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.

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.

Audiophiles and status.

The love for better audio reproduction reaches all types of audiophiles, we all strive to achieve the same goals or at least similar ones. That’s why a tube fan understands a headphone enthusiast and also the reason we as a community usually visit the same discussion groups and comment in the same sites.

Objective, subjective, digital or vinyl fans it doesn’t really matter because we as a community understand the need of each other to achieve better sound reproduction, with that in mind I don’t understand the need of some audiophiles to step on other members of the community that have less income, thus less possibility to buy better audio equipment.

This hobby should be fun for all types of enthusiasts, the lack of respect of some just because they have a need to show themselves as someone of higher status in the community is wrong and should be shunned by all audio enthusiasts.

Sure some members are pillars of the community and there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s important for newcomers who need a sense of direction.

Sadly a minority in the community use their social and economic status to humiliate and discredit others who make questions or step in their “turf”.

Things like “You don’t believe in Y because you don’t have money to buy it” or “This isn’t your cheap Sony” or “I spent Bla Bla Bla to build this system so you can’t compare it to your gear” shows the ugly and sometimes true face of the hobby, the need of acceptance by peers often makes the victims of this type of comments shy way from the community, some of these persons will end up trolling in the same communities that humiliated them.

In the end of 2015 I read a long and boring article from a so called important member of the Brazilian audiophile community, I did reply to him but in a sarcastic humorous way and soon after I quit the group because I noticed he was the administrator and the group was a way for him to vent his ego and elevate his own words. In fact the name of the group shows his need to elevate himself to status above other members of the community.

This kind of audio enthusiast is toxic, in fact the Brazilian and American audiophile communities have their fair share of this kind of egocentric audiophiles that pry on the young members and victimized themselves everytime they get banned from a group or forum, they usually end up creating their own den.

I have nothing against people who buy expensive things, people are free to brag when they have an expensive amplifier or other type of gear, it’s part of the fun and let’s face it, its always nice to see what makes other people happy, some of them not only brag but they also sell gear for cheaper prices thus allowing other members to enjoy quality second hand gear.

what I don’t enjoy are people who brag and step on other members of the community, those in my opinion bring nothing new to the hobby.

Affordability and reviewers.

Reading an article by Art Dudley on Stereophile made me think again about audio quality and affordability, plus he does enjoy writing the word “bullshit” as much as I do! 🙂

Affordability is a funny thing, what I is affordable to me might not be to
you. Its as simple as that. I often see audiophile reviewers on the internet writing about 20K gear like it’s affordable to all people and that stuff makes me smile and think about my own income.

Reviewers tend to fall in a rabbits hole when they try to assemble affordable audiophile setups, stuff like “oh! I have this Lepai amp connected to 2 amazing but cheap Pioneer loudspeakers and its all connected by van den hul cables…” Van den Hul interconnects on a affordable system?! Something isn’t quite right.
If the review is for an affordable system one needs to think carefully about all the extras, so cables on a so called poor man’s Hi-Fi should be plain vanilla and nothing more.

Reviewers also fall in another hole, the “little upgrade” one…so what started simple and affordable will derail in to something else. “I had this cheap DAC around and the system now is more musical, bla bla bla”…Yea and the DAC just doubles the price of that now not so affordable setup.

For me the best way to make setups is to divide them by price range and extras, forget the so called “affordable” concept.
Also one should be careful with so called upgrades, because you’ll spend more money in the long run if you go by that road, one I know all too well.

One shouldn’t forget that not so long ago having a piece of audio gear was a sign of status for very rich people.
Most reviewers do write with their heart in the right place but they are in too deep in the rabbits hole to notice that for some people an affordable/cheap/Mid-Fi system it’s all they’ll have during their lifetime, it’s not just a desktop or kitchen setup it’s their main system and sadly most of them will never have money to buy better.

My system was very affordable to me, most of gear was around the 300€ price tag, is it cheap? It depends, if you are comparing it with 20K per component, it’s beyond cheap, comparing it with what most Portuguese families have at home that’s another story.
So you can imagine how I feel when I read in magazines about 20K components like they are reachable to most pockets.