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I was just prompted to install v2.1 of the Flickr Uploader. Visually it’s not much different, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it supports sets! This is probably the easiest way to use Flickr’s photo sets yet.

I’ve mentioned several times the problems I’ve had with my Sony reveiver. When Tweeter sent me a flyer for this weekend’s private sale and had this Pioneer receiver discounted to $199, I had to check it out. I looked at it on Wednesday and liked it. That night I made a last effort to clean up speaker terminals and wiring on the Sony receiver to try and get the center channel working — to no avail. I purchased the Pioneer receiver yesterday and set it up this morning.

The first thing that scared me was that it was a few inches deeper than the Sony; in an already-constrained entertainment center, that was bad. However, once I made all the connections and moved it back (carefully!) its face was flush with the front of the shelf it’s sitting on. That worked fine for me.

Being a Pioneer like my DVD player, I was able to take advantage of the proprietary inter-component link between it and the receiver. I moved it down to a shelf with a door and verified that the receiver passed its remote’s signals to it when the door was closed. This helped me create a little more airflow up top, with just the receiver and the Comcast HD box on the exposed shelf. I finally cut a 1″ square dowel I had bought for the job into spacers; the HD box sits on top of the reciver via the spacers, creating some breathing room.

Besides giving me a working center channel, this upgrade allowed me to use a line-level connection to my subwoofer and let the receiver handle bass management. The Sony receiver’s bass management never worked consistently for me, so I was using its “B” speaker terminals and the crossover on my sub to manage bass. Also, the Sony receiver produced noticable hiss at low volume levels, and only had 30 increments of volume, of which we usually only used the bottom 12. The Pioneer has very low hiss (I will check it out more tomorrow morning when it’s quiet again) and starts at 94dB below unity gain and increments every dB. Quite a bit more control.

One thing that pleasantly surprised me about the Pioneer was the quality of its remote. It’s the first “learning” remote I’ve ever had and once I figure it all out it should make a great command center.

The Practical Superiority of HD-DVD:

Then there are the politics of this – the most interesting aspect. First, the DVD Forum has endorsed HD-DVD and not Blu-ray. The Sony-led Blu-ray consortium probably didn’t think this was important, after witnessing the emergence of DVD+RW without any support from the DVD Forum.

Another subtext is the copy-protection mechanism. The HD-DVD system is being sold as uncrackable. True or not, it sounds good to Hollywood. Blu-ray seems more liberal in its approach, with “limited-copy” mechanisms similar to those found on DAT recorders. This factor alone could kill Blu-ray among the paranoid Hollywood types. One copy, even if legal, is to be avoided as far as they are concerned.

[..]

When you put these factors together, along with Sony’s track record for being on the wrong side of the technology split, it’s hard to see Blu-ray winning this one. Hello, HD-DVD!

So Sony’s on the “wrong side of the technology split” and Disney isn’t a “paranoid Hollywood type”. I disagree. I have yet to read a technical article that explains why dual-format HD-DVD/Blu-Ray players can’t be produced. Let the content providers worry about aspects like what discs are cheaper to produce and what format customers like better. This seems more like Dolby Digital vs. DTS than Beta vs. VHS to me.

(Note: First manual use of “nofollow”.)

Microsoft Text-to-Speech in Python (pyTTS)

This is pretty cool stuff. Three guesses as to what I’m thinking of using it for. 😉

Ars Technica has published some great Monday Morning reading: A guide to ripping and encoding music. It’s an excellent summary of the leading formats and methods and I think it gives a fair assessment of what’s out there.

Infoworld: HP, Panasonic to support each other’s DVD technology

Many articles about HD-DVD and Blu-Ray have compared them to Beta vs. VHS, but that’s not accurate. Beta and VHS were so physically different that consumers had to choose one or the other. However, since the competing next-gen DVD formats differ logically instead of physically, I think we’ll be seeing a detente similar to the one in the linked article very soon after the first HD-DVD and Blu-Ray titles are released. It’s already happened with SACD and DVD-Audio; I specifically picked the Pioneer DVD player I bought because it supported both formats. I suspect the same will happen with the next generation of DVD players.

Sony MZ-NHF800

I just noticed today that Amazon has this Hi-MD recorder (which my wife is getting me for Christmas) for just under $200. An excellent deal for this package. There’s also a promo code, MDCASE4PROMO, on the item that’ll get you a free case for it.

I considered HD-based music recorders/players but because of issues like proprietary non-user-replaceable batteries, I went with this. Podcasting has revived my interest in mobile recording and this will fill the bill quite nicely, as well as being a high-quailty playback device. (I hope!)

I’ve edited the recording I made Tuesday night for the podcast. I should have it spruced up and ready to share soon. The guys shared some good info and I think it will make a good “first glimpse” of us for those non-Harrisburg bloggers who check it out.

I chose to record at the meetup using a fairly cheap Koss desktop mic (with integrated pre-amp) connected directly to my laptop’s line in. This got the audio directly onto the computer, but the recording suffers a bit from “one-mic syndrome” and has greatly varying volume levels (most of which I should be able to clean up). I’m realizing now that I’m one part away from a much better solution. I could get a small 4-channel mixer for under $100 and connect my two higher-quality mics to it, as well as a stereo music/effects source (like a CD player or the laptop), and record the output of the mixer to my portable MiniDisc recorder. The recorded audio would have to go through an A->D conversion to get back onto a computer for editing and mastering, but it would have been recorded at such higher quality that I don’t think it would matter.

The issue of podcast metadata has come up several times on various podcasts, including Adam’s. One thing I’ve been thinking about inplementing when/if there a Cygweb podcast is to have an Ogg Vorbis version of the podcast that would utilize the ability to concatenate multiple Vorbis streams (each with their own metadata) into a single Ogg file. The streams would correspond with the different “segments” of the recording. I have a method for doing this that Don used for his ICYG show “Up The Downstair” and it worked great. Here’s what you do (on Windows):

  1. Record and mix a complete show, outputting it as a WAV file.
  2. Break up the WAV file into smaller WAVs that correspond to the different regions you want to tag (i.e. segments, songs, ads).
  3. Individually encode the smaller WAVs as OGGs and tag them.
  4. Concatenate the OGGs in order using the command:
    copy /b source1.ogg + source2.ogg + ... + sourceN.ogg destination.ogg

In Foobar2000, the one file shows up as multiple lines on the playlist, one per Vorbis track, so that might be kind of confusing. Of course, Vorbis files won’t play on most portable players right now, so I wouldn’t expect this to be the most popular podcasting solution. But it would probably be the most open format with the most metadata.

I forgot to post about this when I found it out a few days ago. Following up on this entry:

If the command-line control functionality continues to work flawlessly with the other instances I plan to install on my server, I’ll be a happy guy.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. I successfully “cloned” an FB2K install by customizing the preferences of an instance and then copying the “foobar2000” directory to a new location and renaming it. I even went the extra step of renaming the foobar2000.exe executable to foobar2000-hiq.exe to designate the “high quality” instance. When invoking either of the FB2K executables with command-line parameters, they affect the FB2K instance with the highest process ID (the one launched most recently).

Even if it worked, this would be a hack, since there’s the potential that the two instances would go out of sync due to random quirks in how they might crossfade, etc. If Oddcast was able to output multiple streams (similar to Shoutcast, that would be a much more elegant solution.

@aharden

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