Thursday, December 11, 2003

Just reading about the nutty opening of the Ginza Apple store in Japan. The japanese seem to love this retail as art worship stuff. I first observed this when visiting Honolulu and saw all the high-end stores catering to the Japanese tourists.

This guy's blog about the opening is facinating and nutty!

I just had a thought of what this whole Apple cult reminds me of. It's kind of like being in high-school again and the really cool kids wear the right clothes and do all the cool things. Of course, Steve Jobs is the ring leader of this coolathon. The problem I have is it is pretty elitist and exclusionary. Apple is exclusionary by over charging for what are underneath pretty ordinary pieces of electronic equipment that are easily duplicated by millions of chinese factory workers. But, slap an Apple logo on it and a shiny monochrome paint job and you have instant retail as art object d'arte pagan god worship.


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Holy Crap! Comcast just doubled their download speeds for all their customers. Amazing. They are obviously having teething problems since I still get a a lot of DNS "address not found" errors but I remain hopeful that this will settle down.

This does explain why things have been so inconsistent of late with Comcast. Comcast is truly a mysterious company. It would be great if they would choose to be more communicative with their customers.

Anyway, I'm doing a download of the latest Knoppix Linux CD to see what kind of speeds I can achieve. It looks pretty good right now. Around 200k with BitTorrent. I think it could be better?

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Enjoying the post Thanksgiving holiday.

My GradParty 2003 video went over well. I feel this was my best editing work. I am glad to have this finished. I am planning on distributing all of my family videos to family members around the country this Christmas. I'll need to dupe about a half dozen or so.

Catching up on computer maintenance. I installed the latest Adobe Album 2.0 upgrade. Also installed the recently received Serif Page Plus 9 software.

Recently, I saw a news item that Microsoft and Computer Associates were offering free antivirus and firewall software for download. I generally dislike antivirus software because I am behind a hardware router so I have some immunity. In addition, I keep the Windows update current. So, I've never really had a problem. I have tried several anti-virus programs over the years. Panda Software was truly awful. Trend Micro's PC-cillen was just okay. I've used Computer Associates antivirus in the past and found it to be competent and unobtrusive. In fact, Computer Associates was the vendor for anti-virus at Microsoft when I was there. What's surprising is how little coverage this offer has received. It seems like a great offer.

I am still thinking over my new motherboard purchase. I updated my wish list at to the Abit IC7 Max3. This looks like a killer board. Still thinking about if this is the right time to make this purchase.

New digital camera purchase is on hold. Too many choices. I can't make up my mind.

On a whim I bought a new CD/DVD/SACD player for my tube based living room audio system. I bought the Philips DVD763SA from Music Direct who I have bought from over the years. They had it for $125 which was pretty attractive for the features. So, I ordered it. About the time it arrived, I saw an ad in a PC Connection catalog for the same unit for $89! That was quite a difference in price so I called up Music Direct and after some discussion they agreed to give me a store credit for the difference. I posted the $89 dollar link on Audio Asylum.

So how does it sound? I think some break in is still needed. SACDs sound the best. CD playback seems to be okay but maybe a little harsh. I may play with cables to see if this has any effect. Break in is probably the answer. I did put some spongy rubber feet on the bottom I had lying around. Maybe this will help? I am tempted to open this up and take a look around inside. Supposedly, these cheap units have horrible switching power supplies. I don't know if there's much one can do from an upgrade standpoint. This unit also purports to play MP3 based disks. This would be useful for casual background music listening. Well after much testing and burning of various test disks I have determined that this feature is broken on this unit. It will play a few MP3s but then get lost and either stop or get stuck and require a reboot. Additionally, sometimes for no apparent reason the MP3 sound output will be soaked in a harsh digital distortion. The distortion is intermittent and appears at random times. I have tried many different ways of burning MP3 compilation CD-Rs and none of them work successfully with this unit all the time. This must be one reason this unit is being discontinued. Oh well, it would have been useful but the important bits, SACD and CD playback, seem to work fine. Curiously, I cannot find any mention of the Philips MP3 problem on the Net. I can't believe I am the only one to encounter this.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Okay, in the category of technology in search of a purpose, I see that Microsoft's Spot seems to be dead on arrival according to this story by the Register.

Spot was supposed to be this radio delivered news service for geeks wearing stupid watches. I don't even wear a watch! Apparently, neither does Steve Ballmer which may be the most telling. It always amazes me the stuff that gets green lighted at Microsoft. What is so compelling about this product? Don't we already have pagers, cell phones, text messaging, etc. If anything I want to be out of contact as much as possible.

My prediction is Microsoft Spot will never ship. Now, that's an easy one. Sheeesh!

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Well I finally got motivated again to work on my latest family video. This one covers the graduation of my nephews and nieces from college and high school. I shot the principal video at their graduation party in June. I had worked out an approximate storyboard in my mind that would begin the video with the minute thirty bit of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance. I would use this as bed for "Ken Burn's Effect" panned still images of the actual graduations. I had a lot of fun making cuts based on musical beats. I think people will be impressed. I then fade to black and do an abrupt change to the actual party. Overall, I've got about 9 minutes so far. I want to go back to the video to see if there are any more choice bits I can include. Once, the editing is done I can render to DVD Mpeg 2. Then all I have to do is prepare a new DVD menu graphic and write the new DVD with the previous "films" I've made. The whole thing gets that big debut on Thanksgiving. It's become a bit of a tradition to debut a new video every Thanksgiving.

