16 May 2012

Ran guitar - Follow-up.

After a bit more than a day of playing the guitar it became clear I would need to do a setup.
The low E string rattled a bit due to the low action setup but now I could hear it through my amp.
So I redid the neck relief, string action, bridge height and intonation; the works.
Then I noticed something: when I pulled up strongly on the whammy bar the guitar went out of tune and I heard something, like a clicking noise. Dive bombing returned it to pitch.
I first thought it was a retention spring, but those were fine. Then I loosened the nut and had a look at the 2 screws that attach the nut's base plate to the neck.
I tried to move it but it wouldn't budge. But then when I put my screwdriver in I could fasten both screws just a tiny bit more.
I locked the nut again and did some whammy action... clicking sound was gone and it returned to pitch.
So the base plate wasn't secured enough causing tuning problems when using the Floyd as the nut could move around and that means (I think) the good people at Ran made an oversight when checking the hardware on this guitar.
I'm not sure what to think of it, it's an easy fix but I feel that shouldn't happen on a hand made custom shop guitar.
Still, after more playing I'm still in awe of this axe and now I've done the setup myself it plays like molten butter, which is a tad better than regular butter.

Removing audio devices in KDE4

Whenever I lock my KDE4 desktop there's no telling which audio output device I'll get.
I set it to 'Analog Stereo Output' in System Settings/Multimedia/Phonon/Audio Hardware Setup but more often than not Phonon/KDE4 (no idea what is responsible)  changes its setting to 'Digital Stereo (HDMI) Output'. It's possible to change it through Kmix as well, but it's the same UI as far as I can see.
No /etc/phonon config file to be found, so it must be a KDE component... fucking brilliant.
Of course there's no way to clickety-click remove audio devices from within KDE, that'd be too straightforward, right?
Anyways, I set out to find a config file and delete those #$(%#$ HDMI audio output entries.


Entries are like this:

[AudioDevice_HDA Intel, HDMI 0\nHDMI Audio Output_playback]
cardName=HDA Intel, HDMI 0 (HDMI Audio Output)

So I just changed the deleted=false like to true for all HDMI devices.
Problem solved.

Thanks, KDE, once again... KDE 4.7 and still not on 3.5's level of functionality.

15 May 2012

Sperzel locking tuners string breakage at the peg

I broke 2 strings before it hit me: you're not supposed to loosen the string completely after having tuned up with Sperzel locking tuners.
The thing with that is the string makes a really tight turn at the peg when tuned up and when loosening again it bends back, weakening that spot.
Rinse and repeat for every tune/detune cycle eventually breaking the string at the point it makes a turn to fit into the peg's opening.
Better would be, if you're planning to ever loosen the string that is, to insert it at a 1/2 or even 3/4 turn around the peg so that the weak spot never bends back when detuning.
Update: come to think of it, even 1/4 of a turn around would be enough. As long as the bend at the peg doesn't get straight again it should be fine.

12 May 2012

NGD - Ran

My Ran arrived yesterday :)
As it hasn't been easy to find information on Ran apart from here, I'm going to write down my experiences ordering one and a couple of first impressions as well as some pics at end.

TL;DR version: I'm happy with it. Scroll down for pics.

I started communicating with Dariusz in November 2010 after it turned out he could build a KH2 NTB clone with a couple modifications for €1860.
I fiddled around on a KH2 in a shop a bit a couple weeks before that and everything just felt right, you know?
The real deal is about €2200 over on Thomann and that's without the modifications/improvements Ran could do (and the ESP is just a production guitar, not a custom shop).

I did some reading in old threads on a couple of forums, people were absolutely thrilled about their Ran and their reputation in Poland itself is very good as well.
I noticed from the posts prices kept going up over the years though.
Figuring prices would only continue to rise because of materials getting more expensive and of course Ran getting more and more exposure I figured I'd take my shot now.
ESP charges upwards of $6000 for custom shops...
Ibanez and ESP, to name only 2 major vendors, started out small as well so I wouldn't be surprised Ran will become a major player on the guitar market one day.
Cannibal Corpse, Vader, Annihilator and Clawfinger are just some of the bands already using Ran guitars.
So yes, it was an economical decision, I'm nowhere near the level of guitar expertise where I would require having custom shop guitars built.

