Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tubes versus transistors

There are basically two kinds of amplifiers for audio. Those that use vacuum tubes (valves) and those that use various types of transistors. The tube types came first and were huge, use a lot of power and (according to the purists) have the warmest sound. The transistor types came later, are more efficient, smaller and (again according to the purists) sound tinnier, colder and less dynamic. Sound familiar? Ever heard the analog vinyl record versus digital CD argument?

Anyway, there are a lot of people who don't quite understand how one could sound better than the other considering how they work. I mean seriously, an amplifier really only does one thing. It takes a variable (analog) low-power signal on an input and it gets amplified because the output swings (at most) between the highest voltage at the anode of the amplifier and ground (zero volts) at the cathode. Too technical? The point is that the function is the same in the tube and the transistor. The only difference is that the tube does its magic in the gap of a vacuum and the transistor does its magic at the microscopic level in the gap between layers of various types of semiconductor material.

Well, I know why tube amps sound better. You know how people have said the sound of tubes seems 'warmer'? That's because the amplification is being done in a very hot space. Tubes are heated by an element embedded in the tube. This heat excites the electrons and this in turn makes them sound more musical. In a transistor, there is no heater. The transistor gets hot as a result of the semiconductor material resistance. Unfortunately, because the signal being amplified is what's creating the heat, some of the music is lost, the life is sucked out of the signal.

Sounds like a good theory, huh? I made the whole thing up. I seriously have no clue why people think tubes are better. The purists feel it has to do with the subtle even natural harmonics a tube amp introduces into the signal.

I like my theory better.

This robot gets down

Build a robot with parts you choose, then make it dance.

It's good for at least 3 minutes of fun.

I guarantee it.

People who set off your car alarm

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why let the car just sit there costing money?

When someone brings their car to the airport and leaves it in long-term parking, the car just sits there. Doing nothing. Serving nobody. Well, there are some enterprising (no pun intended) companies that hope to change that. But it's going to require a big adjustment in the mindset of car owners.

Basically you’ll be able to rent out your car while you’re not using it. This could keep you happy since you’ll be earning cash instead of shelling out for the airport parking fee.

FlightCar leverages the fact that most people driving to airports will be leaving the city for a fair amount of time. Owners can post details of the airport they will be parking at, how long their car will be available, details of the vehicle and how much money they want for rental. Those flying into the airport at the same time can then avoid more expensive rental car companies by borrowing a car that would otherwise have sat in the parking lot for the duration of the owner’s absence. Once a transaction is agreed, the car keys are handed to a FlightCar representative who transfers them to the renter. FlightCar includes an approval process for both parties through driver's license checks and the rental is insured against damage and theft.

According to the company, customers can expect a 20 to 50 percent discount compared to traditional rental routes, while owners receive 65 per cent of the agreed fee. Your car gets cleaned before and after the rental too. How else could car sharing be made easier? (Company video)

That's some mothah-flippin' flippin' YO!

Now this is a sign flipper.

Having his dancing friend around helps.

Tis but a scratch.....

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Maple mockery

Some botanists are shaking their heads at the new Canadian polymer currency because they say the bills feature a maple leaf from Norway, not Canada, although that's not how the Bank of Canada sees it. The Bank of Canada, denied the bills depict a Norway maple leaf. A spokesperson said the leaf is a stylized blend of different Canadian maple species.

But Sean Blaney, senior botanist of the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre argued it looks nothing like any of the 10 maple species native to Canada.

My favourite part of the story was the commenter on the news site who had this to say:

"This is outrageous...I will soon be putting up a post office box address where you can send me all of these insulting $20 bills that you might have in your possession so that I can perhaps take a truckload of them to Ottawa to represent our collective anger to Parliament."

