Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sound Advice

Okay, so reports of the death of the CD format may have been greatly exaggerated, but it doesn't fail to amaze me that people's tolerance of poor quality audio seems to be infinite.

I still love to tinker with my audio equipment at home. You know, the stuff which used to be called hifi. Turntables, CD players, amplifiers and speakers dedicated to converting media which had been lovingly crafted into the best quality sound available.

It used to be a social thing, listening to music together, even just as a collective background to reading, knitting or whatever. And I'm not just talking about a vinyl versus CD thing. I love vinyl records. They have a quality about them which CD cannot match. I'm not saying it's better, just different.

Like, most of the time I'm happy sitting and sipping a rye & dry, ice and lemon. Sometimes it nice to sit and just concentrate on a single malt and contemplate where it came from, the moors, the heathers, the peat and copper, the barley and the water ... That, for me is the difference between vinyl records and CD/digital.

Now music is just a shoddy commodity squirted down a tube into your ears, and your ears alone, sadly just another solitary activity while you're on the commute, walking down the road.

Let me illustrate.

Lossless Audio File | Compressed Music File - .mp3
The above image illustrates what modern music formats are all about. The way a compressed image file and a compressed audio file such as .mp3 works is very similar. On the left an image with full dynamics. On the right compressed and pixelated.

Now imagine looking at this image through a pair of thrift store reading glasses compared to your own prescription lenses. It looks crap right? For dollar-store glasses read mp3 player and earbuds and for prescription glasses read hifi. In fact, the right hand side will still look crap through your honed to perfection glasses.

Compressed image files do not look good. Compressed audio files do not sound good.

Insist on good quality audio.
Lossless Audio File | Compressed Music File - .mp3

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

You can't have too many bikes? Right?

But where are you going to put them?

The past couple of places I have lived have had the best bicycle accessory there is - as well as a car, that is - a cellar.

But now my storage options are very limited, and somehow I still have to store four bikes and all I have is a single garage in which we still have to park a car.

And here's where the Saris CycleGlide comes in. Imagine a filing system for your bicycles; each bike hangs from its individual fitting on the ceiling and slides up and down a track for access. The CycleGlide comes equipped to handle four bikes, plus an option to add another two.

So I spent a Sunday afternoon locating ceiling rafters and re-routing the garage door motor power cable installing the device.

In essence it consists of two rails which need to be very securely attached to the ceiling. It was fairly easy to find the underlying rafters so that the bikes wouldn't be hanging from half-an-inch of plaster-board, or whatever they call it here.

Four extra rails which are able to slide up and down the ceiling rails hold adjustable hooks, which in turn support the bicycles which hang, upside-down, from their wheels

I was able to suspend my own weight from the hooks, so I'm thinking my efforts at finding strong attachment points have been successful. The rig is rated at 200lb/90kg; that is 50lb/23kg per bike, more than enough for most quality bicycles. The extra kit enables two further 50lb/23kg bikes to be stored. From my trials, I would have no problem in assuming the bikes will be held very securely.

The bikes can be slid up and down the rails, facilitating access to individual bikes, then rolled over to one side when not in use.

First impressions are very good, the whole thing being far more flexible than using pulleys or hooks to suspend the bikes from the ceiling.

As long as you are able to lift a bicycle to shoulder height this is an effective system with scope to expand the capacity to six bikes.

I know, you always need just one more bicycle. but this will handle most cyclists' fleets.