HiFi madness

Let me start by stating that I’m a bit of a techie !!
All kind of new toys make me drool… ranging from computers, cellphones till photo camera stuff.

Now one of the mean things that keeps me interested is hifi equipment, more precise home cinema equipment.
Currently I’m involved in the construction of our new home and with that, comes the outline planning of the audio structure !

So here is my story on how I set up my system from scratch ! I hope I can help other people with these tips and tricks :)…

‘In the beginning’ when I was first introduced to surround sound, I was hooked ! This was something I had to have at home… a must have need that needed to be fulfilled. But like so many things I rushed in to fast, to furious. ( But looking at this now, I guess that was a good thing after all )
Time frame was the first introduction of Dolby Digital, so Dolby Prologic was the most available audio signal processing on offer at the time. I didn’t do any research and was sweet talked into buying a Home Theatre In a Box of Celestion by a salesman at a local Hifi shop !

It consists out of a subwoofer and 5 speakers ( 1 front central and 4 surrounds ), with a build in dolby prologic amplifier in the subwoofer. It was sold at a very good price and it had everything I could wish for ( I thought at the time ) !
So one or two years pass and I was happy :), but then the I bought my first dvd player and with this came the knowledge that, allthough Dolby Prologic was very good, Dolby Digital would be the ‘standard’ for dvd movies to come !!

SonyDVP-S525D

So there I was, not so very happy anymore, watching Dolby Digital movies through my Dolby Prologic sound processor…
But the good thing about this was, that I learned my first lesson !

Tip #1 : Do a thorough research !

If I had learned a bit more about the Dolby Digital process, I would have waited a bit more with the purchase of my HTiB !! A Dolby Digital processor would have been the obvious choice.
On the other hand, the good thing is that I learned a lot in 4 years, following the Hifi scene ! So my second purchase and actual first upgrade, of my surround sound setup was a new AV Receiver packed with all the goodies I think I need.
Behold my 6.1 AV Surround sound receiver – the Denon avr 2802.

Denon avr 2802

When I bought my receiver, I’ve had read several reviews, followed several Hifi magazines and calculated my budget… and with this last item, also came the second lesson !

Tip #2 : Shop around !

Yep, just look further than your local Hifi shop. Surf the net, get several different price listings and I assure you can get your item a lot cheaper then first expected.
So with this second purchase I was able to overcome the Dolby Prologic burden. I bypassed the build in processor of the HTiB, this through direct linking the speakers to the new receiver ! So the first system wasn’t lost at all… it just got a bit upgraded 🙂

But the drawback of lesson 1 & 2 is, that after doing some research you’ll soon notice that the system you own is or ‘out dated’, or ‘underpowered’, or even worse ‘badly combined’ !
Mine is underpowered, I think I can get more ‘sound’ out of my receiver, than I’m currently possible… So I started dreaming and with this I drafted up the next possible upgrades my system could have. Tadaaaa lesson 3.

Tip #3 : Stop dreaming !

Yep, because even though I now know what my dream system would look like, I can’t ever be able to afford it !!
I checked several speaker sets, looked at different speaker cables and even had a glance at the new receivers made by Denon. And let me assure you, you will want to have more than your budget will allow 🙂

So, out goes the new receiver : Denon avr 2807

Denon avr 2807

So, out goes the speaker cable set : QED Silver Anniversary
But I’m keeping my dream speakers !! : B&W Speakers 600 series 3

bw_600_series_3_DM603_S3

So no new receiver and I downgraded my new cables to a set made by Ixos and I’m happy all over again.

Or… is 7.1 ever going to get a boost ? Or is SACD or DvD Audio ever going to get big ? Damn those Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs…

Cantonese lessons

Ever since I started following Wing Tsjun, I was fascinated with all the Chinese terminology that is used during our training !
Like, every hand movement has it’s own name and this name represents the position of the hand, for example a Wu sao = “Protecting hand” !

But when I looked further, it seemed that most of the phrases where spoken in Cantonese instead of Mandarin !
So to ease my curiosity I took up Cantose 🙂

It doesn’t only consist of speaking the language, we also have to write and read !! And man, the writing is tough !
For starters, you don’t have any reference when writing Hanzi, they don’t have any resemblance with anything we are used to !
But secondly, you can’t just copy them when writing ! There is a specific order and direction that needs to be followed when writing the strokes that make up one character…

But, hey, we all have our hobby, so I don’t mind the fact that mine is a little tougher 😉
I also started looking up the chinese representation of our names, just for fun though, I’m not like many western people who like the Hanzi but don’t know the translation and just use them on tattoos for example !!

