The Microsoft Surface 3

Surface 3

Why am I writing this here?  I honestly can’t tell you what compelled me to start writing about this tablet that I’ve had for maybe…a year and a half?  A tablet that I bought second-hand, without fully realizing what it was that I bought.  

The Surface 3 (and I’ll spare you from having to look it up) is the “non-pro” version of the Surface line that came out I think at the same time as the Pro 3.  They came in 2GB or 4GB RAM models, varying in hard drive size.  I happened to get the 2GB / 32 GB HD variety.  When I bought it, the seller also happened to have bought the type cover (aka the keyboard) and Surface pen.  That was lucky, because the Surface 3 came with neither of those when bought from retail.  

When I learned of the Surface line, I knew this was what I wanted for a laptop.  I didn’t realize that the Surface 3 was not really very powerful, and as I alluded to above, is more of a tablet than a laptop.  BUT I have found it to be a pretty amazing device, especially since I purchased the thing.  

One of the best things I’ve done for it is install a 128GB micro-SD card to expand the hard drive space.  I was getting some pretty terrible performance from the device, both in terms of random freezing and slowness; I attributed most of this to lack of hard drive space.  At one point I had a 32GB micro-SD card but that wasn’t enough to help it.  

But the other thing that’s helped revitalize my use of it has been April 2018’s massive update.  It seems to have brought some stability to the device (it took a long time to install the upgrade; I believe part of the problem was the aforementioned lack of hard drive space) and even some shiny new features.  

The size of the tablet itself is great as well.  I noted recently that while in tablet mode, and orienting the device in portrait mode, it’s basically the perfect size for e-reading.  I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 that I think is great, but its size is best suited for video (and great for watching 4:3 aspect videos).  I haven’t tried this yet, but I have a hold on some Library e-books so hope to give it a shot soon.  

What I think the Surface 3 will be great going forward is a mobile extension of my desktop work area in my studio.  I need to upgrade that computer, but it’s a solid enough work-horse that I can get the audio work I need to on it.  I believe it can handle Windows 10 (currently running Windows 7 – I’ll have to test my theory).  It’s not a powerful computer in terms of getting things done, but for my needs, it works.  

From what I’ve seen of the new Surface Go, it seems similar to that (albeit less powerful with only 2GB of RAM).  I’m interested in seeing what that one looks like!

Maks – 3 Ft No Diving (Review)

A while back musician Maks, from The Netherlands, sent me a message via the Alternative Airwaves Facebook page.  He was letting me know of a new release, 3FT NO DIVING, a solo effort after years acting as drummer in another band. 

He writes,

I have been playing as a drummer in rock bands for a big part of my life.

After the splitting up of my most recent band in 2012, I went on a small tour through the USA as a stand-in drummer in a blues-rock band. During this trip I decided I was going to write my own material and see where this could lead to…

The learning curve was pretty steep, I must say. Besides learning how to play a bit of decent guitar and keyboards, I also had to cope with my vocals. Perhaps my greatest challenge was to find my singing voice.

He passed the album my way (which you can pick up over at http://www.maksagency.com), and I listened to it a few times.  I’ll start off with saying that I liked it!  Maks’ voice reminds me a lot of a less rough Peter Dreimanis (July Talk).  I didn’t find anything especially unique on my first pass through, but I found that I enjoyed the different elements Maks added to differentiate his sound. 

He uses many different instruments on his tracks, and some of the tracks make use of sound effects to create mood and atmosphere.  Technically speaking the album sounds very good, and I can tell that Maks is a very capable guitar & keyboard player.  If I’m reading his messages correctly he recorded and mixed everything on his own, without a backing band, so that is quite impressive. 

One especially prominent through-line I heard for the entire album was a lot of classic rock influences.  I reached out to Maks to ask him about this, and he let me know that I wasn’t wrong:

My biggest influences are a band called Magazine, Japan, Ultravox, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and of course a bunch of bands from the late 1970s punk era  

I sort of combined all of them and gave it a swirl in my head and this CD was the result. Mind you, this swirling process took years…!  

I’m listening back to 3FT No Diving as I type up this review, and now that I think of it, I can sort of hear a Bowie-like quality in his voice.  And at the last minute I’m adding perhaps a little bit of Pearl Jam sneaking in there.  Despite all the influences, it doesn’t sound to me like he’s merely copying styles, but has created his own sound. 

For kicks, I decided to listen to a few songs from Maks’ influences, starting with Magazine.  Fun to hear where his blended sound came from!

Once again you can check out the album at www.maksagency.com.  Enjoy!

Huzzah!

So…my website broke Tuesday afternoon, completely my doing.  It’s fixed now (I’m typing, you’re reading – in theory!).  But I was using a plugin to re-direct HTTP requests to HTTPS, and I didn’t have proper security set up…long story short, I broke the website.

In the process of trying to fix things I also deleted some files, images, etc.  I’ll have to go back and edit some links but for the most part I think I’ll just leave them broken and remove links to them.  It’s a little safer that way I think.

Well, at any rate, it’s resolved now.  I’m happy, I can move on and get working on some things I wanted to get done earlier this week.  Woohoo!

