Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wikipedia : Caveat Emptor

You'll have noticed I link to Wikipedia a lot.

Wikipedia is one of the internet phenomema of the last couple of years - an online encyclopedia which is compiled by anyone who cares to contribute.

Personally, I think it's great, but beware ...

Wikipedia is useful if you use it as a start to your internet quests for knowledge. Usually it is a good source of information regarding concrete, factual information on such items as .flac or cricket.

However, Wikipedia's strength is also its weakness. Subjects which are open to interpretation can be biased and even misleading.

So treat its information with caution. Don't base your newspaper article, thesis or even your homework on it without verification.

You have been warned.

WiFi 02 : Streaming

There are a couple of choices when it comes to using your WiFi internet radio to play your music collection; running a music server and streaming audio. The Noxon iRadio can do either.

I use streaming to play a random selection of my music library across our home wifi network. It's possible to listen to the stream via a computer on the wlan as well as a device such as a wifi radio.

Probably the easiest way of doing this is to use WinAmp and its associated SHOUTcast software.

Installing WinAmp is straight forward enough. There are possibly better music and media players, but WinAmp is reasonably easy to set up as a streaming application.

In addition you need the SHOUTCast DSP plugin for WinAmp and SHOUTcast Server. Both come with instructions on how to associate with WinAmp. The plugin is activated from WinAmp's options menu, but the server requires a little setting up via a .txt file. The settings are all fully explained in the file, but do require careful reading.

The advantage of streaming in this way is that you can play any music file format you like - or at least have the WinAmp codec for - despite the fact that the iRadio will only play a limited number of formats. For example, the iRadio will not play .flac or .ape files, but WinAmp/SHOUTcast transcodes the stream into an .mp3, or in my case, AAC+/48kbps format for the iRadio to play.

The disadvantage of streaming is that it is not possible to effect a choice of what's played through the iRadio. The music is directed by WinAmp's playlist. However, it does mean that from time to time you rediscover the little gems hidden away in your music collection.

*See my hifi index here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gridiron : Eagles vs Giants

Well, I did baseball, and now it's American Football's turn.

So a cold, dull day saw us drive across to Phillie to the Eagle's stadium to watch my first US football game. Not my first ever gridiron; I have watched it on tv and local UK teams in muddy fields in the corner of the park, but nothing like this.

The stadium was immense. Several tiers of seating rising high into the sky. Hey, the section where we were even had waitress service. Not like Plymouth Argyle's Mayflower stand at all really.

The protagonists, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants - Linda's team - were at more or less opposite ends of the league, but that didn't stop the Eagles making a good start against the high-rolling Giants. However, the Giants doggedly made a slow, but not particularly elegant come-back to take the game by the end.

US football is a great game spoiled only by the fact that an hour on the field takes over three hours after all the stoppages and intervals are factored in. Fortunately, although it was a cold day there was no wind in our faces, so apart from frigid feet we survived quite well.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Rackett : Joe's Pub, NYC

Hey Rock and Roll!!!

Just how do you categorise Rackett?

I mean, do you measure rock and rollers by their teenage acne or by their ability to wear a rather nice sports jacket?

Well, by the second measure Rackett were right up there with the best ... And by musical standards they were up there too, especially when combined with their librettist (?) Paul Muldoon, award winning poet and darling of the New York Times.

Okay, so he's not the darling of the New York Times, but they don't get everything right, do they?

Anyway, a great evening was had by all. By my estimation half of Princeton's literati were there. Actually, they laughed at the same lines I did, so I must be cleverer than I thought.

The venue, Joe's Pub is one of the best in NYC, and thus by extrapolation I suppose, one of the best anywhere. It's certainly a place to get close up and personal with whoever's on stage. But watch your sports jacket... It will get grabbed by Joe's coat Nazis for sure ...

*See my hifi / media index

Monday, November 26, 2007

HiFi 04 : Sansui AU-317 MkII

I bought this Sansui AU-317 MkII integrated amplifier in 1978. If I recall it was about ukp400.00; about the price of a good example on eBay today.

The Sansui is very nicely built - virtually aircraft standard - and to me sounds great.

A useful feature is that the preamplifier and the amplifier can be separated. They are linked via a set of RCA connects on the back. It also has a phono-stage for connection to a record turntable and a sub-phono filter feature. This is necessary because the amp's frequency response runs down to dc and the filter stops your bass speakers transporting in and out with the warps on your lp records.

It can drive two sets of speakers either separately or together which I hope will enable me to have a play with bi-wiring at some point.

The problem I have here is that my particular amplifier was made for the European market. It has a voltage selector on the back, but this switches between 220v/240v @50Hz - rather a fine distinction.

