My Everyday Carry got featured!

This doesn’t happen everyday, so I’m really excited that my EDC pocket dump got featured on a  site that I really look up to. Here is the post that got Featured in the Staff Picks.

Rahul Samuel EDC Feature

My EDC Pocet Dump Featured on www.everydaycarry.com

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Do Smartphones Really Make You Productive?

This post is a breakaway from my usual audio-related topics.

I have been toying with the idea of taking up one of those challenges where you switch to a dumb-phone for a fixed period, usually a week. Imagine what it would be like to not receive a notification for hours at a stretch! I carry a basic Nokia phone as my backup device buy never used it as my primary phone.

So the quest began.

Choosing a phone

I tried switching to a feature phone a few years ago. That phase lasted barely a few days because it couldn’t sync my contacts of about 2,000 entries. Besides, I don’t see myself as the kind of person who writes down phone numbers in a pocket diary and carry it around. Hence, I had one criteria – the dumb-phone should sync with my phone book. I also like the idea of knowing who’s calling me. In fact, not knowing who is on line is even considered rude today.

Most feature phones don’t automatically sync contacts, and these can manually accept only upto 200 contact entries. The only feature phone that fit my criteria of syncing contacts was the Punkt MP01.

But wait before you order it. The phone costs approximately USD 340, which is about INR 22,500! For a basic phone that does nothing but make calls and receive text messages, it seems like a satirical take on the situation. There’s no way I would put that kind of money down for a little experiment.

Finding the perfect dumb-phone was a failed mission.

When in doubt, innovate

I took a second look at the phone in my hand – a OnePlus 2 – and thought, “What if I find a minimal ROM that dumbs it down?”

Bingo!

I decided to play with what I have but reduce the distraction of a smartphone. I recalled one of Unbox Therapy’s videos where Lew, the host, tries to survive a week without a smartphone but gives up because he felt that phones are an extension of us these days.

It struck a chord, and I realised I wanted to declutter, not switch off from the Internet. There’s clutter, but it’s not pure evil, right? There are perks too – it helps me organise my life.

Goals re-evaluated! This time, I decided didn’t want a email, news apps, e-commerce or social media. Just my contacts and minimal apps.

What I need vs what I want

If you travel a lot like I do, apps like Google Calendar, phonebook, Google Maps, aWallet etc. can keep you sane. You probably know that already. And an occasional dose of the Internet can’t harm us much. On the other hand, apps like Facebook, Instagram, e-commerce, eMail, Flipboard etc. can suck you into a vortex where time isn’t a dimension (Yeah, I just watched that Christopher Nolan movie again). I had fun with some delete-delete-delete, and I finally have only these apps on my phone:

  1. ActionVOIP – VOIP calling
  2. Amazon Kindle – eBook reading
  3. Apple Music – Music is a good way to spend time commuting
  4. Authenticator – Google 2-step verification
  5. aWallet Cloud PasswordManager – We all need something like this
  6. Bubble Level – I use it at work
  7. Calendar – Google calendar manages my scheduling
  8. Camera – of course!
  9. Chrome – for that emergency browsing or checking emails
  10. Clock – alarms
  11. Contacts
  12. Dropbox – I keep all work related documents here
  13. Evernote – My go-to note taking app
  14. FinchVPN – for when I connect to hotel or public WIFI
  15. Fing – I use this at work
  16. Google – Google now is a great assistant. I have turned off all cards expect travel and bill reminders
  17. Maps – google maps
  18. Messenger – googles bare-bones SMS app
  19. Nova Launcher
  20. Play Store
  21. Pocket – offline reading
  22. Polaris Office
  23. Poweramp – Music player
  24. QuickPic – Gallery app replacement
  25. Real Calc – I use this at work. Use the stock calc if that you don’t need the extra features
  26. Settings
  27. Sheets – I use google sheets a lot
  28. Super Backup – my go-to back up app
  29. Uber
  30. WhatsApp – this is the new SMS
  31. WIFI Analyser – use this at work and home
  32. Wunderlist – my to-do list

Everything else was uninstalled. The default apps – the ones that can’t be uninstalled – have been disabled. The result? My days have suddenly become longer, in a good way!

How’s it going?

I’ve lasted a week now, and I must say it is great. I don’t get irrelevant notifications, I’m not constantly checking my emails. Can you even imagine the time I save when I don’t browse through Flipboard, Youtube, social media or e-commerce apps looking through stuff I don’t need but end up buying.

I am much more productive now. I get on to my computer or tablet to get work done – which I think is a much better way to work. On our phones, we fool ourselves thinking we’re productive with constant email and news notifications. And anyway, in about 30 seconds, you would be drawn to a totally irrelevant article or drift into a stream of social media posts. I always was.

So now, I pick my phone up only for calls, to answer messages, read an e-book or listen to music. It comes with a bonus – my phone needs to be charged only once every two days!

Sooner or later, we need to realise that smartphones are an extension of us. You decide upto what extent to depend on it. Use it wisely, or it will take over your life.

How to Avoid Feedback

Rock guitarists are known to use feedback as an effect but for most of us, it’s almost always considered undesirable.

What is feedback?

Also known as Audio Feedback, Acoustic Feedback or Larsen Effect. It is a positive feedback loop that exists between audio input and audio output of a PA system.

