Is Your iPhone Running? Better Catch It!

iPhone how to turn off

Like many people, I love my iPhone.

But sometimes I feel like a caveman carrying around a Star Trek communicator.  

How does this thing work, anyway?  

So I read a recent article at the Wonder of Tech with interest.

The topic:  Are your iPhone apps running and how to turn them off?

The article  is by Carolyn Nicander Mohr on her terrific Wonder of Tech website.  

I had no idea that my iPhone apps were running, and certainly had no idea how to check and how to turn them off.

So I followed Carolyn’s advice and checked my i-Phone.  

Every One of My iPhone Apps Was Running!

No big deal, you think.  How much battery power is that using?  

On, off, what’s the difference?

I’ll tell you the difference for me.

My phone provider was sending me messages that I has almost drained my account’s data allocation for the month.  The problem is that I was doing it in only a couple of days!

I was burning data and didn’t have anything on!

That’s right.  I was using up data without even getting the benefit.  

And I was bleeding data at a scary rate.

The only way I could stop my data hemorrhaging was to go the Settings > General > Network  > Cellular Data and push the slider to OFF. 


Especially annoying because there are some functions, such as phone messages, that can’t be managed with Cellular Data turned off. 

So learning my iPhone apps were running, and how to turn them off was a real i-opener, if you know what i mean.

Then I performed a test.  I turned off every iPhone app.

Then I checked my cellular data usage.  

You can do that by clicking Settings (yes, that opens an app!) and then General -> Usage -> scroll down to Cellular Usage at the bottom.

Darned if my iPhone wasn’t still sending and receiving at least a couple of KB of data!  

But the rate was much decreased by having apps like Safari, etc. turned off. 

Click here to read –> an eye-opening article Turn Off Your Apps! where you will learn how to discover whether your apps are running and how to turn them off.

Did you know your iPhone apps were running and how to turn them off?  Please comment and tell me I’m not the only one!

Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone is great.  Get one!

I just read an “i opening” article that the iPhone keeps running


Are You a Drummer?

photo of drum set for Are You a Drummer?

Do you find yourself tapping on your car’s dashboard?  

Do you feel the rhythm and simply have to bang on something when you listen to a song?

Have you gone into a music store and wanted to hop on the drum “throne” and beat those skins like they owe you money?

You may be a drummer.

Not a professional drummer, not a band member, but a drummer like me.  I simply can’t help it.

I used to get in trouble in school for mindlessly drumming on my desk.  Didn’t even realize I was doing it.  I feel the beat in my mind and my body has to do something about it.  Tap, tap, tapping like a raven on a cellar door.  I can’t help myself.

My dad heard me tapping on a metal box and commented that I sounded pretty good.  Later he surprised me with a set of bongos.

Bongos are pretty cool.  You can tune bongos to a fifth and get some good sounds out of them.  Bongos add a special sound like no other instrument .

But bongos, as much as they can do, a drum kit do not make.  In fact, a bongo player is called a “percussionist” not a drummer.


Unless you want to carry around a washing machine, a drummer needs a set of drums.

A typical drum kit has a:

  • Snare
  • High Hat Cymbal w/ foot pedal
  • Foot-pedal Bass
  • Floor Tom 
  • A couple of other mounted Tom Toms
  • Crash Cymbal
  • Ride Cymbal
With these 8 basic percussion devices, you can reproduce pretty much all the standard drumming in popular music.
At some parties at a friend’s house, I got access to a drum kit and loved it.
It wasn’t like tapping or bongoing.  It was much more complicated.
I played along with some guys whose drummer wasn’t around.
I had no training (except driving my teachers crazy) but I had the sense to keep the beat.
The guys I played with thought I sounded pretty good.

After that I wanted a drum set

But you may have noticed that real drum sets cost a lot of money.

Drums take up a lot of space and make a hell of a racket.

Living in an apartment doesn’t go with having a drum set.

Yes, you can get some drum sticks and bang on your couch.

But a drum set is pretty impractical compared to other instruments

Here’s an SAT-type quiz for you.

“Flute” is to “Drums” what “Fork” is to:

A) Spoon

B) Knife

C) 12-piece place setting

That’s right, if you said “C” you get my point.