I am thinking of sending copies of the completed DVD to other family members around the country as a Christmas gift. It might be fun.

I've been using Sonic Foundry's Vegas 4 for my video editing. This is another fantastic piece of software and is performing very rock solidly for me. For a quick check, I rendered straight to a VCD to look at on my TV. I wasn't expecting much quality wise but I was very impressed that things looked so good with this format. The DVD should be even better.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Oh, I also tried out my new leaf blower on Saturday. Now that I have so many more leaves, raking just wasn't going to cut it. The leaf blower worked really well. I just put in my ear plugs and fired it up. I got a real nice pile. Hopefully they will get picked up in the next week. I figure I've got at least one or two more leaf roundups to go.
I recently had a problem again with my Linksys Wet-11 Wi-Fi bridge. One day all of a sudden it was dead and the wlan and ethernet leds were dead. I fiddled with it but could not get it to respond. I don't know if this was a result of recent sun spot activity or what?

Finally, I unplugged it and installed my spare SMC USB Wi-Fi adapter and continued on. A day later I plugged the Linksys back in and it starts working again. Weird. I beginning to think that since this runs continuously that maybe it locks up after so many months? I did download an updated firmware just in case. It seems to be working normally again.

I went to CompUSA today to pick up a 256mb SD card for my new Palm Tungsten E. I thought I would allocate this card to just music. The player on the Tungsten is not bad. This has been an unexpected surprise and really increase the usefullness of the device. Of course CompUSA was out of stock. There may be a truck this week. The price was attractive and there was no rebate involved. Hooray.

I finally got around to installing Sonar 3. This went smoothly. Sonar 3 is really a great program and the Producer edition comes with some great add-ons including the Lexicon reverb. I recorded a quick little guitar, drum, synth test and got some good results. I uploaded the song as Film Cue No. 44. I hope to do a lot more recording this winter. I certainly have the tools now.

I continue to analyze my new computer build. I seem to be swaying towards the Abit IC7-G Max II Advance motherboard. It's got everything and has gotten great reviews. This will be the first Pentium system in quite some time. I've come to the conclusion that it's too early to jump into the Athlon 64 stream. I've got the Antec Sonata silent case so I'll have to decide when to make the next purchase which will be most of the hardware minus the hard disc and DVD writer. This next stage will run about $700. Let's see how the market does?

I'm also still considering a digital camera upgrade. Over the summer I had pretty much settled on the Olympus 750 10x zoom. I see now it has come down and is now about $500 at J&R. Now I see that the Nikon 5700 has also dropped to $799. I'm not sure about the Nikon but it now becomes more interesting. Also, the release of the new Canon Digital Rebel at $999 has generated some buzz. Not sure I want to get involved in that system. There's no rush although it might be nice to have in Hawaii in February 2004.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Sunny and cooler today. Nice after all the rain. I've been sluggish lately. Need to get to work on some projects but I've had trouble getting motivated.

Listening to Rush. My favorite fill-in host, Walter E. Williams, is on today.

I was watching CNBC this morning and they had on the apparently wacko leftist Rep. Pete Stark from California. If this is representitive of Democrat thinking then it's going to be tough sledding in future national elections. He actually called President Bush a "facist". Unbelievable! The name calling that Democrats often resort to is degrading to their cause.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The more I read about Longhorn, the next Microsoft OS, the more baffled I become. Couple this with a projected release date of 2006 and I am even more puzzled. Meanwhile, I also read that Microsoft has all but given up standalone Internet Explorer development. Add that to the growing list of Microsoft abandoware such as Outlook Express and things are looking pretty grim.

I've now switched to Mozilla 1.5 for my browsing needs. The tabbed browsing alone makes this a winner. Of course I switched to OpenOffice years ago and the current 1.1 version is very usable.

While I got Windows XP on my Dell Laptop this summer, I can't say I'm at all impressed with this OS. I can't find one thing that says this a real improvement over Windows 2000. I wasn't that bowled over with Windows 2000 initially either but time and four service packs later have smoothed the rough edges.

With a new OS release three years out, some effort needs to go into shoring up Windows XP with a significant Service Pack. This should be priority number one. This manhattan project style programming effort for the OS is becoming very tedious. If Windows 2000 and Windows XP are so great in the first place, why do they need to be entirely rewritten and take years to update? I guess the whole continuing Windows security fiasco has really hit home, finally. Microsoft only starts to respond when real money is at stake. I guess push back from customers is starting to have it's effect. I do not envy the Microsoft shlubs having to sell this stuff. I got out at the right time! Life was so much simpler.

The quote about Windows being just a bunch of debugged device drivers (Andreeson) seems to be more relevant than ever.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Long time since I blogged. Lots going on.

My nephew and his landscaping company completed the buildout of backyard. It now looks stunning.

Making lots of purchases lately. New Dell 19" Flat Panel. MadDog Nvidia 5200 graphics card. M-Audio BX-5's for the upstairs system. I also picked up on sale the Antec Sonata quiet pc case. I am spec'ing out a new downstairs system. I am considering an Athlon 64 but it may be premature at this point. Intel's Pentium 4's are getting more price competitive so I may go this direction this time. I'm going to build up this system slowly - no rush. I probably will go with an external audio solution like M-Audio's Fireport 410 this time around.

Hope to get into a more regular posting routine as I spend more time inside. Incredible weather today. About 80! This can't be November in the Northeast?

