Tuesday, July 31, 2001

The Really Gory Insider details...

Don't ask me how, but I got to read through a copy of the "Aconda Dealer Manual" which lists lots of pretty interesting stuff. Unfortunately, it is listed as a confidential document so I don't feel right about disseminating the information widely. I will however try to get familiar with it so I can better answer any future technical questions that are addressed by this document. Most of the information is a bit beyond me and probably not for general consumption anyways. I wouldn't reccomend playing around with random settings (ie. Option byte settings) w/o really knowing what you're doing anyways. I'm pretty happy with my Aconda the way it is and personally won't risk hurting it (or anyone else's set for that matter) by screwing around too much.

Sorry to seem like I'm hoarding information (I am really greatfull to my source however!!) but I don't want to cause any headaches for Loewe or Sensory Science, nor incurr their wrath. Any really deep technical or service questions should be referred to them FIRST. As a second information resource, please feel free to send any inquiries to me via e-mail and I'll try to help out as best as I can and as benignly as I can.

Geometry Problems for Australian Acondas

I didn't think being on the other side of the world and equator would have this much effect on the performance of a TV set but...

Steve Ulrich writes in from Australia with the following information:
"FYI there appears to be geometry problems with the Loewe Aconda models imported into Australia. I understand that the supplier of the picture tubes, Phillips and Loewe are in discussions about the quality of the tubes that are being supplied to Loewe off the production line."

"At the moment in Australia alot of these models do not operate properly due different magnetic field expereinced in the southern hemisphere. The Australian Importer, International Dynamnics is apparently in contact with Loewe on on a weekly basis and is working with the company to ensure the stock that does arrive in Australia will work properly."

"Its specifically the southern hemisphere, however Phillips are doing a special production run of super-flat tubes specifically engineered for the southern hemisphere which is expected to correct the problems. I expect to get my replacement model in
November (fingers crossed). The importers in Australi (international dynamics) have been hassling Loewe every week apparently."

Interesting, hope the problem is fixed real soon...


Thursday, July 26, 2001

Better CD Ripping Software

If you're particular about having PERFECT rips (extraction of digital data) from Audio CD's you have to check out:
EAC - Exact Audio Copy

This program is FREEWARE (actually Cardware, the author just wants you to send him a Postcard) so you can't beat the price. It is regarded by many as the BEST CD-Audio Ripper/Extraction program available. Many drives are supported and it also has many nice features like CDDB access (labels CD Titles, Artist and Track names from the Internet database), CD-Text support, MP-3 encoding, and many more features.

The reason I bring this up is if you are backing up dts CD's, you especially need a perfect Rip/Extraction of the data as corruption of the compressed dts datastream (due to a scratch or a bit of dust on the disc) will have a much greater effect on the resulting sound than a similar error on the regular uncompressed PCM data on a normal audio CD. The resulting inchoerent noise could last quite a while and potentially damage your speakers at high volume levels. Be sure you turn off the Normalization feature (off by default) when ripping dts discs to avoid corrupting the data.

Besides, why would you want anything but a perfect copy?

What? Going out of Town again?...

As I said, this is a busy travel month for me. I will be in New Orleans through Sunday. I did post some fat reading yesterday to pre-occupy you for a couple of days (especially that long Slashdot discussion, I think I read their forums as much for the sarcasm as I do for the information content...). See you all when I get back.


Wednesday, July 25, 2001

A lively discussion on HDTV/DTV

For those of you who follow the Uber-Geek of Geek sites (I mean, I think I'm pretty geeked out and I can only follow about 10% at most of what is going on at this site) www.Slashdot.org, here is a Slashdot.com thread on The Joys of HDTV.

The opinions are heated and entertaining as always.

I think we've all been there...

Here is an amusing LA Times article on installing a HDTV system that outlines the various trials and tribulations of it's author.

As much as I enjoy my home theater system, I sometimes wonder if it would have been as much fun to have set up and tweak if it wasn't such a challenge? I suppose some people do crosswords, some do jigsaw puzzles...

dts CD's back up just fine thanks...

I don't know if it is just in my head but I swear that I like the sound of dts (192 kHz, 24 bit) disks over that of regular CD's (PCM 44.1kHz, 16 bits). Lately, whenever I've had the choice between purchasing a disk (CD or DVD) in dts vs. the regular old version, I have been going with dts. This is of course a bit of a more expensive path as dts Audio disks run about $25.00 versus $10-15 for regular old CD's. Consequently, I'm a bit concerned about destroying these expensive disks.

dts Audio disks are just like CD's except that they have a compressed dts datastream in each track on the CD instead of the PCM coding (uncompressed audio data) found on regular CD's. Thats how come they can hold so much more information on a regular CD. For more information, check out the technical articles at www.SorroundMusic.net for the nitty gritty details.

It is nice to know that dts CD's back up and copy just like regular CD's via your CD-R/RW reader and burner using the existing software. Just don't try to play them back on your computer as it most likely doesn't have a dts decoder. Once I have enough dts audio disks around, I may even try to create some mixed track dts disks, I'll let you know how that goes.

Hey, my DVD Player does read CD-RW's after all...

While most of the newer DVD players now out on the market have no problems dealing with the lower reflectivity of CD-R's (and may of them even support MP-3's in a DOS/Sub Directory file structure natively!), those of us who bought DVD players a while back haven't had such good luck. The earlier model's laser pickups just didn't seem to read CD-R's at all.

