Archive for the ‘Geek’ Category

Before There Was Vinyl

Posted: September 22, 2017 in Audio, Geek
Tags: ,

Like many audiophiles I have appreciated the recent surge in the popularity of vinyl recordings. There is not only a marked difference in sound quality but there is also something satisfyingly tactile about placing the record on the platter and positioning the tonearm, triggering for yourself the moment the music begins. Putting an audio CD in the slot and watching the machine suck it in or tapping an icon on your phone just doesn’t have the same vibe.

That said, there is an even older format than vinyl that we are not very likely to see come back in the same way – beetle resin. That is to say – shellac.

That’s right – beetle resin. Shellac was used for a variety of things in it’s heyday from furniture and violin finishes, to fingernail polish, to electrical insulators, to..  well, records. If you have ever watched an old movie and seen someone break a record to stop it from being played again, it’s very likely it was a shellac disc because they were quite fragile and shattered quite nicely. Some of you will point out that vinyl breaks as well, and while that is true it just isn’t as easy to do as with shellac and in movie making you go with what works consistently.

The records ran at 78 rpm which is why you most often hear them referred to as 78s rather than “shellacs” and their fragility plus the fact they are made from beetle secretions is why you’re not likely so see this little piece of nostalgia on the shelves at Best Buy® any time soon. That doesn’t mean there is something wonderful happening with them however.

I recently became aware of The Great 78 Project, and effort by the Internet Archive, George Blood L.P., and The ARChive of Contemporary Music to preserve for posterity as many 78s as they can, physically and digitally.

The digitization work is being done by George Blood L.P., and will be made available to the public for download – FOR FREE! Great news for audiophiles and soundscape designers everywhere.

For the techies among my readers, I would like to point out that this is not easy because unlike their vinyl descendants, shellac records were not all created equal. Other than the fact they all rotated at 78 rpm (more or less) there were differences in manufacture from one publisher to the next, including diameter, groove size, spiral spacing, and shellac formula (some were softer than others so too heavy a tonearm might damage the groove). For the most part shellac records were designed to be played on the machines manufactured by the publisher of the music. They didn’t want you playing other company’s records on their machines and if you wanted you play their music you needed their machine. Kinda like Apple®.

As you can imagine this makes getting an accurate digitized copy challenging because it’s hard to tell exactly what the recording was supposed to sound like. George Blood met this challenge by, among other things, creating a turntable with four tonearms, each with a different size stylus. The full story on the digitization process can be found here.

The Great 78 Project is out to preserve as many 78 recordings as they can, not only sourcing them from artists and collections at various museums but they want your 78s as well. You can donate your old 78s to the project or they will advice you on the best way to digitize your collection and then you can upload the digital files to the project for inclusion.

Check it all out at The Great 78 Project.  @great78project



“I think the Net generation is beginning to see knowledge in a way that is closer to the truth about knowledge — a truth we’ve long known but couldn’t instantiate. My generation, and the many generations before mine, have thought about knowledge as being the collected set of trusted content, typically expressed in libraries full of books. Our tradition has taken the trans-generational project of building this Library of Knowledge book by book as our God-given task as humans. Yet, for the coming generation, knowing looks less like capturing truths in books than engaging in never-settled networks of discussion and argument. That social activity — collaborative and contentious, often at the same time — is a more accurate reflection of our condition as imperfect social creatures trying to understand a world that is too big and too complex for even the biggest-headed expert.

“This new topology of knowledge reflects the topology of the Net. The Net (and especially the Web) is constructed quite literally out of links, each of which expresses some human interest. If I link to a site, it’s because I think it matters in some way, and I want it to matter that way to you. The result is a World Wide Web with billions of pages and probably trillions of links that is a direct reflection of what matters to us humans, for better or worse. The knowledge networks that live in this new ecosystem share in that property; they are built out of, and reflect, human interest. Like our collective interests, the Web and the knowledge that resides there is at odds and linked in conversation. That’s why the Internet, for all its weirdness, feels so familiar and comfortable to so many of us. And that’s the sense in which I think networked knowledge is more “natural.” ”

– “What the Internet Means for How We Think About the World” by Rebecca J. Rosen, January 5, 2012.

First published by The Atlantic.

via Google Reader.

To Much Time on Thier Hands

Posted: March 20, 2009 in Geek, Media
Tags: ,

Okay,  I’m beginning to understand why the cattlemen in the US protested the introduction of sheep.  Shepherds obviously don’t have nearly enough to do.  This is weird on sooo many levels.

The floor is now open for attempts to connect this video to shepherding the Christian flock.  Best attempts will be acknowledged in a future post.

Until next time… try not to get fleeced.


Why Did 1234567890 Day Matter?

