Musical collaboration with fellow blogger Musiqfreak

Interesting suggestions and requests often come my way…

I just recently created a multimedia presentation for the commemoration of the outbreak of World War 1. Research spanning 6 months led me to original source material and found me visiting ancestors of those who fought in the 1914-18 War.

I found myself doing this as a result of initially being willing to help out with a display but quickly realizing that it was too much of a responsibility for anyone to look after irreplaceable artifacts with immense sentimental value. With that came the realization that if I photographed and filmed the artifacts, I could more effectively convey a story and a sense of Shepton Mallet, my home Town, and rural England in 1914.

I approached this as a journalist and ultimately ended up calling upon my multimedia skills. The resultant piece was amazingly rewarding; the biggest responsibility I felt was to those who contributed to the piece with their stories and by sharing with me their handmade postcards, pictures and medals. On the evening it was shown, the small ‘cinema’ area of the large Marquee it was housed in was standing room only for the entire evening (aside from one short power outage). Reactions from those who contributed varied from beaming smiles to tears brought about from deeply stored and possibly long forgotten emotions. I have never in my entire life felt so humbled.

Creatively, I have looked forward to this point, ‘post Commemoration’ when I can get involved in some shorter term and lighter creative projects, not least of which polishing my own songs up for live performance.

I have been writing songs, dance music and sound pieces for decades. My most recent material (http://www.SoundCloud.com/eddavis) are soul-bearing raw and what I would call ‘pure songs’. They rely on melody, lyrics and basic musical/vocal performance rather than on any production or arrangement.

business-benefits-of-collaboration

Collaborate:

A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of meeting an old work colleague and now long standing friend Kim AKA Musiqfreak, We had the usual catchup about work, love lives (which didn’t take long) and eventually got on to something she had alluded to in a message a while before. Kim is 29 (oh to be 29 again) and was recalling that she made a ‘things to do by the time you are 30’ list. Not a bucket list, and things were added as well as ticked off, but the important detail here is that the list included writing a song.

I always make choices regarding creative projects on some basic criteria; do I actually want to do this, do I want to work with this person, is it exciting and will it turn out well. Kim is a remarkably talented and intelligent girl but also has about the nicest nature you could wish to encounter. The timing was fortunate, the idea of helping someone tick something off a list appeals to my inner nerd so all the boxes were ticked as far as I was concerned.

Will it turn out well? One danger with collaborations is that the other person may present what they see as a great idea but if it doesn’t resonate with your creative streak it’s hard to be the person who has to work with the initial fixed idea. Writing songs I have many many ideas per week and only a few become fleshed out and even fewer get recorded. This is a sort of triage and survival of the fittest.

This is going to be interesting and I will keep posting about it. What was immediately apparent was that Kim and I both blog. If the song comes out well, great. If it gets completed but isn’t very good, that’s fine too. If we blog about it and have a laugh in the process, well…that will do, but let’s not aim low.

You can find Ed Davis on Twitter as @Skootaman and Musiqfreak here on WordPress or on Twitter as @MusiqFreak

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Sun Breaking Through The Clouds – “Leonardo DiCaprio-orama”

Great pic

Don Charisma

Caught this recently off my balcony, the sun breaking through is always pretty exciting …

So I’m calling this a “Leonardo DiCaprio-orama” because isn’t he just like a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds !

Yuck, I can’t believe I just wrote that … I do like DiCaprio, but not that much 🙂

Enjoy …

DonCharisma.org-Sun-Breaking-Through-The-Clouds

Taken in Thailand (c) Don Charisma



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Dying to forget

Great read. Like a window into your life:)

musiqfreak

Back in 2012 I had an Easter break that was strangely a great night and also the worst night. There were things that happened that fateful Good Friday that I long to forget and some things that I just wonder at in disbelief. I very rarely have regrets, however there are parts of the evening I genuinely can’t remember to this day, that frightens me.

I don’t remember chocolate that year, which is strange considering how I’m such a chocoholic. Seriously, if you ask me a week from now how Easter has been this year I’ll just tell you what I managed to eat. However even this year chocolate was eclipsed by my friend alcohol. That’s exactly how the story begins for the Easter of 2012.

I had some time off work and I wanted to blow off some steam. I was pretty comfortable going out in my hometown, there…

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“NEW YEAR – NEW YOU” …What is this all about?

