Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I am in the market again for some system to play the music on my computer in my small flat. The standard "tiny cube + subwoofer" PC speakers is out, since I want better sound, and not just for the area around my desk, so I am looking into actual library-shelf HiFi systems. I still don't know what is simply going to sound good and what is going to be the set the HiFi Store Salesperson wants to get rid off when he sees this sucker walk into his store, so I am reading up what I can. So far I need to avoid Bose -- well, ok, I didn't want a subwoofer anyway -- Sony, and B&O acording to some bloody religious online battles. And which amplifier in these mini-systems actually will not make my MP3s sound any worse than they already are, who knows.

Thing is, none of the little systems have what I really want, which is the ability to play two inputs at the same time. I like playing my music or net radio, but not from the computer I am actually working on, since that impacts performance. I'd like to use the print server laptop for that. However, when I actually did hook up the computer to the stereo, being able to hear the chimes from chats and other processes even when I was not at my desk was really useful, and those sounds do come from my main computer.

I have been thinking about multiple-input audio a lot when looking at Bluetooth headsets. I want headsets that will partner with my laptop so I can listen to music and sounds and use Skype without wires, but also cut over when the actual mobile phone rings. I want them to play music on my phone at the same time as game sounds from my laptop, each at a level that I can set as comfortable.

Current users of technology multi-task, especially younger ones, using multiple devices. Yet all amplifying peripherals support sound coming from only one. This is not right. I think I will start with buying a little HiFi set to drive some loudspeakers, but also hunt for an extremely simple two-channel mixer, although so far the only ones I am finding are for DJs and those are not simple at all. As for multi-input mixing wireless headsets, anyone can run with it. I bet you can't do it with Bluetooth anyway unless the headset incorporates multiple separate receivers. Not to mention that BT stereo transmission still isn't really that good.

Friday, March 07, 2008

What Is This, Italy?

T-Mobile Pay As You Go is costing me an arm and a leg, because even when calling customer service lines, I get billed per minute at my standard rate, since it is not a land line.Since I also want broadband, and the best way to get that here is still over DSL, and I also want a POTS line to dial emergency numbers that will actually work when the electricity is out and doesn't overlpoad as quickly as the mobile towers, I am calling British Telecom for a landline. Cheapest plan, it is a 'line rental' and then free weekend calling: 11 pounds a month. Of course, since I only have my mobile to make the call to order this, those 15 minutes on the phone cost me ten pounds or so. There are four jacks in my new flat already, but no dialtone. BT confirms the line has been disconnected and they will need to send out a tech to reconnect it. 125 pounds. Great.

The first available appointment is on April 2nd.

No, serious. A full month away to dispatch someone to reconnect an existing line. The customer service rep, whose accent that I have a terrible time understanding over the phone I think is Scottish, suggest I call up from time to time to see if there has been a cancellation. No guarantees.

Ok, so broadband will wait. But I am switching to a month-to-month SIM Only mobile ontract with O2 ASAP.

A month. For phone. What the hell? This is one the most respected telecom brands in the world.