Avengers... assemble! (IKEA-style)

Fast train

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ride on a train that goes 430km/h (267mph)? Well, you need to see this video of the Shanghai Maglev train doing just that. CAD$12.66 round trip between Longyang Rd in Pudong (connection to Shanghai Metro) and the Pudong International Airport. 30km in 7m20s. This train has hit top speeds of 501km/h (311mph).

For reference for Calgary folks, that's the equivalent of travelling from City Hall in downtown Calgary to the Yankee Valley Rd intersection in Airdrie in 7 and a half minutes.

There is also a high speed rail system connecting Shanghai and Hangzhou (202km) in 45 minutes at a nominal speed of 350km/h.

Things I learned this week 26 Jan

  • If your cat loves to sit on/in front of your laptop or keyboard, take any box lid, flip it upside down and place it near that area. Boxes and their lids are like magnets for cats.
  • Use a staple remover to pry a tough key ring apart.
  • Brother is claiming that they have just made the last typewriter. It was made at Wrexham in North Wales and is being given to the London Science Museum.
  • The string of typographical symbols comic strips use to indicate profanity ($#%@!) is called a grawlix.
  • The number of multi-purpose industrial robots per 10,000 employees is just under 100 in Canada, around 130 in the US, around 260 in Germany, about 330 in Japan and just under 350 in Korea.
  • The Eagles haven't made an album in 5 years, but they made $60 million in 2012. One word - touring. Speaking of touring, U2 has toured for 2 years and raked in $700 million for it.
  • Citizens of Qatar get free electricity and water.
  • They may soon be able to tell if you have cancer (not just lung) by testing your breath for certain chemical compounds.
  • McDonald's serves 75 burgers per second. One in every 8 Americans have at one time worked for them. Some of these people included Pink, Jay Leno, Shania Twain and Sharon Stone. In 18 countries, McDonald's McDelivers to your home.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Some really silly jokes

If you're not groaning by the end of this post, I need to try harder.

How did the hipster burn his tongue?
He drank coffee before it was cool.

What is invisible and smells like carrots?
Rabbit farts.

What do you call a fake noodle?
An impasta

How does Jack Frost get to work?
By icicle.

Why did the face of Boe go to the party by himself?
Because he had no body to go with.

When I found out my toaster was not waterproof, I was shocked.

How often do I make chemistry jokes?
I actually told one the other day.
There was no reaction.

My boss told me to attach two pieces of wood together.
I totally nailed it.

What's orange and sounds like parrots?

What are the strongest days of the week?
Saturday and Sunday. Bcause all the rest... they're weekdays.

What do you call a woman on the arm of a banjo player?
A tattoo.

In France, one egg is an eouf. So they just have one.

What did the shy pebble wish?
That she was a little boulder.

David lost his ID in Prague.
Now we call him Dav.

What do you call a pencil without lead?

Beethoven's fave fruit?

How do you give an octopus ten giggles?
You give him ten tickles.

Why do gorillas have big nostrils?
They have big fingers.

Which side of the chicken has more feathers?
The outside.

What do you call a man who shaves 20 times per day?
A barber.

What did one eye say to the other eye?
Between you and me, something smells.

Never trust an atom.
They make up everything.

I took the shell off my racing snail to try to make it go faster.
If anything, it's more sluggish.

Oxygen and Magnesium are totally going out.
Like, OMg.

Did you hear the two antennas got married?
The ceremony kinda sucked but the reception was awesome.

What's ET short for?
So he can fit on the spaceship.

Did you hear about the new corduroy pillows?
They're making headlines.

Lay's miserables......

Wiring your house for sound without wiring

As I mentioned a couple of years ago, I decided to 'wire' my house for sound by getting the 'wireless' Sonos sound system. Short description - it's a collection of wireless mesh-net devices that bridge to the home network to play music from a shared drive in any room in the house. The various Sonos devices contain everything from full receiver / amp / speaker systems to just the receiver to hook up to your existing stereo in a particular room.

