Musical Bits

Music Reviews and System Tests from the Defiant Audiophile

In a recent blog post, I detailed my nearly year-long experience rebuilding my listening room. Since its resurrection it has provided hours of entertainment and some very satisfying listening proving, to me at least, that even a “budget” dedicated listening environment can render recorded musical performances well enough to recreate the live experience.

Of course, this relies on careful speaker placement, effective room correction and capable electronics, but most of all the so-called “suspension of disbelief” has to come from the source material. A poorly recorded or badly engineered track will sound “bad” on even the most sophisticated audiophile system, whereas some carefully recorded tracks can make even a budget system sound its best. Of course, even the best recordings will suffer from being compressed into MP3’s, played through cheap earbuds, or streamed at insufficient bandwidth, so all the links in the reproduction chain have to be maintained to at least a minimum “audiophile” standard.

But if the reader has already assembled a reasonably competent music system, then all that remains is to feed it with some of the best source material that can extract the maximum musical enjoyment for his efforts. Hence, I have assembled the details on some of the recordings and sources for them that I have found to be the most satisfying in my listening room.

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Squiggles or Pits?

The Defiant Audiophile Wades Into The Fray

Of course, the debate rages on over analog vs. digital, vinyl vs. CD, and whether astronomical bit depths and bandwidths really make any difference at your ears. It has been suggested that I don’t appreciate the superiority of vinyl due to my advanced age and the resultant hearing loss that accompanied my often-noisy automotive shop career environment.

Conversely, I argue that it’s not so much a matter of what I DON’T hear, as it is a matter of what I DO hear. It’s not what’s purportedly missing in digital recordings, but rather, what’s variously present in analog ones.

Continue reading “Squiggles or Pits?”

Blog? What Am I Doing With a Blog?

Hi! – Most of you know me as somewhat opinionated and so I’m making it official. Welcome to “TOMSOPINION.COM”

I’ve had this blog for a while now and, although not widely read, it has developed a small following. I like to try and find really good stuff and comment on it. Good food, household items that really work well and last long, and some hobby type pursuits. If you like it, tell your friends. NOW!

You’ll see my not-so-humble opinions on many of my favorite subjects including, but not limited to, Food, Bicycles, Technology, Cars, and Fixing Stuff.

Not so much about Women, Politics, Religion, and the other 3rd rail topics of the world.  You can scroll down through the start of all the articles, or click some of the New and Update links below.

WHAT’S NEW –

I know that you will be surprised to see a new post after such a long period of silence, but Dear Readers, there not only is one, but it’s a LONG one. All about my nearly year-long journey to rediscover my music collection. It is so long that it has its own page. Look to the right on this page for “Sound Practices” Under OTHER PAGES. Or, Click HERE!

Two More blog posts concerned with the audiophile hobby have been added. The first reviews numerous exceptional recordings and how they can be used to evaluate and tune an audiophile system installation. It is called “Musical Bits” and can be found by clicking HERE!

The other new post takes on the controversial subject of digital vs. vinyl and my opinions on the matter. Titled “Squiggles or Pits?” it can be found by clicking HERE!

I will try and add pointers to major changes right here once a month. This will let you go directly to the new stuff without having to search or wonder what’s changed.

Also, please read the “Disclaimer”  CLICK HERE (or scroll down a couple of posts).

New articles:

I have taken a flyer into the world of “premium” Tequilas and reviewed a few. Keep in mind that taste is one of the most subjective senses and therefore my opinions about any given swig are very “personal.” You can read the article HERE.

You know that I have strong opinions about privacy, and in that vein, I was appalled to read the “Privacy Policy” of a company I had to do business with. I refused to sign it and voiced my objections loudly to the company. I dissected it for your benefit HERE.

After receiving a chatty email from the criminally negligent Equifax, I replied asking for some real relief. I suggest you do it too. HERE

A long, boring, and informative article regarding the Equifax Data Breach scandal. Sorry about the length, but please read it for own protection.  Click HERE. I updated the very end regarding the newest Tax scam.

Another rant on computer and data privacy. Nothing is sacred. Please read it HERE.

I commented on a recent Aston Martin article and on its relationship to what I do. It’s an opinion piece. Imagine that. CLICK!

We had a little dinner party and my doctored hummus was a hit. The recipe is a CLICK away.

A whole new section on all my bicycle projects is now done. Click on the page heading on the right side index of the front page. Enjoy if you are into old iron. New bikes are added as I complete them, so this article is ever changing.

