low gain, same meh sound I always get with this mic.

SM58 – Same as the AT8004, but with better sound.

AT8010 – Hot output, even low gain can be clipped with loud talking. Low handling noise, easy to protect from wind.

ME66 – Super hot output. Low gain a must but even then useful only for quiet stuff. Really needs to be in a blimp for use outdoors.

AT8035 – Low gain is fine, reasonable handling noise for a shotgun, same as the ME66 for wind, needs a blimp.

The AT8010 was what I’d planned on using it with, and I was really hoping it would work out but even low gain was too sensitive. So I tried the EXT setting just to see, and that dropped the input by 10-20db and that solved the clipping problem, but at the expense of increased noise.

The limiter proved to be the answer. Normally I never use the limiter on inexpensive recorders because they don’t work very well, but I decided to try this one and so far the results are acceptable.

It’s small and light enough there’s no reason not to bring it. With the mic attached it fits in the bags I carry. The lack of wires and no headphones gives it sort of a film camera vibe because I have to listen back to see what I got. For what I’ll use this for I can’t make any changes anyway, so monitoring has less value.

The BWF data in the audio file includes a lot of info on the settings like mic gain level and low cut filter, auto level, and limiter settings. This is nice.

I need to use it more before I decide on the sound quality, but for now I’m thinking this is a keeper.

What do you call the audio equivalent of home movies?

So we’re back from our trip and I’ve got several hours of recordings. Something I’ve been trying to figure out is how to turn the recordings I make of my family into more of a finished product. Over the years I’ve accumulated something over 600 recordings. Just like a huge stack of photos or a bunch of videos, the recordings are fine by themselves to a point, but they are often long and have lots of dead space in them. Or they may be full of just ambiance, but it’s 90 min and really 3-5min is more than enough.

How to edit this down? How do I make this something that is more entertaining, and has more of a structure?

The normal process is to start with a story idea, go collect audio based on that idea, then piece it together in a way that tells the story. But what if there’s no story at the start?

The good news is that the audience is very forgiving, if a bit small – me and my family, maybe a bit of extended family – and the story doesn’t have to be of NPR or even podcast caliber.

The bad news is that there isn’t an established process for forming a story from a bunch of raw audio. At least, I haven’t found one. So I’ve come to a basic strategy and we’ll see how it works:

  1. Listen to the tape, and see what the common themes emerge. For example, on this recent trip I made much more of an effort to get family banter so there is more discussion of the ‘Are you recording this?’ line along with discussion about which is better, audio or video in the beginning and then the discussion changes over the trip as recording became a bit more accepted (or they just got resigned to it). Another was that as we drove from one part of main to another we started to run into places being closed and it became a running joke.
  2. List these themes and the chronology of events.
  3. Form a story structure of the events & themes.
  4. Go back to the audio for the bits that support those items & pull the clips.
  5. Assemble the piece, using narration to fill the gaps as necessary.

I have no idea if this will work or no, but it’s the best I can come up with so It’s what I’m doing.

For what it’s worth, I’m using Hindenburg Journalist to do most of the editing, with Reaper being used to split up some of the polywav files.

Last but not least, what do I call the result? In the interest of helping whoever else might be trying to do the same thing, what do we call the audio version of home movies or a scrapbook?

Powering the MixPre – reconsidering the options

The SoundDevices MixPre recorder comes with a battery ‘sled’ that holds 4 AA batteries along with an AC adapter. A set of 4 Alkaline batteries might power the MixPre for maybe 20 minutes, which isn’t really useful for anything. Four rechargeable batteries fair a lot better – over an hour in my experience – and are useful for short recordings. Anything longer though, and you’re looking at needing to either swap batteries or use some other power source.

The crafty folks at SoundDevices added a USB C port to the MixPre, and it can be used to power the unit as well. The USB A port can also be used, but with limited capabilities.

While planning a recent vacation trip I recalled the last time I’d taken a recorder on vacation and decided to re-examine powering options. Going through my notes from last time I learned some things about what I used and didn’t use:

  • I brought some USB power banks (Anker 10,000mah, and 26,800mah), along with a cable to connect to the MixPre6ii. Both power banks can do Power Delivery, so they were the obvious source of power, except the only bag I had at the time was the Orca and I decided not to bring it. As a result, the recorder had to live in the backpack when using the power banks.
  • I really like using the recorder with the AA sled & strap. I’m usually carrying just one mic and ‘phones, and it’s a very simple setup. No trouble getting to any controls on the recorder, and it’s nice & small so it fits in whatever bag I’m using to haul all the other stuff when I travel.
  • The AA’s are a very bulky and heavy power source. Spare batteries require big pockets or a bag, and the charger is pretty big and requires access to AC.

