Tuesday, December 28, 2010

JBuds J3 Micro Atomic In-Ear Earphones with Travel Case for $9.95

If there's such a thing as earbuds for everyone's ears, I haven't found them yet, and I imagine they'd cost a fortune even if they existed. I cannot possibly speak to every possible psychoacoustic experience waiting to be had with these earbuds, so I won't even try. Let me instead tell you why these J2s stand out in my book.

JLabs is a solid and dependable name in the earbud market, and their low street prices and contrastingly satisfying soundscape is well documented already. The J3s are no exception, and compared to their more beefy J2 predecessor, these buds are light, tight, mean and clean. Rich, transparent capture of the 1KHz-2.5KHz range makes bowed strings shimmer, synth pads float, and affords an impressive resolution in the range of vocals. The "singed" overdriven character of Simon Le Bon's vocals on the song "All You Need Is Now" lept up in the mix, but melted away to glassy, open-air trebly cleanness for the later choruses. The J3's ability to respond quickly to subtle dynamics changes was a delightful surprise; pizzicato notes plucked neatly even in a swimmy sea of washing pads.

I hesitate to call the new approach to bass a "disappointment," but I admit, I'm fonder of the J2's more visceral rendering of the bass frequencies, especially from 200Hz-450Hz. The J3 buds offer a clean approach with amazing clarity in that range -- John Taylor's trademark bass sound was reproduced very articulately, with excellent nuance of finger pressure -- but for those familiar with the dripping warmth of the bass of an old tube receiver, this chilly, glassy clarity might be a bit too brittle and digital, especially as coupled with the iPhone, iPod, or a similarly fidelity-over-character DAC. Percussive bass seems to be boosted a bit, but melodic bass gets lost under the sizzles above 650Hz. EQ on the phone's end improved the warmth a bit, but sometimes you just don't want that level of ultra-resolution clarity; some music is best with a bit of ear-level added saturation.

Symphonic pieces, whether classical or progressive, love these earbuds. Busy passages, such as the frenzied crowd-shouting of the original "Hair" cast album or the thick layers of Mike Oldfield's soundscapes, come through with impressive voice-isolating clarity, and horns and guitars (clean and overdriven) sizzle into rich, high-fidelity life, and cymbals ring exquisitely, but while the percussive low bass is excellent, the melodic bass range has a character that some might find too understated.

The durability is impressive; though the buds look fragile, they're markedly more solid than other buds I've seen in their price range, and certainly a quantum leap ahead of the bundled iPod buds. The slender plug fits even narrow-clearance jacks on devices with cases, and the range of cushions provided should make most folks quite happy for ear comfort. The buds' light weight, secure fit and sturdiness leave me very confident about their use day to day, and again, their workmanship and sturdiness is very impressive.

There's no such thing as a "perfect" set of earbuds for all ears and all source material. Still, the J3s clean up the plate at their normal discount price point, if perhaps not as thoroughly at their MSRP. Bass lovers may prefer the J2 instead, at cost of slightly added bulk, but folks who don't mind a less boosted melodic bass range will likely find the J3 buds a no-brainer first pick for happy private listening.

I haven't really seen a clear step up from the J3's sound quality until the price is quadrupled or quintupled, and that's rather telling, isn't it?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Amazon - The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

I'm pretty OCD about exercise and fitness... and business so I love Tim's insights and experimentations because he is a whole other world of OCD - and he's brilliant with it!

Sex, exercise, eating - definitely in the top 5 most important things in life (in my opinion). The only thing not covered is business and thats in his other book the Four Hour Work Week, which is AWESOME!

I think there is a lot to be learned from this book. As he rightly states/admits it's not all his own first hand experience, some of it is, a lot of it he has found experts and drawn conclusions from their work based on his own self experimentation - Brilliant! Thanks for doing the hard work!

Like any book like this (and as Tim states) you should pick and choose the bits most relevant to you.

