Sunday, December 05, 2004

Fairly busy getting ready for holidays.

I've been sampling the future of TV via "broadcatching". Combining Bittorrent with the advanced mpeg-4 compression of Xvid/DivX has made it feasible to share current TV shows in very good quality online. This obviates the need for Tivo like devices. Add in another technology such as RSS and the entire thing is automated just like Tivo. The fly in the ointment is of course copyright and DCMA. Englightened media producers would embrace this technology but instead they will sue their customers until they realize it is hopeless. Then they will get on board with a way to profit rather fight it approach.

I was thinking about how such a service could work and came up with one idea that might be satisfactory. If producers of TV content replicated the P2P, MPEG-4, and XVid/DivX technologies but did so under a pay per download service they might be very surprised how well it could work. If they combined this service with a light layer of DRM and kept the costs to say a dollar a video they could have a winner. They could even embed some sponsor ads as well. I prefer to watch my video on TV so I would like to have a burn to disc option. I came up with the idea of adding a watermark to the video with the purchasers personal info embedded during the burn to disc option. Since most new shows are now HDTV and are letterboxed this information could be placed as a visible but transparent watermark in the black bars on the screen. This wouldn't be too annoying and would help satisfy the copy control of the disc. I wouldn't think that most people would want to circulate pirated videos with their personal information for everyone to see. Undoubtedly, someone would come up with a work around but I think this could work.

One of the best features of the current system is the ability to sample programs from other countries such as Canada and Britain. Of course, most of the content is of US origin but there are some very fun things showing up from overseas. I'd even be interested in non-english content if someone was up to adding subtitles.

Thanks to the Net, the world just keeps shrinking.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Read an article about Firefox in the Washington Post today which mentions a few tidbits of info such as typing in "about:config" in the address bar to access all the options one can change. Decided to type in "about:mozilla" and got this interesting page and quote:

And so at last the beast fell and the unbelievers rejoiced. But all was not lost, for from the ash rose a great bird. The bird gazed down upon the unbelievers and cast fire and thunder upon them. For the beast had been reborn with its strength renewed, and the followers of Mammon cowered in horror.

from The Book of Mozilla, 7:15

Just did a search and there are other "about:" commands. Try "about:cache" or "about:credits" for instance. Or for the minimalist, "about:blank". Here's another good one, "about:plugins".

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Continue with technical problems. Tried to burn some DVDs with my Sony DRU-530A recorder. Using updated Nero 6, I started getting "Power Calibration Errors". Did some research and discovered these occur because of media incompatibilities. I had recently upgraded the firmware to the latest version 2.1c. After further research, I downgraded to 2.0c and what do you know no more media errors. I did an online chat with Sony support and suggested they look into this issue. We'll see.

I discovered that one possible reason for the failure of one of my Dell Truemobile 2300 routers was an overnight power failure/surge. Grrrr. Pepco has ruined a lot of electronics over the years even though I use high quality surge protectors.

I purchased a new SMC 2682w USB Wi-Fi G dongle to try out. It seems to be working okay except that it seems to fluctuate wildly with its signal strength. None of my other Wi-Fi devices seem to do this. My Dell laptop is rock solid. It doesn't seem to affect my connection but it's a little disconcerting. I've contacted SMC support. I think it may be a driver issue? The driver is only at 1.05. Room for improvement there?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Argh!. Technical difficulties today. Went to use the upstairs computer rig and found that my Wi-Fi connection was down. Proceeded down to the cellar to check the cable modem status. Rebooted the cable modem checked the wired access on the downstairs rig which was okay. Then checked the dining room Dell laptop Wi-Fi connection and there were still problems. Sheesh. Twelve hours ago everything was working fine. So I reboot the Dell Wi-Fi router and still have problems with the laptop. I finally try changing the channel on the Wi-Fi router from eleven to six. Recheck the laptop and everything starts working.

Back to the upstairs rig which is a bit tricky since I use an identical Dell Trumobile 2300 as a wireless bridge. I try resetting to defaults and then load up saved config file. Still no dice. I try resetting again but nothing happens? I start to notice that when I plug in router that after a brief flash of the LAN led's that no lights appear for power, wireless, etc. Start to wonder if the router is somehow hosed?

Finally call Dell and tell them about the power issue and they agree that it sounds like the router has gone bad. How do these things go bad all of a sudden? There are no moving parts? Anyway, they're going to overnight a new one. Given this state of unconnectedness upstairs, I pull out an SMC USB wireless adapter. This fires up quite easily and once I get the config with my wep enabled network I'm on the net again. Since it's only 802.11b and my net is now 802.11g, I think about an upgrade. I notice a nice 802.11g USB dongle at the SMC website and check out some prices. I find one at J&R for about $40 after rebate. So I order it.

