Category Archives: Industrial Change Surfing

The industrial revolution is a powerful set of waves that has crashed into our lives. We, the modern man, must consciously decide how to surf these waves. If we do not pay attention, we can drown. If we select the right waves, we can gracefully enjoy our time like no man before us. If we truly excel, our opportunities are historically unprecedented.

Subcategories

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Post-Industrial Time

Technology Implementation

Industrial Plagues

The Time v3 Technology Company

Mission

The mission of Time v3 Technology is to promote better implementation of existing technology with brilliance at the basics because less is more in technology.

Electronics Repair

While most modern electronics malfunctions and damage are difficult or impossible to repair, the right tools and know-how make some repairs worthwhile.

  • Watch battery replacement.
  • Maintenance and repair of select mechanical watches.
  • Screen replacement for select smartphones.

Consumer Consulting

As retail moves online, especially for electronics, consumers often lack basic information required to make a purchase among the myriad options. This is especially true when ordering accessories, customizing, or replacing parts. Good accessories can transform tech from useless to – useful.

  • Answer common consumer questions in blog post format to maintain online presence and streamline support.
  • Online conferencing audio equipment consultation for businesses.
  • Home audio equipment consultation. For example, parents enabling effective online classes for their kids, to include music lessons.

https://nathanruffing.com/conferencing-studio-with-music-equipment/

Zero to Hero Tech Concepts Education

Everyday tech remains a mystery to most people. Most people are starting at zero. Even if schools taught tech effectively, much of the tech did not exist when today’s adult generations were in school. The underlying concepts are both unbelievably simple and usually apply to a wide range of consumer products even if the products look very different. The underlying concepts behind modern technology are life education worth investing in. Plus, as users we are so familiar with everyday tech, it can be fun to see how it works.

1. Audio technology.

Time v3 Zero to Hero in Audio Tech Class

2. The internet. What the internet is physically. Demonstrate how we are communicating electronically from physical buildings to underwater cables to server software to web browsers. OstranderNet!

(Currently a draft post, more than half complete)

3. “Ownership and renting” on the internet. How the internet can be owned or rented just like real estate and how ownership is important on the internet just like in real estate. Vimeo versus YouTube, Linux versus Windows, domains and websites versus social media.

https://nathanruffing.com/tag/to-blog/

4. Software selection. Software is made by people who are paid to control how consumers interact with computers and each other. Understanding underlying business motivations of software creators can help you select software that works for you.

https://nathanruffing.com/picking-your-friends-in-computer-software/

https://nathanruffing.com/software/

5. Home electric power. Electric power is a staple in the modern home. Simple demonstrations of what electric power is, where it comes from, and how it actually does things.

From Tesla versus Westinghouse/Edison to transformers to the AC waveform on an oscilloscope to watts and watt-hours to your circuit breaker box.

6. Data encryption. How can two computers send a message that can only be read by the two participants even if a hacker can see all of the traffic? OstranderNet.

7. Batteries. From lithium ion to lithium ion to lithium ion, performance measures and how batteries drive modern tech.

https://nathanruffing.com/smartphone/

8. Tech basics of digital cameras. Electrical engineers are often into photography because digital cameras nerdize art.

https://nathanruffing.com/zeroherocamera/

9. General tech consumer:

https://nathanruffing.com/feedback/

New Products

  • Time v3 Clock
  • Phone corral / “smartphones to home phone converter”.
  • Chess board integrated into computer
  • Chess board modification to Bluetooth
  • Gaming headset to standard audio adapter
  • Time v2 graphic clock
  • Game timer
Member (Pending)
  • IEEE
  • AWCI
  • NAWCC
  • Registered w state? per Jeff?

Celestial Movement: Know Less Understand More

The following are true and do not change perceptibly over an entire human lifetime.

  • The non-sun stars do not move relative to each other. Not now, not over thousands of years, not anytime we will ever know about. The stars remain a fixed spherical image we gaze out at from the inside.
  • The north star and southern cross remain in the same positions in the sky and do not move relative to an observer on Earth, even as Earth rotates. They mark the axis of rotation of Earth. Correct, they do not move at all. You could build a structure pointed at the north star one night and if the structure doesn’t move, it points at the north star day and night season after season year after year forever, whether you can see the north star or not, it’s there. (The structure would be called a gnomon, if you care).
  • All of the non-sun stars/constellations remain in the exact same latitude and therefore trace the exact same line through the sky each time Earth rotates, every day of our lives, no exceptions. The line a star traces through the sky at your location peaks at 90° – [your latitude] + [latitude of the star] always.
  • Earth’s rotational axis is not tilted. Earth’s orbital plane around the sun is tilted! When orienting celestial objects, we are forced to choose what we consider “upright.” Earth’s gravity cannot dictate “upright” for celestial objects. If you imagine Earth’s rotational axis as upright, the north star remains fixed as “north” or “up” and the orbital plane is then tilted 23° meaning Earth “moves north and south” as it orbits, or moves “up and down.”
  • The sun. slightly more complicated, but helpful because the sun is bright. What is a line of latitude? What does a line of latitude look like? The blindingly bright sun traces a line of latitude through the sky every day. On equinox days, the sun traces the 0° line of latitude (celestial equator) and on the solstices the sun traces the +/- 23.4° line of latitude. In between, the sun gradually traces lines of latitude from 0° to 23.4° to 0° to -23.4° and back to 0° again throughout the year. Each day the sun traces a slightly different line of latitude as Earth orbits.
  • Nobody is good at three-dimensional spherical-angle geometry! Nobody! Astronomers are not good at it. Nobody is! Then why does the current zodiac constellation represent the constellation behind the sun that we cannot see?? Because nobody is good at three dimensional geometry! Astronomers for millennia past and still today use the sun as a “pointer.” Nothing in the sky points like the sun. The sun is such a bright “pointer” that you cannot see what is behind it – but remember that the stars do not move relative to each other so if you have some idea of what the starry sky looks like, and you know the current zodiac constellation, you can reference the rest of the starry sky off of the sun itself. “Pisces is shining bright this month!” True statement – even though Pisces is only up during the day because looking forward the sun means looking toward the current zodiac constellation. We are currently in Pisces. “The sun pointer is moving toward the constellation Aries.” Another true statement. The line the sun traces through the starry background as we orbit is called the “ecliptic.”