It's a raw, OCD take on the human body - thank you for publishing this. Finally a book that acknowledges medicine though goes with what's actually going on. I highly recommend you buy this book even if you only learn one thing from it, it will be worth it.

Time to stop being fat and ignorant and take control and responsibility for your life!

Get a copy now

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monster Turbine High-Performance In-Ear Speakers

I have had many sets of earbuds over the years, and these are by far the best that I have owned. They come with many different ear tips, so take some time and try the different ones, makes a big difference. I like these earbuds for working in the yard (snow blowing right now) and commuting on the train. With my other ones, I had to turn the volume up so high to cover up the background noise, that I thought I was causing harm to my ears.

With these, I only have to set the volume between 6-8, instead of 30. They really block out the background noises. They are metal, not plastic like most. The only thing I would change is the plug, it is straight, and I would prefer a 90 degree one. I have an adaptor so that is not a super big problem, just an inconvenience. I would recommend these, and the price is a great deal.

Monster Turbine High-Performance In-Ear Speakers

Monday, December 20, 2010

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

I found this book to be a concise and excellent read. Entertaining and enlightening at the same time. I highly recommend reading this book to get things like diet and exercise boiled down and condensed to what works and what matters. Its unfortunate how many educated people are still teaching wives-tales based on the junk science of the past. I am in the process of going back through the book, taking notes and applying what I have learned.

I found the book to confirm some things I personally thought or suspected and other things I already knew. But it is loaded with things I did not know, have not heard of or have not been exposed to. I also like the encouragement to do self-experiment (in a reasonable manner) to fine tune and tweak what works for you. I am amused and impressed with Tim's ability to think outside the box, crunch data, deconstruct, and boil things down to get the 20% (application) that gives you 80% (results).

I was surprised that more ground wasn't covered in some areas, and that some "rabbit holes" weren't explored deeper. I guess that could leave things open for another book like it or an expanded edition in the future. I was reading this book like a madman as much and as fast as I could. I give it two thumbs up. I'm looking forward to a new me in the near future.

Friday, December 17, 2010

EVGA GeForce GTX460 768MB DDR5 PCI-Express 2.0 Graphics Card 768-P3-1360-TR

EVGA GeForce GTX460 768MB DDR5 PCI-Express 2.0 Graphics Card 768-P3-1360-TR - Completed my first PC build a couple weeks ago and installed this card in my rig. Install was easy, initially installed drivers on accompanying disc and then updated to latest driver on nvidia's website, 260.99 version I think.

It plays Devil May Cry 4 perfectly at 1920x1080 with max settings and vsync on and frame rate never stutters. It plays Dirt 2 all maxed at 1920x1080 but I have to overclock card (used evga precision to overclock) to achieve 56-60 fps with vsync on, overclocked to 820 clock, 1640 shader and 1050 memory. It plays GTA EFLC perfectly playable but can't max out the game. Still looks way better than xbox and ps3 versions however.

I have detail at high, shadows at medium (night shadows off), anistropic 4x, no AA in the game, I have vyncd FPS always at 55. My rig specs i5 760 overclocked to 3.66Ghz, Corsair 1600MHz 4GB memory, Asus P7P55D-E Pro motherboard and Windows 7 Home premium (system builder version). Will probably get another 460 GTX soon and should be set for the forseeable future.

See the full specification here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Redemption in Indigo Author Karen Lord's Top Ten Books Read in 2010

Last month, Karen Lord's marvelous novel Redemption in Indigo made Amazon's Top 10 Best SF/Fantasy for the year, coming in at #3. Along with the other writers who made the list, she's been invited to provide her own list of her favorite reads in 2010. (For these lists, the authors can list either books published in 2010 and enjoyed or just read in 2010 and published earlier, or a mix.) Here's Karen Lord's list, with short intro. Some great gift suggestions here!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Call of Duty: Black Ops - $47

The title of my review is a recurring theme. In everything I find wrong with this game, it's always because Treyarch went for a wow-factor, but didn't sweat the small things. To be honest, I think it's that they didn't get enough previewing/game testing (or didn't listen to the advice they DID get).

