Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's Alive...

 The "2b" ( tube, for the uninitiated ) Subwoofer prototype is temporarily assembled and functioning.  I was horrified ( but not @ all surprised ),when the initial test run seemed to indicate a rather severe harmonic resonance of the speaker itself. After some observation, I found ( to my relief ) that it was the plate amplifier vibrating against the cylinder wall.  A little adjustment and tightening and I was somewhat amazed that the little "2b" sub sounded fairly good.

 The unit is basically a Dayton SD215-88 8" Shielded DVC Subwoofer, driven by the Dayton MCA2550D 2.1 Channel Class D Amplifier built into a heavy 11 inch cardboard tube (empties from work, thanks guys) sealed enclosure. The amp has independent high and low frequency  amplifiers, a variable subwoofer crossover and internal short circuit protection ( which I inadvertently tested on initial hookup, oh s#iiiiiiit! ). The subwoofer LF amp is rated at 50 watts RMS @ 4 ohms, and the HF amp at 25 watts x2 RMS @ 8 ohms, which is currently driving the omnidirectional "2b" 3 way towers quite nicely. Plenty of power here to drive a set of efficient speakers well beyond any volume level that I would care to experience, thank you. You can cook with 1000 watts, you don't need that kind of power to listen to music or watch a movie for cryin out loud. Besides, I've replaced every light bulb in the house with compact fluorescents so it seems a bit counter productive to waste the savings....    

  The entire concept here was to build a relatively inexpensive ( as cheap as friggin possible ) multipurpose 2.1 sound system, I really don't have any need or desire for a 5.1 or 7.1 surround setup, they're just overkill if you ask me. Building a center channel speaker ( making it a 3.1 system ) might be an option at some point if I were to use the setup for movies or tv on a regular basis. There are quite few nice home theater in a box and computer speaker systems available that might end up being less expensive and better sounding than the Peabody "2bz" system, but there is just something about designing and building your own stuff that increases the enjoyment factor of the experience exponentially...

 The HF amp will eventually drive a pair of 2 way omnidirectional "2b" towers consisting of  Tang Band W4-656SC 4" Full Range Drivers and capacitively coupled Pioneer FD66AP45-13F 2-1/2" Cone Tweeters, which I am currently using ( tweeters ) in my 3 way 2b's, they're very smooth and natural sounding and have a wide frequency range. I prefer a paper cone or fabric dome tweeter over the mylar type, as the few mylar's I've tried were a little harsh and seemed to almost sizzle at times. The 8 inch sub is decent although not overly detailed or articulate , I toyed with using Dayton's reference series 8 inch, but at $96.00 a piece, the $28 buck cheapie is sounding better all the time. All of the electrical components were purchased online @ Parts Express, they have the best selection of equipment by far, in my opinion. A great website, lots of feedback and product reviews from people who actually know what the heck they're doing. (link)
 I almost hate to disassemble this thing to finish it, as I'm really enjoying the added bass response   (which is somewhat lacking in the 2b 3 ways). But back to the lab it goes. Formby's Tung Oil finish for the oak end plates and legs and the special Peabody Labs sound dampening coating for the cylinder (rubberized undercoating).
The obsession with cardboard tubes continues... Now to get started on the minimalist 2 way "2b" towers....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

To 3D or not To 3D...

Hold on to your hats folks, 3DTV is coming! The new 3D format is purportedly full color and high resolution, 1080p in the Blu-ray version. The new 3DTV's will of course require special glasses with liqiud crystal shutters which open and close @ 120 hertz ( times per second ). Relax, I'm sure  that frequency is well above the threshold for reflex epileptic seizures...
( hopefully ). The best part is you'll have an excuse to buy a new HDTV, because the new 3DTV is not backwards compatible to your (old) new HDTV, or your "old" Blu-ray player ...tee hee... Also everyone watching the set will have to wear a pair of the special 100 dollar a pop glasses or they're going to see a blurry, crummy, double image. I'm hoping the set manufacturers will include a pair for each member of the family, which according to the U.S. census bureau is currently @ 3.14 persons. Something tells me that last .14 of a person isn't going to get any glasses... poor kid...

