Category Archives: Technology

It ain’t easy!

After a week of pain, I finally figured how to transfer my old vinyl records and cassette tapes to my iPod in stereo. If you are not interested in this topic you can safely skip this week’s column, but I wanted to memorialize what I learned because it was so darn hard to learn it!

You would think there would be simple instructions on the web about how to do this, and there are. The problem is that none of them actually worked for me. My venture started a few weeks ago when I switched to the iPhone and became enamored with the iPod feature.

After loading every music CD I could find into my computer (and then on to the iPod) I only had about 500 songs and huge gaps in my music library (See “The music of my life“). It was then that (on the suggestion of a reader) I purchased a USB turntable.

Of course, I did my due diligence and read a number of reviews before settling on a Audio-Technica AT-LP2D-USB Stereo Turntable for $81 plus $14 shipping at http://www.buy.com The price was right and I was persuaded by all the users who testified that they had great success with the product. Warnings 1 & 2: You get what you pay for and you can’t believe everything you read on the web!

With great excitement I tracked down the UPS driver in last Wednesday’s snow storm and brought my iBook and a few choice albums to my office to set up my system. 1o hours later I had failed to record anything close to high fidelity. The music sounded horrible!

After a night of pulling my hair out, I finally figured out that I already had everything I needed to transfer my albums with my old turntable and amplifier. All I had to do was plug a special wire from the amplifier’s out plugs directly into the line in on my iBook.

This solved the basic problem of the USB turntable that it didn’t provide a loud enough signal. I promptly packed the turntable back up and sent it back to buy.com. After deducting my shipping costs, and allowing for some strange math on buy.com’s part, the whole adventure set me back about $30.

I was almost there, except that I noticed that my recordings were not transferring separate stereo tracks. I would get sound in both the left and right speakers, but it would be the same. Again, this was contrary to all the users on the Internet who claimed to have no problem transferring stereo.

After another night of googling and experimenting, I finally found someone who told me the problem was that I was using an iBook. Apparently the line in on the iBook (as opposed to desktop Macs) is not capable of separating stereo without the assistance of a little device called an iMic made by Griffin Technology)

Although I could purchase one of those with the $60 refund I got from my turntable I didn’t have to because, again, I already had one! It seems about 5 years ago I had purchased one in an early attempt to transfer vinyl to digital but had given up because the learning curve was too steep.

Now I simply hooked it up in between my stereo and my iBook and “Voila!” I had stereo! Don’t ask me how it works because I don’t know or care, but it does. Now with the help of free Audacity software, I can transfer a record (in stereo!) eliminate the phonographic hisses, pops and cracks, divide and name the tracks of the albums, and load them into my iPod. Bliss!

It ain’t easy, but if you take 5 years you can learn to do anything! Now if I could only figure out how to convert my large wav format files to mp4 so I can put more songs on my iPod. Everybody says it’s simple …

Why i?

I’ve always considered myself a somewhat early adopter of new technologies, but not necessarily on the bleeding edge. That’s why I delayed until this week to finally switch to the iPhone. Now I wonder what took me so long!

I’ve been a devoted Applephile for 20 years since The Clarion was started on two Mac se ‘s in 1989. (That hot machine featured 4 megs of RAM and a 40 meg hard drive!) The Computer Age actually started for me a few years earlier with a pc, a Compaq 286 Deskpro that I bought in January of 1987 for over $6,000!

I was also an early enthusiast for the Internet and started building web sites for The Clarion and the Western New York Travel Guide long before computer penetration gave these ventures any economic reason for being. The jury is still out on that!

I think this mania for being first started with my Dad. We were the first family in the neighborhood to have a color television, a microwave oven and an Atari video game. Oh the hours wasted playing Pong!

If Dad couldn’t find it on the market, he would build it in his shop. Back then, a company called Heathkit would supply all the parts and instructions on how to build your own personal electronic devices. In the days before silicon, Dad taught us how use the vacuum tube tester.

I knew I was falling behind in the tech race, however, when my second child came home for Christmas with an iPhone. If I didn’t act soon, I risked being a minority in my own family! Great as the technology is, however, I still had concerns:

1. Coverage. When you strip away all the bells and whistles, the iPhone still has to be a reliable phone. The blogs are full of users complaining about the inferiority of ATT’s system to Verizon. As much as I wanted the portable e-mail and Internet service, I am not willing to carry (or pay for) two phones. I’m still leery of that, but so far coverage has not been a problem. I had good coverage at a farm auction yesterday in Hall, NY, although the phone didn’t seem to like the bitter air temperatures. If coverage problems do surface, I will update this post with a comment.

2. Hi tech burnout. I’m already pretty obsessive about checking my e-mail both at home and at the office. Do I really need to be checking it in the intervals in between? That is a concern, but I justified it by thinking that it would be a great service to the members of the tennis club. When spring play starts up I will be very busy arranging matches, finding subs and booking courts. Being able to do all that on the run will be easier on me and better for the members.

3. Penalties: I was still 6 months away from the end of my current Verizon contract, which means I will be hit with a $100 early termination penalty. That hurts, but ATT made it easier by giving both me and one of my daughters a $25 referral fee. That tipped the scales.

BTW If this article convinces you to take the plunge, please consider naming me as your referrer. I could use another $25!