Gas station without pumps

2020 April 4

New, unique ringtone

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 23:00
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Ever since I got my first cellphone in December, I’ve been thinking that I ought to put a custom ringtone on it.  This was reinforced a few weeks ago, when a student’s phone rang with the same standard ringtone that I had chosen (the “Sparse” ringtone on the Android phone).

I did not want to buy a ringtone (I’m cheap), nor steal one (I’m honest), nor even use an open-source ringtone.  I wanted a truly custom one that no one else in the world could have.

Many years ago, I composed some renaissance dance music and in 2007 I had put the scores into Finale Notepad on my Mac.  So my thought was that I could just take the music that I had composed, convert it to an audio format and store it as my ringtone.  Simple and unique!

Problem 1: The version I have of Finale Notepad does not run even on my old laptop, and Finale no longer makes a free tool for Macs.  I did have an old (but not quite as old) version of Finale Reader that would run on my old Mac, but it is an extremely crippled piece of software—it can play music out to the speakers and show the score on the screen, but that’s about it. I did confirm that I still had the music files, though and that some of them might make ok ringtones.  That old laptop is pretty broken (wifi broken, SD card reader broken, hinge for screen broken), but it is the most recent Mac I have that would still run Finale freeware—everything else has been upgraded too much.

Success! There is still a Finale Notepad for Windows, and I do actually have a Windows machine in the house—a magenta HP laptop that I paid $75 for in order to test PteroDAQ on a Windows machine.  My wife dubbed it the Barbie laptop, because of the color and the toy-like feel.  I mainly use this laptop now for running pronterface to control my 3D printer, but when I was finished printing my second nose clip for a face mask, the laptop was free for other uses.  I downloaded Finale Notepad to it and copied the score files (via flash drive) from the Mac to the Barbie laptop.

Success!  Not only could I play the music score files on the Barbie laptop, but I could convert them to less proprietary formats: musicxml and MIDI. But these are still not audio files.

Problem 2: I tried playing one of the MIDI files on the Barbie laptop, but the result was terrible—Windows Media Player was not able to handle it. So I used the flash drive again to transfer the midi files to my new (early 2014) MacBook Air.  Nothing on that machine plays MIDI files! I tried downloading some programs from the web, but they were either just ads asking for me to buy $100 software or non-functional.  I removed all of them (I hope), and started looking for online converters.  Based on what I had read—that Android phones handled all the standard music formats—I decided to look for converters from MIDI to M4A format.

Success! Zamzar.com provides such a converter.  I tried a couple of files and the results were rather quiet, but seemed usable.

Problem 3: Zamzar.com only lets you convert two files a day, unless you pay them big bucks. I looked some more for other converters.  I found one that crashed,

Success! I found one that worked: https://freeconvert.com/midi-to-m4a.  I converted the files (twice, because I found I needed to fade the music in and out, which had not been necessary with Finale Notepad).

Problem 4: getting the files to my phone. The files were in my Dropbox, but I did not want Dropbox on my phone.

Success! I finally decided to use Google Drive for the transfer, as I already had Drive on the phone, and transferring the file from my computer to Drive and from Drive to my phone was straightforward.

Problem 5: the instructions I saw on the web suggested moving files into the RIngtones folder from the Downloads folder.  This is harder than it might seem, because you have to go to the Downloads folder that is inside the internal storage in the Files app, not the crippled Downloads folder at the top that doesn’t let you move files.

Success! I got the m4a file into the Ringtones folder, and tapping it started the music playing!

Problem 6: The new ringtone did not appear as an option in my phone settings for ringtones.  Not even after rebooting the phone (which some of the advice on the web said was needed with some Android versions).

Problem 7: I saw that it was possible to add ringtones directly from Drive, so I deleted the m4a file and tried adding the ringtone directly from Drive.  Now the problem was that the file was greyed out—there were no selectable files.  I’d been lied to about Android accepting all the music formats—sure it could play m4a files, but it couldn’t use them as ringtones.

Success! https://freeconvert.com/midi-to-mp3 converted the MIDI file into an mp3 file, which I could add as a ringtone from Google Drive using the Sound Settings on the phone.

So I now have a 35-second galliard of my own composition as my ringtone—it is definitely a unique ringtone, and may even have been worth the trouble it took to get it onto the phone. (And, no, I’m not going to play it for you on the blog.)

I have not put on a new ringtone for text messages, though, as a text ringtone needs to be very short, and the shortest piece I have is an 18-second single repetition of a bransle. I’ll have to think about what I can do for a 1-second or 2-second text ringtone.

2019 December 16

Landline discontinued

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:08
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As I mentioned in First cellphone, I have finally bought a cell phone.  Today I got the landline number transferred to that cellphone, so that I can now discontinue landline service.  That could be a minor nuisance during the next major power outage (during the last big power outage, landline service continued uninterrupted, but several cellphone towers went offline, so cell service was disrupted).

