Archive for April, 2006

New Audio Equipment!

April 30, 2006

I am now the proud owner of an Alesis MultiMix 8USB Mixer and a C-com 16 Compressor. These two nifty toys should help improve the audio quality of Friday Night Party Line. It will also give me a safety net in case disaster strikes. We’ve recorded all six episodes using only Skype and HotRecorder. While has given us some good shows, it also has some limitations. For example, it records into a compressed file that I have to convert to a .wav file. Now I can record directly into Audacity into an uncompressed file.

HotRecorder was also like walking a tightrope without a net. If XP had crashed while I was recording, the entire show would have been lost. Here, however, I can port the show to my I-River H10 as a backup. I can probably also run HotRecorder as another backup if I want.

We’ll still have to deal with Skype, but now at least the input will be subject to some signal-processing coming in. During my editing process, I’ve had to boost signal or reduce signal to try to even things out. This should blessedly speed editing time. You will notice a difference too in that the voices will now come in under one channel. There won’t be any stereo effects. That’s unfortunate, but it’s a function of the board outputting to the USB line in mono. I might be able to get two track stereo again if I can route from the compressor directly to the computer. I’ll be looking at that.

My microphone set up right now is definitely a kluge. I discovered the hard way that headset microphones have no power. The mixer won’t pick them up. I bought a Radio Shack cardioid mic but it didn’t come with a cable that would let me run power back to it from the mixer. I need an XLR to XLR cable. So I solved the problem by running my headset mic into one of my computers and then back to the mixer. Using a computer as an amplifier is overkill and I’m going to have to figure out something else eventually. Still, even after a lot of trial and error, I made real progress today and Friday’s show should be a lot better for it.

Friday Night Party Line Episode 6 is up!

April 29, 2006

Friday Night Party Line Episode 6 is up! Here's the link. A big thank you to David, Nathan and Marc for participating! Here is the RSS feed and as you know it’s on iTunes and Yahoo as well.

See below for the topics.

Topics for Friday Night Party Line, April 28, 2006.

April 26, 2006

Because we had such great conversation in the last show, we had two topics left over for this week.  We should have Nathan, David and Marc as guests with room for one more.  Here are the topics:

Have you played Brain Age on the Nintendo DS? Can video games or Sudoku or cross-word puzzles really keep you smart or is this more Mozart effect nonsense?

Does clock speed even matter anymore? AMD and Intel continue to compete fiercely to be your computer chip. Is there a need for these new, faster chips? What can you do with them? With the advent of dual core architecture, does it matter what a chip’s GHz rating is?

Those crazy neighbors. How do you like your neighbors? Neighbors come in all sorts of varieties; what’s the ideal type of neighbor for you?

Cell phones part deux. Is the Nokia N93 or N95 the solution to my cell phone woes?

Why can’t we have our own Maker Fair here in Cleveland?

Have you ever been to a comic book, anime, science fiction or computer convention. What was it like? Would you go back? Did you meet any interesting people or see any interesting events?

Have you heard any pieces played by Martin Leung, the Video Game Pianist? What do you think of him?

Chinese Karaoke and how you too can have your own Pepsi commercial.

Squirrels in the attic, foxes in the yard.

David Copperfield convinced robbers he didn’t have any money, why didn’t he just make them disappear?

Email Freak.

April 24, 2006

I get about 75 non-spam emails a day. I enjoy almost every one of them. Every email is a joy because it represents successful communication not involving the phone or a letter. Email is by far my preferred method of communication. I can answer a particular email right away or when I’m ready. I get to control my end of the interchange. The temptation with the phone is to deal with the issue right then. While I’ve certainly done it, it’s a lot harder to say to a person on the phone, “I’m not ready to discuss that at the moment, can I call you at another time?”

That being said, I’ve become a bit of an email junky. I like getting non-spam email. I like it as much as teenage girls love IM and cell phones. I’m always writing it or reading it and it makes the time go by just as much as Civilization IV ever did.

I mean it’s one thing to use it as a tool, but to look forward to email? To immediately snap to attention when you here that sweet Outlook tone? Is it normal? Is anything I do ever normal? It’s a good addiction as things go. It doesn’t really cut down on my productivity; in fact it probably improves it. And I say “Bah!” to those reports that email usage reduces your IQ.

So what about you? Are you an email freak? Or are you more into phones, IM, or snailmail?

Juggling: Jason Garfield vs. Chris Bliss.

