Headphones, amps & wish list.

What follows is a list of gear I use to enjoy my music, it’s always changing.
For the ones who privately ask what I do with my headphones after I find better ones. I often sell them for a fair price.

At this time I do not have headphones on my sell list, this might change in a near future.

I’m using right now:
Beyerdynamic DT880 Premium (250 Ohms)
Grado SR80i Modded with new cups
Shure SRH440 Modded with new Headband.
Superlux HD330 Modded with Beyerdynamic parts.
AKG K518
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ED2 Special Edition
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ATE S
Sennheiser CX 3.00 (On the workbench for repair)

On their way to me:
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ED12
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ZS3

Wish list:
Beyerdynamic DT-1990 Pro (250 Ohms)
Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro Black edition (250 Ohms)
Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro (250 Ohms)
Sennheiser HD-600
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ZS1

Amplification:
Lake People G103-S
Creative Labs E5
ART HeadAMP4
Creative Labs E1
M-Audio Bass Traveler

Enjoying the Twitch.tv creatives.

twitch_blacklogoTwitch.tv is nothing new for me or to anyone that knows about gaming, but I admit I had some reservations about the idea of watching other people playing games in real time.
That was until Malukah a singer I enjoy a lot joined the Twitch.tv creative ranks (she is a great gamer also), and so I was faced with a dilemma, subscribe to her channel or just keep lurking around.
Anyway I gave it a chance and started lurking and sometimes commenting a bit on her chat room just to “know” the people around there. After some time I had to find a way to subscribe because she does have one of the best online communities I had the pleasure to find online and believe me I know many.
As a bonus I found other creative communities that I enjoy a lot, sure most users aren’t so nice but its fun to watch when you have some time to kill. One doesn’t actually need to engage on the chat but if you want to learn a bit it’s always a nice idea, most streamers and subscribers are more than happy to help out.

With online communities I can say, been there, done that and returned for more from time to time, always making good friends along the way.
I’m exploring Twitch right now, finding my niche and after that it will become part of my online habits. I must admit that I still don’t enjoy all the gaming streams but I do enjoy some. As for streaming myself it’s not gonna happen because it’s not really my thing, but one never knows the future.

On a side note, most people find this strange because I’m always online but I’m not really a huge fan of social networks, I do enjoy using them to find people who share my passion for some hobbies, in that Twitch.TV does an amazing job.
One can interact with creatives and learn a lot just watching them, in the end it’s good fun if you enjoy it.

I believe social networks have different niches and should always be used with some moderation, so have fun and stay safe.

How I lost my trust on Insync.

What comes next are the reasons that made me uninstall an application I loved from my computer.

Insync is a software application that lets you synchronize and manage your Google Drive cloud storage, It’s a amazing tool and it works great in Linux. Sure you need to add some repositories to the system but until the end of 2016 I trusted the company behind the software, so I had it installed on my Ubuntu machine.
The need for a 3rd party application happens because Google the all mighty Android/ChromeOS developer doesn’t actually try to make a standalone application to use Google Drive in Linux, so we the users depend on plugins and 3rd party applications like Insync.

Anyway it all changed when a public relations S%#% storm hit the fan, a massive confusion of upgrade plans, discounts, and what not. I won’t go in detail here because you can read it here and here, as a “Plus” plan costumer my application would work “as is” but I had to pay yet again to receive upgrades to the next versions (This was what I could understand from the official forum). To their defense they were nice enough to actually try to correct their bad PR mistake but S#$% was done.

Now I don’t mind a subscription based model but when I bought Insync there was no such thing, You just payed to access the application and innocently enough I expected updates until the end of the service, Understanding that often companies make new plans with amazing features to make us upgrade from our current plan.

I didn’t like the way their CEO explained their move the costumers. My trust went down the drain, here was this company that had direct access to my computer changing a price plan without any kind of respect for their current user base. That made me think, what if they install something on my machine just because they want to? My paranoia went sky-high, and I uninstalled the application and repositories from my Ubuntu machine.

From a security point of view it’s also dangerous to run an application that is not updated with security patches on a fully patched operating system, this was also a reason why I uninstalled it and went back to Google Chrome Browser.

Lesson I learned from the Insync fiasco?
If it’s too good to be true, you will probably pay more down the version road. Just buy a subscription based model from the start.

Will I return to Insync one day?
Nope but that’s me,  everyone needs to make their own decisions. Just don’t forget to have a good PR manager just in case.
Insync is a good application but their way of doing business needs an upgrade.

Audiophile hype is necessary.

treesinlisbonIf you are a stressed commuter, the tree in the photo will make you curse specially in rainy days. Not only it hides the time of arrival panel but also the incoming bus.
Now let’s say there’s an car accident and the same tree saves the lives of the commuters, will they still hate the placement of the tree after such event? Perspective is a curious thing and it can be applied to everything.

