Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wife's desk

Testing photos to blogger from android

Over the last few days, I've built this desk and shelf setup for my wife.  Originally we had another desk I'd built, that had been built for a specific spot in a different room.  This gives better access to the window, lets in more light and has a better traffic path to the attic laundry room.   The wood is oak plywood with the edges exposed (and voids filled) in the same style as our bookshelves.

One of my dogs gets very nervous when I'm doing a project like this--she's usually a bouncy happy dog. When I build stuff, she slinks around nervously.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spell check?

Work has a trouble ticket system where problems are recorded and assigned to the appropriate tech.  Sometimes the information leaves something to be desired-for example "damaged by fort cliff"

As far as I knos we have neiter forts nor cliffs here.  We do have these:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Seen at Gander Mountain--a Smart car, with pro-gun bumper stickers.  Appleseed is essentially a history and rifle clinic, and the sticker in the upper right is 'molon labe', which translates to 'Come and get it', with a further "from my cold, dead hands" implied.   Not quite the neo-hippie signs you expect on a Smart.

G2 Android first impressions

I've been carrying a PDA continuously since the late 1990's, starting with a Palm Pro, graduating to a Palm T/X before switching to an iPod tOuch. The touch was primarily used as a PDA.

Until about 6 months ago, I carried a plain dumb cellphone, usually some sort of budget phone since I rarely exceed 100 minutes a month, even without a home phone.  I have gone with Virgin Mobile--they had the best deal when I started with them, and their service was cheap enough that I wasn't compelled to look elsewhere.  Not long ago they started offering featurephones (internet and email, but not very smart)--more minutes than I'd use, plus unlimited text and internet for $25 per month, with no commitment beyond $80 for the phone.  It worked as advertised, but not particularly well--adequate for phone, light email and an occasional emergency Google search, but between the tiny screen and a bad user interface, web access wasn't particularly useful.

I finally decided to combine both functions and get a true smartphone.  I did not spend extensive time researching the absolute best possible phone, but Android was obvious, and it appeared that T-Mobile did the least crippling of its Androids, has coverage where I spend my time, and I'm a heavy user of Google products already.  Their G2 Google phone seemed like a good fit.  They also had a promotion where unlimited internet and text (and 10 times more phone minutes than I'm likely to use) were at the upper end of my monthly budget.

Comparing hardware, the iPod 4g has a slightly better screen, both in visual and touch sensitivity.  The G2 has a hardware keyboard, a much better camera--5 megapixel with autofocus and a somewhat useful flash, but no front mounted camera.   The keyboard is considerably better than the one on my featurephone, and miles better than a software keyboard.   Of course the iPod is much less bulky, but that's a bit apples to oranges, I'm not familiar enough with the iPhone to compare.

Apple usually wins on polish of the user interface, but Android is extremely good--I think they are equal here.

For openness, letting me do what I want, the Android wins, hands down.  No iTunes necessary, no waiting for someone to break the latest iPod scheme before I can manage it in Linux. The G2 shows up as a removable drive on Linux.  If I want an mp3 as music, I drop it in the music folder.  If I want to use an MP3 as a ringtone, alarm or alert, I drop it in the ringtone, alarm or alert folder.   If I want more storage than it comes with I can replace the Sd card, up to 32 gig.  I can delete songs right from the G2.

The web browser is based on Chrome, and works as well as the iPod's excellent browser, except with Flash support available.

No built-in spellcheck on the G2, a glaring omission.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Loudness war

This is a visual representation of two songs--one is "Kid Charlemagne", a fairly fast paced, dense and intricate song, the other is "Ain't Nothing Wrong with That", a very funky song featuring heavy use of bass drum, and an electric pedal steel guitar.    If I had to describe the rhythm of 'aint' nothin' wrong..." in words, 'Whump' would almost have to be one of them.

You can see a drastic difference in how these songs show up visually--one of them is dense and smooth, the other has lots of variation.

...except 'Ain't Nothing Wrong with That" is the one on top that looks smooth and dense.   The difference isn't in the songs themselves, it is in how and when they were recorded, and illustrates a huge problem with music today, the Loudness War.

CD's and most other digital recording formats have a maximum peak volume that is impossible to exceed.   When a song is recorded or mixed, you can still increase the average volume by removing room for contrast, making every part of the song equally loud--however gone too far and the music will be muddy and indistinct.

Why would you do that?  Because when comparing songs, people tend to prefer the slightly louder one. It is possible to increase the average volume slightly without significant damage to the overall sound.   The problem here is that the competition has already done that, so you need to do it even more, then they do...until there's no dynamic range left, no contrast, no impact, and every part is as loud as every other part.   Some people say they prefer old vinyl albums to CD, that the vinyl sounds more natural.    It isn't that vinyl is better as a medium (it isn't) but that it doesn't allow this sort of abuse.

There is a good bit of new music that I sort of like...but the way it is recorded makes it unpleasant for me to listen to--the song has to stand out quite a bit before I'll put up with this hyper-compressed mushy-sounding recording.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Why due process matters

Why is the Department of Homeland Security protecting us from copyright infringement?  Or rather, alleged copyright infringement, since they were able to shut down these websites without due process, based entirely on allegations that they linked to other websites where sporting events were rebroadcast.  These sites are not based in the US, and aren't meant for a US audience--however the domain registries (people who give out website names) for .com and .org are US based.

This is the problem with giving the government broad powers to fight terrorism, violence, or whatever scary excuse for expansion is current--especially giving those powers without due process and oversight.  Homeland Security should be concerned with physical threats to the people of the US--not the well-being of ESPN and other networks. Expanded powers meant to fight terrorism should be restricted to real. physical terrorism--and even then, we need to be careful that the cure isn't worse than the disease.