Hello, #GartnerSYM!

I’ve just arrived in Orlando, Florida for one of my favorite events: Gartner Symposium. I’m here with about 11,000 of my closest friends to geek out on all things IT. My plan of attack this year is a little nebulous, but if you’re looking me up from one of my Tweets or other postings, you’ll find less IT stuff and more “other” on this site.

The About and Resumé links above will give you a decent overview, but if you’re also here in Orlando and are intrigued (or even just moderately amused), let’s connect! Send me a message through the Gartner event app or tag me in a Tweet (@raytoler).

I’m looking forward to another great #GartnerSYM and hope to meet a lot of new folks this year.

No Sound from the SQ-80?

Just a short post that I hope will find its way into the search engines in the hopes that it helps someone in the future. My Ensoniq SQ-80 stopped making any noise a month or two ago. As it turns out, I ran into an RTFM error. Except that I bought this synth second hand and didn’t have TFM.

The SQ-80 Master Settings Page
The answer was right in front of me…

Earlier today, I was on the excellent Buchty.net Ensoniq Resource page and found not only a PDF of the original Musician’s Manual, but several other manuals and schematics as well. Had I been smart, I would have scanned through it first. I went the long way, but in the interest of Internet time, here’s a choice bit from page 18 of the user guide:

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you don’t have a CV Pedal plugged into the SQ-80, you should NOT leave this parameter set to PEDAL=VOL when you turn the unit off. If you do. the next time you power it up, the SQ-80 will set the “straight synth” volume to zero — it won’t make any sound. To get the volume back to normal, just go to the MASTER Page, select this parameter and set it to PEDAL=MOD.

Of course, I took the long way around and, in fairness, would not have turned to the Master Settings page information first. But once I knew where I was looking, there it was!

It’s been a long time since my Ensoniq OS chops were strong, but I’m glad to have this synth back in the mix!


Last week, I embarked on an organization and purging binge I have dubbed “Organizatiageddon.” The end goal of this is to have my studio cleaned up and functional, the rest of the house decluttered, and nearly all of the unpacked cardboard boxes sorted and out of the garage.

I’m a proponent of the “One Home” approach to organization – everything has a single place in which it lives. When you need it, you use it, then immediately put it back in its home. Putting this in practice, however, is not always easy. To quote Andie in Pretty in Pink, “that’s a beautiful theory.”

I’ve attempted this many times in my life, but I tend to be a stacker. After a few weeks, I end up with piles of things that I had to defer due to other things taking priority. Sometimes it’s a more important task; sometimes it’s a Dr. Who marathon. But the end result is the same: piles of things scattered around the house that end up getting shuffled each time I need to use the space. Or worse, company’s coming over and I move lots of piles to a different room to “clean up.” That’s how the studio got out of control.

One limiting factor of the “One Home” approach is that you have to have enough homes. I’ve long had a dream of neatly organized storage. The kind you see on Pinterest. The kind that makes you look at your own clutter and just know that a crew from Hoarders is going to be showing up any day now.

When reaching my latest “Something must be done!” moment, I realized that the primary thing that keeps me from attacking the problem is this: I don’t have sufficient homes. I have plenty of storage, but it’s mostly U-Haul small boxes or big  (70 quart) storage tubs. Cardboard is the greater evil – out of sight, out of mind. I have no idea if I was accurate when rushing to label boxes while the movers were taking them to the truck. The problem with the plastic tubs is that I end up being too coarse with my sorting. This one is “electrical,” that one is “computer,” and those are pretty broad categories.

I needed better granularity. More specific sorting. USB cables, unbalanced patch cables, balanced patch cables, audio snakes, soldering supplies, GoPro stuff… this requires lots of smaller containers.

Now, I’ve bought plastic containers before, but they’re expensive and there are never enough in stock at the store for what I have in mind. If only there was a place where I could buy them in bulk. Oh yeah… Amazon. And it was a perfect storm because I paid off my student loan for grad school in June. I decided to use what I had been paying monthly to do a bulk purchase of containers.

There are now 92 new Sterilite containers in my house of various sizes from 6 quart to 70 quart, and all with locking lids. I did end up going over budget, but I didn’t want to give myself an excuse. I also made an impulse buy: 400 velcro cable ties. The keyboard racks are still a little messy, but they’re so much better than they had been.