Drums are really 8 different instruments that have to be hauled around and set up in a space at least a big as a bathroom and make enough noise to bring the cops if played between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Enter the age of electronic drums

I got an early electronic “drum set,” a toy really.
It was a fairly expensive piece of junk.
Just four drum heads on a console about two feet square.  The sample rate (how fast the drum can respond to a beat) was lousy.
If I drummed too fast, the strikes just fell silent because the signal dropped out.  The speakers were junk.  No foot pedals.  No high hat.

This wasn’t a drum kit.  This was a four-headed electronic bongo.  And the bongos didn’t even sound good.

The worst part was that these electronic drums had their own internal timing.  If I beat faster than that processor, it ignored my input.
Sure, those primitive electronic drums got some beating.  But it wasn’t drumming.
Yes, there were better electronic drums on the market but they cost a fortune.
And some electronic drums sounded weird and phasory (I don’t know if this is a word, but I mean to say they sounded electronic and artificial)
Phil Collins made electronic drums sound okay, but I was holding out for a real drum set.
I had tried electronic drums and made up my mind that they were crappy drum simulators.
All the bands I really liked used real drums and real cymbals made out of real metal.

I wanted real drums

Some years passed and I had a chance to play a real drum set again.  I had gotten better.  A lot better.  I sounded like a drummer.
Now I really had a Jones for a drum set.
I was looking through an internet music catalog.  I looked at the drums section.  They had electronic drums that cost thousands of dollars.

But to my surprise they offered an electronic drum set that I could afford.

 This set was fairly small, folded, and you could listen to them with headphones.  The reviews said that they had a good sample rate and duplicated the sound of real drums.  I couldn’t believe how much electronic drums had dropped in price.

I bit the bullet.  I sent off for the drum set and a drum throne to sit on.  

(It’s a bit ironic that the drummer sits on a “throne” but the lead singer and/or lead guitarist act like kings, but I digress.)

The inexpensive electronic drums I got were from Alesis.

I needed to buy a foot pedal for the bass drum, which may still be the case.  It’s worth getting a good foot pedal, and perhaps this is why the set didn’t include one.

Now this was a few years ago and I’m not going to pretend I’m reviewing one of the latest Alesis drum kits.

I will tell you this:  My Alesis drums sound like real drums, and play like real drums.  When you hit a drum or a cymbal, it sounds like the real thing.  That’s because Alesis uses recordings of real drums.

When you hit a drum or cymbal softly, it plays softly.  It you hit one hard, it plays loud.


I’ve played real drums and there are differences, but my Alesis drums feel like the real deal.

The Alesis pros:

  • Real drum sound
  • Real drum feel
  • Easy to set up
  • You can set the drums to make all kinds of different drum sounds, from wood to metal to Phil Collins type ‘lectronicness to choppy guitar chords (yes, it’s freaky)
  • You can play them with headphones — and I mean you can beat the hell out of them — and not disturb others
  • Drums don’t need to be miked, direct input to your computer audio interface

The cons:

My Alesis ride cymbal is a little quiet and I’m too lazy to figure out how to make it louder

The drum heads are triggers, which means you can make them go off with stray hits.  I read that the latest Alesis drums take some adjustments to sound great.

They take up some space.  Drum sets do this.  But they do fold and are transportable.

But here’s the biggest pro and why I’m writing this review.

The Alesis electronic drums are a drum set.

I went for years wanting a drum set and now I have one.  I get to play drums now.  I can play along with records or whatever is in my head.

I was a drummer without a drum set and now I have one

If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance that you have reason to believe that you are a drummer.

You may have gotten a few minutes to fool around with drums in a music store or played on a friend’s set.

Are you are a drummer without a drum set?

You wish you could have a set of drums but you think

  1. a drum set isn’t practical,
  2. drums are too expensive,
  3. drums are too loud,
  4. someday you will get a real drum set in a warehouse somewhere or when a band signs you and you all live in an English country house
That’s what I thought, too!
But I was wrong.  None of these things are true.
Well, a band may still sign me and ask me to live on their estate making records all day.  But the point is that I don’t need to wait until that happens to have my very own drum kit.

You Don’t Need to Wait

Now I’m going to make a specific recommendation based on my experience with Alesis drums, although not this upgraded model.  In fact, I have every reason to believe these drums are BETTER than mine.

I have checked the price and read the reviews (you should, too).

