Archive for the ‘Hi-Fi & Music’ Category

TapTitle Case

8 Sep 2008 14:16 by Rick

Title case is the way that the capitalisation is done for titles of things like songs, books and articles. Having had a hunt around, there doesn’t seem to be a good definition on how it should be done. Wikipedia describes a range of rules but doesn’t come down in favour of any of them except to say that it is not fashionable among publishers. Even so, if you are producing, say, a list of albums and songs for a media centre then it looks a lot better if you are consistent and, as the article points out, it is easier to automate rather than using sentence case and trying to spot the proper nouns.

The best rules I can come up with are…

  • Start with a capital.
  • Capitalise after spaces but not other punctuation.
  • Don’t capitalise any one or two letter words (except I) nor certain three letter words:—and, but, for, the, via & others for foreign languages (e.g. les, des).
  • Like all good rule sets there are always exceptions but these have to be done by hand.

TapSonos – one year on

20 Aug 2008 13:07 by Rick

I wrote nearly a year ago of our move into whole house audio with the Sonos system. It has been a great success and is in use every day. We use it for the radio news in the mornings, dinner time music in the evenings and background music for parties. We now have over 50GB of music stored which consists of 99% of all the CDs we own, 80% of the cassette tapes and I am making good progress digitising the vinyl records.

Some things have changed with new models—we applaud the company for keeping them 100% compatible with the previous range. They now have the ZP90 which upgrades the ZP80 to 802.11n wireless with its longer range. The ZP100 has been replaced by the ZP120 which is smaller and with (reportedly) a better quality amplifier but reduces it to two wired network ports and loses the analogue line out sockets. The software updates have sligtly increased the index capacity and introduced various streaming music services (which we don’t use). The BR100 bridge solves the problem of the cost of the network attachment, but there have been no earth shattering advances.

So what is the future. Well for us it will be getting another node for the bedroom when we redecorate soon. But for Sonos, where will they go next. As you would expect, the forum members have a lot of ideas ranging from minor tweaks to the user interface, through a modernised controller to full video streaming capabilities.

In my opinion there is one thing that stands out as deficient and will be affecting sales. That is the need to have a raft of non-Sonos equipment behind the scenes to support it. These include a broadband connected network (not necessarily wireless); network attached disk storage for the music, either NAS or a computer; a computer with CD drive to transfer stuff to disk and also to manage the library adding titles, artists, album art etc. To some extent this is true of other devices such as portable MP3 players but these integrate very closely into computer media players; iPod with iTunes and most others with Windows Media Player; the storage is in the device. Loading is just a matter of drag-and-drop.

When I wrote about this last time I suggested a collaboration with an existing NAS supplier and leaving the ripping and management alone. This may still be the best way but could be enhanced by “arranging” for the media players to recognise the Sonos system in the same way that they see portable players. However! I see that some other manufacturers have gone the whole way and provide truly integrated servers.

Naim Audio have leapt into the market in a big way (and very very expensive). They are offering most of the Sonos benefits (claiming some as firsts) plus some extra features; an integrated storage/rip station server; synchronisation of libraries across the internet (so your country cottage has the same library as your city apartment—at this price, these are the customers they want); 24bit audiophile capability; integrated DAB/FM tuners, multiple line-in facilities; and integration of portable MP3 players, though I am not sure all of these are actually available yet. Of course this is way out of the market for mortals, the basic HDX server is £4,500 and you would be looking at £25,000+ and installed by professionals for a full house system. Still, there are ideas there that Sonos could pick up… (what is curious is that the controller looks like a 1970’s computer screen!)

At a more modest cost, Sony GigaJuke and Philips Streamium offer music servers. These are Middle-Fi systems but are simple and cheap so will capture the mass market. Are Sonos happy to let this go? I want to come in from the shop, slide a disk into the slot and play it NOW.

TapHot stuff

18 Aug 2008 14:24 by Rick

As we had a surplus of loyalty points I splashed out on an MP3 player the other day. Not wanting an overpriced iPod I got the Samsung YP-T10 which does everything I need and has 4GB of memory and Bluetooth. I have not figured out the latter yet but can load the music from my Mac with a third party application XNJB.

The controls on this device (apart from the on/off switch) are a touch pad which is heat rather than pressure sensitive. So it works from your fingers but not hard objects in your pocket or knocks. Putting it in my shirt top pocket I find that it keeps cutting out—it is clearly warm in there and the “little bumps on my chest” …

I will have to put it in the pocket control side out!

TapPlanet Rock future secured

6 Jun 2008 08:35 by Rick

After having been doomed to closure back in March, Planet Rock’s future has been secured by being bought out by rock music fan Malcolm Bluemel. I’m sorry I can’t say the same for The Jazz which has closed to just become an occasional program on Classic FM.