There are indications that the system causes headaches and disorientation in some people.  Have any of you experienced the migraine-hangover syndrome from playing Duke Nukem on the old Nintendo 64 for a couple of hours? I'm guessing that's a pretty close comparison, or 10 minutes on the "Tilt a Whirl" ride at your local carnival  would be the equivalent. Did anyone go to the theater to see the 3D version of "Avatar" recently? Judging by the box office figures, you probably did. Do you know anyone who came away a little queasy? I think I'll go see Sherlock Holmes instead.... (link)Sherlock-Holmes

Another interesting fact is that 5 to 10 percent of the population apparently can't see in 3D, so if you're one of these folks, or a 3D headache person, well then lets just hope you aren't the sucker who paid for this novelty.  To be fair, the system will still play in normal 2D. ( gee, don't we already have one of those ? ) While I'm not going to label 3DTV as a gimmick, as certain programming and  gaming concepts would be incredible in a 3D format, I just can't see that much content being suited to it. Everybody Loves Raymond... but in 3D, come on already.

In my "humble"opinion, gaming is 3D's forte, a nice flight sim or first person shooter would be a very good fit. Until they can produce a system that doesn't require special glasses, I'll just stick with my old 2D tv system thank you.  A head tracking system based on Microsoft's project Natal technology and Johnny Lee's Wii concept just might deliver on a glassless system, this clever chap is working on it. Check out his Youtube videos for VR desktop displays and projector calibration, really neat stuff. (link) 

 On a positive note, with the advent of any new ground breaking technology, it'll probably drive down the price of the old, obsolete HDTV crap. I'm going to see if I can pick something up on the closeout rack. Being the last kid on the block to have the "latest thing" has it's perks, but I'm a little concerned as to how I'm going to set my 90 lb. Sony Betamax vcr on top of a flat panel tv. I'll  just have to consult the people @ The Peabody Laboratories for a bracket or something....  This concludes our  broadcast, stay tuned for station identification....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Mighty Mini...

The early indications seem promising with the new HP mini 311 netbook
( $499 HP quick ship) I purchased for "the wife" to replace her aging, yet still faithfully plugging along IBM X31 laptop. The X31, a 13 inch ultra compact cost over 2 grand when new and was purchased online @ ATR computers (ebay power seller) for $330 used, so the value factor is substantial, it arrived looking almost new and is a beautiful little machine.
( thanks ATR ). (link) ATR-COMPUTERS-INC_

 That said, the Mini 311 sports a 11.6 inch HD widescreen display ( it's stunning ) with a 1366 x 768 resolution and the new Nvidia Ion le graphics chip, a 250 GB hard drive, 2 Gb of DDR3 and the new Windows 7 home premium OS , as opposed to most standard netbooks 10.1" 1024 x 600 display and onboard Intel graphics, 160 GB hard drive, 1 or 2 Gb's of DDR2 and Windows Xp . The Mini 311's display and video processing power are really it's strong point, the increased resolution allows most web pages to display full width, so no side scrolling and the extra 1.5" of screen real estate puts the HP in the pint size sweet spot.

The 311 has an HDMI output so it will drive an HD widescreen monitor, I connected it to a 46" Panasonic plasma tv ( thanks Kacie! ) and it runs 720p flawlessly, try that with a standard netbook, ( feeble attempt to justify $499 price tag ). Actually, aside from the Nvidia graphics  and HD screen, it is a standard netbook with the underwhelming Intel 1.6 ghz N270 Nano processor straining to run Win 7, imagine trying to pull semi-trailer with a golf cart . In all fairness it performs most standard tasks, the web, documents and light multitasking adequately, but just... adequately. I've had a chance to watch some tv and movies on Hulu and the Mini will stream SD full screen and it's watchable with very little glitchiness, the weak point here is flash video and not the 311's strong video capabilities, Adobe has come out with the flash 10.1 beta which promises the ability to stream HD from Youtube, Hulu ect.
( yippee,... hopefully ).

The build quality is good, lots of plastic and not overly robust, but good. The 92 percent size keyboard is decent but could be labeled a little better, backlighting would have been nice. Can you tell I'm an over forty, hunt and peck typist? Battery life is just under 5 hours with the 6 cell battery, but is more like 3.5 to 4 hours with heavy video and HD usage. It has a decent size trackpad with the scrolling feature and multi-touch gestures, which is a little "touchy" but I was able to adjust the sensitivity and it was not too bad. I turned off the multi- touch, and since Machelle prefers a mouse, added a Logitech M505 wireless mouse with the tiny nano unifying usb receiver which sits almost flush with the edge of the Mini and allows you to add a keyboard on the same receiver. One drawback with the nano receiver is that the netbook won't boot up with it installed, so you have to remove it at start up. This is most likely a problem with the computer's bios and hopefully HP will come out with an update. Other than that, the mouse is quite nifty.

