From The Ground Up: The 2015 Summer Edition

August 11, 2015 by Stu Chisholm

Greetings, my much-neglected readers!  SO sorry for the long absence.  With further delays and a mountain of things needing attention, I’m ashamed to say that writing about it all has taken a back seat to getting things done.  But things have been getting done, and if you’ve been following along, there has been steady progress, a few setback or two, some big-time surprises and even a major gaffe along the way!  So, to catch you up from last January, things have gone a little like this…
WINTER TO SPRING

As February dawned, my focus remained on getting my new DJ system operational.  I headed over to my beloved computer geek megastore, Micro-Center, to pick up a 4-port hub in order to connect a keyboard, hard drives and a controller to my ultra-cool DAP tablets.  I also had a lot of “weeding out” and updating to do to my reference music library in order to eliminate several bad/corrupt files.  Some bad or missing tags had to be fixed, not to mention bringing in new material.  I finally completed it at the end of the first week and began the two day process of transferring my library onto the new Touro hard drives.  I also updated my back-up mini drive and my full-sized WD drive, still optimized for the Cortex.

 

Anticipating a “dry run” of my new rig, I reached out to both Pioneer and Ben Stowe to see what new software would be best.  Via my pal, DJ Scary Guy, I discovered a free program called “Mixx” (http://mixxx.org), which delivers some fairly feature-packed software that seems to equal or surpass some of the old standbys, such as Virtual DJ.  And did I mention it was free?  Twist my arm!  Would it be compatible with both the Aero and my tablets, or should I stick with Virtual?  I also needed to know if I can connect my tablets to the Pioneer Aero wirelessly, as advertised, or will my powered hub allow me to use the hard USB cables, which the manual clearly states cannot be used with a hub.  Ben is convinced otherwise.

 

So in a flurry of e-mails, Ben first forwarded my questions to DJ Pulse, who is apparently a hotshot DJ/representative for Pioneer.  I also heard from a guy named Curtis from Pioneer via a direct e-mail query to their website.  Many back and forth exchanges later, I come to find that the Aero will not work with a hub; no way, no how.  Further, both Ben and Pulse are saying that my tablets “are the problem,” which is especially forehead-vein-popping since I sent Ben the specs BEFORE I purchased them and was emphatically told that they’d be fine!  In the ensuing dogpile, another Pioneer rep, Gil, told me that there’s no work-around for the Aero; God almighty couldn’t make them work together!  Pulse elaborated that that none of the known controllers on the market will work with a hub, but I am suspicious of this bit of “wisdom,” since I’ve seen a number of other DJs doing precisely that.  On an online DJ forum, a fellow Michiganiac told me he’s running video and karaoke with six HDs, all through a powered hub!  In the immortal words of Dire Straits, “one of them must be wrong!”  I’m also reminded of the old George Pal movie, “The War of the Worlds,” where the army general speculates about how the Martian machines might work.  He asks, “Is that possible?”  The professor says, “If they’re doing it, it is.”

 

So I took to the forums to see if any other DJs have pulled it off.  Soon, Robert Baylis, posting on the Facebook group, DJ Idea Sharing responded: “I have an 8 port powered USB hub with 2 external drives with a Denon Controller with VDJ with no problem.”  I make a note to check into that.  With the Valentine’s gig coming up, I really want to be weaned off of the Cortex by then, which has become a horrible pain in the ass with its bad TV remote-style button issues.  A funny thing about stress: the old rig generates it, and the uncertainties of the new one stokes it, too.
A TIME OUT

So it came as some relief to set all of that aside for a while in order to attend that infrequent respite of my DJ existence, the Mobile Beat show in Las Vegas.  As you’ll soon read in the magazine of the same name, it was more than phenomenal.  It was downright surreal!  See, the biggest issue with my business is marketing, and the expo was downright spooky in that it seemed programmed for exactly what I needed!  Several note pads were filled, much video recorded and cards exchanged.  Space here does not allow for a full recap, so I’ll just recommend that you buy the damned magazine if you don’t already, okay?  One thing I encountered there for the first time that will become important later on, though, is a neat little product from Numark.  (More in a bit.)

 

Hot on the heels of MBLV came the Canadian DJ Show in Toronto, where I was once again asked to present a seminar.  Conveniently, it was on downsizing!  DJ Scary Guy and I later gorged ourselves on information to the point of overload, as well as tons of free swag.  Seriously, I think there was even more goodies up for grabs in Canada than in Las Vegas!  A good thing, since my sudden weight loss has made my wardrobe a bit skimpy, unless, of course, I’m doing cosplay dressed as a big bag of leaves or a Thanksgiving Day balloon character.  Much love to my generous friends in the Great White North!

 

BAUBLE BAUBLE, TOIL AND TROUBLE

 

Returning home, and back to reality, I was learning the lesson of trying to be an innovator on the cutting edge: sometimes that edge does cut!  And deeply in my case, because.it became obvious that those amazing tablets I’ve been gushing over might be perfect mounted in a squad car or tractor trailer, but they apparently suck for DJ use.  As Ben and his assorted band of experts reported, the Hub/Aero combination would never work.  Well, that is, unless you have the geeky tech wizardry of the aforementioned Scary Guy, who somehow got actual music to play, with nary a cord running between the tablet and controller!  He later said that he had to perform some pretty drastic tech alchemy that I would probably not be able to duplicate if it didn’t just happen to boot up and run one night.  He just did it to prove the “experts” wrong.  Mission accomplished.  But for me, my $4K tablets would have to be replaced before ever doing a single gig.

