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ATPM 11.08
August 2005


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It’s Just Business

The switch to Intel processors really is just a good business decision which, as a long-time Mac guy, is the best news I’ve heard since sliced bread!

Marry the best operating system to the fastest, coolest running chips on the market, and I’m there!

—Grover Watson

Audio Conversions

I read all three of your excellent articles about converting analog to digital audio for Mac, and I was very grateful to find information for the Mac OS X.

I wondered if you have any recommendations or information on the ADVC110 Digital Video Audio Converter, which is powered by a FireWire connector and works with Windows and Mac OS.

I have purchased (but not yet opened) the ADVC110 for the reduced price of $269 (regular price $319). I don’t want to waste my money if you think this is an overpriced way to convert analog audio (cassette music and LPs) and video tapes to CDs and DVDs. I hope you have the time to send me some advice.

—Judith Easterly

If you already own this unit, I think it makes sense to go ahead and use it. It will certainly do what you need.

For LPs, you may find it less straightforward to use this device than a Griffin iMic with Final Vinyl. The reason being that Final Vinyl offers proper equalization for LPs (which are cut using the RIAA EQ curve that affects the low and high frequencies) and also boosts the input sensitivity since most record players output at a tiny fraction of the level of your CD player (typically 2 mVolts instead of 2 Volts for a CD player or cassette deck).

But this device will obviously do things that the iMic won’t, namely converting your analog video footage to digital so you can make DVDs, etc. And for cassettes it will be very straightforward to archive to CD.

If you find that LPs are not user friendly with this device, take a look at the iMic with Final Vinyl from Griffin. It’s not that expensive, and it is a very easy way to go about converting LPs to CD. But depending on how many you plan to convert, you may be just fine with the ADVC. —Evan Trent

• • •

I have a Quad ElectroAcoustics setup, which I bought in 1984. This offers me a 5-pin Din plug output, and I have purchased a DiN-to-minijack cable, which now gives me a stereo signal. My Mac is a Pismo PowerBook so the sound card route isn’t an option. You mention Griffin’s iMic, and I just wanted to clarify the manner of connection. Do I simply put my minijack into the iMic and hook that up to the USB port?

Finally, I’m not an audiophile, but I want to do a decent job on transferring my vinyl. Can you suggest a reasonably idiot-proof clean up application or plug-in to remove noises? You suggest Amadeus 2. Would that still be your suggestion?

—Niall Connolly

Wow cool—a Quad setup huh? I didn’t even know there was a DIN-to-minijack cable available on the market…where did you find it? I’m curious. I figured that would be a custom job. Either that or a DIN-to-RCA and then RCA-to-minijack kind of thing. I’d be eager to learn your source for the cable because many of my customers (I run a high-end audio shop here in the states) have Quad or Naim gear and would find such a cable useful for the exact purposes you’re planning.

As to your question…yes the minijack should go right into the iMic and then into the USB jack. And as to software, I would recommend Amadeus. It has several useful filters. If your Quad rig does not have a phono preamp built in, then you may need to use Final Vinyl to boost the signal, and then export to Amadeus. But if you have a phono stage on board, you can go right into Amadeus and bypass Final Vinyl entirely. —Evan Trent


This is really a nice introduction to FileMaker! I would like to see more. Going through the FileMaker examples, I see things that are not explained very well. One area that is not clear to me is global variables versus sums and subtotals, e.g. how can you make totals across a selection of records and make it available on the screens, where it automatically updates? This is useful, for example in an inventory for seeing replacement value. Some of these types of advanced subjects would be very helpful to many users.

Thanks for a very useful article!

—Gloria Wilson

Soundsticks II Review

Very interesting review of the Soundsticks II. I was at J&R in New York today comparing them to the Altec Lansing MX5021. I liked the Soundsticks a lot, but was shocked at what I thought was the superior sound with the Altec Lansing for only $20 more. I’m not an audiophile, so I’m wondering if my ear is any good. Have you heard the MX5021?

For yet another $80 I could get the Altec Lansing FX6021 that you reviewed, but I don’t think that is as big an improvement as in the MX5021 over the Soundsticks. Am I off base?

—Bill Brunelle

I haven’t heard the MX5021s—but my advice is to trust your own ears. Don’t worry about specs or price (within reason). Just because a speaker is a more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better, but it doesn’t mean it’s worse, either. It doesn’t really mean much of anything in today’s world. And specifications have become almost entirely meaningless these days. Just about the only thing we can depend on to guide us through the purchasing process are the two holes on each side of our head. So if you found a pair of speakers you like better, go with them! —Evan Trent

Hit Me Again

Super article, very smart!

