The Gadgets Page

December 4, 2014

Review: Line 6 M13

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets — Michael Moncur @ 2:45 am

Line 6 m13

When you hear electric guitar music, only part of what you hear comes from the guitar. The rest is effects, such as distortion, echoes, reverb, and chorus. While guitarists traditionally use a stack of single-purpose effects pedals to create their unique sound, digital multi-effects have recently become a more convenient alternative. The Line 6 M13 is one of the most sophisticated multi-effect units, with over 80 digital simulations of pedal effects from the traditional to the bizarre.

How it Works

I’ve used lots of multi-effect devices, and I’m pleased to report that the M13 has the best user interface I’ve seen. In fact, since it’s meant to replace a group of guitar pedals, it’s designed so that you can use many of the functions with your foot.

The M13’s main interface is divided into four columns and three rows, representing twelve effects pedals. You can use four effects—one in each column—simultaneously. The signal from the guitar normally proceeds through the four effects from left to right.

In each column, you can select one of the three rows with the corresponding footswitch. The selected row’s switch will light up. Pressing the same switch twice bypasses the effect for that column. Once you’ve selected a row, the LCD display and knobs at the top of the column let you configure the effect. Pushing the first switch selects the category of effect, while turning it chooses a specific effect. The remaining knobs control the effect’s parameters—for example, the amount of distortion or the number of repeats.

Each group of 12 effects is called a scene, and you can have a total of 12 scenes (more with the firmware update, see below.) While this all sounds complex, it only takes a few minutes tinkering with the M13 to understand how to use it.

The Sounds

The M13’s different effects are divided into five broad categories. Each has its own color; the LCD backlights for each column and the footswitches change color to correspond with the effect type, which means you can tell at a glance which effects are currently enabled. The following categories of effects are included:

  • Distortion (yellow) – effects that create the familar distorted and fuzzy guitar tones used in most rock music.
  • Modulation (blue) – effects that change the quality of the sound—for example, tremolo and vibrato effects to vary volume and pitch, and spacy effects like chorus and flanger.
  • Filter (violet) – effects that filter the sound, creating synthesizer-like effects.
  • Delay (green) – effects that repeat a sound, creating rhythm or depth.
  • Reverb (red) – effects that add “air” or simulate the sound of a room or hall.

All of the effects sound great. Many of them are digital simulations of well-known guitar effects—for example, the Ibanez Tube Screamer used on many blues records or the Fuzz Face used by Jimi Hendrix. While I’m not enough of an expert on guitar tones to judge how realistic these simulations are, they all sound like the real thing to my ears.

The Looper

Along with all of these effects, the M13 includes a sophisticated looper—an effect that can record and repeat a musical phrase. You can record up to 28 seconds of audio, which will then repeat, and if you’re quick on your feet you can make this sound quite musical. You can then overdub more guitar (or other) parts to create a layered sound. All of this can be operated with 8 of the footswitches normally used to select effects, and features like an Undo button add to the usefulness.

The looper is like a separate device in itself—in fact, it’s basically the Line 6 DL4, previously available separately. You can use it in combination with the M13’s effects to create sophisticated layers of sound – here’s one example from Youtube.

Firmware Update

Recently, Line 6 introduced the M9. It’s a smaller version of the M13. While it can only do three effects at a time and lacks much of the user interface, it has the same effects as the M13, some improved, and 20 more effects. It can also store 48 scenes instead of 12, and has some additional looper features.

This sort of thing happens all of the time in the consumer electronics industry—a new device arrives and leaves those who bought the older, more expensive version feeling a bit cheated. But not so with the M13. Coinciding with the release of the M9, Line 6 released a free firmware update for the M13 that gives it all of the new sounds and features of the new unit.

Since this firmware update just came out, an M13 you buy today may not have the latest update. See Line 6’s site for information on performing the update. It took me about 5 minutes and everything worked fine.

Alternatives

At about $500, the M13 is an amazing deal, but there are other choices:

  • If you’re a devout traditionalist and only need a couple of effects, you might want to get exactly the same pedal effects your guitar heroes use. Most are still available and will undoubtedly sound a bit better than a digital simulation.
  • The M13 only replaces guitar pedals—it doesn’t include an amplifier or an emulation of one. If you don’t have a good amp, you might consider an amp with built-in effects (such as the Line 6 Spider Valve series or the Peavey Vypyr series.) There is also Line 6’s line of POD effects, which combine some of the same effects as the M13 with simulations of a variety of different amplifiers.
  • Some people prefer software to hardware. Software like Native Instruments Guitar Rig or Line 6 Pod Farm can do many of the same effects within a computer.
  • The aforementioned Line 6 M9 is a more compact version of the M13. It lacks some of the effects routing options, the effects share a single LCD screen, and it is limited to 3 effects at a time, but it’s otherwise identical to the M13. If you need to save $100 or if space is at a premium it might be a better choice.