Friday, September 26, 2003

So far, the hunt for the elusive Palm Tungsten E pda has come up empty. Called all the local stores and everyone is cluesless. I still hope something will materialize by next Wednesday's official launch.

My couple of days of roving Wi-Fi was a success. I did try to find the free Wi-Fi in the Bethesda Ave area but there was nothing that I could find.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Due to the Isabel blackout this week, I've been testing the waters of roaming Wi-Fi. Yesterday, still without power since 9/18, I bit the bullet and bought a t-mobile day pass ($10) which is good for 24 hours. While I believe t-mobile's pricing is too high for the casual user I thought this as good a time as any to try it. Even though I got power back at 1 am today (9/24), I didn't have any food in house so I thought I'd keep up my wi-fi test and travel to another Starbucks for breakfast this morning and use some more of my day pass. After I leave my present location (Starbucks, Chevy Chase Lakes), I am headed to Bethesda Ave to try out the rumored free Wi-Fi at that location. My day pass runs out at 2 pm today.

As usual, the marketers have missed an opportunity. Business news reports have said the t-mobile subscriber rates have been very slow for their hotspots. This says that they have a poor pricing model. I already pay $60 a month to Comcast for cable internet and have a wi-fi rig in my house. I'm not going to pay another premium for the occasional starbucks wi-fi connection. Starbucks should offer a deal with a latte purchase of maybe $2 or $3 dollars extra for some wi-fi access. The $6 minimum for one hour of access is just not compelling unless you are desperate.

I'm also on the hunt for a new PDA. Palm is releasing a couple of hot new pda's on 10/1. I'm interested in the Tungsten E which will retail for $199. I went to Office Depot and CompUSA and both were clueless. I am anxious to nail this one down since I expect to sell out quickly. We'll see.

Got my new Dell 19" LCD for my upstairs pc rig on Monday. Of course no power, but I set it up and it looks real nice. I'll get a chance to use it this afternoon when I get home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Been a while since I blogged.

I visited my brand new Starbucks that just opened last Saturday. I've been anticipating this for over a year. Yay!

I'll be walking to the Starbucks which should do wonders for my exercise.

I will also be checking out the free Wireless day sponsored by Intel. It will be fun to check this out with my new Dell Centrino laptop next Thursday.

Ordered the new Sonar 3 Producer today. Should ship in October. The new interface looks slick.

Hurricane Isabel dominates the news. My Mom has been calling me daily with things I should do to prepare. I am kind of indifferent. I think the MEDIA has overhyped this one. We'll see.

Received the Kensington LCD desktop monitor arm. Small issues with install but it works great and frees up my desk space. I can now also rotate my monitor 90 degrees and work in portrait mode. I set up some hotkeys in the Nvidia desktop manager to toggle between portrait and landscape. Very cool.

Ordered a new Dell 19 inch LCD for my den PC. Got a very good price - $490. This will replace the now 10 year old NEC tube monitor that is showing it's age. I may upgrade my video in this PC from the built in motherboard to an Nvidia or ATI.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Gad the weather is crappy today. We've been in this funk for weeks with awful humidity and overcast skies. I wish for a snow storm to clear this stuff away.

Today is my day to bitch at people. First Comcrap was down for the second time in a week. Tech support clueless as usual. If it's too hard why bother? Then I bugged the Mall people about when they are going to come and trim their trees that hang over my house and threaten to cause great harm! It's only been a month since they first promised they would take care of it.

One redeeming thing I'm doing today is checking out two new music artists I have recently learned about.

First up is Kaki King, a cute 23 year old girl who plays guitar like Michael Hedges and Stanley Jordan. Oh to be young again.

Second is a cool band from NYC called Fuller. Sort of an American Philharmonie. I sent a link to my record friend Steve who probably already knows them? But, I will be interested in what he says.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

This article about a former fellow Softie showed up in my inbox today. In fact, we were in MS101 together. I dare say he always viewed me with a bit of suspicion. I always seem to be on the outside looking in. MSFT is not a place for contrary thinkers. You have to drink the coolaid regularly to keep in sync. Interesting how now he's the MS Linux point man. I could take a few potshots but I'll refrain for now. All I will say is MSFT certainly resembles the government in Orwell's 1984 - constantly shifting who the enemies and friendlies are. It would appear things are quite a bit different now that Options are history.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Recently finished reading William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. I very much enjoyed this book. I've collected a bunch of his books but this was the first that I have gotten around to reading. I think I was particularly intrigued with the book because it takes place in part in London very near to where I lived (Notting Hill) when I was very young. In addition, I liked the very contemporary Net allusions and references to interesting artists such as Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Speaking of London. Here's a fun picture I recently received:

Chris - Age 3 (1963) - London

Vortex Art

Ok, here's another variation created by running the picture through the Dreamy Photo plugin. I may like this better?


Vortex Art

Playing with Photoshop today and some shapes I downloaded. Came up with this rather "spacey" or "sci-fi" looking picture. Makes a nice wallpaper. Maybe I'll post on Deskmod. I'll have to play with this some more. Fun!


