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Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface #3003856 08/18/19 06:17 PM
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Tom Fiala Offline OP
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Hi Lab Docs!

My question is about the best way to hook up a variety of midi devices to your recording interface.
I wanted to try to set up a standalone system with an iPad running Cubasis 2.8, hooked up to a Steinberg UR44. (That part works fine.) No computer if I can help it, because I find it so often gets in the way of the creative flow.

Here's the harder part: I have a number of 80's era and newer keyboards that I now want to hook up via midi, to respond to my master controller - the Kurz Midiboard. Midi beat clock will come from Cubasis. (keyboards are: Prophet 600 with gligli, Prophet 6, Andromeda A6, Yami An1x, Solaris, Akai Ax80, Sub 37, Deckards Dream, Juno 66, Kiwi 3p, along with a string machine, a Yami Rx-5, Voce V5+, and a ESQ-1). I'd like to be able to sync the various arpeggiators, and play the majority of the keyboards from the Midiboard.

Is it ridiculous to try and daisy chain 13-14 devices together due to midi delays introduced at each keyboard? Or should I use a "Star" configuration, with either a dedicated midi patch bay or should I use a midi thru box? Do you have a suggestion for a midi patch bay that would do the job? (Does anyone even make a 16 x 16 midi patch bay?)

What's the best set-up for ease of use and accurate timing?

I appreciate the advice!

Last edited by Tom Fiala; 08/18/19 06:32 PM. Reason: clarification

Tom F.
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Re: Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface [Re: Tom Fiala] #3003864 08/18/19 07:09 PM
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Dr Mike Metlay Offline
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Originally Posted by Tom Fiala
Hi Lab Docs!

My question is about the best way to hook up a variety of midi devices to your recording interface.
I wanted to try to set up a standalone system with an iPad running Cubasis 2.8, hooked up to a Steinberg UR44. (That part works fine.) No computer if I can help it, because I find it so often gets in the way of the creative flow.

Here's the harder part: I have a number of 80's era and newer keyboards that I now want to hook up via midi, to respond to my master controller - the Kurz Midiboard. Midi beat clock will come from Cubasis. (keyboards are: Prophet 600 with gligli, Prophet 6, Andromeda A6, Yami An1x, Solaris, Akai Ax80, Sub 37, Deckards Dream, Juno 66, Kiwi 3p, along with a string machine, a Yami Rx-5, Voce V5+, and a ESQ-1). I'd like to be able to sync the various arpeggiators, and play the majority of the keyboards from the Midiboard.

Is it ridiculous to try and daisy chain 13-14 devices together due to midi delays introduced at each keyboard? Or should I use a "Star" configuration, with either a dedicated midi patch bay or should I use a midi thru box? Do you have a suggestion for a midi patch bay that would do the job? (Does anyone even make a 16 x 16 midi patch bay?)

What's the best set-up for ease of use and accurate timing?

I appreciate the advice!


Hi Tom, glad to help if I can.

Several questions here with several answers... I will post fast and dirty right now and can follow up with deeper research if need be.

First of all, off the top of my bean, I am not aware of anyone making a 16-port MIDI box of any kind any more. The KMX MIDI Central lived in my studio for years and gave great 15 x 16 performance, but they haven't been made for decades and are hard to find -- reverb.com hasn't had one up for auction in years, and Ebay is dry too.
The old Opcode Studio 5 LX could do this stuff very well and was 15 x 15, but it required Mac OS 9 to program it. (Ironically, I have one that's set up to do exactly what you want right away with no computer, it was set up to distribute MIDI Clock for a large live event with multiple synths... but if the internal memory battery were to die, it would irreparably lose its mind, so I couldn't sell it to you in good conscience.)

The alternative would be to set up a pair of MIDI Thru splitter boxes that are 1 x 8 and feed them clock. MIDI Solutions makes one, but a pair of them would run you $300 new.

My first suggestion would be to try a daisychain, believe it or not. The idea that "MIDI devices in a daisychain introduce 3 ms of delay with every hop" is a myth that stemmed from a typographical error in a magazine at the dawn of the MIDI era that was taken as gospel... the actual number should be closer to 3 microseconds. However, that's an ideal figure; the reality will be somewhere in between.