Conclusion

As a beginning guitarist, I was bewildered by the variety of effects pedals out there. I wanted to have the option to play with different sounds, but didn’t want to invest thousands of dollars in pedals and surround myself with patchcords. The Line 6 M13 gives me all of the sounds I wanted and more, plus a looper that is great for practicing. For $500, you won’t find anything better, and if we’re lucky, Line 6 will keep updating the firmware to make the M13 even better.

November 20, 2014

Animal Crossing Hippie Chick Shirt QR Codes

Filed under: Animal Crossing,Toys and Games — Laura Moncur @ 4:54 pm

A couple of months ago, I found this adorable shirt on MaruMaru Dayori:

Marumaru Dayori Hippie Chick Shirt QR Code

Marumaru Dayori Hippie Chick Shirt QR Code

I really liked it but…

It’s yellow. And there is that weird black line across the bottom that looks weird if you wear it with anything that isn’t black. And I prefer long sleeves to short ones, especially because it’s getting to be wintertime again. And it would look so very good in red…

So, I created one of my own, using the original as a guide. I’ve made them in a wide variety of colors to please all the fashionistas out there. ENJOY!

Red Hippie Chick Long Sleeves Animal Crossing QR Code

Red Hippie Chick Long Sleeves

(Continue Reading…)

September 24, 2014

Duolingo: Teach Yourself A Language

Filed under: Software — Laura Moncur @ 2:44 pm

Duolingo Streak from The Gadgets PageI downloaded Duolingo quite a while ago. It was a game. It acts like a game. It looks like a game. I set it up for only five minutes a day. I thought, I’ll play this for a while. See if I learn anything.

I set it for French.

I wanted to learn French so I could read the advertising posts on Facebook from Safari Alto, a camper manufacturer from Montreal, Canada. It was a humble goal, especially since they usually provide an English translation.

To be fair, I speak Spanish pretty well and took a semester of Latin in college, so this is the third time I’ve tackled a language. Some of the words are very similar to either the Spanish or Latin words I know, so I have a little bit of a head start. Still, I’m shocked.

After only a few months of practicing five minutes every day, I was able to read my first Safari Alto Facebook post:

The First French Thing I Understood from The Gadgets Page

I covered the English and was able to understand most of the French. It was such a feeling of liberation! I had only been playing with Duolingo for a couple months at that point and I could understand something!!

Then, yesterday, a friend linked to this video:

I was watching it on my phone, so I couldn’t read the English translations, but I UNDERSTOOD IT! I didn’t get the nuances of the fact that the cat didn’t live there, but I understood the punchline. He wanted the human to open the door because it was closed, not because he necessarily wanted to come in. “Porquoi?” “Se ferme!” Even now, it makes me laugh again.

All because of a silly little video game. I have spent a mere five minutes a day playing my game and now I can UNDERSTAND things. I’m not fluent. I’m not even able to understand the answer to a simple question like, “Where is the bathroom?” But I can understand the gist of things.

Thanks, Duolingo!

September 10, 2014

FINALLY! The Apple Watch Is The Watch I Have Been Looking For!

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 10:26 am

Long, long ago, I vented my frustrations with the watches available to me, right here, on The Gadgets Page. It was EXACTLY NINE years ago and you can read it here:

I had a few requirements for the watch of my dreams:

  • A beautiful watch
  • Women’s watch
  • Digital
  • Metal case and band
  • Time and Date on the display at the same time
  • Stopwatch
  • Countdown Timer
  • Light
  • I would also like Dual Time, but I’m willing to give that up

EVERY SINGLE ONE of these is something that the new Apple Watch has. Here in an introductory video about it.

A Beautiful Watch

This was the first thing on my list because I was SO sick of the plastic ugliness that passed for digital watches. It’s NINE years later and I’m still disgusted by them. Despite the differing views on beauty, it’s hilariously simple to see that one of these is supremely more beautiful than the other.

Apple Watch Vs. Casio - A Beautiful Watch

Both watches are displaying the same data: Time, Date and Day of the Week. The Apple Watch looks so much better doing it, though.

A Ladies Watch

This wasn’t as important for me, but somehow, Apple even got that feature right. They are offering the Apple Watch in two sizes, 38mm and 42mm. I can choose the smaller watch, get the same functionality and feel like a girl.

Apple Watch comes in two sizes - The Gadgets Page

Now, the 38mm size could hardly be considered petite, but at least I have a CHOICE.