A CD-R/RW FAQ I was reading mentioned that most older DVD players that can't read CD-R's can still read CD-RW's just fine. I have a 2 year old Sony CDP-C650P 5 disk DVD Changer that is working just fine except it has never been able to read CD-R's. I had just kinda assumed that CD-RW's would fail just as miserably. Lo and behold, I burned an Audio CD as well as a Video CD (VCD) onto CD-RW media (treating the CD-RW just as I would a blank CD-R, do not format the disk with UDF as most DVD players won't recognize this) the other day and both worked flawlessly. I didn't know that...

Now I can download fuzzy low res movies from the internet and burn VCD's to watch on my over qualified Home Theater system...

Most likely, I'll be using it to play back the Audio CD Mixes I make up for parties. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.


Tuesday, July 24, 2001

More HDTV programming via Sattelite?

Read this on www.Tech-Notes.TV and it sounds great!

"EchoStar Communications Corporation and CBS Television will offer eligible DISH Network customers access to CBS's extensive schedule of high definition digital television programming, it was announced today by Michael Schwimmer, Vice President of Programming for EchoStar, and Martin D. Franks, Executive Vice President, CBS Television. Together, DISH Network and CBS will provide the highest resolution format of digital television with the best picture clarity available to satellite TV customers across the nation.

DISH Network will launch east and west coast CBS HD feeds by the start of the 2001-2002 television season for DISH Network customers and will demonstrate the CBS HDTV feeds at the annual 2001 Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association convention in Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 2-4. Depending on where they live, DISH Network customers will be offered one of the CBS HD feeds as long as they meet one of several criteria. Interested parties are directed to contact Dish directly for details."

News item is originally from www.ILoveHDTV.com, where they have a really good DTV newsletter available for subscription.

I don't think my female friends appreciate my Home Theater like I do...

This Non Sequitur Cartoon about sums it up. Is this mainly a "Guy" hobby?

Progressive Scan Primer

One of the most common e-mail questions I still get is about the difference between Interlaced and Progressive Scan images.
Here is a decent Progressive-scan video Article on CNET.com that has pretty nice simulated Interlaced and Progressive Scan images displayed side by side.

The Aconda displays all it's video sources in Progressive Scan WITH 3/2 Reverse Telecine or Pull Down. I think it looks pretty darned good this way as long as the source signal is clean, dirty or noisy signals may have additinal video noise as a result of the line doubling implemeted by the Aconda.


Sunday, July 22, 2001

Sony and Warner Brothers sign onto DTCP

Here is an interesting LA Times Article about how Sony and Warner Brothers Studios have jumped onto the DTCP bandwagon. This may hasten the acceptance of HDTV capable recording devices and VCR's for the general public. Up to this point, the Firewire/DTCP standard has been in a bit of limbo in that no one is really integrating Firewire ports into their products due to fears about piracy. One interesting facet of this article is that apparently, the DTCP agreement WON'T limit the recording of OTA and Satellite HDTV broadcasts. Instead, it seems the intent is to provide content copy/permission protection for Pay Per View programming.

"...The rules won't apply to programs received over the air, so local broadcasts on digital TV channels won't face limits on recording. Nor do the long-term, royalty-free licenses signed by Sony and Warner Bros. allow the companies to limit recording on basic cable and satellite channels..."

This means that your Aconda isn't obsolete, not even close. I suspect that STB HDTV decoders will have Analog outputs to keep them compatible with existing 1st Generation HDTV Sets but the added FIrewire port capabilities will be used primarily to connect with a HDTV VCR or DVD-Recorder that will in turn output to the HDTV Set via either another Firewire port or a set of analog outputs. The fact that this article states that OTA or basic Cable and Satellite HDTV programming won't be fettered by DTCP is encouraging.

I for one am glad that I've been enjoying my superior picture on my Aconda instead of waiting forever in HDTV limbo.


Back in Town

No, this isn't a dead site. I got back from Korea on 7/15/01 but since I'm only in town 10 days out of the month total, I'm having to work ALOT when I am around. I apologize for the delay in updates and news. Frankly, I just haven't had the time to cruise the Home Theater Web sites and do some grubbing around for tasty tidbits.

Korea was fun though. I only saw 3 models of 16:9 TV Sets there, one was from Samsung a 30" that I saw in some University Chancellor's office (didn't see it on and don't know what features it had, only assuming it was HDTV). The other two were from 2 strictly Korean companies, don't think we'll see them here in the U.S. as there are not a recognizable brand name. Perhaps under someone else's label... Sorry, couldn't read Korean and the salespersons didn't speak enough English to get me any information about their features. They were priced around $2000.00 U.S. for 30" tube models. Didn't see much else in terms of HDTV in Korea. I don't think there is a very big market for it there as I'm not sure HDTV broadcasts are even available and I think the price is WAAAAY too high considering the average working wage.

I did see a whole slew of MP-3 players, both solid state and about 5-6 models of CD-R/CD-RW based players. Seems like MP-3 mobile players are REALLY big there. I saw 2 other models of really small MP-3 players that hold the Mini CD-R's that hold about 200 MB and are the size of the disk in a floppy disk. Much more compact than the full CD sized versions. All priced between $100-150 U.S.

That's all for now, just wanted to say hi and thanks for looking in. I'll be back with more news and tidbits in a couple of days.