I think I'll bag the wireless bridge for a while since it can be a real hassle to debug sometimes. I will test out the replacement Dell router and then set it aside as a backup for the main router. I think this is a cleaner simpler setup.

I have to wonder how everything went haywire in the span of twelve hours without any obvious causes? I did notice when I was scanning for my wireless network that a second network was showing up intermittently. I suspect it may be my new neighbor trying bring up their own Wi-Fi net? This may be the reason I had to switch channels?

[Listening to: Track 2 - Unknown Artist - The Dowland Project: Care-charming Sleep (03:57)]

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The flood of mobile MP3 players is quite overwhelming. I have been surprised that I have been getting a lot of use out of my Tungsten E as an MP3 player. Or, more specifically as an OGG player. Using the free for OGG Aeroplayer I have been quite pleased with this combo and a 256mb SD card. I'm trying to decide if I want to update my aging original Zen music player to an updated model. For casual on the go use, I am finding the Tungsten E a surprisingly effective solution. The advent of Podcasting also allows me to listen to Leo Laporte's radio show on the go as well.

I did watch with interest the release of the new Tungsten 5 from Palm. It was a surprisingly lackluster release with many renaming it the updated Tungsten E. The most glaring omission is the lack of Wi-Fi capability. At a price of $399 it is too expensive for what it offers. When you compare the T5 to the new Dell Axim X30 at about $250 the T5 pales in comparison. The downside is that the Dell is a Pocket PC design. Admittedly, Pocket PC has matured and I'm tempted to pick up the Dell on a whim at some discount and start playing with it to see if it stacks up. The Wi-Fi capability would be quite fun. The downside is that the Dell has relatively poor power ratings. This could be the crux of the problem of why Palm One has been so tardy in releasing Wi-Fi products in their hardware. They may feel that the power consumption for current Wi-Fi circuits is too much to be practical. Maybe they will crack this nut in the near future?

Another advantage of the Dell is it is capable of being a portable video player. I haven't had much need, but I am slightly interested in this use. I have recently began using the Plextor ConvertX DivX compatible video encoder with great success. I successfully converted several rare VHS movies and videos onto DVD for future storage. Just this weekend, I decided to hook up the ConvertX to my satellite output to see how practical this would be for recording various TV shows. I chose to capture a recent airing of the final Farscape movie - The Peacekeeper Wars. While airing for four hours, after deleting all the commercials the program clocks in at under three hours. I was able to burn a DVD in record time from the capture and even used some wallpaper from the web site for the DVD menu. The result was very satisfactory. One of the keys to this setup was using a power activated USB 2.0 extender capable of reaching from my TV setup to the back of my computer (about 25 feet). This worked flawlessly. I think time as come that I can finally retire the VHS video recorder that I haven't used for years. I now have a viable recording option for those times I need to record something.

I had been thinking of buying a cheap DVD recorder this year. The Chinese have knocked the price way down. The cheapest I have seen is at Wal-Mart for under $150. If they went to $100 I might get one for kicks. But the advantage I have with the computer recording approach is that I can easily edit material and build full menus, etc. I am also thinking that Dual-Layer DVD recorders may be just around the corner so the days of the current crop of recorders may be numbered. I also have read reports that the current crop of DVD recorders are pretty buggy. Sticking with the computer recording model may be the best course for the present.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

2004 is shaping up to be a very good year in musical releases. I'm just getting around to auditioning the new Smile release from Brian Wilson. Much has been written about this American musical legend. I've long held the Beach Boy's Surf's Up album as one of my favorites. A couple of Smile songs were included on that release. Feel Flows, a Carl Wilson song, is just outstanding. Sad that he passed away. Still, it is great that Brian Wilson has clawed his way back to be able to finally release his opus - Smile.
I've been very sluggish this week. Hard to know why. I have lots of projects I'm thinking about.

One project is to run some more wire for future network upgrades. Since learning of the Verizon Fios rollout in my neighborhood, this has taken a new priority. Running wire in an existing house is always a challenge although I have done pretty well so far. Additionally, I want to reroute my DirecTV feed. I've settled on a strategy. I think I'll run two courses of RG6 and two courses of CAT5. This should allow plenty for future updates as they come.

BTW, I scanned a web site yesterday that said DirecTV would be giving away Tivo like Hughes receivers to all their customers. I am a bit skeptical but it sure would be nice. I've had my current DirecTV setup for about seven years and it's been great.