During what we, even in the UK are calling the ‘Holidays’ I managed to catch up with a number of people I might ambitiously call friends.  That is, during the moments of clarity which punctuated the near death experiences brought about by winter viruses and helpful advice such as; “…seriously, brandy is really good for the flu”.

As the New Year approached, like drugged guard dogs from an episode of ‘Knight Rider’ we might have occasionally attempted to rise to our feet.  Failing, we resigned ourselves to the inevitable; laying suggestible on our sofas in front of the TV trying to work out what day of the week it was.

Flashing back, I remember Boxing Day in the early 1980’s as being the day of the year where 50% of the adverts on TV (by which I, of course, just mean the one commercial channel, ‘ITV’) still had snowflakes on and urged us to go shopping.  This seemed silly, as we had just been brought a load of stuff from Father Christmas, and anyway, all the shops in the Town I lived were shut.

The other 50% of ‘ads’ seemed keen to alert us to the fact that Summer was a mere 6 months away and that we should take immediate action if we were to end up water-skiing, like the lady on the telly.

What is unchanged is that each year, around the 30th December, we emerge.   Veterans of Christmas, replete with the kind of camaraderie that only a truly traumatic shared-experience can instill.

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New Years Eve
At this point though, we know there is one last celebration looming – New Years Eve.  Like a call to arms, placing a million further unrealistic expectations on us and attempting to overshadow its own true point, New Years Eve can distract all but the eagle eyed from what really matters:  The new-dawn of new-dawns, New Years Day.

As if in some sort of Tesco Club Card conversion offer, I choose to translate most of my assorted painful experiences of life into admittedly dark but occasionally humorous cynicism rather than giving into the bitterness, which, lets face it, I would get so much more of for my points.

Much as I might want to rain on everyone else’s parade, a softer soul inside me still holds a glimmer of hope when I see a child smile, or an estate agent survive a near-fatal accident, in order that they might live on to have another in the future.

So what does New Year mean to me?
New Year is arguably the one meaningful event on the calendar, yet at the same time it does nothing and means nothing in itself.  It is an opportunity for all things to start anew.  Everything is, it can be said, new.

Got a problem?  Picture someone new stepping in and dealing with it.  They would set aside old emotional attachments and deal with the problem pragmatically in order to efficiently get on with the next one.  To the old us, this problem might have seemed insurmountable, but to this new person, its just something that has to be dealt with, however tricky and whatever the outcome.  The outcomes may not have changed, but the resignation to get on with it arrived with this new you.

Whether you want to stop smoking, or take up an outdoor pursuit – like smoking (?). Lose weight, or learn to deal with insults better? Be better with money, or perhaps give up being Chancellor of the Exchequer altogether; these are all things you can do on any one day of the year.  What is different is that New Year is like an amnesty for tough decisions; a giant metaphorical kiss of positivity on the lips, and a warm, invisible, yet ephemeral hand that will hold yours just long enough to set you on the right path.

Everything else, as they say, is up to you.

Happy New Year.

Helping with the Christmas purchase part 3: “So many ways to die!”

Following on from my attempts to answer friends’ questions this blog takes a final look at what you need to know, in the form of security.  I am not a security expert and talk broadly based on my decades of experience which in more recent years has largely involved programming on ‘safe’ systems like Linux and OSX while frequently being asked to fix people’s PC’s because they were a bit too keen on downloading free programs or finding some rude pictures they had heard were out there.  The first rule of creating a trap is understanding what bait will work, of course.  I should also add, no one pays me to have a particular opinion so recommendations are made with impartiality.  if I am wrong, please comment and add to the pot – this is just based on my experiences and yours might be quite different.

Keeping your connected device safe
For the purposes of this final blog in my pre-Christmas series of helpfulness I am going to address a question that I get asked occasionally but is one thing I wish people would worry more about, rather than less.  I am often heard telling people not to worry and to just dive in, where technology is concerned, after all, it’s getting easier and easier to do incredible things.

However, if your device can do lots, and perhaps contains internet history and passwords that make quick access to your bank account (for example) then keeping it out of the virtual hands of the malicious is of the utmost importance.

