Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ghosts by Llewelyn review

Llewelyn has an impressive catalog to his credit. A casual overview of his output reveals that he leans heavily to the healing/relax/contemplative/New Age. Such diversity can make someone suspicious. How can he write so much? Is it all good? I cannot answer these questions, but I will give my endorsement to one album that deviates from the rest.
"1939"; Owner: Jim Smith; source: burningwell.orgGhosts appropriately deals with hauntings. I cannot entirely decide if the music here belongs to ambient or mood; I think it may be both. It is played with electronic instruments and is very mellow. The music all throughout feels like a soundtrack for a movie, but not a sad or scary one. Rather, it gives the listener images of lonely, mysterious places on moonlit nights with tendrils of fog creeping all round. Sometimes, when I have to wake very early in the morning to finish some work, I find it a very suitable companion, as, at those hours, I feel like a ghost myself and what better to have music to fit in?

On the cover it says that it is music inspired by ghost stories of the British Isles. The track names reflect this with some of the most popular stories, some, that you might already know.

I don't know if this one is intended for relaxation, but if you find plain vanilla relaxation music boring, you might give this one a go. It might even be good for playing before sleep, just don't play it night after night, because it's charm would wear off.

Originally downloaded this at e-music, but I'm sure that you can easily get it on any digital music store. Recommended.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

De-essing Part 4: Laser turntable

Source:; Owner: Steven KreuzerWe have seen some ways to de-ess a turntable. Most of the problems arise from the way the needle rides the grooves. If one could only have something that could read and play the disc optically…

There is such a device: a laser turntable. Developed in the US and marketed and sold in Japan by the ELP Corporation, this turntable works by shining lasers on the vinyl record and reading information from the scattering. Advantages quickly pop up into mind: perfect groove ride, the ability to skip to individual tracks, use of a remote control, continuous replay of a single track, the elimination of guesswork and frustration on the selection of cartridges and needles, plus, the possibility  keep your records in pristine condition indefinitely; in fact, one of the mottos of the company is "no contact, no wear". Micron level precision also allows the reduction of noise by scratches, warping and wear, and, having the lasers always aligned by default, harsh ess sounds, which is our subject matter. Oh, and the signal stays analog all throughout.

Such a cool piece of technology has an insurmountable problem for all but the rich though: it is outrageously expensive. The most basic model, that plays only 33 RPMs, goes for around $9000. Admittedly, the prices have declined over the years, but, as you can see, they are still prohibitively high.

Uncorroborated (by me at least)  hearsay around the net also indicates that getting one fixed is a hassle and  expensive and slow to boot. Also that the records must be squeaky clean to get good results.

Apparently the patents for this technology have expired and it is only possible that some other company brings to market a more affordable player.

More on de-essing:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sandboxie: Core programs #3

Remember those boxes of crayons that were all shiny and the crayons themselves so neatly ordered by color rainbowlike? Back in the day, I think I coveted those. Unfortunately, I was not so neat myself and after some use, the crayons would turn ugly and unsightly, each smudged with pieces of its neighbors. Some people were more careful, mostly girls, and could keep them tidy even after prolonged use.
source: taken by Bryan Oliver
Something similar happens with computers. When you first get them running, they are all fast and zippy and the program menus and desktop uncluttered. But then, as you install programs and stuff, things begin to slow down, viruses to creep in and experience to go down. Sure, you could keep your computer in a pristine condition by not installing anything or connecting it to the net, but that's a no go. Could one, so to speak, have her cake and eat it too? Sandboxie could be your easiest solution.

Sandboxie is a program that places your web browser inside the virtual sandbox. The theory is that anything that happens inside the sandbox is stopped from making permanent changes to your computer, and still run as normal. What happens in the sandbox, stays in the sandbox. After each use, or every time she wishes to, the user can just wipe or delete the contents of the sandbox and start afresh. The capability of running the web browser inside the sandbox is not limited to that program only. Once installed, the user can run many , not all, programs within the sandbox. This lets her try new programs, and if she doesn't like them, remove them completely. No traces left behind.