I dropped by my local Tweeter on a whim the other day and actually had an intelligent conversation with a knowledgeable salesperson. Once I presented my hangups with the current HDTV rollout we found common ground and discussed all the latest developments. I have been pretty depressed about the state of HDTV but I am starting to see a glimmer of hope that it will eventually live up to its hype. Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy my analog Sony XBR TV. I'll keep an eye on developments. I do wish someone would start cranking out $100 ATSC tuner boxes. Eventually these will have to be made to facilitate the mass migration to ATSC. I don't understand why these are not available in mass numbers? The usual refrain is that most people get TV via Cable or Satellite. Still, there will be a market for these.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Just found out yesterday that the new Happy the Man CD comes out on October 26th. It's been a long time coming but it sounds like it is worth the wait.
Trying out iPodder today. This a way to syndicate audio content using RSS. I've downloaded a few feeds (Leo Laporte, etc.). I'll copy the mp3 files over to my Tungsten E SD card and give it a whirl at Starbucks.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The phrase of the day is "tinfoil hat" as in this story and this story. Conspiracy loonies rejoice!

[Listening to: Riffs - Roger Hudson - fingerstyle #54 (02:43)]

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I've been browsing the Net and have found some more interesting tidbits about Verizon Fios plans from CommWeb site:

Now for the clincher: Verizon will offer entertainment TV service in competition with the Incumbent CATV provider. TV will be served from the ONT over existing inside coaxial cable, where available.

The addition of TV service should help explain the otherwise odd relationship between Verizon and DirecTV.

For those of you who might have missed the announcements, Verizon has added DirecTV satellite TV service to its suite of bundled service offerings, thereby enabling Verizon to offer local, long distance, high speed Internet, wireless and, now, video service. The service was first offered in Rhode Island, will be expanded to more of New England, and is intended for all Verizon mid-Atlantic states later in the year.

Currently, this service really is nothing more than a marketing agreement that allows Verizon to represent DirecTV. Verizon expects to undercut competing packages offered by the CATV providers, who currently provide the majority of broadband Internet access services, nationwide.

Into the future, at least in my humble opinion, the relationship undoubtedly will grow to be much closer, with Verizon receiving the DirecTV video signals at a headend, multiplexing them with voice and high speed data, and delivering them over PON technology to the premises.

Well this gets more interesting by the minute. I really like DirecTV's approach and it would be great if I could just get their signal over fiber as well. I think this is really smart. In addition, Verizon has been deploying Wi-Fi in some areas that is free to access for existing users of Verizon broadband. This is just nirvana. This could be a real economic explosion here.

Comcast is going down!

Verizon broadband fiber coming to my neighborhood! While driving around my neighborhood this past week, I had been noticing quite a few Verizon trucks with large cable wheels. This piqued my interest and got me thinking this was more than just regular line maintenance. I stopped one of the workers and asked if they were installing fiber? They said yes they were installing fiber! Wow!

I had pretty much given up hope for Verizon. I actually started contacting Verizon about getting DSL service at my home in 1995. That's nearly ten years ago! To date, they still cannot supply DSL service to my home. I have read numerous articles in business mags about the supposed Verizon fiber rollout. I have been skeptical that this would ever come my way. Well, it looks like I will be proved wrong.

Doing some research on the net, I find that the Verizon broadband service is called Fios. The speeds range up to a high of 30 mbps! For less than I currently pay ($60/month) Comcast for just Internet access, I could get a bundle of services including 15 mbps Internet for under $50 a month. In addition, I understand that Verizon will also offer video services as well. I have been very happy with my DirecTV service these past seven years but I will be interested to see what Verizon offers in this area.

I remember when the trucks came through to install Comcast's fiber a few years ago. I think it was about 6 months to a year after that when the fiber was "lit" and I could get service. So, it would be possible that sometime in 2005 I could switch over to Verizon for Internet and say goodbye to Comcast. Comcast has provided such poor customer service in the past that I would switch over in heartbeat. The mistake Comcast made was it thought that because of their monopoly they could gouge their customers forever. They are about to get competition big time!

Friday, September 17, 2004

I admit it. I am addicted to talk radio and current events. Between Rush and Sean and then Fox News in the evening, I barely have time to do anything else. It's just that the news is moving so rapidly right now with the election and Memo-gate, etc.