Story (Singleplayer):
The story was great. It was a great idea, I think (It's hard to tell cause the ending was spoiled for me.), but that was not the issue. The issue was all in Treyarch's delivery.
They didn't get me to absorb their material. I didn't feel involved. In successful games and movies, I feel welcome and the creators make the journey seem like a fun roller coaster ride (after waiting in line and without feeling sick). Black Ops felt more like doing homework. The point of the game is to confuse you at points, but where they weren't supposed to, I felt confused. I was watching my character and another screaming at each other and I had no idea why. I felt left out, and that made me stop playing the campaign for a while.
Treyarch had the great structure for a moving tale, but didn't present it well. Maybe they didn't pass it by enough people to see how loosely the presentation involved the players.

Singleplayer Gameplay:
My teammates are useless. That's probably the only thing I didn't like in terms of singleplayer gameplay. In one specific example, three of us run up some stairs into a room. My buddies went in before me, and didn't kill the enemy in the room. I assume there's no one there then, and since visibility is rather low in this level, I don't see him myself. Then of course I die. It's frustrating when you can't trust your teammates; it begins to seem like you, alone, are fighting all the baddies.

Multiplayer Gameplay:
Treyarch included many cool weapons, like a ballistic knife or flamethrower attachment. The maps, I found, didn't catch my fancy. I suppose I just didn't like how few spots I could find to snipe from. There are small ones like Nuketown and larger ones like Array, and the playing style changes for what type of match you play (Team Deathmatch vs Search & Destroy).
What I found aggravating was the respawning issues. I found myself dying and spawning a turn around a corner away, just in time for the enemy to get a few rounds through my skull. Also, I found that players (allies and enemies) would spawn behind the enemy lines, where our foes were still occupying the space. It was very puzzling and certainly annoying. When it was ME spawning behind them, I sure got a few good kills, but I didn't really like that fact that I got an edge on them in such a way. Here is a video I found that illustrates what I mean: [...] (he doesn't really start addressing spawning until 5:30)

Connection (Multiplayer):
I found this part to be the worst for me, maybe because it has affected me the most times. First, I'm not certain how or why, but it seems I'm getting the game data a second later than others. Many many countless times, I have run to cover and been out of sight, but still gotten shot, and as I watch the killcam, realize why. It is because others are ahead by a second and in their gamestate, I'm still visible and very vulnerable. This type of situation has occurred countless times, and I understand that it can't be like real life, where everyone is synchronized, but I thought the difference would've been insignificant.

The fact that I play this game on a PS3 may have an effect on this point, but very often, I try to join a match and sometime before entering the game (anytime in between immediately after joining the lobby or until the match and map finally load), I get a notice telling me that I've been "Disconnected due to transmission error" I realized it occuring mostly when I try to join a team deathmatch. Just right now, I wanted to get the wording right for the quote above, so I joined once and got disconnected. Handy isn't it?

All around, I think Treyarch put in a lot of good effort to make this game a success, but in the end, didn't look enough into things rather simply solved with some good player testing. Maybe they were rushed by the release date.

Watch the short trailer here

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Understanding pass by value and pass by reference - Python style

Continuing with the Python theme -

If you're a developer, please click here to see how you can make money helping others.

One of the guys on our Python discussion list wanted to know the difference between pass-by-value and pass-by-reference. Seeing how this same question has been asked a few time previously, I thought I would try and make a blog entry to give a simple explanation to demonstrate how it works.

Some languages use pass-by-value, but Python on the other hand uses pass-by-reference. What is the difference you ask?

Well pass by value is exactly what it sounds like - you pass the value (a copy of everything in the memory). This is bad when you're passing a 10,000 item list to a function - because you now have *two* 10,000 item lists. It's even worse when you have many times that amount of data.

