I was driving up to our Burlington store with the windows open yesterday as temperatures were in the 50s. Â If it wasn’t for the fact that it gets dark about 4 PM around here, I’d think it was May. I was working in the store when a customer came in with a helmet in hand and knew that I just had to set a new record for the latest I have ridden my motorcycle in Vermont. Â My previous best was December 5th, so December 14th will smash that old record since I am planning on taking a ride this afternoon since we remain in the 50s with no snow in sight! Â I love working up at the Burlington store from time to time, to meet the customers and see which products are in demand, but Hammerhead seems to like it even more. Â Hammerhead is the store’s official greeter. Â He’ll go up to any customer with his whole rear end wagging since he has such a stubby tail. Â Â It is a great way to greet customers because I watch as they scratch his butt (which he LIVES FOR) and smile. Â Nothing like a smiling happy customer! Â I told Hapy that Hammerhead needed a raise.
What’s selling this year? Â iPods are selling for sure and we are trying to keep up with the demand. Â I’d say that the refurbished iPod values were the first to go, followed closely by the new iPod shuffle and then iPod nanos. Â What is interesting this year over last year is that there is a more sophisticated customer looking at iPod accessories. Â That is one reason that we built our sound room at the Burlington store and it is almost always full of customers looking and listening to the speaker selections. Â The iHome continues to sell well, however the two other hot sellers this year are the AudioEngine speakers and Apple’s iPod HiFi.
Mac Treat # 8: Automatically Open Applications at Login
This is a tip for people who frequently power off their Macs, but always launch the same applications when turning their Mac back on. People like me – I mainly use a MacBook Pro, which I almost always shut off when I’m traveling. There are a couple of applications I always launch at login – Mail, NewsFire, and at work, our accounting software called K9.
OS 10.4 gives you a couple methods for automatically launching applications when you log into your Macs user account,saving several seconds of clicking and waiting.
Method one: Launch System Preferences (Click on the blue Apple at the upper left hand of your monitor, then select System Preferences), and then click on the â€œAccountsâ€ icon. Select the tab reading “Login Items.â€ Next, click the â€œ+â€ icon in the lower corner of the window. Now youâ€™ll see the contents of your Applications folder. Simply select the application you want to load on start, and click â€œAdd.â€
Method two (even easier): Launch the application you want to launch at login. Right-click (or control-click) on itâ€™s icon in your Mac’s dock, then select â€œOpen at Login.”
To stop an application from launching at login, simply launch the application, right-click (or control-click) on itâ€™s icon in the dock, and then deselect â€œOpen at Login.”
Best iTunes Format Feedback By Ed @ Smalldog.com
This is a follow-up to an article I wrote last week, detailing how I determined the best audio format and bitrate for importing music into iTunes. I determined that this was a 256 kbps AAC file. This sounded great to me, virtually indistinguishable from Apple Losseless, while also keeping an acceptably small file size. I am going to erase the music I imported as an MP3, and reimport the CDs as 256 kbps AAC files.
In that article, I asked for feedback. I am publishing some of that feedback, and answering some questions in this article. Also, I must apologize for writing “ACC” instead of “AAC.” AAC stands for Advanced Audio Coding, and is the correct term. I don’t know what ACC stands for! I apologize for the error.
Joseph R. asked:
“Did you notice a difference between a 320 kbps MP3 and a 320 kbps AAC file?”
The answer is technically yes, though in practical experience I would never notice the difference. A 320 kbps AAC file was indistinguishable from the Apple Lossless format, and is almost the same size as an Apple Lossless file.”
A reader named Paul wrote in asking if I was saying “that AAC at 192kps is better sounding than the mp3 or apple lossless encoder? What are you basing your listening experience to? Headphones, living room music or ipod?”
My response: I think AAC encoded by iTunes at 192 kbps definitely sounds better to me than an MP3 encoded by iTunes at 192 kbps – though both sound good.” Paul streams his music wirelessly; in most cases, I doubt he’d hear the difference between the two files. I based my comparison on music playing from my MacBook Pro, volume set at 2/3 in iTunes and 2/3 on the computer. I used a pair of professional Sony MDR-7509HD Studio Headphones. I listened to the music over and over again in a quiet room, taking notes the entire time.
