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Thursday September 28 2006

One of the scant advantages of all my dental shenanigans, and they continue to this day,

is that I have had no real reason not to just sit around at home pleasing myself. Well, I'm ill, right? And my current recording project has been on hold for a week while the main protagonist returned to Spain for a week. So I've pulled out my metaphorical finger and got my actual fingers to work on some long-overdue tasks. These did not include work on the house, which is what I should really be concentrating on since eventually there will be some sort of winter and I'll need heating for it. But we're imperfect creatures, right? What I have done is a few little projects and a fair amount of inventory work.

Because I have always been into audio gear, and recently video too, I have more cabling than anyone would believe. There's all the stuff needed to hook up live sound on twelve channels, for a start, as well as masses of other stuff involved with connecting pretty much all audio gear to all other audio gear often including things one wouldn't really need to do. There are two by-products to this hoarding of interconnections. One is that every tiny corner of the tiny house is crammed with cables and adaptors, and the other is that - rather like mechanics always having the worst cars - none of my piles of electronica were connected up optimally or with the best stuff I would have had to hand if I'd gone digging. I am pleased to report that I have now rounded up all of the stray stuff from one floor of the house and moved it to a small and nightmarish area of spaghetti downstairs. I am close to sorting through it all and I now know what there is, and this is a weight off my mind. I've also made great inroads into hooking up the home entertainment shrine in the living room with a minimum of decent cable. Previously I had been almost frightened to get behind the rack, as there is always a good zap to be had from the different earth potentials of it all. This too I will sort in time. Not like the huge zap I got the other day from cross-connecting LCD panels to my two desktop machines by the way, but that's another story. The house is now CRT free, by the way, so energy consumption is down and space is up - yippee. But to get to the point, I found out something interesting about my DVD setup.

In addition to a bottom of the line but invaluable Panasonic DVD recorder, I have a couple of DVD players in the living room. One is an oldish Pioneer which has the useful attribute of coping with SACD and DVD audio including all the various surround variants thereof. I only have one disc which is anything other than a normal red book audio CD or standard DVD, but it's nice to have the ability to play anything out there. The other, acquired a year ago when I bought my cheap but so far very pleasing Samsung LCD TV, is a Toshiba SD 350E. I bought this because the TV is what currently passes for high-def. Opinions vary on what true high-def is, and possibly my set is not totally so, but as I don't expect to get into high-def sources anytime soon I'm sure I'll get a few years of joy for my relatively modest outlay. Now, the Toshiba DVD has HDMI as does the TV. One of the claims to fame of the player is its claim to upscale ordinary DVDs to higher resolutions via the HDMI connector. I gave it a thorough shot, but nothing seems to improve with this facility; still, it's a good player for a bit under a hundred quid so I didn't feel too cheated. The HDMI connector definitely does a better job than the SCART, as I had expected. But then I read the review of it in What HiFi, which I keep a copy of about the place once a year or so enabling me to see if secondhand stuff I might be contemplating is any good or not. And a very interesting nugget of information emerged.

I had never hooked the player up via its component outputs, because on the Samsung TV the connectors are recessed in an asinine way that will not accommodate the fat plugs found on the component cables I have, and indeed which are all you will find in the average store. I was confident that the HDMI was the way to go. Then What HiFi informed me that the HDMI on the Toshiba was disappointing but the component output was a blinder. I'd better check out the component, I thought. Armed with the ability to hack up a suitable cable due to my recent inventory I got the soldering iron out and set to work. Then I hooked up the DVD player via component, and it was revelatory. I did an A-B comparison of the component and HDMI, and the component was dramatically better. So the moral is, don't rush to use whizzy new technology without checking that it improves on the old. As an adjunct, there is all sorts of DRM crap built into HDMI. So it doesn't hurt to avoid it...

Other projects have included rounding up all the old computer-related hardware I had strewn around the place and putting it all in one cardboard box under the bed for a rainy day and sorting through all the CDRs in the house and seeing what they were. I had tons of CDRs, containing stuff I was supposed to learn as well as rough copies of all sorts of projects I and others have been working on. Now I pretty much know what they are and where, and this is a great boon. I can't claim to have totally organized all my audio stuff, because the loft is still a lurking monster for one thing, but I'm a lot closer. Three cheers for autumn cleaning.

Posted at 9:00 pm by Jim Woods

Tuesday September 26 2006

Despite having had my root canal done,

I am still taking antibiotics to try to clear up a persistent infection under the tooth. This is what's called no fun, but there you go I suppose. One must be stoical. I am equally frustrated by my inability to get anywhere playing Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines. Is it that the youth are better at these things than I? Surely not. I've just read a good book about the making of Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours", and it's decidedly chilly out. When I find the energy I will no doubt regale you all with tales of computing derring-do, but for now most things are seeming like hard work. Sorry...

Posted at 7:01 pm by Jim Woods

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