Friday, December 29, 2006

KERA 90.1 FM is cool

I got to visit the studios of KERA radio and TV today. They're the main public radio and TV outlet for Dallas. Sweet building, indeed. Cool folks, too.

I had a moment of professional pride when I instantly recognized the look of their studios as being done by the fine folks at Russ Berger Design Group. Distinctive design, and acoustically very nice, too. KERA does their own daily talk show called "Think" and the layout is very well done for that role...unfortunately I wasn't able to hear the show (they're on vacation this week) so I'll have to check that out on the web next week.

In other news, Dallas got hammered with thunderstorms today...made for hairy travelling but a cool celestial light show. And of course, Saddam Hussein was executed a few hours ago. I'm not sorry to see him go, but I do think the Boston Globe has a good point in their editorial "A Reason to Keep Saddam Alive". Honestly I don't know if that would've been reason enough for me...especially after seeing what a mockery of justice the Slobodan Milosevic trial was. But certainly that editorial gave me pause, even if it didn't give a pause for Saddam.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Edy's and Dreyer's Ice Cream

I thought Texas, as a state, was just fucking with me again whilst I was at CVS today and saw "Dreyer's Ice Cream" that looked exactly like my favorite "Edy's Ice Cream". A quick Google search revealed that the company markets the ice cream differently to each half of the US.

I suppose this isn't that funny to an outside observer, but considering how much I consider Texas, as a state, to be constantly fucking with me...well, my wife burst out laughing anyways.
Damn this state.

And I just KNOW that Texans like fucking with us New Englanders. Oh they do, I just KNOW it. :-)

Frickin' Christmas Lights!

I know this is dumb, but damned if I can find any christmas lights with both white lights AND white wires. The wife and I want some to use for lighting in our living room (which doesn't have an overhead lamp). But we haven't been able to find any...not even searching all over Boston for three weeks before Christmas.

Now we're visiting the family in Dallas, and there's none of these damn lights here, either! Not that many lights, period, either. Real dearth of them this year; go figure.

Friday, December 22, 2006

More partisan meddling at CPB?

Okay, I freely admit that it's possible I'm reading too much into this. After all, this is a quote from a newspaper. And it's a "juicy quote", meaning some reporter or editor saw a quote and realized it made the person look really good/bad...and that's the sort of thing readers just eat up. Never forget that newspapers exist to sell themselves, not to educate readers. Ditto for radio and TV, I might add...but I digress.

That all said, here's something Warren Bell said to the LA Times about his recess appointment by President Bush to the board of CPB. Bell's nomination had been stalled in the Senate since September, no doubt due in part to Bell's reputation as a staunch conservative and his (apparently) total lack of any public broadcasting experience.

Here's the "juicy quote" in the LA Times article:
Bell, executive producer of ABC's According to Jim said in an
interview that he hopes to strengthen public broadcasting during his time on the
board. He added that the nomination process "has not been a lot of fun."

"The whole thing completely blindsided me," Bell said. "I don't think I was remotely aware of what a hot spot public broadcasting is politically."

Okay, so you've got a guy who's just been appointed to the CPB board, and he wasn't even "remotely aware" of what a hot spot public broadcasting is politically?!?!? Give me a break! Especially after all the brouhaha over Ken Tomlinson.

I hope Bell will decide to learn from the experience and try to do his best to accomplish what's good for CPB, but I'm not holding my breath. Bush appointees historically have seem determined to do only one thing with CPB - destroy public broadcasting. And it's obvious Bush is trying to "sneak this one in" before the Democrats come in to the Senate and kill any chance of Bell making it in.

sigh

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A little bit about burning audio CD's

