Saturday, 28 June 2014

Rearranging the deckchairs in Brussels

This week between the smoke from a USB port that needs replacing when I get a newer XP Pro machine and the soccer from Brazil comes today's post. Yip just think of the delights of posting in Pale Moon with something whose processors  are circa 2002 being updated to something like 2006 or 7!
One big deal politically has been the choice of European Union Commission President following the European Elections in May.
The British Prime Minister has made a lot of noise and invested much political capital around this for a number of reasons not least the thrashing his party and most of the others took by the anti EU Ukip party in said elections in the UK.
Another set of reasons revolve around how the Commissioner Elect is chosen which in the past was done by the individual Prime Ministers of each EU Country, each repesenting the electorate of each Country being drawn from the Governments so chosen.
It was decided this time around to allow a say for the European Parliament members in this but whereas you might of thought an advance was one member one vote in a secret ballot, instead it's been decided to award votes on the basis of the percentage of the  Europe wide bloc each party is aligned to has even though the choice of the commissioner didn't feature as an Manifesto item of each party and no approval was given on the usual understandings to it.
The other area is the favoured choice is seen as being an advocate for stronger powers for the commission and more inclined to remove powers from National Governments, which in a number countries - quite strongly in the UK - the electorate indicated they did not agree with.
Prime Minister Cameron contends that's a snub to the voters.
Personally I am inclined to agree as even those who do favour European Union membership did want reform of its systems and more respect for the role of Nation states within it.
The voting change does nothing to increase accountability between Commission,  EU Parliament, and Electorate and sends out the wrong message for those who do believe in membership.

Friday, 20 June 2014

A question of organizing

 A hot start to the weekend that saw England drop out of the World Cup sees me continuing on a bit from last weeks theme.
Normally you'd load music and and off your player depending on how much capacity the player has and what you normally listen to. For instance I keep on mine a collection of 'evergreens' I usually listen to on the internal memory to save having to reload every time and have used a card for loading odds and ends on such as new albums for immediate playback but the rigmarole around this does jar a bit.
See, I'm used to Cassette and MiniDisc walkman where you just grab a stash of tapes or discs already done and easily to find with labels from their storage containers to listen to with no need to fire up the computer, waiting for it to boot up and then connect the player to load stuff on and off.
Preloading cards on the face of seems a good idea but you do need a way of knowing what - and we could be looking at over 20 - albums are on what card which are typically the size of a small postage stamp.
I had discussed a few ideas with friends and one thought was plastic loose leaf inserts for SD cards you put in binders but while available in North America, the leading Stationery stores here in the UK such as Staples, Ryman and W H Smith don't stock them.
I did spy on Ebay this which while not perfect was promising, a small pouched zip up case with room for 22 full size SD cards which because the pouches are plastic could have a small paper label with a name or number attached you could use with a small pocket book, something else not requiring booting up!
You would have a sticker with say 2 on the pouch and maybe a genre statement  say "70's Rock".
The entry in the book would go like this:
2

Badfinger
(listed album by album)
P McCartney/Wings
McCartney
Ram
Wild Life
Red Rose Speedway
Band On The Run

and so on

This would make it easier to find the right card with the albums I want to listen to so I could just slot them in, waiting a few seconds for the player to index them to its' album list and be away without faffing about with the computer every time I want to go out.
For major artists you could have separate Artist Cards and this week I assembled a "Beatles in Stereo" card from what I consider to be the best sounding cds and I could easily make one for the Rolling Stones albums from the 60's to the early 80's as they live in my iTunes library just to slot in and play.
By my math, you could easily get 440 albums in that pouch which would be ideal and even If I were to get another surely 880 albums is more than enough!


