Archive

Archive for September, 2010

HP Slate video

September 24, 2010 Leave a comment

The video here is supposedly an HP Slate prototype. I really hope it isn’t. The touch experience seems lacking, and the boot time is incredibly slow compared to the iPad’s almost instant on. And why is there a keyboard button?

Categories: Technology

Sometimes I wonder…

September 22, 2010 1 comment

I used to think IT guys were all super computer nerds. After witnessing the entire IT staff here trying to figure out what hyperthreading is, and if it gives a performance boost, I’m starting to think the IT guy stereotype is completely wrong.

Categories: Random Thoughts

“Facts of Life” email

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I recently got an email from my mom that seemed to be a wake-up call of sorts for the older generation about the state of things that used to be normal every day occurrences. It listed out items that are on their way out.

  1. The Post Office
  2. The Check
  3. The Newspaper
  4. The Book
  5. The Landline Telephone
  6. Music
  7. Television
  8. “Things” That You Own (referring to local storage moving to “the cloud”)
  9. Privacy

Here’s what I wrote about them.

The Post Office

The Post Office has been dead for years. Why do you think they keep raising stamp prices every six months? Packages are shipped with UPS/FedEx/DHL and letters are sent electronically. All but one of my bills is set to automatically come out of my checking account each month. The one that doesn’t (water bill) doesn’t because a mailed check is the only way to pay it.

Checks

When Susquehanna Bank bought Community Banks 3 or 4 years ago, they sent us a box of checks. We just got through the first book of 25 checks a few weeks ago. Checks are all but dead in my generation, replaced by the check card for normal purchases and the online payment for bills.

Newspaper

We get the Sunday newspaper solely for the coupons inside. It costs us $1.65 per week but we routinely save $2-$5 with coupons each week. I read the paper too, but most of the articles are simply feeds from the AP or written by journalists at the Washington Post or New York Times. The locally-written articles are usually worthless fluff pieces about a lady’s dog or a meeting of a local organization to decide where to plant trees. Any real news I get from the internet. Even the content of the local newspaper is available for free at lancasteronline.com.

Books

I know lots of readers who like the feel of a book in their hands (myself included). Reading on a screen just isn’t the same. You can’t argue against the convenience of having your whole library in your hands, though. Just as people no longer lug 100s of CDs around in their cars, people won’t be lugging around 15 books to read on vacation either.

Landline Telephone

Cell phones have taken over. I know lots of people who have never had a landline telephone. It is silly to pay for phone service twice. Personally, I find the “always reachable” aspect of cell phones to be repellant, so I’ve opted for a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone instead with Vonage. I pay $15 per month for 250 minutes with free long distance. 250 minutes may sound low, but we used to have a 500 minute plan and never used more than 200 minutes in one month.

Music

Until downloadable music is the same quality as CD music, CDs will stick around. CD stores will die, but CDs themselves will be fine. The big record companies will fail unless they go back to producing musicians rather than just a product to go with a million-dollar single.

Television

Television is dying because the shows aren’t original. We’ve dropped down to basic cable (we would put up an antenna, but then our Internet price would go up to make the bill higher than it is now). Aside from Chuck on NBC, there are no shows we watch regularly. 95% of our TV time is used for watching movies, 75% of which are streamed from Netflix. You no longer need 500 channels to find something you like. You simply go to the show you want to watch and click play. Why miss out on more important things to catch the new episode of “your show” when you can watch it online on your schedule?

The Cloud

Storing things in the “cloud” (aka on the internet) is already happening. Webmail services store your emails, Facebook stores photos, YouTube stores videos, etc. What is around the corner is one service for them all built into the OS. Studies have shown that something like 90% of PCs are used simply to access the internet. It is the logical next step to store data on there too. What most people have a problem with is security. Having files on your PC’s hard disk is pretty secure. Unless someone breaks into your house or hacks into your network, the files are safe. Having them in the cloud means anyone who can break into that server can get at 1000s of peoples’ files. I see these cloud-based services gaining in popularity, but never replacing local storage. And while most cloud-based services today are geared towards businesses, I have a very hard time seeing a business trust its confidential data to an outside source accessible by anyone with an internet connection.