The audiophile hobby these days is flooded by hype products but some of them can actually bring more music enthusiasts to the hobby, and that is a great thing at least for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate hype specially when it brings bullshit to the table (Yes, Sony! I’m looking at your SD audiophile cards), but hype also makes big players in the Hi-Fi industry move their asses and actually make good use of their engineering teams. Sadly it also makes some products more expensive, for instance you now pay more for entry price turntables because of the vinyl hype.

I wrote about hype before the Pono player was released. Pono the High-Resolution player gain massive traction from artists that really noticed the difference of High-Rez audio inside a car. On the good side because of it, companies from all around the world jumped on the bandwagon and now everybody can purchase better audio players.

The Beats headphone hype also gave a breath of fresh air to the on-the-go music market, companies like Sony, Sennheiser, AKG and other big players had to up their design, quality and advertising to face the competition of star athletes turned audiophiles. Yes, because everyone knows soccer players know how good headphones should sound.
Hype, gonna love it! Jokes aside, finally headphones started to be viewed as an amazing way to hear music even by high-end magazines.

The hype behind the portable digital to analogue converters (DACs) and headphone amplifiers also made companies like Creative Labs release solid gear for a decent price.
As the owner of the Creative Labs Sound blaster E1 and soon the E5 I can only be grateful of the hype behind this kind of gear. When the big players come to the market everyone wins! Niche audiophile companies might suffer but the consumer wins.

Hype for all that matters is a necessary evil if the hobby wants new blood in the ranks.

Consumerism gone bad.

In 2012 Charles Duhigg  wrote an amazing article in the NYT called “How Companies Learn Your Secrets“. The article is still fresh after all these years and depicts a consumer society gone bad.

Sadly these days consumer data is the new gold for corporations, social networks, search engines, online markets and other corporations will go to great lengths to acquire information about us.

Users are not forced to use said services and I understand that corporations need to make a living from selling services and goods, what I dislike is the fact most users and consumers think they can easily control what they share with corporations.

The fact some corporations have enough data to predict with confidence a pregnancy is enough to make me wonder what other things they can predict.

Ebay the Chinatown of the world.

chinatownDon’t get me wrong from the title because I love China, it has a beautiful culture, amazing views outside the urban areas, and pretty badass Ebay shops.

The Chinese I know are very hard workers, they take their work and income very seriously and thus Ebay is the perfect window to sell stuff to a compulsive consumer world.
People might complain about the time it takes to receive stuff from Shanghai and give bad reviews when they don’t receive their goods but they’ll keep coming back for more cheap stuff, let’s be sincere everybody loves free shipping.

I don’t like all made in China products, some have poor quality and very little user safety, but if you know what to buy and find a decent Ebay store, Chinese clones are amazing ways to save money. Sure I don’t enjoy all imitations but in some cases they actually improve the design of some products from the feedback they receive from customers.
I dare to say some factories in China are more open source than some GNU/Linux operating systems.

Some stuff I won’t buy from Chinese Ebay stores, mostly anything that is a intimation of a known brand or pirated media goods. Those I will never buy on Ebay!
One thing is to buy a multi-tool card imitation, or a cheap USB dust cover, the other is buying a clone of a swiss brand watch. Besides the massive headaches one might get because of legal issues of importing stuff like that, the quality of complex cheap goods is never a good one.

Ebay these days is in fact a Chinatown with all the good and bad things that brings.

One thing most American and European consumers don’t understand is the fact cheap stuff will often be made of cheap materials, be it of Chinese, Portuguese or American origin. Plus cheap stuff comes at a high social price but that’s a boring detail because free shipping is so nice isn’t it?

Ebay is an amazing tool, if consumers know what they want to buy, if sellers are actually serious, if you don’t have bad luck when receiving your parcels and if your country doesn’t have draconian import laws, in Portugal anything above 22€ (Product + Shipping) will be taxed and most people don’t try going around it because papers will be requested and the legal outcome will not be pretty. To be sincere I wouldn’t spend more than 20€ in one parcel from China anyway, the risk of losing money would be too high.

Be it in a true Chinatown or a online one be careful with your purchases, always use paypal and never ever go for any other type of payment especially if the seller requests it.
Remember there always be bad sellers, best way is to report them to Ebay and be safe.

Audiophile power conditioners.

voltsGiving 5oo€ for a audiophile power conditioner sounds crazy but depending on the tech inside it might actually help prolong the lifetime of your Hi-Fi gear. Yes, I actually wrote that and I’m not joking.
Archimago’s blog has a great objective test and review about a power conditioner from a very reputable brand called Belkin.
Belkin unlike some audiophile brands actually has some pretty amazing engineering behind their surge protectors and power conditioners.