Fortunately, I found this device, the Quick 220, which in practice supplies about 235v@60Hz. The amp seems to run well on this and so far, I haven't found the 60Hz supply to be a problem. I anticipated some extra heat, but this doesn't seem apparent.

There are some snags with the amp, mostly of a consequence of the time it was built. The RCA plugs are not gold-plated, appearing to be made of nickel-silver which has dulled over the years. But they're clean and otherwise uncorroded and I can't detect any performance issues as a result.

More seriously, the speaker terminals are of the quick-fit variety rather than nice stud-type terminals. However, if you take care over the insertion of the speaker cables, it doesn't appear to be a problem.

Lastly, I managed to find the amplifier's product manual in .pdf format and now available here. It also includes details of the AU-117 and AU-217 amps.

*See my hifi / media index here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

WiFi 01 : Noxon iRadio

I remember when I was a lad ... Eeeeeee ... you were lucky, mate!!!

Under the bed-clothes with a short-wave radio listening to the cqs from around the globe. I wasn't nearly as keen as some of my friends who had qsl cards printed and sent them off around the world and in turn received cards from scores of exotic locations.

Well, in a way internet radio lets you do this too. And the Noxon iRadio has turned out to be one of the best gadgets I have ever had the fortune to have used with a computer. Well, I say computer, but actually all the iRadio requires is an internet connection. In my case, a wifi connection. It really doesn't need a computer at all!

Now, I have no idea if the iRadio is the best ever device in this genre. There may well be better devices. There are certainly more specialised devices such as the SqueezeBox which is more of a HiFi device and which may well fit into my future plans.

But it is actually quite hard to find this type of device in the USA. They do exist, but are around double the price at least. Certainly nothing in this price range!!!

Maybe the encroachment of satellite radio here mitigates against it, but you can't help wondering if a device which enables you to connect to virtually anything that interests you for free compared to a satellite subscription, might meet some resistance in the US retail market.

Anyway, my iRadio enables me to listen to maybe around 6000 radio stations around the world, many of them in quality stereo.

I just need to give a plug for BBC 5Live International, SomaFM and Lounge-Radio in particular. And just to say it is also great for listening to podcasts, especially Mark Kermode's film reviews.

But the radio connection is just one aspect of the iRadio's talents. Next WiFi articles will explain how to stream your music collection over your domestic wifi network and how to us the iRadio with a music server.

*See my hifi / media index here.

What A Week To Give Up Smoking ...

So there we are ... Plymouth Argyle tootling along nicely in The Championship. A useful team. Engaging fans. A committed manager ...

Committed manager ... Oops!!! Oh well.

I'm not blaming Ian Holloway for taking a new job where he's probably being paid twice as much, but he should be really careful about swearing undying love with team and town just days before resigning.

Anyway, following the Argyle is a bit of a masochistic pursuit, as anyone in the Green Army will tell you, so we're pretty used to disappointment so I suppose this can go on the list of exes.

But in the course of following the soap-like twists and turns I've found a couple of Argyle fans who live in NJ, one not ten miles from where I live. Hopefully we'll meet up at Nevada Smith's in NYC next time Plymouth are on Setanta.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Knitting? Yes, really ...

I've done it ... taken the final step. I've at last managed to join Ravelry, a dynamic community of knitsters (yes ... really). Linda's been a member for a long time in Ravelry terms. Long enough to have a highly desirable real-name identity - Linda. Obvious, huh?

Me? I'm Hedonknits ... geddit???

Here are my credentials; the scarf my mum started to teach me how to knit. It has all sorts of stuff like button holes and increase and decrease stitches - don't ask me how ...

Linda's qualifications are rather better than mine. This is me in my lovely sweater. Sweater is the word because it's virtually unwearable indoors. It was much admired at the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival I can tell you.

Of course, it's another big day for us!!!

Friends and family will know why.

It's the dawn of a brand new day!!!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Nu Music

Latest acquisitions:
St-Germain-des-Prés-Café 9 : Another incredibly cool and sophisticated look at new European jazz, this edition easily lives up to the quality of the previous eight outings. It's hard to identify a standout track, because they all are ...

Hôtel Costes X : M. Pompougnac serves up the latest edition of lounge-music with a certain je ne sais quoi.

If you like this sort of stuff you can do no better than listen to internet radio station somafm, in particular, BeatBlender.

*See my hifi / media index here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

HiFi 03 : 110v/220v

I've managed to bring to the US two really nice items; a Sansui AU-317 MkII amplifier which I bought way back in 1978 but which still sounds good, and a ProJect Cherry turntable.

