Project Loon

I had to check the calendar when I saw this… just to make sure it was not the first of April…

The folks at google have another great (crazy?) idea – distributing internet via balloons. Yeah, that’s right with balloons. Here is a short Introduction video that shows why they are doing it (but do they really need a reason?):

(image source: washingtonpost.com)

Check out the official site for all the details - http://www.google.com/loon/

Read the google blog post about it with lots of cool details - http://googleblog.blogspot.co.il/2013/06/introducing-project-loon.html

My google I\O summary

I just love following Google’s journey… When seeing their I\O announcements, I can’t help it but compare it to Alice in Wonderland and the deep rabbit hole. They just keep making things up, inventing new things and improving existing features / apps. Sure with a company as large as Google with the resources they have at their hands they do have all they need to amaze us again and again.

As far as I remember there have been only two things that didn’t make me happy with google – the decision to take down Google Reader and the outcome of Google wave. I was addicted to Google reader, really addicted. Adding some OCD to it and I could just check in and read / mark as read endless items every day. It was the most convenient way to follow the sites I like. I have now switched to feedly, which is a great service, but I already miss Google Reader and the awesome interface I modded it to with a few user scripts. In regards of Google wave – the idea was awesome, but I think google didn’t push it over the edge to really “re-invent mail”. In my mind it had the potential of taking over the world… but it did far less.

In this year’s Google I\O Google did amaze us a few times with mostly upgrades / improvements to their existing services. Let’s take a look at them:

Google Play Music all access:

A monthly subscription music service that will give you access to almost all music available for about 10 bucks a month. I think this might be a winner for mobiles with unlimited data packages. No more copying music, downloading, ripping just to keep your tunes with you. I’m not sure about the price tag yet, as 10 bucks sounds like a lot if you can get almost the same for free, using pandora or youtube. I guess it all depends on how they implement it and if they’ll offer specials (i.e. 80$ for a year or alike).

Google Chrome:

Lots of changes and improvements for Google’s browser. I just hope they’ll get the mobile version of this browser up to speed with it’s desktop version. They have also announced a new codec for faster video streaming (VP9) – Let’s hope that it will make youtube an even smoother experience

Google+:

Google totally re-did the entire interface of Google + and hangouts. I’m still mainly on facebook, but love to play around with Google+ occasionally. One of the things that kept pushing me away on Google+ was the interface, it somehow just looked “wrong”. Now with their latest changes online, I believe there will be quite a few facebookers switching. Besides the interface, the entire Photo aspect of it has changed, as you can now with a few clicks (sometimes even only one click) edit the photo and improve it. What once took a long time with professional photo editing software like photoshop, can now be done inside Google+ with a single click. Amazing. In addition Google updated their Google+ hangouts application to be even more awesome – check it out :)

Search and Maps:

Google did lots of work on the search engine and maps. Lots of changes that will probably roll out soon – some of these are already live! It looks more and more like Google is reading our minds and gives us exactly what we are looking for at blazing speeds. Even though I am working with Computers, Servers and complicated infrastructures on a daily basis, I can’t even begin to understand how something this complicated and personalized can still be this fast…. Maybe it’s a limit of my imagination, but realizing that even Google Maps are personalized and change dynamically as you click around, bringing the most relevant information right in front of you, in less than a second – sounds still like sci-fi to me.

Another great thing during the I/O presentation I watched online was an unexpected session of Q&A with Larry Page – awesome!

Great Job Google!

My Personal Headphone guide

I’m far away from being a professional reviewer, but I just feel I should share with you my experiences with headphones. I’m a freak and I love headphones – there I said it out loud. My love for headphones started about a decade ago, when friends gave me a voucher as a birthday present. That was the first time I bought headphones from a serious brand. I remember that first impression like it was yesterday… I was amazed that headphones could be so enjoyable, I head no idea that I could listen to music and REALLY enjoy it with headphones. That first set was a Sennheiser PX 200 (I believe it was the first edition that is no longer available).

At that point I started to research a bit and found a whole new world, that was previously unknown to me – Audiophilia. I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, discovering so many new things, so many technical details and discussions. Most of the discussions I found in forums used words I never considered relevant to describe sound or music. How can music be cold or warm? How can there be a wide or deep sound stage in headphones?

On my journey through the endless amount of reviews and guides, comparison charts and expert articles, I quickly realized that there is no such thing as the ultimate set of headphones, or the best one. Everybody had different opinions and technical explanation on why this one set is overpriced, under powered or not warm enough. 

