Feeling Dumb with SmartMusic

The school my son attends touted SmartMusic as a great way for children to learn their instruments. I can see it helping him in some ways, but I do have some reservations about it. That is for another time.

Right now, I’m here to help anyone else seeing this error:

UnknownNetworkError (99) loading https://account.makemusic.com/OpenId/Provider: Connection timed out

The laptop we use for SmartMusic is on the internet just fine. But, on launching, the progress bar in the bottom right corner of SmartMusic was getting hung up at 10%. My son never was prompted to login.

According to Brian, the support tech at SmartMusic, “The application tries to contact our servers every time it launches.”

An IT worker myself, and formerly at the HelpDesk level, I wanted to know why it sometimes does that. I explained that I had poked around the program’s menus and emptied its internet cache. Brian seemed duly impressed that I had found that, but then he asked a question that I am now ashamed he even had to ask.

“When was the last time you rebooted the computer?”

Ah, there it was. The answer to so many problems when you’re working HelpDesk and the user’s computer isn’t withing reach. “Reboot it.” So, I did.

SmartMusic worked fine after that. So, after more than 20 years in IT, I got to feel like the average end user again, and my son was able to use the application. I still want to know what was causing the problem, but at least now anybody in our home can resolve it if that particular problem happens again.

A Belated Birthday Dedication Letter


Ever since we were–what, 7?–I have known that your birthday was either September 9 or 11. Then that thing happened, and the date was forever solidified in my brain. It isn’t 9 or 11, it’s 9-11.

Numbers aside, I’m glad we’re still friends, and lately I’m realizing how much our friendship shaped who I am.

When my own son asks to watch Star Wars or “Star Trek,” I recall childhood memories of watching the original series in your 100-year old farmhouse living room. I remember that you had cool Star Wars toys. Or were those your brother’s?

I remember your TRS-80 computer and your Micronauts, your tiny electronic motors that we wired to “D” cell batteries just to watch them spin. Later, while at your house I read Omni and Popular Science. They were quite different from the reading found at my own house, and sparked an interest in science that still burns to this day. I remember bending in closer to study the huge, yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) that spun its impressive web next to your barn.

When I see my son thrilled by the prospect of Robotics Club, I imagine that you and I would have joined had it been available to us. I don’t doubt it for a moment.

It dawns on me while writing this that I’m passing down to my son the same passions I developed with you.

My older brother was not interested in any of those things. While I owe him for any athletic inclinations and skills I have, and countless social skills, growing up with you just a bike’s ride down the road drew out my geeky passions.

I’m glad you were drawing spaceships that day in 2nd grade. It started something bigger than I could have imagined.

New Blog for My New Obsession

I am not retiring this blog. It still will serve as a place for me to post about life in general, when the urge hits me.

Until then, please see my first post on my new blog. It tells the story of how an obsession of mine started, faded, then rekindled with a passion.

The only thing set in stone on the blog is the topic. I have not made a final decision yet on the name or the theme.

Click the post title below to read:
A Pedaler’s Tale

The First Buffalo National River Trip I Planned

Foggy Morning Restaurant View

Last summer I returned to one of my favorite places — the Buffalo National River, and five friends from Texas joined me. At age 44, it would be my first time on the Buffalo with anyone other than my family. When these guys originally asked me to get a trip together back in May, I was pumped. Then they said it had to be in August. Not much of the river usually is floatable in the middle of August without a lot of getting out and dragging the boat.

You might think that it’s difficult to get lost when floating down a waterway that only leads in one direction. I managed it easily, but that comes later.

(click any image to enlarge it)

Continue reading

Caress of Steel – Rush

Recently, a friend of mine was tagged when one of his friends asked a few to name 1970’s albums that are good for a full listen, end-to-end.

I was a child in the 1970’s, but in the 1980’s I was exposed to much of the previous decade’s music. Many of those bands, of course, still were making music well into the 1980’s, and beyond.

After reading through several comments suggesting Led Zeppelin, Yes, ELO, Pink Floyd, and others, I realized there was no Rush in there yet. Back in 1988 or so, I was made aware of Rush’s Caress of Steel. I listened to the cassette in my car and at home. That particular medium made it difficult to skip from one song to the next, but this particular album didn’t contain very many tracks, due to the length of the final two, a theme containing sections fast, slow, wild, and controlled.

It’s beautiful. It rocks. It’s original.

The music is the result of the hard work and artistry of musicians who spent countless hours becoming good at playing their instruments. They didn’t take shortcuts nor sample someone else’s work. Every note, every lyric on the album is theirs.

Instead of being remembered by the masses for work like Caress of Steel, Rush will be the band who recorded the hit “Tom Sawyer.” That song is great, for what it is. I’m not trying to detract from the effort, talent, and skill it took to make that and the rest of Moving Pictures.

Sitting here listening to Caress of Steel, not on a cassette this time, but from a high-quality YouTube version of it, I just felt inspired to put in my plug for this album. It’s truly an accomplishment.

Link I used (no guarantee it still works):