I'm thinking of scaling back after the election. Just stop listening for a while and pursue other things. I still get 3 newspapers everyday so I won't exactly be uninformed! But, I think I do need to cut back on the talk radio. I think after the election with Bush safely re-elected, I can wind down a bit.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Well, no sooner had I written about my lust for a D-SLR than this news that Pentax has now entered the budget D-SLR fray. I have an affinity for Pentax. I really like the compact size of this new model (Pentax *istDS). I definitely thought the Nikon D70 felt really big when I held it. I think I would prefer a smaller camera. I'm thinking a kit version with lens could come in as low as $800 with discounting? This would undercut the Canon 300D. Interesting times.

I got out my old Pentax Super ME 35mm film camera. Of course, I haven't shot film in 5 years. This was a trend center years ago. Maybe the *istDS will do the same in the digital era.

Apparently, *istDS will be available in November 2004.

Monday, September 13, 2004

For a while now, I have had an irrational interest in purchasing a digital SLR. Specifically, the Nikon D70. The other contender is the Canon Digital Rebel. I currently own an Pentax Optio 555 which I have been very pleased with. But, the siren song of Digital SLRs is very tempting. What to do? I keep thinking maybe there will be some price drops as competition heats up. Pentax is said to be preparing an entry D-SLR of their own. There seem to be a lot of happy users of the D70 over at DPR.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Completed upgrading to WinXP SP2 on all my computers last night using the handy CD Microsoft sent me. Everything went fine.

One tidbit I have noticed that no one as mentioned is that the color of the little WinXP loading status bar has changed from green to blue. I haven't seen anyone mention this. It can be seen on the WinXP loading splash screen. This is an easy way to tell if a system has been upgraded.

[Listening to: Limbo - Marilyn Crispell Trio - Storyteller (06:54)]

Monday, September 06, 2004

Gloomy day today. After backing up my computer yesterday, I decided to install WinXP SP2 which I received on CD the other day. All went without incident. Things seem to be running fine.

Also, finished installing various audio software updates I hadn't gotten around to. This led to the odd bit of testing the various new sampler sounds I had installed. As a result, I knocked out a new AcidPlanet tune called Crimson Jam. As the name suggests, it is "an imaginary impromptu jam between King Crimson members". I made special use of the great Chapman stick patch to get the authentic Tony Levin sound. It's a bit cacophonous but I think it hangs together well with each instrument placed distinctly in the mix. I tried out the T-Racks mastering plugin and really got a loud but clean mix. It's probably a bit overdone but I have found that to get a good sound when using the low bit WMA formats it is really necessary to have a "hot" mix going into the encoding process.

I'm kind of curious what kind of response I get from it. I think it really does sound fairly authentic.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Just installed the new WMP 10. Walt Mossberg was his usual grumpy self. I find it interesting that none of the reviews mention that the MSN music store is offering higher quality encoding levels that most other stores including Apple's. While still not up to lossless level, it is still a step in the right direction. Anyway WMP 10 has a much improved interface and now includes MP3 encoding as well. No problems so far. I'm waiting for the 40gb Creative Zen Touch before I make a decision about upgrading to a new music player. Looks like a lot of things to buy this fall.

Just got an email for the next version of Sonar - audio sequencer. Should be out about the beginning of October. I'll have to dig into what's new.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

So the new iMac is out. Nice design. Not necessarily new but a nice implementation of the all in one PC. The use of wireless really helps keep connection clutter to a minimum.

I just recently picked up the Microsoft Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2.0 for $20. I had never tried this type of peripheral. I have been worried about RF interference since I do a lot of audio work. So far it is working flawlessly.

[Listening to: Opal - Kenny Wheeler & Jurgen Friedrich - Summerflood (07:17)]

Monday, August 30, 2004

I'm starting to get back into the blogging mood. I also have updated my site a little bit. I had to find a new news feed since the one from Corante seems to have died. I'm now using the Daily Rotation which seems quite good. Google's upgrades to Blogger are now quite extensive and I'm incorporating things as I have time. Since I use my own custom template and CSS stylesheet it takes a bit longer for me to incorporate. I am trying to move as much as possible into my stylesheet so as to make updates a lot easier. One cool thing I have added is the ability to supply a RSS site feed. This is new for Blogger and I can now be just like all the big boys on the net. Since I use Comcast's very limited web hosting I have to leverage as much I can from Blogger.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Happy birthday to me!

[Listening to: VIII - Tomasz Stanko Quartet - Soul of Things, Variations I - XIII (03:24)]

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Here's an article which pretty clearly lays out the Micorosft versus Apple DRM war.
The debut of the new Sony music site has resulted in a heated discussion over on Slashdot about all things music and DRM.