I would like to give you a simple guide on which headphones I love and appreciate. This is only my personal preference – others might disagree…

Koss PortaPro

The Koss PortaPro might look a bit weird, but they are extremely comfortable. The sound these little gems generate is unbelievable – especially with “regular” music files i.e. mp3. With these you don’t NEED to use only high quality lossless file formats – almost anything will sound great with the Koss PortaPro’s. I just love to use these when I’m “on-the-go”. They are very light and can be folded to fit into almost any bag. To give them an extra boos, I listen to them through my lovely FiiO E07K – pure music bliss.

The best part about these is that they go for a price that is very low for such great quality. They go for less than 50 USd, which is an amazing price for the amazing sound they are producing.

koss portapro 3 koss portapro 2 koss portapro 1

Koss PortaPro

Grado SR125i

The Grado SR125i are the first grado headphones I have ever tried and I absolutely love them. They are light on the head – you could say that you barely feel them on your head. The only downside I could find with these are that the trebles require a bit of a burn in. When I took these right out of the box and played a Linkin Park CD, the treble was somewhat annoying. This isn’t something you can’t take care of by adjusting the equalizer a bit, but once they are properly “burn in” – the treble sounds great. I suggest letting them play for night or at least a few hours on a medium volume level. Just plug them into a media player and let them go randomly through the music on it. This will make the sound much much better.

The part I like the most about these is that you can put them on your head and forget they are even there… I’ve spent literally hours with these on my head while working.

Because of their size and huge cable, they are not easy to care around, I leave mine connected to the PC in the office.

Just like the koss porta pros, they sound even better with the FiiO E07K.

Grado SR125i

Grado Prestige Series SR125i 

AKG 518 LE

The AKG 518 LE are different than all the other headphones mentioned in this post. They are not easy on the head. Not at all. But they have great bass, and are great at what they are built for – for DJs or when you really want to blast music into your head. They sound best with electronic music, Rap and disco, just whatever a DJ would listen to while DJing. I like to use them when i want to mix some electronic music and the bass levels are important to me. I can’t see myself using these to some relaxing music listening. I highly recommend trying them out in a store before buying them. Even though they are not expensive, but still…. they go for about 70 USD at Amazon.

AKG 518 le 2 AKG 518 le 3 AKG 518 le 1

AKG K 518 LE Limited Edition Folding Headphones – Red

Sennheiser HD 595 / HD 598

These are currently my absolute favorite headphones. I have the Sennheiser HD 595 and I just love the sound they are producing. Sennheiser have a very distinct sound signature in their higher level headphones, there is something to the sound that makes it more than just great – but awesome!

These were my first “high level” headphones and I am very glad that I went for these when most of the online reviews suggested them as first step in the audiophile world.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not eager to move on to the next step… But even now, after owning these for over a year, I still get goose bumps when I listen to them. I love to listen to live performance of artists, and the when I listen through these cans – it feels almost like I’m sitting right there next to the artist….

When listening to music with headphones like these it is very important to use a good audio source and quality music files / video files. It would be a waste listening with these to low bitrate mp3s or crappy online streams.

Sennheiser decided to discontinue this line and create the HD  598 instead. They are basically renewed upgraded HD 595, having the same great audio quality.

These are the HD 595

sennheiser hd 595

 

and that’s how the newer HD 598 look like.

sennheiser hd 598 1

I highly recommend getting a pair of these if you like to listen to music!

Sennheiser HD 598 Headphones (Burl Wood Accents)

That’s it for now. Next I hope to get my hands on the AKG Q701, the Sennheiser HD 650, the Sennheiser HD 800 and hopefully I’ll be able to afford them soon ;)

Contact me if you have any questions!

My New FiiO E07K Andes Portable USB DAC

It’s been awhile since I last posted… sorry for that. It’s just that real life catches up with me sometimes and forces me to neglect the blogging :(. But here I am, back and with a great piece of equipment I just received, the FiiO E07K  Andes Portable USB DAC Headphone amplifier.

I have to say I am amazed by this little device. My headphones have never sounded this good and clear.

This is how it looks like:

Pretty, isn’t it?

The FiiO E07K is built very well, very robust and comes with a nice silicon cover to protect it when using it on the go. It is rare that I receive something ordered from the net and I’m positively surprised by the packaging, content and overall package I receive. This time I surely was… The FiiO came with a smooth satin bag to carry it around with, a USB cable, a 3.5 to 3.5 cable, 2 rubber bands to bind the FiiO to your player, rubber feet, 2 (!) screen protectors, and documentation. The surprising part (at least for me) was that every single piece in the package was built in high quality, very nice to touch, yet robust.

