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.