I could fill a novel about all the vagueries about burning CD's, but here's a fairly quick tip on the subject. If you're burning audio CD's, there are three key rules to follow, and you'll get a good burn every time:
  1. Never burn at faster than 16x. Burns done faster than 16x will have errors. Data CD's can usually be safely burned as fast as 52x because CD-ROM drives have lots of error correction built-in. Audio CD players don't have that error correction, and they'll make a bad burn play audio that sounds like it's underwater...if it plays at all.
  2. Always use high quality CD blanks. There are varying options, but Taiyo Yuden blanks have been consistently good quality. They can be hard to find, and sometimes they're re-branded and sold under another name. But I've found that Taiyo blanks are consistently the best. Try searching for 'em on Amazon.com. One caveat, Taiyo's can't be burned slower than 8x. It's odd but true...use the Taiyo's, but burn somewhere between 8x and 16x.
  3. What burner you use DOES matter. Like the CD blanks, makes & models tend to vary...and what's the best today may change tomorrow. But Plextor tends to make very good CD burners. Equally important is that CD burners do eventually wear out, too. If you burn a lot of CD's, you can expect to start seeing bad burns when the drive is starting to die; time to order a new one...they're usually under $100.
I routinely have to burn 50-100 audio CD's every week, using a automated duplicator/printer. Over the past two years, that means thousands of CD's. After I started following those three rules, I've had maybe a half-dozen (only a half dozen) bad burns. Hard to argue with that success rate! :-)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Who was that masked man?

I got to play Tech Director at Living on Earth today. They're a few stops up the Red Line subway from us, and their TD had jury duty today...poor bastard. :-)

Since my regular job had a slight problem with fire last Friday and is kinda shut down today, and since I already knew their setup, he asked if I could fill in for him. No problemo, my man.

It was kinda fun, actually. Not that I loathe my current job or anything, but it's always fun to see how other folks do the same thing you do...it's not unlike going to a conference. Speaking of which, if you're thinking of going to NAB in Vegas in April 2007 (and you damn well ought to be thinking of that!) then you'll want to book your flights and hotels right away. Even Vegas fills up amazing fast when there's 130,000 radio and TV geeks descending on it for a solid week...last year at this time NAB-reserved block was already booked at 53% capacity a full four months in advance!

It'll be a hot time in the old towne tonight...

Well, don't count on as many blog posts over the next week or two. As you may have heard, the building where The Infinite Mind's studios are located had a major fire on Friday. Fortunately everyone in the building got out okay, although sadly an NStar technician died (see below) and about 100 people had to be treated for smoke inhalation. Those of us at Infinite Mind are shaken but otherwise okay.

A quick visit on Saturday seemed to indicate that our space escaped any major damage from smoke or fire. We won't know for sure for several more days; an NStar utility worker was killed in the transformer explosion that caused the fire, so a full investigation is being done. Plus, since it was a transformer fire, there's a risk of all sorts of toxic chemicals (PCB's, asbestos, etc) having been dispersed throughout the building by the smoke. Again, so far initial reports are that we're lucky and there wasn't any toxic chemical fumes...but the tests won't be done for several days. So the building is completely closed...we can't even get in to get our equipment out. Until then, I'm working from home and scrambling to keep the bases covered.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Verizon Razr V3M

My wife's old Motorola V400 (cingular) cellphone's charging circuit died over Thanksgiving. It wasn't the charger...the phone itself just wouldn't recognize that a charger was attached. Well, it was over 3 years old, I suppose.

