My dog ate my headphones

ER-ER5HF5BLACK_2Seriously, it happened last week. One evening I fell asleep listening to a podcast. My phone fell to the floor along with my trusty of Etymotic HF5 headphones. Julio, our 18 month-old Dogo-mix, who very much likes to chew on soft plastic toys, found the earbuds to tempting to pass up. Happily, he did not ingest them. He simply rendered them useless.

You may recall that I bought a pair of OneMore Triple-Driver Earphones back in 2016. These ultimately proved disappointing. Performance-wise, they deliver exaggerated bass. They’re supposedly tuned by Luca Bignardi, a professional musician and recording engineer working in Italy. To my ears, they’re seriously imbalanced.

Further, they don’t fit as well as the ETY’s. The tips come loose, and annoyingly tend to remain in my ears when I take the buds off. When I reported this to the company they reacted with surprise, and sent me another set of tips. however, those tips didn’t change a thing. I’m done with 1More.

There are about a zillion companies now offering earphones, or the more uppity “in-ear monitors.” Most of them complete unknowns.

I’m tempted by the new Etymotic ER4XR. According to InnerFidelity they offer improved bass response over the older models. Sadly, priced around $350, they are beyond my budget.

All this begs the question, what are your favorite headphones?

How-To: Filling in a Wi-Fi Dead Spot on a Budget

For the past year I’ve been on the board of our local civic association. I did this to get me out of the house and more engaged in the local community. As a result I’ve become more aware of some of the IT issues that typically confront our neighbors. Beyond dealing with dastardly ISPs, one of the most common problems is poor Wi-Fi coverage throughout a home. When the question came up again just recently, I thought it worth collecting my thoughts on the matter and sharing them here.

Preface: The Wired

This is, for me, a statement of philosophy. Wherever possible I prefer wired, Ethernet connections to devices on my network. Wires are inconvenient to install, but are extremely reliable, and with the exception of intrusion by the occasional hungry rodent, last a very long time. If you want things to work all-the-time, every time, wired is the way to go. Period.

 

Continue reading “How-To: Filling in a Wi-Fi Dead Spot on a Budget”

Lenovo X1 Carbon: Some thoughts about an old friend

In the earliest days of January 2013 I ordered the first laptop that I’d bought with my own money in over a decade. It was a Lenovo X1 Carbon. I had been carrying an HP 8510P, which was a decent machine, but getting to be very old. Having carried both netbooks and back-breaking portable workstations, I craved an ultrabook, and the X1 Carbon stood out from the pack.

The X1C cost me dearly. At just over $1800, it was the second most expensive computer I’d ever bought, but I don’t regret it for a minute. The fact that I don’t despise it after 5 years proves that it’s been a spectacular laptop.

Except for the CPU, I opted for an i5 vs i7, it was completely optioned. Maximum memory (8 GB) and storage (256 GB.)

It was the first computer I had ordered with an SSD. It contains a 256 GB m.2 2280 SanDisk drive. It was at a transitional point in technology, so it’s an mSATA3 drive. It predates both mPCIe and NVMe.

None of this would be a concern, except that the X1 suffered a failed Windows update a few weeks back. It was rendered unbootable. Fortunately, I had a full system image that was only a couple weeks old. I was able to wipe the SSD, restore the backup image, and get back to business.

This leaves me wondering about the state of that five-year old SSD. SanDisk has a drive utility that reports that the device has 90% of it’s lifespan remaining.

SandDiskDrive Utility

I’m told that’s based upon the limited number of write cycles that flash media can sustain. Lenovo themselves pointed me to a page that projects the lifespan of an SSD into the hundreds of years. This seems optimistic to me. But then again, I had issues with the Crucial SSD in my old desktop.

Also, what about the future of the X1C itself. At this age, should I bother with replacing the SSD? Or just write of the laptop completely? Retiring the X1C hardly seems appropriate. Since I travel very little these days I don’t rely on it for much.