Apple Watch comes in two sizes - The Gadgets Page

Digital

Apple Watch Is Digital AND Analog - The Gadgets PageYES! It’s a digital watch! I can choose to just have the time shown to me as some numbers! Yet, if I’m feeling fancy, I can switch the face to an analog face. It’s the best of both worlds.

The reason I wanted digital is because of the ease of reading the time, but the Apple Watch has so much more. It can tell me who is calling on my phone. It can send quick texts with dictation via my phone. It can give me directions to the nearest restaurant. It can tell me that my appointment is in five minutes. All the things that I love about my phone, this watch has an easily accessible link to.

Metal Case and Band

The Apple Watch is metal - The Gadgets PageMetal case and band? Apple one-upped me on that one. I have the choice between stainless steel, space black stainless steel, brushed aluminum, space black aluminum, 18K yellow gold, and 18K rose gold.

And the band choices! I can choose between metal, leather, and brightly colored plastic bands! Anything I want, I can choose. I even hope that I’ll be able to buy multiple bands so that I can change them with my clothing. If I’m feeling sporty, I can revert to the plastic. If I am going out, I can wear the stainless steel.

Casio Metal Band from The Gadgets PageOnly after Apple offered me all these choices did I realize that I had set my sights so low. And despite such low expectations, the best the watch designers of the world could offer me was this Casio. Why was this the best that they could do? Even I could have designed something prettier, just by removing that static clutter on the screen of that watch. Why were we stuck with this for so long?

Time and Date on the display at the same time

Apple Watch Modular Face with the Weather - The Gadgets PageIf I choose the Modular watch face, I can CHOOSE what I put on my screen! Imagine that! You want the weather? Ok! You want the time? Ok! You want the date AND the day of the week with a pretty flower? Yep! Got that one too. What about color? Do you want to change the font so it can be yellow or blue or red? Yeah, they got that, too.

Stopwatch

That is one of the things I could add to the front screen on the Modular watch face, but even if I go with a pretty analog watch face, I can go to the clock app and use the stopwatch.

Countdown Timer

This is another thing that is available in the clock app.

Light

Light? Light? The Apple Watch is back lit, so that means it needs to be charged every night. I’m okay with that, considering all the functionality. The watch will turn on when I move my arm up to look at it. How about that for INSTANT light. I don’t even need to push a stupid button to see my time in the dark.

I would also like Dual Time, but I’m willing to give that up

Dual time? How about freakin’ WORLD time?! Is that good enough for ya?! Oh, and if you want, you can display that other time right on the front screen. BOOYA!

Such A Long Wait

I have been waiting for something like this watch for a LONG time. I’ve been saving my money and willing to drop a ton of it on whomever does it best. Here I am, finally able to to get EVERYTHING I wanted. I’ve heard some complaints about the price (starting at $350) online, but honestly, I’ve been holding on to about seven hundred dollars, just waiting for a watch that was good enough to spend that much money on. In fact, the prettiest, most functional watch I had before the Apple Watch was my Luar from Swatch and it cost $450 and I had to order it from Europe. And setting it is SO difficult that I LITERALLY wrote a Gadgets Page entry about it so I could remember it all.

Finally! A watch that was made for ME! I only had to wait NINE years for it to arrive!

March 30, 2014

Magic Eraser Works Like Magic

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 1:03 pm

Magic Eraser Works Like Magic from The Gadgets PageMy boy put Angry Bird stickers all over his computer when we first gave it to him. He is no longer obsessed with Angry Birds. Angry Birds are for little kids now, and he took off all the stickers. Even though we gave him some Goo Gone, there was still some horrible, sticky residue.

The residue stayed there and we pretty much resigned ourselves to a disgusting computer until my husband tried a Magic Eraser on it. The result was… magical, to say the least.

Magic Eraser Works Like Magic from The Gadgets Page

We couldn’t believe how well it worked to remove the dirt AND the sticky residue. If you are dealing with sticker goo on your electronics, try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. It worked like magic for us!

January 12, 2014

Keyboard Shortcuts

Filed under: Computers and Peripherals — Laura Moncur @ 11:36 am

This postcard from PostSecret made me laugh, because I feel the same way.

PostSecret Men Who Know Their Keyboard Shortcuts

It reads:

Men who know their keyboard shortcuts turn me on.

I have to admit that I feel the same way. It’s like Napoleon Dynamite said,

Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.

It’s true, so if you’re thinking that all this time you spend learning how to code is wasted on us girls, it’s NOT. We notice when you use a quick keyboard shortcut instead of the menu. We notice when you can type 70 wpm. We notice and to be honest, it makes us feel a little flushed.


PostSecret‘s beneficiary is the National Hopeline Network. It is a 24-hour hotline (1 (800) SUICIDE) for anyone who is thinking about suicide or knows someone who is considering it.

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