Audioengine A2 Speakers


It’s easy to overlook something you see and use everyday. I’ve had a pair of Audioengine A2 speakers on my desk for over a year now, and I can say without hesitation that they are the best desktop speakers I’ve ever used.

I’ve had the great pleasure of doing everything from listening to the complete Beatles remastered CD collection to blowing up baddies through these puppies, and I’ve never heard the least bit of distortion and the clarity has been excellent. My biggest complaint is that these speakers have exposed the weakness of my USB stereo adapter. I’m probably going to end up investing in speaker stands and a new USB audio interface soon.

Review: CTEK 7002 Battery Charger

I’m a bit odd when it comes to car repair. I like to get my hands dirty, but I’m not really reliable enough to accomplish all the work I need to do on the cars. The result is that my Corrado is constantly in need of some attention, and recently that attention is almost exclusively dealing with drained car batteries. Somewhere a previous owner has spliced in an accessory that’s draining the car’s battery, but I haven’t taken the time to track it down. In the mean time, I’ve gone through 2 Optima car batteries and spent too much time and money keeping the batteries charged.

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Quick Pinball Fix

I took Anne’s advice (after much hand-wringing trying to get Virtual Pinmame working), and purchased Williams Pinball Hall of Fame (for the XBox 360). Mostly, I got this one (as opposed to the Gottlieb version) because it has two of my all time favorite pinball machine in it: Funhouse and Medieval Madness.

I have to say it’s a pretty good representation of playing on the full machines — although I often want better camera angles to choose from. My mad skillz at Funhouse seem to have translated over, and my high score on the actual machine seems pretty close to my current high score in the video game. I’m not sure, but playing the video game might constitute a decent form of practice for real pinball.

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Delivering the goods…

It’s becoming clear to me that some forms of customer service are dead. I sit here currently on hold with 1-800-flowers.com after complaining about the bouquet that was just delivered. The bouquet I ordered is pictured to the left, the one that arrived is significantly different. Although their description states the arrangement would include: “Fresh roses, lisianthus, lilies, sunflowers, stock and more”, the only flower from that list that arrived were lillies — the rest of the bouquet is made up of carnations and tulips. Even assuming the promised varieties weren’t available, the color scheme of the arrangement is significantly different. The example bouquet is a high contrast combination of purple, yellow and white, while the one we received is mostly orange, with little contrast. I chose this bouquet for Valentine’s day over more typical arrangements because it was representative of the time Kim and I spent in Provence last year (it’s even called French Countryside). To receive significantly different flowers defeats the purpose. After 2 phone calls and having completed most of this blog post, I’ve been promised that we will get a re-delivery of exactly what we ordered tomorrow. We’ll have to see what happens there.

It’s not the first time this kind of thing happened. Last year we got shafted on an order through FloristExpress.net, though like 1-800-flowers.com they offered a redelivery and did much better the second time. If our local Chinese delivery place had this kind of track record, I’d have to eat out way more often. I wonder if that’s just modus operandi of florists — deliver any old bouquet and hope the person who placed the order doesn’t see it. If they do and they choose to complain, pony up the flowers originally promised.

Next time, I’m going to order from someplace that drop ships straight from a nursery (ProFlowers?), maybe then I’ll get what I paid for…

Update: I just got called by the florist who prepared the bouquet (!). She tried to convince me that what we received was preferable to what I ordered (!!!). She says that the lisianthus didn’t look good, and the sunflowers are out of season. Further, she says she included more flowers to make up for the change (really? couldn’t tell). She doesn’t want to replace the bouquet! So now we’re in take your flowers back, and I’ll take my money back. Let’s see what 1-800-flowers.com thinks of this development…

Review: Apple Mini Displayport to Dual-Link DVI adapter

Apple Mini Displayport to Dual-Link DVI adapterI admit it, I’m late to this party. Only recently have I attempted to connect my Apple Cinema 30″ Display to my MacBook Air (late 2008 version). Unfortunately, required adapter cable costs $100 and is only available from Apple. But recently Kim got me the adapter as a gift (I have a great fiancée).

