Tag Archives: Developers

Music that Moves You

Maria Alejandra Diaz tells us about her experience playing the cello in her homeland of Venezuela, and the hopes she has for the future in her new home, Peru.

What made you decide to study music? Was it a personal decision or something your parents made you do?

Honestly, ever since I was little I’ve been very interested in the fine arts. First it was ballet and contemporary dance. Later I took up painting. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve entered the world of what is known in Venezuela – and internationally – as  “El Sistema,” which was founded by maestro Jose Antonio Abreu. His main objective has been to broaden the horizons – culturally and musically – of the country and get the youth interested in music.

My parents were always the first ones to support me in any initiative I may have had surrounding my curiosity for the fine arts. They supported me in developing other skills not just related to academia, although the decision was always mine to pursue such activities. They encouraged me to stick with such activities and not just abandon them further down the road.

Why the cello and not something else? Did you ever consider pursuing other instruments as well?

At first, I was most interested in the violin. My dad took me to see the Children’s Orchestra of Tachira, which is the province of Venezuela where I’m from, so that I could get a better idea of what instruments caught my attention. From that moment on, I decided I wanted to learn to play the violin.

Later, I auditioned for the Youth Orchestra Foundation “Luis Gilberto Mendoza” which was the base from which El Sistema operated. They evaluated aptitude for rhythm and solfege which is the fundamental basis for every musician. They loan out instruments and let you use their facilities until you can raise enough money to buy your own instrument.

When they asked me which instrument I wanted to play, they told me that there were no violins available to loan out, and they only had cellos and trumpets available. Of course, the trumpet was never to my liking, with the mouthpieces and parting of the lips and everything, and therefore I stayed with the cello, which was the best decision I could have made. It is an instrument with a unique sound and accompaniment and is – according to expert opinions – the sound that most resembles the human voice.

Are there musicians in your family?

My great-grandfather, on my mom’s side, had an orchestra called “Filo Rodríguez y Su Orquesta” in the 1940s. He was a trumpeter and the director. One of his sister’s was also an opera singer in a circus in Italy during the same time. My mother played piano, my father participated in the Christmas masses in choirs and playing, and my sister is an opera singer (Mezzo-soprano).

How old were you when you performed at your first recital? Where was it?

They usually recommend that you start studying music at an early age, not only because it’s common knowledge that children pick up new skills more easily, but above all because of the muscle memory that comes with studying string instruments (violin, viola, cello, bass). Starting early helps your fingers develop accordingly. For example, for the case of the violin, it is best that players have thin, not so large fingers. In my case, I started at 14 years old, and I had my debut 3 months after starting at the Pre-Children’s Orchestra in San Cristóbal – Táchira State.  This was, of course, very ironic because of my age, but it was the group that It started at the same time that I entered “the system” and it was for ages 8 to 12. There was already a Children’s Orchestra, so we could not call ourselves the same thing or play the same pieces as them because of the level of difficulty .

Then I moved quickly to the Children’s Orchestra and then to the Youth Orchestra. It was in the latter that I had the opportunity to play as a guest on 2 occasions with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Táchira. A year and a half later, I formally joined that orchestra.

With the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, I had the opportunity to be a soloist and play with musicians of international renown – such as violist Frank Di Polo, pianist Arnaldo Pizzolante, and guitarist Alirio Díaz, among others.

Who are some musicians (past or present) that you admire?

Among the musicians that I admire most are Jacqueline du Pré and Yo-Yo Ma. With rock, I like Apocalyptica, which is a symphonic metal band formed by 4 cellists graduated from a classical music academy called Sibelius. In the beginning, they covered Metallica songs which then made them famous. Also, 2cellos is a duo of Croatian cellists who make versions of songs by Michael Jackson, Guns and Roses, Jimi Hendrix, and more. It’s really fun to listen to them.

How much time do you dedicate to practicing cello?

In Venezuela, I devoted every afternoon to studying and practicing cello. The Foundation had an academic center where they teach classes in rhythm, theory and solfege, harmony and then classes related to each specific instrument taught by a professional – usually members of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra. All of these classes were distributed throughout the week.

In addition to the classes, there were also rehearsals with the Orchestra, which were everyday, Monday through Friday from 6pm to 9 or 10 at night, depending on the difficulty of the work and the time needed to rehearse. If they were complicated pieces to execute, each leader who was a kind of representative of the group of musicians for a particular instrument, would host additional workshops to go in depth and see the synchronization, harmony, solos, and tuning.

It really was a full-time commitment. But when you like what you do, you’re not aware of how much time it takes.

Do you have plans for the future with regard to music?