Friday, July 25, 2003

On Wednesday, I attended another great and free concert at the Kennedy Center Millenium Stage. On tap was a return performance by the fabulous Irish band Lunasa. This has to be one of the best Celtic bands working today. I snagged front row seats and had a blast! Read a review here (scroll to bottom of page).
Interesting article about how Microsoft should bite the bullet and just build antivirus software into Windows. I think the article makes very good points. I've always felt that antivirus was a tax on the enduser that was poorly implemented in most cases. I've looked at many of these packages and they all have fatal flaws that make the cure worse than the problem. I actually do not run an antivirus package in realtime as the impact on performance is far too high - not to mention other glitches. For example, I recently installed a free copy of Platinum 7 from Panda Software which came with a free year of signature updates. After going through the faulty and laborious registration process I proceeded to test drive the realtime Mail and File monitoring features. Well, immediately I noticed I was having problems downloading my POP3 mail. It became obvious that the Panda Software was the culprit and I disabled all realtime features. I'm sure Panda Software has some excuse but in my book this is ridiculous! As with all other antivirus software, it also noticeably dragged down the performance of my system.

I've been computing on PCs for approximately 20 years and have never been infected by a virus. I do periodically run an on demand virus check but my main defences are common sense, my hardware firewall (NAT), and keeping all systems up to date with Windows security updates. One good feature is the free online antivirus test that Panda Software offers at their web site. For many people that practice sensible computing this is probably all that is needed. Essentially, antivirus software is a joke.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Another hot Saturday afternoon. Today I decided to install the recently arrived Antec TruePower quiet power supply and another Zalman Flower fan on my upstairs system. The install went smoothly and I am up and running. Initial tests indicate I am running at least 10°c cooler with this solution. This should bode well for system stability and longevity.

Catching up on some software updates.

I continue to tweak my NeroCDC program. So far I haven't had any feedback. Admittedly, it is rather specialized. Now that I've reawakened my Pascal skills I keep thinking of things to add. I am contemplating adding another "mode" that would allow the program to write data in a tabbed delimited format that would be useful in a Desktop pub program. The track data would slot right into an existing table layout. This would entail adding a listbox to select the mode and then inserting an alternative CD info routine that would layout the data in a tabbed format. Also thinking of changing the file to save to the desktop to facilitate locating or renaming, etc. Looks like I'll be tweaking this one for a while!

Monday, July 14, 2003

Forgot to mention that I also upload another new song to AcidPlanet. This one is called Serengeti and I think it is one of the better things I've done. All done in Acid and I played all the sounds. Check it out!

Lots going on in the past week.

Last Sunday, I got a call at the beach from my neighbor informing me that a storm had knocked over my favorite tree in my front yard. It was a beautiful sugar maple and I will sorely miss it. It was very healthy. It was odd in that it made a clean break at the base. I contacted my nephew who has his own landscape business and he was able to clear the debris from neighbor's driveway. Amazingly, a few days later a team of county trucks and workers showed up and cleared all the remaining debris and the main trunk. Now all that remains is a hole that I will fill with a new tree.

Lots to catch up on since returning from the beach last Tuesday.

Since the weather has become warm, I've noticed that my upstairs PC gets rather warm despite the addition of an exhaust fan. I've had good luck with the Zalman CPU flower cooler products so I ordered another one plus a quiet Antec power supply to see if I can get the system a bit cooler and quieter. It seems that the AMD 2100 I have starts to get flaky if it reaches 65� c.

I wanted to do some slide scanning so I decided to hook up my Minolta Dimage Scan II USB. This was a refurb unit I bought about a year ago. It was DOA on arrival. I sent it to Minolta for repair. I had not used it much since it was returned. Again it is DOA. This was a purchase mistake. I literally threw it into the trash. I got on the web and ordered a Minolta Dimage Scan III USB from This unit is USB 2.0 so it should be noticeably quicker. I'm wedded to the Dimage line because I purchased the auxiliary APS mechanism ($80) and I would like to continue to use this accessory. This one better work!

I've been using Nero's Cover Designer lately. It has some odd quirks which I attribute to its Germanic origin but it works pretty well. One quirk is it can import CD layout data but only if the text file is a proprietary format ending in a CDC extension. This file is only created when using the Nero Burning Rom and launching the Cover Designer from there. Unfortunately, I wanted to read the CD contents from previously burned CDs. It was a slow process to read in the contents of the CD into the Burning Rom and then launch the Cover Designer. It also didn't work well if there were multiple discs. I embarked on a Google search to find a program that would write a properly formatted file in the Nero CDC format. Well, after many searches and reading other people's comments about the same problem I did not find anything that directly addressed the problem.

So, I decided that I should write a utility that would address this odd shortcoming. How hard could this be? Well, It's been about ten years since I did any programming so I am very rusty. Nonetheless, I had installed and kept current a copy of the free Delphi 6 IDE. I've always loved Pascal and the Borland environment.

After searching the Delphi news groups via Google, I started to grasp the fundamentals of what was needed. Thankfully, Delphi includes VCL component files that package all the functionality that is needed. Specifically, the TMediaPlayer component was the key to unlocking this project. After a slow start and cutting and pasting a lot of sample code, I was able to cobble together NeroCDC which may now be downloaded from my website. You can read more in my announcement. It is modestly robust and has all the functionality that I originally envisioned. It writes both to a file and copies to the clipboard. The resulting file seems to import flawlessly into Nero's Cover Designer. Mission accomplished!