Clyde B. wrote in saying,
“I imported all my songs from cd’s and used AAC. Â Because I need the disc space, I have exported my iTunes library to DVD’s and CD’s as data discs, and play back from them whenever I want to listen to particular albums. Â If I reimport the library from data discs, is there any loss? Â Since I gave my original CD’s to the library or swapped them for other CD’s, I do not have any originals for comparison…”
The answer is, simply copy the AAC files into iTunes. Just drag the AAC files off the DVDs and CDs directly into iTunes. You can even use iTunes 7 to create a new, fresh iTunes library as needed. Don’t re- compress your AAC files; you might lose sound quality.
Several readers wrote in asking if I ever used programs such as jHymn or the iMovie hack to strip the DRM from iTunes Store-purchased music. I have, but this is a legally grey area. Also, I find burning and reimporting the song to work best for me, as I then have the music backed up on CD.
Paul W. asked:
“In iTunes preferences where you set the import settings on my G5 it says, “optimized for Velocity Engine”. However on my MacBook Pro it says, Optimized for MMX/SSE2. They are both set for the same bit rate so why the difference? Is it because one is Intel & one PowerPC? Will it effect sound quality depending on what one I imported on?”
Your MacBook Pro is telling you that iTunes will take advantage of Intel’s MMX/SSE2 multimedia processor extensions. This makes processing certain kinds of data, especially multimedia, more efficient. Power PC based Macs used the Velocity Engine for this. This effects the speed of the encoding, but not the quality of the encoded audio file.
Steve A. wrote:
“Being an audiophile myself, my goal is for as nearly perfect, true- to-life reproduction as possible. So, I’m willing to sacrifice disk space for higher bitrates and sampling sizes.
When capturing vinyl recordings, I use an uncompressed 24-bit, 96KHz format. After cleaning up all the pops, clicks, and wear, I apply dither and downsample to 16-bit, 44.1KHz uncompressed AIF. This allows me to make audio CD copies of my vinyl recordings. For importation into iTunes, I transcode the 16/44.1 files into Apple Lossless format. I also use the Apple Lossless format when importing commercially available audio CDs.
As for compressed material I find online or on sampler or compilation CDs, I don’t do any further transcoding. I can hear ultrasonic dog whistles, so I can hear the compression artifacts found in the usual bitrates used for MP3 or AAC files; 128, 160, and 192. While it’s true that the higher bitrate MP3s and AACs, such as 256 and 356, are nearly audibly indistinguishable from lossless formats, they take up almost the same amount of disk space as well. So, I just use the lossless, knowing that I still have the option of transcoding into a compressed format if necessary.”
Nat K., an audio professional from San Francisco wrote in saying, “The bottom line about sound quality is: if it SOUNDS good, it IS good. Â Whatever works for your own personal pair of ears. Â If you don’t hear a loss of sound quality using your method of re-ripped (as opposed to re-imported) music, then it works well for you. Â Others with more stringent guidelines for sound quality might, or might not, disagree. Â There is no absolute.
Using the highest resolution/bit rate feasible is the best way to go, and by “feasible” I mean the size of your storage device. Â Audio compression algorithms trade audio quality for convenience, the most extreme example being low-bit-rate cell phone voice compression, which can sound like you’re talking from inside Pluto (the dog, or the former planet, your choice). Â The various music compression schemes have been devised with just this trade-off in mind, and the higher the sound quality, the greater the storage space required.
We sacrifice one thing for another, and there are no free rides in the world of audio, not even a free lunch, unless the band brings its own catering.”
Nat also wrote “I fully trust that you are doing this for your own personal enjoyment…” I do, but that’s an interesting subject to discuss. We’ll take the subject of sharing music and DRM up in a future issue Kibbles & Bytes!
Computer Resolutions 2006 By Ed @ Smalldog.com
It’s almost the time of year to make New Years Resolutions again! We’re going to list our New Years computer resolutions in the 12/29/06 issue of Kibbles and Bytes. I can already tell you that one of my computer resolutions is to back up my computer once a week, instead of once a month. What are your resolutions? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will publish them here, in Kibbles & Bytes!
Predictions, 2006 By Don @ Smalldog.com
It’s that time of year again where we review how I did last year in predictions for 2006. Â We’ll have 2007 predictions in the 12/29 issue of Kibbles & Bytes.
Let’s see how I did:
Baseball: Cubbies. They’ll meet the Yankees and win in six.
—-> Just wait until next year!
NBA: Â The Celtics squeak into the playoffs because they play in a weak division and surprise Indiana with a first-round victory, then fall to the Heat in the second round. San Antonio repeats as NBA champs, beating the Pistons for the second year in a row. This year LeBron James is the league MVP
Celts – Just wait for a couple years. Miami crushed Dallas Steve Nash won the MVP award for the second year in a row.