I continue to contemplate the impending debut of Microsoft Janus DRM technology that purports to solve some real problems with digital content distribution. Basically, a user subscribes to a service for say $20 a month and has unlimited download capability as long as the subscription remains current. This really rewrites the rules and changes the dynamics. Most iTunes/Apple fans can't see the forest for the trees and cling to paradigm that pay to own is the only way this can work.

Let's switch from music to Movies/Videos. For example with Microsoft Janus DRM type technology how would an online version of the popular Netflix service work. Let's say for $20 a month one can check out any film you want anytime and watch it over and over or just watch it once. As long as the subscription is paid up you can watch it on any supported device (PC, portable, etc.) at your convenience.

This is really going to interesting to see how this market develops and whether it catches on.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Okay, it looks like the official Apple Store opening at Montgomery Mall is this Saturday, May 8th:

Grand Opening
Come visit The Apple Store for their Grand Opening on Saturday, May 8!
Located upper level, Hecht's wing.
I'm a bit surprised that the local press hasn't picked up on this. I guess there will be a mob scene on Friday night at midnight?

One cool thing is the free Wi-Fi this store will permeate.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

I've been thinking lately about the iPod phenomenon. In many ways, it seems to repeating past patterns similar to the competition of Microsoft versus Apple.

Steve Jobs is loath to share Apple technology and partnerships with anyone else. Despite embracing Open Source in the form of the BSD kernel for OS X and adopting other GPL projects such as KDE for the Safari browser, Apple does not seem interested in reciprocating.

Currently, the iPod and the Mini iPod are the darlings of digital cognoscenti. With good reason, it is a slick product with good fundamental design. I would wager even its elevated price even makes it appealing in some perverse way as well. However, lifting the lid, just a little bit, may reveal some trouble down the road.

The recent news about Real making an overture to Apple to open up its proprietary cloaked DRM AAC format has revealed some of Apple's thinking. While Real's overture was in some ways rather pathetic, it did point out a growing problem that will be interesting to see Apple navigate.

The problem as I see it is that Apple by retaining sole control and manufacture of the iPod and the DRM AAC format it is ultimately in danger or winning the battle but losing the war in almost exactly the same way they lost the OS war with Microsoft.

Of course, I am referring to the difference in how Microsoft is pursuing the same market. In contrast to Apple, Microsoft has licenced the WMA/WMV codec far and wide to third party hardware and software manufacturers. The current WMA codec has fared very well in codec shootouts and has several unique capabilities. For example, while Apple has just in the past few days introduced a lossless compression option to their codec, WMA has had this option for nearly two years. In addition, WMA also supports multi-channel which as had limited application in such releases as Peter Gabriel's recent UP release. More obscurely, Microsoft gobbled up Pacific Microsonics and their HDCD technology in an acquisition several years ago.

What really has momentum is the rapidly expanding universe of diverse hardware products supporting WMA. From DVD players to hundreds of portable players there is support for WMA. This includes such applications as the PhatNoise car audio system that uses a removable hard drive for audio storage. The recent adoption by the DVD Forum of the WMV format in the next DVD standard is a real watershed event. This guarantees that WMA/WMV files will be supported in all future DVD players! On top of this, I have heard that future direct to digital movie theaters will employ WMV technology. Finally, I recently read that the new VOOM HD Satellite service will be using WMV for broadcasting their standard definition channels. See announcements.

A recent editorial by Paul Thurrott at talks about the upcoming new version of the Windows Media Player that will incorporate the ability (code name Janus - god and keeper of the gates) for leasing music rather than outright ownership. This would allow an individual to access as much music as he wants for a fixed fee and be able to play it on portable players, etc. Paul has taken heat for some of his pronouncements but I think he may be right in describing this as a paradigm shift.

So, Microsoft, by widely disseminating the WMA/WMV technology and setting licensing costs very cheaply it has once again positioned itself to possibly own the standard of audio/video distribution just as it currently owns the desktop computing standard.

Apple, by contrast, could find that while it owned the early lead in music distribution ultimately is relegated to single digit market share once again. It is fascinating to observe that this is inherently a Steve Jobs blind spot which repeats itself over and over again.

The future will indeed be televised.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Several good articles today in the Washington Post on the Wi-Fi phenom. Links to many Wi-Fi hotspot finding services. The public Wi-Fi infrastructure remains too fragmented and costly so far. Perhaps this will change over time. Of course, Wi-Fi is wonderful for in home use.

BTW, along the lines of serendipity, I met my new neighbors who are moving into their house one house away. As luck would have it they both work for Microsoft! They don't work for Microsoft Federal where I worked but still it's such a coincidence. I can't get away from Microsoft no matter how much I try!

Mom’s 84th

My mother's 84th birthday was yesterday.

