WX5 – First Impressions

I finally had some time to sit down and spend a block of time with the Yamaha WX5 MIDI Wind Controller. There are some first time configuration tasks to complete before you can jump into make music mode. Most of the steps are fairly straight forward, but I did learn a few things about the device by actually reading the instructions (unlike me :-]).

 

WX5
WX5

 

 

Setup & Configuration Options:

Power – batteries or AC adaptor – I chose the AC adaptor. It is worthwhile noting that the unit does not come with the AC adapter when purchased. I was a bit surprised by this but did pick one up. I imagine that batteries may be best suited to a performance situation, but that will come farther down the road.

Mouthpiece – recorder or reed style – I choose the reed style as I anticipated this would be more like a clarinet/saxophone which is what I am used to playing.

Tone Generator – Yamaha VL70-m MIDI module or alternate MIDI module – The WX5 does not actually produce any sound on its own. It needs to send MIDI data to another device to create the actual sounds, much in the same manner as a number of MIDI keyboard controllers on the market. The VL70-m unit is designed to work with the WX5 and has a special connection port for the WX5 cable. The VL70-m unit comes pre-populated with 2 banks of 128 preset voices and has additional space for voice editing (6) and user created variations on internal voices (64). I will be using the VL70-m unit to start, but I do have other MIDI modules that would be interesting to try as well. 

Setting the sensors: The lip and wind sensors need to be adjusted to your own playing. The manual guides you through this process quite clearly. The factory default settings were quite accurate, so that minimized the work in this area. 

Fingering Mode Selection: There are 3 variations on saxophone fingering patterns and one flute option. I selected the saxophone ‘a’ setting which is similar to playing a tenor saxophone. 

There are other more advanced features which I decided to leave alone for now. Time to play!

Most of my first session was experimental to see what the unit could do and how it responded. Playing a few scales oriented my fingers to the note patterns on the unit fairly quickly. The air pressure required to produce a sound is quite light – certainly less than playing a clarinet or saxophone. There are additional adjustment in this area which I expect to explore as I think I would be more comfortable with a little more air resistance. Octave changes are executed through a series of 4 different left thumb buttons (-2, -1, +1, +2). This will take some getting used to, but many selections easily fit within a 2 octave range, so the current octave with a +1 option will handle these. I also experimented with many of the present sounds in the VL70-m unit – some very cool choices, and more to go.

So far, so good and FUN!  I am looking forward to trying some melodies played against some midi accompaniments done with Band in a Box (software). Stay tuned for a future update. Maybe I will record something simple and post a sample. 

Off for more WX5 time.

~ Mark

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Facebook and Canadian Privacy Laws

One of the eye catching news items this week from my point of view was the release of the report on Facebook and Canadian Privacy Laws. As I cruised through a variety of related news releases and postings, I thought I would share some of the links that I thought were worthwhile in today’s blog post.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada view website

Overview: Facebook needs to improve privacy practices see overview

          Related links on the site:
          – findings
          – backgrounder
          – Remarks by Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada
          – Remarks by Elizabeth Denham, Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Facebook’s offical response to the report: response

From CBC: There are some great links on the CBC site to related news stories, perspectives and videos.  view reports

From The Globe and Mail: (Video reports)

Privacy commissioner raises Facebook concerns: CP video report

BNN speaks with Elizabeth Denham, Assistant Privacy Commissioner: BNN report

How to deactivate your facebook account: click for instructions

~ Mark

Social Networking in K-12

I was cruising through my Twitter listings last night and found a reference to a Social Networking article by Marcia Connor at THE Journal (http://www.thejournal.com). Of course, curiosity won, and I had a look at the article. The ‘snip it’ below (as received when you select email me a copy) will give you the flavour of the article.

:::::

Beyond Social Networking: Building Toward Learning Communities

Much has been written recently about the impact of social networking tools in teaching and learning and how educators can build on the skills of their students in using these tools. But if educators only integrate the ability of students to connect and socialize, deeper points of learning will be missed. While good teaching and learning rests on effective relationships, in an active learning community, those relationships should evolve into actual idea exchange and knowledge construction.