I tend to hang onto computer hardware. In April 2017 I bought the Airtop-PC, which moved my old HP H8 (AMD FX6100) desktop into a utility role. The even older HP DC5750 desktop that I used three-computers-back is currently running Logitech Media Server, serving music to our various Squeezeboxes (and equivalents.) Heck, it wasn’t so long ago that I finally disposed of the Asus Pundit (P1-H1, AMD Athlon XP) that was my primary desktop some four computers ago.

As I ponder the future of the X1C, I urge you to take the lesson from my recent experience. Make routine backups. Spacious portable hard drives are dirt cheap. Most recently I’ve been using the free version of Macrium’s Reflect for Windows. The process is easy. Restoring is also easy. It’s a good habit to have, and a good way to go about it.

New & Neat: Redpark Introduces First iPad Ethernet Adapters

iPad-ethernet-adapter-L6-NETPOE-640x458iDevices are getting used in innumerable ways these days. Some years back you may recall my examination of the Mocet Communicator, an iPad accessory that turned it into an executive desk phone. Behringer’s  X AIR XR18 is an audio mixer with iDevice remote control. The Cerevo LiveWedge is a video production switcher with an iPad-centric control scheme. These are just a few examples of iDevices assuming a key role in the control scheme of a more sophisticated device.

What the Mocet device highlighted is that dependence upon Wi-Fi is not always an optimal solution for connectivity. It provides Ethernet connectivity and could be powered using standard 802.11af power-over-Ethernet.

Recently, Redpark introduced a power-over-Ethernet capable Gigabit Ethernet adapter for the iPad. For just $99 this device provides both continuous power and reliable connectivity via the same length of Ethernet cable.

While supporting 10/100/1000 Mb Ethernet networks, the USB subsystem of the Lightning port delivers 225 Mbps. The interface is 802.11af compliant, capable of drawing up to 15.4 watts from the network line to keep the iDevice charged.

A single solution to providing reliable power and connectivity strikes me as massively appealing. I can see this as useful in any situation where an iDevice is in a dedicated application.

P.S. – I’ve also found Google’s combination AC adapter and Ethernet interface for first generation Chromecast to be profoundly useful. It makes the Chromecast dramatically more reliable. The newer Chromecast Ultra includes this optional power supply.

What’s in a Name: Monitors – Part 1

Language is a funny thing. Sometimes there are subtleties that have consequences, yet get overlooked. The impact of language can be both subtle, and profound at the same time. As ever, context matters. As an example, I’d like to consider the idea of monitoring and monitors.

This is going to drift from the simple to the not-so-simple, exploring the term across contexts. I’ll start with what I find to be the most straightforward aspect. The visual.

Monitors on my desk

My desktop computer has a pair of 23” LCD monitors made by HP. They’re not fancy. They were a good deal and have lasted me a long while. There’d be no debate or misunderstanding in using the term “monitors” when referencing these displays. The use of term in this context is commonplace and easily understood.

monitors

Incidentally, my twin monitors are quite vintage. I’m seriously considering a new LG 43UD79-B as an upgrade to 4K. Continue reading “What’s in a Name: Monitors – Part 1”

El Gato Cam Link: HDMI Capture on-the-cheap

Earlier this year I replaced by aged desktop computer.  The rather bulky, traditional HP tower was replaced by a fantastic little Airptop-PC. The Airtop is a fanless wonder. It’s powerful, has multiple (six!) monitor outputs, a massive array of ports, and draws a tiny amount of power.

While the Airtop-PC is a silent thing of beauty, what it lacks is the extra PCIe slot necessary to install my Aver Media C127 HDMI capture card. This has left me considering USB-connected HDMI capture devices.

An early experience with the Black Magic Design Ultra Studio has left me with an aversion to their lower-end products. I hear good things about the Magewell USB 3.0 capture dongles. There’s no doubt they’re very capable, but at around $300, also quite costly. Continue reading “El Gato Cam Link: HDMI Capture on-the-cheap”