Tuesday, March 18, 2014

IOS / Android and "battery drainitis": some thoughts.

I'll divert away from my fascinating story of Tobias Bass Guitar renovation for a moment, if I may.

I'm an iOS user: there are a few reasons why. I use it because:

  • it's simple to use

  • upgrades are regular and I don't have to rely on networks

  • applecare is pretty good

  • the operating system curtail(ed) the worst excesses of bad programming by bad apps

I use iOS despite being a programmer, and a repairer of tools, systems and mobiles: I've worked in and around mobile software for more than 10 years, most of that as a system test engineer. I have an android phone and an android tablet which I do upgrades/updates to, I've rooted both and have fun with them. But I don't use them as my main devices (I have an iPhone and an iPad and have for several years now). Why?

Well, until recently it was because iOS stubbornly refused to give app developers more power / freedom. This results in a platform which is better for "less savvy" (and for me, lazier) users.

I know Android does work to apps which aren't running, and can free memory, etc, but the multitasking in Android, plus the low level access to system devices, plus Google's apparent disdain for looking after the platform ("throw it at the OEMs and they will come" appears to have been the mantra) has, I think, resulted in an entire OS platform which is "on the back foot" from the point of view of most of the points above. Google are working hard on those points on several fronts.

But I digress. This is about "battery drainitis", something which is prevalent in both Android AND iOS (particularly post-iOS7). Admittedly that Android link is specific to the Camera app, but I've got something to suggest which might help both platforms.

What we need (surprisingly) is Clippit, the hated paperclip from early office versions!

I've been sending tweets out to people who complain that ios7.1 has led to poor battery life, suggesting they upgrade their iPhones again using iTunes (I'm a sceptic on OTA, I think rewriting the OS from scratch just helps to avoid issues with "patching" OSs - I may be wrong there), but I've had an idea for a system-level application which all smartphone OSs which indulge app designers to use onboard devices (think camera, GPS, 3G, Wifi, accelerometer, etc etc).

We need a system battery monitor alerting application. This isn't the same as the Android app which can tell you what application/service is drawing current, it's in addition to it. iOS needs that battery monitoring app, by the way, Apple.

What the alert does is tell you if your phone is losing battery in an "abnormal" way. Say it's sat at idle on your desk, or you're asleep - if your phone loses battery while doing nothing else, and background processes are causing this, and it looks like you didn't intend it to happen (say, using some form of opt-in to say you don't mind an app using a lot of battery power), then the alert will put a notification in place to say that it has seen abnormal battery drain, and point out the culprit.

If your OS platform supports clamping down on apps which appear to ask too much (iOS's "background app refresh" setting, for instance - possibly the worst named settings option I have ever seen, by the way), then a wizard-style app could be launched to help tell you how to maximise your battery life wrt apps which run in the background.

This would certainly help out people who just never seem to read the endless array of advice like this - it simply doesn't occur to people to just google for it... which isn't a sin, but the device itself could help out.

It's just an idea, but something I wanted to explore a little.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Toby Ressurection - BEGINS (all parts are confirmed with the Luthier!)

Just got word from the guys at www.bassgear.co.uk - Julian Mullen now has all the components for the great Tobias Toby Pro-6 refit.

To recap, this all started as an idea last year (during november time) when I decided that after 10 years of faithful service the Toby deserved a kick up the arse. It's a good bass, but had some points of improvement:

1. Quiet - the pickups sound pretty good, but the preamp is really quiet, and not that flexible.
2. MIDI - I had strapped the metal frame GK-3B mounting kit on the bass, and decided it would be excellent to have all MIDI support onboard.

By carefully selecting the control configuration (and ignoring the red LED on the GK kit) we're keeping the 4-pot configuration and adding a single switch on the top (which will be the 3-way for the MIDI controller). Patch up and down buttons will be discreetly mounted on the lower side of the bass, and the MIDI volume will take one of the pots while the 3-band EQ, mid-shift control and pickup volumes will all be taken care of across 3 pots.

Preamp will be an Aguilar OBP-3 (what else? It's in so many basses and does a great job) running at 18V (Julian has to rout out a new cavity for the battery anyway, so why not go 18V for the hell of it).

Really looking forward to pictures of the operation - it's a good bass, but really needs this upgrade. Folded in will be a damn good fret dressing to get rid of any buzz and a set up job to get the action down.

Watch this space - if I get any pictures from Julian they'll be up here ASAP!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

London Bass Guitar Show - abbreviated highlights!

My first LBGS. And I'm impressed! Went in on the Saturday, and:

- saw Lee Sklar, always nice to catch someone you aspire to be later in life - a true laid back Californian player, you can see why he gets so much work, he loves his craft and is obviously so easy to get along with. And has a good philosophical view on his work.
- saw Frank Bello, massively enthusiastic player (get a new iPod, Frank!). Huge smiles as he cranked out Anthrax classics, and the way he plays Rush had me in stitches!
- totally failed to recognise Jeff Berlin at the Cort stand - he was inviting bass players to try the setup on a bass (which was ultra-low) - lovely fellow, I thought he was a stand-guy. The player before me nodded appreciatively, Jeff offered me the bass, I sat down, played some of Midnight (arranged for bass, it's a 2-handed tap piece by Joe Satriani) and said it was ideal for that and that my Aria is similarly set up. Then I dug in a little and said that the E was too low and had buzz - "what if you play really gently so you can hear every note", says Jeff - "nah, it's still too low", says I. At this point one or two eyebrows are raised in the amassed audience. I gave him the bass back and someone asked "what are you going to do now?" And he said "raise the action on the E!" Hehe
- changed strings at the show just outside the auditorium entrance haha
- tried out Gallien-Kruger, Eden and Warwick amps with the Warwick I brought along for the job
- tried out a Rikker bass, an utterly stunning olive top 5 string fretless with Piezo in individual bridge saddles - gorgeous tone, setup perfect, ~£2100 worth if heaven! Turns out it uses the same Aguilar OBP-3 as I'm having fitted into the Tobias, so I'm hopeful the boost and control will give me something great. The rikker guys talked with me for more than half an hour on the Metaphysics of Quality and how they make the guitars: they wind their own pickups, meditate and use zen breathing, I love their approach. The basses just ooze the results of it. I will be saving up for one.

Also met several bassists and chatted - including one who spotted my bass in earl's court tube and told me there was a train running to Olympia, which was massively appreciated!

And I got to see Paul Turner and shuffler, whose groove and infectious smiles are exactly what you want to see in a band. They love their little side project!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

On my way to London Bass Guitar Show 2014. Thoughts.

Platform has 2 teenage girls who will develop tech neck with their mobile use. Continuous selfies abound. Passenger on my iPod. Discover headphones that came with the iphone 5 sound great with the iPod classic. Reflect on intellectual irony and age-specificity of blogging about teenagers spending all their time faceborking selfies.

And also, bass is with me. 10 minutes of quiet before the train, in the brittle but bright march 1st Sun. Strings to buy. Gear to try. First time in years!

See you there. That's my train.