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Friday November 24 2006
I may have been a little harsh
on Firefox a few days back. Indications now are that on my computer it is probably Zencast that causes the entire system to hang, while difficulties encountered while using Firefox are possibly the result of bad behaviour from Quicktime. Hangs are mercifully infrequent, making it hard to trace the problem easily.
Posted at 10:23 pm by Jim Woods
Wednesday November 22 2006
The Firefox has begun
to crash so thoroughly that it requires me to hit the reset button the system unit. It doesn't do it very often, but often enough to annoy. After all, this is not the kind of behaviour we expect from any application nowadays. I often have to use the task manager to kill a recalcitrant app, and I live with this, but I don't like the whole system coming to its knees. I think it's the Firefox, but I'm not positive.
Posted at 2:30 am by Jim Woods
I can't believe I ever thought it necessary
to give my money to Sky. Okay, I liked to watch the occasional thing on the National Geographic channel. But then I still get the magazine. Where to put it when I've read it is still a bit of an issue, since after twenty years it really mounts up, but I get my fix of glossy geo-porn there. I miss nothing about no longer getting the channels beyond those which can be viewed for free. Double negative. Sorry. Clumsy phrasing is the price of my pouring my bile or otherwise directly onto the web. So now I receive only those channels available to anyone with a dish and an old Sky box. And I save twenty-odd quid per month, which is always going to be good. And it strikes me that there is still a lot more telly that looks good than I can possibly watch. And I have time. What are all those subscribers actually doing? I find most of the arts stuff on BBC 3 and 4 pretty good, and I watch a lot of films from Film Four.
In fact, I don't count myself that much of a screenhead. Well, I spend a lot of time on the net it's true. But a television addict? Hardly at all. Just the movies and the arts stuff, which I can defend pretty vigorously if I must. Strange that I am so interested in the technology behind it all then, but that's me - grimly obsessive-compulsive to the end. We have to agree that it's all in the interests of getting to the essence of the content, and then progress from there. And in order to get one's hands on the good content in the first place a fairly high degree of time-shifting is necessary. So I love my podcasts and PVR. And I want to be clear when I talk about these things that my aim is in fact quite technologically naive. I just want it all to work, so that I can revel in film and writing and music and art. There's only so much I can achieve in this line by patrolling the meatspace of museums and book and record shops. Comes a point when we must gird our loins and get our electricals straight. Oh yes.
In this vein, I have recently reached a few conclusions and made a few adjustments.
First, I took apart my living-room home entertainment shrine and gave it some very careful scrutiny and consideration. I grouped stuff in the racks to better dissipate heat and to try to reduce the interference inevitable when one has a rat's nest of interconnects stuffed around the back. This is a sufficiently onerous task that it had long gone neglected. I stuck a few quid into better interconnects where the connection methods and signal quality warranted it - I'm interested but no nutter in these matters - and I was able to get my turntable back into play. Kind friends, and I count myself as always having been very lucky in that regard, continue to give me their old vinyl. Much of it is evilly naff, and of course this greatly pleases my contrary nature. I bought my turntable for £12 nearly twenty years ago off a friend, and amazingly the old Hitachi direct drive soldiers on and sounds pretty decent. I'm working on a decent deck, but so far have not found anything I liked for a reasonable price. The main thing is that I'm spinning a load of discs and having fun while I try to get well again from a nasty, nasty virus.
I also took apart the TiVo, weird anti-tamper screws notwithstanding, and removed nigh on five years of fluff and crap. Sadly it's still pretty noisy, and I fear that more frequent crashes and whining mean that it is reaching the end of its life. Actually, I fancy getting a little Freeview PVR to substitute for the bulky rig of series one TiVo and Sky box. But first I need a decent TV aerial, and I have yet to chase a friend onto my roof to sort this side of things out. Still, in time. It'll be nice to get back some space and lose some background noise. And I'll exercise a bit more diligence with the EPG when that happens and save the tenner a month I pay for the TiVo listings service. The old TiVo will be worth a bit on eBay even when the hard drive bites the dust.
Another change is that I have ditched the home cinema amp and gone back to two channel audio. The reasoning here was simple. Although there was an impressive amount of wallop coming from the big Sony, and it didn't sound bad at all for music, I always hated the clumsy remote and the sheer complexity of the whole thing. Sometimes, you know, one just wants to stick on a record without having to select an audio mode and so forth. I only ever used the surround to watch DVDs, and I don't spend that high a proportion of my time in the living room doing that. So I've fallen back to simple stereo, and my music sounds much better for it. A decent two-channel rig has plenty of depth to its imaging after all, and we only have two ears. I've lost the special effects, but gained a lot of space and musicality.
Now the setup is as follows:
I have my Samsung LCD telly, 32", which has proven very clear and reliable - touch wood - despite being pretty reasonable in cost for such a thing. I have my Panasonic Sky box soldiering on in conjunction with the old TiVo. I have a great little Toshiba DVD player which is blinding via component connections, and cost under a hundred quid. I've carried out a few super-secret modifications to it. The beauty of relatively cheap gear is that one can play around with it without too much worry about the consequences. I have my fifteen-year-old Trichord CD player, still sounding great although the mechanism is going to ultimately bury that one. A very good investment that was. I have the cheapest Panasonic DVD recorder, and it works very well for making archive copies of stuff I have recorded from TV. Because I have a lot of good stuff on VHS tape, I still have a VCR in the rack. And I have my £12 turntable for now.
The new amplification is a Cambridge Audio Azur 640A version 2, which frankly blows me away. If you have less than a grand to spend and you want an amp, don't fail to check this one out. It's £300 and it is extraordinarily good. I'm thrilled with it. I also invested in the 640 phono preamp, which sounds great and has a subsonic filter too which can't hurt if you are an aficionado of rumbly old direct drive decks. No point in all your power going into low-frequency cone-moving that you'll never put to good effect.
It's all good. It'll be better when I get the smelly damp out of the living room, but then if you want to live in a cool old house there are certain trade-offs. For now I have a stack of LPs to work through, deciding what to keep and what will go to Age Concern. I'm loving my new simpler setup, which seems to get between me and the music rather less than it did before. I must think about some shelves next for the media. But progress is being made.
Posted at 1:40 am by Jim Woods