Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Powered (Active) Speakers with Remote

Boston Acoustics Soundware XS Digital Cinema
Samsung TVs have fixed audio out level that cannot be changed by remote control, so to have remote volume control of external speakers, you need to use:
  1. Receiver or home theater system with remote
  2. Soundbar with remote
  3. Powered (active) speaker system with remote
Option #3 is difficult, because there have been few good yet affordable powered (active) speaker systems with wireless remote, and most that previously existed have been discontinued (e.g., Creative I-Trigue L3800, Klipsch iFi, Onkyo HTX-22HDX). But, as of this writing, the Altec Lansing PT6021 (or similar SLS6221) is available on both Amazon and eBay. (Much more expensive options are the Audioengine 5+ and Bose CineMate Series II.)

Update 1: Unfortunately, the Altec Lansing PT6021 does not live up to its specs and is therefore not recommended:
  • AC hum is a problem, especially during soft passages, as acknowledged in the User's Guide: "Some low hum may be detected when your speaker system is powered on without an audio source playing, or when the volume is set at an extremely low level." (That's simply unacceptable.)
  • Sound quality is mediocre, lacking in clarity. 
Klipsch ProMedia 2.1
Update 2Boston Acoustics Soundware XS Digital Cinema is an excellent more expensive option, but can be found (currently) for as little as $180, making it a great bargain.

Note: If you don't need remote volume control, try to find a good used Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 system -- it's head and shoulders above other affordable powered 2.1 speaker systems: dazzlingly clear sound, smooth response with strong bass, and ample volume.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Google Reader Lessons

It's not "OK".

Google Reader was an important tool for aggregation of RSS feeds that facilitated sharing (at least until Google+ was forced into it), and was an important platform for RSS applications. A large number of people invested a great deal of time and effort in it, which is lost when Google abruptly shuts it down.

Google's users deserved better, at least a year of warning if nothing else. But, coming on the heels on so many other abrupt here-today-gone-tomorrow shutdowns by Google, there are lessons here that users would do well to heed: Google is not a reliable provider of services, and cloud computing has an important risk -- when a software company discontinues a product, you may be able to keep using it for a long period of time, but when a cloud service is discontinued, it's game over.

(With Gmail you can use POP or IMAP to migrate to another standard email service. Exporting feeds from Google Reader through Google Takeout is much less helpful.)

As a result, I no longer recommend Google cloud services.

See also:
p.s. The irony here is that this blog is hosted by Google -- how long until Blogger gets the axe?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fix Windows File Association Issue

Windows file associations, which associate a given file type (extension) with applications, are normally set automatically, either when applications are installed or by the applications themselves.

File associations can usually also be set (or changed) by right-clicking a file of that type, choosing Open or Open with, then selecting the application, browsing to the application if necessary. But sometimes that process fails.

The most common cause of this failure is incorrect registration of the application, particularly when a different version of the application was installed previously. To correct this problem:
  1. Click start; type "regedit" to find it; then right-click the program and Run as administrator.
  2. Navigate Computer > HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT > Applications, and find the application exe.
  3. Navigate shell > open > command, and check the exe path in the (Default) string.
  4. If the path is not correct, change it to the correct path of the application exe.