December 08, 2009

of electronics and expectations

Back from my brief vacation in Puerto Vallarta, I return to find my Viewsonic monitor has been returned from warranty repair.

Kudos to Viewsonic as it was long out of warranty. I had contacted them after discovering that the DVI port wasn’t working properly, and that the screen seemed to drift out of alignment after a random amount of time (making it unusable) and had gotten an RMA number.

What with moving about and putting things in storage, it was a year later when I finally got it out of storage, stripped it off mount, and sent it out with a plaintive letter asking for warranty repair.

No questions asked, and 20 days later it is returned - actually, as far as I can tell, it’s a new or refurbished unit. I had a small scratch on the screen that is no longer there.

Well, the unit manifested exactly the same problem with the drifting out of phase. Hmm.. says me. That makes no sense if they really have replaced the unit.

Then the lightbulb came on. I had used the same VGA cable it originally came with to hook it up. What if the cable is bad (never happened in 25 years for me but there is always a first)?

Lo and behold, it’s been running for several days now and no problems! I haven’t tested the DVI port yet (though I expect it to work fine).

So a victory for scientific method (and thanks again to Robert Pirsig)..

Posted by artandscience at 01:58 PM

December 06, 2009

Bluetooth goodness

I may have finally found Bluetooth nirvana. I’m becoming a fan of the technology (finally).

On strong recommendations, I just bought a Zivio Boom headset for use with my iPhone. I’ve lamented for the last couple of years that every single BT headset I’ve ever used (and I’ve used many) has been absolute crap when it came to filtering environmental noise.

Since my most common use is walking outside, or driving in my car, 90+% of my time on a BT headset has environmental noise.

I’ve looked for a BT headset with a boom for quite some time. All the shorter headsets (that don’t place a microphone close to ones mouth) use omni-directional microphones. These don’t work very well in a noisy environment as to be sufficiently sensitive to pick up your voice from four to five inches away they pick up a lot of extraneous sound.

Some manufacturers have add noise-cancelling (only good when the sound source is a constant frequency range and amplitude) and some have added a second microphone and circuitry to discriminate between your voice and environmental sound. None work particularly well, sadly.

But the Zivio has an extendable, bendable (very slightly) boom mic that places the mike within an inch or two of my mouth. Early tests with a live (loud) TV in the background proved very effective (according to my callees).

So, both thumbs up for the best BT headset I’ve found so far.

I should note that it comes with six (!) different earpieces and an optional earhook to help it fit your ear. Mine has a very small canal (and doesn’t fit the standard Apple headphones at all) and I managed to find one that fits this headset very well.

Posted by artandscience at 02:37 PM

October 26, 2009

Liverpool 2 - Man Utd 0

Liverpool stopped their slide with a brilliant 2-0 thrashing of Man Utd at home on Sunday. And what a thrashing it was! I remember at most three attempts on goal by Ferguson’s whingers.

Liverpool was dominating, moving at full speed for the entire game and their midfield controlled Scholes and Carrick very handily. Even a partially-fit Torres, abused as he was by the Man Utd players, was enough to score a beautiful goal as he was sent through by Lucas’ pass.

The press had written off Liverpool before the game on the back of four successive losses (the last because the ball was deflected by a beach ball thrown onto the field). All in all, a very fine result. That’s three in a row now over Man Utd.

Posted by artandscience at 10:17 PM

October 16, 2009

drinking the Kool Aid (tm)

Under the category of “How cool is that?” I decided that I was tired of trying to actually do work on my tiny issued laptop screen and wanted to use my home monitor. So I thought, “I do have Outlook 2007 on my home machine. I wonder what it would take to configure it”. About 30 seconds. No kidding!

I just typed in my name and Microsoft login and it automagically found the right settings to connect to the Exchange server and downloaded my email and set it up just like my laptop.

Blazing speed, and very easy. I’ve got to applaud MS for doing this very well and seamlessly..