Posted: February 14, 2009 in Geek

As the title of this post implies some of you have been asking, “Who cares if the Unix Epoch Clock reaches 1234567890? It doesn’t really affect anything.” And to be fair, that’s true, it doesn’t. But, it does provide an opportunity to gain a little numerical perspective.

Like most of you I’ve been listening to all the numbers being bandied about regarding the stimulus/bailout/please-keep-our-collective-asses-out-of-the-fire package. It always strikes me odd the way people talk about $300 billion or $750 billion and most of us really have little concept about just how much money that is. We know it’ s a immensely huge amount of money, but can any of us in the everyday world relate to these kind of numbers.

Well, consider this: Let’s say that back on January 1st, 1970 you and a few buds were asked to count out the $350 billion the government was planning to give the auto industry. So the lot of you started counting, working in shifts 24 hours a day seven days a week, every day of the year including leap year, counting at a rate of 1 dollar per second non-stop.

That means that yesterday at 6:31:30pm EST you would have only counted $1.2 billion dollars!! that just 0.34% of the entire $350,000,000,000. It will be 4:30 am EST on May18th, 2033 before you finish counting the second billion! With that in mind try to imagine for a second what a trillion dollars looks like because that’s what some are suggesting the stimulus package will be in total when all is said and done. (BTW – You’ll finish counting a trillion somewhere around the year 33670. yeah, that’s right – 5 digits!)

I have often thought that when we stopped doing accounting by hand, with the endless hours of spreadsheet tabulations and the tickida-tickida-tickida of the adding machines ringing in our ears, and let the computers do it for us in the blink of an eye, we lost our sense of perspective on just how much we were spending. The quick flash of numbers on a screen does not compare to miles of paper tape rolling out of a desktop calculator to make us turn to the powers that be and cry, “Oh my GOD! Are you insane?” There’s just something about doing things manually that helps keep the universe in perspective.

Until next time … hopefully sometime before 1266207752


Image Credit: Life Magazine

Happy Feb 13th !

Posted: February 13, 2009 in Geek

Well boys and girls, it’s Friday, February 13th and we all know what that means don’t we?

No! Not the Triskaidekaphobia thing. By no means. No, today is the day that Epoch time hits a major milestone – let the partying commence! Geeks the world over will observe this moment in geek friendly pubs and taverns I assure you.

What is Epoch time you ask? Well it’s actually a fairly simple thing primarily of interest only to Unix geeks. Back in the day when computing was young it was decided that some kind of universal time code was required to help keep all the world’s computing systems in sync. And so the word went forth and Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) was created. At midnight January 1st, 1970 the UTC clock was started and it has been ticking away ever since., one second at a time ignoring all the variances of human time (such as leap seconds) tracking the passage of universal time.

Well today, over 1.2 billion seconds later, at about 6:30pm EST, the Epoch clock will read “1234567890” and Unix geeks will solemnly observe the moment. It is, I admit, only one second among billions, but hey – any excuse for a party right?

If you’d like to observe the moment yourself you can find a countdown clock (count up?) HERE.

And if your in the neighbourhood, here’s a short list of available celebrationsEnjoy!

Image credit: Epoch Time clock available from

Among the many shades of gray that make up my reality we find my role as technical director for Kortright Presbyterian Church in Guelph. This role requires that I try to keep abreast of what’s what in the world of technology, such as Audio and Video systems, Computer developments, and of course, the Internet.

In regard to the third item on that list one question that pops up from time to time is, “Just how big is the Internet anyway?” I’m sure if you haven’t actually had this discussion with anyone, you have probably wondered about it at least once in your life. So here then, presented for your perusal, are the latest figures from Pingdom, an Internet uptime monitoring firm in Sweden that is very good at keeping track of this sort of thing. The blog article can be found here, but the following are some of the highlights.

1.3 billion – The number of email users worldwide.
210 billion – The number of emails sent per day in 2008.
70% – The percentage of emails that are spam.

186,727,854 – The number of websites on the Internet in December 2008.
31.5 million – The number of websites added during 2008.

Domain names
77.5 million – .COM domain names at the end of 2008.
11.8 million – .NET domain names at the end of 2008.
7.2 million – .ORG domain names at the end of 2008.
174 million – The number of domain names across all top-level domains.

Internet users
1,463,632,361 – The number of Internet users worldwide.
248,241,969 – Internet users in North America.

133 million – The number of blogs on the Internet (as tracked by Technorati).
900,000 – The number of new blog posts in a day.

19.2 billion – Photos hosted by Facebook, Flickr, and Photobucket. (my note: This actually represents a small percentage of the images available when you consider these three only account for 3 out of 174 million web domains.)

12.7 billion – The number of online videos watched by American Internet users in a month.
34% – The increase in viewing of online video in USA compared to 2007.

