Archive for February, 2015

Why I quit after a streak of almost 300 days…

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

When browsing, there are occasionally posts like “Useful websites” and the language-minded links listed usually never fail to mention DL lets you learn languages for free.

I signed up to learn some more Italian. At that time the course was not available for native German speakers so I changed the language preferences to English and signed up for the Italian/English course.
DL tries to keep you motivated by giving you a virtual coin if you complete a 10 days streak, two for a twenty day streak and so on. You also get virtual coins by completing a course section.

As the title says, I had completed a streak of almost 300 days when all my frustrations on DL erupted and I deactivated my account.

Why? Several reasons:

1) Whoever builds up the examples database of English sentences to be translated into Italian is not a native English speaker so the sentences sound weird and unnatural. Apparently not all English sentences are proofread either.
This leads you to actually learn terrible English sentences by heart rather than learning Italian.

2) The sections are theme-based e.g. sports, weather, business etc. If you translate everything theme-related correctly but write “this” instead of “that”, the whole sentence is marked wrong. After a couple of innocent mistakes like that in a lesson, the time-based repetition mechanism marks the lesson as “unlearned” which means you might be an expert on sports/business/weather but you have to repeat the lesson anyway.
My way around that was to build up a database of sentences, over a thousand in the end from which I could copy the correct answers. Not the optimal way to learn a language, I know, but as I am prone to those small but costly errors, I saw no other way.

3) Per problem, there is a discussion board. Usually, the more comments there are, the more controversial a sentence is. People post equally correct answers and improvements, ask about details and such but if the moderators read those posts, they never do anything about it. Still, the community within DL is quite helpful and friendly.

4) Reporting is virtually useless because rarely ever someone acts on it. Per problem you can also write a problem report. I’ve written dozens and dozens and only occasionally got a reply. When I started the German course (as a native speaker, I wanted to see how quickly I can finish the course) I found so many sentences that were weird and wrote so many reports but I never heard anything back. And I’m not the only one… people usually post “reported on xx/xx/xx” on the discussion board and still months later, only the crappy original solution would be accepted.

5) A language is a living thing, there are dozens of correct way to translate a sentence and yet, the solution coming from a db, can only correct a small amount of typos. Same as in other languages, there are differences between German in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Why would I have to think like a German if my answer is perfectly correct in Austria or Switzerland? Imagine you taking a real-life class and the teacher would mark your answer as incorrect just because the teacher hails from a different part of a country?

6) The algorithm that chooses the problems still needs a lot of work. I’ve worked through lessons such as sports where I had to consecutively answer the same problem three times.

7) The problem databases are one-way only but not vice versa. A correct solution to a translation problem might be marked as incorrect if you put the same reply into the translation problem coming from the other language.

The good thing about DL? It’s free – that is if I don’t count the keyboards I smashed in frustration. I feel much better now that I’ve quit DL.

Recording in Cubase 7.5 using the Tascam US-366

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

I upgraded my audio recording setup to Win8.1 and Cubase 7.5 (64bit) and installed the Tascam US-366, a USB-soundcard.

At first, I had a hard time finding the correct settings for recording but after a bit of fiddling I am able to record a drum track (drum computer) and a guitar track at the same time.

If you’re still lost, read on. Please be warned that this post is very basic. I’ll explain how to record mono tracks and I still have some questions regarding my own setup. But I hope I’ll be able to put you on the right tracks *chuckle*

1) Install the US-Tascam 366 as explained in the the guide. Make it your default sound device in Windows. Set it to Multi Track (switch on the back)

2) Open a Cubase project, set the VST connections – Input as follows:


That is, if you’re recording a mono track. Also, I’m not sure if these are the default settings for the TASCAM. These settings work for my setup, maybe you will have to change them.

3) Set the VST connections – Outputs as follows:


* Note: You can test the output settings quite easily: Import an audio track into Cubase (menu File -> Import -> Import audio file…) and play around with the Outputs until you can hear the music playing. Make sure that the correct Audio Device is selected and that you can also play audio files in Windows e.g. using VLC

4) In a project, add an audio track. And here comes the tricky part: In the track inspector, the correct input and output must be set as well:

track_presetI used this track for the guitar. The second track for the drum machine has the input “Mono In 2”

Basically, that’s it! Hope this helps you some, be creative!

Bonus tip: If you want to record both tracks at the same time, open the mixer (F3) and select the tracks you want to record – provided you set them to separate inputs as explained above:

MixerOf course, naming the tracks helps the overview quite a lot…



I wrote I’m using Win 8.1 for recording. Please don’t get me wrong. Win 8.1 and its farked up mix of GUI paradigms is the worst version of Windows I’ve ever come across. Usually I prefer to work on Ubuntu but Cubase does not come with a Linux version. And Mac OS X is getting worse and worse. I know there are alternatives on Linux, thank you. But I’ve visited an expensive course for Cubase, so that’s that.
Anyway, the only good thing about Win 8.1 is its quick boot compared to Windows 7. And once you install Classic Shell you basically get a usable Windows version.