Except for the anti-Italian knock on Ferrari engines of course. (I own one, not the car, just the engine. For showy display, ya know.)

—Ed Williams

Thanks, and also I didn’t quite say Ferrari engines aren’t good or weren’t part of the appeal of the whole car. But it’s not the only consideration.

Definitely I would love a Ferrari and admit I can’t afford one.

Now, I remember an analogy about the evolution of computers compared to that of cars…if only Ferrari did what Apple achieved with the Mac mini…hmmm… —Angus Wong

• • •

Blimey, you do come across as a bit of a zealot, don’t you? I tried to read the whole article but I had to stop. I’ve owned Macs since January 2001 and have been interested enough to acquire an old PowerBook Duo 230 (with dock and external CD-ROM) and have fun with a machine of such vintage, too.

I’ve been reading ATPM since 2001 and go through all the back issues, but do you really think a normal/common/garden PC is that much of a handicap? It isn’t. PCs are reasonably friendly. I don’t find them a problem at all. I’d say they’re just as easy to use. If Windows didn’t amass the market share that it did, Steve and Co. would be screwing the public just as tightly, if not more so.

If I’d have chosen a PC on that day four years ago, I’m sure I would be just as happy. What I like about the Mac has nothing to do with the operating system or the machine in general. What I like about the Mac is the support you get from the installed user base who offer free and insightful information (and fun comments) on Apple discussion boards, Web sites, and magazines like this. If not for the friendly people, I would have no attachment whatsoever.

The question is, are these friendly people those who have grown up with the Mac, from the 80s onward? If someone were to come to the Mac right now, how differently would they perceive it? Is there really such a big gap between Mac and PC today? I don’t think so, which is why they’re both easy to use. The usability gap must have been far wider in the past. Not now.


Thanks for your comments. Am I a zealot? I suppose so. I do claim to be one of the “Mac fanatics” and consider that patting myself on the back.

Windows is much easier to use now (especially when equipped with 3rd party add-ons such as Google’s Desktop Search and the Firefox browser). But, at the same time, the Mac OS has come a long way as well.

I won’t debate with you on the usability issue. Personally, I still think my Mac is way easier to use than my Windows machine, but there are many other factors to consider when deciding on a computing platform, and security is one of them.

I also know that I am able to work better and more efficiently in OS X than in Windows XP, but this is my own experience. If you are happy with your PC, as I wrote in the article, good for you.

The significance of Windows’ market share, and how it was acquired, is also a controversial issue, and effective business “strategies” do not necessarily mean good technology has correspondingly been promoted. —Angus Wong

No problem.

I would like to point out though, that I don’t own a PC. I did acquire my brother’s PC back in late 80s (Amstrad PC1512), but I didn’t get on with it very well. It used the GEM operating system, which I understand was the OS that shipped with the Atari ST.

I went from this machine to a Commodore Amiga. In the mid-90s, my friend had a P75 and a P90. Trying to get these things to run Doom without a hitch was a nightmare, but we managed it. Sometimes the sound card wouldn’t register, or the machines wouldn’t talk to each other, etc. As cool as these machines were, I felt they were more trouble than they were worth. I stuck with my Amiga until 2001 and the guy in the shop just happened to be a Mac fan and sold us on an iMac DV+.

So, I stick with Macs through habit now. The difference between PCs of today and those from ’96 is massive. Now, they are much more Mac-like.

Nevertheless, I do agree with you on the safety of the PC, i.e. personal details getting hijacked, etc. Sites like ATPM and Low End Mac (among others) mean I am always scouring eBay for cool old Macs. I came so close last Christmas to acquiring two Mac SEs and a Classic. Just missed out.

One day…


Instead of hunting down an old Mac, I suggest you hunt down a recent version of either the iBook G4 or the Mac mini with Tiger pre-installed. Both were upgraded recently and are a super value for money, especially with built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth. You’ll need to up the RAM a bit, though.

For what it’s worth, around the time you had an Amiga, I had an Atari. Back then, Apple was the enemy because both the Atari and the Amiga had superior technology. I think Amiga even gave Electronic Arts its first major graphics platform to justify the company’s breakthrough business model and marketing strategy. —Angus Wong


It is already happening.

Sirius radio already has a podcast channel called Podshow produced by BoKu Communications (Adam Curry’s company).