Femke ( our daughter ) – 费姆克 or 费姆可
Martine ( my wife ) 马蒂娜 or 馬蒂娜
Glenn ( me ) – 格倫 or 格伦

I found several great sites that help me in my quest for knowledge, just folow my delicious tag link !

Digital SLR options

Well people,

I’m calling out for help !!
Currently I’m a proud owner of a small digital photocamera the Nikon CoolPix 4300 and a very good analog SLR photocamera the Nikon F80.

Nikon CoolPix 4300 Nikon F80

I use the compact digital one for all “home and hobby” usage ( You know, like in house events, outdoor gatherings with friends or family and other small things ) and have the analog SLR if I want to take semi pro stuff… ( Mostly black and white close ups of our little daughter Femke 😉 )

But technology doesn’t stop, so I would like to trade the analog SLR for a newer digital version !! And here we have the main reason for this post, I would love to hear your comment and try to help make my descision…

What are the options :

* Only Nikon : if possible I only want to buy a new body and use the lenses from my F80
* I’m only an amateur in photography, so not an all to fancy new one

Currently I’m opting for the Nikon D50, but I don’t know this is a good choice ?

Nikon D50

I found several reviews, but I lack the needed experience to really tell the difference, so could you guys help out ?
My main issues now is that the D50 laks a remote cord to take pictures, like the D70s has with the use of the MC-DC1 !

Nikon D70s

The review sites are :

* http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond50
* http://www.letsgodigital.org/nl/camera/review/44/page_6.html
* http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/nikon/d50-review/index.shtml
* http://www.dcviews.com/reviews/Nikon-D50/Nikon-D50-review.htm

So go ahead and filll those comments 😉

Night of Martial Arts

Last april the 22nd, there was a special evening event in Gent : the Night of Martial Arts

It’s an event where different martial arts organisations come and give a life demo to an eager audiance. The list of groups that were attending is posted on the poster ( linked above ), but some examples : thaiboxing, krav-maga, iaido and many others !

Our own organisation MAI ( martial arts international ) was also present to give 2 demonstrations, one for Eskrima and one for Wing Tsjun ! Of course I was also there to help with the Wing Tsjun exhibition…

To illustrate the event, here are some photos, have fun 🙂 …

Nacht van de Krijgskunst 041 Nacht van de Krijgskunst 045 Nacht van de Krijgskunst 053 Nacht van de Krijgskunst 061 Nacht van de Krijgskunst 095 Nacht van de Krijgskunst 098

Project maintenance

Let me post something that involves a bit of the Web 2.0 hype 🙂 !

Today several websites offer some kind of free ‘social’ service, that can be used by the general public. Very nice things are available for the web-generation !! Some examples :

* Grou.ps
* Del.icio.us
* Google calendar

The list is long…

But there is one GREAT drawback with all this Web 2.0 stuff : it are actually all programming projects, that need to be maintained, tested and if needed updated or enhanced !!
This means that people need to be involved and keep track of possible bugs ! This takes time and effort… so for some ‘free’ ‘opensource’ websites, this can be a pain in the a**, if not impossible !

On the other hand, some guys are doing a fine job and let me put some of these guys in front and give them the credit they deserve ! It seems a coincidence, but last week I had several problems with serveral online services/websites.
First thing to do in such an event is search the site for some way to contact the webadmin, programmer or support. If you can’t find a contact, maybe there are other options, like online support forums…

But the best thing is presenting the problem to the original owner.

Let us begin with : Grou.ps, they offer a great tool to ‘group’ people together in a ( pun intended ) group ! One of the main features is the option to add locations using Google maps and here I had an issue ! I live in Belgium and only recently Google maps was updated with a street level detail of our country ( since version 2.x ), but Grou.ps isn’t yet upgraded ! So I posted the problem on the website and voila even after one day I got feedback, stating they are looking into this and are aware they need to upgrade the Google maps software plugin ! The even created an internal bug ticket, how sweet !!

Secondly, I use PMetrics on my blog to keep statistics of the users that come and read the feeds ! They had an upgrade of their software so that it is usable as a Sidebar Widget in WordPress, a cool feature ! But when I switch on this feature, the statistics fail and aren’t visible anymore for the public… also here I posted an error report on the public forum. Again one day after the post I received a personal message with detailed questions to help the developer to search and solve the problem. Even a response was posted back on the forum !!

