Sunday, December 16, 2007

Can Archos design be trusted nowadays?

Archos always had some innovative and based on the specs quite impressive media players. However, I've had many problems with them, mostly due to bad design:

Jukebox 6000 (my first MP3 player)
  • Turning off unexpectedly due to loose solder connections carrying power from the batteries. The connections were between the main board and the small top board and they were used structurally, to hold the two boards together.
  • Turning off unexpectedly due to the battery springs not being springy enough. One of them even has a wire going through it, deforming it and limiting it's extension. Lots of devices use AA batteries without such a problem.
  • Overly small capacitors in the headphone circuit which seriously limited bass. I was still pretty happy with the sound, but the difference in bass compared to my computer was dramatic.
Gmini 220 (my 2nd player)
  • Occasional glitches and corruption in the music. Archos never did anything about it.
  • The buttons are unreliable, with a press on one sometimes being registered as a press on another. This is because multiple buttons are on the same wire and instead of the usual scanning arrangement different buttons connect to different voltage divider and the Gmini senses the different voltages. This is a unique and quite stupid design. Lots of people had this problem and Archos did nothing. Someone found how to change the voltage dividers by changing surface mounted resistors and improve the situation.
  • The ground contact from the headphone jack isn't springy enough. It needs to be bent back every once in a while. This isn't hard, but I'm concerned it might break and other jacks never needed such service. Furthermore, this worsens the remote problems.
  • The LCD seems very cheap. The overall brightness of a column is affected by what is displayed on it (with dark areas leaving white stripes). Archos claimed you'd even want to view photos on it and it actually even sucks with text.
Gmini FM remote, used with my Gmini 220
  • Puts hard drive spinup and seek electrical noise in the audio (the Gmini 220 by itself doesn't have that problem).
  • Backlight and scrolling cause electrical noise in the audio. Clearly the design has some problems. Many people report this but Archos doesn't seem to care.
  • Unstable: Sometimes it goes almost totally dim, sometimes the red recording light comes on, and sometimes it locks up. The remote can easily become slightly unplugged from the Gmini 220 and the ground contact can also cause this problem, but even without these problems the remote still locks up. Again Archos does nothing about it.
V2 Jukebox Recorder (Like the FM Recorder without the FM receiver module. A friend got it used from eBay and used it for a while. He gave it to me for free when it broke the second time (thanks!) and now I use it.)
  • Headphone channels (first one then both) cut out intermittently. This was because a small daugherboard is soldered to the headphone jack pins. It's such a high-stress point and solder isn't meant to be structural like that.
  • Battery appears dead, but actually it seems the contacts were dirty. The contacts are cheap and other people had the same problem.
  • Cannot charge if too discharged. It needs battery power in order to start charging!
  • Bad solder joint at the charger jack. There's something weird there. It seems the jack is mounted on its side! The pin for the centre connection has been rotated and a short wire connects the pin for the side connection to the circuit board. The connection between that wire and the jack was bad.
  • The metal part of the case is connected to the circuit board using only solder joints. Solder or the copper on printed circuit boards isn't meant for such use and of course there was some damage there.
The common thread is that generally things didn't just break randomly. Archos made some very questionable design decisions and that's why things broke. Several of the problems are because solder was used to make structural connections. The designers should have known better. Because of this I'm now afraid to buy Archos products. For example the Archos 605 for $249 Canadian was a tempting deal but how much is it worth if it's annoying and/or unreliable?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The cat might be teaching me something

One of the things the cat might be teaching me is how love often involves pain, including getting hurt by the other being, even apparently intentionally, irresponsibly and/or recklessly, and I just need to accept that. With people I might say "WTF, how can this person treat me this way, are they even a friend", but with a cat it's different. I'm not sure it should be so different... people are in some ways not much better than cats.

Oh, and BTW this may allow me to put one major way I feel drugs can help into words: drugs can make the pain and fear of pain less significant thereby allowing for more love. I guess one could say that drugs are just acting as a crutch there and that one should just learn to take the pain but I am hesitant to totally condemn something which can apparently lead to more good.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I understand what dreamlayers are now

In the summer of 2004 on two occasions while on DXM I had an interesting experience where I felt like I flipped through different alternate realities. It's not like they were different physical realities; I was physically in the same place with the same stuff around me. It all just felt very different as if I was seeing it differently. At the time I was very depressed and unmotivated and some of these ways of seeing the world were much better. In fact some of them were better than I have ever felt.

I wanted the better, and if possible best way of perceiving the world but I didn't know how to get there. I didn't know how I could get to that place. Furthermore, one of the main reasons I wanted the better states was because there I actually had motivation. The main thing I did about those experiences was I changed my online handle to dreamlayers. At the time I was listening to The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz where the shaman changed his name to remember an important discovery. I changed mine hoping to remember my important discovery.

It seems that it worked. I now know what I experienced back then. Whatever I care about and empathize with alters my perception of reality quite drastically. Or in other words, love can be a very powerful motivator, and the phenomenon I observed was how my perception of reality may be altered by love. I think that was an important lesson.

Now I may need a new name which reminds me of what is currently relevant.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Another sign winter is ending: Orion

I just noticed that the constellation Orion was lower in the sky and less prominent. As winter approached, I noticed that Orion was really high and prominent in the night sky. Now it is going down as the flowers come up.