It costs you nothing to set up a daisychain and start up some sequences and arpeggiators, and listen for flamming.


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Ableton Link [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3003868 08/18/19 07:34 PM
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More rapid thoughts:

The real problem of MIDI sync is not necessarily flamming due to latency, but start sync. The problem is that many arpeggiators and hardware sequencers that sync via MIDI are not smart about bar lines. MIDI Song Position Pointer is by no means universally honored, and without it, the device doesn't know precisely where to start and stop, even though it will keep perfect sync once it does.

This leads to the maddening result of two arpeggiators being started just a few clock pulses apart and staying in perfect sync, so they never line up unless you retrigger one or the other and get lucky. In scientific terms, we say that the alignment has high precision (the two devices remain locked in tight sync) but terrible accuracy (they are out of whack and stay that way). Think of a very tight cluster of gunshots in a target... but that tight cluster is several inches off the bullseye.

Fixing this is a much trickier proposition than just getting things to sync. Every machine you have will respond differently to, say, the presence or absence of MIDI Start, Stop, and Continue commands, and whether or not there are Clock pulses present, and this is further complicated by each instrument's built-in arpeggiator or sequencer sync options (key sync, etc). I've only worked with some of the devices you mention (want to sell that Deckard's Dream? I'll give you fifty bucks for it), so I don't have a comprehensive idea of how just distributing clocks will work. Expect a lot of headaches, at least at first, as you learn how each device's arpeggiator works.

You might wonder if there's a real solution to this conundrum. The answer is "yes, actually, but it won't be as easy for you as for some others." It's called Ableton Link, and as someone who works with sequencers and arpeggiators and drum machines a lot, I consider it the single most important improvement to MIDI since the invention of the spec, bar none.

Here's how Link works: two devices with Link capability send data to one another (usually either via USB or Wi-Fi), but the messages are deliberately very limited: "Where's the One?" and "How fast are we going?". That's all. If you think about it, that's how improvising musicians play together; they listen for the One, and come in (or don't). If the tempo changes, they adjust, and so does Link: there is no "Master Clock" anywhere in the network, and any device can change the tempo at will. Rather than locking everything down, Link assumes that the people playing together are mature sensible human beings, and won't get into a turf war over tempo... instead, they'll nudge it up or down to suit a track if appropriate.

When you start to use Link, it's mindblowing: stuff that was horrific to get working reliably suddenly just works. Things sync up, loops and arpeggios come in on the One, if someone drops out nobody else is impacted... it really does turn jam sessions into jam sessions, and collaborative electronic music is suddenly A Thing in a way that it hasn't been in the past.

So how do you get in on this?

Link is not a separate product, it's a spec that coexists with MIDI. Each piece of hardware or software must be rewritten to accommodate it, so that if one software house screws it up, it doesn't hurt anyone else. You don't need special hardware for it ad there's no dedicated "Link app" (that would defeat the purpose). Ableton makes it available for free to anyone who'd like to implement it on their hardware or software, and lots and lots and LOTS of people have added it over the couple of years since it was introduced. There are hardware synths that are Link-aware, and plug-ins and virtual instruments on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android that understand it. Ableton Live is NOT the only DAW to implement Link; others have done it and we keep hoping for more.

In your case, there are free apps (Link to MIDI and MIDI Link Sync) that will allow hardware to follow a Link session in a limited fashion. They work really well, but in your case you'd have to use such an app to also slave Cubasis to the session. Steinberg has said in its forums that they've been looking at implementing Link for a while, but haven't yet and won't announce an official timeline because it's so invasive of the code base... which I personally call bullsh!t on, I think it's "Not Invented Here" syndrome. Right now there are a bunch of DAWs and beatmaking apps on iOS that are Link-savvy, many of which have added Link in a matter of days or weeks with no issues at all, but for whatever reason, 3 years in and Steinberg hasn't managed it yet.

I am a HUGE fan of Link and can tell all sorts of miracle-work stories surrounding it, but I'll stop here. Let me know if you have further specific questions.


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Ableton Link [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3003884 08/18/19 09:38 PM
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Tom Fiala Offline OP
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Thanks, Dr. Mike. Tremendous stuff in those 2 posts!
I will try the daisy chain experiment, and will report back. Stand by.