I've taken the time to explore Sonos' other features and discovered that it also serves music services like Slacker Radio, which I used exclusively to play endless Holiday music during a recent party. But Sonos also accesses radio stations from around the world too.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I can't leave these two alone for a second...

What is Grover up to?

Now that there are 2 muppets in the house, the 'muppet posing' ritual gets more fun.

Here, Grover seems to be saying something that has surprised Elmo. I wonder what they're up to? We may never know....

Things I learned this week 20 Jan

  • A mother bird does not abandon a baby bird if you touch it.
  • Joe Lueken, a retiring grocery store owner is turning ownership over to his employees. He spent 46 years building two successful grocery stores in Bemidji, Minnesota. He decided to transfer ownership to his employees through a stock program. He wanted to give back to the people who helped his business be successful. The employees don't have to pay for their shares in the business.
  • Increased carbon dioxide in the air gets absorbed by the oceans and makes them acidic. More acidic ocean water eats away at shells. Dissolves shells kills the bottom part of the food chain that affects the fish we eat.
  • JC Penney plan to replace cash registers with iPads for checkout. They plan to use the original counter space where the registers used to be as juice and coffee bars.
  • Staples’ Easy 3D will offer consumers in Belgium and the Netherlands low-cost, brilliantly coloured, photo-realistic 3D printed products from Staples stores. Customers will simply upload electronic files to the Staples Office Centre and pick up the models in their nearby Staples stores.
  • The closest planet orbiting another star (based on unique scientific measurements) are those orbiting Alpha Centauri B, just over 4 light-years away from us.
  • There is no evidence that Lady Godiva rode a horse nude through the town of Coventry to protest taxes. But it made for great art and a cool Godiva logo.

Lights powered by gravity

A design company in the UK is developing a light powered by gravity for the third world, to replace the kerosene lamps they use now, which are hazardous to their health.

The light will have a one-time cost and no operating costs. Better, it has two terminals to power other things as well.

Crazy glue

Friday, January 18, 2013

The history of the 'toy'

Hysteria begins in the womb, or so thought the medical scholars of the 1610s, who named the condition after the Latin hystericus, meaning “of the womb.” Those who’ve studied the Victorian era, or read The Awakening in high school, may know that the go-to prognosis of the time for just about every female’s symptom from the occasional hissy fit to chronic seizures was a pesky wayfaring uterus. The condition was thought to be caused by sexual frustration and cured by intercourse or pelvic massage, the latter often performed by physicians and midwives. When doctors finally got fed up with the tedious task in the late 19th century, the personal vibrator was created to take their place.

The things you learn from reading...


True facts about the angler fish

By Ze Frank.

The best part comes in just around the one minute mark.

Not so sanitary

I love this xkcd comic.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Life of Pi (remix)

Things I learned this week 14 Jan

  • When Google comes to install Google Fiber at your home, they promise to give you a time and not make you wait for hours during an 'appointment window'.
  • Google Fiber costs $120 per month for normal cable TV and internet access that is 100X faster than what your cable TV provider would give you. Internet access alone is only $70 per month. Only in Kansas City - for now.
  • Computers have been getting smaller and closer to our faces since their very beginning. First they were in big rooms, then they sat on desktops, then they sat on our laps, and now they're in our palms. Next they'll be on our faces. Ever heard of Google Glass? You will.
  • AC/DC finally agreed to sell their entire catalogue via iTunes.
  • Humans were not around for 99.9999% of cosmic history.
  • 99.9% of all species that have ever lived on earth are now extinct.
  • The most expensive residential property for sale in Quebec in 2012 is Celine Dion's mansion on Ile Gagnon, which listed for just under $30 million.
  • A Subway sandwich artist was fired for refusing to put ketchup on a customer's Philly Cheesesteak. Oh yeah, plus he came from behind the counter and threatened the customer too.
  • On Dec. 21, 2012, a customer in a Winnipeg Tim Horton's drive-thru line decided to pay for the order of the next vehicle. That caused a chain reaction, as customers then paid it forward for 3 hours and 228 orders. It didn’t stop with the drive-thru — customers inside Tim's latched onto the idea when they heard what was going on outside and did the same thing.
  • Google may be bringing Google Fibre to New York City. Huge news for the big apple.
  • It's gotten so hot in Australia, they had to add a new colour to the temperature maps. The forecast for Monday, 14 January was 52C.
  • In the US, fewer than 1% of rapists face jail time as a result and that's partly because more than 90% of rapes go unreported.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

