On Saturday night I set up my G4 laptop to try to record a Hodgson story, with a live audience consisting of Isaac, Grace, our friend Olivia, and Veronica, who was peacefully sleeping. I had installed Audacity for MacOS X, which worked a lot better than it did on Grace's iBook G3. I had found a tiny 1.5-gigabyte external hard drive at CompUSA (the type used in iPods) for cheap, and got a 10-foot USB cable to run my Snowball. I had done some recording and playback tests, and everything seemed to work fine. When I sat down to read the story, I just woke up my computer and hit "record."
I read "The House Among the Laurels," which is one of the better Carnacki stories. It went quite well -- the baby stayed asleep, and I'm told my bad Scottish accent was funny. However, when I went to play it back, I found that Audacity had screwed me yet again -- it had mysteriously set the input volume down to zero. It hadn't been set that way an hour earlier, when I had tested it. The Audio MIDI setup program didn't report that the input volume was zero -- it showed a normal level. Audacity seems to have made that decision unilaterally.
So the story was there, but recorded at an extremely low level. There was no hope of being able to fix it in post-processing, and using it to make a podcast. So, I entertained everyone, but failed to record my performance!
It probably wouldn't have worked anyway -- in using another program, I found that trying to record with the USB microphone to a USB drive apparently causes dropouts to appear in the recorded audio. The recorded audio file just randomly drops a second here, two seconds there, and three seconds somewhere else. This wasn't immediately apparent with short tests. It seems to me that with two USB ports, a mostly-idle CPU, and some buffering, this shouldn't be a big deal, but apparently it is. I don't know whether to blame the recording software, the OS, the microphone, the pocket drive, or the hardware (my PowerBook's USB ports are pre-USB 2.0; the little pocket drive likely has only a small buffer).
So, I had to record it again, in shorter pieces, to my internal hard drive, which is much noisier, especially when it seeks (the reason I love the tiny, external pocket drive is that it is almost completely silent). The internal drive is only a 10G drive, and there just isn't much space available, despite my best efforts at keeping it cleaned out.
I briefly considered installing iLife '06 to get GarageBand for recording, but most likely with the space I have left, I couldn't even install it. The iLive programs also want Tiger, and it doesn't seem likely I'd be able to upgrade to Tiger on the same 10G drive.
I wonder if anyone makes a 1394 (FireWire) pocket drive? I have an external FireWire drive, but it is quite loud, and I am trying to minimize noise. The 10' USB cable helps, but a clicking drive will be clearly audible.
I'm considering buying a new internal drive, since I could get a 40G drive for not much more than $50, and it might be quieter than the original, but this makes me wonder whether I should continue to try to nurse along my PowerBook. Opening it up is a pain, and the case is already coming apart. Despite my previous attempts at repairing it, replacing the power board and internal backup batteries, it doesn't really work as a laptop, and won't run off the battery at all, or charge the battery (or a different battery).
I considered bringing my PC and its 20" CRT monitor downstairs, but that started to sound like real work, not to mention an invitation to real back pain. Maybe a G4 Mac Mini would be quiet enough and cheap enough for this recording project? But then, there are more cables for the baby to yank on... and we don't actually have money sitting around, eagerly waiting to be spent on a new computer of any kind.
Anyway, late on Sunday night I managed to get a fairly clean recording, but by that time I was losing my voice. I had a tickle in my throat, and was congested and hoarse. I had to keep re-reading parts of the text, which means a PITA editing job lies ahead. I'm thinking I should just try again. Getting a dead-quiet room at home is not trivial. Isaac is sleeping in the living room, and he snores. If he's awake, he is squirming, or humming to himself. Even if he's in the basement hanging out with the washers and dryers, he whistles, and he is right below the living room. That might be appropriate for the Carnacki story "The Whistling Room," but not this one. This is turning out to be a big pain!
Speaking of big pains, my mom is trying to learn how to use Pages 2 on her new Mac. It doesn't come with much of a manual to speak of, but the proper manual is buried on the machine. I got the PDF file for the English manual extracted, and today took it to Office Max to try and get a printed copy made for her. The PDF, though, contains the following text:
(Copyright symbol) 2006 Apple Computer, Inc. All rights reserved.
Under the copyright laws, this manual may not be copied, in whole or in part, without the written consent of Apple. Your rights to the software are governed by the accompanying software license agreement.
So, Office Max won't print it. They suggested I print it myself. Isn't that incitement to violate the law, or something? And my inkjet printer isn't going to cut it.
Great move, Apple. Standard, boilerplate copyright text. You're keeping my mom from learning Pages 2. I'm sure that's what your lawyers had in mind, right?
There are some books on Pages available on Amazon, but nothing (yet) available that is specific to Pages 2. I'm thinking I should write to Apple to request written permission to make a copy of the manual. Whaddya think? Also, she needs some clip art, but I am not really happy with any of the collections I've seen, and so could use some advice for how to find her a nice collection of clip art to use in newsletters.