There was an old phrase, often said with hubris by tech support types about their customers, or more entertainingly when an otherwise expert makes a schoolboy error, and that is: PEBKAC which is short for the diagnoses ‘Problem exists between keyboard and chair’.  This is true of the biggest security risk facing you and your data:  You!

People have often willingly allowed malicious code to run on their computers having been promised improved performance and free security software.  They have also filled in forms which look real, providing enough information to steal their identity or even their cash (on a so called ‘phishing site’).

If you have fantastically clever security but still fall for the offer of a free iPad and click a link which runs a script on a webpage, you could potentially have handed everything over to hackers, be that your data or the use of your hardware to make further attacks (during which, you will be paying for the bandwidth).

So, the first important bit of advice is this:

  • Only install applications from trusted developers
  • If a program says it will speed your computer up, it will probably break it
  • If you get an email with a link, make sure the link goes where you would expect (youtube.com not yoootube.com for example, which could be a ‘phishing’ site).
  • If you get an email asking you to click a link and confirm your details (sometimes cheekily because they say they’ve been compromised) – don’t!  This is more obvious when it is from a bank you don’t have an account with, or a badly written email that is not at all convincing, but easy to fall for when all the proverbial ducks are in a row.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • Update everything regularly – developers quickly patch flaws as they are found, but if you don’t install the patch, you are at risk
  • Finally, it’s harsh, but the security people put it bluntly; if you run anything on your computer/device that you do not know the source of for certain, it isn’t your computer/device any more.

In the spirit of the original question (what tablet should I buy this Christmas) there are considerations which you can make early on, before buying.  The most secure tablets are iOS devices by Apple.  This isn’t debatable, it is simple a result of the closed platform which Apple operated.  Unless an ‘app’ meets a whole host of rigorous criteria it cannot be listed on the App store, even if its free.  Android is a pretty safe platform, but the Play store is an open playing field so there is some risk.  If in doubt – don’t download it.  The ‘real world’ sense is that there is little to worry about on all (non-windows) tablet devices.  In all cases observing the common-sense rules will serve you well.

In the land of computers, there are many types of ‘malware’ viruses and hijacks.  Apple and Linux operating systems are considerably safer although one could argue that the sense of invulnerability can leave users wide open.  The best protection is to act intelligently and to have a solid level of baseline protection.

For Windows PC’s and tablets, my personal favourite and firm recommendation for PC security Software is Eset Smart Security.  Unlike some others, it doesn’t slow PC’s down and speaking personally has a 100% track record at keeping my father’s computer virus and malware free where free, cheap and even similarly price main brains security suites have failed in the past.  On Mac’s  there are virus checkers, but these predominantly focus on viruses that might not affect you but could be passed on to a windows user, possibly in your own home.

Credible Threat
The most credible threat I have heard about in recent times is CryptoLocker.  CryptoLocker is malware which can run on Windows machines and what it does is encrypts your data and offers to sell you the key for a price, for example $300, within a short period, such as 2 days, or they throw away your key and your data, whether thats all your family photos, college work, or whatever.

Enthusiastic police in the US have traced the servers and closed them down.  They always have more available, and what the police essentially did was remove your opportunity to get your data back for your $300!  Elsewhere in the US police force, Massachusetts police were forced to pay a ‘2 bitcoin’ ransom for their data – a sum which equates to more than $2000 at todays exchange rates.

This leads me seamlessly to the final leg of personal protection.  Backup EVERYTHING.  In years gone by, when I was much younger, I heard an old lady say that if she had a house fire she would run back in to rescue her budgie and her photo’s.  Until then I had not really considered the value of pictures.

Now, as a parent who struggles to remember how cute his expensive and challenging tweenage daughter once was, I see the value.  Even low resolution videos taken on my first camera phone are precious.  You should back up in more than one place (i.e. on more than one physical device) and in more than one location.  Cloud solutions are plentiful now, so you haven’t got this covered, do so very soon.  Even if you have 10 drives with everything duplicated, you would be in trouble if the room they were in went up in flames.

My final personal recommendation is for Flickr pro.  This relatively inexpensive service allows you to upload all of your images to unlimited protected storage, which you can, but don’t have to use to share images with your family or friends.  So many services are available in this field now though, it is certainly worth shopping around.

Next up: Normal service will resume and the ThoughtsOfEd will return to being that.