Audio – Mono

In high school I had a friend (Bob WTF are you?) who was really into stereo equipment, and consequently knew a lot about them. Audio receivers, turntables, amplifiers, and speakers

Everything I learned about home audio equipment I learned from him. I couldn’t afford any of that kind if equipment, but I could dream.

If you are the least bit interested in electronics (or batteries) as a kid, one of the first things you learn is positive and negative. I was one of the few kids who was given a copy of the Bantam Science books from their Knowledge Through Color series, (‘color of course being “colour” ‘ 🙂 ) Book No. 9: Electronics

My copy of the book (looking at right now) cost $1.95. This was back when American and Canadian published books had the same price.

[Enter: small political rabbit hole]

Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulrooney, and whatever clown was President decided on the “Free Trade Agreement”, I believe the quotes were “Good For Canada”, “Good for Canadian and American Business.”

The quote you DON’T see: “Bad for the Canadian consumer”

Books that would cost (let’s pick a current -2021- number) $9.99 US, Costs Canadians $12.99. Some how free trade meant Canadians paid more. Then you have that orange clown who said the US got screwed over the Free Trade Agreement.

Apparently Mulrooney has such an imposing physical and politically presence that the US caved on his demands. Sounds just like what they’d so [snrk]

[Exit: small politcal rabbit hole]

Anywaay… this book gives the proper scientific names of positive and negative. Namely: Anode and Cathode. If that second term sounds familiar it’s probably because you’ve heard the term “cathode ray tube”. That’s what “tube” TV’s and monitors were. CRT for short. Unless you watch an old TV series or move, you probably won’t see one of those. If you are young enough, you probably don’t know what they are.

I kid the Millenials. Dumb as posts and don’t know it. Strains of Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick are playing in my mind right now.

Even people who know nothing about electronics “know” that it flows positive->negative.

And then you take an Electronic course.

You find out that “positive->negative” flow is called “hole” flow or “conventional flow”. When you take an electonics course, you start off with textbooks that are “conventional flow”, when you get used to the basic formulas they hit you with “negative flow textbooks”. That’s what you need to know when you are solving circuit diagrams.

That’s a longer and more jargon laded explanation than wasn’t needed. For soldering RCA cables you solder the black wires to black (or to the negative terminal) and solder white or red wired to the white or red wire (or positive terminal).

I got very good at soldering RCA plugs. Of course you can buy solderless plugs, but if you don’t get that crimping right. Just saying…

To circle around back to the title of this blog. Mono is one speaker (and not just the left or the right channels of a stereo, or the others I will get to) it includes all the sound from the source (you will all the channels).

Bose has a great Soundtouch Color series that has great sound. Expensive but you really do get what you pay for. They also make Soundtouch 10 series, that you can link together from once source, or even pair to stereo.

JBL also makes great standalone mono speakers, with same kind of options. I have a red Soundtouch Color because it reminded me of a red transistor radio I got as a kid for Christmas. Nostalgia went a long way into the decision to buy it.

I also have a JBL Charge 3 bluetooth speaker I use for gaming speakers on my gaming machine.

And I have 2 of the JBL Flip 4 speakers I have paired in the bedroom. They are loud and last a long time on a charge, but remembering to charge them before you want to use them is a pita.

Stereo talk goes in a follow up blog.

Lubuntu, Court TV, and Diablo Immortal

The original Court TV started in ’91 right around the Menendez brothers trial, but it wasn’t until the O.J trial that they were really put on the Cable TV map. I was in a position to be able to watch it all day. That’s one of the perks of being self-employed (as I was at the time).

They rebranded as TruTv or something like that, and I think cable companies started dropping it. Repeats of the show COPS 24/7 wasn’t appealing to fans of the original channel.

It also didn’t help that Catherine Cryer and Nancy Grace went on to other pursuits.

They re-branded again, and you can watch it free OTA (Over The Air) or the live stream on their website. Yeah, you are going to see commercials. But if you are interested in the American legal system and like watching real court room drama, Court TV is for you.

I had a tablet stand I bought at a dollar store, and a 2 or 3 year old Samsung tablet. Quick setup, I now have a Court TV… TV

So, I’ve been watching that for a few weeks, and then yesterday, while turning on the tablet, I got a notice that Diablo Immortal beta had been released, I signed up for it, about 2 or 3 years ago.

I was faced with a dilemma: Do I keep my Court TV setup with the tablet, and do the beta testing when I want, switching back and forth as needed… or do I only use the tablet for the the game.

So I was thinking about this last night while I was not sleeping. I thought, “I know! I can just use an old laptop.” As it turns out I have a Toshiba Satellite that I bought as a present to me when I started working for the company I’m at now. 120gb drive, 2GB ram. Running Windows XP.

