Posted by Deliverator on 5th March 2009
It looks like The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a newspaper which has been in existence for some 137 years is likely to close up shop within a few weeks time, or be cut back to the extent that they are no longer recognizable. It is likely that some web-only presence will remain, but print runs will cease and employment will be decimated. It is not entirely unlikely that the Seattle Times will fold in the not too distant future as well. Old media, for a large variety of reasons is facing tough times and I have a tough time finding pity for them. They have been all too slow to adapt to changing times and quite simply don’t get the power and opportunities of The Internet. Most of the traditional newspaper’s online presences merely ape the appearance of the dead tree edition and do little to leverage the power of the web. To them, it is just another delivery mechanism (a series of tubes, perhaps?) to deliver the same content in the same top down, one way, non-interactive fashion. Fundamentally, not only are content providers having a difficult time figuring out how to make money on the web, they are having as much of a problem figuring out how the web can save them money.
I recently read a back of the napkin analysis that suggested that amortized over the period of a few years, it would be cheaper for The New York Times to buy all their readers a Kindle than to print and deliver them a daily dead tree edition. I would be very interested in media producers subsidizing the high cost of a Kindle II or similar device in order to get their content in front of consumer eyeballs. Somehow, I suspect that the NYT will keep on moving dead trees around till their dying day and their online presence will remain shrouded behind a pay wall or login prompt, increasingly making them irrelevant to broad public discourse on the day’s events.
Today, I was listening to a podcast of an episode of This American Life. Ira Glass, the show’s host, came on at the beginning of the Podcast to talk about how the Podcast is costing the station something like $150,000 a year in bandwidth bills. This American Life’s solution to their budget problem was to beg the public for money. I feel profoundly disinclined to cough up my hard earned when something as simple as providing an optional torrent feed of their show in parallel to their existing feed would greatly diminish those costs. Other nationally syndicated radio shows have already demonstrated that this can work and it basically costs them nothing to provide. This American Life has a large and rabid fan base and I would gladly pitch in a few bucks to make my commute more interesting if the Ira Glass was asking his listeners to please click on a this link rather than that link in order to help save them money.
There is a lot of Old Media I like and I am more than a little nostalgic about a lot of it, but I am also very excited about the new forms and directions that media is taking and in the end, there are only so many minutes in the day and bucks in my pocket. I will chose the options that are broadly accessible, usable and convenient to me and avoid ones which require me to jump through hoops, utilize special software or proprietary devices and try to substitute some pseudo-form of rental instead of real ownership upon me. Culture has become broad enough that when faced with even the slightest inconvenience the modern media consumer can simply swerve towards some other shiny thing.
Posted in Books, General, Media, Movies, Music, Rants and Raves | No Comments »
Posted by Deliverator on 4th January 2007
This entry relates to this previous entry on the Ion USB Turntable.
Several people I have spoken to about converting record collections or who have read my previous entry have asked me about audio post processing/cleanup. Of course, the phrasing has generally been more along the lines of “so, can you really get rid of all those popping noises from scratched records?” The answer to this question is actually pretty complex. There are a lot of post-processing tools you can use to clean up a recording, but you have to be very careful in adjusting settings and listening to the results, as the same filters that can remove popping noises can also remove or mute particularly staccato instruments like certain drums. I generally found it best to go fairly light on the filter settings to remove the majority of pops and then manually edit the waveform to remove any particularly offensive remnants. This semi-automated cleaning produced excellent results without being overly burdensome on my time.
Another thing that I found helpful in reducing noise was to make sure the record was VERY clean before recording it. There is nothing you can do about scratches, but you can get rid of dust, fingerprints and other surface contaminants that WILL show up audibly in your recording. Vinyl records, due to being made of plastic, become statically charged and attract dust very easily. I used a highly evaporative cleaning spray designed for optical surfaces and a microfiber cloth to remove dust and oil. My procedure was to liberally spray the side I was about to record from and let the spray soak into and loosen any surface contaminants. I then spun the record on the turntable and formed a small wedge with the microfiber cloth and just barely let it brush the surface of the record. The microfiber cloth easily soaks up the fluid from the surface without further scratching the record. Any remaining fluid in the grooves quickly evaporates away after letting the record spin for a few minutes. I cleaned the cloth off in soaping water, rinsed it and then let it dry on a bit of mono filament after each used, to keep the cloth free of any dirt which could scratch the next record I attempted to clean. Water evaporates so very quickly from microfiber that I was able to use the same cloth record after record for hours on end.
