Archive for 2010

My 2nd State of Home TV/Audio Address

First a little follow-up on the UMC-1. There’s a popping sound when changing volume. At least it passes 24P content.

Thoughts on 24P:

It still looks somewhat soap operaish to me at this point.

DVDO Edge and Gefen Dolby Digital D/A Converter:

Wow, the switching is fast on the Edge. And there are no sync issues when changing the inputs. 1:1 frame rate lock is nice. The zoom is very nice if you want to fill-up your 16:9 display with anamorphic (2.40/2.35:1) content. Input renaming is convenient. Input priority auto switching is awesome. I can have Wii > PS3 > TV and it’ll auto switch based on what’s turned on and switch back when that unit is off. And if there are no inputs on, it’ll turn itself off. Very nice. Couple that with auto-on based on inputs, and you basically don’t need to mess with the device after it’s setup. Which is exactly what I want! Now to the negatives, which are few, but are pretty egregious. When using the toslink output (which is the only other option other than HDMI — again, I really wish they had analog audio out!!!!) and the Gefen D/A there is severe popping when switching inputs. It even happened when changing channels on the DirecTV tuner. I was able to rectify that by turning off Dolby digital surround audio on the DirecTV and it stopped — which makes me question whether I should get the non-Dolby digital Gefen D/A since this one can’t handle source changes without popping. Another about the Edge is if you have audio outputted on the toslink output, it won’t put it out on the HDMI either. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but I have an HDMI splitter going to another TV that doesn’t use a separate audio system. Not helpful. It’d be nice if it could put out audio on both.

Next up, I will try the D/A directly from the toslink output of the TV since it seems to have no problem muting its built-in speakers when changing inputs. If that works, then it’s harder for me to justify having the Edge, whose primary purpose was to convert the Wii component imput to HDMI so I wouldn’t have all these cables clutter up the TV. Which I guess was hard to justify in the first place since I also got a Gefen Component -> HDMI unit to try out. (I wanted to compare the output qualities). If only there was an input priority HDMI switch like the one Oppo stopped selling. Boo.


Using optical out from TV to Gefen D/A = perfect results! No popping or squelching. Switching channels - no problem. Switching inputs on Edge - no problem. Next, using the Emotiva UMC-1 strictly as a D/A. Two ways, one using HDMI audio and the other using optical Toslink. As Toslink, switching inputs on Edge results in slight squelching. Barely acceptable. As HDMI audio only, switching inputs results in high frequency buzzing. Moderate bass popping on occasion. Changing channels, HDMI no problems. Toslink no problems as well. Overall, much better than using Edge -> Gefen D/A, but still only barely acceptable. Why don’t these companies work more on polish and finish. These little details matter!

Post postscript:

Using optical out to Gefen D/A, there is a bad turn-off bass pop. Sigh, still not appliance like (in having no glaring problems and working day in day out). I’ll have to stick to turning off the audio portion before turning the tv off.

3rd postscript:

New Gefen D/A (non DD 5.1):
This one works even better than the DD D/A that Gefen makes. No turn-off pop when connected to TV. Will try it out on the DVDO edge to see if it makes noise when changing inputs. Result: No noise. The regular non-surround D/A works like….an appliance!!!


My State of Home TV/Audio Address

My current setup keeps audio (analog mostly) and video separate. As you can see from my previous rant about digital only audio outputs on TV’s I’m still ticked off that I have to spend additional monies just to keep the same setup. Previously, I had the audio from the TV feeding into the pre-amp which fed the downstream audio equipment. Video signal was handled by a cheap HDMI switcher into an HDMI splitter. Component video (Wii output) was unattractively connected directly to the TV. Now that most TV’s are digital audio out only, I decided to try a different route that would also incorporate video (including component) into my main setup. So…I purchased…

The Emotiva UMC-1. So far, I’m not too happy with this unit. A lot of raves on the internet about how this is a $2000 unit at a bargain $699 value. With some possible downsides. I buy the downsides part, but the value I’m still suspect on it. I expect a product like this to work like an appliance — it should work out of the box, no problems first time and everytime. It’s not a cheap HDMI splitter that I can tolerate, occasionally needing a power-cycle. The audio and video sync should happen flawlessly without stutter. I was watching L&O SVU last night and everytime it came back from commercials, it would have to resync when going from 2 channel to surround sound. Unacceptable. Eventually, it would stop syncing altogether and I couldn’t even watch that channel. Seriously. It would stutter the video along with the audio. Even after restarting the unit. Moving on it also looks like the component upscaler is pretty low quality as well. Definitely a lot of detail is being lost in the conversion. Start-up time is slow and the whole unit just seems sluggish. Changing inputs is slow as well. That was just 2 hours with it. I hope it gets better, but in the meanwhile, I’ve poured more money into a contingency plan.