I'm including a photo of Orion I took from a Malahat viewpoint in late December. The photo turned out surprisingly well. You can see how Betelgeuse at the top left is a different colour because it is a red supergiant and you can see some indistinct light where the Orion Nebula (M42) is.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

My KFC boycott

One time at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Windsor, Ontario, a customer returned a meal and they transferred some chicken pieces from that to my meal. Another time, at another KFC, in Bonaire they gave me a large size cup instead of a medium one and then later while I was eating they tried to force me to exchange it for a small size cup. (They were out of medium cups. It's possible an employee gave me the large cup and the manager wanted me to swap for small.) I've never experienced anything like those two incidents anywhere else and so I didn't go to KFC. Today in Nanaimo, BC I got the idea that I should eat at KFC on the way home. On the way there I thought about how that'd be like stopping my boycott and how I shouldn't avoid the whole chain because of two incidents at two locations. Well, I came in there, looked at the menu, came to the counter, waited and I was totally ignored. I've never experienced something like that at any other fast food place. Sometimes elsewhere the food came slowly but at least I wasn't totally ignored. I guess my boycott continues.

UPDATE: I did eventually end my boycott at a mall in Victoria. Both the service and food were good there.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Children of the Bong - Sirius Sounds is my favourite album

Children of the Bong - Sirius Sounds is my favourite album. For me it practically defines my favourite genre, which I call psychill. (It is called Psybient on Wikipedia.) It's the only album by Children of the Bong, and it has a very unique sound and structure.

The main thing I love about the album is the intricate trippy patterns. For me the patterns evoke the fundamental structure of things which generally happen in reality, but they do it without attachment to any particular examples. They're almost like little stories. Sometimes a pattern does this by itself and other times two or perhaps more patterns seem to interact, like one does something and the other performs a response or continuation. It almost seems like a kind of language, although it may only seem that way because it seems to describe things like language can describe things. Sometimes when listening to these pattens it seems like they are the fundamental building blocks of reality and everything is built from them. They're just hard to recognize normally because they're buried by so much meaning and perceptual detail.

I also appreciate the texture of the sounds. They seem especially wholesome solid and satisfying. They also go to very low frequencies, and listening to it using speakers or headphones which can reproduce that feels great. In terms of texture my favourite track is Children of the Bong – Squigglasonica. The squiggles seem so detailed and satisfying.

My favourite track in the album is Children of the Bong – Life on Planet Earth. I love how it builds slowly from something very simple and minimal. It evokes the way how things in life can start out small and develop into something wonderful. It also eventually evokes the feeling of something continuing to exist in a positive way, like it's not just a build and "then what?".

The overall mood of the album seems feels very relaxing, confident, present and happy. The music evokes feelings of being happy outdoors on a a warm sunny Sunday morning. Concern and worry can melt away and I can start seeing everything around me as a symphony of pleasant patterns without much special meaning. The album is truly psychedelic.

[ originally posted in my journal ]

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Spring comes in February in Nanaimo!

Just before last weekend I noticed some crocus buds by Terminal Avenue at the Millstone Estuary. By last Sunday (February 18th) they were in bloom. Then I saw some snowdrops at the small park near Terminal and Stewart. Both of these seemed planted, though the crocus bulbs certainly weren't planted recently. Then I walked through the Millstone Estuary and there I saw some actual wild wildflowers: a big patch of snowdrops and some violets. I also found that leaf buds were opening on a few bushes there. This weekend leaf buds were opening on all the bushes there.

It's so wonderful to see spring come in February! In Southwestern Ontario spring starts with blooming maples in late March and wildflowers in April. I guess the timing here is probably close to the timing in Zadar, Croatia, the city I was born in, but I haven't seen spring there in so long. Here are some photos from last Sunday:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My Firefox extension recommendations

I use Firefox mainly because of the extensions which are available. Here is a list of the extensions which I find indispensable. The list is roughly sorted in terms of importance. The links all go to the official Firefox Add-ons site whenever possible. There you can find more information, reviews and a link to the extension's home page.

I regularly try out new extensions. Here is a list of extensions which seem promising. I haven't used any of these enough to strongly recommend them, but I do think they're at least worth checking out.

  • Second Search because it's a convenient way to use alternate search engines via the search bar
  • Adblock Plus: Element Hiding Helper 1.0 because it helps remove some ads, but these are fairly rare and inoffensive so it may not be worth it.
  • Locationbar² because it allows easy access to parent directories on servers
  • Redirect Remover because redirects waste time and bandwidth. Sometimes they're a good idea though, and those need to be entered as exceptions.

This list was created with the help of Extension List Dumper.


My favourite music is trippy downtempo like Shpongle, Entheogenic and Children of the Bong - Sirius Sounds. When I sort music by genre I place this kind of music in the PsyChill directory. Much to my surprise, I found that has a psychill tag. I know I'm going to find some good music when I check out that and related tags. I recently also found the Psybient article on Wikipedia which seems to describe the genre. That led me to check out Bluetech - Sines and Singularities, which I really liked.
[originally posted on my journal]

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The nature of likes and dislikes

Why do different people like and dislike different food? One could answer by implying that the sensations associated with a certain food are the same for everybody and people just differ in terms of what sensations they like. However, that answer seems circular and unsatisfying. I think it's more likely that different people experience the same food differently. For some this is a pleasant experience and so they like the food, while for others it is an unpleasant experience and so they don't like the food.

My own experiences with music seem to support this theory. I remember when I was mainly listening to eurodance and a friend introduced me to electronic music without vocals. I remarked that it seemed like it might "go somewhere" like the start of a eurodance song but it never got there. Later when I started to like electronic music it wasn't as if I just started liking how I perceived it before; instead I perceived it in a new and more enjoyable way. Later the same thing happened as I explored other genres. It was always like learning a new way to perceive music rather than like starting to like the same perceptions I felt before.