Interesting & Peculiar Products
Live Recordings by Dead Artists?
It’s not a product so much as a technology, and I haven’t heard the results yet, but it’s intriguing as all get-out. Zenph Studios in Raleigh, North Carolina has this process—mostly software, presumably—to determine from a recording how a pianist was actually playing: The notes, of course, but how each key was touched and the positions of the pedals.
The resulting data is used to drive one of today’s digitally-driven pianos. Player pianos that do more than just hit notes have been around for quite a while; a data-driven record/playback system that can exactly reproduce the performance of a live musician has been available for at least a decade.
This process takes that one step further, by deriving all the key data from an existing recording, presumably a low-fidelity one. You then create a high-fidelity recording or a surround-sound recording by driving a grand piano with the new data.
First up is one of the breakthrough classical piano recordings, Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. If the claims are right, you’ll now be able to hear Gould’s playing in stereo or surround (or binaural for headphone playback) without the tape hiss and other problems. That recording is out now on Sony BMG Masterworks. Next (in an 18-record deal), Art Tatum’s 1933 Piano Starts Here.
I haven’t actually heard this done, but the idea is at least plausible. The foundation that preserves Glenn Gould’s work has endorsed the recording.
It took a bit longer than some of us anticipated (and it’s from a different company than I expected, since I assumed Seagate would get there first), but it’s here now: the Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000. One drive (five platters), one terabyte—or, rather, one trillion bytes. That’s 9% less capacity than a terabyte, which would be a kilobyte to the fourth power or 1024x1024x1024x1024, which comes out to 1,099,511.6 million bytes. It’s a 7,200RPM drive, as are most high-capacity desktop drives. The July 2007 PC World review gives it a “very good” 83 score. It’s speedy, doing particularly well for file searches. (It has a 32MB cache, which probably helps a lot.) I find the one negative point a little odd: They call the drive “pricey” and refer to its “premium price.” It costs $399—a little less than forty cents a gigabyte. Somehow, that doesn’t seem all that excessive.
PC Magazine for May 22, 2007 gives an Editors’ Choice to the $250 Canon ImageClass MF4150. It’s a laser all-in-one (printer/scanner/copier/fax) with built-in duplexing, a 250-sheet paper tray, a 35-page automatic document feeder and great speed with superb text output. It’s also fairly compact, with a 15.4x16.8" footprint (17.7" high). It’s monochrome only, but for many office or library uses that might be an advantage.
A printer roundup for small-office/home-office printers in the May 22, 2007 PC Magazine yields four Editors’ Choices, including the Canon ImageClass MF4150 just noted. HP’s Officejet Pro L7680 All-in-one is a color inkjet unit that costs $400 and runs faster than some laser units; it also offers surprisingly low-cost printing for an inkjet ($0.015/page for mono). For the same price, the Xerox 6180N offers color laser printing with excellent speed and paper capacity; it’s a little more expensive on a per-page basis. Finally, the $1,000 Lexmark C534dn offers high capacity (it’s rated for 100,000 pages per month) and excellent speed with low operating costs. All four printers come with built-in duplexing.
Now here’s a phone that’s a serious phone, and the June 5, 2007 PC Magazine awards it an Editors’ Choice. The Nokia N9S has two cameras (one of them 5 megapixels), includes GPS mapping, has a “sublime” web browser, plays “sweet music” and comes with great 3D games. It’s the “most powerful multimedia phone in the U.S.”—although all those features do mean you have to recharge the thing every day. There is one other little negative feature: $750. For a phone.
PC World’s July 2007 roundup of camcorders that record either to mini-DVDs or hard disks yields somewhat surprising results: The DVD camcorders offered better video quality (even though they use the same format). The single Best Buy goes to Sony’s $630 DCR-DVD408 DVD Handycam. Oddly, a picture of the top-performing hard disk camcorder (JVC’s $600 Everio GZ-MG155) also shows a Best Buy logo, but it’s not on the third-place features comparison.
An antivirus roundup in the June 2007 PC World awards the Best Buy to Kaspersky Anti-Virus 6 ($50 with $35 renewal); it’s expensive but effective and responds to new outbreaks rapidly. Note that these are standalone antivirus products, not suites; I believe the Zone Alarm suite uses some version of Kaspersky antivirus software.
Which notebook computers have the power to run Vista effectively? PC World tested 15 laptops for a June 2007 roundup. For a desktop replacement the $2,301 HP Pavilion dv9000t gets the Best Buy; it comes loaded with 2GB RAM, a 2GHz dual-core CPU, 17" widescreen display, 120GB (5400RPM) hard disk, HD DVD player and multiformat DVD burner, and 256MB nVidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics—but it also weighs in at 17 pounds. Among ultraportables, the award goes to Dell’s $2,150 XPS M1210, weighing in at 4.9 pounds and similarly configured (but with a 12.1" screen, multiformat DVD burner with no high-def option, and a GeForce Go 7400 instead of 7600). The Dell tested out at more than five hours battery life; the HP, 2.5 hours.
If you’re looking for an MP3 player—which really means a portable digital music player—you’ve probably heard one four-letter name often enough to think of it as synonymous with the category. The June 26, 2007 PC Magazine roundup doesn’t do much to shatter that assumption—with one exception. Oh, sure, Apple iPods get two Editors’ Choices, for the 80GB $349 iPod and the 8GB $249 nano—but the $60 Sansa Express beats out the $80 iPod Shuffle as the preferred 1GB Flash player.
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