Mom - Kona, Hawaii 2004

I attended a small dinner in her honor at my brother's house. Things went okay for a while until my sister-in-law started her usual arguments to anything I said. If I said the sky is blue she would say the sky is pink. Sheesh!

I can only guess why she has become so vindictive towards me? I can't say I particularly like her but I do not wish her ill will. She does seem to have it in for me. Unfortunately, I think the time has come where I can no longer accept invitations to their house. It's too uncomfortable and it is also not fair to subject other attendees to this. I had agreed to attend these "family" events in hopes of not creating a family ruckus and hurt my parents. It now is out of control so I will no longer attend these events. My sister-in-law as created a poisonous atmosphere. Something she has done within her own family I should also note.

Apparently, from her point of view, my lifestyle is worthy of contempt. I don't see anything in my life that is worthy of such a view but from her point of view I do not meet her standards. Meanwhile, she is content to be ignorant of world affairs and disdains anyone that actually reads and attempts to learn things through study and gathering of facts from a wide variety of sources. If she can't see it and smell it, it's not worthy of her attention.

Again, I don't wish her ill will (which is in contrast to her maliciousness towards me) but I will no longer purposely put myself in this position. If my family disowns me over this, so be it. I know what I have done to try be helpful to everyone in my family over the years even though I have endured hurtful aspersions, abuse of my generosity in time and experience, and little acknowledgement for my efforts. I put more stock in actual accomplishments as opposed to talking about it. I have no regrets in this regard.

What will be will be.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Warm but beautiful weekend. Very hot sleeping last night though.

Not much on the agenda this week. I continue to struggle against clutter and am making some progress.

Due to warmish weather, I may spend more time on my basement studio computer. Just as well as it's a good 20 degrees cooler down there and I can work on cleaning things up down there.

My Mother's 84th birthday is this Saturday. Not sure how we will celebrate?

According to reports it could turn cooler come mid week.

[Listening to: If Summer Had its Ghosts - Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Footloose and Fancy Free [Disc 1] (08:29)]

Saturday, April 17, 2004

System upgrading continues.

I finally got around to upgrading my Dell 600m Centrino laptops Wi-Fi mini-pci card. I really like how the industry has adopted the mini-pci standard to allow for easy upgrades. In this case, I went from the Intel 2100 802.11b to the Dell 1300 802.11b/g. Upgrade went very smoothly. Now all that is left is to install the new Dell 2300 router and another Dell 2300 as a bridge for my upstairs network.

Speaking of upgrades, the latest Microsoft April 2004 security updates caused a big mess on my recently installed Dell 400sc (server setup as a workstation). I believe I read in some posts on the windowsupdate newsgroup that some of these updates affected the kernel. Anyway, I installed the updates and after rebooting new XP Home system was taking forever to boot and then displayed the message that I had no pagefile.sys. Well I thrashed about for hours uninstalling and trying to fix things with no luck. Finally, I was looking around and discovered that I had not disabled System Restore. Normally, I have disabled this service in the interest of performance, etc. But, by a lucky chance I had left it running. Well, I rolled back the system to a checkpoint a few days before and now everything is back to normal. I am normally not interested in hand holding features like system restore but I have to admit this time it saved my bacon. For the time being, I will leave it on. I have, though, turned off automatic updates due the recent April security update fiasco. Maybe I'll come back to the updates in a few months when the dust has settled. Microsoft continues to do a poor job of managing this process and it really hurts their customers. XP SP2 is being touted as the end all solution. We shall see.

Finally had to get the lawnmower running yesterday to cut the lawn. I knew I had a challenge because I had lent my mower to my neighbor late last fall and he returned it in atrocious condition with the primer bulb missing. Luckily, I still had an extra primer bulb. I resolved to install it correctly this time so it wouldn't come off. That went well, but of course because I didn't run the gas tank to empty before storing the whole thing was gummed up so it wouldn't start. After many primes and taking off the carburetor filter, etc., I finally got it started. I want to change the cutting blade with one I had sharpened a few seasons ago. I'll do this soon.

With the warmer weather, I will have to start thinking about resuming my house maintenance. I need to immediately address my upper window trim rot with replacement non-wood trim. I've done this on the ground level with good results but working at the second story level will be challenging. I'll first get the supplies at Home Depot. Maybe next week.

[Listening to: Stone Ridge - Tomasz Stanko - From the Green Hill (08:00)]

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

New computers continue to hum along. Delving into XP minutia. Cool but clear day today. Hopefully, it will warm up soon.

