Thursday, January 14, 2016

Shortwave Radio

It's hard to use Shortwave Radio unless you have some idea where the stations are.  The short wave bands are filled with noises that on a quick scan almost seem like they might be stations, and you have to pass over dozens of those before you get your first voice station.

Here's by far the best index of shortwave broadcasts, updated constantly to reflect what's live right now.

Shortwave is the most free broadcast radio there is, at least in most parts of the world.  In the USA all shortwave stations must get a FCC license and build a qualified station (typical cost of around $1M) but that's peanuts compared to what it takes to buy a slot on the FM dial.

FM, of course, is priceless but sadly most FM stations don't live up to the potential of the medium.

The Pioneer DVR-LX 70

Blogger Citibear gives us the essential service information here.  He describes the Pioneer DVR-LX70 as "priceless" and it is.  It is the best consumer Standard Definition video recorder/editor/storage unit ever made.  And it even has HDMI output.

As I've said elsewhere, I'm into Standard Definition Video Recorders for one essential reason.  This is the only video we are allowed to edit, copy and compile in any convenient way.  High Definition video recorders are essentially unobtanium in the USA both because of our onerous copyright laws and the unwillingness of manufacturers to push the limits as they were in previous decades.  High definition video theoretically can be edited on extremely complicated and buggy computer programs. I've basically had my fill of those (Nero, Roxio Toast, etc).  So many times endless hours of pushing stuff around to get the programs to make a nearly decent recording has only produced duds.  Standalone video recorders are far easier to master, easier to use, most often much faster to use, and almost always produce perfect discs.  And mostly fun, rather than mostly frustrating, to use.

Old DVR's are also much more fun.  They can be controlled with a simple push-button device that doesn't require you to look at it or use two hands.  It's called a Remote Control.  It's trivially easy to select such options as slow motion (often available in multiple speeds), reverse motion, endless pause, and so on.  This is power and freedom not generally available, or much more clumsy to use, than computer video programs.

It's also worth repeating, though it seems like ancient history now, that when properly displayed (as hardly anyone bothers to do anymore) Standard Definition is not only good enough (as it was for, um, 60 years) but can actually be very beautiful.  Ultra High Definition programs and displays tend to emphasize useless "detail" above beauty and accuracy.  And the added information is actually a bit illusory.  High Definition digital systems fundamentally rely on lossy compression.

But for the above mentioned reasons, those of us who would like to hold on to freedom and beauty are now forced to live like Cubans in Cuba used to: caring for and servicing our old hardware with no end in sight, and finding ways to continue despite lack of corporate support.

But I can't complain too much.  When I was a 30-something recording (and editing!) videos on my SuperBeta 900 I could hardly imagine a device as nice to use as the DVR-LX70.  Living in the post Standard Definition era, we can pick from the best of the best.  As long as we can keep it working.  And DVR's tend to quit working much more quickly than the best old time VCR's.  I last used my SuperBeta 900 just 3-4 years ago, and it still worked perfectly.  Meanwhile my first DVR, a Sony also with the 900 model number, died twice.  First the hard drive failed.  That's relatively easy to fix.  Then the DVD recorder failed.  That's very very difficult to fix since you have to modify a generic DVD drive to make it work, the special model 900 DVD part is beyond unobtanium.  So I just used the 900 DVD recorder as a hard drive recorder for awhile.  But now it's been replaced by my first LX-70, and I have a second LX-70 on order for backup.  I can't imagine getting along without one.

Last year I discovered the Magnavox units, still being sold new (I think) such as the MDR-557.  I have two MDR's, but they don't hold a candle to the LX-70 (other than that the Magnavox units do have a Digital TV tuner which is required now to receive OTA broadcasts and essential if you want to do "time shifting" of OTA broadcasts.  But that's not something I need to do.  I use my Satellite DVR for time shifting.

Not long ago I discovered the LX-70 can record on Dual Layer DVD's.  That means you can make two hour long compilations at the highest quality level.  Longer compilations are essential to get the most convenient use of videos stored on a hard drive on a standalone hard drive recorder, for many reasons, including that it's painfully hard to select from hundreds of video titles.  Scrolling through them is rather slow on the Magnavox, somewhat faster on the Pioneer.  So I create two hour compilations on the Pioneer and then store them on the Magnavox for background video.  The longer the compilation the fewer you have to scroll through to get to the one you want.

I play videos like most people (and me) play background music.  I select the two hour video I want and then do Repeat Title.  I keep the annoying audio track off and listen to music instead.

Speaking of which, I think "serious" audiophiles dismiss "background music" too easily.  I probably get most of my musical enjoyment, not to mention listening time, in the "background."  Now it's true, just like reading books, "serious" listening is a good thing which should be done as frequently as possible.  But time has to be set aside for that.

The LX-70 can not only repeat titles, you can create playlists of titles and repeat those.  That's also what I like to do with music.