In reconsidering power options for the next trip I decided on a goal of a total 6 hours of record time per day, although not necessarily in one recording. That’s to cover recording, listening back in the car, entering metadata, etc. So that’s enough battery to cover six hours, and the ability to charge it overnight.

Here’s a table that shows how the options I considered compare.

Recording lighthouses

What do you do when your spouse wants to see a bunch of lighthouses? Well if you’re me you record them! And since we’re on vacation I’m trying to record the trip in the same sort of way that a photographer or videographer would.

Getting family banter is easy. Getting good sounding family banter while in a restaurant in a way that doesn’t mortify my teenaged daughters is a bit more challenging. Tucking the mic under the flap keeps it a bit discreet, and putting the bag on the table at the end of a booth works, but restaurants are noisy places. Really, the Zoom H2n would be a better choice in that specific instance. The car and hotel room, along with walking around are better times to try to capture good sound.

Lighthouses are also surprisingly noisy places. Lots of people, wind, ocean, birds, and people. And the cars they leave idling while taking a quick snap of themselves.

Amazingly, not many have come up and asked me what I’m doing. Usually, holding a mic with a windscreen is obvious enough to draw questions.

Amazingly, my daughters still walk up to me as I’m recording to ask “How’s the recording going? Oh, sorry!”

Still, it’s not too hard to get a minute or so of decent ambience out of 5 minutes. My standards are not too high – I’m not waiting for silence, just the absence of loud people and vehicles. Distant boats & planes are part of the soundscape in my ears.

More to follow…

More on The Strut Case

I decided to take the strut case on our trip, and it’s working out fairly well.

The AT4022 tucks under the flap for storage, but recording from there works also
The AT4022 tucks under the flap for storage, but recording from there works also
Unused cables can be left connected but tucked through the belt loops - very handy!
Unused cables can be left connected but tucked through the belt loops – very handy!

I’ve got the Talent cell in the bottom battery wrap, and it’s had more than enough power for my needs. The AT4022 is plugged into mic 4, and I can keep the mic wrapped under the cover for storage, but still record with it there if I want to.

I plugged my stereo cable into the 1 & 2, and tucked it into the belt loops so it’s ready when I want to record an ambiance.

Lighthouses are noisy places - lots of people
Lighthouses are noisy places – lots of people

I brought my clippy mics with the plan that I’d clip them to the ends of the bag and they would go into the aux input 5/6, when I want a stereo image on the go. I haven’t tried it yet because I haven’t felt the need, the wind has been too strong for the little furries they have, and I’m rather liking working with mono.

I’ve brought an AT8010 to use, but haven’t brought it out yet but will soon because the AT4022 does have a fair bit of handling noise and cable noise.

Anyway, back to the Strut case. It is working quite well. The velcro is annoying, but it holds well and I don’t know what would be a better choice. I’ve been using Etymotic earphones for monitoring because regular ‘phones aren’t hat-compatible, and they fit in the pocket just fine. So I can carry everything with not to many cables hanging out. I’ve been carrying the charger for the TalentCell with me just in case, but today that will be left at home so I can move the battery to the pocket and try things that way.

I’ve also learned that the Rode WS8 works well but is no match for the BBG with furry, and the Etymotics don’t reveal wind rumble as well as I’d like.

My guitar practice routine

Current situation & goals

I’m learning travis picking, and I’m getting through Mark Hanson’s second book, The Art of Solo Fingerpicking (affiliate link), along with a few tunes from other places.

Right now my short term goal is to learn a basic repertoire of tunes I can perform. Not soloing, improvisation, songwriting, etc. Those will come later, but for now I’d like to have half a dozen tunes that I enjoy playing, and folks would enjoy hearing and that is my sole focus.

Modacity

I use the Modacity iOS app to keep track of it all. I create practice items for everything I practice. Creating items in Modacity keeps me focused and it tracks the time for each item. Practice lists force me to work on what I should – especially the parts I don’t like or am weak on – rather than what I might want. The 1-5 star ratings for each item also force me to confront the hard parts and focus on them. It’s expensive, but I haven’t found anything better.