If I were to go with 2 of the 1 x 8 midi thru boxes.... does that mean I'll also need corresponding merge boxes if I wish to record midi data from the various keyboards? Other than recording the notes of the arpeggiators, would that be musically useful? Or overkill?

Tom

PS: The audio mix is covered by a nice 16 stereo channel Speck line mixer, which is simply sending the stereo audio feed to the UR44.


Tom F.
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Re: Ableton Link [Re: Tom Fiala] #3004165 08/20/19 01:27 PM
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Dr Mike Metlay Offline
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Originally Posted by Tom Fiala
Thanks, Dr. Mike. Tremendous stuff in those 2 posts!
I will try the daisy chain experiment, and will report back. Stand by.

If I were to go with 2 of the 1 x 8 midi thru boxes.... does that mean I'll also need corresponding merge boxes if I wish to record midi data from the various keyboards? Other than recording the notes of the arpeggiators, would that be musically useful? Or overkill?

Tom

PS: The audio mix is covered by a nice 16 stereo channel Speck line mixer, which is simply sending the stereo audio feed to the UR44.



Speck? ENVY! WANT! grin

As to your other question, yes, you'd need something corresponding to get MIDI data back into your DAW, but I quail at the thought of your trying to juryrig something with merge boxes or routers. Let me think a bit on it, there has to be a solution for you... but in the meantime, I'd start hunting for a KMX MIDI Central or other large MIDI patchbay/interface on the used market. This is one area where multiple boxes are definitely not better than one!


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Ableton Link [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3004203 08/20/19 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr(!)Mike Metlay
Speck? ENVY! WANT! grin

And well you should.

I have a Speck x.sum as well. Totally worth the $$$. twothumbs

dB


Re: Ableton Link [Re: Dave Bryce] #3004232 08/20/19 07:09 PM
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Tom Fiala Offline OP
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dB: Thank you for your previous recommendation on the Speck: it's perfect!


Tom F.
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Re: Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface [Re: Tom Fiala] #3005093 08/26/19 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom Fiala
Hi Lab Docs!

My question is about the best way to hook up a variety of midi devices to your recording interface.

a) iPad running Cubasis 2.8, hooked up to a Steinberg UR44. (That part works fine.)
b) master controller - the Kurz Midiboard. Midi beat clock will come from Cubasis.
c) Prophet 600 with gligli
d) Prophet 6
e) Andromeda A6
f) Yami An1x
g) Solaris
h) Akai Ax80
i) Sub 37
j) Deckards Dream
k) Juno 66
l) Kiwi 3p
m) string machine
n) Yami Rx-5
o) Voce V5+
p) ESQ-1).

I'd like to be able to sync the various arpeggiators, and play the majority of the keyboards from the Midiboard.

Should I use a "Star" configuration, with either a dedicated midi patch bay or should I use a midi thru box? Do you have a suggestion for a midi patch bay that would do the job? (Does anyone even make a 16 x 16 midi patch bay?)

What's the best set-up for ease of use and accurate timing?

I appreciate the advice!


I count 16 devices above, each one at least offering a 1-port MIDI I/O (thru) ... right ?
Star-type MIDI rig is recommended !

I myself, I own the old hardware and much more devices to be connected incl. vintage and modern computers (ATARI, Mac & PC) as also several analog/digital generation keyboards and rackmount expander gear.
Old MIDI gear is Sycologic M16/16R (x2), Sycologic M16X 16x16 matrix switchers, Miditemp PMM88E 8x8 matrix switcher/processor, 2 Anatek Studio Merge (rackmount), 2 Midisolutions Merge boxes, 2 Casio TB-1 2in/8Out MIDIn thru boxes,- and some more not being in use all the time.
Computer MIDI interfaces is a selection of 2 Emagic MT-4, Opcode Studio64x, 2 MusicQuest (Opcode) 8PortSE, Steinberg Midex-8 and what´s available on my Creamware SCOPE PCI card and S|C XITE-1.
I only describe because it´s a system grown up over decades and it´s a lot of cables.

Even it worked perfect always, I now think about changing the system and going the MIDI-over-LAN route reducing cables and possibly cascading a modern MIDI interface allowing usage of DIN MIDI, USB, LAN and iOS devices all together as well as connecting 2 (TWO) computers to a single MIDI interface ...