Sadly its not always the case with audiophile brands, often selling their so called filters and cheap surge protectors inside glamorized power strips.
Anyone with a little knowledge about electricity will notice the ripoff on the components and so called tech. I had the sad vision of a so called power conditioner selling for 5oo€ that had a very minimalist construction, so minimal that my Lidl brand surge protector power strip might have more engineering inside.

Audiophiles will buy that kind of gear and expect better sound because the power line is being filtered, but the gear in question is so basic any DIY enthusiast can actually build something similar from way less money and do a better job at filtering and surge protection. I won’t point fingers at bad brands because I don’t want any legal problems but I advise anyone who really needs a solid power conditioner to search for reputable brands like Belkin or APC.

I also advise anyone who doesn’t have a surge protector to buy one for their sensitive gear, I might actually save the day, specially during thunderstorms.

Buying a laptop, need or desire?

First of all I should say I have a old Intel Core2 Duo 2Ghz laptop and a newer Intel Celeron 1037U Dual Core ultrabook. The laptop now running Microsoft Windows XP is a decent workstation for writing and editing my site when I have a electric outlet near. One hour of batery power is not really much but on a old laptop thats the norm. The ultrabook on the other hand has plenty of batery but lacks the full size keyboard a screen size of the laptop, it runs ubuntu 16.04 so it’s a very rock solid machine for browsing the internet and I’m quite pleased with the purchase.

I admit both laptop and ultrabook do a decent job for basic tasks, but until some days ago I had the desire to have a better laptop. Something in the line of a Clevo barebone with a decent dedicated graphics card for games, a fast CPU and lots of RAM, a typical desktop replacement because my kids often kick me from main rig.

My need for a ubuntu compatible laptop made me research the professional lines of HP, Dell and Lenovo and thus I arrived to the wonderful world of refurbished computers, very desirable one to be sincere.
The idea of buying a refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad makes me smile mostly because I would be using “old” tech and defeting the main idea of upgrading to a better newer laptop.
So after thinking a bit about it I understood I didn’t really had the need for a better machine, I just wanted a new one even if it was a old but very well designed Thinkpad.
Consumism at its finnest and desire turning the cogs on my brain. I love old thinkpads so I’m guilty as charged to fall in that consumer trap.

With that out of my mind I finaly gave up on buying a new computer in 2017, I just don’t need it right now. My desktop does the typical brute work it’s designed to do and does it well.
My old laptop is a fine way to write for my site when my kids take over the desktop and my ultrabook solves most of my browsing needs and multimedia playback.

As a bonus “sad but true” I got a Acer tablet that actually has a lot of computing power, enough to replace a netbook if I connect a keyboard and a mouse to it, just like I’m doing now to  write this article. So in a way I actually have more computers than I should have, but like I often say “they are never enough”, maybe thats because I spent more than a half of my life without one to call my own. Just like a teenager who wasn’t allowed to drink soda, often drinks lots of it when he has the freedom to do so, I now enjoy the idea of having computers around me.

In a way I always knew the laptop project would stay in the back burner, I just didn’t admit it earlier. Also my desire to buy a thinkpad didn’t die but I should not use the escuse of needing a new computer to actually buy said computer. I just desire it because its a beautiful and pratical machine.

In a society ruled by consumism its not easy to escape the little traps of desire, I’m not immune but I do understand how they often work, and I hope this little tidbit makes you think if you really need something new in your toolbox or it’s just desire.

Think about it but not too much. Life is short and some desires are quite fun.

ATI Xpress 200M and Ubuntu.

ATI Radeon Xpress 200M

My old laptop has a ATI Radeon Xpress 200M graphics card, now this card was never anything special when it was first released to the public, it’s so damn awful even Linux support sucks, add that to the locked bios settings the manufacturer of my laptop put in place and you got a recipe for disaster if you want to have decent video quality playback.

Now I should inform my laptop actually runs any flavor of 16.04 Ubuntu but I can only use the dedicated RAM and I don’t have the option for the shared memory like I had in Windows. The shared memory does make a difference when you are watching videos on a old laptop so I finally installed Windows XP on the old machine.

Yes, I know Windows XP is unsafe beyond imagination compared with my Linux machines but in this case I can’t run Linux knowing I’ll not be using the full capacities of my laptop.
Sometimes Linux is not the best option if you need driver compatibility on old hardware.

I should also note that this was my last option mostly because my bios is locked, so if you have the option to enable the shared video memory in the bios, please run Linux on your machine.

My advise to Linux users is please stay clear of any laptop that has a Xpress 200M even if it’s a cheap deal.