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I’ve always loved apple. Yes, the fruit too. I remember growing up, we didn’t have much, but our first family computer was an Apple IIe computer that was shared amongst the six kids. Naturally, my brothers took up most of the time on there and are now all successful with desk jobs that utilizes their computer skills. In short, they are all computer-techy geeks, including sam, so he fits in quite well. I, on the other hand, was a late bloomer in the computer field. Better late than never is what I think.

my two macs

I got my very own laptop, a modest, 12″ ibook G4, which I was completely head over heels with a couple of years ago. Sam swears that I would take that laptop to bed with me if I could, but that is exaggerating… a little.

(An aside: sam has trouble accepting the fact that “exaggerating” is spelled with two g’s. And why does ‘maggot’ and ‘goggle’ have a ‘hard g’ sound, when ‘exaggerating’ is pronounced with a ‘soft g’ sound?? If you think you know, please help explain!)

Back to my story though, I was thrilled to own my very first apple mac computer and had no intentions of giving her up. Sam though has noticed that since we’ve been busier with our photography business, I’ve been doing a lot more work scrunched over the tiny screen for hours (a burden I was willing to bear, for my clients of course!). It also didn’t have all the applications I needed and the power to work with photos at fast speeds.

Last week, I celebrated my thirty third birthday. Yah! Sam surprised me with this and I could not believe how excited I can be over a piece of machine, but I was! It is just so pretty looking! (okay, I had to add that! 😉

my newest mac

For a while, we had been putting off looking at a new computer for me to do all my work until the money came in. And, I can never justify spending on something like this for me, even if we had the money! There’s always something we can put the money towards. But, it still takes me by surprise how God seems to provide us with more than we could ask for! Now, I can better serve our clients as it already has improved my work flow and space. I feel so blessed to have sam as my partner in crime, I mean, in life and business. He is an amazing person in his own right, but also a wonderful husband, dad, and business partner. Thanks sam! You sure knew the way to a woman’s heart!

love,
mary

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How do you hook up 2 computers to the same set of speakers without dropping a wad of cash on a mixer?

You build your own audio combiner – that’s how!!

All you need to do is go to Radioshack (now called “the Source“) and pick up 3 stereo mini jacks, some wire and four 10KOhm resistors. Pull out your soldering iron and wire ’em up so that they look like this.

audio combiner

Please excuse my totally ghetto drawing. I’m writing this from a computer with no photoshop or drawing tools and had to resort to MS paint.

But anyways this simple circuit will provide the proper loading to your output sources and send a sweet mixed signal to your speakers.

Note that you have to control the individual volumes from each computer as this doesn’t have any faders. If you did want to make this more mixer-like, you could replace the resistors with pots, but then at that point, you’d be better off buying a cheap $30 mixer.

Happy soldering! 🙂

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No, I don’t miss the snow already. I just wanted to rave about my new toy… ahem.. tool.

Earlier this year, I sold all my recording equipment – amoung the departed, my beautiful Equitek E200 large capsule, studio condenser mic. www.samandmaryphotography.com equitek e200The problem was that just as I thought I’d never record again, that darned itch to lay down some tracks came back. (kicking myself). Now I’d have to buy all my gear back – at least a good mic, a decent mixer that supplies power to the mic and a really good sound card.

It was then when I stumbled upon a great discovery. A company called BLUE microphones who have been building boutique mics for ages is well known for creating sonically “colored” mics. Which means that each mic is optimized for a certain range of frequencies. i.e. a mic that is suited for female vocals might not work well for male vocals or a Marshall stack . Anyways, back to my point, BLUE has just introduced an all-in-one solution for home recordists like myself. The Snowball.

blue snowball www.samandmaryphotography.com
Its a dual capsule, condenser mic, a pre-amp AND a sound card all in one geared towards the home recordist and podcaster. And all for the sweet price of $130 Canadian from the apple store!

What struck me at first was the cool retro styling. This thing looks good – kinda Jetsons meets Ella Fitzgerald. Like it would be completely at home on a David Letterman set. The interface is super easy and clean. There’s a USB plug in the back with connects it to your computer (cable supplied). And a small switch which switches the mic from cardioid mode (picks up sound in the front) to omnidirectional mode (picks up sound all around). Cardioid mode is used to help isolate the mic from noise sources (computer fans, screaming kids, etc) that are behind the mic. It also helps enhance the bass frequencies when placed close to the sound source. Omni mode is especially good to reducing .. or not over enhancing the bass frequencies and picking up room characteristics (natural reverb). The switch can also attenuates the signal in case you are in fact miking a Marshall stack. The software was super easy to install and there is an additional firmware update to boost the volume for really quite singers or acoustic guitars.

So, the big question: how does it sound!!?? BLUE had designed this mic primarily for podcasters so one can assume that this mic is supposed to be “tuned” for vocals. I must agree. I was very pleased with the sound that came straight out of the mic. It was clean, and crisp with accurate transient response. But the best part about it was that it wasn’t too bassy or too thin.. just right. I believe this is the first time I’ve been happy with my recorded voice straight out of a mic without having to add any EQ at all. Recording my acoustic guitar took a bit of experimentation in order to find the right placement. I found after several tries that the best spot for me was right at the 12th fret pointing towards the sound hole. At this position the mic performed wonderfully, picking up the articulation of my picking plus the tone of the body. As for the preamp and analog to digital sections, the mic is surprisingly quiet. Not as quiet as my Mackie/Equitek combination, but very good for $130! Also the latency on the mic’s soundcard is very low and definitely within reason for hobby recordist. For the price, I’d have to say this mic is an amazing deal!

All is not perfect, however, my small niggles include:

  • this mic needs volume knob. It’s inconvenient to adjust the volume in software.
  • It should come with a more adjustable mic stand or mic stand attachment – one that can tilt. This would help tremendously with mic placement.
  • Although USB is great for signal rates and providing power to the mic, the limited length of a USB cable can cut down on your miking options.
  • only good for a one mic setup. Unlike a soundcard and a mixer, you can’t plug multiple mics in and mix their signals together.

Overall, this is a fantastic mic. I would highly recommend it for anyone with a simple home studio or people who are into podcasting. BLUE has a true winner here when it comes to the sonic coloring of this mic and I’m looking forward to many many more jam sessions.

Well, that’s all for now.

Note: I won’t post any of my recordings because even though the mic is good, its not magic – and can’t turn this shower singer into the next Canadian idol.

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I’m dying to get a ring flash. Well to be more precise, I’m dying to try a ring flash. I don’t plan on using it for macro photography, but as a portrait light very similar to some popular fashion photographers. I’m not entirely sure that it is the look we’re going for, but the idea is cool and some of the sample images I’ve seen are quite stunning. The problem is, how do you get to try something without having to drop wads of cash? … You make it!!

I’ve found several links highlight about how guys have built their own ring flashes. Most are bulky and ugly and light unevenly and you would never use them during a gig, but hey, in the spirit of hacking, I gotta give it up to these guys!

Ring flash made of 2 plastic bowls
Ring flash made from a circular fluorescent blub
Ring flash made from styrofoam, tinfoil, cardboard etc.

ring flash

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