Anyways, Dariusz answered my every question and it came to a point where I was happy with the specs and I wired a deposit of €1000.
The next day he sent me a mockup (see pictures) and based on that I changed a couple more things until I was satisfied.

Basically what I asked for was an ESP KH-2 NTB clone but with following changes:
* Sperzel locking tuners
* Stainless steel frets
* White body/neck/head stock binding
* Schaller strap locks
* Custom graphic on the back of the neck

€2060 in total (€40 UPS shipping + €160 flight case + €1860 guitar).

Dariusz is great to deal with btw, he offered his opinion when I asked for it and right up until a couple days ago when he sent word my guitar was going to be shipped the next day he kept up the the responsive communication.

So, Ran'd start building somewhere around 1/2/2011 and the build time would be approximately 10 months.
It turned out to be 15 months, but that's partly due to issues they had no control over.
Their spray booth was acting up and they were having problems with the distributor, creating a backlog of projects waiting to be painted.
I asked for it to be stringed with a specific brand and type of strings a couple months later which wasn't a problem at all.
It was clear to me no information nor pictures would be given during the build, but I got a notification when the woodwork was finished and a set of pictures when it was ready to send out.
On the pictures I noticed the guitar didn't have the arm rest contour the KH2 has.
Dariusz said they never do that for superstrat bound bodies which is fine by me, but it would've been nice if I had known that up front; after all I asked for a KH2 type body with a white binding.
No biggie, I payed the rest of the money (€1060) and 2 working days after they had received the money  the guitar was ready to be shipped out.
At least, that was before Dariusz discovered it was strung with a different string gauge.
They restrung it and sent it out one day later. took UPS 2 days to deliver.

So yesterday it arrived.
It took me about 15 minutes to liberate my guitar from the packaging ;)
The flight case was wrapped in an insane amount of bubble wrap and the guitar itself and the accessories in the flight case where packed in bubble wrap as well.

Despite all that the plastic thingy on the pickup selector switch was broken in half. One half I found in the Floyd cavity.

The flight case needs some additional work apart from it being well designed and very sturdy.
They put in foam padding so the guitar can't budge but the thing with that is the foam padding aren't all glued to the inside of the case so I'm going to do that myself.
The guitar was secure in the case during transit though, it was only after I removed all the bubble wrap I noticed I'd need to do some gluing for myself to make it a perfect fit.
Again, no biggie but it would've been nice if I didn't have to do that myself.

I played it for about 3 hours today, it's an amazing piece of work.
I have yet to find a single flaw in the finish and the setup is almost perfect.
Almost, because the 2nd and 5th string are a little bit sharp on intonation at the 12th fret.

Stainless steel frets in combination with the coated Ernie Ball's are a match made in heaven, bending has never been so smooth and effortless.
Action is set up exactly like I want it to be, which is pretty subjective but bonus points for them for being able to read my mind :)
The Floyd Rose is balanced perfectly, the ebony fret board and inlays are stunning.

The strings needed some stretching before the tuning got really stable but apart from that it plays like butter, what more can I say.

I don't really believe sound clips can really showcase the build quality or 'tone' of the guitar and that's why I'm not going to make one.
As I see it 'tone' comes from the amplifier/cab + effects used and the level of comfort the guitar provides the player with. Of course the guitar has tonal qualities of its own, but I don't see the point in doing a sound clip unless someone actually uses exactly the same equipment as I do.
Having said that, the thing plays like a dream and sounds fantastic, I couldn't be more happy with it.

Update: Dariusz offered to send over a replacement pickup selector plastic thingy.
Good customer service is in the little details like that.

And now it's picture time:

12 April 2012

KDE4 multiple screen handling

So in the good old days XFree/Xorg handled monitor configuration but apparently that was working out too well so nowadays the desktop managers are in control... sigh.

It's been 4 years since the KDE guys released 4.0 and configuring multiple monitors still doesn't work.
You'd think the 'Save as Default' button in the 'Size and Orientation' section of 'System Settings' would work, wouldn't you?
Well, think again, it still doesn't.

Introducing a nice little program called 'xrandr'.
Install it, run it, save its configuration in ~/.kde/env/ so it gets loaded at the same time KDE loads and you're done.
It'll even work when no external monitor is connected, so no weirdness anymore.