Here is my recommendation:

Alesis DM8 Pro Kit Professional Five-Piece Electronic Drumset

Alesis DM8 Pro Kit Professional Five-Piece Electronic Drumset

This is an amazing piece of equipment for the price.

Whatever electronic drums you get, if you are a drummer, get some.

I don’t care what make or model.  Just get some drums.

Take it from a drummer who waited for years to get a drum set, you won’t regret it.


Talking (or Singing) to Your Computer? USB Microphone vs. USB Audio Interface

photo of a microphone

To record directly onto your computer the obvious solution is a USB microphone.

Or is it?

Recording and sound editing software like the free Audacity multi-track audio editor/recorder have made recording and editing on your computer simple and powerful.



(Did I mention that Audacity is open-source and FREE?! )

Get the free Audacity recording software and read reviewsthree-arrowsdownsmtrans
Audacity icon

But to use Audacity (or other audio software) you first need to get a sound signal into your computer.

Yes, there are a few USB microphones that plug directly into your computer.

Here’s one from MXL, a leader in quality microphones.

And of course for day-to-day recordings of adequate quality, you can use a USB mic with headset earphones, perfect for applications such as Dragon Naturally Speaking.

I have this USB headset.  It is comfortable and does a fine job.

But for higher quality recording of voice for podcasting and song, guitar and other instruments, you may want to consider a different solution.

To record or broadcast better sound quality, you want a condenser microphone.  Condenser mics require “phantom power.”

Problem:  The USB port isn’t set up to provide the “phantom power” needed to to run a condenser mic.

Why do I want a condenser microphone?  Is it that much better than a USB microphone?

Condenser mics are the standard for studio recording and performance.

Condenser mics come in many shapes, sizes, sensitivities, dynamic ranges and prices.  Using condenser mics offers you (and your budget) options.

Dynamic condenser microphones such as the Shure PG48-XLR Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone with XLR-to-XLR Cableare the recognized workhorses of vocalists (and rugged enough to pound nails).

Condenser mics offer excellent signal to noise ratio (low hum) and gain (amplification).

Condenser mics use the standard three-prong XLR connector.  That means buying condenser mics is an investment in equipment that interfaces with standard amps, mixers — basically everything.   Whereas, USB mics have one purpose – to connect to your computer.

It’s the Sound

I’ve used both types of mics.  Even a medium-priced condenser mic has a rich, powerful sound.  You can really hear the difference.

OK let’s assume you now are convinced that condenser microphones are the way to go.

How the heck do you hook up a condenser mic to your computer?

Enter the TASCAM US-366 4-In/6-Out or 6-In/4-Out USB Audio Interface


The TASCAM opens a USB doorway to your computer for signals coming from high quality condenser microphones AND jacked in guitars/basses.

Select Product Specs

  • 6-in/4-out or 4-in/6-out USB interface depending on the setting of line 3 and line 4.
  • Up to 24bit/192kHz recording
  • 2 – XLR microphone inputs with HDDA mic pres and +48V phantom power
  • On-board digital mixer – “Multi-track mode” or “Stereo mix mode” selectable
  • 2 balanced XLR microphone/TRS line inputs. L channel can be switched to Guitar Input for high-impedance support.
  • 1/4” TRS headphone output
  • USB 2.0 bus-powered

Can I get that in English?

The US-336 has a pair of combination jacks on the front panel that accept 1/4″ (so called “phone jacks” used by guitars) and XLR jacks (standard 3-prong mic jacks). This gives you the flexibility to attach microphones, line level sources, and directly plug a guitar or bass.

The microphone inputs provide phantom power for condenser microphones and plenty of gain (amplification) for recording any source.

A direct monitor path is available during recording to prevent the delays (echos) that can occur when recording to computer. This allows the speaker/musician to hear the input directly without any delay.

USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface works for both Mac and Windows computers

Works perfectly with Audacity.

NOW with your TASCAM US-336 USB Audio Interface in place you can get a really nice condenser mic!

Like these:

Make sure to get a good cheap mic cord and a stand.

If you get a nice gold capsule mic, consider getting a shock mount, a foam cover (the gold wafer performance deteriorates when wetted by voice vapor) and a pop screen.

Using a tough Shure dynamic condenser mic?

You don’t need no stinking shock mount or pop screen!  Just don’t drop it from more than a few feet. 🙂