The main focus of the program is security. If something harmful were to happen, the damage is contained inside the sandbox, so surfing is rendered safer. Theoretically, it is not 100% malware proof, but it is of great help nonetheless. Mixing sensitive sites, such as online banking, and regular surfing is still not recommended inside the same sandbox.

In my experience, some complex programs and others that require restarting the computer for installation cannot run correctly, so the user has to try another idea from her toolbox such as a virtual machine which I'll review next.

It is available for free at:

If you wish more about its security aspects there is a Security Now! podcast episode (#172) on:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tea podcasts: review

source:freestockphotos.bizSince 2008 I have dabbled in the tea podcast offerings out there and I decided to take a closer look on them just a month or two ago. I'll review here four shows, sticking only to those that have audio-only streams because when I listen to my iPod, my gaze is on other business. I'm not dissing on video shows, I just don't have the patience to watch for long. Oddly enough, all four shows that I review here have not been updated in a long while.

This one mainly reviews teas live. The listeners get the double benefit of checking their own experiences against the tea reviews and getting very honest, on the spot descriptions. The hosts typically, or at least on the shows that I have listened to, taste the tea of the day at differing steeping points and give their impressions. On the downside, the unscripted nature of the show makes it drag a bit. The older shows also have not so good audio quality, but you can hear what they have to say most of the time. There is also a flagship video version.

The Tea Lover's Room with the Tea Lover Chic

My first love. This one focuses more on tea rooms and tea parties. Settled in Sacramento, the host is adorable and feels like as if she were your favorite aunt. The show has different sections and starts with the basics, explaining everything, but avoiding undue detail. As the episodes progress, the show evolves to include other aspects. The piano music theme never fails to get me jolly. As with the rest, it has not been updated for many years. I hope she's all right, and will be back soon to offer us more of her love for tea.

Lainie sips

In this one Lainie gives us quick and precise reviews of different teas. She also deals with certain aspects of the tea drinking experience, such as using more than one pot and the virtue, or sin of flavored teas. Listener calls are also common which gives us the opportunity to hear what other people are enjoying. Finally, Lainie has an active blog at


Of all four, this is the one that caters to the highest point of expertise. What I mean is that this one is less for beginners and more for pros, or those that have years of experience on their backs. It may not be intended to be that, but the result is beyond what occasional drinkers may be interested in. It has interviews, general topics, the business of tea and more. Unfortunately, this one also has the lowest audio quality and often it is difficult to discern the words from the female host. Notwithstanding, you may want to check out one or two episodes, especially the one that deals with the science of tea.

To wrap it up, if you're a beginner in tea, start with The Tea Lover's Room and then move up to Lainie sips. Also, compare your experiences with the reviews at Leave Teacast for last.

Update May-13

Since I wrote the previous words there have common into my radar screen a couple more tea podcasts. Best part of both is that they have been recently active.

Tea Rage

To me, the host feels like the AVGN of tea. The most snobbish of the bunch, he expresses his rage at the incongruities of the tea world. Fun,  likeable, not over the top, and recommended.

Verdant Tea

Unlike the rest. This one goes back to the source of tea. Of particular interest are the second and third episodes. Last word I heard is that the host is on the field and that more episodes are on the way.

Finally, i just wanted to mention that the Tea Lover's Room episodes are still available at or at the wayback machine

Update Jul-15:

Tea Rage & Verdant have also gone into dormant state; however here are some new ones that have popped-up over the last year:

Year of Tea

The likable host is trying to review a different tea each day for the whole year and throws everything but the sink for flash examination: black, green, flavored, chamomile, mate and the odd mix. You're bound to find something available to you here.


A very specialized show focusing on the Japanese Tea Ceremony and the most structured of them all. I like the anecdotes section and Marius' soothing voice.

World Tea Podcast

As far I've listened into, it goes mostly for the production and general business side of things. Has about half a dozen episodes on the Tea expo. What kind of brings it down are the subpar audio (though not as bad as teacast) & the volume levels between the hosts and guests.

Talking Tea

Interviews with different experts around the tea arena.

So far my two recommendations still stand: Try to find the episodes of the Tea Lover's Room Podcast for their charm and for their introduction to the tea world and Tea Rage for the entertainment and the purist view.