In principle this should be pretty straightforward device, plug it in, have it work. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

First, the adapter requires the use of a USB port. Generally this isn’t a problem except that the MacBook Air has just one USB port. Apple has anticipated this problem and provided a USB pass-through on the adapter cable itself. Still it’s annoying to have to plug the USB cable as well as the mini display port cable into my MacBook Air. A more practical problem is that this also precludes the use of the MacBook Air SuperDrive along with the adapter. There goes my ability to watch DVDs on my “Cinema” display.

While using the adapter I uncovered a second problem, dark areas of the display would sometimes show significant amounts of (mostly green) noise. Also at random intervals the screen would flash black momentarily. Other users have seen this problem in the past, but I hope by now issues would have been resolved. Several people had indicated that newer versions of MacOS X and later revisions of firmware inside the adapter (version 1.02) resolved the issues for them, but despite using the latest versions of both my issues persisted. At the recommendation of Apple support I visited the Apple genius bar at the local Apple store, but they were unable to replicate the problem using my MacBook air and my adapter. Nonetheless they decided to order me a replacement adapter cable.

Up until earlier this evening I thought the second adapter cable was working flawlessly, but then my display freaked out. For a period of almost 5 minutes my display flashed black every 5 to 10 seconds. Before I could find a video camera to record the incident problem seemed to resolve itself. Now I’m on the lookout for further issues with the second adapter; hopefully I’ll have a chance to document any issues I have with it.

All in all, this is where the most disappointing Apple products I have ever used. Hopefully Apple will be able to resolve my issues under warranty; or maybe someone else will come up with an affordable version of this cable. Overall, this is the disappointing showing by Apple.

Update: I captured video of the adapter causing problems with my Cinema Display. I unplugged and reset the adapter at the end, to prevent damage to the monitor, but here’s a short two minute video of the event:

Windows 7 mini-review

Windows7Credit where credit is due, Microsoft’s upcoming release of Windows 7 may just be the best operating system Microsoft has ever released. In using it lightly, I can say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Microsoft’s latest effort. So far I’ve mostly spent my time in operating system set up and maintenance operations, but Windows 7 feels snappy and looks visually appealing. While I have not spent an extensive amount of time using Windows 7 in day-to-day context, I have found that many of the annoyances so prevalent in Vista are no longer evident in the newest incarnation of Windows.

The biggest feature missing from the latest and greatest version of Windows is the ability to install and run from an external USB hard drive. After spending a bit of time trying to achieve this functionality, I’m convinced it’s about time Microsoft just got its act together and implement this. The Macintosh has been booting from external drives for more than a decade; it’s about time Windows caught up.

That said, welcome back Microsoft! It’s been a long time coming, but you’ve finally made another OS worth crowing about!

Love is a Warm Scanner

scansnap-510mI have too much paper. Between various old documents, bills, statements, and magazines there’s reams of paper cluttering up my life. While I’ve been shifting as much as possible to paperless solutions where possible, the paper still accumulates.

That’s why I love my Fujitsu ScanSnap. It’s a little scanner that tames the paper piles. While I’m using the previous generation I can recommend it whole heartedly. The ScanSnap scans 18 full-color double-sided pages a minute; it’s currently whirring away storing a magazine I want to hang on to. The beauty of the device, is that I no longer have to weight the utility of a piece of paper versus the space it takes up. It all just gets scanned and recycled.

The newer models have a feature that I envy, they run optical character recognition (OCR) on the documents as they scan them. The result is a virtual version of your documents that are also searchable. The older model I have just scans, so I can read or print the works, but they aren’t indexed and searchable by my computer. The new versions have the best of both worlds.

I only have two complaints. First, the ScanSnap isn’t really good at scanning receipts (if they’ve fixed this, let me know because I’d buy a new one immediately). Second, Fujitsu markets the scanners separately for Windows and the Mac, so I can’t just use one for both platforms, but then again, I don’t use Windows much…

Let me know if you have a solution for tackling clutter (especially paper) that might improve my life (or at least my home office).