By now, we have all experienced that the easiest way to cause feedback is to point a microphone (audio input) directly at a loudspeaker (audio output). This causes the preamp and amplifier to repeatedly amplify the sound of the loudspeaker picked by the microphone causing a ‘loop’ which we hear as feedback. Feedback occurs at one frequency at a time, but there could be multiple instances of feedback taking place at the same time at various frequencies.

 

Larsen Feedback Loop

A feedback loop

Factors affecting feedback

Now that we know a mic and speaker can cause feedback, let’s learn how to avoid it. There are four factors that come into play when we have feedback:

  1. Distance
  2. Directivity
  3. Frequency response
  4. Gain

Let’s talk about each in detail.

  1. Distance
    The sound pressure level drops with an increase in distance. The closer the input (microphone) and output (speaker), the higher are your chances of feedback. To maximise gain before feedback, the mic and speaker must be as far apart as possible. Keeping the large main PA far from the stage will help a long way.
  2. Directivity
    The tighter the directivity of speaker and polar patter of mic, the lesser are your chances of feedback. Your chances of feedback are lowest when the speaker points to the back of the microphone. Speakers are more directive in the higher frequency regions and lose directivity in the lower end. With the help of directional subwoofer setups (viz – Cardiod), we will be able to achieve a higher gain before feedback even in the lower frequencies of audio.Use microphones with tight polar patters like Cardiod and Hyper-Cardiod instead of omni-directional or figure-of-eight to avoid feedback from stage monitors firing directly at the back of the microphone. Choose your mics wisely.
    Tip: Don’t cover the mic with your hand. By covering a mic you are making it an omni-directional mic, which will increase your chances of feedback.
  3. Frequency Response
    Almost all PA systems are not ‘true’ flat response. They have bumps of energy which combine with room modes and ringing (resonance) to trigger feedback at the slightest excuse. Now add a mic that has bumps of energy in those same frequency regions and you’ll have the perfect recipe for disaster. Start with ‘ringing out’ the system. More on this a little later.*
  4. Gain
    Gain before feedback is the maximum gain you can achieve before causing feedback on a given system. Here, the system includes the microphone, amplifier, speaker and everything else in between. Change any one component and the system changes. You could achieve more gain before feedback by replacing a microphone for one with a tighter polar pattern or by replacing the stage monitor loudspeaker with a better one. Always keep your ears and eyes open for changes you can make to achieve the maximum ‘gain before feedback’.

Ringing out the system*

This is one of the most effective ways to maximise gain before feedback. Any good live sound engineer would start by doing this first. As I mentioned earlier, feedback occurs at single frequencies. There may be multiple instances of feedback if you’re seeing more than one on your frequency RTA. These bumps where feedback happens is usually a by-product of the resonant frequencies of the ‘room’ and system.

Start with the right monitor-mic placement. As shown in the illustration below, it is best if the monitors face the back of the microphone.

Monitor Placement

Point monitors at the back of a microphone to minimise chances of feedback

1. Open a mic on stage one monitor at a time and slowly gain up till you begin to hear feedback, identify that frequency by ear (this takes some practice), or you could use a portable RTA like Phonic PAA3 or buy AudioTools by StudioSixDigital for iOS. RTA apps on android phones are not accurate but work fairly well only in quiet environments.

2. Reduce the identified ‘feedback frequency’ or the frequency closest to it by half a dB at a time on the graphic EQ for that monitor.

3. Repeat this process for all the monitors. Beware of cutting out too much or too many frequencies while you reach the limit of your system’s gain before feedback. By cutting out too much, you are essentially reducing the output level of the system.

Feedback RTA

Two instances of feedback occurs in this at around 45Hz and 250Hz. On a 31 band graphic EQ I would cut 40Hz and 250Hz as necessary

 

 

How to make the perfect tech rider for your band

Being a live sound engineer has taught me many life lessons; one of those is ‘not having a tech rider is better than a bad tech rider’. If you came looking for this post, I don’t have to tell you what a tech rider is. It’s your band’s technical profile/requirement for the organizers, sound vendor and engineer to be prepared with stuff you need on stage.

Do you need one?

If you want to put a gig together without too many words flying around during sound check, yes. Tech riders are great, they not only bring the sound vendor and sound engineer up to speed, but also work as a brilliant check list for the band.

It’s your insurance policy in case the equiment is a mess. I am using some screen grabs from a tech rider I use for Swarathma, a band I frequently travel with.

What goes into a tech rider?

1. The line up
This gives a simple but precise overview of the band.

Member list with overview

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Review: Revive your Apple iPad 2 Wifi/3G

Why read this review?

After the steep price drop on the iPad 2 (since 3 and 4 got released), I’m sure many of you must be considering buying the iPad 2. It’s been over two years since I bought the iPad 2 – 3G (16GB). I won’t get into the specs and other details readily available online. There are other very informative reviews on the iPad 2 already, so why would you read a late review? Here’s why:

  1. My iPad had always been used outdoors. This review is for those want to know how well it’s built and what kind of abuse it can and can’t take.
  2. It will help audio professionals who have one lying around and want to revive it.
  3. Audio professionals who are planning to buy one get an idea of how you can put it to work.
  4. Because it isn’t time to throw it out yet! The iPad 2 can run the latest iOS 8 without much fuss. (Yes, it’s a little slow but it’s bearable.)

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