Python, OTOH passes by reference - instead of copying the list, a pointer to the list is passed, so when you see something like this:

def do_something(a_list):
a_list[2] = 4

mylist = [1,2,3,4]

now mylist is: [1,2,4,4].

In call-by-value, the value of the arguments are copied into the function. There is no way to modify variables outside of the function since you don't have access to them, only to copies. C uses this, among many others:

int a = 5
void func(int b) { b = 6; }

a == 5; /* evaluates to true, variable outside function scope remains unchanged */

The value b, inside the function, contains a copy of a. So when it is
modified, the original a remains unchanged.

Many people call python pass-by-reference, even though this is technically incorrect. The difference comes from the semantics of variables and values. In languages such as C, a variable is an area of memory that contains something. An assignment then, copies the value on the right into the variable (memory) on the left.

There are lots of materials and books that cover object-oriented programming in Python comprehensively. But the one that I have personally used and always recommend is this nicely written title:


Have your own thoughts on how to explain the difference between the two? We would like to hear them in the comment below.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Using Python's imp Module

There are a few modules I have not used in Python before. One of those modules is the imp - this module has been available since...well, forever in Python. But for some reason, I only recently came across it on  one of the open source projects I'm contributing to.

I had a little need to temporarily change my system path, this would have required tweaking the system import path. As it turned out, I would use the imp module which has the mechanisms for loading modules in a package dynamically just as I needed. The cool thing is that it helps most especially when the name of the module concerned isn't known.

Finding Modules:

The first step to loading a module is finding. The find_module() function scans the import search path looking for a package or module with the given name. It returns an open file handle (if appropriate for the type), filename where the module was found, and “description” (a tuple such as those returned by get_suffixes()).

import imp
from imp_get_suffixes import module_types

print 'Package:'
f, filename, description = imp.find_module('example')
print module_types[description[2]], filename

print 'Sub-module:'
f, filename, description = imp.find_module('submodule', ['./example'])
print module_types[description[2]], filename
if f: f.close()
You can learn more about Python's imp module and how to use it and many
more great modules by going to the Python Algorithms here. 

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Amazon: Instant Savings on Select LG HDTVs - $200

If you have been following this blog and others, you will have noticed that Amazon.com has been doing a massive product clearance for the whole of this week. They call it Cyber Week - meaning that prices on most of their products have been slashed.

One of those products going very fast is this selection of LG HDTVs. If you buy now, you will save upto $290 (depends on which one you buy). and scroll down for all the TVs and offers.

Hurry now before they all run out - remember they are going very fast. The indication on the site should give you an idea of how fast they're going.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Spring Persistence with Hibernate brings People to My Blog

In the last couple of days over 745 searches for Spring Persistence with Hibernate came through Google to this blog. It is nice to see that there's still huge Java interested in the community, something a lot of folks have been arguing that it is dying.

If you didn't see the post that was bringing in the traffic, I suggest you have a look here.

Today, I sat down at the office and decided to have a go at the second half of the book. You should buy a copy if you are serious about software development - especially Hibernate and Spring. It has everything you'll need and more. I also recently finished a copy of Paul Barry's Head First Python. I miss languages and technologies because my work requires that I use multiple languages. Every developer should in fact, learn more than a few programming languages. See Seven Languages in Seven Weeks: A Pragmatic Guide to Learning Programming Languages

Beside that, I also checked out a set of these Etymotic Research ER6i Isolator In-Ear Earphones as they are on sale and going very quickly. At $72 each, I couldn't let the opportunity pass. I bought one over 2 years ago, but wanted another one because I truly loved the sound output and noise isolation that they provide. The headphone is great if you're working at your computer and don't want to hear any chatter going on across from you.
Those were the things that kept me occupied through out the week. In the mean time, I will post an update with full review of the Spring Persistence with Hibernate once I'm done reading it. Again, I highly recommend you get a copy of that book.
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