Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Before meandering further through whatever my attention is drawn towards, I thought it might be a good time to ground, center and describe the base of operations that is my computer/music studio/stereo.

A few years ago, I decided to spend some real money and buy a full version of Cubase, a high-spec computer that could run it easily, a professional sounding RME Fireface 400 (we blow our noses in the general direction of SoundBlaster), and a pair of Tannoy active monitor speakers on which to hear it all. If most of that washed over you, never mind. My point is that this is the best sounding (and most expensive) stereo I’ve ever had.

Along with the aforementioned gear, I have an old, beat up mixing desk that I picked up cheap when it was walking past the house one day, under the arm of two musicians looking to upgrade. I also have an assortment of musical instruments. We have five children between us. We live in a big house, but not so big that there is a spare room. But we do have a big kitchen. At least it was big until I annexed one side of it. I am lucky that Trish is a tolerant partner who doesn’t mind. I say “tolerant”. Perhaps she is simply resigned to it and suffering silently. I’m afraid to ask.

When I ordered all the computer-based recording gear, I neglected to order an unlimited supply of time. Also detracting from any serious music production is that this “studio” is located at the somewhat major intersection of living room, backyard, and refrigerator. Anyone with children can appreciate how congested this intersection can be. Now throw in the fact that this is the only computer in the house. So unless everyone is out of the house, or it is very late at night when everyone is in bed, and I’m very, very quiet, the music production just doesn’t happen.

But I can listen to music, a lot of music. Mine, Trish’s, the kids’ – Dad rock, modern pop, rock, country, jazz, hip hop heavy metal – ABBA to Zappa and back again from Zutons to Animal Collective. Don’t think there are any Gregorian chants in the house, but I could be wrong.

Several years ago, every CD in the house was digitized and put on an external hard drive. As a matter of course, all new CDs are ripped to the box the moment they come in the door. In part, I do this because the DVD drive just refuses to play CDs – within a minute the sound speeds up or warbles beyond all recognition. This happens only on the home PC side of the dual-boot computer. On the music production side CDs play just fine, but you can’t do any of the things you might normally do while listening to them, such as check your email, log on to Facebook, or type lengthy, rambling essays. Despite all my tinkering, I haven’t made any impact on this problem.

Having said that, the most important reason I rip is so that I can fulfill my childhood dream of having my own big honking jukebox, which I can use to skip easily between albums or tracks ad nausuem. A little too easily perhaps. For example, if I’m listening to Miles Davis and decide to take out the trash, I may find that when I return a half minute later I’m listening to AC/DC, which was selected by either Not Me or I Didn’t Do It, depending on who you want to believe.

But late at night the house goes quiet and I have the jukebox to myself. One song reminds me of another. I play that, and it leads to the next, and so on. Then suddenly it’s two AM. It’s not my fault. I was abducted by iTunes.

So you see, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Good thing I can cook.


If you are considering purchasing an HD TV, don’t. Or do, but don’t expect it to be the last TV you buy this decade. It’s your wallet.

I bought a TV five or six years ago. A 32” inch Sony WEGA, one of the last of the cathode ray tube jobs. I was well aware that technology was changing, but I didn’t care. In fact, there are only two occasions when I regretted this purchase: once when I moved house, and once when I had to bring it to the shop. That’s because the TV weighs slightly more than a Mini Cooper, and is only slightly smaller. Moving it requires that doors be disconnected from their hinges, and that I run the risk of dislocating several discs in my spine.

Otherwise I am quite happy with the TV. I bought it at a time when LED and plasma TVs had just come on to the market. They were the high-profile, big budget items. At the time, however, the picture quality was not up to a standard that warranted a three or four thousand euro asking price. Instead, I walked into Power City one Saturday and gazed across the football pitch at the back wall that was lined with televisions. I found the one with the clearest, sharpest picture and bought that for less than half the price of a flat screen. I took it home and plugged it into my Sky box. One of the Star Wars Movies was on, “Attack of the Clones”. The picture resolution was such that I immediately became airsick and had to sit on the couch before I fell over. Later we watched “Pulp Fiction”. At one point I was convinced that John Travolta was actually inside my television, and that someone had removed the glass. That’s how impressed I was by the picture quality compared to what I had been watching.

A few years have gone by. HD TV is here, to a certain extent. All the flat screen bugs have been worked out, and the HD bugs are being resolved. The term “Home Cinema” is actually coming to represent something of quality that the average person can afford. And when necessary, the box can be lifted easily and brought to the repair shop, provided you have a hatch back that can take a 50” screen. After years of waiting to be impressed, I’m finally starting to get there.

But am I impressed enough to trade in the Sony WEGA? That, my friends, is the wrong question. Here’s why. I was just thumbing through a newspaper in which I saw an article about how Sky Sports ran a test of 3D television yesterday. A pub in Drumcondra was one of the venues chosen for the test. All the patrons, including former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (it’s his local), were wearing 3D glasses and enjoying the NEXT BIG THING that is “the next best thing to being there”.

Can mass production be far behind? In a year or two, just in time for Christmas, there will be first generation sets that some people will absolutely need to own. Then there will be better-quality, second and third generation sets that are worth buying. Then Sky will actually start broadcasting selected channels in 3D and HD.

I realize it will take at least five or six years to sort out the logistics and work out the bugs. Then I expect to be impressed enough to retire my old, 2D TV and cough up the bucks for a fourth generation of the new technology, which will have come down by at least 400% from the first-generation price. In the meantime, I reckon I’ve got at least ten good years left in the Sony WEGA. I can wait. I’m a patient man, and I don’t plan on moving house anytime soon.