It's a fork of KDE 3.5 made to run on modern day distros.
KDE 3.5, which, as we all know, was almost perfect.
It even includes the old Amarok (yes, ipod sync included).

14 March 2012

PS3 Mediatomb Debian configuration - cont.

I recently made some improvements to my mediatomb setup, so here's my config file.
It now does some server-side transcoding for stuff the PS3 doesn't have native support for like Vorbis audio, video codecs and iso images.
It's not perfect yet, but it works for most of the stuff I've got.
The mediatomb xml is pasted first, then the support scripts which handle the video transcoding, just don't forget to chmod +x them (they can be used standalone as well btw).


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<config version="2" xmlns="http://mediatomb.cc/config/2" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:schemaLocation="http://mediatomb.cc/config/2 http://mediatomb.cc/config/2.xsd">
    <ui enabled="yes" show-tooltips="yes">
      <accounts enabled="no" session-timeout="30">
        <account user="mediatomb" password="mediatomb"/>
    <storage caching="yes">
      <sqlite3 enabled="no">
      <mysql enabled="yes">
    <protocolInfo extend="yes"/>
      <add header="X-User-Agent: redsonic"/>
      <ffmpegthumbnailer enabled="yes">
      <mark-played-items enabled="no" suppress-cds-updates="yes">
        <string mode="prepend">*</string>
  <import hidden-files="no">
    <scripting script-charset="UTF-8">
      <virtual-layout type="builtin">
      <extension-mimetype ignore-unknown="no">
        <map from="mp3" to="audio/mpeg"/>
        <map from="ogg" to="application/ogg"/>
        <map from="asf" to="video/x-ms-asf"/>
        <map from="asx" to="video/x-ms-asf"/>
        <map from="wma" to="audio/x-ms-wma"/>
        <map from="wax" to="audio/x-ms-wax"/>
        <map from="wmv" to="video/x-ms-wmv"/>
        <map from="wvx" to="video/x-ms-wvx"/>
        <map from="wm" to="video/x-ms-wm"/>
        <map from="wmx" to="video/x-ms-wmx"/>
        <map from="m3u" to="audio/x-mpegurl"/>
        <map from="pls" to="audio/x-scpls"/>
        <map from="flv" to="video/x-flv"/>
        <map from="avi" to="video/divx"/>
        <map from="mkv" to="video/x-matroska"/>
        <map from="mts" to="video/mpeg"/>
        <map from="ts" to="video/mpeg"/>
        <map from="m2ts" to="video/mpeg"/>
        <map from="mov" to="video/x-quicktime"/>
        <map from="vob" to="video/mpeg"/>
        <map from="m4v" to="video/mp4"/>
        <map from="vob" to="video/iso"/>
        <map from="VOB" to="video/iso"/>
        <map from="iso" to="video/iso"/>
        <map from="ISO" to="video/iso"/>
        <map from="img" to="video/iso"/>
        <map from="IMG" to="video/iso"/>
        <map from="rm"  to="video/realmedia"/>
        <map from="rmvb"  to="video/realmedia"/>
        <map from="audio/*" to="object.item.audioItem.musicTrack"/>
        <map from="video/*" to="object.item.videoItem"/>
        <map from="image/*" to="object.item.imageItem"/>
        <treat mimetype="audio/mpeg" as="mp3"/>
        <treat mimetype="application/ogg" as="ogg"/>
        <treat mimetype="audio/x-flac" as="flac"/>
        <treat mimetype="image/jpeg" as="jpg"/>
        <treat mimetype="audio/x-mpegurl" as="playlist"/>
        <treat mimetype="audio/x-scpls" as="playlist"/>
        <treat mimetype="audio/x-wav" as="pcm"/>
        <treat mimetype="video/x-msvideo" as="avi"/>
        <treat mimetype="video/quicktime" as="mov"/>
        <treat mimetype="video/x-quicktime" as="mov"/>
      <YouTube enabled="no" refresh="28800" update-at-start="no" purge-after="604800" racy-content="exclude" format="mp4" hd="no">
        <favorites user="mediatomb"/>
        <standardfeed feed="most_viewed" time-range="today"/>
        <playlists user="mediatomb"/>
        <uploads user="mediatomb"/>
        <standardfeed feed="recently_featured" time-range="today"/>
  <transcoding enabled="yes">
      <transcode mimetype="video/x-matroska" using="transcode-video"/>
      <transcode mimetype="video/x-flv" using="transcode-video"/>
      <transcode mimetype="video/x-quicktime" using="transcode-video"/>
      <transcode mimetype="video/realmedia" using="transcode-video"/>
      <transcode mimetype="application/ogg" using="vlcmpeg"/>
      <transcode mimetype="application/ogg" using="oggflac2raw"/>
      <transcode mimetype="audio/x-flac" using="oggflac2raw"/>
      <transcode mimetype="video/iso" using="video-iso"/>
      <profile name="transcode-video" enabled="yes" type="external">
          <avi-fourcc-list mode="ignore">
          <agent command="/usr/local/bin/transcode-video" arguments="%in %out"/>
          <buffer size="1048576" chunk-size="26214" fill-size="52428"/>
      <profile name="video-iso" enabled="yes" type="external">
          <agent command="/usr/local/bin/transcode-video-iso" arguments="%in %out"/>
          <buffer size="1048576" chunk-size="131072" fill-size="262144"/>
      <profile name="oggflac2raw" enabled="no" type="external">
        <agent command="ogg123" arguments="-d raw -f %out %in"/>
        <buffer size="1048576" chunk-size="131072" fill-size="262144"/>
      <profile name="vlcmpeg" enabled="yes" type="external">
        <agent command="vlc" arguments="-I dummy %in --sout #transcode{venc=ffmpeg,vcodec=mp2v,vb=4096,fps=25,aenc=ffmpeg,acodec=mpga,ab=192,samplerate=44100,channels=2}:standard{access=file,mux=ps,dst=%out} vlc:quit"/>
        <buffer size="14400000" chunk-size="512000" fill-size="120000"/>