I just updated and added to this article about Some comments on Russian Hackers, and some advice for you too……  CLICK HERE.

A recipe for a super-easy and terrific homemade mustard has engaged my affections. Read the story and recipe  HERE.

I have added a new recipe for cooked oatmeal! (What? eeeew!) As they say, “Don’t knock it, ’till you’ve tried it!” Click HERE. No, really, you will be pleasantly surprised. Go ahead, DO IT! (It has nice pictures.)

Recent Updates :

I added a new rant to the old and moldy Windows 10 article. I’m really getting tired of 100% CPU use for many minutes after startup. See it HERE

I added a new restoration to the old Schwinn’s article – 1979 Continental II. To see a few pictures and the description click HERE and scroll down to the Update.

The Bicycle page changes as I add new bikes. If you have read it, scroll to the end for anything new, as that’s where I add stuff.

Most of the pictures are “clickable” for a much bigger, more detailed picture if you like. Enjoy!

I have allowed the option for readers to comment on most of the articles. Just click on the heading of any post or click “continue reading —>” and it will take you to that post’s page where you can add your comments at the end.

THANKS!

bottles top S

The Inmates are Running The Asylum

I have written a few articles about computers and privacy and how you need to be careful what you access, use, and disclose. This article adds some fuel to that fire of eroding privacy. For most of us “users” out here if we still use a laptop or desktop, when it comes to our daily computing needs there really are only two viable choices; Mac or Windows. Sure, you can install Linux or its many variants, but only a small part of the computing public that wants to read email, do some online shopping, and pay our bills have the technical savvy to create and maintain a Linux machine.

Continue reading “The Inmates are Running The Asylum”

A Dream Takes Flight

Knock This Off My Bucket List

Yesterday, when I attended the fly-in at Casa Grande Municipal Airport, I got the “T” Shirt, and a whole lot more. Primarily, we went because a good friend of mine asked if I’d do the driving, because he wanted to check out a bunch of cool old planes, and meet up with a friend of his whose dad had facilitated the restoration of a 1943 Boeing B75-N1. “A what?” you ask. You might know it as the famous Stearman Bi-Plane.

What happened next is a dream comes true for me.    Continue reading “A Dream Takes Flight”

Russian Hackers Are Everywhere!

If you are expecting a big exposé on the administration, I’m sorry to disappoint you, I don’t really know much about whether Putin was instrumental in electing the new Prez, or if glasnost has been replaced by Chernobyl packets, but what I do know is that there are a lot of people with .ru domains that have nothing better to do than to send mountains of spam comments to this very blog.

A flood of these comments, numbering into the dozens per day, have been appearing and require manual filtering, which is time consuming and annoying, to say the least. A quick Google search on this topic assures me that I am not the lone victim, but rather this is a problem that pervades blog admins more or less universally. And yes, there are effective countermeasures that minimize the annoyance, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is an epidemic. You may ask, “What’s the purpose?” and as I understand it, many (some) amateur blogs allow un-moderated comments, which allows the bot or hacker to publish links on a bona-fide blog in the context of their meaningless crap, which point to product ads, porn sites, or entrapment sites, to name a few. Even moderated comments need careful editing to remove the embedded links, if they somehow actually get published. Keep reading for some actual examples….

Continue reading “Russian Hackers Are Everywhere!”

Toss A Pebble In A Stream – Updated 1/13/17

pebble-watch

UPDATE – Jan. 13, 2017 – It seems as if the team of Pebble developers and technical people that Fit-Bit hired through their acquisition of Pebble are quite positive regarding the future of the existing Pebble platform for at least the next year and possibly beyond. Rumors abound as to whether a future Fit-Bit hardware product will incorporate everyone’s favorite Pebble Watch features and functions, but it’s my opinion that they wouldn’t have spent the effort and money (rumored to be about $40 million) and hired a bunch of Pebble People if they were just going to let it die. Not much has been updated regarding warranty service or technical support, but there are some aggressive prices on left-over Pebbles on Amazon, so the real die-hards can just buy a relatively inexpensive replacement if their Pebble fails. I any event, it’s no longer the doom and gloom that was first reported and that I detailed in the original posting.  Stay tuned!

UPDATE – Dec. 16, 2016 – Last night around 3 am my Pebble watch woke me with a series of vibrate alerts because it was undergoing an update to V 4.3, and this morning the Android App also updated to Version 4.3.0-1355-904fed2.

