Sunday, November 25, 2007

MIDI keyboard fun

I wrote earlier about my new computer, which comes furnished with onboard graphics chip, onboard network card and onboard sound board. The latter posed a problem for me as I wasn't sure where I could plug my MIDI keyboard in. On the old computer, the keyboard had a MIDI to GamePort cable, which plugged into the game port on the computer's sound card. No such socket on the new computer, but plenty of USB sockets.

So I ordered via Amazon a Midilink Midi to USB Cable (I tried to find an Israeli supplier but didn't succeed), which cost just under 16 pounds (not including postage). I waited and waited, but no cable arrived. Finally Amazon sent me a supplier feedback questionnaire to which I replied that I'm sure that the cable is fine, but that it hadn't yet arrived. They passed the letter on to the suppliers who contacted me; it seems that Amazon forgot to tell the suppliers that I live in Israel! The cable had indeed been sent and had returned to the suppliers, so they were aware of the fact that there was a problem with my address but probably didn't have my email address.

So again the cable was dispatched, this time to the correct address, and after a few days it arrived. One end of the cable has a USB plug; this naturally was plugged into the computer. The other end is consists of two cables with MIDI (DIN) plugs, one labelled "MIDI out" and the other "MIDI in". I connected the MIDI out plug to the MIDI out socket on the MIDI keyboard, played a few notes ... and nothing. I tried the MIDI in plug, but still no response.

Somewhat defeated, I wrote to the supplier asking for suggestions and decided to sleep on the matter. After considering the problem, I realised that I had expected Windows XP to detect the keyboard automagically (it had detected something on the USB port, but obviously that wasn't enough). In the old days, MIDI went through something called a MPU-401 port, but I could find no reference to such a beast with XP. After checking several articles on the Internet, I found one which talked about deleting MIDI ports via Regedit; I tried this and found that no MIDI ports had been defined, so obviously I had nothing to delete.

It also became clear that I had to install some kind of driver; the keyboard itself is an old one made by a company which no longer exists (Reveal, IIRC), so there was no chance of finding a driver from them. Fortunately I did find a site with generic MIDI drivers, and after downloading, I installed one at random. Still no communication between keyboard and computer with the MIDI out plug connected. Looking at it logically, the plug belongs to the computer, so from its point of view, data being sent from the keyboard should be MIDI in, whereas the keyboard sees it as MIDI out.

So I switched plugs, and lo and behold, there was communication between the two devices! I quickly checked several music programs (MIDI sequencer, Reason and another program), and yes, all of them could now understand the keyboard.

The only remaining problem is that I don't have a musical idea in my head at the moment, but judging by the past, there soon will be.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My body is falling apart

I haven't written anything here lately because I haven't felt well enough. After undergoing several blood tests and examinations, it turns out that I have:
  1. Anaemia
  2. Sleep apnea
  3. Knee bursitis
  4. A cracked root canal
The combination of anaemia and sleep apnea sufficed to make me very tired during the past few weeks, so it's not surprising that I haven't had any spare energy for activities such as blogging.

Fortunately, the gross affects of anaemia disappear after a few days of iron tablets, and a nasal spray has helped me sleep better. So now I'm feeling much better, even though I'm not totally cured.

The cracked root canal made itself known by displaying a growth on my gums. Fortunately I had a dental checkup scheduled shortly after this appeared, so it was immediately examined. My normal dentist wasn't too sure what is was, so she referred me to her colleague who specialises in root canal treatment and its after-affects. He was fairly sure that the growth was the result of one of the canals cracking, and referred me to a periodontist.

I've just returned from the periodontist who performed minor surgery on the gum and extracted the cracked canal. At the moment my cheek is still numb due to the local anaesthetic, but I can feel the numbness dissipating every minute. Unfortunately, as the anaesthetic goes, so the pain comes. I can only drink cold milk and eat yoghurt today (not too severe a restriction), but from tomorrow I can revert to my normal diet. Stitches out next week.

The bursitis manifests itself as pain around the right knee and difficulty in walking. Unfortunately my regular doctor was away when I realised that the pain wasn't going to go away on its own, and his replacement took two weeks not to diagnose it properly. My doctor gave a thorough examination, made the diagnosis and said that if the pain doesn't go away after another week (during which I was taking medication), he would inject steroids directly into the area. Last week he gave me the injection, and whilst the pain is greatly reduced, it is still there and still makes walking awkwards sometimes.

Isn't life grand? The only good thing about all these aches and pains is that none of them are very serious (although the anaemia would be if it weren't treated for a long time).