Dan's Data letters #119Publication date: 27 July 2004.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
The Skullcandy Skullcrusher headphones have almost won me over on name alone; I think I actually produce more testosterone when I say their name.
While I know nothing short of a hands on review can garner real opinions, I'm curious to know what your initial thoughts are of them - gimmick or no? I'm equal parts music listener and gamer, and these seem to strut in a macho way directly down my alley. However, if the vaunted bass feature grinds up mids and highs, or if the drivers themselves are just el cheapo, I wouldn't be as enthused. ECost has them for 56 American clams.
"Bass shakers" built into headphones are a gimmick, but they're a fun gimmick.
The page's claim that these headphones have "industry first vibration subwoofer speakers" is nonsense, though; headphones that work like these have been around for years. I reviewed a pair three years ago here.
Those ones sound really quite lousy, but there's no reason why these kinds of headphones have to; the Brainmuncher ones may sound like a perfectly good pair of ordinary headphones (that cost about half as much), for all I know. The market segment that's turned on by this kind of product often isn't terribly discerning, though, so I wouldn't expect much, particularly given their low price. Another way of looking at that, though, is that you don't have much to lose!
My first NEC/Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 930SB monitor started periodically failing to display and make that *pertwang* noise when turned on. They kindly sent a replacement within the next working day! Unfortunately, it's showing a reddish hue in one corner, sometimes turning green depending on what's displaying.
Is there a monitor option to adjust/fix this, or is this new monitor a lemon? The hue doesn't show when the image is unstable (after a degauss or turning on the monitor). It's not a graphics card problem, because when I hook my laptop up to the monitor I get the same thing. Any idea what's causing this?
The monitor's got a classic "purity problem" (seriously - that's really what it's called), caused by magnetisation of some part of the monitor. Maybe a frame component, maybe the shadow apparatus, maybe something else. The monitor's degauss circuit (which is what makes the noise when the screen's turned on - older monitors tend to have a louder degauss noise) is meant to cure these problems, but serious purity issues can't be fixed by the integrated degauss. They usually can be fixed by someone with a degaussing wand, though; any TV technician should have one, as do many hard core geeks. I talk about degaussing wands in my old Techno-Tools piece.
Degaussing wands can be hard to buy these days. In lieu of a retail product, some people rig their own possibly-very-dangerous mains-powered electromagnet, or use some other gadget that by coincidence has a similar effect, like a big old soldering gun. Artistic use of powerful permanent magnets can also reduce the severity of purity problems, but eliminating them completely that way is like trying to wipe grease off the inside of your car windscreen with your bare hand.
I've seen your two reviews of Via C3 processors. I bought a computer with a C3 processor, Via M6VLA mobo, 64Mb RAM (later upgraded to 128Mb) and 40Gb HDD, back in 2001. Problem is: Though initially the computer seems to work well, from last year, when I started playing games with it, I discovered that even games designed for a 333MHz Pentium II don't work well with this computer. Graphics are always stuck. Can you imagine, even Delta Force 2 doesn't work well with this PC. Lately, even programs seems to be giving me much problems, while friend's PCs with Pentium or Celeron works very well. I'm mighty fed up and disappointed in Via. Maybe you can help me with this problem. Otherwise, I would not recommend anyone buying any Via products.
Well, since Via make the chipsets for a large slice of the world's motherboards (yours is actually a Biostar product; it just uses a Via chipset), they're a bit difficult to avoid.
Your computer was not made for 3D games. It'll do OK for a lot of older and less demanding 2D games - you'd have no trouble playing StarCraft, for instance, and zillions of people are still addicted to that - but no C3 system will be a blazing performer for 3D, because the C3 is weak at floating point math, which is very important for 3D. You don't mention the clock speed of your CPU, but when you're talking C3s, floating point performance only varies between "dreadful" and "bad".
Also, I presume you're using your motherboard's integrated video adapter; you pretty much have to, since your board has no AGP slot. The integrated adapter is a Trident Blade3D, which is fine for 2D, but was pretty nastily slow for 3D when I reviewed one five years ago.