The problem is that Europe uses 220v/50Hz mains voltage and the USA uses 110v/60Hz. Actually, it is possible to get 220v into a US house for stuff like heavy duty heaters/machines, etc, but I want to avoid a major wiring job at the moment.

Both these components have particular and different requirements from their mains feed. The Sansui actually has a voltage switch but from 220v to 240v, which seems fairly academic to me. The turntable is motor driven and is controlled by the mains frequency so it is not just a case of stepping up the voltage.

Anyway, I did manage to find one of these; the Quick 220.

I got this one a couple of years ago so the newer ones look rather different. But in use, you plug the unit into a mains outlet with one cable, then try plugging the second cable into any other outlet in the house until the indicator light on the front changes from red to green.

I assume the unit uses two different phases of the mains supply to produce the 220v. Fortunately, the room I'm hoping to use as a listening/reading room seems to have different outlets on different phases so there is no need to trail leads around the house.

Now, although the voltage has been stepped up, the frequency remains at 60Hz. I think that this should only mean the amp may run a little warmer, but since the volume dial almost never goes past 10 o'clock, I'm not anticipating cooling to be an issue. As you can see in this image the unit seems to be producing 234v.

In addition I also use a mains conditioner I bought at Maplin's while in the UK. Despite the dirtiness of the US mains supply, I haven't noticed any artifacts coming through on the sound side, but this may yet happen ... winter is nearly here.

All of this didn't solve the turntable issue ... more in my next HiFi article.

*See my hifi / media index here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

HiFi News : index

HiFi Project:

01 : Phonostage
02 : Sum of the Parts
03 : 110v/220v
04 : Sansui AU-317 mkII Amplifier
05 : Project Classic Cherry Turntable
06 : Marantz CD5001
07 : Sennheiser HD580 Headphones

WiFi Project:

01 : Noxon iRadio
02 : Streaming
03 : Music Server
04 : Sangean WFR-20
04a: Sangean WFR-20 - Streaming

Various Stuff:

01 : Rio Karma music player
02 : RioVolt PSX100
03 : Sony MDR-EX71SL Fontopia In-The-Ear Headphones
04 : Princeton Record Exchange - and blog
05 : Sansa®TakeTV™ video player
06 : Steam Radio ...

Articles soon on; audio file formats/codecs; ripping for hifi ...


Rackett : Joe's Pub, NYC : 3.12.2007
Adele : Joe's Pub, NYC : 17/18.3.2008, pts I, II & III

* last update : 04.07.2008

NYS Sheep and Wool Festival

The New York State Sheep & Wool Festival. How fascinating is that?

Well, actually, it was pretty good!

So last weekend, we mapquested the route to Rhinebeck, NY, and spent a very nice couple of days there perusing the hundreds of exhibits at the show, and visiting a couple of historic locations as well as be entertained for dinner at the CIA - yes, really!

I'll leave show details to Linda to describe in greater detail on infiknitty, but in brief, it was a nice experience and knitters are okay. In fact, in many respects it was much like any other interest based event, like caravanners, antiques fairs, etc, etc ... and the show-ground could have just as well been at Shepton Mallet.

I should add that the sweater Linda knitted for me elicited dozens of complimentary comments and for good reason.

Rhinebeck is in the centre of an historic region which still is very attached to its Dutch past. Not least is its association with FDR - Franklin Delano Roosevelt - the President who took the US into and through the Second World War, only to die shortly before victory was realised.

The FDR Presidential Library is of interest to British visitors because of FDR's strong support for Britain during WW2 and there is much evidence of his alliance with Churchill during this time. The image to the left shows Frank, Eleanor and me enjoying a joke outside the Library.

Ah, yes. Eleanor Roosevelt. Americans regard her as the First Lady amongst First Ladies. After FDR's death she lived a few miles away at Val Kill -Kill being a term for a water course.

Did I mention we had dinner at the CIA?

The Culinary Institute of America, that is. And very good it was too, although I think that someone who is three weeks away from graduating could make sure we got our wine on time with the meal. But, otherwise, the food and ambiance was very good.

The real feature of this time of year is the fall leave colour. Unfortunately it is difficult to get a panorama of this glorious sight. Any glimpse we had was through the trees as we drove Route 9. But close up it was rather wonderful too.

So, ask me if I'd go to the Sheep & Wool festival again and I'd unhesitatingly say yes!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

HiFi 02 : Sum Of The Parts

I have always had an interest in hifi. That is; the facility to reproduce music with as practical an approach to fidelity as reasonable and economic.

I say reasonable. I have heard some incredible rigs at hifi shows and at dealers. Some have cost into six figures - and I'm talking UKpounds here.