Sunday, 15 June 2014

Firmwear upgrade

You might recall sometime in 2010 I write about a portable music player, the Sansa Clip+, I bought cheaply from Amazon because of an interest in downloads I was starting to buy from stores such as 7Digital and wanting the means of listening to them away from the computer which back then was a behemoth of a Desktop.
Well, that player is still alive dispute what some doommongers said cos it wasn't a fashionable brand like Sony or heavens above an Apple although like them it contained a non-user replaceable battery.
It has had a couple of upgrades by Sansa one adding support for the rather geeky Ogg Vorbis audio format but in that time they hadn't done anything about adding support for other file formats such as Aac such as that used on the iTunes Store which was a much bigger thing for most people, but did add it to the later Clip Zip as standard but they've stopped doing upgrades for the Clip+.
I also experienced an issue with a few Flac (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files such as when playing Sgt Pepper where they would hang or crash the player so I was reading about what you might do about this when I read about an alterative software you can put on it called Rockbox you can get from Rockbox.org.
I decided given its' age it was worth trying this this so having the found the graphical user interface downloader followed the instructions - the only bit I found hard was finding from the Sansa official site a copy of the original software for  a .bin file to link Rockbox's software onto the official players directory.
It went in without any fuss.
The display now looks like this and it will also show the upcoming track as well track time.
It cured the Flac playable issues completely, added proper gapless replay so albums where one track segues into another don't pause even just a second.
Best of all it now can play Aac, Alac (Apple's own Lossless format) and other audio file formats native so I can play anything on one single player.
I set the database to automatically update every time using the manual drag and drop to the memory on your computer I alter the  contents just like the original software did.
I have noticed as well the sound quality seams to have noticeable improvements when it comes to stereo image and fine detail.
The radio gained more presets and the ability to label the stations where on the Clip Zip it used RDS to get this and display program and song playing which is nice but still the upgrade does make things better.
Was this worth doing? Yes because it improved on the capacities of a fine player at no expense and it does show how sadly products can be limited by the software released.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Pigs in pokes

This damp weather hasn't been too good for my bones but anyway a little late, here's this weeks blog entry.
It's been a frustrating week with online orders with a third of my cds ordered from the usual sites not being the discs I had ordered as the actual discs in the case differed from the title which took quite a bit of my time emailing the vendors and getting them to agree to refunds.
What I find surprisingly is that prior to dispatch no one checked the order given each disc had it's catalogue number and title clearly visible on the cd label.
More annoyingly in same respects was to get a record in the mail where not only had the vendor just put a layer of bubble wrap over the record sleeve and then thin parcel paper providing little protection from being bent or damaged by water but the record itself looked like it had had dirty water speckles all over it.
Given lp mailers, those 14x14" envelopes you put records in  easily available from suppliers, are not that dear, why dispense with using them? Equally I remain astonished they considered its condition to be acceptable.
I was able to re-order the cds from other vendors but the experiences took the shine off buying things and pose some questions about what standards are considered acceptable.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Styx Paradise Theater and Pieces of Eight on SACD

The last time I touched Styx was on May 10th 2010 when I wrote about the 24 kt edition of The Grand Illusion on Audio Fidelity Here

As I have commented in a few places before the Styx catalogue has been left as is from the early days of the compact disc and can be divided between the decent but nothing special and the clearly inferior to lp versions.
On January 19th 1981 the band issued the concept album Paradise Theater based on the real story of a theatre in their native Chicago which came out on laser etched lp and tape versions (8 track and cassette) which topped the US album chart and featured four forty-fives, Rockin' The Paradise, Too Much Time On My Hands, The Best Of Times that charted at #3 and Nothing Ever Goes As Planned.
It was an album I bought near date of release and always loved for the musicianship and story telling in a song.
This new Super Audio cd also playable on regular cd edition sounds quite a bit clear with more definition than the original disc.

Another album of theirs whose cd version left a fair bit to be desired was Pieces Of Eight  based around the story of a boxing bout which on cd sounded thin and splashy


ln September 2017 this disc that featured the 45 Blue Collar Man, Renegade and The Great White Hope was issued on Super audio cd also playable in regular cd having been mastered by Kevin Gray from the A&M master tapes.
This edition is a lot better than the 1987 original cd.