For all of my Toronto Maple Leaf fan friends

No mixing science and religion in Louisiana schools

Well, it seems as though Louisiana gets it:

"No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes."

How high?

Imagine being a window cleaner on the world's (currently) tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Nope, I couldn't either.

It takes 3 months to clean all 24,000 windows.

Latest photos from Mars

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Filmography 2012

It's like the best trailer ever made.

It's of movies released or made in 2012.

Great editing.

Candy craft

Watch this Chinese cotton candy maker at work.

Beautiful stuff.

Things I learned this week 6 Jan

  • In fiscal year 2012, WalMart registered $444 billion in sales and has 2.2 million employees worldwide. Their CEO earns more money in one hour what most employees earn in an entire year. ASDA stores in the UK are really WalMart stores under another banner.
  • The Great Wall of China is not really visible from space.
  • The reason Coke stayed priced at a nickel for 70 years is because of Coke's unwillingness to double the cost to ten cents. The vending machines took nickels and Coke felt the jump to a dime was too much - they even asked the Treasury to issue a 7.5 cent coin. That didn't happen. But Coke finally hit the ten cent mark in 1959.
  • The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States didn't have the words 'under God' officially until 1954.
  • The 2012 Honda Civic is bigger than the 1984 Honda Accord.
  • There's an Apple store employee named Sam Sung. For reals.
  • The Helvetica font is poised to dominate online use due to it's easy reading characteristics (can you say sans-serif?)
  • Frito-Lay introduced Cracker Jack'd Power Bites, which contain 70mg of caffeine, equal to a one ounce shot of espresso or 2 twelve ounce cans of cola.
  • In Mac OS X, if you can't access the Utilities application to fix a problem because your hard drive is pooched, you can access it via the internet on bootup.

Friday, January 04, 2013

The metric world

Skydiving cats

I kid you not.

I don't care if it's fake, it rocks my world.

Relating to a psychopath

The following graphic indicates those most and least likely to be psychopaths.

Number one on the left list is most likely. Number one on the right list is least likely.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Beaucoup de neige

This is how they remove snow from the streets in Montreal after a big snow storm.

This was shot after the record-breaking snowfall Montreal received Dec 27th.

It's dumped in the river, in case you were curious.


Watch as a 3 year old gets a real-life Spiderman for Christmas from Santa.

Henri 5 - The Worst Noel

"The holidays are just another excuse for the world to intrude on my solitude."

Distracted driving

A new study employing eye-monitoring equipment has revealed that drivers spend 18% of their time behind the wheel not watching the road at all.

The study found motorists using navigation devices were even more distracted, with 22% of their time not watching the road. They have their eyes fixed on the display for 12% of their journey time. Drivers using satnav also spend 6X longer watching their device than oncoming traffic.

The average driver takes their eyes off the road every 9 seconds.

The average driver spends only 3.2% of the total journey time checking their mirrors while, on average, drivers spend 7% of their time gazing at clouds and scenery and 0.8% of their time observing ads. 2% of their time is spent actually looking at oncoming vehicles and 0.6% observing road signs.

54% of those surveyed change music while driving; 47% eat, 47% drink and 16% send texts from a mobile phone. 6% admitted to using apps on a smartphone or tablet, updating their Facebook status or tweeting.

Motorists are easily distracted by others. 35% admitted to being distracted by children or other passengers and 20% said a good looking person made them take their eyes off the road.