So, yeah, your computer is a complete non-starter for even quite old 3D games, much less current ones. It'll be OK for Web browsing and e-mail and Office 97 and such (none of which care about floating point performance), and it'd make a perfectly capable little Linux box, but that's it. You could upgrade it with an old P-III and a PCI TNT2 or similar video card and enjoy a huge performance boost, but unless you feel confident about doing the upgrade and can pick the parts up very cheaply, you might do better to save up for a slightly more current, AGP-slotted machine.
What with the recent interest in "audiophile-grade" cables and your history of opening up goofy box-on-a-wire devices I thought you might like this link.
I don't speak Swedish, but all that glue seems hardly worth the €1000+ asking price.
It makes the EMPower Modulator look like a masterpiece of engineering, doesn't it?
I've talked about Transparent's inspiringly expensive cables before, but it's interesting to see what people are actually getting for their large amount of money.
For the benefit of those like me whose comprehension of Swedish is limited, I have enlisted the assistance of a minion from the frozen north to produce a translation of the top post of the faktiskt.se thread. Here it is:
I've had a Transparent speaker cable laying around [that simply gave up today / and I gave in today]. So I got the piece of junk out:
I then noticed that it was sealed with screws that are un-screwable. But you've all heard of the song about the boy with a coconut right? Everything can be solved with a little bit of violence. A minute later it was.
What is all this glue doing here? Oh well, it's removable.
Well, look at that, out comes a little red doohickey on the cable... Odd, it seems to connect the thicker wires together (which by the way contain multiple strands). Now what are these two thin wires doing here? But most importantly, what is inside the red doohickey?
Right, so what are these: The silvery one says "102J 630M" (the M is crossed through). The red one says "DALE 9711J RN60D 26R7F"
Any one have a clue what those components are?
Anyway, by now I'm also curious what those thin wires have to do with the toy. So I simply cut the ends to see where they were connected. My first attempt failed, the two thin wires end before they reached the fork[?]:
But the other end paid off:
Aha, both little wires are connected to the black cable (negative if you so wish) - but not connected anywhere else = RF receiver perhaps ???
And the white (positive if you so wish) is not touched by the two small wires...
What remains is the "little red one" with its two components that are connected in serial after each other, which connect the speaker cable "plus" and "minus" cables in parallel...
So now my curiosity is settled - well apart from the components then...
I've got some idea of what the components are.
There's one Vishay Dale 26.7 ohm resistor, unit price under a buck US, and one capacitor of whose identity I'm unsure, but which probably doesn't quite account for the rest of the cable's price by itself.
(A reader's now told me that it looks like an old-style polystyrene capacitor, probably with a 0.001uF, 5% tolerance, 630V, -55 to 70 degree Celsius rating.)
A resistor and a cap in series put across a speaker (as they are, by being wired across the two conductors in the cable) make a "Zobel network", which can be useful for counteracting the inductance of a speaker driver - provided you know the specs of the driver, which of course Transparent Audio can't when they're making cables meant for all kinds of speakers. The Zobel in this cable probably only works as a very high frequency low-pass filter (by audio standards), as Transparent say, to attenuate radio frequency noise. What they don't say is that such noise shouldn't be there in the first place in anything like large enough amounts to do a thing to the performance of the system. And what the heck the two extra little wires winding around the larger conductors, connected to the same conductor at each end, are meant to do, I don't know. But I'm sure it's very subtle and technical and stuff.
Oh, but those are the MusicWave Plus, and Ultra, and Super, of course, which I think are newer - their in-line "networks" are more streamlined. This, of course, clearly indicates that Transparent Audio have stopped ripping their customers off with an incredibly shoddy piece of feloniously overpriced crap and started living up to their ludicrous claims with these newer models.
Or maybe they're just making the plastic box harder to pry open.
(Jim got back to me to point out that the Transparent network boxes already have much better built-in tamper-protection - price. To get hold of a Transparent cable for review you either need to be an uncritical journalist, or someone willing to buy one; in neither case are you likely to be asking too many awkward questions.)