Last but not least, I follow several Wing Chun ( Wing Tsun, Wing Tsjun ) sites to read about this fine martial arts sport… and there is one that comes out a bit special : the Wing Chun Archive. It states that the site is a ‘collection’ of all information, schools, peoples and media about the art ! Of course this can’t be achieved without the help of a supporting audiance ! So I gave it a test and used the ‘suggestion’ form to add a new Cantonese translation… for the third time in a row, I got a response the next day !! The new phrase was added and the webadmin gave me a feedback on the update… The Wing Chun stance Yee Gee Kim Yeung Ma was added.

Well to be honest, I was very suprised by the hard work and commitment I got from these websites… this makes those services all the more enjoyable and I hope they keep up the good work !

Update: Seems Michel doesn’t like the Web deux point zero hype ;), well all I can tell is that he is right in stating that the ‘real’ web 2.0 isn’t new… But today people are more focused on the subject and try to integrate more, that gives us great new services !

Attempting recognition

Why do firms, companies or other organisations create a website ? Most of them do not provided webbased services, so a direct ‘client – company’ connection can’t be made ! But still each and everyone of them would love to be ‘online’…

So why are they so eager to commit a part of there communication budget to the internet ? Well mainly to get a face, to get some recognition for the small part they ( could ) play in our day to day life !

Does it work ? Most of the time, I would think that it does… a good visual campaign helps people decide if they should apply their money to the companies service or trade ! I do most of my ‘window shopping’ online, so it makes a difference !

But it isn’t always easy to set up the correct architecture to have the rigth impact ! There is that ‘budget’ factor that has to be incorporated, it draws an invisible wall and sets the maximum reach.

Let me illustrate with a real life example, that involves my own little me 😉 !

I’m a proud member of the WingTsjun organistation, headquarters based in Germany, but with several schools around the world !
So assume you would be looking to have a go at this type of martial art, what would you do ? Well, a good guess would be to search the internet to find a school near to your own current location !

So you would most likely be expecting following thing :

  • A site for your own country ( if possible translated )
  • An overview of all schools ( sorted per region ) for the given country
  • A good information page of the current training hours and location
  • Overall information regarding the style, the teachers, the school infrastructure, etc…

But creating these items, involves manual labour, money and time ! Our current solution offers most of the expected items, but there is still room for improvement ( remember that invisible wall 😉 )…

We currently provide a specific translated site for each country, but they are not home based ! Meaning, not a domain URL for each country… let me be frank here, when I really want to find a website about some firm I need to locate, I use my country specific Google search engine !! So a country specific domain name would make sense !

But does this mean we don’t target the right people now ? No, that isn’t the problem… but the audiance could get bigger by changing some of the current architecture !
Does it mean we have a wrong architecture now ? No, we just have a different approach and use a central starting point, hereby creating a feeling of ‘one’ ! Coming out and saying, ‘we are a team’, not seperate groups…

So sometimes the corporate slogan could have an impact on the outline of the architectural design.

Currently it just fascinates me how I can look at the current end result and wonder why some choices were made and what could change… it just helps me decide for future projects !

Disable Theming and StyleSheet theme for one specific page in Asp.Net 2.0

I recently started using the new Theming features of asp.net 2.0 and I have to say it works like a charm !
Just putting one line inside the Web.Config file to enable a theme and change the look of the complete website is just fabulous…

But what to do when you want to disable everything for one page ? I searched the internet for a solution but found none ( maybe I didn’t look very good ? 😉 ) !

I know there are 2 page directives that help setting the themes, but to disable them I only found one !

<%@ Page Language="C#" Theme="OrangeTheme" StyleSheetTheme="GreenTheme" %>
<%@ Page Language="C#" EnableTheming="false" %>

But the EnableTheming will only effect the choosen theme and will not effect the StyleSheet theme !!

Even our friend the intellisence didn’t offer me any clues… When you type Theme=”, it will show you a list of available themes, so you can choose one from it.

So I was stuck and needed this feature for the default.aspx page of a small website I was building. But like many other solutions, this one also came by accident !

When I was trying every combination of theme and stylesheet, I just ( for the fun of it ) entered 2 empty string sequences, to see what the result would be… And tadaaaaa, what did I get, a default.aspx page ‘without a theme and stylesheet theme’ !!!

So people when you want NO theme and NO stylesheet theme just use following code :

<%@ Page Language="C#" Theme="" StyleSheetTheme="" %>