The Archos Lives

Now that he has an 80 GB iPod, Jeb returned the Archos after three years of borrowing it. Also it didn’t work anymore. archos.jpgWell, kind of. If I hooked it up to my computer (had to install the drivers since my current computer had never seen the Archos before) it would act as an external hard drive, but by itself it wouldn’t spin up its hard drive and seemed to freeze while trying to boot up. I could turn it off and it would flash HD FAIL before turning off. So it was useless as a music player.

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Better Headphones

Last year I bought some Sony headphones that I thought were pretty good, but had some problems.


Sometime in the summer I left those headphones in my pocket and they did not survive the washing and drying. I was on the lookout for something new and found a lot of raves for Sennheiser CX300 earbud headphones. These lacked the over-the-ear clip of the Sony but were otherwise essentially the same design, down to the 3 sizes of rubber ear parts which are interchangeable with the Sony ones (making me wonder if Sony doesn’t build these for Sennheiser). Both block out most but not all noise around you, so they are good for MARTA. And both have different lengths of cable to each earbud so that you pass the longer one (on the right) behind your neck (not sure if I like that or not). These cost more, $50 vs. $30. But the sound is much more even. With the Sony I would have to cut back on the bass and treble to get an even frequency response, but with the Sennheisers I don’t have to make any adjustments. Also the cord seems a little heavier duty than the Sony cord which some people on Amazon said would disintegrate over time. So I’m quite happy. As much as people rave about these on iLounge, Amazon, and elsewhere, you would think these would be a life-changing experience. However, it’s not like the music gets any better.


About six years ago I bought a surround sound system. At the time Dolby Digital 5.1, where a DVD would have six distinct tracks of audio, was still pretty rare (they had Dolby Surround aka Dolby 2.0) and there was a premium for receivers that could decode the signal. Instead I found a DVD player that would decode it and had outputs for all six signals. The AIWA audio system I chose also lacked a separate subwoofer (the “.1” part of “5.1”) so I never had the thundering bass of some systems. Most annoyingly, the surround speakers would emit a low static noise whenever the receiver was on, which became annoying if there wasn’t any other sound to drown it out. I had other nits to pick as well, like any time the power went out, the thing would flash the time. I don’t know why the receiver needed to know the time in the first place.

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More Space Junk

A couple of years ago I wrote an entry about old Russian satellites leaking oil and the possibility that there was enough space junk out there that a chain reaction of collisions would eventually render space unusable.

This week, The New York Times reports that mankind just took one giant leap closer to that future when China tested an anti-satellite weapon against one of its old weather satellites. With 10,000 objects being tracked that are 4 inches are larger, China just added another 1,000 with all the debris from this weapon and the satellite that it struck. What is worse is that they chose a satellite with a fairly high orbit, well above the orbit of the space station. But that means the debris will be in orbit for many more years and eventually will threaten the low orbit where we built the space station. also reported on the same issue, with more technical detail.

Swings and Roundabouts

This weekend I got an e-mail from a guy in Scotland concerning battery packs. He said he was looking for one for an Archos video player. I said the Archos looked interesting and asked how he liked it. He said it had some advantages over the 5G iPod (larger screen) and disadvantages (it’s bulkier). He wrote “it’s swings and roundabouts.”

I knew what he was saying but looked up that unusual phrase anyway. It’s a British idiom that means there are tradeoffs and is short for “What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts,” which doesn’t make it any clearer.

Telstar Ranger

Tonight I was reading up on video games on Wikipedia and wound up reading about the Atari Computer that we used to have (the Atari 400) and before too long I found the Coleco Telstar Ranger. This was the first video game system we ever had. It was a little more advanced than PONG, including six games, including a pretty cool old West “gun” that you could use to shoot targets on the TV screen.

Just seeing a picture of the console brought back memories. The controllers were just dials that you could rotate to make something go left and right or up and down. There wasn’t even a button. They either sat in the console or you could connect a wire to them (which was a neat concept; early Coleco models didn’t have a detachable controller). I have no idea how the gun worked, but it was pretty neat technology, even if it didn’t make for a great game.

They had “tennis” where you would bounce a ball back and forth with the other player and try to get it past them.

With “hockey” you tried to get it past the person and into a goal. You had a goalie and a forward that moved in unison. I remember that being a pretty good game. When you changed levels your player would get smaller and the ball would move faster. At the highest speed it was pretty much impossible.

They had “handball” where both players were at one end of the screen and bounced the ball off the other end, taking turns for responsibility of keeping the ball from going past.

I think “Jai Alai” was just handball with two people on your team. That was the first I had ever heard of jai alai.

“Skeet” sent a ball across the screen from left to right that you had to shoot.

“Target” allowed the ball to bounce off the edges until you hit it.

That same year, 1977, Atari released the 2600 which had much better games that were in color. Wikipedia says that the 2600 was an early 2nd generation home video game, whereas the Coleco was 1st generation (today’s Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii are 7th generation). I remember Jeb and I (and Grant sometimes) going up to the Northlake Sears to play Combat. Eventually, after the 2600 was obsolete, Grant bought one from one of his friends and we played that for a while.