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#910: Learn to Code, iOS and Music Apps, Adobe Flash Plug-In issue with previous OSX versions (10.5 and 10.6)


Sometimes I see teenagers standing in queues with their parents, eyes glued to the screen of a smart phone or tablet, oblivious to the world around them. I roll my eyes as I remember times when patience was in high demand and kids had to use their imagination to keep busy. And then I pull out my iPhone and play a couple rounds of Robot Unicorn Attack 2.

While it’s important to remove yourself from your device from time to time, boredom has changed shape since I was a kid. I’m constantly connected to world news, I never need to print out directions, and I always have something to do while waiting for my bros to finish clothes shopping (they take so long in the dressing room, ugh). Here are five of my favorite apps I used almost everyday:

Songza — This music app was recently purchased by Google and allows users to select curated playlists based on mood and activities.

BBC News — Forget celebrity gossip and sensational journalism with this news app and go right to the world’s most important stories.

Duolingo — Turns learning a new language from a difficult task into a challenging game that only takes a few minutes at a time.

TeamViewer — This remote desktop app is the perfect solution for controlling your PC or Mac from your device.

Find My iPhone — I no longer struggle when my girlfriend loses her iPhone thanks to this phone finding app from Apple.

Today in Tech Tails, we go into our passions and hobbies as we talk about an easy introduction into the world of coding and how to turn your iPad into a music production device. We’ll also cover fixes for Adobe Flash issues running on older operating systems. Enjoy!

- Mike D

  Learn to Code  

Throughout my life all of my computer use has involved using software of one form or another to fill a specific purpose. Of course there have been instances of relying on $900 software (the kind that costs $300 to upgrade the next year). More often than not, however, I’ve relied on small independent hobbyists or developers to provide small utilities that were meant to solve only one small problem here and there. I use many tiny pieces of software like this daily, and it got me thinking:

‘I want to be able to use software like a tool, as they do. I want to be able to program in a way that allows me to solve my own problems.’

I’d learned some HTML4 and PHP/MySQL in high school, but that was over ten years ago. I decided I would start following the path of least resistance, just to get my feet wet. I’ve started using CodeAcademy, as they have an excellent tutorial program that’s completely free and web-based. I’ve been learning Python (programming language for higher-end website tools) with their system and have been finding it quick and painless. It is just a beginner introduction though.

CodeAcademy also has an app for iOS called Code Hour. If you’re a complete beginner to the world of programming and want an idea of what it’s like, I’d suggest picking it up. The entire point to the app is showing one what programming is like in an hour’s time.

I am of the belief that getting ones feet wet in things like this, for no matter how basic a computer user, will improve confidence and experience in other areas of computing. At the very least, it may dissolve some of that discomfort of not knowing how the “black box” of this technology operates.

  iOS and Music Apps  

Since mobile devices have been getting more powerful it is no surprise that they are starting to take on roles typically reserved for computers. Music making on iOS devices may have garnered a reputation for being toy-like in the beginning because the first wave of devices had meager amounts of power and limited interface space before the debut of the iPad. Today’s devices completely turn that notion on their heads and can even offer a better solution to portable recording than a laptop for some.

An avid community of developers have turned the iPad into a device that can reliably be a tool for any kind of musician, from hobbyists to professionals. One of the big secrets which may not be at all clear initially is: “How do I connect my iPad to a keyboard, interface, mic, etc. ?” The answer is that the Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter will connect any class-compliant MIDI device and most USB-based audio interfaces (with interfaces it is a good idea to double check for compatibility as there are a few that do not work). So now we have a way to hook up music gear directly to the iPad.

The next step is to get an app to play with. If you are looking to make “produced” music on the iPad there are a plethora of options out there:

Animoog is revered as one of the best sounding and original synths out there, with a legendary name to back up the sound. There are also many ports of computer synths such as offerings from Arturia and Korg as well as THOR by Propellerhead, the legendary semi-modular monster synth from their flagship music production software.

So now you’ve got an app and want to add, let’s say, some reverb. Well, a quick app store search will reveal many audio effects that you can process your sound generators with. But how do you get the audio to the reverb? An app called Audiobus (an absolute essential on the iPad) routes your audio from one app to another, as well as saving the states of your synths (if the app supports that function; currently adoption of this feature is growing fast) as a preset to recall your synths and effects and routings all at once. You’ve now got a cool synthesizer, with a few effects to start playing with!

Now what if you want to record your performance? What if you just want to use your iPad as a portable field recorder? The app options here vary wildly in price from free to $50 for the best. Programs like the free recorders are good for getting ideas out and apps such as Cubasis give you the features and power that you need to make full productions.

Focusrite makes a great free one, with offerings going up to Steinberg’s $50 Cubasis which has complete DAW features such as apps as insert effects, support to receive audiobus in order to record your synth performances, and even automation!

Also be sure to check out Novation’s Launchpad looping app. Anyone familiar with using Ableton Live will feel right at home here. It is free to use with their presets and in-app purchase gives you the ability to import your own samples!

This is just barely scratching the surface of the ecosystem, and if you are interested in digging deeper, check out websites like Synthtopia or Create Digital Music for news on the latest apps.

  Adobe Flash Plug-In issue with previous OSX versions (10.5 and 10.6)  

If you’ve purchased a computer in the last four years, this post does not apply to you, but if you’re one of many that haven’t committed to upgrading your system just yet then please continue reading.

If you’ve upgraded to/from either Leopard (OS 10.5.8) or Snow Leopard (OS 10.6.8), you may have discovered that Safari (version 5.1.7) stubbornly refuses to play Flash-based media. This would be web content that involves motion graphics. There are a few reasons for this.

The most simple resolution is simply navigating to Adobe’s website and installing the latest version of Flash Player.

Another issue could have to do with your system’s software updates. Have you run all of your software updates? Mind you, this process may need to be performed a few times as more current updates do not become available until previous ones have been installed. More specifically, you’ll want to be sure to run any and all OS X Security Updates for Leopard/Snow Leopard.

The reason for this is because Safari 5.1.7 for OS X Snow Leopard, and Leopard Security Update 2012-003 disable out-of-date versions of Adobe Flash Player. Out-of-date versions of Adobe Flash Player do not include the latest security updates and will be disabled to help keep your Mac secure. If Safari 5.1.7 or Leopard Security Update 2012-003 detects an out-of-date version of Flash Player on your system, you will see a dialog informing you that Flash Player has been disabled. The dialog provides the option to go directly to Adobe’s website, where you can download and install an updated version of Flash Player.

However, if your software is completely up to date and/or you’ve installed the latest version of Flash Player from Adobe’s site, I suggest following these instructions that might resolve your issue. Quit out of Safari before performing this task.

  • Navigate to the /Library/Internet Plug-Ins (Disabled) folder.
  • Drag “Flash Player.plugin” into /Library/Internet Plug-Ins.
  • If the browser is running, quit and restart it.
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