This modest success at programming makes me think that maybe I can knock off the occasional utility now and then. Delphi definitely makes it very easy.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Still at the beach. It is very hot and humid. Continuing to read William Gibson's latest - Pattern Recognition. So far, I'm enjoying it. It's starting to remind me of the Wim Wender's film Until the End of the World. The globetrotting and video footage in the novel have a Wenderian feel. I sure wish that somehow the full 5 hour version of Until the End of the World would get released on DVD. There have been rumours but so far no concrete results.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Once again back at beach. Weather very rainy yesterday. Seems to have cleared somewhat today. I have just finished Michael Crichton's Timeline. Very enjoyable as usual. I see the movie is not coming out until November. Just started William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. Reading novels is becoming quite the habit! When I get back home, I plan to pick up the new James Gleick bio of Iassic Newton and of course the new Harry Potter.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Just got back from the beach. Great to sleep in my own comfy bed again. I was pretty frustrated at the beach. Weather very hot and humid. Stuck inside the condo.

I was fairly productive with my new Dell 600m. I wrote a little music snippet in Acid. Since I didn't bring my M-Audio Oxygen MIDI keyboard I tried composing using the MIDI piano roll. Surprisingly, I was able to get something interesting out. I call it Experiment 01 - Jazz From Hell as it turned out sounding a little like Frank Zappa's Jazz From Hell synclavier experiments. It seems to reflect my state of frustration at the time.

I went out and purchased the M-Audio Revolution soundcard for my upstairs workstation. This was necessitated by the fact that my recent purchase of the M-Audio MobilePre USB turned up a glitch. Namely, the driver doesn't re-init after coming out of sleep mode. This was not tolerable for me so I decided to get with a PCI card and I can use the MobilePre whenever I want to record an instrument.

Very excited to be going to the free Nickel Creek concert at the Kennedy Center today. I'm expecting a large crowd so I am going three hours early. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Currently at beach. Catching up on reading, etc. w.blogger app is having a problem with some kind of switchover at Hope they resolve it soon since I very much prefer using w.blogger now.

Weather getting hot. After a long delay, summer has apparently arrived.

Friday, June 13, 2003

I've been working on converting the BMW Films to VideoCD. I finally seem to have a good method to convert between the source WMV files and custom MPEG 1 files using the excellent TMPEnc encoder. I did a test burn using the equally useful VCDEasy. While watching the film Chosen, I noticed something new at the end of this Ang Lee directed film. In an apparent nod to his forthcoming film, The Hulk, the band-aid has a cartoon of the Hulk. Chosen was made quite some time ago so this is a nice little wink and a nod to the audience. I wonder if the Chosen will be played before the Hulk at its screening?

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I have mixed feelings about the new Showtime series Out of Order but there were some bits of music that caught my ear. The wife of the protagonist, who is suffering from a mental illness, frequently sits at her piano and plays the very pretty and melancholy Debussy composition Reverie from the Children's Corner suite. This has always been one of my fave piano collections so I knew it immediately. I poked around the Showtime web board and saw that someone had misidentified it as another Debussy piece. I of course set the record straight.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

I was interested to note that David Hafler died this past week. Due to my long running audiophile obsession, I built a Hafler amp kit about 20 years ago. The amp is still running to this day as part of my brother's stereo system. I was so excited when I received the kit that I stayed up all night and finished it in one night. It worked from the first time I turned it on and continues to this day.

Hafler's influence in the nascent audio industry is right up there with the other greats such as Fisher, Marantz, etc.

It is also interesting that my latest preamp, the McCormack MAP-1, uses an Ambient Recovery Mode (ARM) that has some basis in the equally famous Hafler Circuit. I feel I was somewhat of a pioneer when I installed my first car stereo in my VW bug in the late seventies and built a rear speaker platform that used this Hafler Circuit. The crux of this setup is that you send the positive connectors of both the left and right amplifier channels to the third rear channel. The sound that is emitted from this third speaker is the difference between the two channels which is in essence the out of phase "ambient" information included on the recording. Needless to say I had one of the coolest car sound systems in my school and it led to a minor career in car stereo installation during high-school.

And to think that many think surround sound started with home theater and DVDs?

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Well the rain has cleared and the sun shone gloriously for the first time in a long time.

Finally got some yard work done today.

Lots of goodies coming from my cute FedEx lady with the cool truck and of course the men in the brown shirts have been depositing things almost daily.

I've had another Vinyl breakthrough with the installation of the Monolithic PS-1 phono preamp. This replaces my Lehman Black Cube. I bought the PS-1 with the HC-1 power supply. This is a phenomenal product and fulfills my search for Vinyl nirvana. Background noise is nonexistent and very black. Trotted out my usual reference disks - Gallery (ECM), Todd Philips, Chico Freeman (Tradition in Transition) and they were all spectacular through the PS-1. And this is from the product straight out of the box. Can't wait to hear this as it gets broken in.

On the computer side, I continue to tweak and tune my new Dell 600m Centrino. Still coming to terms with Windows XP. I've been playing with some themes and visual styles and am currently trying the Aqua interface on for size. Quite pleasing.

As a result of attending recent Computer Audio seminars (M-Audio, Cakewalk) I've been making purchases. Just received the new Project 5 from Cakewalk. Should have a lot of fun with this. I also tried to purchase the M-Audio MoblePre USB from Chuck Levin today but they were out of stock. Should have it in next week.

