Call Me Crazy

…but this non-Apple mockup of a future MacBook Pro certainly seems to be the direction Cupertino is heading. I’m not sure how I feel about a touchscreen keyboard since I hated the one on my old iPad, but as was pointed out by JP earlier today in a conversation we were having, if Apple provides some sort of haptic feedback to simulate actual key presses, it might not be such a bad way to go

And getting rid of mechanical keys would certainly do away with their current crop of keyboard problems that stem from Jony Ive’s fanatical drive to make the thinnest device possible. I mean, you can’t get much thinner than a touch screen, can you? It would also alleviate my own personal bugaboo about keyboards in general, the way the most used physical keys get worn down and shiny from constant use.

What do you think?

Our Technology is Haunted By Cheating, Trans-Human Lifeforms

From Demon Haunted World (an excellent article that you should take the time to read in full):

From Dieselgate to Wannacry to HP’s sleazy printer ink chicanery, we are increasingly colonized by demon-haunted things controlled by nonhuman life-forms (corporations) that try to trick, coerce or scare us into acting against our own best interests. These devices go to great length to hide their workings from us, making them the ideal host organisms for opportunistic malware infections. Worst of all, the law puts its thumb on the scales in favor of demons, and against exorcists.

Alchemists—like all humans—are mediocre lab-technicians. Without peer reviewers around to point out the flaws in their experiments, alchemists compounded their human frailty with bad experi­mental design. As a result, an alchemist might find that the same experiment would produce a ‘‘differ­ent outcome’’ every time.

In reality, the experiments lacked sufficient con­trols. But again, in the absence of a peer reviewer, alchemists were doomed to think up their own explanations for this mysterious variability in the natural world, and doomed again to have the self-serving logic of hubris infect these explanations.

That’s how alchemists came to believe that the world was haunted, that God, or the Devil, didn’t want them to understand the world. That the world actually rearranged itself when they weren’t looking to hide its workings from them. Angels punished them for trying to fly to the Sun. Devils tricked them when they tried to know the glory of God—indeed, Marcelo Rinesi from The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies called modern computer science ‘‘applied demonology.’’

In the 21st century, we have come full circle. Non-human life forms—limited liability corpo­rations—are infecting the underpinnings of our ‘‘smart’’ homes and cities with devices that obey a different physics depending on who is using them and what they believe to be true about their surroundings.

“A Referral Was Returned From The Server”

As much as I bitch and complain about the Apple OS, let’s not forget that I have to support their chief rival’s abortion in the corporate environment—and Windows is still far. and. away. a more fucked up system than macOS or OS X or whatever the hell the brain trust in Cupertino wants to call it these days could ever be.

The latest bit of banging-my-head-against-the-wall comes from that delightful little error message above. It popped up today while I was trying to install a driver for a standalone thermal printer. First off who was the genius that wrote it? Somewhere, at some point in time, some asshole programmer must have thought, “Let’s write the most obscure error message possible.”

For those of you who have the displeasure of encountering this bit of fuckery on a Windows 10 box running in a corporate (domain) environment, the solution is actually rather simple, but annoying as hell. Trying to run the offending installer as a local admin didn’t work. Trying to run it with administrator rights didn’t work. Disabling UAC (we’re getting warmer, but still no cigar) was a suggested solution via the Google, but didn’t solve the problem either. What I ultimately discovered that it was some godforsaken issue with something in the Domain Group Policy and UAC. Simply disabling UAC on the local machine won’t fix the problem; and since I didn’t have rights to do anything with the the Domain’s Group Policy, the only way to make it work is to remove the device from the domain entirely in order for the software to install.

I now have this documented at work since apparently none of my coworkers have ever encountered it—with the current thorn-in-my-side (who already views and treats me as just an ignorant imaging tech and not a full-fledged desktop tech with more years of experience than she’s been alive) looking at me like an escapee from the Short Bus when I told her I had to remove the machine from the domain in order to install a printer driver.

I’m glad it’s Friday…


Not Surprising

From TechnoBuffalo:

Windows 10 might be a nice upgrade for most PC users—especially when it was free—but many just aren’t interested in it. Businesses especially are avoiding Microsoft’s latest operating system, according to new data.