Football: It’s da Bears! The Bears’ defense stifles all comers and they end up playing the Patriots (who crush the Colts) in the Super Bowl. In a repeat of Super Bowl XX, the Bears beat the Pats 27-3.
—–>Just wait until THIS year!!
NHL: Who cares?
—–>I still don’t care.
Scottish Games: Hapy rises in the rankings and is ranked above #70.
—–>Hapy rose in the ranks and is currently ranked #86 out of 992 competitors
Winter Olympics: The Torino Games will be a huge success, with the USA winning gold in skiing and skating but failing to win in hockey.
—–>The USA did win gold in skiing and skating and failed to place in hockey — score one for Don!
January will see a straight week of below 0’F temperatures followed by the “January Thaw” in Vermont.
—–>Global warming saw moderate temperatures that never fell below 0Â°F and rose as high as 55Â°F
There will be a snowfall in Vermont of more than 36 inches in 48 hours.
—–>Nope. Â It was a miserable year for snow.
Temperatures in Vermont in March will hit a record high of 75 deg F, causing widespread flooding.
—–>It did hit 74Â° F but the lack of snow pack mitigated any serious flooding.
There will be fewer hurricanes this year, but they will continue to be stronger than normal.
Another early spring in Vermont. I’ll be motorcycling by April 7th.
—–>I was out in March.
A late autumn will be followed by an unusually snowy November in Vermont.
—–>Autumn was a bit late but November was one of the warmest on record.
The midterm elections will herald a shift in power as at least one house of Congress passes to Democratic control.
—–>Both houses passed to Democratic control — #2 Don got right.
Bernie Sanders will be elected as the first avowed Independent Socialist senator from Vermont.
—–>Bernie won in a landslide – #3
Scudder Parker will win the Vermont governor’s race after a hotly contested recount.
—–>Scudder lost after a strong campaign.
There will be a major shakeup in the Bush administration.
—–>Can you say Rummy? Â – #4
Karl Rove will be indicted in the Valerie Plame case.
—–>How did he get out of that one?
Contentious hearings on the nomination of Judge Alito will result in a filibuster, the “nuclear” option, confirmation, and a Constitutional crisis.
Hearings on domestic spying will result in new bipartisan legislation limiting the power of the President to spy on U.S. citizens.
—–>well, not yet!
In a tragic repeat of last year, Iraq will continue to drain resources and kill young soldiers and innocent civilians, and the Iraqi people will continue to suffer.
—–>I SO MUCH hate to be right about this one!
There will be confirmed contact with alien life
—–>no – but water on Mars!!!
Bird flu will cause illness throughout the world, however, it will be a less virulent strain than anticipated.
North Korea will agree to abandon its nuclear weapons in exchange for a peace treaty with the U.S. and South Korea
Iran will continue to isolate itself from the world, resulting in ineffective sanctions from the UN.
—–>yes, and holding that sad holocaust denial conference
Osama bin Laden will be captured by U.S. commandos in Pakistan but will commit suicide.
—–>Osama is stall on the loose
There will be a U.S. military intervention in Latin America.
—–>Thank God, no!
After a particularly severe winter, oil prices will rise, causing gasoline to reach $4/gallon by the summer.
—–>Gas went up into the $3 range but plummeted in time for the election – coincidence?
Terrorist threats will close U.S. airports.
New Orleans will rebuild and residents will be rushing back after Mardi Gras.
—–>New Orleans is recovering but has a long way to go
There will be a major earthquake.
Continued labor unrest will force Congress to consider health care reform.
—–>Maybe the new congress will begin that process
A major U.S. auto manufacturer will seek bankruptcy protection.
—–>No, but damn close!
Apple’s move to Intel processors results in an unprecedented increase in market share.
—–>That IS happening, big time!
Apple or third-party software solutions allow Intel-based Macs to run any Windows software.
—–>That IS happening
Apple will move further into the consumer electronics markets with new products for music and video.
—–>Wait until next year!
Apple will introduce their own cell phone.
—–>Wait until next year!
Apple will finally settle with the Beatles and their songs will be on the iTunes Music Store.
—–>Wait until next year!
Apple will introduce their first Intel-based Mac at the Macworld Expo in January.
—–> Nailed that one!
Steve Jobs will be Time Magazine’s man of the year.
Apple will introduce a palm-top full-featured computer.
