Saturday, June 30, 2018

Techmoan meets MQA-CD

MQA-CD Review

This is a post about YouTube and content creators, and along the way we will discuss a new audio format MQA-CD . (Master Quality Authenticated )

As an ex Audiophile Marcus is still interested in all things [Professional] Audio.     But in 2018 my emphasis has changed to 'Passionate Consumer' and this reflectsmy comments later in this article.

Techmoan: An Example

This is an excellent example of a High quality YouTube channel 

- A one man band, in this case Mat, living in Wigan England.
- Long detailed videos, some as long as 20 minutes
- An enthusiast channel, which goes into great detail about its content
- A channel that is not trying to sell you something
- In this particular channel the emphasis on Older music formats and equipment is simply wonderful.

And end to Audiophilia
My view on high end Audio equipment has changed with time because of advances in quality and my lifestyle.  The position is like this

- Over time your hearing gets worse, fact!
- Digital music formats, including mainstream are now arguable of higher quality than even the best young ears
- Keeping a large physical bulky music collection seems not only wasteful but if you actually move home, especially country, you soon realise the last thing you need to take with you is a big and heavy anything!
- Keeping a Cloud Music collection or something on a single Hard disk  (with backup obviously) just seems more efficient
- Most of our audio is now played on a portable player and as such the quality that I can hear depends more on a) headphone quality b) what exercise/activity I am performing c) background noise.
- I now follow high end audio formats and Hardware with the same zeal and dismay as mumbo jumbo Halthcare cures like Crystals and Magnetic Energy bands.

YouTube, Subscriptions, and Alternative Media

In 2018 I find little to zero need for Paper or Digital based media content. Instead, I use a mixture of RSS feeds via feedly and Youtube subscriptions.   For the latter over 500 of them!  Here are my Pro's and Cons list

- Self selection Bias
My list of channels now includes topics from Music, to Computer Hardware to Religion.   It also includes channels whose content I find very objectionable. Why?  Because listening to channels that only broadcast your viewpoint is often a slippery slope to bigotry

- Consume Anywhere
Youtube is available on my desktop or Smartphone.  All I need is the Youtube application.   So, whilst waiting in any long queue e.g. boarding the Plane, or at the Supermarket checkout, I can continue or resume watching.   With a Physical book I'd need to always carry it or them.

- TV be gone
I still read copiously (online of course) but I've replaced normal TV watching with Youtube and by exception I might watch the odd BBC or Channel 4 programme.

About that MQA Format

I had thought that the Audio arms race of superior formats was over ,especially when most music is now online.  But apparently not.

From this chart you will see the height of the current madness is 24bit quantisation and 352.8Khz frequency. So this would lead to 16777216 levels, and the highest frequency via Nyquist of 176k Hz.   Given that probably the best human ears cannot even hear to 20k Hz,  176K is totally and utterly pointless.

In other words it is a 44Khz CD style data stream with embeds of higher frequencies that need to be unpacked.

Back to Techmoan
I am thankful to sources like Mat at Techmoan for doing all the heavy lifting and keeping me informed via YouTube and Blogs of his new content.   And to me the best parts are: that my consumption is paperless and entirely free.  Amazing.

Friday, June 29, 2018

WD Elements 4TB Portable Hard Disk

For the second time in less than a month here in Switzerland a local Computer retailer has these drives on special offer.

I'm going to remind you that 109 CHF (about 109 USD) is the cost of a dinner for two here in Lausanne Switzerland.  But whilst the dinner might last the night, I'd hope the drive might last for years.

Indeed the Marcus and Agata household is full of hard drives and missed dinners.  It is a fact.

No Frills

I plugged this drive into a Windows 10 computer and found ... absolutely nothing!

This was a wonderfully welcome surprise.  Normally vendors include some sort of security product or some added  value software component that only a noob might need.

And Marcus, not wanting to throw anything away might dutifully archive it somewhere and even test it out.   So not having anything here saved me time and disk space.  Great.

 Some Statistics

 Sustained read speed from disk to my laptop over USB 3.1 gen 2 connection of over 200 MB/sec

 Real world write speed of over 100 MB/sec to this disk

As you can see this disk is just bigger than the physical 2.5" hard disk on which it is based.

