Useful Consumer Review

I’ve been trying to get more walking in lately, but walking is boring. To keep parts of the brain entertained, I thought it might be nice to listen to radio theatre stuff, and it is.  Nice, that is.

The great thing about plays instead of music is that it’s fine just listening with one ear (literally), so I’ve been trying to find bluetooth ear plugs that are hassle free and work without the other one of the pair nearby.

After trying a number of different plugs, I finally found this one: It’s a Rowkin Mini Plus+. (Gotta love that name.) While you can buy two of them and use them in a more normal stereo configuration, you can also buy just one.

Hm, that picture doesn’t really show how small these are…

There, that’s better.

Not only is this earbud small, it’s also hassle free.

It comes with this “charging tube”, which uses a magnet…

… so you just slip it near the top of the tube, and smack, no worries, it’s charging. Very nicely designed physically.

As for daily use, it’s also just about perfect. You pick it up, press the one button on the end for four seconds, it says “on” and then “beep” (which means that it’s connected to the phone), and then you can play and pause by hitting the button again: It’ll continue playing from where you let off (if your player supports that, but I guess they all do).

I’ve only tried it with an Android phone, but it’s glitch-free there: I don’t have to pick up the phone, ever, except to change the volume. Or choose another radio play, which doesn’t happen very often, since they’re looong.

So: Perfect. Perfect? Nope. Bluetooth. As with any bluetooth device I’ve used, there are dropouts. These have way fewer dropouts than I’ve experienced before, though, and if I have the phone in my left pocket and the ear bud in my left ear, I’ve yet to experience a dropout. Anything else, whenever I turn my head quickly I’ll get a dropout.

Which reminds me that I meant to write a long rant about how st00pid it is using bluetooth for audio playback: Bluetooth audio has a very small buffer, because it’s meant for realtime communication. That’s a fine thing for talking on the phone, but most of the time devices like these are used, they’re used to stream a continuous audio stream.

So why not use something meant for streaming? Like… just get chunks of mp3 or ogg or whatever compressed audio format is most convenient, and then you can have the antenna take a mini-sleep while playing the hunk, and then request the next hunk?

Requiring an almost-perfect radio connection between the player and the earbuds is insane: There will always be situations where you’ll get dropouts depending on the angle, reflection and distance.

I’m happy with these for now, and I guess I’ll just have to wait until the industry realises that I’m smart and they’re stupid and then they’ll start streaming audio the smart way.

So there.

Rating for my use case:

Linux Can 4K @ 60 Haz

I tried getting 4K @ 60Hz using Intel built-in graphics, and I failed miserably.

Rather than spend more days on that project (yes, this is the year of Linux on the TV, I Mean Desktop), I bought a low-profile Nvidia card, since there are several people on the interwebs that claim to have gotten that to work.

It’s brand new, cheap and fanless, too: A Geforce GT 1030, which is Nvidia’s new budget card, launched last month, I think.

It’s finnier than Albert and takes up several PCI Express slots.

However, that’s not really a problem in this media computer: Lots and lots of space for it to spread itself out over. Just one PCI Express slot, though.

But it’s on the long side: If I had any hard disks installed in this machine, I would have had to get creative. Instead I just removed that HD tray thing.

But! There’s two … capacitors down there where the PCI Express “key” thing. Like just quarter millimetre too much to the right…

I bent them ever so gently over and I managed to get the card in. How utterly weird.

SO MUCH DRAMA!

Anyway: Mission complete. This card has a DVI plug in addition to the HDMI, but I’m not going to use that, so I just left it with the protective rubber.

See? Lots of space. Of course, it would have been better to remove the cooler completely and hook it up via heat pipes to the chassis, but… that’s like work.

But did this solve my problems? After installing Nvidia’s proprietary drivers (apparently Nouveau doesn’t support the GT 1030 yet, since it’s a Kepler card)…

Yes! 3840×2160 @ 59.95 Hz, which is pretty close to 60Hz. Yay!

Of course, I have no 4K material on my computer, so the only thing that’s actually in 4K now is my Emacs-based movie interface. Here’s whatsername from Bewitched in 2K:

Eww! How awful! Horrible!

See! 4K! How beautiful!

(Let’s pretend that the entire difference isn’t in the different moire patterns!)

*phew*

And the Futura looks much better in 4K too, right?

Right?

This was all worth it.

WFC Kuwait: الجزء غير المفقود

This short is on Youtube.

This one, on the other hand… The first sip isn’t.

The Unmissing Part. Ahmad Abdullah Alkhudari . 2016. Kuwait.

Caramel – Swirl Hot Chocolate

  • water
  • milk chocolate
  • cream
  • sugar
  • caramel sauce
  • rum

Dissolve the chocolate in water. Add cream. Allow to cool off. Meanwhile, whip cream with sugar. Swirl in the caramel sauce. Meanwhile meanwhile, add rum to the chocolate, and fold in the cream/caramel lightly.

(I added the rum to the recipe.)

It looks disgusting, but it’s rather good. At least the first couple of sips.

This post is part of the World of Films and Cocktails series. Explore the map.