And the one and only offering all these features seems to be iConnectivity mio10 which also supports rtpMIDI .

The mio10 is cascadable over LAN using a network switch or your in-house router and rtpMIDI.
And when you have your gear setup in several different rooms, you can use the network-over-powerline/power connectors in each room.
There are these network-adapters w/ a network connector you plug into a power outlet,- then connect a computer and/or networkMIDI interface via RJ45 network cable.
No long MIDI snakes anymore, just only a network cable to the wall and the 10x10 DinMIDI interface in each room w/ short cables to the hardware synths/keyboards and modules,- and at least a computer in your control room, running DAW and MIDI manager application organizing all the routing, merging and what´s available MIDI processing wise.
The main computer hosting DAW and MIDI-manager app runs bi-directional via network cable to the 10x10 MIDI interface.
For other Mac computers you might activate IAC network MIDI (implemented in OS X since 10.4. Tiger), which is high priority on every machine and render dedicated USB MIDI interfaces obsolete.

Nonetheless,- for USB3 there´s Alyseum U3-88c.

I learned,- iConnectivity works flawlessly w/ MAC and might have HAD some issues w/ Windows 7 some time ago.
Info is from user reviews.

I´m actually setting up a 64Bit Windows machine and when all is perfect, order a single mio10 to begin with.
We´ll see ...

smile

A.C.

Re: Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface [Re: Tom Fiala] #3005411 08/27/19 10:23 PM
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Wow, AC! Keep us posted on this, please!

mike


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Re: Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface [Re: Tom Fiala] #3005681 08/29/19 11:20 PM
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Hate to break it to you, but that iPad is still a computer. wink

I've not tried doing massive daisy chaining myself as every synth I have is on its own dedicated MIDI Out, and some have both on Out and In. However, I would suggest careful planning and documentation, and take it one step at a time. Figure out what you think it might all look like on paper first (or Excel spreadsheet or whatever makes you comfortable) and do it one step at a time. Trying everything at once is like boiling the ocean and can be overwhelming sometimes too.

What I'm worried about is something in the chain breaks the rest of the chain, and you lose where you started from and don't know how to get back to what was working.For example, I have some issues with my new Korg Minilogue XD. With MIDI Clock set to External and MIDI In and Out hooked up to my MOTU MTP 8x8, it literally messes with every other synth on my MIDI interface, like significant lag, missing notes, etc when controlled from my master keyboard. Heck, even the waveform display goes wonky during this issue. If I remove the MIDI Out cable or set MIDI Clock to Internal, everything returns to normal. I tried writing support twice and never could get an answer. So also expect to not get help on gear, even if it's new sometimes too. wink

Bottom line, keep a log of how you configure everything. Label your cables with address labels and write on those. If you change a setting in one of your synths, write that down. Hopefully you just hook it all up at once, and it all works. However, I'm more realistic, and expect something to not work as planned. smile

Devon


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Re: Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3005688 08/30/19 12:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Dr(!)Mike Metlay

First of all, off the top of my bean, I am not aware of anyone making a 16-port MIDI box of any kind any more. The KMX MIDI Central lived in my studio for years and gave great 15 x 16 performance, but they haven't been made for decades and are hard to find -- reverb.com hasn't had one up for auction in years, and Ebay is dry too.
The old Opcode Studio 5 LX could do this stuff very well and was 15 x 15, but it required Mac OS 9 to program it. (Ironically, I have one that's set up to do exactly what you want right away with no computer, it was set up to distribute MIDI Clock for a large live event with multiple synths... but if the internal memory battery were to die, it would irreparably lose its mind, so I couldn't sell it to you in good conscience.)


Mike, while 'technically' not one unit, you could daisy chain up to 8 Emagic AMT8/Unitor 8 and have them as one unit doing 64 ins and 64 outs. Since drivers stopped working after Windows XP for them, I'll defer over to you as the Mac guy, on configuring them. As I recall they didn't need any drivers with OSX? You could use them without a computer once you initially set them up.

Devon


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Re: Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface [Re: DevonB] #3005706 08/30/19 02:02 AM
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Originally Posted by DevonB


... you could daisy chain up to 8 Emagic AMT8/Unitor 8 and have them as one unit doing 64 ins and 64 outs.
... As I recall they didn't need any drivers with OSX? You could use them without a computer once you initially set them up.

