Desktop Hi-Fi

On January 31, 2010, in ~Other, by mmaletic

I just set up my MiniWatt 2.5 watt stereo tube amp on my desk at home. It’s connected to a pair of Axiom M3 bookshelf speakers with some high-end speaker wire purchased from Blue Jeans Cable.

The setup is really an epiphany. I listen to more music at my desk than anywhere else. But I think I’ve never had anything better than a pair of SoundSticks hooked up to my computer. Meanwhile, I have a few grand worth of home audio equipment hooked into my home theater system, which I generally use for watching Top Model and the NewsHour.

With the MiniWatt, though, I’ve finally stepped into the universe of desktop hi-fi. It cost about 600 bucks, but now I have one of the best stereos I’ve ever heard sitting in the place where I do 90% of my music listening.

Maybe I should say that it ONLY cost $600 though – 2.5 watts and some great bookshelfs move as much air as I could ever need in a small office. But I get the performance of a much more expensive full-sized system.

It’s awesome. I think there has to be a huge market for this sort of setup, given the cost/performance calculus.

(oh and I’m using my AppleTV for the streaming. It will work even when my laptop’s not around, and it has RCA jacks.)


From MacRumors today:

Apple has also been rumored to be developing a monthly subscription service for a “best of television” package that would offer consumers a variety of content from the networks in what Apple hopes to position as a replacement for traditional cable TV subscriptions.

via Apple Pressuring TV Networks to Halve iTunes Episode Pricing? – Mac Rumors.

I hope this is true. Right now, I have a mental block to actually buying TV through iTunes. I feel like if I buy one show, then I’m going to just go down the slippery slope of buying lots and lots of shows, then I’ll be spending more than I would have just to tape the shows on my DVR.

I’m not sure what the perfect service would look like, but any progress towards being able to purchase TV a la carte via the internet would be welcome in my book!


Setting Up My Post-Comcast TV Nirvana

On January 20, 2010, in Kill Your Cable TV, by mmaletic

I grew up in the country. We had a TV, but the only channels we could get were the few that came in over the air. There was this enormous TV antenna bolted to a tower next to our house. Sometimes, when the big antenna wouldn’t work, we’d pull out the “rabbit ears” and wrap them in tin foil – real tin foil – to improve the reception.

But we weren’t complete hicks: we at least knew there was something better. Our friends lived in real suburban neighborhoods with “cable.” They had this flat black cable box with a giant dial on top connected to their TVs. And, with that dial, they could pick from dozens of different, perfectly clear television stations. It was a dream of mine to have cable television. So much choice, perfect reception…

Today, I see cable TV differently. I see it as a ridiculously high, annoying bill I have to pay every month to a company that doesn’t really care about me – my cable and internet via Comcast runs me around $140/month. My bill also has a nasty habit of going up a couple of dollars every so often, for no discernible reason. And, you know, I just don’t want or need 700 channels of programming

For much of my life, though, I just accepted the cable bill as one of life’s burdens… until I found inspiration on the New York Times, in an article called “Cable Freedom is a Click Away” by Nick Bilton. There, Bilton describes his own break with cable TV using a combination of over-the-air HD broadcasts and internet video.

I decided to try it for myself.

First, a caveat: I watch television often. I really enjoy television. I can take some inconvenience, but I’m not going to abandon TV. Any solution is going to have to basically let me watch the things I want to watch.

And the good news is that I do think that it’s possible to watch the shows I want to watch without Cable. Here’s a summary of what I’ve done so far:

Continue reading »


Millennium Falcon Lego Build

On January 20, 2010, in ~Other, by mmaletic

I built the “Midi-sized” Millennium Falcon Lego kit with Miles – my youngest son – the other day. It was raining, and there wasn’t much to do, so we put on the Star Wars soundtrack and built this. It took about 2.5 hours, or about 4 times through the soundtrack.

It’s a fascinating thing to build. It looks great, and I just kept imagining the guy who designed the Lego set, sitting in some room for months, trying to figure out how to do it. Anyway, the boy loves it – I’ve just been trying to keep all of the pieces together!

(More after the jump!)

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Kill Your (Cable) TV

On January 9, 2010, in Kill Your Cable TV, by mmaletic

Enough talk about reducing our footprint on the earth; how about let’s talk about reducing other people’s footprint on you!

Yes, I’m talking about getting rid of your cable company. I’m in the process of doing it, and I’m going to write a series of articles about how things are going. Here are some of the topics I’m going to address:

  • Broadcast Digital TV – dust off those rabbit ears.
  • Equipment – my setup, with reviews of the various products I’ve used. (Obviously, this might be a few posts!)
  • “Software” – reviews of the technology that lets you watch tv
  • Getting Non-Over-The-Air Programming – kids’ shows, sports, cable TV shows

That seems like a good start. Check back soon, and I’ll post a lengthy article about my switch away from Comcast.

– Mike