Posted by artandscience at 12:36 PM

October 15, 2009

Speakerlab

Finally got my Speakerlab DAS-6s re-coned and then rebuilt them. Tried them out with my old Sony amp (always problematic) and was afraid that I had wired them out of phase or something. Sound seemed to pulse. But I had very carefully checked the phase with a battery and wires and spoken to the Speakerlab engineers (here in Seattle, yea!) and was pretty confident of my work.

So on the off chance, I hooked up my venerable NAD pre-amp and amp and lo and behold, the speakers sound awesome. So I think the Sony is f*cked. Overly complicated piece of junk.

My only problem now is that my new studio has wood floors and I doubt I can use more than 1/10th of the power of the amps (go a pair of NADs bi-amped) without getting complaints from my neighbors.

Ah well.. next up.. refinishing the cabinet exteriors and putting new grill covering on them - and protecting the rear woofers from my cats by putting shields over them. That’s why they need re-coning in the first place.

Tremendous magnetic fields in the mid-ranges. They are 20-30 inches at a minimum from my TV but are affecting the tube pretty seriously.

Posted by artandscience at 09:17 PM

October 13, 2009

Freeland 4" Cuff sling

I bought this sling a few months back. I’ve used it in three matches and the tongue of the buckle just started ripping out the hole in the sling. It felt like the sling was slipping during a string but I just couldn’t figure out how, since it seemed like a great fit.

Then I discovered the hole (should have photographed it). When I talked to Champions they tell me that this may be the first one they’ve ever seen come back. No matter, I’m now moving to a synthetic sling. They have their liabilities too (occasional catastrophic failure of the metal bits, I hear) but I’ll keep an extra one in the bag. Either Kurt Thune or Gehmann or Anschutz in my future very soon now.

Posted by artandscience at 12:40 PM

October 12, 2009

Competitive Shooting

I’ve started shooting competitively again. This time, it’s NRA High Power competition (with a big gun) rather than Smallbore. Of course, I’m still looking to pick up a decent Anschutz Super Match 54 as my finances recover (purely for winter practice you understand).

The big limitation I’m finding, which I’ve never had to deal with before, is that my eyes are getting presbyopic. Basically, the lens is hardening and my eye muscles are losing the ability to get my lens to change focus quickly. So when once I could shift focus between bull and aperture nearly instantaneously I can now see the change in focus happen. Indeed, I have to force my eye back to focusing on the front sight.

Which truly sucks as my skill hasn’t deteriorated, and wind aside, I feel I should be at least capable of shooting at the Master level.

My most recent acquisition is a pair of Knobloch shooting glasses (schiess brillen). They should allow me to position a lens, adjusted to bring the front sight into focus, exactly in line with my eye and the apertures I’m looking through.

When I focus on the front sight, 1/2-1MOA groups seem easily possible. Without that, I’m all over the paper.

Posted by artandscience at 06:48 AM

August 07, 2009

This reminds me

This reminds me of why I like San Francisco.

Pretty smart blog, I’ve got to say.

Posted by artandscience at 12:01 AM

June 18, 2009

Grand Prix de Monaco

Much delayed, I just watched the Grand Prix de Monaco. Absolutely fabulous. Very very nice to see Jensen Button race so well after a couple of years of real adversity.

I imagine the Tifosi are crying over their prawn sandwhiches but no great loss. Their season is for all practical purposes over unless Jensen hurts himself.

Posted by artandscience at 04:48 PM

May 31, 2009

What an awful site

Occasionally, I just run into a site that warrants some comment. Some positive, some negative. In this case, quite negative.

I bought my Dad a set of Ray-Ban Aviators for Father’s Day. Polarized, UVA/UVB protection.. the classic green lens, gold frame we all know and love from “Top Gun”. Been around since 1937 and still the best sunglasses of which I know.

Well, I noticed that the G-15 lenses can be prescription ground - so I thought that I might consider a set for myself eventually. Much nicer than having to wear contacts to wear them in allergy season.

So I take myself off to the Ray-Ban official site, thinking that it should be fairly easy to determine the requirements for getting them in my prescription.

Not so.

First, I have to select my country of origin. Given our sophistication with IP lookup and headers, why cannot the designer make a leap and set the country value initially. If wrong, then it can be changed by the user. But you’ve saved the user a step if you guess right.