 If you like to use the trackpad, there is a clever little utility called "touchfreeze" that disables the trackpad while you're typing, preventing accidental clicking  and it's freakin free! Thanks to all the ingenious people who write software and then give their hard work away to the rest of us. Can you say Mozilla, Firefox, Ubuntu? Having written  a few simple programs in assembly language for the Motorola 6800 chipset back in electronics school ( if I could have avoided it, I would have ), all I can say is software designers are some of the most under appreciated intellectual masochists around.(link) touchfreeze/
 Speakers are stereo and good for a netbook, but good still means puny. Hey, a nice set of earbuds and you're at a concert hall. It's a netbook not a full sized 6 lb. laptop, so limit your expectations reasonably and this little thing is pretty impressive. I broke down and purchased  2GB of Crucial DDR3 @ TigerDirect for $46, which necessitated me removing 1GB of the existing 2GB ( 1Gb is non-removable) maxing the ram at 3 gigabytes, it snapped right in and the HP Mini 311 recognized it no problem. The added ram definitely helps performance and is an easy upgrade. The unit comes with the usual "HP bloatware package" and the somewhat resource hogging Norton security software. A clean install of Win 7 would probably help performance a bit.

All in all, a very nice experience so far, I'll keep you posted if anything interesting crops up.
Transmission ended, Peabody out.....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Culinary Contrivance

I was tinkering around in the kitchen a while back and came up with this fun and easy to make recipe which I think any self respecting masochist will thoroughly enjoy...( it also indicates that I shouldn't be left alone for longer than an hour or so without adult supervision).

Mr. Peabody's Upside Down Chicken Pie...
 1 Large Marie Callenders Chicken Pot Pie
 1 Bottle Bud Lite Lime +
 1 Roll Paper Towels
 1 Large Spatula
 1 Bottle Clorox Clean Up

 Take frozen pot pie and open both ends of special browning box. ( this is important )

 Place pie, ( still in box ) in high power, over the stovetop type microwave oven, cook on high power for 9 minutes.

 Upon removing scalding hot pie from oven, allow pie to slide backwards out of box in such a way as to invert pie. Allow inverted ( upside down ) pie to strike stovetop with such force as to disseminate molten, blistering hot contents throughout kitchen.

 ( if using counter top style microwave, simply raise pie 24 to 30 inches above stove before initiating inversion process described above )

 Scrape up salvageable remnants of still bubbling hot pie with large spatula and place on plate, whilst enjoying the tactile sensation ( searing pain ) of
 the molten pie components ( gravy covered peas, carrots )  that may have come in contact with any exposed skin. ( face, hands )

 Clean remaining pot pie residue from stove top, counter top, cabinets and floor with Clorox Clean Up and paper towels ( Scott towels work best,
 but any brand will do in a pinch )

 Drink bottle of Bud Lite Lime. ( amount can be adjusted to taste )

 Change clothes ( optional )

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Numero Uno

On my first blog post I felt it might be a good idea to let the folks get to know me a little better. Here is a survey questionnaire that a friend sent me some time ago...( as a rule I really hate these things on social networking sites but every once in a while I feel the need to "set the record straight" on a few things ).
1.)Q. Are you currently in a serious relationship?
Yep, serious as a heart attack, it's a specialty of mine...

2.)Q. What was your dream growing up?
1. Astronaut, 2. Barney, from Mission Impossible ( he was the electronic gadget guy from  the tv series)
3. Barney, from the Flintstones..( that Betty Rubble was a babe...)

3.)Q. What talent do you wish you had?
  1.Graphic Artist, 2. Jazz Guitarist  3. Mime

4.)Q. If I bought you a drink what would it be?
     Nyquil, with a beer chaser

5.)Q. Favorite vegetable?
         1. broccoli,  2. Barbara Streisand,  3. asparagus  4. Anna Nicole Smith

6.)Q. What was the last book you read?
       The Tao of Physics for Dummies

7.)Q. What zodiac sign are you?
         " Porcupine"

8.)Q. Any Tattoos and/or Piercings? Explain where.
         1. A Pissed Off  Tweety Bird giving the Finger (upper right buttock)
2. The word "LOSER" (upper forehead just above the ever receding hairline)

9.)Q. Worst Habit?
             So many bad habits, so little time.... (silently farting on crowded elevators is a favorite )

10.)Q. If you saw me walking down the street would you offer me a ride?
          That depends on 3 things;
1. the wifes proximity...( she has a thing about me picking up chics in tight shorts...) 2. how hard your workin that thang... 3. that I've managed to resist  the urge to clip you with my bumper... ( I have this problem with pedestrians, I think it has to do with being left by the side of the road dozens of times as a child,...ole mom was such a kidder...)
11.)Q. What is your favorite sport?
       1. Badminton  2.Curling  3. any sport begining with the letter "Q"... ( baseball actually, I'm a 3rd baseman and I like to play, not watch)...