But probably the best system I ever heard cost in the region of UKp4k at a show in Bristol some years ago. Still a lot of money, but I'll bet lots of people round here spend a lot more than that on their home theatre/cinema system.

As I recall, the rig was in the Wilson-Benesch room, consisting of one of their turntables and speakers playing through a Chord amplifier. The demo disc was Lou Reed, Walk on the Wild Side. And in the bit the coloured girls go, Doo doo ... you could place every singer in the chorus at an exact place in the room. Nice. I hasten to add, the image to the left represents home theatre overkill, not a modest hifi setup.

Anyway, what I am doing is putting together a system from favourite and found bits and pieces with the occasional purchase, coping with the 110v/220v problem and producing a modest, but practical and competent system.

Next HiFi article; 110v/220v and why it's an issue for me.

*See my hifi / media index here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wish List

Coming to see us out here?

Well, there are a number of things you might like to pack to secure our undying gratitude. And most of them are really inexpensive:

  • Original Bisto. You know, the stuff in the box. Two small ones are better than one large one if you're feeling generous. And if you do get the new Bisto, make it Onion Gravy mix. Ahhhhhhh ...
  • Taylor's Yorkshire Gold loose tea. Not tea-bags!!! Actually, you can get it here, but it approaches the price of caviar ... really. Actually, the occasional box of tea-bags wouldn't go amiss.
  • McVitie's Digestive biscuits. Nothing like them ...
  • Cadbury's Fruit & Nut chocolate.
  • The latest Private Eye
  • Wright's Coal Tar Soap
If you're feeling rich and live in Plymouth:
  • Plymouth Gin, Navy strength. 57%proof so gunpowder will still ignite if soaked in it.

Thanks. A&L

# last update : 16.10.2007

NPR : Pledge Week

NPR : National Public Radio.

Imagine if you will, a national public broadcasting system, not unlike the BBC in its aspirations and ambitions, running, not on the billions most other nations devote to their national TV and radio, but a system which almost totally depends on listeners/viewers digging into their own charitable pockets just to keep the programmes on the air.

That is the situation public radio, that is, non-commercial, non-profit-making, community-based radio, finds itself in here in the USA.

And this week is Pledge Week. A week in which NPR is reduced to broadcasting pleas for contributions virtually every five minutes and which, paradoxically, makes the programming unlistenable. All to raise $5million dollars.

So, okay we know the BBC is just a mouthpiece of UK government policy ... well, at least as many say it's the propagator of dissent, so maybe it's got it right after all. But please don't complain about how your country taxes, licences or however else it raises money for its national broadcaster. Just imagine Pledge Week on Radio1, or Radio4 ...

As for television, PBS. It's just the same here. PBS Pledge Week coming soon ...

Monday, October 15, 2007

HiFi 01 : Phonostage

Ah yes ... phonostage ... but what is it?

Nowadays, virtually all hifi amplifiers use line-level electrical connections between components. This works out at about 150mV.

But vinyl record cartridges on a record turntable turn out about 5mV as a maximum and some types less than 1.5mV.

Now my old Sansui AU-317 MkII amp has a phono-stage built in, but if you want to use a turntable with a modern amplifier you will have to get a separate phono-amplifier and run it through the AUX input.

Some newer turntable designs now include a built-in phono-stage and even USB connections. But more about all that later when I tell you more about my hifi adventure in compiling a modest yet fine sounding hifi with bits from my bits-box ... well, almost.

*See my hifi / media index here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Linda Knits

Who is this dashing fellow? And what's more, what is he wearing?

If you don't know, Linda is a very keen knitter. She even has a knitting blog called Infiknitty - geddit??? *Linda tells me it is not a knitting blog, more about life, the universe, etc, etc ...

Well, here I am modelling my new sweater which is made up of an esoteric wool blend and which, while beautiful, is extremely uncomfortable to model on a day in excess of 80F/30C.

You can read the technical details here.

However, next weekend we're off to a knitting conference at Rhinebeck in mid-state New York. I really can't believe I'm going to a knitting conference!!!

Okay, I'll pretend to myself that we're really going to see the fall colours. Actually, I am ... and this year is promising to be one of the best. I'm currently googling local steam railways and have also found an airfield with vintage aircraft so maybe it won't all be plain one, purl two.

Back on the Blog

Here I am ... Back again.

Now to sort out templates, find old graphics and stuff like that ...

Some stuff from my old blog will be resurrected. Things like hifi and The Bagel Barn - yes, really - brought visitors from all around the world.

And as my son takes great pleasure in telling me, a blog is a very sad thing to do.

Sorry sonJ.