Seizing the opportunity to dump Cingular (and it's obnoxious GSM audio interference) we picked up a pair of Razrs through Verizon's website for $50 on Black Friday. The phones arrived a few days later, I thought I'd share some early impressions...
  1. Yay! No more dit-dit-dit, dit-dit-dit, dit-dit-dit interference!
  2. Yay! Good reception at work, both me and the wife!
  3. Boo! Verizon really cripples the OS of the phone to drive you to buy Get it Now crap. Emailing and web surfing is very hard to do.
  4. Boo! The UI is nowhere near as good as the V400's. Not sure if that's a Verizon thing or whether Motorola screwed up, but it's bloody hell annoying. Texting is much harder.
  5. Boo! Web surfing is very limited; chews up minutes unless you're on nights & weekends
  6. Yay! Call quality is definitely better...more signal and generally fewer lost calls so far.
  7. Yay! WE HAVE SIDETONE!!! YAY! YAY! YAY! My wife & I aren't shouting into the phone because we can't hear ourselves anymore!
  8. Yay! Phone is definitely slimmer and more comfortable in the pocket. This is a big deal for me, since now I can leave my phone set to "vibrate" instead of "ring" all the time. A V400 on vibrate is useless when you have to carry it in a belt pouch (I couldn't find a holster that lasted more than a few months; fragile POS's).
  9. Meh! Voice dialling. I liked the V400's method of letting you record a phrase and assigning it to a number. The Razr literally just reads your voice, but that means you have to know how to pronounce (or how the Razr pronounces) every name in your phone book...first and last.
  10. Meh! Camera. It's definitely better than the V400, but at 1 megapixel it's not really "great" either. I don't really use the phone for camera things, though.
  11. Not tried. MP3 player. This appears to be really crippled by Verizon as well, but supposedly the Razr makes a decent MP3 player if you add a 1GB (max) Micro SD card. It's no iPod though.
  12. Not tried. Bluetooth wireless high speed modem for your laptop. Looking forward to trying this out over Christmas with the inlaws in Dallas.
  13. Yay! Bluetooth headset. The teeny little Jabra headset Verizon tossed in for free actually works surprisingly well. It's fairly comfortable, has decent talk time, is reasonably loud, has a good mic, and yet is really tiny. It was a little hard to set up but not too bad...once I got it working it works fine. I don't think I'll ever use it all that much but for free it's a great deal. :-)
  14. Boo! Games. Not impressive so far, but my wife uses them a lot more than me. We'll see what she thinks in a few weeks.

I'm planning on trying some SEEM hacks pretty soon with this bugger, seeing if I can get around the Verizon crippling. I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Final judgement? As of now it seems like the Razr is a superior phone but as an all-around platform (which most cellphones are these days) it's kinda lacking. Since I really need it for a phone more than anything else, I guess that gets the job done!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Yet more Radio Shack and HD Radio

Just a quick one this time...this weekend I discovered my local Radio Shack now has an Accurian model HD Radio on display sitting next to the Boston Acoustics Receptor HD model. Even though they had the rabbit ears antenna I helped them hook up still attached to the Receptor HD, the Accurian had NO antenna connected to the FM co-ax jack and a twisted loop of speaker wire (what the hell?) attached to the leads for the AM antenna.

Not surprisingly, there was zero HD reception on the AM band, and even after I popped on the rabbit ears there wasn't very good FM reception either. At least some FM stations came in on HD, though...I put the rabbit ears on the Accurian and left it tuned to WBOS HD2 since they were playing an Everything But the Girl song I liked.

Friday, December 01, 2006

MBTA Google Map

One more quick MBTA note before the weekend - I found this handy Subway Map / Google Map mashup not all that long ago. It's quite convenient b/c it shows where the subway stops are in relation to a street map. Something few maps provided by the MBTA itself actually do.

God help the Green Line

So the much-ballyhooed MBTA "CharlieCard" is due for a head-on collision with us starting next Monday. This is the RFID-based "smartcard" for fare collection...the final stage of the process that killed off the not-quite-beloved "T Tokens".

I dig the idea of smartcards, but I gotta say the entire process has been a giant fiasco. Two glaring issues bubble up the top...one I dealt with this morning. The first is that the automated gates are way too easy to fool; you can squeeze three or four people through in one opening of the gate and the gate has no idea. Prevent fare-loss my ass.

Second is this morning's travails...my Green Line trolley had one of those new fareboxes that are complete crap because you have to carefully feed in the coins one at a time. No easy task when there's a queue of a dozen angry commuters behind you, and you're wearing winter gloves. The dollar bill accepter is very similar to a vending machines' and you all know how well those damn things work. It's basically saying "if you want to pay cash, go take a taxi and get the f**k off the subway".

Fortunately I possess a monthly pass which is a pretty quick swipe-n-go. But the poor bastard in front of me was still trying to put his coins in after he'd gotten on at the stop before mine! Finally the T driver shooed him away saying "Let's get a move on - it's Friday!" Prevent fare loss my ass, again!

Sigh I'd like to think the MBTA is at least trying to make things better. Between the fare increases and this crap, I somehow doubt that's the case. :-(