Lossless Audio

I really love music. All of my life music has played a big part in it. I remember at a very young age listening to vinyl records on my father’s Sony turntable home stereo system. I would listening to records for hours and hours. When CDs first came out I started buying them. To this day I still buy CDs and have a pretty large collection.

When MP3s started to make an appearance in the 90s they had one large advantage for the causal listener and one large disadvantage. The advantage being that file size of an MP3 file was is very small. You could store hundreds of MP3 encoded songs on one CD. This was huge and lead the way for music players like the Apple iPod.

The big disadvantage to MP3s for people like me was that since the audio was compressed to be a smaller file size you could hear the compression or the missing audio data when listening to an MP3. This drove me nuts!

I have friends that to this day swear up and down they can not tell the difference when listening to a song on a CD or when listening to the same exact song from an MP3 file. To me the differences have always stuck out like a sore thumb. Which at times I can’t even believe since I have been a rock drummer for so many years and I have to be experiencing some form of hearing loss by now.

So, because I can tell the difference between the lower quality audio as a result of an MP3 file and a CD I have just always bought CDs.

Very recently I have been educating myself on the virtues of the Free Lossless Audio Codec, or FLAC for short. Because FLAC is a lossless audio format it sounds just like my CDs sound. I can not tell the difference when I am listening to a FLAC audio file verses listening to the same song on CD. Everything I have educated myself about FLAC says that there really is no audio difference between the CD audio file and the FLAC audio file. The lossless audio codec was specifically designed for audio and the resulting file will drop down to at least 50% if not more of the original audio file from the CD.

So, why do I care about all this? Why don’t I just continue to listen to my CDs? Well, I do still listen to my CDs at home, but we now live in a world with lots of portable devices that were made for our connivance. I would like to take full advantage of my devices.

When Apple announced the iPhone 4S, I ordered one right away. At the same time I started researching FLAC audio files as a solution for my portable music listening pleasure. I found the following FLAC audio encoding guide and FLAC audio player ‘Golden Ear‘ for my iPhone. I also ordered a pair of really great headphones that I can’t say enough good things about right now. Sony Dynamic Stereo Headphones MDR-7506 Professional.

Based on the audio guide I found I started encoding my CDs right away. I received my headphones a few days later and then my iPhone 4S arrived. I purchased and loaded a copy of ‘Golden Ear’ on to my phone and transferred over a few songs to test out the application and my head phones. I was amazed! Every song sounded wonderful and crystal clear. The ‘Golden Ear’ audio player works a lot like iTunes for the iPhone. You have the quick access controls from the home screen as well as a play list of music to scroll through and choose from.

If you are really into audio quality like me, I can tell you I am so happy that I found this solution. I wish I had found it sooner. It would have saved me years of frustration.

What Steve Jobs Ment To Me

Steve JobsIn 1997, I found myself, along with three very close friends of mine, huddled together looking at the glowing screen of an Apple Power Macintosh 5000 series computer in our high school graphic arts class. We where all very different from one another. Brought together because of our shared interests in computers and technology. That glowing computer screen held for me, the most earth shattering and amazing news I had ever read. Steve Jobs was returning to Apple as Interim CEO. The Co-founder of the greatest computer company to ever exist was back to lead the company he help start, and save it from what some where saying at the time was Apple Computer’s last days.

I was really very fortunate to have such great friends like this in high school. While other people our age had their respective hobbies, my three friends and I spent our free time at each others respective houses geeking out at the latest technology news or fiddling with some new piece of hardware we got our hands on.  I have very fond memories of that time.

Steve Jobs’s passing has really affecting me. Much more than I ever though it would. We all knew this day was coming. We all prepared ourselves mentally for it. I have thought long and hard about whether or not I would write a blog post about this. I almost didn’t write anything at all. I didn’t want to come off as too emotional. I thought I could just sit this one out quietly and wait for the moment to pass. But I can’t.

Steve JobsThe news sites have been showing images of people grieving for a man most of them have never met. (I, however was lucky enough to have been in the same room as him.) Flowers and tokens of remembrance have been left outside of Apple’s stores around the world and outside Steve’s home in California. All these people have had a chance to grieve in one way or another. I have not.

Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Apple inc. have directly or indirectly forever changed the world we live in and the technology we use. For me that impact is a personal one. I have always admired Apple and the people who founded the company. From the time I could afford to buy my first computer I have always used Apple products. Steve Jobs was able to take the very ugly world of technology and make it beautiful. He was able to make it easy to use, and user-friendly, and in a world mired with technological chaos, he was able to make it user-friendly for people.

The thought of Steve Jobs no longer over seeing the company that I have grown to love and admire. The thought of the world no longer being able to benefit from his in site and influences leaves me weeping.

I have lost a man I have admired and looked up to all of my life. The world has lost a unique soul that wont soon be replaced.

All I have wanted to do since Steve Jobs passed is to call up my three good friends from high school and take them all out to dinner. I want to have an evening where I can sit down with them and talk about technology and the future just like we used to do in high school. And hopefully be reassured that even though we have all lost an important person in our lives, the fait of the company he help start will live on as faithfully as it ever has.

A Return To Roots; NBA JAM: On Fire Edition

NBA JAM: On Fire Edition, is a return to the video game franchise’s roots. Drawing from the things that made the original games so great and what EA should have done from the start with last years release.

I was so excited last year when EA released an updated version of one of my favorite games of all time. NBA JAM was released for the current generation on consoles about this time last year. Like an eager gamer, I rushed out to the store to pick up my own copy on release day and jammed it into my Playstation 3 (PS3) so fast that I barely realized that I was missing work to play it.

As you can tell I was pretty excited to play this game. I have owned a PS3 for some time and have a dozen or so games, but there are only two I play on a regular basis. ‘Top Gun‘, and the latest ‘Mortal Kombat‘, which is a remake of the same game with the same title from the 90s, that focused a lot of bringing back all the elements of the original ‘Mortal Komabat’ game that fans like. So, you might say I am picky about the games I play.

I played NBA JAM for all of two hours after I got it. Since than it has sat quietly in the plastic box I bought in on the shelf next to my TV with my other video games. This new NBA JAM wonderfully maintained the arcade look the game has always had since it was released in the 90s, but that is the only good thing I can say about that game. The rest of my hopes and dreams for this game came crashing down like a bricked shot at the NBA finals.

NBA JAM lacked just about everything that made the original games so much fun to play. Things like the ability to control whoever on your team has the ball, fouling people in mid air just so you can steal the ball from them and an ‘On Fire’ mode that made you next to invincible on the court.

The programmers at EA made the mistake of spending their time creating “Half Court” games. Building an A.I. to play against that would leave Deep Blue scratching his brain, and mother fucking boss battles.

Really? Boss Battles, EA? What the hell are you thinking? This is a basketball game you morons, not fucking ‘Super Mario Brothers’. And to think I played fifty bucks for this damn “game”.

For the next few weeks while the game sat back on my shelf I was checking the message boards of EA, filing my complaints along with those others who also were outraged that the game missed its mark by so damn much. I found myself hoping that EA would provide a beacon of hope to all the thousands of fans by releasing an apology. Then release updates to the game so that it would be playable. But soon those weeks turned into months, which turned into, well fuck, this thing is never going to get played again.

Than this year while I was at PAX Prime, hope shined down on me when I saw the smallest booth on the show floor displaying ‘NBA JAM On Fire Edition’. It would be released on October 4th 2011. I eagerly went up to the kid manning the booth and asked “So did EA fix all the fuck ups of last years release”. The kid, having memorized the appropriate response to this question earlier in the day, responded with “I was not aware of any things needed to be fixed from last year’s game sir, but this on fire edition coming out in October will have over one thousand gameplay improvements.

I didn’t get a chance to grill the kid manning the booth any longer because PAX being what PAX is, I was late for a PAX talk. I had to hurry away and did not get a chance to revisit the booth before PAX ended. I did find myself thinking a lot about if I should get this updated NBA JAM game or not.

Well like a gullible child taking free candy from a guy in a windowless van, I picked up NBA JAM On Fire Edition as a digital download for fifteen bucks. So, this time if I get screwed over by the same gaming company it wont hurt as much. I hope.