Is It Star Trek? Fandom and Gatekeeping

But, Is It Star Trek?

Is discounting a piece of the Trek franchise for not following in the direct footsteps of TOS tantamount to gatekeeping?

That’s a question that immediately popped into my head when I saw a podcast title from Mission Log, “But, Is It Star Trek?”.  I find Mission Log (and similar podcasts) extremely entertaining to listen to, but sometimes I wonder about their mission.  On the surface, it’s a good one: 

Mission Log is a Roddenberry Entertainment podcast with the sole purpose of exploring the Star Trek universe one episode at a time. That’s right, this podcast will cover six different series and 30 seasons of television by journeying into every one of the 726 episodes with a single mission: to explore, debate and discuss one of the largest science fiction phenomena of all time, Star Trek.

http://www.missionlogpodcast.com/

For the most part I’m totally on board with them.  They are able to look at even some of the most terrible Star Trek episodes (Code of Honor, Move Along Home) and take something away from the episode.  But often, ever since they moved on from TOS, they ask the question: “But, is it Star Trek?”

What they mean with this question is to discover whether the story being told has a deeper meaning or message behind it other than just a fun SciFi story.  Can a story set in the Star Trek universe be considered Star Trek if it doesn’t address a social issue of some sort?  That is essentially what they’re asking.  

This is a big problem for Star Trek in relation to the new series, Discovery.  It’s to a point where some fans consider Orville to be “more Star Trek” than Discovery.

I think that if it says Star Trek and it’s an officially licensed property, then yes, it’s Star Trek.  Because if you’re arguing otherwise, you start getting into gatekeeping.  This is a big problem for Star Trek (and to a greater extent, Star Wars) in relation to the new series, Discovery.  It’s to a point where some fans consider Orville to be “more Star Trek” than Discovery.  

I think it’s fine to dislike a show.  Where it becomes a problem is if you try to prevent new people from discovering it.  That’s how it becomes gatekeeping.  It’s not up to the fans to determine what is or isn’t part of the franchise; while it is entertainment directed at a certain group of people, we have to accept that the fans aren’t in charge.  If they were, there would be a lot more problems with the story telling in general.  Let’s face it – fans are not the best group of people to write stories.  That’s why we have fan fiction.  

I will admit to not having listened to that particular podcast from Mission Log (“But, Is It Star Trek?”).  I have some faith that their conclusion is going to be in line with mine.  I just hope that people realize that there is an inherent danger in even asking the question, “Is It Star Trek?”  

The Ultimate Queen Celebration – August 9, 2018

Last night I was treated to a performance by The Ultimate Queen Celebration, a Queen tribute band fronted by Marc Martel.  The show was at the Théâtre du Casino at Casino de Lac Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec. 

Going into the show, I had zero expectations – I don’t recall ever going out specifically to see a tribute band, so assumed that it was going to be a band dressing up like Queen and playing their music.  That’s not quite what TUQC delivers.  I’ll get to that, but first, some group background details.

The Band

The band is fronted by Marc Martel, who is apparently quite famous on his own.  Based in Nashville but originally from Montreal, Martel gained fame via YouTube when he shared his rendition of Somebody to Love.  From what I gather he was hand-picked by Queen drummer Roger Taylor as the winner of a contest put on by Queen bandmembers (I’m fuzzy on the details as to what the contest was for, but I think it was basically to pick a front man for this particular tribute band).    All of the rave reviews of Martel essentially boil down to “Close your eyes, and he sounds like Freddie.” 

The rest of the band is made up of Tristan Avakian (lead guitar, some vocals); Brandon Ethridge (keyboard, vocals); Jason Gianni (drums, vocals);  and Mike Cohen (bass, vocals).  They all have various claims to fame of some sort but I was most impressed by Avakian, who did an amazing job last night playing lead guitar.  I learned today that he was a former lead guitarist for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra – not a surprise given the talent he put on display.  There are other rotating members of the band, who play depending on venue and availability. 

The Show

Getting back to the show itself, it was definitely a high-energy affair.  Everyone on stage were having a good time and putting every effort into the songs, and the crowd was definitely engaged.  Actually, despite playing a number of the higher-energy hits (including Bohemian Rhapsody) in the first half of the show, the audience didn’t break out into singing and dancing until “I Want to Break Free”, sung after an impressive opera performance by Martel coming out of the intermission. 

The band didn’t dress up like Queen, which was pointed out by Martel.  I didn’t find this distracting at all, and actually preferred it.  But they played it straight, and by that I mean they didn’t take too many liberties with the source material.  They played it as if they were the real band, playing through the set list, trading on and off the stage for effect.  I did think that Martel tries a little bit to emulate Mercury in more than just singing style, but he made it his own thing.  I think also the band was limited a little by the size of the stage, so didn’t have too many crazy theatrics. 

All in all, anyone could take Queen’s music and make a playlist out of it.  What The Ultimate Queen Celebration does is put an element of performance into it and deliver an engaging, fun show.  It ends up being a little more than just playing the music.  Great show, I recommend it if it’s in a town near you!