Overall Then

- You have heard it so many times before, but do regular backups

- This 4TB portable hard drive requires no external power, just plug it in

- The price is about the same as dinner for two . (Swiss prices)

- It has over 200 MB/sec read and >100 MB/sec write performance sustained

- It comes with no software, just the disk it self and a cable

Great value for money, why not make this part of your workstation backup strategy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Benevolence vs Bully

Subtitle: Do what I say or else

When people that I admire like Sean Carroll have seen fit to weigh in on the Red Hen dinner controversy  I feel obliged to add my own comments but on a slightly different angle.

It is another commentary about Bullies.

You can search our Blog for previous articles on this subject but to cut right to the chase I was sadly, not deeply shocked over what had followed this Huckabee event as reported in Quartz

Unless I see any evidence to the contrary on first, second and third reading the above tweet seems to be an inflammatory response, without any evidence,  and a further hallmark of a bully.

I support evidence based fair argument.  This is most certainly not it.  It is the antithesis of it.

What is fair?

When a country, or company or corporation begins to have a dominant position in trade or commerce or industry there seems to be a terrible temptation to start acting like a bully.

This essentially means:  we dictate the rules and if you don't like out terms then we can make life extremely difficult for you.

For the last 12 months we have seen this in many aspects of the current US Political Administration backed up by an avalanche of easily refutable claims.

Reserve Currency

Many goods and services for example Oil are traditionally transacted in US Dollars.  Further,  many Countries hold large quantities of Dollars in their national reserve.  So by it's use, the US Dollar has a circular self fulfilling importance because of its role as the defacto International Reserve Currency    As such until nations break ties with this currency they are tacitly investing in the importance of the US currency against their own.   I speak as somebody who used to have our own world Reserve Currency.  The GB Pound.  The English well know the advantages of having the World currency, it's a sort of Money for Nothing benefit

Trade Imbalance Example
There has been much tripe talked about trade imbalances.

I have a trivial logic experiment to think of: about a set of countries and their trade imbalances with other countries.

A:  Switzerland, imports Cars from Germany, exports Watches to the UK
B:  UK:  Imports Watches from Switzerland, exports Chemicals to Germany
C: Germany: Imports Chemicals from England, exports Cars to Switzerland

Each country would have a trade imbalance with each other.

In general your country might have a huge imbalance with another country if

a) you don't make those goods in your country at all
b) you do make those goods, but basically they are of inferior quality, in other words shit.
c) consumers will prefer to imports goods  (did I say cars? from any country on the earth, rather than buy your inferior, overpriced and often obsolete technology

Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely

If I can start out from Lord Acton's famous phrase

Many small countries use tariffs to protect their small fledgling or speciality industries which are less competitive from an influx of similar components from much larger countries, which thanks to higher volumes and better technologies would put local companies out of business.

Tariffs are seen as a temporary measure to allow local industries to rise to a level of competition that will eventually allow their own removal

Conversely Tariffs within large countries are often employed when local industries lobby their government and usually reflect the inefficiencies or laziness of the current system.

If patriotism or love of one's country is actually present then people will actually buy goods manufactured at home, even if they are inferior and more expensive? Consumers who on the one hand complain about foreign imports but then simultaneously buy foreign imported goods instead of home grown, from cars to kettles are the biggest hypocrites.

When any big country raises Tariffs to 'protect' local industries against smaller hard working importers (shall I say Steel perhaps) this is more often the work of a bully.

And, if (another country) seek an exception or receive an exception from the Bully and then say 'so now it's all right for me then' you effectively sanction this injustice and condone a bullies behaviour.

European Pricing

Living in Europe my blood positively boils when I see European manufactured goods sold outside our home market, most notably North America.  Am I the European consumer, subsidising a rich nation who could pay more, but chooses not to?

American price 67K USD

UK Price 57K GBP including 20% Government tax

Chinese Pricing

Now that China is such a dominant Manufacturer I am not in favour of condoning any Subsidy that local producers receive. One obvious example is shipping costs, they are so utterly low from China to here in Europe, it's a clear case of price fixing!