Last weekend I got the studio cleaned up. It’s probably 80% there, but I’m waiting on some gear that’s out for repair before tackling the last bits. The living room is full of containers. Eventually, most of them will go in the garage. I’m processing one box at a time; I don’t move to the next box until I’ve completely emptied the current one. I’ll probably need a new shredder by the time I’m finished.

I estimate another few weeks before I have the majority of it handled, but my approach is finally working. I haven’t gone into vapor-lock-avoidance mode because of an overwhelming number of things that must be dealt with and no place to put them. Things are getting homes.

Organizatiageddon is upon them!

Zen Meditation 1 Revisited

Three years ago, I posted Zen Meditation 1 to my Soundcloud page. As outlined in my initial blog post about it, the piece almost didn’t exist as anything other than a stream of consciousness noodle, soon to be forgotten. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t see a lot of value in it and assumed that nobody else would either.


Over the last several years I’ve come to realize that the music I’ve written only for myself, the tracks that I didn’t think anyone else would connect with and that had no identifiable market or audience, is the music that people almost universally latch on to and enjoy most. I suppose it may be the most “true.” That truth comes through in the music in a way I don’t necessarily understand.

When looking at my page today, I noticed that Zen Meditation 1 had a play count of 500. Five hundred! It’s not a platinum album. It’s not even a blip on a chart. But for something that I didn’t think would be listened to at all, 500 plays is nothing short of amazing. It also has the widest global distribution demographics in my listening stats.

It is the single most-listened to track I have on Soundcloud.

Clearly there’s a lesson here, not just for me, but for anyone creating something that they want to release to the world. Write things that are true. Paint things that are true. Create for yourself, because those are the things that will connect. Maybe not with the audience that you thought you were looking for, but with the audience that’s looking for you.

When I Was a Child

Once or twice a year, I get the urge to install some variant of Linux or Unix and set something up. What something? No idea. Which is why, of course, the experiment is typically abandoned within a week or two.

Well, that’s not always the case. Abandonment still occurs, but sometimes it’s because I discover that my project, let’s say “build a super secure personal firewall using OpenBSD,” wasn’t worth the effort given other tools I already had in place. Ok, maybe also a tad over-ambitious.

Other times, I have some vestigial Silicon Valley idealism resurface, making me want to move away from Mac OS or Windows, angst-ridden over all of the things going on that I don’t know about. I’ll compile my own kernel! I’ll run wireshark and review source code! I’ll shut down all of the unnecessary services! I’ll make a personal media serv… no I won’t.

It’s not that I don’t have the desire. It’s more that the *n?x communities I end up in still haven’t moved away from the Nick Burns stereotype. There’s an elitism that permeates much of the culture, despite the best efforts of some really helpful distro teams and well-meaning benefactors. It’s hard to RTFM when you don’t know where TFM is or even what it is that you don’t know. There’s more often than not a tone of “I’m not going to hold your hand” in the community forums.

It's the email that's stupid, not you, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and agree with the underlying sentiment. Point someone toward the bait store instead of handing them a plate of sushi and they’ll be better off in the long run. But many of the experts I’ve come across online are just that: experts. They’re not teachers, mentors, or guides. They have the knowledge, but they came by it via years of effort and struggle, value it highly, and often hold onto it like a dying Skeksis emperor.

I am... still... emperor...
I am… still… emperor…

Years ago, I was a decent programmer. I only knew one language, BASIC, and I only wrote for three platforms: Apple II, TRS-80, and my beloved Commodore 64. I even wrote an assembly program once to see if I could do it. I know I have the aptitude, the creativity, and access to the necessary tools. What I no longer have as much of are time and dedicated focus.

So how do I resolve those self-imposed limitations, an arcane ecosystem with a long history, and a cultural group that values DIY and distrusts tourists, with my goal to learn a new programming language? As usual, there’s a quotation that applies.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

This time, however, I am reversing the lesson. What is needed is not the abandonment of childish ways, but rather the adoption of them. I need to forget what I’ve learned over the last 25 years, to abandon what I “know.” I need to ignore the tweaking and the tribes and, above all, to seek out the education culture instead of the expert culture to help me learn.

In recent searches, I rediscovered the Raspberry Pi’s simplistic beauty. It’s powerful, but accessible and affordable, just as my Commodore 64 was. More importantly, the communities are full of projects and lessons geared toward the beginner. Toward the new mind. Of course, a new model has just hit the market, so everything is sold out, but that will pass.

This time, there won’t be a nebulous project. I know exactly what the end result should be. The project is to learn.