[Listening to: In All We See - Pat Metheny - One Quiet Night Japan Version (06:40)]

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Off to help my Dad with his taxes. Should be fun!
[Listening to: Question And Answer - Pat Metheny - Trio Live (disc 1) (19:53)]

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Well, it's been a long time since I've blogged. Too much to write up in one sitting. So, I'll just say that today I finally completed a bunch of long projects. I've now upgraded all of my desktop PCs to the latest and the greatest and completed the upgrades to my home theater system. It's cost a few pennies but I feel a lot better about things.

Of course, I was out of town in Kona, Hawaii for all of February into early March. So, these projects had been put on hold for a number of months until now. I guess I wanted to get things squared away before I start commuting to the beach in a couple of months.

My upstairs system I'm currently writing on was a bit of last minute splurge, but I got wind of some good deals at Dell and so plunged in.

BTW, I am now immersed in Windows XP after resisting for several years. So far so good.

I was googling around for some nice wallpaper and found this nice site. I really like the art this woman does with fractals. A very nice change of pace.

So, I'll quit for now but hopefully be back for more details in the days to come.

[Listening to: East Virginia, West Memphis - Charles Lloyd - Lift every voice - 1 (09:41)]

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Following up on some recent blogs about the lameness of Microsoft's SPOT watch. All my points were confirmed in a recent review in the Washington Post. Kill SPOT now to avoid further embarrassment.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Obsessing over audio cables lately. I've gotten heavily into DIY cable mode. I recently resurrected some spools of silver cable I had laying around. I bought this years ago but never did anything with it. After becoming interested in the litz braiding technique popularized by vendors such as Kimber Kable, I decided to make up a test set with this spare silver wire. I wasn't sure what to expect so I cobbled together a twisted pair with some old switchcraft connectors. I was slightly blown away. This inspired me to get serious so I ordered some nice neutrik rca connectors and supplies from Parts Express. I then figured out how to do a proper litz braid with with three conductors (two ground, one hot). I've been refining my design over the last several weeks and now have a design, with a bit of heat shrink for channel identification and strain relief, I am happy with. So far I've testing this on my tube system. I may test on my big rig down the road after I complete some anticipated upgrades.

At the same time, I happened upon another cable DIY site that had a listing for some interesting cables. The parts can be purchased from MCM electronics. I liked the looks and design so I took a chance and ordered a set of parts. Basically, its a classic stranded coaxial design with a heavy shield and teflon insulator.

The recommended connectors are similar in design to those on DH Labs cables. The assembly can me done without soldering or one can solder the signal tip through a opening provided. I am experimenting with both options. I also broke down and bought a roll of silver Wonder Solder. At $28 it's pretty expensive but what the heck. One fly in the ointment is a tolerance issue with the connectors.

I found that that the design causes extremely tight connections that actually don't fit about 75% of all the components I tried to plug them into. I think MCM needs to adjust the tolerances a bit on this one. As a work around, I bought some emery paper and am sanding away a few microns of the inside outer shield which is just enough to allow some expansion of the actual inner rca shield to fit more comfortably. It's tedious to do but seems to solve the problem. Sound wise these cables seem to be competitive.

After continued thought, I have concluded that purchasing the McCormack HT-3 three channel amp is overkill for my home theater rear and center speaker. It costs about $2400. I have revisited the Outlaw Audio products and have settled on buying three of their 200w M-Block amps. I can get three for under $900 and I may also try some of their cables as well. I think this is a good compromise and will not unduly sully the overall sound. I think this makes sense.

Oh boy, I am starting to get net timeouts. Looks like the venerable Comcast network is once again straining under heavy load. Lots of telecommuters today I bet.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Started a new Blog today. I'm calling it CB Raves. It will be a place for me to recommend various things such as music, audio equipment, and computer software/hardware.

One thing that confused me is that a new banner ad appeared at the top of my new blog. It seems that this is a new money making scheme by Google. Oh well. I guess I could pay something and it would go away. We'll see.
Been a long time since I blogged. Pretty busy with holidays and whatnot.

Lately, it's been adult toys keeping me busy again. After much confusion, I finally decided to buy a new digital camera to replace my aging Canon S10. Nearly four years old, the S10 was a 2 megapixal and 2x zoom. I found a good buy at on the Pentax Optio 555 which had a lot of the features I wanted. It's a 5 megapixal, 5x optical zoom digicam that is actually smaller than the S10. I've only taken a few test shots but it looks promising. I had considered a lot of cameras including the Olympus 750 (10x optical zoom) and the Nikon 5700. I also thought about the new Canon EOS Rebel Digital SLR for $1k. The Pentax had a $50 rebate which brought it down to the $430 area. It also uses the SD memory card which I had already started using since getting my Palm Tungsten E. The Pentax also got good grades for long battery life. So, I could switch to the Optio 555 without spending a lot on additional accessories right away. I did pick up another 256mb SD card on sale for about $70. Hopefully, SD cards will continue to drop in price and I can go to a 512mb card soon.