In light of the first announcement that all support operations would cease, this seems to be a small ray of hope in an otherwise dark tunnel. Perhaps it was due to the relatively passionate feedback that Fit-Bit received on their user support community blog from discouraged Pebble owners. I understand that acquisitions of this type can be complex and inordinately detailed regarding exactly what the new owners can claim rights to and what they can’t touch. Apparently, actual watch hardware is / was off limits to Fit-Bit as part of this deal. They acquired some of the Pebble brain trust and the intellectual property and the rights to all of the software and development shell.

Continue reading “Toss A Pebble In A Stream – Updated 1/13/17”

Security Online – Yes, YOU!

Since I opened this blog, more than 200 attempts at unauthorized logins have been made.

Not just a quick drive-by either; concerted repeated attempts at hijacking the blog. Yup, there are people out there who have nothing better to do than to try and screw with other people’s stuff. I hope that this doesn’t come as a surprise to you.

Continue reading “Security Online – Yes, YOU!”

High Priced Harley

High Priced Harley

 

road-glide-emblem

My very first vehicle was a Vespa 90 that I bought from a school chum without my parents’ permission and triumphantly rode down the driveway back when the ink on my driver’s license was still wet. It got me back and forth to my job at the bicycle store, took me and my brother down to the pizzeria on Dodd Street to get a “za,” and provided a newfound freedom that let me explore a much larger circle of the world than my 10-speed did.

After that, I bought a Yamaha DT1-B, a very capable street legal Enduro, that I practically wore out as it took me to all those places I just had to go. I remember riding it to my new job at the VW dealer in mid-winter, bundled in my Passaic Leather Coat Company 7-layer police motorcycle jacket and knee high boots. My hands were so stiff when I got to work, I’d wrap them around a drop light to thaw them out before I could grab a wrench.

Later, after a short dalliance with a Yamaha 500cc twin that had a frame too small to ride two-up, I bought my first “big bike,” a red Yamaha XS750 Triple, with backrest and a factory fairing. Oh God, power, power, power! Many miles were gleefully covered, and it followed us on a trailer when we moved here to Arizona. It took us to Havasu, Grand Canyon, Montezuma’s Well and Castle, and many more weekend destinations. But, in 1986, I sold it because with a new job and a new house and bigger and more expensive responsibilities, I just didn’t have much time to ride.

In 2005, I met a guy who would become a great and long time friend. Don and I shared a love for motorcycles, and in 2008, he convinced me to fly up to Denver, rent a big Harley, and ride to Sturgis with him. I hadn’t ridden in over 20 years, and needless to say, I was nervous.

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An Exercise in Ethics in the Amazon Jungle

So many things that should be really simple take a little turn and thus complicate our lives in ways that then cost us resources, mental energy, and valuable time. Each, by themselves, may not amount to much, but in today’s complex, interconnected, busy world, they add up fast and raise the energy drain it takes to just stay even.

Of course, one could opt for getting off the grid entirely, or as close to that condition as possible, but the lure of technology and progress is one just too great for me to resist, so I accept, but as you can see, sometimes complain about its consequences.

Here is one such event….

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Old Schwinn Bikes – Updated 1/2017 – New Project Done

 

There is , to me, a certain satisfaction in making old things work like new again. Although I know a few people who have performed near miracles restoring old cars, that has proven to be way out of my league. But nearly anyone with patience, a little time, and a strong interest can relive a little of the past by restoring or refurbishing some of their old favorite bicycles from their past. Since I started my mechanical career working in a bicycle store, I decided to resurrect a few of the old Schwinns that had been in storage for many years.

This is sort of an introductory article about my Schwinn hobby, but since it was published, so many more interesting bikes and I have crossed paths. Hence, I have devoted an entire page to bicycles and their refurbishment and restoration. If you are interested in more depth, just click HERE!

Headshot_2Or, if you would like to finish reading this shorter article, click “Continue Reading” just below.

Continue reading “Old Schwinn Bikes – Updated 1/2017 – New Project Done”

Windows 10 “Insider” Program – Updated Again Sept. 2018

This Is now Mostly “Old Hat.”

A quick addition regarding my biggest complaints regarding Windows 10 has been added to the top of the article starts on the next page.

I have removed all the really old comments about my transition to Windows 10 when it was first offered to a small group of Beta testers, as all that news has gone completely stale. This article will only contain occasional updates regarding new builds, and then only if I experience a major new feature, addition, or crash.

Continue reading “Windows 10 “Insider” Program – Updated Again Sept. 2018″