 

Oh, and the Aero had to go.  The RekordBox software also wouldn’t run, nor can it handle a large music library like mine.  This combo may be the answer to somebody’s prayers, but for me, it’s just the wrong fit.  I need something a bit more basic.  Being a bit embarrassed by the whole “those tablets should be fine” thing, Ben, to his credit, made that happen smoothly and without any question.  He exchanged it for that piece I mentioned above that I’d seen at MBLV: the Numark NV mixer/controller.

 

This smallish unit packs some HUGE features, as well as yet a third software solution: Serato DJ.  This came as good news to me, as I’d used Serato before and found it worthy.  The bad news, again, was that it, too, wouldn’t run on those damned tablets.  Hey, I had to take one last shot, right?

A TALE OF TWO (ACTUALLY, THREE) COMPUTERS

 

Facing the challenge of finding the best computer for my DJ rig – yes, I raised the proverbial white flag and capitulated to banal, monotonous convention and decided on a laptop… damn it — I had to deal with the tablets.  The company I bought them from wasn’t going to take them back.  In fact, they were so vile, evil, horrible and nasty about it, I hope that one or more of you lovely readers are planning on buying expensive rugged tablets and will skip over any consideration of Winmate-Rugged.com and their customer-non-service rep, Khalid Kidari.

 

That said, they’re still amazing tablets.  And they’re paid for!  So my best option was to re-purpose them.  And since I’m anticipating adding better DMX lighting control to my setup, the obvious choice was to download Chauvet’s ShowXpress and plan for a tiny bit of extra room in the new console.  The other tablet had a very different destination: my virtual shooting range.

 

One of my side jobs, aside from being an annoying, verbose writer, is teaching firearms safety courses for people applying for concealed carry permits.  A constant problem for these classes is time on the range, as in “never enough.”  In order to give my students an edge over lesser classes, I’ve brought in laser training pistols, allowing more “trigger time” without all the noise and recoil.  The other tablet is perfect for this application!  Running L.A.S.R. software and a webcam, it can turn any room into a virtual firing line.  If I didn’t have the spare computer, it would never have happened.

 

So this “lemons from lemonade” Pollyanna bromide is how I lick my wounds, having made the expensive mistake of buying them in the first place.  But at least they’ll contribute to my success in some form or fashion.

 

Doing a bit of research, made easy by Serato’s system requirements page, I quickly found the perfect laptop in the form of the Hewlett-Packard Omen.  Half as costly as a MacBook, it has a better screen, more USB ports, faster processor, a CNC machined, billet aluminum shell and a solid state hard drive.  An added bonus is that it just plain looks cool, as if it was made to accompany the Numark NV.  While the internal HD is smaller than the Mac, all of my music resides on those speedy Touro HDs, making it a non-issue.  Abundant ports make running everything, including a neat laptop chill platform, a literal breeze.

 

As you can probably tell, I didn’t make my completion deadline for that Valentine’s dance, or any event prior to June.  But at long last, my buddy, David, tied the knot in Jackson, Michigan, and I debuted the NVOmen, plugging it into my old DJ cube, a bit like a hermit crab holding on to its old shell as it carefully checks out the new prospect.  And all I can say is: IT ROCKS!

2015-06-27 16.02.26

GRAND RE-OPENING?

 

Now more than seven months out from what I’d imagined to be my grand rebirth, there’s still a lot to do.  The mighty Vanzilla, transportation system for Stu & His Crew, is mechanically sound, fully refurbished over the body and under the hood, and desperately in need of new graphics.  The main hold-up: I still haven’t decided on my new logo.  I’ve got the basic elements, but don’t want to rush.  It also needs an AC recharge.  Work on the new website is going well, albeit slowly.  I have a functional playback system with a huge learning curve, and now my focus will be packaging it up into an attractive, functional console.  This could be the most unique thing thus far, but I’ve got to save something for next time!  And yes, there will be a next time, and a whole lot sooner than I’ve made you wait for previous installments.  In fact, watch this space for weekly installments from this point on.  And I promise, they’ll be much shorter!  Until then, safe spinnin’!

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Stu Chisholm Stu Chisholm (45 Posts)

Stu Chisholm had been collecting music since he was about eight years old and began his DJ career in 1979. After much hard work, trial-and-error, and a stint at the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts, he studied the DJ arts with famous Michigan broadcaster, Bill Henning, at a local college. Stu interned at Detroit’s rock powerhouse, WRIF. To his radio and mobile work Stu later added club gigs at Detroit’s best venues, and voiceover work. He has shared his extensive DJ experience through his Mobile Beat columns, as a seminar speaker and through his book, “The Complete Disc Jockey: A Comprehensive Manual for the Professional DJ,” released in 2008.


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