This plan, is more linux-y in that it stays modular like my previous setup. I’m getting a DVDO Edge to handle the video (along with component upconversion), A Geffen D/A that will allow me to continue using my old analog only pre-amp, and another backup Geffen component to HDMI converter in case the DVDO Edge is another un-polished product — from reading it’s FAQ, I might have instances where it won’t output audio on the digital out (HMDI only) due to HDCP compliance (btw, I hate HDCP, just another crap DRM) not allowing non-HDMI digital audio out.

So, just because I upgrade the TV, I have to jump through many hoops just to get a simple analog audio output…well, actually, I add a little to the problem because I wanted to get rid of the ugly component cables from the Wii (damn you Super Mario; I wouldn’t need it if you weren’t a fun game). Still, it’s quite annoying. If I do the simplest setup which moves the D/A to behind the TV, I’ll have to look for right angle adapters for the Toslink connection, which is more money and more time down the drain. Even writing the entry is a pain b/c it wouldn’t have been necessary! It’s an analog world and it’ll always be an analog world damnit.


Rangers vs Media

Can we stop talking about how the umps screwed up the calls and actually give the Rangers some credit? The visiting team was already up 2-0 even without the Michael Young 3-run homer. The Rays ended up with 2 hits and no runs. What’s the difference between 2-0 and 6-0? It’s still a W. Ok sure, psychologically it probably gave the Rangers an edge, but the Rays are a playoff familiar team. Calls can go both ways. You just play through it. So Yahoo, ESPN, et. al, stop ranting about how the call saved the game for the Rangers. It didn’t. Shut-up and focus on the real news — how we can manufacture runs when our hitting is weak, or the fact that our hitting AND pitching has been great so far. We’re dominating the Rays (at least the two games so far).

This is nothing like that blown call when the Mavs and Nuggets were tied and the ref totally missed the intentional foul on Anthony (at 2:10). That was a game changing call. So don’t write crap about how we stole the game from the Rays.


RANT: Why don’t new TV’s have analog audio outputs???

You know, not everyone needs or even wants to have 5.1 digital output/audio setups. There are plenty of us who like our two channel audio. Why are manufacturers so cheap now to only have digital audio outputs? You can’t hook it up to any analog system without some type of converter like this. Hey Panasonic, LG, etc — You already decode the digital audio for the analog speakers on the TV. Give us some damn audio output jacks. Just plain stupid and greedy. You are ALL BASTARDS!


Toilet Primer

As I continued to go through my house doing small repairs and upgrades, the toilet was next up in the queue. What was wrong with the old one?

  • Getting old and the¬†flush valve was leaking, so it was wasting water and topping of the tank every 30min or so.
  • Fill valve becoming unreliable. Refill speed was slowing down and the float was starting to stick
  • Non-elongated bowl. For guys, this is an annoyance.
  • High water usage. I think it used 3.5 gallons per flush.

So I started doing my usual research. I knew that the new toilets had to be 1.6gpf or less, and there were even some out there that were 1.28gpf. These new 1.28gpf are called High Efficiency Toilets (HET), and in some municipalities have rebates. That got me intrigued. What I found were some good things to have in a toilet.

  • Flushing ability. They actually have testing to see how many grams of waste a flush will take away. Above 500grams (slightly over 1 pound) of waste removal is more than adequate.
  • A large water spot. This is the amount of surface the water covers the bowl. The larger the better, to keep your “kids” under the pool, as opposed to stinking up the room by hanging out “by” the pool.
  • Rim/bowl washing ability. Sometimes you splash, or leave bits out on the sides, so you want the flush to clear away every inch of the bowl.
  • Low water usage.

