Sunday, December 14, 2008

Quantum of Entertainment

The latest Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, is entertaining as an action film but affirms my impression that each new Bond is duller than the previous. Daniel Craig seems to be channeling Jackie Chan with overlong and frantic action sequences leaving him too tired for acting.

Sean Connery played this role with the right mix of charisma, action, and humour. He is the one true Bond.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Goa'uld LostAndFound Department

An annoying disruption of workflow occurs when important items disappear from your desk or work area at the office. Usually a colleague has "borrowed" the item and not bothered to return it or leave a note. A typical employee would issue a polite email with a plea for the return of the item. Perhaps a more dramatic message would discourage such disrespect of your property.

The Goa'uld are the haughty overlords and self-proclaimed gods of the Stargate SG1 universe. The Goa'uld does not say please, he/she gives orders. The Goa'uld is never pleased. Do not "borrow" anything from the the Goa'uld workspace.

In this Sound file (removed), someone has borrowed the Goa'uld pencil and he is not amused. He orders his minions to find the foolish culprit..

The original Stargate series with Richard Dean Anderson was the best. How is the Goa'uld voice created? Actress Jacqueline Samuda explains the audio technique of "flanging". I created the Goa'uld message using Audacity and SoX

Sunday, May 18, 2008

DIY HiFi Speaker Cables

When buying a Home Theater system, your saleman might suggest to shell out ever more money for gold-plated monster speaker cables. This sounds like a reasonable idea since anyone can imagine that skinny wires between the amplifier and speaker might degrade the sound. Moreover, there is no certification for audio amplifier wiring as there is for say, electrical wiring. So, when in doubt, more is better, as any audiophile knows.

But how does one know that these fancy cables will actually provide a significant benefit relative to the cost? Suppose there is a limitation imposed within the amplifier that moots any improvement provided by external wiring?

When purchasing Focal 714v speakers at my friendly neighborhood stereo store, I noticed the salesman was using cables large enough to boost car batteries. On the other hand, my home stereo was using lamp cord. So I disassembled my JVC RX-660vbk to inspect the signal path and remove six years of cat dander. I was dismayed to find the speaker signal path was one foot of 24awg ribbon cable, two speaker switches, and a relay. Moreover, it was a single sided circuit board with several segments of 20awg wire jumpers between the relay and the power transistors. If the amp was run at it's rated power of 400w, the ribbon cable would probably melt.

I would not be surprised to see similiar designs in other "mass-market" audio equipment. The connections are on back of a cabinet, the controls are on the front. Good designers ensure that connections in signal path are robust. Audiophiles invest significant dollars to get this quality. Mass marketers cut corners hoping that customers won't notice subtle differences.

Instead of expensive cables, I suggest to buy measured lengths of 12awg speaker wire from Home Depot or anywhere. Strip one half-inch of insulation from each end. Optionally, dab solder on the last one-quarter inch of bare wire to prevent separation of the strands. Gold plating to prevent corrosion of the wires might be needed on your yacht but not in the benign environment of your home. Just in case, disconnect and reconnect the wires every six months to make a new metal to metal contact.

P.S. 12awg wire can handle 40amps, 24awg can take maybe 3amps. It certainly should not be used in audio speaker circuits.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

D.I.Y. Feline Snack Machine

A kitty adapted to living indoors tends to become relatively lazy and fat which presents a food management challenge for the caring owner. I have found that Buffy the Cat is content to eat less overall if food is provided in small amounts throughout the day. So I provide a morning meal, an evening meal, two others provided by a timer. One occurs around 3pm when I am not an home. Another occurs at 4am while I am sleeping. This routine is satisfactory for Buffy the Cat. The details for constructing a timer kibble dispenser are provided here (removed)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wind Chime 1.0

Make magazine suggests turning the platters from dead hard disk drives into wind chimes. A quick test with two platters tied to a coat hanger with dental floss verifies the idea.

They make a pleasant sound when touched lightly together. And on sunny days, the platters rotate slowly from gentle convection air currents near the window causing a sunbeam to move across the wall for the amusement of Brownie the Cat.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Kitty Activates Air Filter

Having two kitty-kats hanging around is a great pleasure. The downside is cat dander and litter dust everywhere. Fortunately, this can be managed with the use of good quality air cleaner such as the Honeywell model 50100 which has a two-stage HEPA filter.

I installed the 50100 in the laundry room where the litter boxes are located. It sucks in plenty of dust. But since it runs 24-7, it contributes to my electricity bill. Also, they have to shovel in more coal down at the power plant. Well, there is no need to run this filter while cats are sleeping, so filter automation is the next step.

Photos with explanation can be viewed on the (removed) Feline Motion

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Magazine for McGuyvers

Make magazine is a wonderful resource for McGuyver wanna-bees and budding artists. If you cannot find a copy at your local bookstore, you can visit the website:- Here.

Issue 12 has has CandyFab - a 3D freeform sugar printer, infrared photography with a cheap digital camera, and ladies shoes with video player and alarm in the heel. But there are many more cool projects.