So yes, China should remove obvious subsidies and raise prices across the board correspondingly.

Lost Jobs in Europe and America
Both the US and the UK to my certain knowledge has lost most of its mainstream manufacturing to China. This article correctly reminds us though that it is major corporations who offshore their production to China to enhance their profits and drive up shareholder value. China is not the driver merely the enabler and in America it is the corporations themselves (and not China) who is responsible. This is just basic Economics 101, how much of a Bully/Tyrant/Ignoramus/<insert your adjective here> would you have to ignore briefings from your advisers and instead 'go after' and demonise a foreign power?


Some propositions that I encourage you all to Google research

- Chinese factories employ a high degree of automation

- Most technology products are designed internationally, not just in the West, and that includes China and wider Asia

- China dominates Manufacturing because it is more efficient, and their workers are not slaves

- Much (some say upto 50%) of Chinese production is just offshored Western (Europe and American) corporations production.

- Many European manufactured products sell to North America at lower cost than to mainland Europe. Stop it, stop it now, European manufacturers

- Not all countries produce everything: The UK has no significant Watch Industry, Switzerland has no Car Industry, Belgium has no significant Computer Industry

A total lack of Civility, Tolerance and Decency

I started this article in relation to the Huckabee Red Hen incident.  But hey, I can do WhatAboutIsm like the best (or Worst) ranting Political leader:

In the same way that I was deeply offended that as a European citizen I am mandatory fingerprinted on entry to the United States (and I would request reciprocal action for all US Citizens only, coming here), I find the following behaviour totally and utterly unacceptable:

Don't say I never give you anything

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome ......


Fact Check Trump
Politifact Trump

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Because, even Music is Complicated

John Mayer: New Light

If you have watched the latest release from John Mayer you might be deceived into thinking that the audio was hastily put together.

But in fact no.

One of the distinguishing features of the professionals be it in sport, or Business, or the Media is that they can make it look effortlessly easy.

Here is more detail on the actual musical content of the track:

The making of New Light

If I have your interest then I'd also recommend his thoughtful talk to the Oxford Union in the UK 

Mayer at the Oxford Union

And So
Whilst no great musician is just formula and production,  imagine what can be achieved if you are accomplished, but also  intelligent and thoughtful.

To Marcus some musicians deserve and earn every penny of their fame, and John Mayer is one of them.

Slow Burning

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Preverenge Triathlon

Preverenge triathlon report

Another early start for Marcus and Agata.  This time just past 6am in the morning we cycled about 13Km from North Lausanne to Preverenges where we agreed to take part in a mini Marathon

Setup was relatively painless and we setup next to our good friend Carsten.

The Swim

Before the start it was announced that due to the 14 degree water temperature the Swim section would be restricted to 250 metres instead of the 500m original.

This suited Marcus, personally zero swim would have been even better.

As it was I started from the back, actually standing about 50 metres from the starting line on dry land when the starting bell sounded.   "I'll catch them up on the bicycle" I thought.  In fact at the back were Breast Stroke swimmers who I managed to get past,  but being 50 metres back is already a 1 minute delay and getting past breast strokers is awkward because their kicks can be lethal.  

Swim Transition
In order to give other competitors a chance I managed to spend a comedic 3 minutes plus.   First I had to change and could not get my cycling top on.  Then I got the dossard number on back to front.  In taking it off I got the elastic trapped in my cycling shoes and fell over.   Then I put my gloves on only to find out that I could not get my socks on.  It went on. And on and On!

The Bike

In fact Marcus did not catch up many people on the bike!  This course had some pronounced hills (I rushed past everybody) and then downhills  (they rushed past me).   After my severe accident of some years ago I make a promise to myself not to exceed 50km/h on a down, especially on my 8 year old bicycle with very skinny 20mm tyres.

I did keep up with the leading women and no doubt annoyed some by telling them ride faster up the hills.

Maybe one day I will regain my downhill mojo, it's just that a crash at speed down a hill, well it could be pretty fatal, and with my delicate frame, I really don't want to risk that.