Among those listed by Connor (quoting from MIT and other sources) are skills in:
• Simulation: the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes;
• Collective intelligence: the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal; and
• Negotiation: the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives and grasping and following alternative norms.
:::::

Once at the site, I was interested in the BiWeekly Poll in the sidebar which poses the question: Does your district ban social networking sites?

The currently listed stats show:

No ban – 17%
Yes, banned district-wide for students and teachers – 69%
Yes, banned only for students – 13%
Yes, banned only for certain students – 0%

There is an interesting message in these statistics, and it has got me thinking about the discussions around this very issue we had at our Technology Steering Committee meetings this year. Certainly, there are many aspects to this discussion of access. Some of our discussions included:

– digital citizenship
– embracing it as a way of ‘doing business’
– alignment of content filtering with resource selection policies
– grade appropriate content filtering
– alignment with Acceptable Use Policies
– what needs to be changed?
– what is the process for change in this area?
– how do we achieve a significant change in our systemic approach?
– risks and challenges
– educating not only the students, but teachers, administrators and parents too

I think many of us have a clear notion of where we need to get to, but the path is not necessarily an easy one at the system level, at least in the education field. I believe this is an area the needs to be changed more aggressively and that the positive educational results are with the risks.

At the moment I am thinking big on the change front and pondering strategies.

If interested, the complete article I referenced, is available online at:
The Journal

Happy pondering!

~ Mark

ISP Rant

A friend, fellow blogger and educational colleague recently made aware of a blog  on a new meme asking bloggers to identify four posts from their blog in the categories of:

  • Rants
  • Resources
  • Reflections
  • Revelations

As a newcomer to blogging, I don’t have posts that would address all of these categories, but I was intrigued by the idea of the 4 R’s and have decided to post a rant based on a recent experience with my ISP. 

As an educator and IT professional, I realize this scenario is likely common, and easily arguable from the troubleshooting rigor needed to sort things out. None the less, it is very frustrating and made me painfully aware that online activity has clearly woven its way into the fabric of what I (and my family) do. 

My RANT:

– Saturday storm > internet outage
– call to ISP helpdesk
– all the usual pretest stuff … router/no router, reboot, drivers blah blah blah ….
– finally,  its not me, sending a tech out
– tech says its not here, finds a problem in an unmanned bldg
– internal work ticket created
– finally we can get back online
– BUT, the performance was brutally slow – no throughput
– 3 days of calls with the techs and back to the pretest stuff
– no change, they keep insisting their gear is fine
– then I find out they configured our setup to the previous end user package we had, no tech records of my upgrade 18 months ago – this must be part of the problem
– I locate a copy of the email I kept confirming the upgraded package I signed up for
– I call customer service – they don’t have that package anymore
– I bite the bullet, pick a new service from the current suite
– they livened up the new package last night
– finally things are working as they should, and faster, for close to the same price

Great to be fully back on line! – a happy me and our whole household is no longer going crazy from online withdrawal symptoms!!!

~ Mark

MIDI Wind Instrument

I have started to turn some of my attention to preparations for our summer computer technology & leadership forum for our staff – CATC By the Water. CATC (Computers Across the Curriculum) has literally become a word in our Board. As a member of the planning team and on site lead team during the event, I look forward to this annual summer event. It has a long history of success and I expect the same excellent results this year. The CATC By the Water wiki is now online (see links section) if you would like to learn more about it. 

Based on the Open Space Technology concept, each camper (teacher) comes with a self directed project to do. I too will bring a project to work on when breaks from official camp duties permit. Typically, I end up working on something in music technology area.