Privacy

The email went on about cameras being everywhere, sales being tracked, advertisements being targeted, and GPS tracking. Honestly, you know these things are happening. You have two options: accept that these devices exist, or take a stand against them. Personally, a public street does not guarantee any privacy, so I’m fine with the cameras. Some people say they don’t deter crime, they just relocate it. Fine, relocate it away from me. Sales tracking can be good. After using our Giant Bonus Card for the last 10 years, things we buy regularly go on sale. We get checkout coupons for things we buy. If you’re concerned about your shopping habits being tracked, then don’t shop at stores that track them, or don’t use the Bonus Card. Finally, GPS tracking. So far, this is a user-enabled feature. If you don’t want your iPhone tracking you, turn off the GPS function. If you don’t trust Apple to really turn it off, then don’t buy an iPhone. Simple.

Google has built their entire business on targeted advertising. Check your cookies for Google.com. They capture every search you make, every link you click on in the results, and they sell that information to every site with Google Ad Words that you visit so you’ll be sure to see ads targeted to you. They don’t make any money from their free applications, that’s for sure.

Lossless Audio

September 21, 2010 2 comments

(this is an old post copied from my Windows Live blog)
I’m doing an experiment this morning. My entire CD collection is ripped to my computer using WMA at 128Kbps. I ripped a CD with WMA Lossless which, in case you don’t know, simply compresses the audio data instead of encoding it into another format, like the lossy MP3, WMA, or AAC. The reason these are able to take a 50-60MB CD track and take it down to 5-6MB is that certain audio data is trimmed off. I don’t know the specifics of how WMA does this, but I do know that they trim off the frequencies that are out of human hearing (above 20KHz, below 20Hz). Since CDs are sampled at 44.1KHz, this chops off roughly half of the data. There’s probably more going on as well, but suffice it say that what you’re hearing from an MP3/WMA/AAC file is not even close to the original CD audio.

So I ripped Blind Guardian’s Nightfall in Middle Earth to WMA Lossless and set up a playlist to play first the WMA “lossy” track followed by the WMA lossless track. I’m listening through Logitech Z-2300 speakers, which aren’t the greatest for music but are great for computer games.

Conclusion: On these speakers at least, there isn’t a big difference between the two. The Lossless tracks sound a little more “open” and definitely have tighter bass. Is it worth files being almost 10 times as big? Probably not.

UPDATE:
So I played the tracks out on my surround sound system. It’s a Denon AVR-1610 hooked to Jamo S-413 speakers (4” drivers, 1” tweeters) and subwoofer (8” 100W peak).

Blind Guardian was definitely “better” sounding in the lossless format, but it was still a very slight difference. Bass frequencies seemed to be clearer and a little deeper. So, if you have the space, I’d say might as well go to lossless. It saved about 200MB for this album, and I suspect that would be the average figure.

It surprised me how little of a difference there was. Maybe WMA is just one of the better lossy formats. I’ll try this experiment with MP3 and report back

Okay, I ripped the second movement of Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony to WMA (128Kbps), WMA Lossless, and MP3 (128Kbps). The verdict? On my computer speakers, I can’t hear any difference in a blind test.

Categories: Music, Technology

Windows Easy Transfer

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

(this is an old post copied from my Windows Live blog)
I just wanted to say how awesome Windows Easy Transfer is. I was hired to transfer data from an old laptop (Vista) to a new laptop (Win7). I hooked them both up to my gigabit switch, ran Easy Transfer on the new machine, ran the setup file it created on the old machine, and clicked go. A couple hours later and it had transferred all of the documents, photos, movies, etc. to the new machine. It’s definitely an argument for keeping everything under your user folder.

Categories: Technology

Image Formats

September 21, 2010 4 comments

(this is an old post copied from my Windows Live blog)
Just an FYI post for those out there that don’t know.

BMP – raw image data, similar to WAV for audio, stands for Bitmap.
PNG – “lossless” compression for image data, similar to Apple Lossless, FLAC, etc. for audio, stands for Portable Network Graphics.
JPG/JPEG – “lossy” compression for image data, similar to MP3, AAC, WMA, etc. for audio, stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group.
GIF – “lossless” compression for image data, but limited to 256 colors. Great for little web icons and such, but horrible for anything with more than 256 colors. Stands for Graphic Interchange Format.

Moral of the story: use PNG unless you really care about space.

Categories: Technology

“Facts of Life Today” email

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I recently got an email from my mom that seemed to be a wake-up call of sorts for the older generation about the state of things that used to be normal every day occurrences. It listed out items that are on their way out.