I have one more task to do in setting up the phone, and that is to transfer my wife’s phone (which was associated with my e-mail address) to be associated with my wife’s email address.  I don’t know how difficult that will be, but I anticipate a few hours dealing with Google Fi technical support, as their web pages do not provide any way to do this yourself.  It is particularly difficult in this case, as the billing was associated with that phone, and my new phone was an extra on the account, while I want to make my new phone be the primary on the account (so that I can continue billing to the same card).

2019 December 5

First cellphone

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:08
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My wife finally talked me into buying a cellphone (she’s been using one for a few years, and upgraded to a smartphone last summer).

I bought a Moto G7 to use on Google Fi, because the phone was on sale through Google Fi for only $100.  My wife had already been using Google Fi with a Moto X4 (Android One edition), though the phone was in my name, because I had a Google account and she did not.

The idea was to set up a Google Fi group account, transfer the Moto X4 with its phone number to her, and add the new phone to my account.  That turned out to be impossible, or nearly so.  Google does not easily support transferring phones, and if the phone number had been moved to her account, I would have lost the promotional price on the Moto G7.

After a long time on Google support chat with “Andy”, we finally came up with a plan that seemed like it would work.  I would keep her phone associated with my account, open a new email account, invite the new account to join the Google Fi group, accept the invitation, and then activate the phone and get a new number for the new phone.

Even that turned out to be harder than expected, as my first attempt to open a new gmail account associated the account with my existing Google account, so I could not invite it to join the Google Fi group—it had just replaced the email I had associated with the account with the new email.  After making sure that I was logged out of all Google accounts, I set up yet another gmail account, logged back in under my original account, invited the new account, and accepted the invitation.

So after, about 4 hours of struggling with Google’s limited view that person=phone number and all email accounts should be associated with the same person, I finally activated the phone.  Since then, it has gone through about 3 system updates—I understand that doing many serial system updates is standard whenever a new Android phone is activated.

I’ve installed 2 apps on my phone: Lyft (which I’ve not tried yet) and CS Customizer, which can be used to adjust the profile for my hearing aids (“personal hearing amplifiers”, since they weren’t sold by an audiologist).  I have tried CS Customizer, and it seems to work ok, which is good, because it had stopped working on my Mac after one of the macos upgrades. Incidentally, over the summer I created an instruction sheet (hearing-aid-instructions) for recharging the hearing aids, since my dad has the same model and the assisted living center he is at was not doing a good job of keeping them charged.  I understand that the instructions have been printed and posted in his room, but I don’t know whether they are doing any better at keeping his hearing aids charged.

I’ve also rearranged the app buttons on the home screen, as Motorola and Google seem to put the most useless ones as the favorites.  I now have Contacts, Phone, Chrome, Maps, and Lyft on one row, and Duo, Messages, Settings, Photos, and Camera as the second row.  I also made the top row of Quick Settings be Wifi, Do Not Disturb, Mobile data, Flashlight, Location, and Airplane mode.

I’ll try the phone for a week, then move my landline number to it.  I’m losing the landline because I’m upgrading my internet service from DSL (which includes the landline service) to a higher-speed microwave link (both from CruzIO, a local ISP).  The DSL line gets about 11Mb/s download and 0.8Mb/s upload, and I’m expecting about 70Mb/s each way with the microwave link.  It will come into the house in a different location than the phone lines, and the rebar in the concrete walls of my house blocks wifi signals, so there may be some trouble in placing a router so that both the book room and the breakfast room (where my wife and I work) are covered.

The Google Fi group account increases our cell phone bill from $20/month to $35/month, but the microwave link will cost the same per month ($75) as the DSL would, because the DSL is going up in price.

2012 March 21

IOIO, another cool physical computing project

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:54
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Over at Engineer Blogs, I found out about another cool project for connecting computers up with the real world—the IOIO (pronounced yo-yo):  An Interview with Ytai Ben-Tsvi, Inventor of the IOIO.

Basically, it is a $50 IO board for an Android phone, using either USB or Bluetooth connection, controllable with a Java API from an Android 1.5 or later device.  It has a PIC24F microcontroller providing 48 I/O pins, which have the usual sorts of capabilities (PWM, I2C, SPI, …).  You can use it in much the same way you would use an Arduino, except that you need an Android device to talk to it.

This is a plus and a minus, as the Android phones come with a fair amount of compute power and some powerful software (like face recognition software), but they cost a lot also, and you wouldn’t want to tie up your phone in a dedicated project (a $25 Arduino board is cheaper to embed than a phone and a $50 IOIO board).

I don’t think that the Android phone+IOIO is quite as exciting as the $35 Raspberry Pi if you need cell-phone-level compute power, but it looks like a good way to make cell-phone-controlled gadgets.

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