This year is looking as exciting as ever as I will have the opportunity to use some new to me amazing technology. I will be bringing a MIDI wind instrument to camp – a Yamaha WX5 to be more precise. The WX5 interfaces with standard MIDI sound modules as well as Yamaha modules designed specifically for the WX5. The unit requires some set up – mouthpiece style (recorder or reed),  breathe control sensors, sensitivity and key select mode (sax or flute). 

 

Yamaha WX5
Yamaha WX5

During the next few days I will have a chance to work through the setup and try the unit in more depth. In particular, I will be interested to see how the unit works with the Band in a Box and Finale software packages that are licensed for use in Ontario school systems by OSAPAC (www.osapac.org).

Stay tuned for an upcoming report on my experiences with the WX5 MIDI wind instrument.

~ Mark

Always something new

There is always something new to learn in the online technology world. Web 2.0 tools have certainly raised communication, collaboration and PLP’s to a new and exciting level.  This post shares two learnings from today.

Today I became aware of the Digital Buzz website and blog. The site looks very interesting based on my initial impressions. The URL is http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com. In particular you may find this Top 10 Social Media Presentations of interest. For your convenience the link is http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/the-top-10-social-media-presentations-online/. A special thanks to Angela Maiers for sharing this link on Twitter.

This afternoon I started to read What I Learned From Frogs in Texas by Jim Carroll. I picked up a copy of the book at the Leading Learning conference in May 2009. I am just into the book and must admit I am intrigued already. In the first section of the book captured my interest with a couple of insightful thoughts. First, the notion of ‘aggressive indecision’ and secondly ‘lost momentum’. It is not much of a stretch to see how these ideas can be mapped to many of our educational systems. Now, to dig into the book. 

One area the immediately captured my interest is to see how the content of the book may line up with some future blog posts I have planned regarding systemic change as referenced in my earlier (and first) post titled Education Is The Place To Be

~ Mark

Parallels 4.0 – initial impressions

I recently purchased a copy of Parallels 4.0 Mac Virtual Machine software with the intent of facilitating some software testing processes I am involved in. As expected, the vendor boasts about the many features, performance and why their product is better than the competition.

The online puchase, download, install and registration processes went as smoothly as one would expect them to – absolutely no hitches. Not much for starting with the reference materials I dug into the process of setting up some different virtual machines. 

On the Windows front, I started creating a new virtual machine to set up a clean new win XP installation. The initial installation routine all worked fine on the pre SP2 CDs I had on hand. I also loaded a virus protection package and CUTE pdf, an open source pdf writer which I have used successfully on a number of computers. This concludes the straight foward, as expected portion of the setup. 

To date, I have not been successful in updating SP2, SP3 and other security patches either by the automated Microsoft web based process or via manual downloads and installations. Either way the updating process just hangs, so I am no further ahead. I have a couple more things to try to move this forward, but soon will be in start over mode. 

Parallels has a built in function called the transporter to capture the set up of a remote machine on the same network, so I decided to try out this feature on a fully patched XP system. The process begins by  installing transporter drivers on the remote (to be captured) computer. Next, you run the transporter option on the Mac and identify the remote computer from a pop up list or by IP address. I found in all attempts, the software did not detect machines running the client software and pop up list remained empty. Identifying the remote computer by IP address did not work either. 

Needless to say, this experience fell well short of the initial goals to have a virtualized setup for win XP to operate in. 

By way of comparison, I tried setting up virtual machines for Ubuntu desktop and Ubuntu Netbook. The OS is downloaded as an image file which is read and imported into the virtual machine. After the initial installation, you are prompted to complete one round of OS updates (in each case). I added the Firefox flash plugin and was ready to compute with OS, internet browser and open office (included). 

Both of these setups worked flawlessly, I in testing to date have run with out issue. 

Overall, Parallels seems like a promising application but it has some areas for improvement. There is no indication of updates to the 4.0 version. At this point, I will pursue sorting out the XP issues and look for support forums etc.  I will keep you updated in a future blog post. 

~ Mark

Connect, Learn, Reflect, Share: Make a Difference Today

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