Today, my Plextor 708 8x DVD burner arrived from Dell. Got to send in the rebate for this one as well. This is part of my new computer build that I have been assembling for a few months now. I've been taking my time in picking out parts and buying when a good deal comes along. I already got the Antec Sonata Piano Black silent case. I have a spare 40 gb hard drive I'll use to test the system and then buy a really big drive when a good deal comes along. I had pretty much settled on all the components which included an ABit IC7 Max3 motherboard. I then happened upon an ABit forum and saw that a lot of people were having problems with this board. Since I will be going away soon, I had decided to wait until I get back to place my order. I figure prices will certainly be lower by then. I'm glad I waited since I have now abandoned the ABit in favor of the ASUS P4C800E-Deluxe. This looks like an equivalent board but is getting a clean bill of health from users. I also like that the northbridge chipset has a passive heatsink. The ABit had this odd cooling tunnel that included a fan. It looked like this would be a noise issue. I try to use as few fans as is possible. These little fans are way too noisy. The XFX Nvidia 5200 based graphics card I've selected also uses a passive heatsink. So, this new system I am building will only have 3 fans - CPU, PSU, and Case. The PSU and Case are Antec silent pc rated so the only variable is the stock CPU. I can upgrade that down the road. So, I'm ready to order and build this PC but will have to wait until I get back.

I also got the brand new Shure E3c canal headphones I ordered. The advance buzz (BusinessWeek, CNet, Head-Fi) on these phones as been terrific. I hope they interface well with my original Nomad Zen. I've also been listening to music with my Tungsten E since it turns out to have very good sound for a PDA. I immediately got a 256 mb SD card just for music. I installed the great Aeroplayer which is free to use with the Ogg Vorbis audio format. Using the standard 64k settings for Ogg, I am getting surprisingly good sound with this setup. Using this size economical format allows me to get several hours on a 256 mb card.

I also recently received the two Dell Truemobile 2300 Wi-Fi routers and the Dell 1300 laptop Wi-Fi (b & g) card. I will have to wait until I return to replace my wireless setup. I had a read a good review about the router and decided to upgrade my whole setup the 802.11g. The thing that sealed it is the fact that the router can be reconfigured to be either a repeater or bridge. I need a bridge for my setup upstairs. Some people had some trouble with the config but I read a bunch of posts on the Dell forums and I think I understand the issues. Anyway, I don't want to mess with this stuff until I have a large space of time to work on this. Looks Iike I will be real busy in the early spring.

Let's see what else there is to comment about.

Oh, I got the bug to make my own audio cables again after reading some articles on line. As it turns out I had a couple spools of solid silver wire I bought many years ago but never did anything with. This is fairly thin. It's probably about 30awg or so. Not really sure what I've got. Anyway, I rounded up some old switchcraft rca connectors I had around and twisted together a three food pair of cables using one silver segment for the hot wire and two for the ground. This was a quasi litz wire config although I didn't understand how to braid properly for my first attempt. Even so, I hooked the newly made cables to my tube based living room system withe the new SACD player and was pretty amazed at the results. There may be something to this silver thing. I went ahead and ordered a bunch of nice connectors and a new soldering iron station (Weller) from Parts Express. While I waited for the parts to arrive, I figured out how to braid and now have some nice looking braided silver wires in a litz wire config similar to what the Kimber PBJs look like that are ready to be terminated. I'll get these soldered up over the weekend.

Due to my improving personal economy, I've decided to upgrade my upstairs PC setup which itself was a hodge podge upgrade. The current system is still too noisy for listening to music so I want to improve things. I read a review of the new Shuttle XPC shoebox PCs. They are on rev G4 of this form factor and seem to have improved things over time. Also, because they use a heatpipe these systems are very quiet. As soon as I complete the current PC build, I'll order the Shuttle and start assembling this system which will probably take me into the summer. I am also going to be ordering OEM Windows XP Home for both these systems. If I am going to take the time to reinstall all the software I might as well be up to date in the OS arena. Windows XP is pretty underwhelming but it does have some tweaks in the audio driver area that are important to me.

As I predicted in a previous blog, the Microsoft Spot watch is getting roundly criticized. This product has no future. Give up!

I think I'll quit for the moment. This blog is way too long!