Another correspondent also pointed out the faktiskt.se thread to me, and a meta-thread about it at the diyAudio forums, here. That thread links to this PDF file, too, which has further impolite things to say about fancy cables (and to this PDF, which is about the more common kind of Zobel network).
The Pass Labs paper, though, dates back to 1980, and only measured cable specifications that're, you know, known to science. That made it irrelevant to the actual high end cable market then, and especially irrelevant now, after almost a quarter of a century of intensive fertilizerology on the part of the speaker cable companies.
(And, by the way, the entertaining "Audiophile Pricetag" post in the diyAudio thread would appear to be a rip from this page.)
A while ago you mentioned your very good friends at Backyard Artillery and some of the cool gear they stock. You also gave a warning to would-be Aussie Airsoft bandits about the laws regarding Airsoft guns in Australia.
Now, lets just say there's this hypothetical Australian pondering getting a nice replica Desert Eagle or Beretta. What are the chances of the package making it through Customs? Might the chances be increased if it went via surface mail? And would this totally hypothetical person incur any fines/ASIO visits if the package was caught?
I don't know what the chance of successfully importing one is, but I do know that things can go disproportionately badly for you if you fail.
All sorts of things can make it through Australian Customs (and Customs in various other countries) if they're small packages and labelled innocuously yet plausibly ("plastic model"). But I don't know what the odds are of successfully importing realistic Airsoft guns. Pistols would obviously be more likely to make it through than long arms.
If I were importing something myself, which of course I'm not and never have, Officer, then I'd order one of the few clear plastic Airsoft guns (Backyard Artillery have one), since they're not replica firearms by any sane definition, and should therefore be much less of a problem.
Clear Airsoft guns are usually only spring guns, but that means they're cheap. There's one AAA-powered electric pistol out there as well, which is available in clear plastic, but its muzzle velocity is apparently pathetic unless you fiddle with it. Hunt around and you can also find some of the cute little Mini AEGs...
...in clear plastic, but good luck finding a dealer who'll ship them to Australia in the first place. There's always Shop the States, but that's getting a bit fancy for a $US25 gadget.
Anyway, assuming you tried this course, then even if Customs catch your see-though gun, there's a decent chance (about which I, of course, give you no guarantee at all) that they'll just confiscate it, since it doesn't qualify as a replica firearm any more than does a realistically moulded water pistol.
No matter what sensationalist Members of Parliament say about the reasoning behind Australia's Airsoft ban, it's actually because of the realistic appearance of the guns (which makes them as illegal as any other replica firearm is in this country), and not because of the small risk they present to life and limb (which, as you probably know, approaches zero if you don't get shot in your unprotected eye). Some other gun-shy countries are much mellower about replicas (you can buy full Airsoft arsenals in the UK and Japan, no questions asked), but Australia ain't.
In case you're interested, the 1998 Amendment to Australia's Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations of 1956 explicitly mentions "soft air" weapons, along with various others; it's that which makes it functionally impossible to import them at all (no matter how cool they are). Not only do you need to comply with the standard police authorisation test if you want to own one, but the gun must bear a unique serial number (which no Airsoft guns I know of do), and must comply with stringent safety requirements to do with drop testing and vibration and such, which will not have been performed and which Airsoft guns probably won't pass anyway.
Australian Customs has an info sheet on the subject (PDF), which reads like a search-and-replace job run on an info sheet about much scarier weapons.
Note the part where it mentions penalties, though. You're not likely to cop a monstrous fine and lengthy jail term for trying to sneak one toy pistol past Customs, but you certainly can be charged under the Customs Act with smuggling, and it's not out of the question that they'll do that for just one gun. Day in court, good behaviour bond, thousand dollar fine, more than a thousand dollars of court costs, seems to be par for the course.
So I do not recommend you try it, and I certainly do not recommend you try it with a realistic-looking gun. Clear guns, maybe, Airsoft tanks, sure. Replicas, including replicas of guns that don't really exist, no.
The problems don't end with importing. In Australia, replica guns can get you in trouble for as long as you own them. If the cops search your house for some other reason and find one, it doesn't look good.