The Run
Very uneventful.  I had to ask a marshall whether it was one or two loops and when I heard one I thought I should be able to speed up.  I put in an average of 04:20 min/km which is a  'I'm not going to kill myself' pace here.

All Done!

And then so soon, after only about 72 minutes it was all over.

As you can see I spent a good 6 minutes in Transition to give other competitors a chance, but despite this I was not the last to finish.

Agata and Marcus and Carsten had a wonderful time!  Thanks for honey too Preverenge.  Now just the small matter of a 13Km uphill cycle back home.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Dreaming of Skippy


Whilst Marcus and Agata are currently untangling, simplifying and rationalising some matters in Switzerland we recognise that a good friend needs our support in the UK.

And so we are sending Internet hugs and support to a friend who has been battling hard to unclutter his house for over 12 months now.

On this day,  Monday June 25th a skip should be arriving to his home and I'm expecting and hoping for a running commentary of how it is going.

Some Preparations

Getting rid of family junk can be a difficult and sad process.  But if you have been waiting, well it feels like forever, it ought to be totally overshadowed by the euphoria of clearing out /that huge bunch of crap/ that has been literally festering in and around your home.

You may need

- A good nights sleep

- Overalls, or failing that clothes that will be discarded after your clearout
- Strong gloves e.g. Gardening gloves to help move bulky and sharp items
- Maybe even other sorts of protection e.g. head, knee, eye if you are likely to have items fall onto you
- Access to the kettle.  You need to plan and take frequent breaks
- Snack.  All this physical exercise will give you the chance to eat.  Plan breaks ahead, what and when.

Optional but desirable

- A smartphone camera to record your progress
- A friend.  This is the most highly prized item, because the power of 2 is normally that squared not doubled.  And your friend can help you cross check that what you discard is really rubbish.

The Mantra

Tread lightly on this world.  Don't over-consume.  Just because you can buy and consume does not mean that you should.

Hiring a skip is an excellent way to declutter your home.  But once decluttered you need to plan for a changed way of living that will not require another skip to be delivered, ever.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

More Preventative Maintenance

Whatever your chosen sport I'd like to suggest that for Sports involving speed, disregarding Preventative Maintenance is a foolish and possible deadly strategy for the longer term.

Today we are talking about Bicycle maintenance.

Being Poor
Not many of us are mindlessly wealthy or have unlimited access to the bank of Mum and Dad. But in some cases you may be genuinely poor, to the point that you just can't afford the weekly food shop. In such cases you have my sympathy, I can imagine that you will choose regular maintenance and cleaning over preventative maintenance.
SafetyLike most Sports that involve speed, if you think about the consequences of an accident in say Cycling or Skiing or Snowboarding it may actually detour you from continuing.

Marcus has for example hit the tarmac at a GPS recorded 69 km/h from my bicycle after which, several years ago, I was in hospital where various parts were patched back together.

In this regard, anything you can do to ensure the sports apparatus you are using is not defective, be it a Motorbike, Bicycle or Parachute is normally time and money well spent.

I know a FriendYou best option is that you know an Enthusiast friend, one who cares about you, but mostly your bicycle.  Hand over your bicycle to them with a list of complaints and a request to fix them all and do a little service at the same time.

WealthyI write this from Switzerland where any trip to the Bicycle shop will normally result in a 100 CHF charge possible for labour alone.  Here in Lausanne there are a plethora of shops, but if I had to recommend one it would be Tandem Cycles.

Problem and Solution
Agata's wonderful Ribble R872 bicycle which has Dura Ace 9000 level components (read expensive) has had gear skip for a while.   We've cleaned the chain, checked the gearing cassette, but it is still skipping.  We decided to replace the chain.

BTW:  A chain could jam or break at high speed.  A breakage could launch the chain into your flesh and a jam could stop brake the back wheel and catapult you off the bike onto the road. In other words life threatening.

What we Did

(Costs were 50 CHF for the Dura Ace Chain and another 50 CHF for the chain tool - reusable)

 This is going to be an oily job, best preserve the floor

We checked the existing chain once more.  Nope, still looks perfect!