Devon


They didn´t need "drivers" w/ Logic and Sounddiver, but IIRC, when using ´em outside of these apps, they needed Unitor8Control app at least for configuration,- no ?
On one of my harddrives I just found "UnitorMIDIDriver.dmg for Unitor8_AMT_MT4 and OS X 10.5.7 as also "Unitor8_Control.dmg" files.
I use AMT interfaces for Powerbook G3/MacOS9.22 and Powerbook G4/OS X 10.4.11 ... Sounddiver 3.0.4 and Logic 6.4.3.
IIRC, installing Unitor8Control automaticly installs a driver.

A.C.

Re: Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface [Re: Al Coda] #3005713 08/30/19 03:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Al Coda
Originally Posted by DevonB


... you could daisy chain up to 8 Emagic AMT8/Unitor 8 and have them as one unit doing 64 ins and 64 outs.
... As I recall they didn't need any drivers with OSX? You could use them without a computer once you initially set them up.

Devon


They didn´t need "drivers" w/ Logic and Sounddiver, but IIRC, when using ´em outside of these apps, they needed Unitor8Control app at least for configuration,- no ?
On one of my harddrives I just found "UnitorMIDIDriver.dmg for Unitor8_AMT_MT4 and OS X 10.5.7 as also "Unitor8_Control.dmg" files.
I use AMT interfaces for Powerbook G3/MacOS9.22 and Powerbook G4/OS X 10.4.11 ... Sounddiver 3.0.4 and Logic 6.4.3.
IIRC, installing Unitor8Control automaticly installs a driver.

A.C.


Forgive me, but I sold my AMT8/Unitor8 config back in 2010 and went with a MOTU setup instead since I'm on PC, so things are a bit fuzzy in the head. However, looking at the manual, there is Computer Mode and Patch Mode. Once you set up your interfaces, you could save it and do patch mode without the computer, which would have all your routing set up. I do miss being able to actually name my MIDI ports. Even the MOTU won't let you do that on the PC, just the Mac.

http://www.deepsonic.ch/deep/docs_manuals/emagic_unitor8_mkII_amt8_manual.pdf

Devon


Devon
Re: Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface [Re: Tom Fiala] #3006319 09/03/19 06:39 PM
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The same year I bought my new MIDIBoard (1989), I bought a JL Cooper MSB+ programmable 8x8 MIDI router/processor. That MSB+ was a great tool for routing MIDI from the MB to other MIDI devices - I'm now up to three of them, and they don't require a computer. No MIDI delays.

JL Cooper made a 16x20 MIDI matrix called the Synapse.

Yes there are new MIDI routers but they all require a computer and don't have the density of the old stuff.

Sometimes the old 80s gear fits the bill.

Stay away from chaining MIDI thrus, chaining two or more can create problems. I needed a 1in 8out MIDI Thru box for the old gear with MIDI in retrofits but no MIDI output. So I bought the MIDI Solutions T8 - so far so good.

Re: Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface [Re: Tom Fiala] #3006326 09/03/19 06:58 PM
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I also have an MSB plus as well as a Nexus. JL Cooper used to make some good tools for the MIDI world - also when it came to syncing with Tape before DAW's were so prevelent.


Dan

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.
Re: Midi chain vs. midi thru boxes and your interface [Re: DevonB] #3008250 09/16/19 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by DevonB

I've not tried doing massive daisy chaining myself as every synth I have is on its own dedicated MIDI Out, and some have both on Out and In. However, I would suggest careful planning and documentation, and take it one step at a time. Figure out what you think it might all look like on paper first (or Excel spreadsheet or whatever makes you comfortable) and do it one step at a time. Trying everything at once is like boiling the ocean and can be overwhelming sometimes too.
[...]
Bottom line, keep a log of how you configure everything. Label your cables with address labels and write on those. If you change a setting in one of your synths, write that down. Hopefully you just hook it all up at once, and it all works. However, I'm more realistic, and expect something to not work as planned. smile
Devon


Devon, I am probably out of line here, but you might want to post one or two of the studio photos you recently sent me, so folks can see you know whereof you speak. I know MY jaw was on the floor when I saw them. smile

mike


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.

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