  1. The Post Office
  2. The Check
  3. The Newspaper
  4. The Book
  5. The Landline Telephone
  6. Music
  7. Television
  8. “Things” That You Own (referring to local storage moving to “the cloud”)
  9. Privacy

Here’s what I wrote about them.

The Post Office

The Post Office has been dead for years. Why do you think they keep raising stamp prices every six months? Packages are shipped with UPS/FedEx/DHL and letters are sent electronically. All but one of my bills is set to automatically come out of my checking account each month. The one that doesn’t (water bill) doesn’t because a mailed check is the only way to pay it.

Checks

When Susquehanna Bank bought Community Banks 3 or 4 years ago, they sent us a box of checks. We just got through the first book of 25 checks a few weeks ago. Checks are all but dead in my generation, replaced by the check card for normal purchases and the online payment for bills.

Newspaper

We get the Sunday newspaper solely for the coupons inside. It costs us $1.65 per week but we routinely save $2-$5 with coupons each week. I read the paper too, but most of the articles are simply feeds from the AP or written by journalists at the Washington Post or New York Times. The locally-written articles are usually worthless fluff pieces about a lady’s dog or a meeting of a local organization to decide where to plant trees. Any real news I get from the internet. Even the content of the local newspaper is available for free at lancasteronline.com.

Books

I know lots of readers who like the feel of a book in their hands (myself included). Reading on a screen just isn’t the same. You can’t argue against the convenience of having your whole library in your hands, though. Just as people no longer lug 100s of CDs around in their cars, people won’t be lugging around 15 books to read on vacation either.

Landline Telephone

Cell phones have taken over. I know lots of people who have never had a landline telephone. It is silly to pay for phone service twice. Personally, I find the "always reachable" aspect of cell phones to be repellant, so I’ve opted for a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone instead with Vonage. I pay $15 per month for 200 minutes with free long distance. 250 minutes may sound low, but we used to have a 500 minute plan and never used more than 200 minutes in one month.

Music

Until downloadable music is the same quality as CD music, CDs will stick around. CD stores will die, but CDs themselves will be fine. The big record companies will fail unless they go back to producing musicians rather than just a product to go with a million-dollar single.

Television

Television is dying because the shows aren’t original. We’ve dropped down to basic cable (we would put up an antenna, but then our Internet price would go up to make the bill higher than it is now). Aside from Chuck on NBC, there are no shows we watch regularly. 95% of our TV time is used for watching movies, 75% of which are streamed from Netflix. You no longer need 500 channels to find something you like. You simply go to the show you want to watch and click play. Why miss out on more important things to catch the new episode of “your show” when you can watch it online on your schedule?

The Cloud

Storing things in the “cloud” (aka on the internet) is already happening. Webmail services store your emails, Facebook stores photos, YouTube stores videos, etc. What is around the corner is one service for them all built into the OS. Studies have shown that something like 90% of PCs are used simply to access the internet. It is the logical next step to store data on there too. What most people have a problem with is security. Having files on your PC’s hard disk is pretty secure. Unless someone breaks into your house or hacks into your network, the files are safe. Having them in the cloud means anyone who can break into that server can get at 1000s of peoples’ files. I see these cloud-based services gaining in popularity, but never replacing local storage. And while most cloud-based services today are geared towards businesses, I have a very hard time seeing a business trust its confidential data to an outside source accessible by anyone with an internet connection.

Privacy

The email went on about cameras being everywhere, sales being tracked, advertisements being targeted, and GPS tracking. Honestly, you know these things are happening. You have two options: accept that these devices exist, or take a stand against them. Personally, a public street does not guarantee any privacy, so I’m fine with the cameras. Some people say they don’t deter crime, they just relocate it. Fine, relocate it away from me. Sales tracking can be good. After using our Giant Bonus Card for the last 10 years, things we buy regularly go on sale. We get checkout coupons for things we buy. If you’re concerned about your shopping habits being tracked, then don’t shop at stores that track them, or don’t use the Bonus Card. Finally, GPS tracking. So far, this is a user-enabled feature. If you don’t want your iPhone tracking you, turn off the GPS function. If you don’t trust Apple to really turn it off, then don’t buy an iPhone. Simple.

Google has built their entire business on targeted advertising. Check your cookies for Google.com. They capture every search you make, every link you click on in the results, and they sell that information to every site with Google Ad Words that you visit so you’ll be sure to see ads targeted to you. They don’t make any money from their free applications, that’s for sure.