Malicious software
1 million – The number of computer viruses in April 2008.
468% – The increase in malicious code compared to 2007.

With an estimated world population of 6,706,993,152 (according to the CIA) the above figure means roughly 22% of Humanity is connected to the World Wide Web which is 16% larger than a year ago, 1 in 5 of us don’t write letters much anymore, North America has only 17% of the Internet population, and yours truly constitutes a mere 0.000002% of the Blogosphere. How’s that for a little perspective?

But while these numbers remind me just how small a part of the whole I am, they also remind me of just how quickly our world is shrinking. (I’m going to do a little ‘old guy’ shtick here so be warned and bear with me.)

You see when I was a kid, long distance phone calls from England were still a really big thing. The whole family would gather round and wait almost breathlessly for our turn to say ‘Hi’ to Grandma and Grandpa. I’d get a letter from my penpal in Australia about every other month. When I did get a letter from him the information was already at least two weeks old. The encyclopedia set my parents bought me for high school cost over $1000 dollars and was somewhat out of date by the time I finished.

Now, well you know how it is; through Skype I call a number of people all over the world every day and gripe if the sound quality isn’t up to my 128bit 44.1kHz standard, Facebook’s status line tells me what my friends in Malawi were doing as little as 30 seconds ago, and about $50/year gives me access to the entire reference edition of Encyclopedia Britannica which is constantly updated month to month.

So, what’s my point? Well, the scriptures tell us that God separated the people at the tower of Babel because as one unified force they were getting ideas too big for them to handle. They began to think there was nothing they couldn’t do and were losing perspective as to where they fit into the grand scheme of things. They began to think of themselves as gods. So God confused their language making it harder for them to communicate and therefore harder for them to collaborate on the insanely big stuff, like skyscrapers.

Today technology is reversing what happened at Babel. Every year we grow closer to being a true world-wide community. Every year scientists, engineers and guys tinkering around in the garage (yes that still happens) build on each other’s work to create ever increasingly spectacular feats of technology, some of which has us once again infringing on God’s domain.

In his book ‘Unceasing Worship’ Harold Best points out that we are all worshiping all the time. It is the nature of our being to worship. The key point is who do we worship at this moment, the Creator or the creature. As I watch technology continue to progress I can fully appreciate the temptation to self-worship. We have accomplished a great deal in the lifetime of the human race, and it does indeed seem that there are no limits as to what we might accomplish in the future. But I would ask us all, my self included, to remember that for all our creativity we are only building on what God has done before us.

You see, it’s not about skyscrapers – it’s about how we think of ourselves, and our place in God’s creation. We have learned to do marvelous things with resources such as iron, oil and silicone; but we still have to go looking for them because we have not learned to make them. Only God can do that. We can clone a sheep named Dolly and engineer a tougher tomato by introducing animal genes to its DNA; but we still can’t create life out of lifelessness. Only God can do that. We can communicate ideas, and pack a million calculations into ever more infinitesimal periods of time; but we can’t stop time from rolling on or reverse it’s direction. Only God can do that.

And dispite all the advances in technology we have made, in one thing we have not advanced hardly at all. What has not changed is our propensity to use our creativity to find ever more inventive ways of hurting, oppressing, and killing each other. Despite our best efforts to the contrary greed, pride and ego remain the most prevalent motivations for our advancing technologies. We find we cannot escape the nature of our fallen existence as we continue to exert our superiority over the planet and each other. We cannot wash away the stain of what humanity has done with its creations over the millennia. We do not have within us the capacity to make right the burden of sin that we have created by how we treat each other and our planet.

Only God can do that.

Well, It would seem that folks surfing the Internet in the People’s Republic of China are not allowed to read the musings of yours truly.

But then that’s hardly surprising when you think about it. I mean, it’s not like they would want the Christians in China being encouraged, or exchange ideas about what the Bible is really saying, or learn something of church history. No we can’t have that now can we? If you want to know if your favorite URL is blocked in China check out The Great Firewall of China. Just enter the URL in the space provided and see if their test location can access your site from inside China.

Sarcasm aside, it actually serves to remind us that we are extremely privileged in this country. For all of our complaining about inept government, inconvenient bureaucracies, lengthy commutes and the lineup at Tim Hortons, the fact remains that we are the most fortunate people in the world.

We live in a country where we are free to vote for the worst candidate, make the wrong career choice, and over indulge our every desire. We can be complete and total idiots and the only consequence will be those of our own making. There’s no one telling us where to live, what to do for a living, or what to think. We can worship who we want; Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed or no one at all. And it’s all because of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure these freedoms for us.

So I add my voice to the hundreds of others and ask you, when you see the poppy displays at Tim Hortons, or the veterans in the mall with the poppies and pins, please give generously, shake a hand, and say, “Thank You!”