Decided to do some silencing work on my downstairs system and bought two Zalman cooling products. Installed the passive northbridge heatsink last night since the existing fan/heatsink had started to whine. Pretty straight forward install using the heatsink glue method. Did encounter a brief scare when after about an hour the system locked up and would not restart and emitted just beeps. Turned out that the memory had become jostled probably as a result of removing the original heatsink. After a few attempts at re-seating the memory, I got things working again and ran the machine for about 6 hours straight without a relapse. I decided to buy some new memory for this PC and went with a good deal I got from TigerDirect on some Ultra memory. I went with a single stick of 512mb SDRAM to replace the dual sticks of 256mb ram. I wonder if I will see an improvement in stability with just one stick?

Friday, May 23, 2003

Good opinion piece today about the long decline of Microsoft. I think the article is spot on without being hyperbolic. The only part I would quibble with is when it began. I conjecture that the downhill slide began shortly after the launch of Windows 95. Microsoft completely missed the Internet and this was a turning point they've never really recovered from. I used to argue with product managers about including TCP/IP technology in Window 95. I had one of the earliest internal web servers (VirtualSE) on the Microsoft corporate network using at first the EMWAC web server software for Windows NT. I also began exploring the Internet on my own shortly after I joined Microsoft in 1993. It took a long time for the rest of Microsoft to catch up. I even had other "engineers" tell me that the Web would never catch on! The second miss was OpenSource software and Linux. I was there for both of these events and witnessed the denial that goes on inside global companies. The culmination for me was demoing a fully functional Linux Desktop for the full Microsoft government sales force. People were completely flummoxed. The group think can be quite frightening! Bill Gates saying that "if there was a big red button to turn off the Internet I would push it" is revelatory.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Interesting article about Comcast in yesterday's Washington Post. It tells a story of how Comcast would not let a recently widowed woman cancel her Comcast cable without supplying a death certificate for her husband. I find this yet another example of the callous and customer hostile policies of Comcast. I've had cause to phone their customer support about 200 times for their constant outages in their cable internet service. Not once have I been treated with respect as a customer who pays $60 for their very shoddy service. Comcast always blames the customer first when their internet service is not working. Why do I put up with it? I have no other option for high speed internet access. The recent announcements from Verizon about lowering their internet charges and becoming more aggressive with DSL and Wi-Fi gives me hope. When I have a choice, I will switch without hesitation. Comcast is deaf to this customer's complaints and assumes I am a captive customer. Comcast should not make assumptions about my loyalties!

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

During my marathon vinyl phono preamp testing, I pulled out some reference LPs to verify my settings. I'll mention a couple of these:

Todd Phillips - Released

Apparently, this is his first solo LP from the longtime bassist for the JazzGrass allstar scene. This is a gorgeous disk both in music and sound quality. Also it is blessed with a beautiful silent pressing. While it is Todd's disk, it really is a showcase for dobroist Jerry Douglas. If there is any doubt Douglas is the God of the dobro, this LP dispels any doubt. The rest of the players are equally impressive: Tony Rice and Darol Anger among others. Disappointingly, this is yet another amazing disc that is not available on CD!

Bela Fleck - Deviation

Yet another great example of JazzGrass. Not surprisingly, Jerry Douglas shows up again in a featured role. Again, exceptional sound and great pressing. I like to play the last cut on side one (Moontides) because of the great drum solo at the beginning of the song that is a great test of the resolving power of a system. A great sound system should really bring out the spaciousness of the drums as well as the palpable thumps of the kick drums. Other great players on the disk include Mark O'Conner and Sam Bush. This does seem to be available on CD. I may pick up the CD to see if it compares in quality to the LP.
Okay, vinyl tweaking continues today. A couple of late nights later I've come to some conclusions:

1. The combination of the MO (.9mv) Glider and the high gain (60db) setting of the Lehman Black Cube does overload my MAP-1 preamp.

2. I installed and tested the 50db setting of my VAC-in-the-Box and detected no distortion. This is good news since I was trying to figure out if I had some tracking issues with the Glider setup. This eliminates the mechanical part of the equation.

3. While the VAC-in-the-Box is a reasonable phono preamp, it is not the equal of the Lehman Black Cube. After much auditioning of some reference discs I determined that I would rather use the Black Cube with the 40db setting and just crank up the volume on my MAP-1. In reality, the Black Cube is so quiet that the perceived noise level with the 40db setting and higher preamp volume level is only a smidgen higher. This is an acceptable compromise given the other strengths of the Black Cube.

4. I was being too reticent with the volume control and the 40db setting. I now have an idea of what is the optimum spl and volume setting it needs with this combination.

So, I've come full circle and have learned quite a bit about my vinyl rig I didn't know before. I think I can live with the current setup but I am thinking about a possible purchase of the Monolithic PS-1 phono preamp. This purchase would improve the perceived signal to noise ratio because of the 53db setting of the preamp. This should be a near perfect match to my Glider MO. All the reviews seem to point to this being a better phono preamp than the Black Cube.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Well the past several days have been involved with Vinyl tweaking and a breakthrough. After some thought I decided that I wasn't getting enough gain out of my Lehman Black Cube and my medium output (0.8mv) Glider cartridge using the 40db setting on the Cube. I had tried the higher setting once before but got some strange popping noises with my previous preamp. Now with the McCormack MAP-1 I thought I'd give it another go.