More Music Distribution

As I’m sure everybody remembers from this post just … six years ago, I have a cat 5 based music distribution thing going on in my apt.

It works fine.

This weekend I realised that the only thing I wanted to tweak here was having music near my workstation in the hall. I usually sit here doing stuff (scanning LPs and ripping CDs and the like) in the middle of the night. If I’m to listen to music while I’m doing that, I have to pump up the volume in the living room way too much, and that’s bad for the neighbours. So I don’t do that.

And I don’t really want to lay down even more cat5. And besides, the mixing box is maxed out on the outputs. So what to do?

Yes! I could just insert a Y cable into the proceedings, cut the cat 5 cable going to the bedroom (which passes through the closet near the hall table), and then… things should work.

It’s been a few years since I’ve terminated cat5, so I had to reacquaint myself with how that all worked. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any connection boxes left from the last time I did this, so I had to buy a new one, and it’s really confusing. The colours here seem to imply that to achieve T568A cabling (that I vaguely remember using in 2011) is blue, wh/blue, brown, wh/brown, orange, wh/orange, green, wh/green. Right?

That doesn’t seem right at all, but the numbering also seems to imply that the PCB is doing some kind of re-routing to the plug, so… I just went with that theory.

You can see where this is going.

That’s one of the old ones I’m going to connect to, and as you can clearly see, it has the more traditional “A” ordering.

As you can see from this expertly put in wiring, all this is luckily taking place inside a closet, so things can be as messy as they want to be, and they are, since I have to do the installation standing on a stepladder. On my toes, since the stepladder is five centimetres too short.

Kachunk kachunk kachunk, and by just plugging the input to the output, I see that the connection works. Because there’s still sound in the bedroom.

*gasp*

That’s the mixer box… At this sight I’m envisioning trial and error for fifteen minutes to find the right balun…

But what is this?!? My 2011 self actually marked stuff!? Thank you, 2011 self!

So I put a Y cable in. I only had a male to female/female while I need male to male/male, so I ended up with a lot of extra wiring, but that can be fixed later… when I find somebody that sells all-male Ys.

And on the other side, the opposite balun, which then goes to another balun to the bedroom…

And nothing worked. Which means I misinterpreted the mysterious T568A markings and contemplated buying a cat 5 testing kit. But then I found another cat 5 thingamabob in a cupboard of the same type as the old ones!

Kachunk kachunk kachunk!

It works!

So I got a couple of Micropods…

And a NAD D3020 amplifier to drive these huge speakers! Sound! Yes!

The horror of having to rip CDs at night without sufficient music is finally over! It’s OVER!

Phew!

In conclusion: Cat 5 is hard. When the equipment is new and modern and confusing. Otherwise it’s really easy.

WFC Kiribati: Kiribati: Words from the Last Generation

This documentary is on Youtube. The story it tells is heartbreaking, but it’s edited in that American TV Documentary fashion where there’s not a millisecond of time of silence to digest between each sound bite.

While that may be a sound commercial choice for a documentary seeking to get people to take action (against climate change), it really gets on my tits. Sorry!

But when they just allow the kids to talk to the camera without the frantic editing and insistent sound track, it’s really good.

Kiribati: Words from the Last Generation. Aurora Brachman & Bradley King . 2017. Kiribati.

Kiribati Samoan Poi (Mashed Bananas with Coconut Cream)

  • a ripe banana
  • some coconut cream
  • sugar to taste
  • a dash of vanilla sugar
  • some zest of a lemon
  • some rum
  • crushed ice

Run through a blender.

I adapted this recipe slightly from the original (which was just mashed in a bowl) by adding more liquids (especially the rum) and running through a blender. So instead of a dessert it’s now a cocktail.

This post is part of the World of Films and Cocktails series. Explore the map.

WFC Liberia: The Redemption of General Butt Naked

This documentary is another Amazon Video find and is perhaps more American than Liberian. It’s about a former Liberian warlord who was even more way out there than the rest: General Butt Naked, who went on naked killing sprees. He’s now reformed and is a Christian preacher.

It’s a fascinating film because he’s seems so open and honest about all the atrocities he’d performed. I’m usually just intensely bored by the “getting to know mass murderer” genre: Killers are sad, stupid and dull. But this one’s just so horrifying. And the director is going for a level of ambiguity that’s very refreshing.

It’s so bizarre and well-made that I had to google it to ensure that this wasn’t yet another fake documentary, but the internets seem to say that it’s real.

The Redemption of General Butt Naked. Daniele Anastasion and Eric Strauss. 2011. Liberia.

Liberian Ginger Beer

  • 1 part ginger
  • 2 parts pineapple
  • yeast
  • 1 part molasses
  • 1 part rum

Chop the ginger finely. Chop the pineapple into chunks (without peeling). Bring the water to a boil pour over the ginger and pineapple. Cool to lukewarm. Add the yeast. Allow to stand overnight covered. Add the molasses and the rum. Strain and chill.

The original recipe is without the alcohol.

This post is part of the World of Films and Cocktails series. Explore the map.