NBA JAM On Fire Edition clames among its one thousand game play improvements:

  • Stripped out all boss battles
  • Removed Half-court games
  • Swap or tag play that allows the player to swap control of who they are controlling on their team during game play

To me, all of these “gameplay improvements” could have been addressed with a simple update to the original game of last year. Then at least I would not have felt like I just handed fifty bucks to EA supporting a shitty game. But no. This whole video and AE’s stance has been ‘implementing game improvements” and not “oh we fucked up, we are so sorry. We are going to make this better, we promise”. I don’t know why they have such a hard time admitting they screwed this up. There is nothing wrong with admitting you screwed up. It shows the fans that you care and that you can learn from your mistakes. But no. That is not what is happening here. They are playing it off like the game was perfect and now they are making it better.

Well, I have now had some time to actually play NBA JAM: On Fire Edition and here is what I think.

This game is pretty damn good. Once you get used to the controls the game play feels a lot like how it used to be back when I had it on the SNES. Complete with full control of both players (albeit, it can be sluggish switching players on defense), fouling people in mid air, and a strong ‘On Fire’ mode.

I see myself playing this game solid for a few months and inviting friends over to play it with me even though there is an online component to the game. I am not disappointed in this release, but if EA ever wants to apologies for the last one I bought, I will be waiting.

I Am Quitting The Facebook

I will be removing myself from Facebook at the start of November. You can still follow me on Google+, Twitter, and of course, I can always be contacted via E-Mail.

Facebook is an evil company and that is something I hate to say about a service that has put me in touch with so many friends from my past. But it is time for me to say good bye to Facebook. I have finally gotten annoyed with their horrible user interface and the fact they sell everyone’s privet information off to other companies

I have been seeing this quote more and more on-line.

If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you’re the product being sold.

Facebook sells our personal information to ads companies so they can place more targeted ads directed to you on internet webpages. This is how Facebook makes it’s money. Did Facebook ask me if it was ok to sell my Location, Hobbies, browsing habits, phone numbers, or addresses to a third-party advertiser? I don’t recall ever being asked by them, but that is what they are doing and that is why I am quitting Facebook.

Twitter, and to a lesser extent Google+ do sell ads. This is how they make money. What they are not doing is selling my personal information to ad companies. Not yet anyway. So since they are not doing that, I will continue to use their services.

Another thing with Facebook is that even after you have logoff of Facebook’s website, the cookies that your browser has downloaded from visiting the site remain active. This allows Facebook and their advertisers to continue to post ads targeted directly at you based on your online activity.

One thing I find scary is that the popular online music service Spotify, which a few friends have been trying to get me to join ever since it became available in this country, now requires new members to have Facebook account to sign up. I have never been a fan of streaming music services, but since my friends where so insistent that I give this a shot I was going to sign up. Now that I have learned that a Facebook account is required, I will never be trying this service. This is a deal breaker for me.

I hope that my friends and family who have been following me on facebook will now follow me on Google+ and Twitter. Two services that are just as feature rich and easier to use than Facebook.

Reviewing the Canon G12

For my recent Hawaiian vacation I wanted to get a new camera to replace my aging Canon PowerShot S3. Hawaii was going to be a long and fun trip and I wanted to be able to take great photos of my adventures. After doing all my research and talking to a couple of friends, I wound up picking out the Canon G12, 10 Megapixel Camera.

The main selling points for me was the size, it’s ability to shoot both RAW and JEPG at the same time, and its ability to shoot high-resolution video. I would love to have a big DLSR camera with super large lenses, but honestly I would never use them to their full potential. The idea of lugging around all that camera gear on my vacation did not sound like fun to me either.

For the couple of months that I have had the Canon G12 I have been very happy with its performance. It takes clear photos and shoots fast. The only negative thing I have to say about this camera is the optical finder is all but worthless. No digital information is displayed at all through it. I find myself using the LCD screen almost exclusively which didn’t bother me much at all once i got used to it. Now it feels pretty natural.

I also picked up an Eynpire Camera Leather Case which I love. The camera and the case both received their own compliments from several strangers on my trip.

I also want to make a book recommendation to anyone who wants to take their photo shooting skills to the next level. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is a great book that will have you shooting wonderful photos in no time.