Since I moved to Peru, I have not been able to continue with music because when I left the country, I didn’t know where I was going to settle down. Also because of economic issues, I had to sell my cello in Venezuela to help my mother with medical treatment. I’ve been checking with friends who still belong to El Sistema to find out if there are organizations like the ones there which can help me with loaning a cello while I save to buy my own, and also where I could resume my classes. In the near future, I hope to belong to another orchestra and continue enjoying this most beautiful form of art.

5 WWDC ’16 Announcements Every Software Development Company Needs to Know

By Coleman Miller – iOS Developer at Santex

wwdc16

Apple made a lot of announcements last month in its annual World Wide Developer Conference, and introduced the latest versions of its operating systems and developer tools. Here is a breakdown of the most important announcements that will affect software development companies moving forward.

1. SiriKit

In my opinion, this is the most sought-after functionality developers and clients alike have requested over the years. Well, its finally here. Apple is providing a public API so third parties can develop iOS extensions that trigger in response to Siri. The only drawback is that it is limited to the following categories:

  • Audio or video calling
  • Messaging
  • Payments
  • Searching photos
  • Workouts
  • Ride booking

In addition to these new features, its worth mentioning that Siri already supports automotive control features with CarPlay, and HomeKit has allowed allowed Home Automation with Siri since iOS 8. This new API is going to help usher in a wave of innovation and new categories of mobile apps we haven’t seen before. It will also greatly improve the UX of existing apps like Uber and WhatsApp.

2. Swift 3

Although this should be #1 on this list, I believe Swift will bring more changes to software industry in the long term, but short term, Swift 3.0 is a huge improvement from 2.3. One of the biggest breaking changes is Apple adding “Swift Overlays” to its frameworks (some of which were originally written in Objective-C in the 90s) to make Swift a first-class citizen for iOS development. Another breaking change that will affect every single iOS app (with any Swift code), is the move by Apple to forgo classes in favor of structs and value types in its Foundation framework. This is more than a simple API change, it’s in fact, a huge paradigm change for current Apple Developers and programmers coming from other languages like Java, C#, and JavaScript. C developers should feel at home though. Unlike last year, Apple is letting developers chose between Swift 3.0 and Swift 2.3 for publishing apps to the App Store, so developers can take their time migrating to the new version of Swift.

3. Home App

When HomeKit was announced in iOS 8, it took a while for companies to make their existing IoT products HomeKit-compatible. Fast forward 2 years, and now HomeKit is a first-class citizen of iOS, even shipping a beautiful `Home.app` on your home screen. HomeKit’s goal is the unification of IoT and Home Automation products by adopting an Apple-defined protocol so they can easily talk to each other. This allows you to control the lights in your house via Siri, and setup home automation rules (Apple calls them “Scenes”) similar to what IFTTT does with apps. While Apple has accomplished this goal protocol-wise (by providing both HTTP and Bluetooth variations of its HomeKit Accessory Protocol to encompass all manner of devices), besides the Siri integration, Apple provided no user interface for HomeKit, and on the app side, that experience was fragmented. With the new Home app, centralized home automation is easier than ever, and you won’t need to download the specific third-party apps for each HomeKit accessory you purchase. This should boost HomeKit’s popularity and demand with hardware developers.

4. WatchOS GPU-accelerated Games

WatchOS is in a special category of iOS development due to the lack of native APIs like OpenGL and UIKit. While most attribute the App Store’s success to the proliferation of mobile games, that innovation and boom would have not been possible had the iPhone only allowed Web apps like Steve Jobs originally planned. Due to the issue of battery life, the Apple Watch provides a very limited API for native apps, in fact, its more limited then making an average website. One way Apple wants to lure developers to its WatchOS platform is by allowing them to make OpenGL accelerated 2D and 3D games with its SpriteKit and SceneKit frameworks. Since this is what many developers have asked for since day one, it will promote a boom of WatchOS games, like we see on the iOS and tvOS platforms. One drawback is the fact that those platforms can use OpenGL and natively port their code from Android, to iOS. WatchOS game developers will have to rewrite their rendering code for Apple’s platform.

5. Message and Map Extensions

With the introduction of iOS extensions in iOS 8, Apple has allowed third party apps to embed a part of their app in Apple’s stock apps (e.g. Contacts, Photos) and other third party apps. Now in iOS 10, developer’s can write extensions for the Message and Map stock apps. This will allow users to use apps like Uber and Yelp in the stock `Maps.app` without having to switch between contexts. The Message extensions allow all manner of custom content in the stock iOS messaging app, again, allowing for a new category of mobile apps.

About the AuthorColeman Miller is an experienced iOS Developer at Santex,  passionate about his work.  Coleman is continuously learning and training to investigate new technologies.