After selecting the USA site, I now have to wait for a big Flash object to load.

After at least a minute for the entry page to load (and this on a fairly fast connection), I’m presented with a “Skip Intro” button in the lower right-hand corner. Typically arrogant design. I would have instructed my designer to have that show up in the first two seconds for the impatient customer who does not want “an experience” but rather wants hard info on a product line or feature.

I shouldn’t have to waste 10 minutes of precious lifetime just trying to find basic info. No alternative, non-Flash site available as far as I can determine either. So every new page I navigate to seems to require a new Flash to be loaded for me simply to determine it’s not what I wanted to see.

The search function is quite poor, the lines defined not by their names but by their product codes (aka 3025 is an Aviator). However, a search for either 3025 or RB3025 yields no results and a search for Aviator yields 3. Clicking on the results seems to have no effect though. I cannot seem to get to the product page and after 10 minutes am ready to leave this site and never go back.

Did I mention the entry page seems to fail to load in Firefox?

The designers seem more in love with their design and less interested in meeting the customer’s needs.

Design a la 2000.

So last century.

Posted by artandscience at 11:37 AM

May 28, 2009

Facebook blah

Ok. So I have a Facebook page. My sister convinced me to get one so that I could share my iTunes playlists with her (through an applet). Needless to say, she barely uses the thing right now and I still have the page a couple of years later.

I like some social networking tools (Twitter, LinkedIn) a great deal but I barely tolerate FB. I have found it’s good for staying in touch with distant friends (just reconnected with some French friends) but it’s not something that I’m compelled to use every day.

In any event, I was adding a couple of friends from my gmail address book yesterday when FB just messed up. I had invited a dozen friends or so to join my network, hit the send button, and it comes back with a confirmation that it has added half the entries in my gmail. Considering I have several hundred correspondents - including potential employers - this is beyond mildly embarrassing.

Nothing I could do about it because the UI is so crappy it didn’t provide a confirmation step. I’ll just have to hope my correspondents understand.
The question arises, though, if you’ve emailed someone you don’t really want as a friend (say a business associate) are you obligated to accept them as a “friend” when they respond in the affirmative.

The plus side is that a few friends I haven’t been in touch with in a year or two have responded and we are talking again.

Silver lining I suppose..

Posted by artandscience at 10:16 AM

May 25, 2009

B movies

Anyone who has known me long enough knows that I’m a bit of an aficianado of B movies. The sub-genre really doesn’t matter; my tastes span science-fiction to horror to crime/drama.

I discovered a great site for this sort of interest yesterday: Film School Rejects. It seems to have a bit of horror film emphasis - I got there looking at a review of the Norwegian neo-classic “Dod Sno” (“Dead Snow”) - but so far it looks very promising.

Posted by artandscience at 07:23 AM

May 06, 2009

Word of the Day

I’m reading a famous old essay on naval tactics today (from the Age of Sail) and I came across a word I’d never seen. Not that unusual I suppose it’s the essay is over 200 years old, but I found that it may still be found in a dictionary:

an·i·mad·vert (ane-mad-vûrt)
intr.v. an·i·mad·vert·ed, an·i·mad·vert·ing, an·i·mad·verts

To remark or comment critically, usually with strong disapproval or censure

How cool is that?

Posted by artandscience at 09:52 AM

April 10, 2009

The Masters

Most years, I watch the Masters. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to catch great drama (Tiger Woods coming back to win on a Sunday, Mickelson winning, the Shark’s collapse).

This year, I’m watching a lot of Thursday and Friday action on my iPhone. The Golf Channel is totally lame, even in HD. I believe they are restricted from showing the front 9 (by agreement with Augusta) so their morning coverage is all talking heads while players tee off on the front nine. Total waste of life to watch it.

But my iPhone is giving me live coverage the moment golfers hit Amen Corner (10, 11, 12). The same coverage that will be televised starting at 1pm, except I’m getting it three hours early and live.

I had the bright idea of up the iPhone to the TV with the special cable and watching it on the big screen. No go. I guess the app doesn’t support it. Tested my connection by firing up Danger Diabolik from the iPhone and it played perfectly, so it’s the Masters app that doesn’t support it.