My practice routine is structure around taking care of tunes in 4 stages of development:

Stage 1 – New tunes with new techniques/chords I can’t play

I practice songs with new techniques measure by measure – an item for each measure. I spend a minute or two on each rating them as I go. Something easy and familiar might get 5 stars after 15 seconds then I move on. I might keep this up for the entire list, or more often just 5-10 minutes for a given session.

After I’ve gotten through the list I sort the list by rating so the lowest rating is at the top and focus on those. This way I spend my time on the stuff that needs the most time. I rarely spend more than 2-3 minutes at a time on anything. I get better results doing a few minutes, then coming back after doing some thing else for a while.

Once every measure has a rating of at least 3 stars (accomplished over days or weeks) I move on to the next stage.

Stage 2 – Tunes that are still too undeveloped to play to a metronome, but I can play the chords/techniques

I make practice items for each pair of measures – i.e. measure 1 & 2, 2 & 3, etc. I play each item for 1-3 minutes. Those that are no problem get 4 or 5 stars and I move on fairly quickly. Those that are hard I do for a few minutes, and rate it and move on.

Once everything in the list has 3 stars or better I move on to playing the whole tune. For some tunes this happens very quickly, for others not so much.

Stage 3 – Tunes I can play consistently enough for a metronome, but need to get up to performance tempo

I play the entire song, intro, repeats, codas, everything just as I would if performing it. I play it slow enough that I don’t make many, if any, mistakes. Being anal about this has improved my playing the most. Concentrating on playing something very slowly is skill in itself and was hard to get to used to, but I’m finding it is gold.

So I’ll play it slow, and if I have time I’ll play it again upping the tempo 5-20bpm each time until I get to or above performance tempo. If I start to make mistakes I can’t keep the rhythm through from I back the tempo down. Sometimes just for kicks I’ll kick it up to 10-20bpm above performance tempo just to see what happens. I end the practice session by playing it one last time just as slow as I started, trying to play it as perfectly as possible.

Stage 4 – Getting from ‘Can play it right’ to ‘Can’t play it wrong’

This is something I’m still figuring out. The advice of my teacher is to play as fast as I can while being able to recover from mistakes without losing the rhythm. I tend to go slower but try to stay fast enough that I’m in a flow state. This is not always easy to accomplish. Especially if there’s any stress in my life, or I’ve had any alcohol. What, stress and alcohol in a pandemic?

Other tricks

I gather up the trouble spots from everything I’m currently working on and put them in a special list called “Bitches”. This is everything from learning to do a thumb-over-the-top F chord to refining a shaky chord transition that just isn’t as solid as it needs to be. I use the timer feature in Modacity to limit my time for few reasons: Limits my chance for injury on things that are physically demanding, lowers the barrier to procrastination (“Surely I can practice this for 90 seconds, right?”) and it gives me some satisfaction that I’ve done my part for today to slay the dragon.

Recording

I record performances to try and get better at being able to perform, and then later go back and listen to hear progress and see if it actually sounded as good as it did when I was playing it.

How long?

I’d like to get between 30-60min a day. Some days it’s more, some less.

Strut MixPre6 Case

The Orca OR-270 is a nice bag, and it’s great for some stuff but it’s aimed a sound-for-film, and it doesn’t really protect the recorder much while it’s in use.

So, I decided to give the Strut STR-MP6 MixPre6 case a try because it looks like a better bet for the kind of work I do. Strut cases are made in Vermont, and they make a variety of cases with many aimed at smaller recorders.

Where the Orca OR-270 has some structure to it, the Strut case is fabric with some foam in the front and back. It comes with a harness, but no shoulder strap.

No rigid structure in this bag, but a lot of features and utility
No rigid structure in this bag, but a lot of features and utility

The recorder attaches to the case using little straps that go around the top pillars.

The ends have short sleeves that extend from the end of the recorder, and seal with Velcro. On the side that rest against your body, there are little zipper openings to get to the power and volume controls. Getting to both is a matter of feel. Of course, tearing open the velcro will give easier access but that is neither easy nor a single-handed operation.

Access to the power switch through a small zippered opening. It’s about as hard to access as it looks, but can be done.
Access to the power switch through a small zippered opening. It’s about as hard to access as it looks, but can be done.
The volume knob is a bit trickier than the power switch
The volume knob is a bit trickier than the power switch
Much easier access with the end opened up
Much easier access with the end opened up
Same on the other side
Same on the other side

The bottom of the bag has to overlapping velcro flaps that cover the open bottom, and serve to hold a battery. However the ends are open, so the bag comes with an adhesive velcro patch that you’re supposed to stick to your battery so it stays in place. One advantage of the battery ends being exposed is that it’s very easy to get to the battery for charging.