Apple stock will split 2 to 1 and reach $100/share (pre-split).
—–>nope but close on the $100/share
Apple will make a startling acquisition.
—–>I have not been startled
There will be consolidation in the ranks of Apple resellers.
—–>Some but nothing dramatic
High Definition TV will result in record sales for flat-panel TVs and create an increasing eWaste problem.
—–> yes on both counts
Voice over Internet will be commercialized to a greater extent, threatening traditional phone companies.
Free wireless internet access points will replace fee-based systems in public locations.
—–> yes in some locations
TiVo as we know it will become obsolete
—–> TiVo Lives!
Small Dog Electronics:
Small Dog Electronics will post record sales.
—–> Yes, thanks to our new S. Burlington store!
Podjungle.com will account for 10% of Small Dog revenue.
—–> No, Podjungle.com was a flop
Small Dog will have popular blogs and podcasts for its customers
—–> Yes we have them, are they popular?
Small Dog will have technology to allow voice communication from its website to our customer service people.
—–> Not yet
Small Dog will diversify into one additional product category and have a new website online by the end of the year.
—–>Nope – we decided to open a fantastic flagship store instead!
Windows Vista on a PC vs. an Apple By Jimmy @ Smalldog.com
Iâ€™ve been playing with the RTM of Windows Vista for a couple weeks now (available to businesses and MSDN users) and Iâ€™ve actually enjoyed it quite a lot. The install process is quick and most of my drivers were installed. I think I had to install the latest NVIDIA drivers on my PC but other then that it caught everything else. It even worked when I plugged the computer into my HDTV.
There was one major issue I came across though. It was my sound. I have on-board nForce4 audio and it works really nice for the first 20 minutes or so. When I am in the middle of watching a movie or listening to music it will start to sound really funky and crackles. Iâ€™ve looked all over the internet for a fix and asked all my friends who might know something about the issue. Apparently it was a known issue and that NVIDIA would release some Vista compatible drivers. Mind you Vista hasnâ€™t been released to consumers yet. I am not really sure what drivers were auto-installed when I initially installed Vista but they werenâ€™t very good.
I then tried to use my Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 PCI card and that was a complete failure. I read multiple threads on the Creative message boards that talked about installing some other driver called kX and supposedly that would fix the issue but I couldnâ€™t get it to work whatsoever.
I then read on another website about how the Realtek drivers might work, and without actually checking to see if my board was using the Realtek chip I downloaded and installed the Realtek software and installed it. It didnâ€™t work at all so I was about to give up.
My last attempt was downloading the Vista RC1 drivers from NVIDIAs website. I un-installed my current drivers and re-installed with the RC1 drivers. Iâ€™ve been watching a movie in Media Center for 30 minutes or so now and I havenâ€™t had any major issues. I did notice that the sound got distorted when I was moving the volume up or down.
That was all on a PC. AMD Athlon64 3500+, 2GBs RAM, DFI LanParty UT nF4, SATA Drives. I would have thought that it would have worked with no hitches. Guess not. I had to go through ALL of that just to get my sound working. I donâ€™t think it would be proper to blame this on Microsoft/Windows though. I think itâ€™s the fact that NVIDIA hasnâ€™t provided me or other NVIDIA audio users with the appropriate drivers for my sound card. Windows Vista is final, itâ€™s ready to go out to customers and NVIDIA isnâ€™t keeping up with their drivers.
So where does Apple come in here
I have Vista installed on 2 machines, the one in the previous paragraph and this one; an Apple MacBook 2.0GHz Core Duo, 2GBs RAM, 80GB HDD.
My first attempt to install Windows Vista on a Macintosh was through Parallels. It work perfectly fine minus the fact that I didnâ€™t get the Aero (glassy windows) effects. Other then that it worked great and I had no issues with it.
I really wanted the pretty eye-candy so I installed Boot Camp (v1.1.2) and popped in the Vista installation DVD. Rebooted and installed Vista, no issues at all. I had made a drivers CD from the Boot Camp application, so after the Vista install I stuck that in and went through the drivers installation. No problem there either. Those drivers are also meant for Windows XP not Vista, yet they worked great for the most of it.
Thereâ€™s only a couple things I know that arenâ€™t working. These things I didnâ€™t even expect to work and seem more like â€œextrasâ€. The iSight, Bluetooth, double finger scrolling, screen brightness and volume control via the F keys. Itâ€™s not like major things arenâ€™t working. Sound, airport, some Apple keyboard functions, Aero glass, Ethernet, and battery functions are all working.