April 22, 2006

I've said many times that I'm a fan of Dave Slusher and his Evil Genius Chronicles podcast. He is often a contrarian and his take on the juggling is that while Garfield is crazy talented, Bliss’s routine was more artistic and therefore more enjoyable. In other words, there was more to the performance than the number of balls in the air. After listening to Rym & Scott talk about it after Slusher, I had to watch the Garfield video. I note that something like 160,000 people watched it.  I had only seen the Bliss video.  I note also that one of the comments astutely pointed out that Garfield did his in multiple takes (the exit sign was off and on at various times).

As a wimpy three ball juggler, I am in awe of Garfield’s talent. Yet I don’t dismiss Bliss. To each his own. Maybe juggling will suddenly take off in popularity and this summer people will flock to concerts featuring people juggling to music. It could also become a hit TV show. This fall, we’ll all watch American Juggler on TV and we’ll get to pick who is America’s next great juggler.

Friday Night Party Line Episode 5.

April 21, 2006

Friday Night Party Line Episode 5 is up! Here's the link.  A big thank you to David, Nathan and Brooke for participating!  Here is the RSS feed and as you know it’s on iTunes and Yahoo as well.

See below for the topics, but we didn't finish them all.  We'll get to the rest next week.

Topics to be discussed on Friday Night Party Line April 21, 2006.

April 19, 2006

These are the topics we'll be covering in this week's podcast:

From normal pets to extreme pets; from 1 or 2 pets to hundreds, what is it about people keeping animals?  Does it go back to ancient man as herder?  Is it companionship?  Is it a human need to care for something?  Why are we so focused on our pets and willing to spend so much money on their health and well being?

Do know or work with or are friends with a person obsessed with shoes?  Normally this would be a shoe girl, but it’s possible (in theory anyway) to have a male in this category.  What is the driving nature of this passion?  Is it harmful?  Should it be encouraged? 

There is a well publicized story out now of a guy who is trying, through a series of trades, to trade up from a red paper clip to owning a house.  Where is he now?  Will he have tax consequences?  Can anyone do stuff like this or is it just a gimmick?

Has English become the Lingua Franca to people of all nations?  What about Mandarin?  What about Spanish?  Is there a case for bringing back Esperanto (with William Shatner as it’s spokesman?)

Have you played Brain Age on the Nintendo DS?  Can video games or Sudoku or cross-word puzzles really keep you smart or is this more Mozart effect nonsense?

What is your commute like every day?  How do you pass the time?  Do you subscribe to the philosophy of live where you work and travel to where you play?  There was an article recently about a guy who commutes 186 miles each way to work 5 days a week.  Would you do this if the money was right?

Panasonic has a 103 inch plasma TV out now.  How big is too big?  How large a living room would you have to have to comfortably watch something like that?  What is your ideal TV size.

In the spirit of further multi-monitor use, have you seen the new Matrox Triplehead2Go card?  This card allows you to use three monitors with one computer even if the display only supports a single screen output.  Would you use this?  Is it going to be common place for people to have three screens on their desk?  Why not six?

Blackberries, Treos and Sidekicks, oh my!  Business people love their convergent devices.  What’s the all round best multi-use phone?  What do you use?  What do you wish you could have in such a device?

Does clock speed even matter anymore?  AMD and Intel continue to compete fiercely to be your computer chip.  Is there a need for these new, faster chips?  What can you do with them?  With the advent of dual core architecture, does it matter what a chip’s GHz rating is?

What Podcasts Do You Enjoy?

April 17, 2006

Podcasts have become my obsession. I think it was last year, before I even began to have an iPod, that I started listening. Then it was The Evil Genius Chronicles and Adam Curry’s thing. It was so sad, because I had to burn them to cd to listen to them in my car! I never really started listening to them right off the computer. I have to say I don’t listen to Mr. Curry anymore, but he did help turn me on to the whole thing, so for that I’m grateful. Now I’m listening to podcasts more than I listen to music.

But eventually, I found TWIT (Leo Laporte is God) and I’ve also become quite the Diggnation fan. This surprised me because I didn’t like what Kevin and Alex were doing on The Screen Savers. I’ve come to believe that they must not have had much creative control because Diggnation is great.

Then I got into doing my own podcast, Friday Night Party Line. That’s been a wonderful experience and I hope to keep doing it for some time. I know I can make improvements in the show both in terms of content and production values. It’s an ongoing experiment.