What a revelation. The sound is just bursting out all over. The perceived soundstage and signal to noise ratio are greatly enhanced. The only downside is that the greater gain (60db) seems to trigger the ARM circuits of the MAP-1 and produces occasionally pops in the rear channels. The easy solution is just to turn off the amp for the rear channels. I was bit concerned and called McCormack this morning and explained my experience. I was concerned I might be overloading something but they assured me I was not harming anything but were puzzled about the ARM channel pops. They agreed that my solution of turning off the amp was a reasonable approach.

I may investigate a new phono preamp. I'm considering the Monolithic PS-1. I can get a good deal along with the upgraded power supply by trading in my Lehman Black Cube. The advantage to the PS1 is it has four gain settings topping out at 53db gain. I think that a slightly lower gain than the 60db gain of the Cube would be ideal for my Glider.

So far this year has been a banner year of vinyl. I've acquired about 50 LPs of used vinyl at an average of 50 cents a piece. Of course I still have a a lot of original vinyl that I wisely never parted with these past 30 years.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Installed a new Western Digital 120gb hard drive to replace my rapidly shrinking 40gb WD drive. I got a pretty good deal - $79 after rebate. For kicks, I thought I would try the WD DataLifegurad tools to do disk to disk copy. Well, I started the copy and it said it was going to take 6 hours or so. It seems to be very crude and does a file by file copy. I thought it would be more efficient? I bailed out and rebooted with my Powerquest Disk Image 2002 program. This was much better and copied the entire 40gb (25gb used) in under 30 minutes. So much for the WD utilities.

One benefit, besides more disk space, is the 8mb buffer included on the new drive. I had heard this was almost like a processor upgrade and sure enough programs load noticeably more quickly.

I'm almost finished with this system. When DVD-R/RW drives get to about $100, I'll install one. And sometime when LCD panels get really cheap I'll replace my aged but very useful NEC 4FGe that I've had since about 1983.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

As usual, Dvorak, has an insightful column about the next version of Windows. I find that very few tech writers have the historical perspective and memory to write intelligently about the tech industry. Dvorak along with Pournelle and Mossberg are exceptions to the rule.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Ah technology. Following up on last weeks Wi-Fi freakout by my WET11 Bridge, I am now back in business with the WET11 after a driver freak out with the SMC usb Wi-Fi device I purchased because I thought the WET11 was belly up. I think now that I simply needed to renew all my DHCP addresses and reset my WET11. Anyway, I now have MAC filtering turned on and have engaged WEP 64 bit (couldn't seem to do 128 bit under Windows XP?).

Speaking of Windows XP, it generally is going okay on my new Dell 600m. I have disabled some of the more obnoxious parts of this OS (Personal menus, Indexing, System restore). Probably will do more reg tweaking as time goes on. I did encounter my first head scratcher. I was trying to share some files between my Win2K PC and the Dell. For some reason the machines couldn't see each other on the net even though the group was the same and and file and print sharing was enabled. I finally punted and ran the Windows XP network wizard horror. God knows what this thing does but it trundled along for a little while and finally declared all was good. Well I could now share files etc. but it also left me with this strange thing called a Network Bridge which seemed to encapsulate all my networking settings. One of those Microsoft layers upon layers they are so fond of. I did a little googling on the subject and it seemed fairly harmless but I really didn't like how it obscured the basic network settings that I like to consult from time to time. To be fair, the Network Wizard probably got excited that I had two nics (Wi-Fi and Ethernet) and felt they "must" be bridged? Anyway, I decided to just delete the bridge and see if I could share files. I did and I can. So now my net settings are easily accessed and I can share files. Whew, I think these wizards just complicate things for people that know what and how to do things.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Okay, due to my discovery of a rogue AP yesterday I have bitten the bullet and reengaged MAC filtering and am also now trying 128bit WEP for the first time. Seems to work okay so far. I'll have to revisit the Linksys WET11 Bridge at a future point to see if it is hosed or there is a work around. Maybe if a new firmware is issued I'll fiddle with it again.

I'm now using wblogger exclusively. I've got file uploads working so I can easily post photos, etc. This program works very well and as usual it's free!

Another beautiful day. Hopefully the pollen count is lower today. It's been very rough on my allergies these past few days.


Another nice picture from the P.E.I. 1995 archives:


Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Well, my Dell 600m came yesterday at 6:15 pm. Very nice laptop. Lots of setting up to do but I ran it on batteries with Wi-Fi for over 3 hrs. and still had time left. Looks like this Centrino stuff has merit.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, I started encountering disconnects on my desktop PC connected to my WET11 wireless bridge. This had been a reliable network but as of today it started going wacky. It would connect for a few minutes and then the lights for both the WLAN and the LAN would go out and then I'd have to unplug the power and the cycle would begin again. This was really puzzling. I started to think that introducing the Dell with it's Intel Pro Wireless was causing some interference but even when I turned off the Dell the problems persisted. Much head scratching on this one. I fiddled around with the settings on my SMC WAP - changing the default channel, etc. Nothing seemed to work. I googled the net but didn't turn up anything definitive. I finally gave up and went out and bought an SMC Wireless USB adapter. This installed in minutes and is working great so far.

The even more curious thing is that while looking at all this I started to notice that there was more than one access point showing up in my area! This is quite a surprise since I am in a residential court and was not expecting to see this. After further study I have definitely confirmed the presence of a "rogue" AP that has an SSID of "Speedstream". I can actually connect to it but it doesn't seem to serve DHCP so I can't log onto the Net. I am now wondering if this is the cause of the WET11 going south? Both APs are using channel 11. Even more interesting is where is this AP located? I installed NetStumbler which picked up this AP but since I don't have a GPS unit I can't pinpoint its location.