Two problems there. First XP computers should NOT be on the internet. Microsoft no longer supports or updates that version of Windows. If you are on the internet with XP and actually reading this, chances are you are now part of a bot network that hackers use. They really like to poop where they play. Go figure. Anyway. Don’t use Windows XP.

So the solution, of course is Linux. It needs very little resources to run. Not quite true for the very latest versions of KDE, Gnome, and probably Enlightenment (which could do all the eye candy very early on.)

Quick Google search brought up Lubuntu. It’s a version of Ubuntu that has a desktop that uses very little resources.

I burnt a copy of the ISO and started the install on the Toshiba. The chip was a Centrino Duo. So 32-bit. This laptop is over 15 years old, and the install and subsequent update took a long time. But it’s on there, and Firefox is running in kiosk mode with Court TV and their “fullscreen” mode enabled. Court TV… TV.

I’m kinda hooked on having that on in the background. Listening/half watching it as I typed this blog 🙂

But, right now, I do feel like doing some beta testing of Diablo Immortal with the toon I started.

Homonym pun: Stay tuned.

Text Editors – Part III (The DOS Years)

As part of an initiative to make our studies more productive, one of our programming teachers in college, managed to get a deal with a local computer shop for us to buy IBM XT clones at a discount.

(Remember this one of the lone computer sitting in the corner that I predicted would take off.)

The more people that went in on it, the cheaper it would be. My total cost was $1605.00 CDN

It it included a CGA card (Colour Graphics Adapter) and an amber monitor. It was an 8088 based system, with a 20meg 5 1/4″ drive. Later I bought another 20meg drive, and a 286 Card.

I can still remember the names of my favourite software:

DOSamatic, which I eventually repace with ARCmaster (you can still find this one online) it was like Midnight Commander or Norton Commander on steroids.

Turbo Basic

Turbo C

Turbo Pascal

All those Borland products can be found online also.

I became a big fan of Desqview, when I finally moved to a 386 system.

The first editor I became really proficient with was one called Qedit. (the exe was Q.exe)

It had Wordstar keystrokes

Let’s digress a little (kind of a rabbit hole)

Back in 1987 the three big software company’s were arguably IBM (For the Lotus 123 spreadsheet), Ashton-Tate (For dBase III+ a database), and Wordperfect Corporation for Wordperfect)

Wordperfect 4.2 was one of the most popular word processing programs during that time. Of course there was version 5 which was fairly popular, and 6 which started to get graphical, but 4.2 was THE program for word processing.

But there was another word processing program called WordStarIt was published by MicroPro International for CP/M (the pre-curser for DOS for the most part) but later ported to DOS.

The interface was… meh, but it’s legacy was it’s keyboard command combos.

To give you an idea of it’s popularity, you may have heard of a little TV series called A Game of Thrones.

The series of books is actually called A Song of  Ice and Fire written by George R.R Martin, and the first book is called A Game of Thrones. Nitpicking, I know.

Anyway he used the DOS version of WordStar 4.0. According to the wiki page he still uses it.

Canadian SF author Robert J. Sawyer uses v7.

The legacy for WordStar though, is that numerous text editors for DOS used WordStar key combinations. You can look them up but ^KS (Ctrl-K S) to save a file. Etc.

I randomly went through a few editors, until someone one one of the BBS’s I frequented (that’s a rabbit hole I could go on for dozen’s of posts, I’ll spare you that) recommended Qedit, which had the Wordstar key combos.

At one point I worked as an Assistant Research Programmer and then Teaching Assistant at the Royal Military College in Canada.

A panicked student came by, and she had a 3.5″ disk with  a “final paper” or something with that kind of importance on disk that she could no longer read on a lab computer.

I used Norton Utilities 5.0 which had a disk reading program that still hasn’t been duplicated today (as far as I know).

This utility let you read the raw blocks on a disk, basically ignoring the File Allocation Table. I was able to pull off anything written to the disk, binary, text, everything.

After that I used Qedit, loaded up the files, and removed all the binary and, and knowing the Wordperfect file format, extracted all her footnotes for her documents.

I handed her another disk with all the straight text. Gratitude doesn’t even describe her emotion.

But word got around that I could save dead disks, and any text that was on it. While I was doing that a colleague worked on writing a C program do extract the text from the files I’d saved.

So I have a soft spot for Qedit. It eventually became TSE (The Semware Editor). Qedit was a shareware program, but I don’t think a lot of people registered it. I found the “trial” version did everything I needed.

I had no problem registering programs, I’ve still have valid licenses for a lot of DOS programs.

I don’t know what it was about Qedit I didn’t like. Maybe it was nothing and I was just curious about what else was out there when it came to text editing.

I wasn’t interested in a word processor. Their forte was a wide selection of printer drivers.

