Record Player

Pro-Ject RPM 1.3 GenieI bought a record player in the UK that I’d had my eye on for a while and brought it back to the USA with me, since I saved about 50% on buying the exact same thing over here. I got the Pro-Ject RPM 1.3 Genie in white with an Ortofon Red cartridge and also took back with me some great vinyl that I found at a shop called Stamford Audio in my parent’s tiny village.

One problem – when I plugged it in at my house in the USA, it ran too fast. 🙁

The problem is that it uses a synchronous AC motor, whose rotational speed is determined by the frequency of the AC, which in the UK is 50HZ and in the USA is 60Hz. Fail.

My options were:

  1. Buy a smaller spindle. I ordered one but it was way too small, so I sent it back. I couldn’t find the right one.
  2. 3D-print the right spindle. This requires some skill and access to a 3D printer.
  3. Order a 60Hz motor. I looked into this, and the cost was $100. No way, that’s how much I saved by getting this from the UK.
  4. I’m an engineer – build a 50Hz power supply.

Of course, I picked 4.

Old vs New

iPods

I was on a plane not too long ago and someone took a look at my third generation iPod and said “oh my god, that’s so retro, where did you get it”. “Er… 2003,” I replied.

That led me to think about things that get better over time, like classic cars and good wine. Then I thought I would draw up a list of comparisons between the iPod 3rd gen and the iPod Touch. Bear in mind that this list consists of things that make a great music player (and it is fairly lighthearted).

iPod facts

I own both, but rarely use my iPod Touch because I don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, the Touch is a great portable web browser, calendar, email client and games platform, but it’s a mediocre music player at best. For one thing, there’s no way to turn off the screen lock. You have a dedicated on/off button, but you still have to slide something across the screen to bring up all the music controls (I’m reminded all the time about the double-tap on the button to bring up the music controls, but this is only about 75% reliable, and doesn’t let you switch album or artist). Also, there’s a bug in the playlist system where if you have a playlist with live updating turned on in iTunes, the songs will appear in reverse order in the Touch but not in any other iPod. Turning off this feature will cause the songs to be sorted correctly.

Apple, please focus on sound quality with the next iPod. Since the first generation iPod, sound quality has remained virtually the same. Where is my 24-bit DAC, virtual surround and high-impedance output stage?

England Trip

I was given orders to take a week off, so I decided to see my family in England. So far I have gone for a bike ride and slightly cheated because I rode an electric bike, which helps you up hills. It was a lot of fun, and really fast! I also found some trolls at a nearby pub and a duck crossing sign.

More pics to come soon!

Monster Cables

Cookie Monster

I haven’t said anything yet and I’ve already violated two copyrights – oops. Last night I was in Circuit City buying a new TV. I needed a couple of HDMI cables, but declined to buy the “cheap” cables on offer – they were charging $74.95 for 6 feet! The expensive ones (Monster Cables) started at well over $100. What surprised me was that DVI cables (essentially the same thing) cost about $100 in 2004 when using them with TVs was relatively rare, so they have actually gone up in price.

I know better than to spend crazy money on digital cables when I can get certified HDMI cables for $7 online. I actually bought a $100 cable in 2004 and compared it against an equivalent el-cheapo one, and found there to be absolutely no difference. I promptly returned it. The guy in Circuit City claimed that the colours were washed out with the cheapo cables. I told him I was a graphics engineer, and that it is impossible for random bit errors to selectively wash out particular colours in images, but he didn’t believe me.

I’m wondering, do many people actually buy into the belief that if you spend $200 on a power filter, you will actually see the difference? Reducing the mains hum delivered to a good amplifier can be a good thing, but how many people can actually hear that hum to start with? It makes me laugh when I see that people have spent hundreds on these cables when they have those tiny 6 inch high cube speakers and are watching their DVDs in simulated surround because they didn’t know to operate their receiver. Oh well.

PS. Someone told me recently that the cookie monster is on some kind of a diet. Poor bugger.

New Knight Rider

New Knight Rider

I am going to be one of those nerds who watches a new SciFi TV show and then posts on his blog a day later poking holes in the plot. Their first mistake: they picked the Mustang GT500 as the new car (the original was the Pontiac TransAm). It is a slow, boat-like wannabe race car that cannot turn corners without flipping on its back faster than Paris Hilton. It evokes none of the “wow” response that the original car did in the early 80s to impressionable young boys. Why didn’t they pick a decent car, like the Koenigsegg CCR (below)? Probably because this show is just a marketing machine for Ford.

Koenigsegg CCR

In the original TV series, Pontiac refused to let the writers mention the brand of the car on air because they were getting so many requests for the car, which they didn’t actually sell. I thought Ford made a good decision when they announced they were selling the special Knight Rider edition of this vehicle, but then again, I discovered that the sheer amount of advertising for this car during the commercial breaks meant that the 2-hour slot had more commercials than actual show. So what did this spectacular car do during this 2 1 hour show? Well, it’s bullet-proof, like the old car, but only if it is switched on! In one scene, the computer was switched off, and one of the windows broke with glass falling all over the street during a chase. In the next instant, the computer was turned on, and the glass magically reappeared! So, the car has a reservoir of liquid glass that it can use to fashion new window panes at will? Excellent.

Also, in one chase scene, the car was driving up a mountain pass whilst being pursued by a Ford SUV. It was only barely managing to keep ahead of the SUV. For a moment I thought this was silly: an SUV should never be able to keep up with even an average car around such tight corners, but then I remembered the reason: this is a Mustang. In terms of gadgetry, what did the car have inside? We saw two things: an LCD screen (my wife’s car has one) and a pop-up gear shifter (the Jaguar XF already has one, see 1:55 in the linked video). Wow. “Back in the day”, the original Knight Rider had things that were never seen in cars before – tiny TV screens, GPS-like tracking and more buttons and lights than a 747.

Worst of all: William Daniels, the original voice of KITT, is still alive – so why use Val Kilmer?

(American) Football Picks

Football Picks

For the last 17 weeks I have been playing Yahoo’s fantasy pro football picks, and I came in first place in my group of 15! The lowest score of each player was dropped (I missed the first week so scored a zero), and in the last week I moved up three places into first! Is this a bad time to admit that I don’t know the slightest thing about American Football? I guess this proves that some understanding of statistics and a bit of luck is all you need.

Robots

Recently I visited another company on a business trip, and they had some cool robots put together by the employees! Some are from kits and some are ready-assembled. The Robonova-1 biped (pictured, in gold) is made from a kit, and contains 16 servo motors. They can even dance! Now I want to make one…

Robots