Softchoice, which has obtained data from the TechCheck IT asset management service that is supplied to 169 firms in the U.S. running over 400,000 Windows machines, has found that only 0.75 percent of businesses are currently running Windows 10.

That’s right—not even a full percentage of businesses are running Windows 10 more than a year after its release.

Windows 7 is still used by 91 percent of enterprise customers, according to Softchoice, and that percentage continues to grow. It’s actually up 18 percent since the same time last year. Windows 8 is currently being used by 4 percent of businesses.

“It seems businesses don’t see an urgent need to move operating systems, so long as their cloud-based applications are still running fine on Windows 7,” said Craig McQueen, director of the Microsoft Practice at Softchoice.

However, McQueen does believe that Windows 10 will see a boost in adoption once organizations begin to “grasp the user benefits,” such as improved touch interaction, greater security, and baked-in Cortana.

User benefits? Touch interaction doesn’t work on desktops and Cortana was the first thing the organization blocked as part of Group Policy at my place of employment!

In addition, after a very poorly executed pilot program and a rush to get new machines into the hands of the users, nearly all of the machines that went out imaged with Windows 10 when I was first brought on board for this refresh project have now come back in to be reimaged with Windows 7. The users hate it, and a lot of home-baked mission-critical applications aren’t compatible.

Maybe someone should’ve looked into that before we rolled out all those machines?


“As if we don’t have enough things to worry about in our lives, now we have to worry about the torque of the screws holding our hard drives in place!” ~ me, January 1989 from my Journal.

Oh, how things have changed…


40 years after the first VHS video cassette recorder rolled off the production line, the last known company making the devices is ceasing production. According to Japanese newspaper Nikkei, Funai Electric, a Japanese consumer electronics company, will give up on the format by the end of the July after 30 years of production.

Declining sales, plus a difficulty in obtaining the necessary parts, prompted Funai Electric to cease production. While the Funai brand might not be well-known in the west, the company sold VCRs under the more familiar Sanyo brand in China and North America.

Funai Electric began production of VCRs in 1983 following the unsuccessful launch of its own CVC format in 1980. While CVC had its strengths—its quarter-inch tape made its machines smaller and lighter than VHS machines, which used half-inch tape—VHS and Betamax were strong competitors.


First World Problems

Life was earlier before we were surrounded by all this tech.

“Goddamnit! GET OFF MY LAWN!”

(I’m practicing…)

Anyhow, after discussing it with Ben, we decided that even though we still had a little over a year left on our contract with Cox, it was worth the cancellation fee to tell them to take their shitty television and unneeded telephone service and shove it up their corporate rectum. To that end, we had a visit from DirecTV on Friday, and we’re now enjoying basically the same service for substantially less than what we were paying Cox. We’re keeping Cox for internet because the alternative (DSL through Century Link) was simply unacceptable as far as speed was concerned.

The worst part of switching providers is that once again I am at a total loss for what is on any given channel. It seems that just when I get used to knowing where to find any given program we change providers—not to mention learning an entirely new interface. Last night I pulled out an index card that I’m now keeping handy to write down our most watched channels so I can just enter them directly in the future instead of aimlessly scrolling up and down the on-screen guide. (Ben told me there was a way to select favorite channels and save them, but the index card is faster.)

We kept Cox for internet, but returned their cable modem after buying our own. This was yet another first-world annoyance, because I arrived home on Friday to discover that even though Ben’s laptop was connecting just fine to the outside world, mine absolutely refused to. It would connect to our router, but it wasn’t getting beyond that—even though Ben was connecting the exact same way. Finally, after messing around for more than an hour and going through several reboots of both the router, modem, and laptop, we just decided to simply reset the router to factory settings and set the whole network up again from scratch. That apparently cleared out whatever goop was preventing it from connecting, and once again we had connectivity to the outside world.

But what we then neglected to take into consideration were all the sundry internet connected devices around the house, each of which also needed to be reset to join the new network.

Hopefully we won’t have to go through all this again for quite some time…

The Island of Misfit Toys

Or, as I like to call it, “Tech of Yesteryear: Stuff I’ve Owned.”

My first calculator, a Texas Instruments SR-10. Four functions plus square root, square and inverse!—$89 in 1974. I needed it for Chem/Physics.