BoKu has already recruited and is paying “the cream of the crop” such as P.W. Fenton from Digital Flotsam podcast to produce high quality content.

It is the other way around: commercial podcasting business is mainly about content quality. No one is going to listen to a Coca-Cola podcast—however high the production values may be—if the content isn’t attractive. (For example, I only listened once to the Virgin Radio podcast because they had taken all the music out and served the leftovers, a.k.a. DJ Banter, as a podcast). Of course, money buys you lots of marketing power and bandwidth, but word-of-mouth (or rankings sites such as Podcast Alley) will make the larger and long-term impact.

I see iTunes and iTunes podcasting as the Amazon of music. The “Long Tail” theory applies fully here as well.


• • •

Thanks, David, that was interesting—I agree with most of what you are offering, but I also think that commercial interest not withstanding, the Internet (and by its mechanism podcasting does and will serve as the universal bazaar of ideas and access—the relevance and/or veracity of any given instance will always be suspect, but the volume and access afforded will be continuously transformative of society and ideas. To the fittest will go the laurels, but to any can go the rewards.

—Wendy York

• • •

Right on, David. Good commentary. I’ve never gotten the hype behind podcasting, either. Gee, you download an MP3, and it’s got spoken-word content in it. Just like you said, you can play it through anything, what’s it got to do with an iPod necessarily? Nothing.

That said, I think it’s funny that you—correctly, in my estimation—dismember the term podcasting, yet you mention blogs—I feel the same way about blogs as you do about podcasting. I’ve had a personal Web page up since 1993—if only I had put in a little personal diary (and kept it up!—that’s the hard part) I could have claimed to have kick-started the blog revolution well before its time, blah blah (and named myself Adam Curry).

To me, a blog is a personal Web page with diary. “Blog” is a cool/hip name for not that new and exciting a concept.

—Riot Nrrrd

• • •

While I agree that the name is imprecise—apparently “RSS with enclosures” didn’t catch on for some reason—I think that everyone figured out that podcasting wasn’t tied to iPods about six months ago. And while it’s meaningless from a technical perspective, calling them podcasts was brilliant from a marketing perspective, because it associates the idea with the iPod (a fantastic brand), and it perfectly communicates the simple idea that’s at the core of podcasting—content is “broadcast” straight from the content producer to your personal iPod. So it’s a personal form of communication, under your personal control, not just a means of tuning into a corporate broadcast. Brilliant.

And while you’re right that one function of podcasts will be to serve as “farm teams” for the big radio broadcasters, I think that it’s much more than that. Aside from the “anybody can do it” aspect, podcasting offers many more advantages—the listener controls what they listen to and when, in a way that’s physically impossible for radio. And in the long run, that means that podcasting is a better medium than radio, for both the producers and consumers of the “content,” which means that in the long run podcasting will displace radio.

There are already surveys saying that over one million people in the US have listened to a podcast (before iTunes added podcasting support, mind you). So it’s already a mass market, and growing rapidly, so (in my opinion) it’s a matter of time before podcasting bypasses radio in the same way that CD-Rs bypassed cassette. Sure, radio will never die out completely (for broadcasting real-time news, it’s great), but it’ll become less and less powerful as a communications medium, because for most purposes podcasting is dramatically better than broadcast radio.

I think you underestimate how terrible broadcast radio has become. With rare exceptions, due to corporate mergers and the ascendence of accountants and lawyers, radio has no personality and no range. They don’t play music because it’s good, or because people like it, but because it maximizes station profits (i.e. they won’t play anything unless they’re paid to play it). So, similar to the way bloggers complement the corporate news channels, podcasting complements the corporate radio channels. This means that news and music that wouldn’t otherwise make it to an audience can do so. Sure, 90% of podcasting is bad, but 90% of everything is bad. And in return for the “cost” of having to filter through bad podcasts to find the good ones, there’s the very real value of getting access to news and entertainment that is better than you can otherwise get.

For example, I have personal interests that aren’t covered by the mainstream media. For example, I’m a software developer and a science fiction fan, and like to keep track of international news, topics that just don’t get deep coverage on radio. But with podcasting I can get what I’m interested in, and I can listen to it exactly when I want to. And it’s not all nice stuff—some mainstream content companies have figured out how to play in the podcast world—the BBC and CNN both have great podcasts, and there are more every day.

The only people that lose as podcasting wins are the companies that control distribution of audio content, especially ClearChannel. And that’s a good thing.

—Laird Popkin

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