How is it that my Apple computer works 100x better with Windows Vista then my PC?! I do hope that Apple releases some Windows Vista compatible drivers for their computers. I see no reason why they wonâ€™t although it may not be until January 30th, 2007 or later since thatâ€™s when Microsoft will release Vista to consumers.
I am sure NVIDIA will be releasing an update for Vista soon enough. Something I did read was that Creative dropped support of the Live! 5.1 card and have no intentions of updating them for Vista. Oh well, guess Iâ€™ll just wait for NVIDIA.
Overall I am impressed with Windows Vista on both my Macintosh MacBook and on my PC, but saying anything more is another blog post for another time!
Here are the specials for this week, valid through December 22th or while on-hand supplies last. Be sure to use the wag URL to get this special pricing!
Holiday Gift Guide, Bundles, and Specials:
iBook 14in G4/1.33 256/60/Superdrive, FREE 512 RAM Chip – $929.00
PowerBook 15in G4/1.5GHz 512/80/combo/AP/BT – $1099.00
Save on Titan Gear iPod Nano 2G Kit with iPod Nano Bundles!
iPod nano 4gb Silver (2006), GizMac Titan Gear iPod Nano 2G Attachment pack (web only) – $209.00
iPod nano 4gb Pink (2006), GizMac Titan Gear iPod Nano 2G Attachment pack (web only) – $209.00
iPod nano 4gb Green (2006), GizMac Titan Gear iPod Nano 2G Attachment kit (Web Only) – $209.00!
iPod nano 4gb Blue (2006), GizMac Titan Gear iPod Nano 2G Attachment kit: (Web Only) – $209!
Apple 23″ LCD Cinema Display, Applecare Protection Plan – $1059!
All Applecare on sale – save up to $60!
$200 instant rebate and FREE express shipping on Final Cut Studio 5.1! Rebate code: saveonstudio
MacBook Pro 17in 2.33GHz 2GB/160, FREE MacCase 17in Sleeve (black) – $2799!
Brenthaven Edge I Black for 13.3in MacBook, FREE Kingston 256mb USB Flash Drive- $49.00!
Brenthaven Edge I Black for 13.3in MacBook, FREE Kingston 256mb USB Flash Drive- $49.00!
Nike + iPod Sport Kit for iPod Nano, with Marware Sportsuit (use Nike + iPod w/ any shoes) – $34.99
iMac 24in Intel 2.16GHz 1gb/250/Superdrive, Final Cut Express HD 3.5, 500GB D2 Drive – $2549!
M-Audio E-Keys 37 USB Direct-Connect 37-Keyboard – $39!
Miglia DLG-01 Dialog Phone for Skype and iChat AV – $65.00
Kensington SX2000 Speaker System for iPod – $49.00!
Palm Tungsten Z22 Handheld color organizer – $89.00
MacBook 13in 2.0GHz 1gb/120/Superdrive/black, Final Cut Express HD 3.5, LaCie 250gb D2 drive – $1949
Olympus Stylus 750 Digital Camera 7.1 Megapixel (Black) + FREE 512 MB xD memory card – $379!
Apple iPod Hi-Fi Speaker System, FREE $25.00 iTunes Gift Card, FREE 3- day express shipping! – $349!
Apple iPod Hi-Fi Speaker System, FREE $25.00 iTunes Gift Card, FREE 3- day express shipping! – $349!
Apple .Mac 4.0 1yr Internet Service, New or Renewal, w/ FREE Kingston 512mb USB Flash drive – $99!
Two FB-DIMM 667MHz DDR2 1GB RAM chips with FREE Kingston 256 flash drive – $389.00!
I’ll be helping out up in Burlington again this weekend. Â I’ll bring Hammerhead along for some greeting work. Â Remember when I told you about Hammer’s hot spots and allergies. Â We finally decided to get him a food allergy test and it turns out that he is allergic to beef (which is the main ingredient of the dog food we have been making for him), duck, chicken, venison, soybeans and peanuts! Â The vet that has been helping Hammer got us a report of all the dog foods and treats that he can safely eat so now we don’t have to make his food any longer and I am confident that his hot spots will be a thing of the past.
Have a great December weekend! Â Thank you for reading Kibbles & Bytes and for all of the support of Small Dog Electronics. Â We know it is you, our loyal customers, that has made our company a success!
Your Kibbles & Bytes team,
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