I wanted something that you could edit code with efficiently. Vim for DOS was released around 1991. I think the Amiga version actually came first.

I was used to Qedit, so I looked for wordstar key compatible editors.

Not to toot my own horn but I was very good with editing using Qedit. I held two positions at Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. One as a “Assistant Research Programmer”, where I  helped RMC (as it is known) with their programming homework. and another as “Teacher’s Assistant” where I did pretty much the same thing, but also took on additional duties.

A student came to our room which  had the official name of “Research Center” with a disk of her (I don’t know RMC’s official name for it) thesis. Wordperfect (5.2) could no longer read her files.

My colleague, took the task of  writing a C program (this was before the days when C++ became popular) to pull off the information from the disk.

I used Norton Utilities 5.0 (DOS disk program) to pull off the raw data from the disk, I  loaded that  information into Qedit, and not only pulled out all of her Wordperfect text, but the footnotes for those documents.

When she came back later that afternoon, I told her I was sure I got all of her document,  AND the footnotes. I thought she was going to cry.

Even my colleague who was knee  deep in C code commented on her “gratefulness”.

I never saw her at the college again, but I’m guessing that word got around. The  head of the computing dept. With the apprpriate PHd, asked me to see if there were any Fortran programs on  a disk he could no longer read.

There wasn’t, but the word was out.

In my mind, a new and/or different DOS text editor, has to be able to do that kind of thing for me.

BTW, the closest thing to the Norton Utilities 5.0 Disk Editor is probably Steve Gibson’s “SpinRite”

I think with the larger and larger hard drives, utilities like that became less useful because of the sheer amount of time it would take to process each sector.

Next blog in this series is about my 3 favourite text editors.

Hobbies (Gaming part I)


I’m going to review the games I’ve been playing.

In the approximate order I acquired them, these are my hobbies:

Reading, movies, writing, listening to music, Meccano, playing a musical instrument, RPG gaming, computers (in general), programming, PC gaming, photography, knife making, leatherworking.

Depending how I’m feeling, I jump around to whatever hobby appeals to me at the time. Right now it’s writing. 🙂

I won’t go through the history of my gaming (gah, i don’t think i’d want to read that myself 🙂 Speed history: burnt out on text adventures/RPG style games, didn’t really like side scrollers (although Impossible Mission and Lemmings was interesting), I liked simulation games (Simcity and the other Maxis games).

I’m a big fan of empire building games, from simple to complex. I like d Galactic Empire Builder on the C64 so much, I added AI to it, and eventually ported it to a Palmpilot.

Ok, rabbit hole 🙂 This is what the C64 version looks like. I installed a C64 emulator and found the game.

Should be a darker background and more colour.I don’t know what it is about the game I’m fascinated with, but I also have the basic of a Windows version. I wrote it in Tcl/Tk. I think I’m gonna have to work on it again. I still have the Palmpilot code I wrote and all the enhancements I I wrote for it (Adjustable AI, Orbital ships, etc.). I have the start of a Pebble watch version of the game …

I have a version I started in python. Looks like this:

I need to get back to it. Again, one of those hobbies that strikes me..

Eddie Van Halen

Given the nunber of music posts I’ve written, I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t post on this subject.

My mind was changed when he first got married and they showed “Valarie and Eddie at home” He was sitting on the couch playing an acoustic guitar, and I saw that he was good. ‘Course then he lied through his teeth saying the groupies were over. For some reason thought they didn’t have long as a married couple. I was surprised when I found out they were married 26 years.

Full discloser: He wasn’t my favourite guitarist. At first I thought he was too flashy (a la Jimi Hendrix teeth picking the guitar but not showing any other skill than that).

Van Halen’s firt album is great. Shows off his talent, blah blah. But then the rest of the Van Halen albums came out. Each invidiually sucked in their own way.

C’mon fanboys (or girls) listen to the first album, and then ANY of the other albums. They are too commercial. Don’t even come close to showing off his talent.

Frankly I’m surprised he didn’t want to put out a solo album of guitar work.

The list of people who invented tapping is long. Sure, he took it to a technically proficient level. But Billy Shehan does the same thing on bass.

And Tina S. plays “Eruption” like is was a plain ordinary daily dump.

Just sayin’

Who is my favourite guitarist. I have a few for different reasons. For Blues style, Robin, Trower, Stevie Ray Vaugn, Rory Gallagher

For that “boogie shuffle rhythm” Johnny Cash or Marc Bolan

For technical profiency and for a guitar lead that “fits” the song. Ritchie Blackmore, Ace Frehley-ish, Tony Iommi, Kelly Johnson, Samantha Fish. A few others

So my list of NOT the best guitarists who are and will ever be forever in the whole universe, goes like this: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen.

Yup, not a popular opinon, but I go by good output, not the hype.

Sure. Prove me wrong… I’m waiting…