Thursday, December 30, 2010

hiFace: the details

I've seen some interest in my previous article on the hiFace, so I thought the technically minded readers might like some more details. The company that builds it is M2Tech. They have exclusive agreements with distributors around the world. In the US the unit is only available through the website starting at $150.

The hiFace is a USB device that outputs S/PDIF on a coaxial connector (either RCA or BNC). It is designed to produce a signal with low jitter and low phase noise. It can produce a data stream signal with sampling as high as 192 Kbps and 24 bit resolution. It does this by using a proprietary device driver, which you load from the provided CD the first time you plug the unit in to your computer. There are drivers for Windows XP, Vista and 7 as well as MacOS 10.4, 10.5, and 10.6. Not all receivers or DACs are able to process S/PDIF at 192 Kbps even if the hiFace can send it that fast. Consult your owner's manual for the specifications of your particular system.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

M2Tech hiFace

M2Tech and disc My latest electronic toy arrived last month and was immediately put to use in the theater. The unit is called a "hiFace" and it is made by an interesting Italian company named "M2Tech". The hiFace plugs in to a computer's USB port and provides digital audio output that you can feed to a digital-analog converter (DAC) or a receiver equipped with one. Rather than connecting the computer to the receiver with the usual two red and white cables, this allows me to connect the computer to the receiver using digital audio, much in the same way that a DVD player can be connected to a home theater receiver (one equipped to handle Dolby Digital and other surround-sound inputs). By using this device I can completely bypass the computer's sound card and output all digital audio directly to my receiver. This means the task of producing the sound is in the hands of the equipment that can do the best job.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Morning Drive and Ride

This morning I had planned on joining a large group ride leaving from the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Cartersville, GA. About 50 or so riders were going to get together and ride the same 48-mile route as the Cartersville "Beautiful Backroads Century" with a stop at a convenience store at the halfway point. Rides like this are routinely scheduled on holidays, and someone decided that the day before Halloween was close enough to a holiday to use it as an excuse for a ride.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nighttime flying

Last weekend we wanted to fly up to northern Kentucky to visit relatives. In order to make a Sunday morning departure a bit easier I decided to move the plane to a closer airport on Saturday evening. At the same time I thought it would be a good opportunity to get in some night landings.

FAA rules require me to have at least 3 night time landings in the past 90 days in order to carry passengers at night. As we all know, once is an accident and twice is coincidence. So obviously I will be infinitely safer after three repetitions than after two. Well, at least that's what the FAA believes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Music in the Theater

Now that I have a nice home theater with a wonderful sound system, I like to use it for more than just watching movies. I don't have an extensive music collection: about 375 discs containing around 3400 tracks. But I really like what I have, and I find this music most enjoyable when it is being reproduced as accurately as possible. It is nice to be able to listen to a symphonic performance and feel as if I was there. It's great to listen to a jazz recording and be able to aurally place each instrument and voice. And of course I like the driving bass I hear from my collection of rock music.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The new road bike

Yes this one is actually new! After a year of using the Cannondale I decided that it is too big for me. Last August the local bike shop put all their 2010 models on clearance, so I purchased one. My new bike is a Specialized Allez Elite. It is a 20-speed with a "compact double" chainring (34/50) on the front and a 12-27 cassette on the back. I was a bit concerned going from the triple chainring that's on my Cannondale to a double, but after riding this new bike for awhile I like the double better. I can still climb all the same hills and I don't have any of the issues that a triple can cause while shifting.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rose Pedal "Century"

No I didn't ride the "century" (100 miles) but I did for the most part enjoy my first organized ride of the season last weekend (the 17th). This was the Rose Pedal Century. The route I chose was advertised as a 45 mile ride but it was really 48 miles. Unfortunately my body wasn't ready for anything over 40 and I really wish the ride had been about 10 miles shorter. But more on that later.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Florida Riding

What does a cyclist do in the winter? I have seen some riders tough it out in 30 degree weather, but that's not for me. My cutoff point is somewhere around 50 degrees, because I really don't like to have my fingers and my face frozen so hard that pieces start falling off. I have cold riding gear that makes 50 tolerable, but below that I'd rather not. So to stay in shape and prepare for a year of fun riding, I put my bike up on one of those stands that makes it stationary. Now I can ride my bike in our basement for as long as I can stand, which is about 15 minutes. Riding indoors, with no wind, no downhills, and scenery that never changes, is about as boring as watching cement harden. I force myself to 30 minutes but anything beyond that would drive me to the brink of insanity.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

If it was that important to you...

Yesterday morning I was driving to the gym when I stopped at a traffic light. This particular intersection has one through lane, a left turn lane, and a right turn lane that goes nowhere. The intersecting road on the left does not continue to the right. I don't know why there's a right turn lane at this intersection because there is nowhere to go. There's an entrance to a parking lot about 300 feet past the intersection, and I suppose one could use the right turn lane to eventually enter that parking lot, but otherwise it is a useless lane. As I sat at this peculiar intersection, I saw a red pickup truck approach from behind. He and I were the only ones waiting for the light, but he decided to make use of the right turn lane. Well I knew he wasn't turning right so perhaps he intended to turn in to the parking lot a ways up the road. But I suspected that wasn't the case either.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Goodbye LORAN

Back before GPS there was LORAN. Building on the success of the British GEE radio navigation system, the US military developed LORAN during World War II as a secret program to provide the Allies with a reliable and accurate means of navigation at sea in any weather. LORAN was originally called Loomis Radio Navigation (LRN), named after its inventor Alfred Lee Loomis. After the war ended the Coast Guard continued to expand LORAN for use by both the military and commercial shipping fleets. It has evolved through the years but has always been a reliable means of off-shore navigation, and eventually it was expanded to include support for aircraft.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Really Great Food By Kevin (Woodfire Grill)

Last Friday my wife and I had the pleasure of dining at The Woodfire Grill in Atlanta. This restaurant has a recently famous executive chef, Kevin Gillespie. Kevin was a "cheftestant" on season 6 of Top Chef, which aired last fall. Kevin won many of the challenges and made it all the way to the final three. We were rooting for him to win it all, but he came in third. Ever since the season finished Kevin has become quite popular and so has his restaurant.

We wanted to go sooner but were unable to make it happen until this past weekend. But it was definitely worth the wait.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Happy New Year everyone!

Before the old year ended we went to see Cavalia, a Cirque du Soleil spinoff with horses. They have been performing in Atlanta since the end of October and when they were "held over" for additional performances, we grabbed up some good tickets for an afternoon performance. My oldest daughter is a horse nut, so this was an easy choice and a good fit.

I had in my mind an idea of what this show would be, and it turns out my idea was way off. I was thinking of a traditional horse "trick riding" show with some acrobats. Starting with this somewhat biased vision I quickly grew disappointed in the first 15 minutes of the show. I thought it started slow with lots of pointless focus on props and the human performers. In my mind I kept shouting "bring on the horses already." But the problem, as it turns out, was with me and not the performance. This isn't a horse show. This is a performance with horses.