The bottom sealed up with no battery
The bottom sealed up with no battery
Opened up and ready to wrap around a battery - you can see the included sticky-back Velcro that is supposed to be stuck to the battery to keep it in place
Opened up and ready to wrap around a battery – you can see the included sticky-back Velcro that is supposed to be stuck to the battery to keep it in place
With the battery in place. It sticks out a bit, and the cord is exposed.
With the battery in place. It sticks out a bit, and the cord is exposed.
The front pocket holds the same battery with room to spare, making it a much better choice. There’s a small (i.e. 15x40mm) pass through opening to the main compartment
The front pocket holds the same battery with room to spare, making it a much better choice. There’s a small (i.e. 15x40mm) pass through opening to the main compartment

The removable cover has an integrated clear window.

The wrap around cover has a vinyl window attached
The wrap around cover has a vinyl window attached
With the outer cover peeled back. There isn’t much opening at the ends.
With the outer cover peeled back. There isn’t much opening at the ends.
All wrapped up, it’s pretty nondescript and reasonably stealthy (minus yellow mic cable of course)
All wrapped up, it’s pretty nondescript and reasonably stealthy (minus yellow mic cable of course)

Here’s my thoughts:

  1. Getting to the power switch and headphone knob are more difficult. Like, really difficult. I found that with a USB C battery plugged in it was almost impossible to get to the switch, and the headphone knob was reachable but barely, and very hard to use in the cases where a single click as to be hit like setting a high-pass filter. Using a hirose adapter it’s more workable, but not as easy as the OR-270. If the bag is hanging from the shoulder strap the recorder moves downward and the strap that strap-rings connects to moves out of the way. But, if you wrap the bottom tightly the recorder pulls that same strap downward, covering up the power switch/volume knob. See the two pics below to see the difference. In fact, with the 8AA case, the bottom needs to be opened up a little to provide the necessary slack so the recorder is hanging from the straps.
With the recorder pulled downward by a tight battery wrap, the switch gets covered up
With the recorder pulled downward by a tight battery wrap, the switch gets covered up
But if the recorder can hang freely, there’s more room to get to the switch
But if the recorder can hang freely, there’s more room to get to the switch
  1. The sides can be sealed up well, and the bottom seals pretty good. I would not hesitate to use this case on a beach with blowing sand. I would hesitate to use it in a driving rainstorm, or out in rain for a long time. I would not want to set it down on sand, or in a puddle. While better than the OR-270 it’s still not close to waterproof.
  2. The integrated rain cover because it’s not in the way if you don’t want to use it, and always there if you do.
  3. A nice front pocket to hold wireless or batteries, or even a pair of cans (albeit a tight fit). It’s large – probably large enough to hold both the Anker battery and a smaller talent cell at the same time. The pass through opening is much small than on the Orca, so small items stand a better chance of staying in the pocket but the flap cover leaves gaps at the ends and isn’t going to keep small items in when the bag is upended.
  4. The bag is stealthy looking and nondescript, mainly due to it being black with a pretty small logo as well. Many would take it for a man-bag or murse. Personally I’d prefer something in khaki or some other less tactical color.
  5. Keeps the heat in very well. I don’t really worry about the recorder getting too hot to function, SoundDevices builds very robust equipment. I do worry about it getting too hot to handle. That and melting any snacks I might stash in the pocket.
  6. There are Velcro patches here and there so no matter how you have the cover configured it’s not flapping around.
  7. With so much Velcro, it’s a noisy bag when you’re getting things set up and making adjustments.

I really want to like this bag more than I do. It ticks a lot of boxes and in many ways it’s a better fit for me than the Orca OR-270. The problems are the volume encoder and the power switch. To be fair the only way SoundDevices could have put those two items in worse positions is if they put the power switch in my neighbor’s basement and the volume control in the middle of last week. Bag makers are facing a challenge when trying to enclose a MixPre recorder in a way that leaves power and volume accessible. Still, Orca managed to do it, and turning the recorder off while in the Strut is like giving a ferret a prostate exam – it’s not exactly fighting you, but it’s not helping either. Add a USB cable proving power, and it starts to get entertaining for anyone watching you.

Where does this leave me bag-wise? Later this year I’ve got a trip to the coast where I’ll be making recordings while on a family vacation. Originally I was planning to pick just one bag, and leave the other but now I’m thinking I may take them both and see which one wins.