I also listen to This Week in Science, 43 Folders, Engadget (but I don't use the website, go figure), Hak.5, In Our Time, MacBreak, the various NPR podcasts, Radio Leo, Rocketboom (although she makes me nuts), Science Genius Girls (now and then), Tech Nation, The Tech Teachers & X-Play (I still love Morgan Webb).

The latest and greatest, though, has to be Geeknights. Scott & Rym are amazingly productive, doing shows 4 nights a week! They are funny and they have their own forum. Computer nerds who are into anime. What more could anyone ask for?

I’m always into being turned on to something cool. My tastes, though, aren’t always in line with the norm. I don’t like, for example, Keith and the Girl. It’s fine if you are into the whole Howard Stern thing, but I’m just not. So if there are any GREAT podcasts that I’m missing out there, please leave a comment and clue me in.

Review of the Sanyo Xacti VPC HD1.

April 15, 2006

Can a video camera be the greatest piece of technology available today? I can tell you this is the type of wonder that this device instills in me. It’s almost like I bought something from the future. It seems that sophisticated. The button on the right starts recording in HD (720p) and the button on the left takes 5 megapixel pictures. The switch in the middle zooms in and out. The zooming mechanism is the only moving part. The camera writes its data to an SD card. I bought a two GB version. The viewfinder is the clearest I’ve ever seen and the camera is light and fits perfectly in my hands. The combination of ease of use and portability make it easily the best video camera and digital camera I have. It is a first in so many categories. It’s the first digital video recorder that got the still camera part right. It’s the first HD camera I’ve ever used. It’s the first tapeless video camera I’ve had. It does things like allowing you to make panoramic pictures by sweeping the video or extracting decent stills from video. It has a long battery life and it will use the new four GB SD cards.

So you’re thinking by now that I have stock in Sanyo or something. No I don’t and in fact, I remember when Sanyo built really low-end cheap stuff and when Sony was the big innovator. And this device is not without some issues. Remember that one moving part? The manual says that you can hear the noise of those gears in your videotapes. It’s almost like Sanyo is saying: “Hey we made this thing incredibly tiny and flexible to do all things for all people for 800 bucks, what do you want from us? It’s not perfect.”

Actually, I got mine for about $600 at Broadway Photo.  If you shop around on the Internet, you can get real savings.

The state of the art aspect of the camera can work against you too. The HD mpeg4 files are not for low-end computers. You need a 3GHz Pentium or a 1.6 GHz G5 to play the things. Actually, I beg to differ on the G5 rating. My 1.8 GHz G5 iMac chokes on them. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a computer that’s powerful enough to do something I want to do that’s not a game. Of course this gives me and excuse to build another, more powerful computer! Another problem is that while you can do some primitive file cutting and joining with the camera itself, I haven’t found software to edit the mpeg4 files themselves. You can string together the files and burn them as a movie to a DVD, but I haven’t figured out how to edit the clips. I’ve just been shooting them like completed clips.

Getting them off the camera is easy. The computer recognizes the camera in its base as a drive. So you just copy the files over to the computer. Easy. You need to use the base though, because the camera uses a special formatting on the SD card.

I’ve uploaded some sample video on Youtube. Youtube has dumbed it down, but you get the idea. This is definitely not a low light camera. You’re going to need plenty of light. I’ve also got some flickr links so you can see a couple of pics. It shoots at 10 megapixels too, but I believe that’s an extrapolation. I have links to the video and the pictures. Here are videos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. Here are picture links 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6.

I’ve saved my one real disappointment for last. The camera has no inputs. You aren’t going to be using it to digitize material from other devices. I had hoped that I could do that. I wanted to take some old minidvs and record them in HD format (even though I know I would not have any better resolution). The camera base plays on regular tvs and has component outputs. Since I don’t have an HD TV, I have yet to see the true HD performance beyond what’s on the viewfinder.

All in all, I feel like I’ve bought an everyday video and digital camera from five years in the future. It has the button placement and ease of use of a device that’s been through many versions. I’m very impressed with it and I would highly recommend it.

(you can hear an audio version of this review on Odeo)

 Edit:  I'm very pleased that this article has been republished or perhaps, "reblogged" at an extremely cool tech site:  Zatz Not Funny.

Friday Night Party Line Episode 4.

April 15, 2006

Friday Night Party Line Episode 4 is up! Here's the link!  A big thank you to David and Nathan for participating!  Here is the RSS feed and as you know it’s on iTunes and Yahoo as well.

See below for the topics.  The emo bit turned into a rant, but what can I say?