Now some technical details:

  • 96kHz /24-bit support via USB
  • 128 x 64-pixel OLED display
  • Docks on E09K desktop amp – I really need to get me one of these ;)
  • Two headphone outputs – a very nice and loveable feature.
  • Bass, treble and gain settings

I have tried it so far with a few headphones: Sennheiser HD595, beats solo, AKG K518LE, Grado SR125, AKG Q 350 and I must say – they all sound much better with the FiiO E07K than with any other DAC I’ve used so far (Audio2DJ, X-fi sound card). It is amazing how I can turn up the volume higher and higher and yet the sound stays clear and calm, and the bass is still “nice” on the ears (except the beats, maybe). The higher sounds, the treble is just exactly where it should be, it just sounds “right”.

And if you really use this on the go and want to listen to mp3 from your smartphone – you’ll be surprised by the sound that you can get out of your phone… It’s not as heavenly as listening to lossless audio files, but still pretty good :)

The best part about this is, that it has a very affordable price tag (89 USD on Amazon) check it out:

Amazon link: FiiO E07K Andes Portable USB DAC Headphone Amplifier, Black

Bottom line: You want this. You rally want this.

The front and left of the FiiO E07K

The front and left of the FiiO E07K

 

Are these the best Headphones available?

I really love my Sennheiser HD 595 headphones and love the the sound they are producing. After reading several reviews of the Sennheiser HD 800 headphones, I just had to try them… Their price is quite out of my league, but a local DJ store had them and when I asked them they let me try them for about half an hour. I brought two of my favorite CD’s with me: XX – by The XX and Welcome to Mali by Amadou and Mariam. I can’t even find the words to describe the sound coming out of these cans… just amazing,  clear, full sound. I have never heard anything sounding so good….

I guess I’ll just have to save up to get me a pair of these, but they go for 1400 USD….

Here is a professional review of the cans: http://stereophile.com/headphones/sennheiser_hd800_headphones



Internet Explorer 9 UI Screenshot

I just noticed the IE 9 screenshot FavBrowser posted and I have to say it – I like it. It looks like IE got rid of most of the clutter it always had and got a cleaner and simpler UI.
Check out the some more technical details at FavBrowser.

Too much mails and inbox clutter? Try Priority Mail by Gmail

Google does it again… I great new addition to Gmail is been rolled out this week.
Check out the video :)

The Wilderness Downtown, amazing HTML5 demo

An amazing demo of the possibilities with HTML 5 and Chrome. This interactive video features some very cool and awesome things… It’s based on the song “we used to wait” and is called The Wilderness Downtown.

Type an address into the search bar and let it surprise you… – http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/

Or use this link with a San Fransisco address already built in…

I can’t even come close in explaining how much I like this demo – you just have to see if for yourself!

My Personal take on music piracy

I don’t want to pretend that my take on anything matters, but still – I would like to use this opportunity to share with you my view as unimportant and small it may be…

I love music. Period. I’m willing to pay money for the music I love. Period. BUT – My options to get my hands on a good album are very little… I can go to the store and buy an album I have never heard, maybe listening to a few minutes of it in the store before I buy it. I did this more than once and most of the time the CD didn’t make it into my player more than once, because I just don’t like it – what a waste of money. I’ve been trying to get an online music store to work with my credit cards (Amex gold, international) but since my residence is in Israel, most of the online stores deny the transaction or won’t even let me try – like the famous apple store (why?). Believe me, I would prefer paying for my downloads than taking the risks of downloading pirated music – not once I encountered weird and suspicious files in the download. I want to listen to an album before I go and buy it, is that too much to ask for? Instead I find myself over and over again paying money to filehosting companies like hotfile, rapidshare, etc. to download an album, just to listen to it before I go and buy the CD. I tried using other methods to check out albums, bust most of the time I was disappointed… Youtube is full of edited music, remixes and what not, amazon’s and other online store’s “preview” of songs just isn’t enough – how can I choose an album to buy after listening to 15 seconds of low quality, compressed, streamed of a song?

Maybe it is time to rethink the current model of music on the Internet, or the distribution of it? Or maybe I’m just not aware of other options? Or maybe I’m just to0 spoiled and should lower my expectations?

I’m open to any suggestions you have – either leave a comment or send me a mail.

Make Ubuntu Lucid look like a mac…

I really love linux, especially Ubuntu. Ubuntu is my favorite distro, because it’s user friendly and looks good while still being a very solid and stable OS. But there is something about Mac’s UI, they just look great… they look so great that when I saw this post about making Ubuntu Lucid looking like mac, I immediately had to try it :) and it looks GREAT, just like mac OS

image