My first 10-speed bike, a Schwinn Continental—$105 in 1972

My first (and only) typewriter, an Olympia Report Electric SKE—price and date forgotten (1974?). Sold in a fit of perceived poverty in 1990.

My first hi-fi turntable, a Philips GA-212—$200 in 1973. I had to have this particular one because it was touch control! Little did I know that when the bulbs under the touch controls burnt out, the controls stopped working altogether, necessitating a costly trip to a repair shop. It wasn’t like you could just go online and order replacements.

My first awesome, truly high-tech hi-fi turntable, a Technics SL-1300Mk2—$500 in 1978.  I took out a personal loan for this one. Of course it died within months of being paid for and then sat in a repair facility for months because the particular integrated circuit that had failed was on indefinite backorder. (Such is the life of an early adopter.) I finally retrieved it from the shop and shipped it back to Panasonic for repair. It was returned, and UPS left it with the neighbors’ unattended children, where they proceeded to destroy it. UPS and Panasonic wrote it off as “destroyed in shipment” and sent me refurbished unit. But it was never the same, so I sold it in 1980.

I replaced it in 2000 or thereabouts with a near-mint unit that came in the original packaging. The arm lift mechanism on this model was a notoriously bad design that self-destructed after about 5 years of use, so I had it professionally repaired by a friend back east (now, sadly deceased) and it’s worked beautifully ever since.

My first digital watch, a Novus—price unknown (but it wasn’t cheap) in 1976. It was a high school graduation present from my parents. Like all digital watches of the time, you had to hold down the button to make it illuminate and show you the time. It died sometime in the early 80s.

My first hi-fi amplifier, a Sony TA-5650—$550 in 1976.  I bought it for myself with money I received for my high school graduation.  Another piece of cutting edge tech that wasn’t quite ready for prime time, the 5650 had the very annoying habit of self-destructing every six months or so, necessitating a visit to the repair shop to have some diodes replaced  (to the tune of $75 a trip—quite a bit of money for the time). After the second or third time it happened, I decided to replace it, but nothing came close to the sweet, sweet sound the V-FETs produced, so I kept getting it fixed.

The last time it died, sometime in 1986, I replaced it with a rock-solid Yamaha amp and kissed it goodbye, leaving it in the laundry room of the apartment complex I was living in at the time. I did that because I just couldn’t bear to toss it in the dumpster.

My first computer, a Commodore VIC-20—$200 in 1981. It hooked up to a television, and since Dennis (my first partner) and I couldn’t afford to buy the external cassette drive to save the programs we spent hours meticulously typing in BASIC, it was an ongoing lesson in frustration. But it did light a spark that eventually culminated in my current career.

My first hi-fi cassette deck, a Sony TCK-555—$370 in 1984. I waited a long, long time to finally get a good cassette deck for my system. Little did I know that in only two short years they would start marching toward the graveyard of history.  It was a good—not great—deck, but it served me for several years before being replaced.

My first new car, a 1984 Toyota Corolla SR-5—$11,000 in 1984. Damn, I loved this car. I sold Dorothy in 1989 after deciding that owning a car in San Francisco was more trouble that it was worth. It was also reaching the point that it was needing some expensive repairs and I had no way of paying for them, so I had to say goodbye. It’s the one vehicle that still shows up regularly in my dreams, never having been sold, but merely put into storage all these years…

My first CD player, a Yamaha D-400—$360 in 1985. As I recall I blew my whole tax refund on this. I had wanted to get a Technics SL-P2 but it had been discontinued and I didn’t like anything in the Technics lineup that replaced it. I should’ve done more shopping before jumping on this one, however.  It sounded fantastic, but it could only display the track number or the time, but not both. Seriously, Yamaha? I replaced it in 1990.

My first portable CD player, a Sony D100 Discman—$400 in 1987. This was Sony’s second-generation portable, and I loved this bit of tech. The only reason I eventually got rid of it was the headphone jack kept coming unsoldered from the main circuit board (one day after the warranty expired, typical of Sony products). It was an easy-enough fix to do myself, but I finally just got tired of dealing with it.