Here are a few screen grabs of how much popping noise can be removed from a waveform without distorting the underlying music.
Posted in General, Media, Music, Tech Stuff | No Comments »
Posted by Deliverator on 30th December 2006
One of the gifts given to my dad for Christmas this year was an Ion USB Turntable. For those of you with a born on date after 1982, a turntable is a device for playing back Vinyl Records. While it is very easy for even your average Joe to take content from a CD and digitize it, thanks to free, automated ripping programs like EAC and track information lookup databases like freedb, it has remained comparatively difficult to digitize records.
Part of the difficulty is that almost all turntables very weak “Phono” output which cannot easily be interfaced directly to a computer’s soundcard. At a minimum, one needs to hook the turntable up to a receiver or pre-amp capable of producing a line-level output. There are some sound cards capable of accepting a Phono input, but not many. This ION turntable solves the problem by integrating such a USB soundcard right into a turntable. Simply plug the turntable it into your Mac or PC and it is auto detected as a new sound recording device – no messing with driver installation necessary. The turntable comes with the excellent (and also free) audio editor Audacity and a booklet giving some basic conversion procedures. Essentially, what you are getting for your money is a cheap plastic turntable and some software that you could have easily downloaded anyways. For those who own a good turntable already and wish to convert your records, I would recommend just purchasing a good soundcard with a built in RIAA equalized preamp and download Audacity yourself. If you are just looking for a cheap, minimum fuss solution to convert your LP’s, then the ION USB Turntable might be the right solution for you.
My main issue with the ION Turntable is that it is definitely a cheaper quality turntable than I am really comfortable using. The turntable is entirely plastic and I found it very difficult to get all the wobble out of the belt-driven turntable itself. I spent the better part of two hours fussing with the belt trying to minimize the degree of wobble. In the end, there was still enough wobble to cause the stylus needle to raise out of groove a bit on the upswing of the wobble. As a result, I had to place more down pressure on the needle using the tone arm counterbalance than is generally considered healthy for the record. The needle definitely stays in its grove now, but I would have greatly preferred using a good, well balanced turntable with a quality stylus. My dad’s old run of the mill turntable only needed 2 grams of down pressure, compared to close to six for the Ion turntable.
Thus far I have converted a couple dozen albums and have developed a good work flow for physically cleaning the albums, recording them in Audacity, editing out hisses and pops, normalizing, splitting tracks and recording mp3’s. It has been quite a bit of work and you need a lot of patience and tenacity to get the best results – I recorded one album 3 times to avoid clipping, but it has been a lot of fun to listen to Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel and various other artists while I work.
Posted in General, Media, Music, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff | 5 Comments »
Posted by Deliverator on 27th December 2004
Alex and I ate at a joint called “The Scarlet Tree” a few nights back. I remember going there to listen to my friend Les Carpenter play back in HS. The food was great; the service abysmal; the music loud; and the conversation was excellent (what you could hear of it). One thing that we discussed was all the hype surrounding “mash-up” albums of late. I mentioned a few that I had listened to and couldn’t stand. Alex suggested I try “The Kleptones” on for size. In particular, an album called “A Night At The Hip-Hopera.” I ended up listening to it on my computer, for a change, as my iRiver H320 does not yet support “gapless” playback. Gapless playback is where tracks play back to back with no pausing in between. This is a very important feature for recordings of “live” music, where you want the ability to go to a certain point in the concert quickly, but don’t want pauses between tracks (the tracks may arbitrarily occur in the middle of a song). Anyways, back to my original point. I listened to The Kleptones and was instantly hooked. The way they seemlessly (and with great humor and to satirical effect) blended artists like Queen with Eminem just blew my mind. This is one of the first records in a long time that have made me sit up in my chair, put everything away and just LISTEN with my eyes shut.
Anyways, if you want to listen, the band has posted some links at:
Posted in General, Music | No Comments »