This is a very curious turn of events.

Monday, April 28, 2003

I'm getting back into reading books. I get so many newspapers and magazines I sometimes have a hard time settling in with a book. On a whim I picked up the bestseller "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown. Reminds me of Eco's "The Name of the Rose" or the art mysteries by Iain Pears. I'm a sucker for mysteries and Leonardo Da Vinci, etc.

So it's 6pm and no UPS man? BooHoo! I know he will come today.
So, I'm killing time waiting for the UPS man to deliver my new Dell Centrino Laptop. I'm a bit excited to see how I like it. This is the first time I've bought a Dell. Since I just build my desktop PCs from parts, it will be interesting to see how the other half lives. I've got a bit of trepidation about using Win XP but I'll grin and bear it. I will install a good bit of OpenSource software to balance things out.

Listening to Sean Hannity and suffering with my allergies. It's a beautiful warm day but the pollen count must be sky high today. I took a Claritin but still I suffer. I'm sure it doesn't help that I have all the windows open.

I've been doing quite a lot of work transferring out of print LPs to CD-R. I've got a pretty good system setup to expedite the process while preserving the fidelity I require. I spent a lot of time tweaking the Music Hall 2.1 turntable I bought for this purpose. It is low-end compared to my AR-Merrill-Morch-Benz rig but it's quite acceptable. I started out using the supplied Goldring cartridge but decided to upgrade. First, I tried a Grado ZTE+ I had lying around. This was an improvement in overall sound but a real disaster in hum shielding which Grado is notorious for. I found a source of MU-Metal that is used to shield electronics. I used it years ago for other electronic projects. It was only about $20 for a sheet big enough for my purposes. I installed it under the platter using double stick tape. It did dramatically reduce the hum but still it allowed the magnetic field to increase at the outer edge of the platter. I finally abandoned the Grado and installed a nice Benz-Micro MC20E2 Moving Coil cartridge I had lying around. This is a real upgrade and I'll stick with this solution. Not very much hum now and the little left I can EQ out using a notch filter at 120hz in Vegas when I edit the WAV file. I'm now getting some very nice audio transfers to CD-R that I bet could fool some that did not know they were sourced from LP.

Sunset on P.E.I.

I've been going through some photos lately. I particularly like this one from my trip to P.E.I. back in 1995:


Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Just found an offline blog tool called w.bloggar. Looks like a useful tool. Let's see if I can get this to post to my website.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Snow again! Wow, this is a winter to contend with. Just now recovering from my basement flood as a result of the snow, then rain, and blockage of my yard drain tube that was blocked by snow. This may have been avoidable if I had reasoned out that the snow would backup my underground drainage system. Live an learn. I did finally have a word with my Bolivian neighbors about their runoff I've been dealing with for 15 years. Got their permission to install some piping on their downspout to route it to the back of my yard away from my house. This will have the added bonus of providing irrigation to a dry part of my yard.

Been very busy lately with household maintenance and renovation. I've made a lot of progress in decorating my upstairs den. I'm on the verge of purchasing some audio recording bits to add to my newly rebuilt computer. First I'll get some powered speakers and a USB audio card all from M-Audio. Down the road I'm thinking of adding an HDTV card to the PC. This would let me play with HDTV on the cheap. I also want to get and LCD monitor to replacing my ancient NEC CRT that still cranks along after about 10 years. Looking into getting a widescreen computer LCD (WXGA). This would be a good match for the HDTV tuner.

Also relocated my networking hub and cable modem to my utility room. I now have a pseudo wiring closet that is centralized. I should have done this a while ago but the flood cleanup forced me to tear everything up and rearrange. Good to have this stuff out of the way. Thinking of dropping in a server pc from my hodge podge of parts. Thought I might load up the Knoppix self booting cd initially and fire up VNC and then make it a headless server using my KVM switch. I could then manage it remotely. Not sure why I need a house server yet but I could start offloading WMA audio files or something for centralized access.

It's amazing how time passes by. I've been trapped inside quite a bit lately because of the weather. I had plans to go out today but the weather quickly cancelled that.

I'm getting a Starbucks near my house in the Fall of 2003. Yeah! I'll be able to walk to it. This will be a lot of fun.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Interesting article by David Stutz, formerly of Microsoft, offering advice to Microsoft and its future direction. Basically, it argues that MSFT should embrace the Open Source paridigm or wither on the vine. He makes reference to the slowness of MSFT's adoption of the Internet. I'll never forget the quote that I was told by one of the MSFT's web server team that Billg said "If there was a red button to turn off the Internet, I would push it." Interestingly, the suggestions that Stutz makes about integrating Open Source into its products is exactly what Apple is doing (e.g. Safari). I am surprised that he does not mention this?

This article also parallels a recent one by Cringely that proffers the idea that Windows is just a another windowing system and that MSFT might as well just bolt it on top of Linux. Again, this is essentially what Apple has done with Aqua and BSD.

If I had to make a prediction, I would say this has at least a 50% chance of happening at some point.

Friday, January 03, 2003

It now seems that blogging started in 1660. An enterprising person has endeavored to begin posting the daily diary entries of the renowned Samuel Pepys. My Father has long been a student of Mr. Pepys and we speak of him often. I'll have to add this to my Plucker routine so I can enjoy Mr. Pepys on my Visor while sipping coffee at Starbucks.