My first 35mm camera, the Pentax ME Super. I got this from my second partner in exchange for some money he owed me. I adored this camera. I won’t say my ratio of good photos to bad was excellent, but I remember it being decidedly better than all my subsequent years of digital. In my rush to go digital, I sold it to buy a new camera. WORST. DECISION. EVER.

My first digital camera, the Canon A10—$125 (steeply discounted) in 2003. It ate batteries which severely limited its usefulness, picture quality was so-so, and it was a pain in the ass to actually get the photos off of it. I was so relieved when I finally got the funds together to replace it.

This was the camera I replaced the A10 with, a Panasonic DMC-FZ7. This camera went everywhere with me (including a road trip to Yellowstone), and together we got some stunning shots.  After a couple years, however, I tired of the all purple fringing showing up around bright areas in the photos and after replacing it with a Sony, sold it on eBay.

Technics SL-1300Mk2 Service

I’m reposting this from my old blog, because I just found it on the WayBack Machine and had believed it was lost forever. I know my friend John is going to have some choice words for me for putting this out there again (like he did 8 years ago) because people will fuck things up if they attempt this on their own and aren’t very careful, but since he’s not repairing these tables anymore they won’t end up on his bench. Still…proceed AYOR.

Fully 99% of my usual readers can skip this whole post. It’s some serious geek shit and I’m posting it for those who happen to be looking for this info through Google or whatever.

A few days ago my buddy John sent me a new Shure V15 type IV cartridge for my turntable. Back in the day, this was the holy grail of many audiophiles, and while I’d never owned one myself, he assured me it would sound better than my current cartridge. It was his way of saying thanks for not bidding against him on an eBay auction for a particular piece of equipment that he knew I had my sights on.

Anyhow, the sound is beyond my wildest expectations, and even though it’s a long-discontinued item and I may never be able to find a replacement stylus for it when the time comes, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it until then because it has reminded me that yes Virginia, vinyl does sound better than CD.

This sudden renewed appreciation for analog also prompted me to get off my sorry ass this morning and attend to some much needed—and horribly overdue—maintenance on my turntable.

Back in the late 70s when Technics introduced the first Mk2 line of turntables, they were in many respects the state of the art. The 1300Mk2, which in 1977 sold for $500 ($1800 in today’s dollars), was a beautiful piece of engineering—although not without some inherent design flaws that have reared their ugly heads as these tables have aged.

(To be perfectly fair, I’m sure the designers at Panasonic never thought about these issues, finding it ludicrous at the time to even think that these tables would still be in use thirty years after their introduction.)

First and foremost is the notorious arm lift problem. In most basic terms, Panasonic used a piece of plastic that was too thin, putting it in a location where it was continually subjected to intense stress. Needless to say, as the years wore on and the plastic lost its elasticity, the part eventually snapped. A replacement is naturally now unobtainable, but my friend Joel came up with a very creative—and lasting fix. (Thankfully he passed this knowledge onto his assistants before he died.)

If you’re ever looking to buy a 1300Mk2 or 1400Mk2 off eBay and the seller claims everything works just fine, don’t believe a word of it. If Joel or his successors haven’t fixed them, I guarantee they’re broken.

Two other common problems with tables of this vintage are that the lubricants used in various locations within the mechanism have dried out and have become sticky. This manifests as wonky buttons and the start/stop feature not working.

While fixing the arm lift problem isn’t something that should be attempted by anyone other than the good folks at The Turntable Factory (it’s buried deep within the mechanism and even I am scared to venture that far into the workings—although I have and understand the mechanics of it), if you’re comfortable with a few small tools, have a good eye and a bit of patience, it is possible for you to address the other problems.

The arm lift on my Mk2 was—naturally—repaired by Joel years ago, and I cleaned the dried goop off the the control buttons a while back, but for some reason I never addressed the solenoid spring issue and lately the start/stop has quit working.

Inspired by the new cartridge, here’s my How-To on fixing the start/stop issue:

You will need:

・a flat surface to work on
・good light
・a philips head screwdriver
・needle nose pliers
a towel
・something to hold a bunch of small screws
・rubbing alcohol and q-tips

Estimated time to complete: Approximately one hour. Longer if you’ve never torn one of these apart before.

Step 1

Disconnect the turntable from your receiver or amplifier and put it in your workspace.