exec "/usr/bin/avconv" -i "$1" -vcodec mpeg2video -b 4096k -r 25 -acodec ac3 -ar 48000 -ac 2 -ab 448000 -f mpegts - > "$2"


exec "/usr/bin/vlc" -v dvdsimple://"$1" -I dummy --sout "#transcode{vcodec=mpgv,vb=800,fps=25,acodec=mpga,ab=192,samplerate=48000,channels=2,deinterlace,soverlay,audio-sync}:standard{mux=ps,access=file,dst=$2" --sub-language=en vlc:quit >> /var/log/transcode.log 2>&1

13 March 2012

About gallops and down picking

I've got some serious problems with alternate picking.
From when I first picked up a guitar down picking felt much more natural than alternate picking but now I'm starting to realize I've made a serious mistake ignoring it.
I've always wanted being able to play kick ass down picked riff like that MoP riff.
So I practiced and practiced and built up speed until it sounded pretty good.
Meanwhile I practiced galloping as well but somewhere along the way it went wrong and now I'm re-learning to gallop the 'proper' way.
A couple days ago I realized why this happened.

Let's take this riff from MoP as an exmaple:

A |-----2-----3-----4-----3-----2-2-- [...]
E |-0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1------ [...]
    D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D

This is played at 218 bpm, so it's pretty fucking fast.
Down picking obviously implies performing a down stroke, then bringing the pick back up without hitting the string and down pick again and doing this really really fast.
Now let's take this basic gallop:

E |-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0-- ...
    D  D U D  D U D  D U D  D U D

And this is where my problem starts...
I'm so used at performing the D-D movement, I'm now having the greatest problems performing a basic DUD movement.
Instead I noticed I perform a gallop like this:

E |-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--
    D  U D U  U D U  U D U  U D U

Somewhere along the way my brain decided to perform a gallop, which is a form of alternate picking of course, starting with an 'up' movement to, I guess, differentiate between the regular down stroke and an alternate pick.
When doing faster alternate picked stuff I caught myself starting with an 'up' movement as well, losing speed, needlessly creating extra hand movement so losing efficiency while doing so.
Detecting and realizing why one makes mistakes is the first step, right.
So now I've got to unlearn starting an alternate series with an up stroke by default and that's easier said than done.