The Element

Since I switched to the Fostex T50RP headphones, I have been having an issue with my "at work" DAC / AMP the Aune X1S. The Aune is just not powerful enough for the T50s.  These are seriously power hungry headphones and maxing an AMP out is never a good idea.  The Aune is great amp/DAC combo, but not for this usage.

So, I switched to JDS Labs The Element. More than capable of powering any pair of headphones you throw at it. There is something addicting about the large volume knob on top of The Element.  It's a good feel interface that is superbly made.  I also love that the DAC remains active with the power switch off.  So my externally powered speakers can make use of it when I'm not using the headphones, and I do not have to unplug them.

Here is a review of The Element by user ZeosPantera. This should cover what I have not.


I'm starting to agree

I have been doing more JavaScript programming over the last few years that I would ever have imagined.  Node JS and React have really changed the way I think about programming.  I can honestly say I would prefer to create a web application with NodeJS, SailsJS, EJS, and React over Java, Spring, and JSP.   Know there are other options and variations on these. But, the JavaScript based stacks is just more enjoyable, and more importantly quicker for me.   Realizing and acclimating to this new reality is an on going process.

I was just sent these two articles today. I should have already been aware of.  If you haven't read them yet, give them some attention, there are some interesting ideas to mull over.

The Two Pillars of JavaScript - PT 1,  and PT2.

Chromebook Solution

I decided to get another Chromebook to "play" with.  The first one I had was impressive, but I gave that one away.  When I heard that google was bringing Android apps to the Chromebook platform I decided to give it another go.

I got the Acer Convertible Chromebook R11. It's plastic, small, cheap, and more importantly it feels fast and responsive.  I'm not sure I'll use it in tablet mode much, but having the touch screen will be nice when the Google Play Store is added.

For many people a Chromebook would be all the computer they need.  Email, browsing, social apps, messaging, and basic productivity tools are all available. With increased security and the ability to reset the device at anytime and you have a nearly perfect machine for most normal computer users.

If you are a developer who needs more out of a machine then you still have options on the Chromebook.  You can put it in "Developer mode" get to a shell and install linux via crouton.  It can really be fun to embrace the limitations of this platform and try to get work done with different tools and in different ways.  Limited memory and storage are probably the biggest problems you will have to deal with.

Overall, I'm really happy with this device.  I'll keep it to goof around with and to take on trips when I don't want to risk taking my macbook.  I would also highly recommend this or another version of Chromebook to anyone looking for a new computer for normal daily use.  they are simple, fast, and easy.

Headphone Wishlist

Not saying I'm going to buy these anytime soon, but if money were no object these would be on the top of my list.

  • Sennheiser HD 800 S: I have always loved the clean Sennheiser sound, and these are some of their best.
  • Mr Speakers Ether C: Closed Planar Magnetic. These would be a replacement for the Alpha Dogs. They would also probably be the only headphones I would need.
  • Stax SR-009: Electro Static headphones often called "The Best Headphones".  You could also say the most expensive.  They even require a special amp to play them. 
  • Sennheiser Orpheus: I would just like to hear these. I'm not sure I would ever buy them, even if money were no object.


Headphones - cont.

Well, I was dead wrong about the Fostex T50RP not needing more power.  They will play to an ok volume without a better amp, but they sound much better when given more power.  At work I'm using the Aune X1S and I have to crank it pretty high.  At home I'm using the Schiit Modi 2 Uber, and the Schiit Magni 2 Uber.  The Magni 2 Uber has a gain switch, and the high setting is more than equal to the task.

Now I need to re-rip most of my CD collection. Too many ripped at too low a bit rate.

Headphone Obsessed

I've been obsessed with Headphones lately.  I'm a huge fan of Sennheiser.  I like the clean sound their headphones reproduce.  I recently discovered a few new sources of information, which have reignited my interest in trying different brands and types of headphones.
You can spend any amount of money on audio equipment $20, $100, $200, $500, $1500, $10000, $50000.  Generally speaking the more you spend the better things sound, but you have to go higher and higher in price to get smaller and smaller improvements in quality.  And, don't even get me started on tube amps, and Hi res music.  I'm not sure my ears can tell the differences between 44 khz and 192 khz audio.  I've taken the audio tests, and unless a track is encoded poorly, it is very difficult for me to tell the difference.  You have to listen for very specific cues to tell the differences between low and high quality mp3s even.  My ears are old and abused.

While consuming all this new information I kept seeing buzz about Planar Magnetic headphones, basically the cheaper cousins of Electrostatic headphones. Planar headphones provide a clean crisp wall of sound, they don't require special amplifiers to drive them, though they often require more power than your smartphone may be able to provide.  They are better suited to home / work listening.

One of the many companies making Planar Magnetic headphones is Fostex, a Japanese company that has been around for years.  They make a line of headphones that have been long loved by the modding community. 
  • T20RP Mk3 Open
  • T40RP Mk3 Closed
  • T50RP Mk3 Semi-Open
I purchased the T50RP Mk3 from Amazon.  I also ordered a closed pair of modded Fostex from Mr Speakers.  I love my Alpha Dogs, they are the most comfortable headphones I have every worn.  But, the cheaper un-modded headphones sound better to me.  I have not received the replacement ear pads I have ordered for them yet, which should make them more comfortable for extended listening.  I also replaced the cable they came with.  This review by Zeos provides a better description of these than mine.





However, I don't agree these are as difficult to power as he implies. They do take more power than normal cheap headphones.  But, at home I use an Aune XS1 with no trouble, and at work I use the USB powered SMSL M2.  My phone can power them to an ok listening level, but not really enough to make them loud.

Other than comfort, which you can modify, the T50RP MK3 are nearly perfect headphones. If you need fully closed headphones, the T40RP should be great.  If money were no object I would seriously consider getting a pair of Fostex TH900. Hopefully I'll be able to listen to these some day.