Nevertheless, it’s pretty much a seachange, and I think it’s escaped many. I’m watching live streaming TV on the iPhone. Other networks (think Sprint) have supported this for a couple of years - for a hefty extra fee - but to my knowledge this is the first mainstream app on the iPhone to support this.

The quality is pretty decent, and it supports WiFi, 3G, and Edge.

Posted by artandscience at 11:02 AM

April 09, 2009

Changing vendors

About time I updated to a different publishing system. Non-trivial because I’ll need to hack the templates, as I did with MovableType to match the look and feel of the rest of my site. That said, I have a ton of updating work to do on my site anyway - chiefly putting up a revised Flash-based photo gallery and updating my resume.

Likely candidate is WordPress, of course. I just have to check how the tools are for publishing to it and the ease or difficulty of dumping my archive of articles and moving them over.

Posted by artandscience at 11:31 AM

April 08, 2009

Danger Diabolik

Just had the absolute pleasure of watching Danger Diabolik. It is a 1967 film, directed by the Italian director Mario Bava, starring the Italian comic antihero Diabolik. John Phillip Law is the lead, and the delectable Marisa Mell is his girlfriend. Enrico Morricone does the tremendously innovative score (using sithars!).

Some might say that it was campy but I prefer to think that it was honest to the comic book. Thoroughly enjoyable popcorn fare.

Posted by artandscience at 08:54 AM

April 07, 2009

Manchester United stumble again

I’m a little torn about supporting Porto against Manchester United (English vs. Portugese team) but I confess that I’m pretty happy that they stumbled and gave up two more goals at home to Porto.

Porto looked superb for most of the game. To give Man U their due, they did improve and play much better in the second half than the first. Of course, their first -half performance was woeful.

That said, a single goal at Porto in two weeks time will win it for them. Conversely, a single goal by Porto will mean that they will need two goals in Porto to win the match (because of the away goals rule). So they have a hard row to hoe here.

I have to look at this more from the point of view of a Liverpool supporter than an England partisan. Man U having problems is good for Liverpool in the Premier League title race.

Of course, tomorrow Liverpool still have to face Chelsea.

Posted by artandscience at 04:30 PM

April 06, 2009

You'll never walk alone

Saturday AM, Liverpool played Fulham at Fulham in a key match in the Premier League. Of course, one could say that all the remaining matches are key matches, with only 8 left now and Liverpool still in the hunt for the title.

I watched as they simply dominated Fulham for 95% of the game (I don’t believe Fulham registered a shot on goal in the first half). This is the same team that beat Man United a couple of weeks ago 2-0. And they’re 8th in the table and haven’t lost a game to one of the Big Four at home this season.

So they’re pretty good at home.

Liverpool had something like five chances in the first half. Four misses from within the six yard box and a couple hitting the woodwork. Tremendous luck for Fulham. The game got quite nervous as we approached 90 minutes.

So I turned it off.

DVR and all that. Didn’t want to ruin my weekend if they lost, so I thought I would watch it last night. One thing runs to another, and I had a really severe attack of allergies last night and went to bed early.

Got up this morning and watched the last nine minutes.

In the 91st minute, Yossi Benayoun wins the game for us. For the eighth time this season, Liverpool wins a game in the last five minutes.

Huzzah!

Posted by artandscience at 11:34 AM

April 05, 2009

finally, a tripod

Just won myself this little beauty.

I’ve been missing having a real tripod for years. I have a nice Bogen monopod and he who will not be named recommended this to me a year or two ago.

It looks pristine, and I may well sell the head if it’s not perfect as I already have aI very nice Bogen that I use with my large format camera.

Posted by artandscience at 07:09 PM

April 01, 2009

Simply stunning

SGI goes down. They were a wounded elephant for the last two or three years at least, maybe longer. But it’s a very sad end, to my mind, a brilliant company.

I worked for them for a while in the late 80’s (when they had just very successfully gone public) and they were tremendous innovators and cool folks, too. I cannot say that I really care about many former employers but this was one of the few that I did care about.

Posted by artandscience at 11:34 PM