The replacement chain.  When you want the best from Shimano just go for Dura Ace

For the record whilst most 11 speed transmissions are compatible in general Campagnolo drive trains are different from Shimano/SRAM.  And all drivetrains have different chain widths for 9/10/11 speeds. 

My old and until now reliable chain tool.  Today it only just worked and I nearly snapped off the plastic handle whilst getting the existing link out of the chain so as to remove it.   I searched for a better replacement at Wiggle, but found nothing.  Hmm.

This is dirty work and Agata put on medical gloves whereas Marcus put on Hand paste.  This forms a coating over your hands making the mountainous volumes of oil that attach during a chain swap, easiy-ish to remove from your hands with soap and water later

First step is to make the new chain the same length as the outgoing.  Ours was already custom shorter.  A shorter chain is also marginally lighter but too short and the rear mech won't function properly.  If in doubt make it the same length.

Older Dura Ace chains had to be fitted in a particular way, I recall something like the Dura Ace logo facing outwards and right way up.  However the 11 speed Dura Ace chain has logos on both sides and right way up and upside down.  So it must make no difference?  

I tried to read the enclosed instruction which in all 4 languages told me this was a chain for a bicycle.  There were NO installation instructions included.  Pathetic!  It referred you to the Internet, and right now my hands are covered in oil, I'm in the basement without Internet or computer.  Really crap Shimano.

What finally worked was, using 2 people, study very carefully route of chain before removal.  Now pushout any link from the existing chain and thus can remove it.   Now take your new chain and punch out a link to make it as short as the old chain.   Carefully place new chain onto bicycle following exactly the path that you studied.   Get the open two ends and place into the chain tool.  Use one of the 2 special Grey links that Shimano provides to link the chain.  Now turn the chain tool screw and press in that link.  It should go 'click' when it rests in the correct place.  This grey link is twice as long as a normal link and you need to take some pliers and break off the front bit that now sticks out.  After breaking off, check that the link you joined is flexible and not stuck.  Stuck means you need to make some further fine adjustment using the chain tool.  Also you might need to file the end of this link you inserted if they are rough.

Finally put bicycle onto a stand and check that gears still operate correctly.

We then went for a test cycle on a level road to check all is really well.

No more Gear skipping,  transmission much improved. Now silky smooth.  The process did need two people, our chain tool remover nearly snapped into two and I still can't find a better one.  However the final results are great.

To all users of Sports equipment that you rely on.  Please no matter what your finances are,  take care to regularly maintain your hardware, and if possible choose preventative maintenance of important parts.  You deserve it.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Olympic Run in the Sun

We missed it last year in 2017 and in 2018 we only found out about the Lausanne Olympic run at the last minute.    We subscribed!


There are no dossards for the event, only the requirement that all participants wear the provided T shirt.   Marcus reluctantly did so.  Reluctantly because it was almost 30 degrees C and my sensitive skin needing covering meant I had to wear 2 upper body layers.  I was really roasting.

The things we do for our sport.

My understanding is that the run is a celebration of the Olympic Spirit and Lausanne as Olympic capital.  As such the head of the IOC gave a little pre race speech.

There was also some dignitaries present.  In fact there is a big doo at the Olympic Museum just out of shot of this photograph.   I know, we were not invited!

A Glorious Run
The run started at an early 17.15 which meant many working people we know could not get away in time.  Nevertheless we were still a group of over 6 friends gently running together.  As you can see the scenery of Lausanne is not bad.

Agata is behind Kathy pushing the buggy with Dominic freeloading inside.  I mean at 3 he should be able to run 5Km right :-)

I got Dominic some Rivella after the race. After all somebody has to drink it.  Dominic said he was exhausted and that being a passenger is not as easy as it looks

They even laid on some free healthy food.  What a top class event

 Over 1000 people participated in this celebratory event.

We took Dominic to the Sandpit to teach him some Engineering post race,  he can't have it too easy right :-)

Thanks to the IOC . (International Olympic Committee) and Lausanne City and all the unpaid volunteers that helped make this fun filled run in the sun possible.