Step 2

Open the dust cover and remove the cartridge, tonearm counterweight, slipmat and turntable platter. Make sure the manual arm lift lever is in the down position, and lock the tonearm down. Remove the six black screws holding the cover plate in place. Put the screws in a safe place.

Remove the cover plate and put it aside.

Step 3

Carefully disconnect the five electrical connectors from the circuit board and motor beneath the cover plate. They all just pull straight off, but the one at the very back under the chassis and the small clear plastic connector immediately in front of it have a clip that holds them in place. If no one has ever worked on the table before, there may be a small plastic cable tie organizing the wires. You can safely discard this after removing it.

Step 4

Place a folded towel on your work surface. With the turntable dust cover still in place, carefully flip the entire assembly upside down so that the dustcover is resting on the towel. Using a philips head screwdriver, remove the seven screws holding the bottom trim/foot panel in place and put them in a safe place.

Remove the bottom trim/foot panel. Remove the four screws holding the floating subchassis in place.

Step 5

Holding the black subchassis in place, carefully flip the entire assembly back upright. Raise the dust cover, unlock the tonearm and raise the manual lift lever. Swing the tonearm toward the center.

CAREFULLY lift the chassis (with the dust cover still attached) upward, taking care not to catch it on the tonearm. Set it aside.

Lower the manual arm lift lever and move the tonearm back to its rest position, locking it down.

Step 6

CAREFULLY turn the subchassis assembly upside down and place it on the towel. Remove the 8 screws that are marked in the photo below. Keep these separate, as they are not interchangeable and need to go back in their original locations.

Lift up the black subchassis panel. Put this aside.

Identify the two solenoid locations on the bottom of the tonearm mechanism assembly.

Step 7

To remove Solenoid #1, gently hold back the three retaining clips with a finger and lift the assembly out of the retaining bracket. DO NOT FORCE anything, as the plastic has become brittle with age and if it breaks, you’re going to be royally fucked. (This is where the patience part comes in.)

In my particular case, the felt pad attached to the flapper panel on the solenoid assembly was sticking against the white plastic bumper. This may or may not be present in all cases, but if so, dip a q-tip in rubbing alcohol and give the plastic part a good swapping to remove any residue

If you’ve removed the flapper, slide it back in place, first hooking the clip on the one edge into the spring and then slipping the two notches back in place on the solenoid.

If there is any dried lubricant on the spring (in my case there wasn’t), clean it off with a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Gently push the solenoid assembly back in place until it snaps into place. Verify that the flapper moves freely by pushing it with your finger toward the large white gear.

Step 8

Solenoid #2 is the sucker that causes all of the start/stop problems, and as you can see from the photo, mine was covered with goop.

Before removing this solenoid, you’ll need to remove the control arm that it is attached to. CAREFULLY pull back the retaining clip and lift off the control arm.

CAREFULLY pull back the three clips enough to release the the solenoid assembly and pull it out. This one may put up a little more of a fight than the other one. Be gentle.

Carefully remove the flapper assembly by turning it at a slight angle so that it slips out of the retaining clips on the solenoid. Unhook the flapper clip from the solenoid spring.

A gummed up solenoid spring is an unhappy solenoid spring.

With a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol, clean the lubricant off the spring and the plastic parts.

You may need to pull the spring to extend it a bit to make sure the alcohol gets in everywhere (a pair of needle-nose pliers is good for this) to get all the goop off. WHY Panasonic chose to lubricate this is quite beyond me. It’s not needed!

Reattach the flapper assembly by first clipping the end into the spring and then turning it at a slight angle so that it rests within the retaining clips on the solenoid assembly.

Push the solenoid back into the retaining clips until it snaps into place. Make sure the spring and flapper aren’t caught on anything.

Reattach the swing arm by pushing it back into place until it clicks, taking care that the solenoid flapper meshes with the end of the arm properly.

A clean solenoid spring is a happy solenoid spring!

Step 9
Reattach the black subchassis, taking care to align the tonearm mechanism properly and making sure that the proper screws are all returned to their proper locations. When that’s completed, turn the assembly back right side up.

Release the tonearm lock. Raise the arm lift lever. Swing the arm toward the center.