I stuck to gravity fed units as other pnematic or mechanical assists will probably have more repair costs. Part replacement was also a factor, but not as much as many of the 1.28gpf units have more proprietary flush valves. I ended up choosing a Kohler Cimmeron 1.28gpf two piece toilet with Class Six Flushing Technology. What is class six? It’s an improvement on class five, which is just a marketing term Kohler made up to differentiate its line of 1.28gpf toilets. Basically, the class five had good flushing power, but poor rim wash ability. Class six remedies this. See the video on class five and six. Toto also makes a good 1.28gpf toilet called the Drake II. It’s a bit pricier than the Cimmeron, which I got for $238 plus tax at HD.

A few thoughts on removal/installation

It’s basically pretty straight forward. You’ll need an adjustable wrench, a small putty knife (very handy) to remove the caulking (on a hard floor after you remove the bowl) and the wax ring. A hacksaw to cut the bowl bolts back so the caps can fit. And locking plyers to hold that bolt steady — optional but I found it helped because the bolt is not very secure (it locks into PVC on the floor). Buy two new fill hoses. One the size you think you need, and one the next size up. You’ll probably need the longer one. A large sponge and a disposable bucket (unless you want to clean it) to soak up residual water in the tank and bowl (there’s water in there even after the last flush). A good idea is to wash the toilet before you actually start the removal process. I neglected to do that and wish I did. Scrub the inside and outside (as people often miss and there’s dried stuff on the outside).


Toilet Shims. If your toilet isn’t level, there are plastic shims available that you can use to level and keep the bowl from rocking. Simply insert them into place and cut away the excess and caulk around the bowl.

Also, as a rule of thumb, do not caulk all the way around the back. Leave it open in the back so you can see leaks puddle on the floor before they flood the downstairs room (if you have a downstairs).


Windows 7 XP Mode

For my work computer, I upgraded the hard drive to an Intel X25-V 40GB (sucks that no one respects the GiB anymore, other than memory manufacturers), which has TRIM support and is well supported under Windows 7, so I took out the old HD to keep as backup and did a clean install on the new drive. Thinking that my legacy accounting software would be able to run under 7, I tried to install it to no avail. Of course I did install the 64bit version of Windows 7, so maybe that has something to do with it, but who knows.

I had read about a backwards compatibility mode in Windows 7, which is why I got the Professional version just in case, since you need at least that to run it. And fortunately my laptop was able to support Intel VT (which was actually obscured in the POST Behavior section of the BIOS setup) so after downloading and installing two pieces of software, had a virtualized copy of XP running.

XP Mode is actually pretty slick. You are automatically connected to your network, host drives and network drives function as mapped drives with clear labels, and printers are automatically discovered. You can even have applications launch directly from the Windows 7 environment. However, there is a trick to that. When you are in XP Mode, right-click on the start menu and select All Users. Your application much have a shortcut in there in order for it to show up under the Windows Virtual PC -> Windows XP Mode Applications list in the Windows 7 Start Menu. Or, if you have the option when installing applications, it must be installed for all users. So now that I have all the pieces in place and the settings configured corrects, it’s pretty easy to start up my legacy accounting software and have it run as a single window inside the Windows 7 host environment with almost the same look and feel as a native app. Kudos!

more info here.


Google Nexus 1

Google and HTC released their new phone today called the Nexus One. A lot of info was leaked out about it. A few thoughts comparing and contrasting to the iPhone:

  • Form factor is very similar. I think the iPhone got people away from a physical keyboard (for better or for worse) and the Nexus One is continuing that trend.¬† Less moving parts = less creaky and more reliable hardware
  • New app marketplace. Since Apple created the App store, if you are going to create a wireless platform, you better have a place for 3rd party developers to sell their wares. Hopefully some of my most used apps will be ported over — Scramble, etc
  • Apple is a hardware manufacturer that keeps a tight leash on its OEM’s, both to drive down cost and time to market, but also to keep a consistent look and feel. I’ve always balked at how much accessories for the iPhone costs, but they tend to just work. I use the iPhone a lot for it’s video output and I hope the accessory market for this phone is comparable.
  • Lack of mult-touch is a big dissappointment