12.)Q. Do you have a Negative or Optimistic attitude?
           Optimistic of course...( for instance I'm Positive that the whole freakin world is gonna come crashing down around us any minute...)

13. )Q. What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me?
             Before or after my hysterical claustrophobic psychotic conniption fit?  ( I also get severe gas when under stress )

14.)Q. Worst thing to ever happen to you?
            I accidently ( sort of ) shot the neighbors cat with my new junior bow and arrow set on Christmas day 1968 ...( dropped him in his tracks in a full run @ 50 yards...heh,heh,heh... the horror of it, it was their last one too...)

15.)Q. Tell me one weird fact about you.
            I was born with a 3rd Big Toe  ( it's attached to my left tonsil , perhaps you've noticed my halitosis    problem and slight lisp when I say the word podiatrist...)

16.)Q. Do you have any pets?
            Nope, I ate the last one.... ( grilled over an open fire with garlic and butter... no wait... that was the neighbors pet, I told em to put up a fence...)

17.)Q. What if i showed up at your house unexpectedly?
            Bad idea, I'm paranoid, cranky and have a machete..... ( on second thought come on in... can I get you a beer or something? )

18.)Q. What was your first impression of me?
             I thought you seemed very impressionable...

19.)Q. Do you think clowns are cute or scary?
            Clowns are evil, everybody knows that.... hate the damm things...

20.)Q. If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be?
            Replace my head with Paul Newmans, would be a real good start....

21.)Q. Would you be my crime partner or my conscience?
            Conscience unfortunatley, I'm living proof that nice guys finish last....

22.)Q. What color eyes do you have?
           Red, off White and Blue

23.) Q. Ever been arrested?
             No, but close a couple of times  (owed mostly to luck, exceptional running speed and knowing when to shut up and run..)

24.)Q. Bottle or can soda?
          Bottle if you please.... ( the old colored glass ones )

25.)Q. If you won $10,000 dollars today, what would you do with it?
            Buy Ten Thousand lottery tickets...( because I feel lucky )

26.)Q. If you could, would you date me?
           Do you mean conventionally or by the carbon -14 method?

27.) Q. What 's your favorite place to hang at?
             The employee entrance to Hooters or anywhere that serves cold beer and a decent steak....

28.)Q. Do you believe in ghosts?
            of course not.....silly... did you just hear that?.... thought I heard something outside the bedroom door...must be my imagination playing tricks again.... AaaaaaaaaHhhhhhhh....

29.)Q. Favorite thing to do in your spare time?
            1. I'm taking a Mime training course @ the University of Pheonix Online... 2. Cannibalize small children... ( it used to be plotting the overthrow of the free world but the current administration has beaten me to it so I crossed it off the list....dammit...)

30.)Q. Do you swear a lot?
             Like almost never.... ( what kind of an ignorant *ss #ucking question is that? *oddammit...)

31.)Q. Biggest pet peeve?
            "People", I just can't freakin stand "People".
( especially those bigoted, arrogant, elitest #ssholes who claim to "celebrate diversity" you know the type, they always have lots of bumper stickers on their hybrid electric cars showing how concerned they are about everything... )

32.)Q. In one word, how would you describe yourself?
            ASS... capital A, capital S, capital S....

33.)Q. Do you believe/appreciate romance?
            nah, it's highly overated.... ( I think it was probably invented by those pesky little people at hallmark...)

34.)Q. If you could spend 12 hours with me and ask/do anything you like, what would it be?
            only 12 hours, dammit the first thing that came to mind is gonna take at least 13 hours..... not counting the time spent in the Emergency Room...

35)Q. Do you believe in God?
           Of course, I think God is more than a little annoyed at how immature and selfish we all are too....

( some entries were slightly edited for language considerations, I just love those asterisks...)