GENTLY lower the chassis and dustcover assembly back onto the floating suspension, taking care to clear the tonearm. If it’s in the proper location, you’ll know it because the tonearm base will be perfectly lined up in the round cutout on the chassis. If not, raise it slightly and move it a bit until it seats properly.

Swing the tonearm back to its rest position and lower the arm lift mechanism.

Lock the tonearm down.

Step 10
Now’s the tricky part. With one hand firmly underneath the turntable on the subchassis and one on the center of the dustcover, turn the entire assembly upside down.

Reattach the subchassis to the main chassis using the four screws that were removed earlier.

Reattach the bottom trim/foot panel using the 7 screws removed earlier.

Turn the entire turntable right side up.
Reattach the electrical connections, making sure that the two clear plastic connector clips at the rear snap into place.

Replace the cover panel, taking care that it’s not pinching any of the wiring underneath. Reattach using the six black screws removed earlier.

Replace the turntable platter and slipmat. Reattach the tonearm counterweight and cartridge, balance arm, and set tracking force.

Plug back into your receiver, power up, and enjoy some vinyl!

Turntable Geekiness

As you probably know from a previous post (not to mention the numerous “Vintage Audio Porn” posts since then), I’ve been obsessed with audio equipment since I was a teenager. This is one of those quirky obsessions that only other people who share it seem to understand. Thankfully, I still have a few of those quirky friends in my life with whom I can freely converse with.

So if you’re not one of those folks, you might wanna just move on to the pictures of the nekkid men elsewhere on the blog. Just sayin’.

While I have a good grasp of most of the major players in the field (Pioneer, Sansui, etc.) during audio’s age of big iron, I pride myself most on my knowledge of the Technics brand and smugly thought I had uncovered and documented every piece of equipment they sold between 1974 and 1981 or so. Imagine my surprise then a few nights ago when I ran across this picture of a turntable whose existence I’d been totally unaware of—but whose seeming absence from the lineup I’d often pondered.

A bit of history… Starting in the mid 1970s, Technics pretty much without fail offered three varieties of any given turntable model they produced (there were specialized one-off models and whatnot, but they’re the exception rather than the rule): fully automatic, semi-automatic, and manual. With the fully automatic models you would start a record playing by moving a lever or pressing a button. The tonearm would move over to the edge of the record and slowly lower to start playing. At the end of the record, the arm would raise up, return to its rest, and the machine would either completely shut off or the turntable would stop rotating. With the semi-automatic models, you would have to manually lift the arm and place it at the beginning of the record to start, but at the end it would raise by itself and return to its rest. The fully manual models are self-explanatory: you did it all yourself (and are the type of decks preferred by DJs).

Technics’ triad numbering system for the various turntable lines was always linear: 1300, 1400, 1500 or 1600, 1700, 1800 (with the lower numbers of each series always being the fully automatic versions). They branched off on that a bit in later years, but it was consistent prior to that.

For all these years, the one glaring exception to this nomenclature was their “01” series.

The “01” series were strange critters to begin with, and I remember the first time I saw one in a store I had to do a double-take and say, WTF is that? Physically they were based on and closely resembled the 1600/1700/1800 series, obviously having used the same dies to cast the turntable bases, but their electronics and parts of the the tonearms (but not the tonearm mounts) came straight from the 1300Mk2/1400Mk2/1500Mk2. Likewise the turntable platters themselves resembled the Mk2 series with a brushed aluminum rim with the strobe dots on the underside, but the angle of the edge of the platters was identical to the 1600 series. And also like the Mk2 series, the 01s were also quartz-locked (using all but one of the same ICs)—something that the 1600 series was not. But the quartz difference between the 01 and the Mk2 series was that there was no pitch control, meaning that you were tied to an exact 33 or 45 rpm; and rendering them useless for DJ work. This explained in my mind why there was no manual version of these strange beasts, no 1501.

But as I discovered a few nights ago, there was a 1501 produced and sold—although apparently only in Japan. At first I didn’t believe it…was this a one-off machine? A custom logo screened on a repainted 1401?

No, it was an actual product. Further Googling presented me not only dozens of photos of these machines in the wild, but also the product brochure.

And now of course I want one. Only because of its rarity.