TapLeaked news of new Sonos models

5 Jun 2008 12:11 by Rick

Engadget has this information. In addition to the features mentioned in the article (Smaller, 802.11n wireless, no analogue out) I also note the following: There doesn’t seem to be room for the massive torroidal transformer of the ZP100; this must affect the quality of the power supply: smaller and a plastic rather than die-cast case. Similarly it is a two pin rather than three pin mains offering no earthing, and there are only two RJ45 sockets, though I doubt many people use more. This looks like they may be using many common parts between this model and the suggested replacement for the ZP80, whereas currently there are very few.

The intelligent speculation suggests that the wireless mesh will remain and that it will communicate “g” to old models though it is uncertain if the whole system will then be “g” if one device is. I can’t see that this will be a problem as it works quite adequately but the greater “n” range will be appreciated by those who need it. I hope the “n” signals use 5GHz as they should do.

I expect this is only a small part of a larger product range revamp. This particular model looks like a move to reduce cost and hence price. What people are also looking for is an improved controller and larger index capacity.

TapSonos bonus

17 May 2008 11:37 by Rick

A problem we have had with our very tall house has been getting Wi-Fi access from the top to the bottom. Our office, with all the gear, is at the top but Mary likes to work at the bottom while eating breakfast etc. In order to get a decent signal I had resorted to putting the access point on the top landing with the aerial horizontal and sticking over the edge of the stairs. To reach this required a cat5 cable out of the office door, behind the book case and over the bedroom door. The power had to come out under the bedroom door as there were no convenient sockets.

Then Dave and I had a wizard wheeze. The Sonos music system runs wireless throughout the house and each box has a built in switch with 2 or 4 RJ45 sockets. So I have now connected the access point to the Sonos in the sitting room (the middle of the house) and reception works anywhere with no trailing wires. It needs two wireless hops, one to the access point and then one over SonosNet to the router but it doesn’t seem to affect performance very much.

TapThe day the music will die

7 May 2008 22:11 by Rick

I have just heard that MS are disconnecting the MSN Music (otherwise know as PlaysForSure) authentication server. Part of me is saying “told you so” but I can’t help feeling sorry for those who bought tracks and will find that they can no longer play them. After 31-Aug it will be DeadForSure if you have to change your PC, get a new hard drive etc. They will discover that they haven’t bought the music, just rented it for a while.

TapDesert Island Discs

14 Apr 2008 13:01 by Rick

At the end of a particularly good meal on Saturday, the talk drifted to concerts we had been to recently and then onto favourite pieces of music. The Brother-in-law said that he had been to (or had organised?) events where a few guests were invited to put their favourite five pieces of music onto a CD and talk up to them in the manner of Desert Island Discs. When asked what my favourites would be I quickly rattled off

Later I realised that these would not do at all. They were chosen because they are the most beautiful pieces of music I know—but I couldn’t give any other good reason for choosing them. They don’t hold any special memories for me so I will have to think again if I am ever to do this. In practice, if stranded on an island, I would prefer a book like the Guinness: British Hit Singles and Albums because, for the older ones at least, I can sing them in my head for days, whistle or hum them and it would require no power. I am not so good at remembering words.

TapNot only “The Jazz” but “Planet Rock” to go

12 Feb 2008 10:01 by Rick

The announcement by the corporate suits describes them as “non core brands.” What on earth does than mean when they are in the radio business; what they mean is that there is not enough profit. I think they are very mistaken; DAB Radio is only just beginning to take off in a big way so they need to hang on for a bit. It takes a while for the market to go from niche to mainstream and, as portable radios die, they will be replaced by DAB now the price is right—that is unless all the broadcasters pull out.

And this is only one day after I managed to figure out how to stream “Planet Rock” to my music player. These stations don’t make it easy by not publishing their stream addresses; whizzy popup javascript windows are no good at all, nor is proprietary real-player format. Planet Rock is if you need to know.

I had never heard of “The Jazz” but would have listened if I knew that a decent Jazz station existed, I tried “Jazz FM” a while ago but that was feeble; perhaps I will have to give it another try.

TapAll about Magic Nodes

11 Jan 2008 12:41 by Rick

Having got involved in discussions on the forum, I found that the Magic Nodes script for Media Monkey had advanced considerably since the last documentation was written. With little time to spare and without English as his first language, the author was unable to do this. So, rather than just gripe, I have put together a manual for Magic Nodes for MediaMonkey3 with the approval and being proof-read by Zvazdan, the author of the script.

At the moment it is in PDF format (but this may change) and documents the script at release It will be updated in-situ and revisions will be announced on the forum thread.

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