Oh and if you want to see something completely insane check out Sennheiser's Project Orpheus. $55,000 for Electrostatic Headphones and Amp.  Welcome to crazy town.

Sony PlayStation Network Account Frustration

Some how I managed to end up with a PSN master account with my real name as my console id. This is the public name that shows up in online games.  I don't remember setting it this way, but I can imagine thinking that I would be able to change it later.

You can't change it!  They do not allow any mechanism for changing it.  WTF!

This is the kind of thing that keeps me from ever using a service again.  I'm trying to be more reasonable than that, I just spent over $100 dollars on a PlayStation Plus membership and a new game that I can't return.

Sony has apparently said they don't want people changing their ID to prevent trolling.  But couldn't they just put a time limit on name changes. Talk about bad user experience.

So I'm having to now create a Sub Account, meant for minors, so I can use a different ID. Now's the time where I point out that Trolls could do the exact same thing.  I don't want multiple accounts where I have to lie about age.

Crazy decisions by dumb companies.

While attempting to fix all this I wiped my PS4 and now have to reinstall everything.  That was my mistake, I should have gone online first, before trying anything I could do to find what should be an obvious feature.

I now need to apologize to my wife for yelling like a madman at the PS4 last night. I haven't been that angry in a long time.



NodeJS, SailsJS, ReactJS, EJS - JS all the way down

Started a new GitHub project with a generic random name.

Say hello to creepy-squeegee.

There really isn't much to see there yet, and what is there will be changing dramatically.  I needed a place to put some training material and thought it would be good to share it.

The purpose of this app is to consolidate several code samples related to Client and Server web technologies.  Focusing mainly on Node.js, Sails.js, and React.

Feedback welcome.

Apple Watch Cont.

How are you liking it?

I'm enjoying wearing a watch again, way more than I thought I would. I have spent a bunch of time tweaking notifications to reduce distractions. I'm currently seeing:
  • Activity - more on that later.
  • Calendar
  • Email - Work and VIP
  • Maps
  • Messages
  • Passbook and Apple Pay
  • Phone Calls - I have not had a phone call on the watch yet.
  • Reminders
  • Dark Sky
  • Pedometer 
  • Slack
  • Trello
  • Twitter - DMs only
  • Paper - Facebook messages only
I'm not sure if occasionally looking at my watch is less distracting that using my phone, but I feel like I'm spending less time messing with my phone when I should be talking to people. 

I do seem to notice alerts on the watch more than on my phone.  I hate being late to meetings or really any event.  The watch really helps me know when I'm supposed to be somewhere.

I have not had anyone ask me about the watch in public. I have also not noticed anyone else wearing one.  They seem to be very rare, and I have been preoccupied with looking at peoples wrists.  The only place I have noticed them was at the Apple Store, and that really does not count.

Just Keep Moving

The activity app has been good for me.  I was already using the Step counter in my iPhone, but the watches constant nagging and reminders has really helped me be conscious of my sloth like life.  I get excited when I get one of the goofy awards on the watch.  I try to actually move around when the watch tells me to Stand, and I'm trying to exercise more to get all the rings in the activity app.

Watch Faces

For work I'm using the Modular Watch Face.  Lots of information with a prominent calendar display. I love having the timer on the watch face so I can quickly setup a timer for hot tea.




On the weekends I tend to prefer the Utility face, or the Mickey face.  I leave the Calendar display off to avoid the "No More Events" text.



Apple Watch

Well, I got the Apple Watch. So far I'm very impressed with it.

The Tattoo Issue

First read this article at iMore for more info on the issue.

In summary tattoos can interfere with the green light used for heart rate and security.  My watch shipped the day this information started being discussed.  I was worried that the issue would be bad enough for me to have to return the watch. I probably would have just turned off several features and kept it.  But, I really did not want to have to make that choice.

For me, the tattoo issue seems to be no big deal. It could be because of the inks my artist used, or more likely because of where the watch sits on my arm. There is a patch of yellow right where the watch naturally sits on my arm.

I have had no issues that I think were caused by my tattoos.  It is possible that it is detecting my heart rate incorrectly.  But, it seems consistent with values I have gotten from other sources.

I have had my watch lock while on my wrist twice.  The first time was while using the lawn mower. Sweat was involved and I think the watch may have been too loose.  The second time was while sitting idle on the couch, but I had my arm in a weird position and the watch was being pushed away from my arm.

Setup

Pairing was easy, I chose to activate all my apps, and this may have been a mistake.  The first 20 min with the watch were slow and irritating.  I think the phone was copying info to the watch, but there was no clear indication that this was happening.  I got frustrated with things not working and left it alone for about an hour.  The next time I tried to use it everything worked great.  The setup process needs some work.


Everyday use

I have only had the watch for one weekend, so this can't really be a full review.  However I have found the following things to be true:

It is a great fitness tracker.

I need to calibrate it better for my stride.  But so far the way it tracks 'Active Calories' and reminds me to be more active is really helpful.


It is really good at notifications. 

It is going to take some time to configure the correct set of notifications I want to go to the watch.  I only want 'Important' items to show up there.  I only want sound in some rare cases. etc...  I will be tweaking these things until I find the right balance. Letting everything through would be awful.


It is good at being a watch.

I like having a watch on.  At a glance information without pulling out my phone.  I wish it had a mode where the time was always visible without the battery cost.  Perhaps a future version will do a better job of detecting the wrist turn.


Apps

Some are pretty slow.  Some don't really seem that helpful.  For instance, there is a Yelp app on the watch, but It doesn't seem to support checking in, which is pretty much the only reason I would use Yelp on my watch.  There are other instances of this.  I've already removed several apps.