Bytes and Beats: A Strumming Engineer

Engineering and Jamming


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The Blogging So Far

So far, my blogging experience has simply been two posts about topics that were on my mind at the moment, which happened to be somewhat related tot he themes of this blog. But it isn’t just a little school assignment; rather it has become a way for me to compose and organize my thoughts in possibly productive manner on a weekly basis. Even if I may have to search for a topic in the future, this will prove to have a positive effect on my ability to express ideas on the subjects I am most knowledgeable about.

In the process, I have also come across some other blogs (by professionals) that I find interesting. One such blog is written by Terry Tao, a mathematician at UCLA. Though most of the mathematics is graduate level and either entirely over my head or otherwise intimidatingly brilliant, the posts that I can read are extremely interesting and may make me want to take out a pen and paper and work it out, like this puzzle prompt. In this way my blogging experience has expanded my knowledge of relevant fields, and has thus been intellectually productive as well as its obvious purpose as a writing exercise.

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Why Everyone Was Disappointed By Windows 8 (Or At Least Seemed To Be)

At the end of the first semester of my senior year, I received my current laptop as a gift, to be used primarily as needed for college. I was understandably excited to turn on and set up my new machine, and got right to it. Everything was going fine as I set up preliminary preferences and the like, until the computer finally came upon the “desktop”. I was utterly confused and appalled by what I saw.

For anyone who has not seen Windows 8, I will explain that this is because it does not boot immediately to the desktop as normal Windows, Mac, and most Linux operating systems do. Windows decided that it would be a great idea (for reasons that completely escaped my comprehension) replace this traditional desktop that has been used for more than 20 years with a new interface which some call Metro. It is a little like taking out the taskbar and other useful things from the desktop and just having shortcuts, very much like an iPad. This was much to my chagrin, as I intended to use my laptop for more than Netflix and browsing an app store. Thankfully you can secondarily choose to use the regular desktop from this Metro, but only after booting up (this was changed in the 8.1 update).

Since then I have been a little mad at Microsoft for such a change, until reading a certain article on the internet that references an interview with one of the Windows 8 GUI designers: http://www.neowin.net/news/windows-8-ux-designer-on-metro-it-is-the-antithesis-of-a-power-user

This article explains that the new interface was designed, unsurprisingly, for “casual” computer users, people who are not interested in much more than internet surfing and picture-browsing. In truth, it is a very easy interface to use if you are my grandma or baby cousin. The angry camp is described as “power users”, people who are interested in creating content in conjunction with viewing it. The desktop is for these people. The developer explains that trying to please both groups was very hard, especially because of the huge bulk of casual users on the market. In the end the casuals won out as the Metro became default. This was mad default so that casual users would not immediately go back to the desktop they were used to, never to return to the interface that was made for them.

So everyone did not hate it, in fact it seems that maybe most people liked it. But the people who were loudest were computer geeks and people who have used computers for a decade or so. Thankfully, there is hope for people who love to create computers. Supposedly, Windows 9 will try to cater to both groups of users, with ways for both to have there own place to work and play. I wonder, though, will the old desktop then become obsolete? What is next for general computer interfaces?

Johns, Steven. “Windows 8 UX Designer on Metro: “It Is the Antithesis of a Power User””Neowin. Neowin LLC, 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.


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First Post!

        I’ll just say it, keeping up a working acoustic guitar in college can be quite a challenge. If you are like me, you haphazardly place it between a wall and a dresser when not playing it, and hope that no one lets it fall over. It sits in a case in a room with variable humidity all day long with the same old strings, because where would I find a shop to buy new ones at, let alone have the hour or so left over to replace them? And then there is what happens to almost all guitars when left around in awkward positions for too many months: a warped neck.

        Maybe, if you do not play a string instrument, you never thought about how often this might happen. A neck (the part where the strings of the guitar meet frets) becomes “warped” as it bends in any sort of direction it shouldn’t, such as twisting or bending inward/outward. This is an obvious problem, with symptoms such as major string buzz (ugh) and intonation problems, which means that frets do not play the exact tones they should. In my case, the bridge of my Bedel bent itself outward over the past few weeks, causing string buzz to such an extent that some frets are universally unplayable, which I have never had happen to me before. It requires repair rather urgently, in other words.

        There are a couple of reasons this might have happened to my good old Bedel: not changing the strings, not keeping it in a moisture-controlled environment, and a misbehaving truss rod. Though no amount of internet research will yield a sure answer for me, I think could be any mixture of these. First, I have not changed the strings in months. I’ve been too lazy, to be completely honest. The second may be part of the climate change I have just put it through; I bought it in Dallas, used it on a beach in Oahu, and now have brought the poor thing to a city known for notoriously cold weather compared to the previous two, St. Louis. Whether it has become too “wet” or too dry, I think it is no coincidence that the warping came along with the winter months. There are humidifying products to help with this, but I will have to wait on that until I get a proper diagnosis.

        Now for the third reason, I think it would only do justice to this post to explain the mechanics of a “truss rod”, the really mover and shaker that acts from inside essentially all acoustic and electric guitars. The truss rod is metal rod that runs through the length of the guitar’s neck, and can be adjusted and tightened as needed. This little rod counteracts the tension of the strings, acting as a structural foundation for the neck of the guitar. The strings of a guitar typically sustain between 70 and 150 pounds of tension from the combined strings, so the truss rod has the very important job of keeping the guitar from warping, or more cataclysmically, snapping. It is adjusted to give the desired straightness of the neck, which in turn directly affects the “action” of the guitar, or how far the strings are from the frets they are set above. The action is not always a matter of correct or incorrect, and can be adjusted to the player’s preference. It’s a tricky business though, and no one without experience or training should mess with their truss rod’s preferences, as getting it wrong can have irreversible consequences (like the “snapping” mentioned earlier). Thus, since I enjoy my beautifully sounding acoustic, I will not be handling this situation myself. Unlike my laptop, restart is not the easy go to when things go awry.