Once you have some firm ground to stand on, you can start to remember some more basics and build. If you get confused, re-read the above and remind yourself that many things in the sky do not change!

  • Orion, the most widely-recognized constellation, is on the celestial equator. Therefore Orion rises directly east and sets directly west. Orion is “up” ~12 hours and “down” ~12 hours. Orion’s path peaks at 90° – [your latitude] above your horizon (directly overhead the equator). Also, Orion is visible from everywhere on Earth.
  • Orion is directly south of the border of Taurus and Gemini. The Taurus Gemini border marks the northern hemisphere summer solstice, so on the summer solstice the sun points near Orion. On the winter solstice, Orion is high in the sky at midnight.
  • Polaris, the north star, is located directly north at [your latitude]° above the horizon, always. Most people use the Big Dipper to find Polaris.
  • The two stars in the Big Dipper aligned with Polaris point to the ecliptic at Leo near its border with Virgo, so near the sun’s location at the autumnal equinox.
  • The Milky Way’s bright galactic center is among Sagittarius, specifically Sagittarius A. It is 29° south of the celestial equator so therefore peaks at 61° – [your latitude] in your sky (more visible in southern hemisphere). Being near the northern hemisphere winter solstice, it is most visible in northern hemisphere during summer.

Read Time v3 with an Accurate Mental Model

  • You are the observer in the center of the clock. Everything moves relative to the observer.
  • The sun position on the clock represents the actual longitudinal position of the sun.
  • Solar noon is noon on the clock. The two are one and the same. When the sun is directly overhead the observer, it is noon, and half of the day has passed.
  • Sunrise and sunset are depicted and labeled. Sunrise marks time 0:00 each day and sunset marks the day length. The day length changes gradually throughout the year with the seasons.
  • When the sun sets, the “official time” turns negative and begins to count down to sunrise. However, if you mark an event at +12:30 time v3 during an 11 hour day, +12:30 is visible on the clock even though the sun has set, the official time v3 is negative, and your event will be held in the dark. “+12:30” is still 12 hours and 30 minutes after sunrise and still a usable time.
  • The moon position on the clock represents the actual longitudinal position of the moon. Moon directly overhead on the clock, the moon is directly overhead the observer, “moon noon.” Moonrise and moonset are off to the side, just like the sun. I am adding small moonrise and moonset lines in the next version.
  • The moon phase is represented by the sun’s position relative to the moon and Earth, easily observable on the clock. Project the sun out to “infinity” and the sun points to the moon phase marked on the moon itself. Therefore the moon phase on the clock is determined just how it is in real life.
  • The locations marked on the clock’s Earth represent prominent geographical features approximately every 15° longitude. Therefore the sun passes one of the geographical features every hour. If you want to know the approximate time at a different location, just imagine the observer on the clock is at the location with everything else right where it is. Tilt your head if it helps or physically turn the clock on its side.
  • The sun pointing to the stars marks the seasons, just like in real life. The constellations on the clock are the constellations (official IAU) the sun points to throughout the year as Earth orbits. They are zodiac constellations on the ecliptic, for telling seasons, not the constellations on the celestial equator. The difference is minor (see below).
  • The stars pass overhead on the clock when those stars actually reach their peak to the observer. Star noon on the clock is star noon in real life.
  • Of note, the prominent constellation of Orion is on the celestial equator just south of the Taurus/Gemini border Orion borders both Taurus and Gemini. Therefore Orion is an excellent star reference to align the clock to real life.
  • The thin white line behind the equinox in Pisces shows 1,000 years of precession of the equinoxes. Yes, one thousand years, one millennium, 500 years in the past and 500 years into the future. The equinoxes do not move very much.

Understand Celestial Movement by Knowing Less

Notes

  • three buttons:
    1. 5040x with pause feature
    2. 21,600x with pause feature
    3. “sunrises / sunsets snapshots” time lapse
  • useful sounds?
  • add moonrise and moonset
  • The horizons showing day length are the only indications of latitude. I want to keep it this way. 2D, time is the 3rd dimension.
  • unify the new year globally making it the exact equinox. Focus locally, celebrate large events globally.
  • clock ticks in background on phones? battery life?
  • Digital doesn’t match graphic on some time lapses. Maybe only on past years?
  • digital font size correct for computers and phones
  • make “copy-able link” for the link generator
  • 90° and 270° ecliptic longitude are the solstices, correct?
  • astrolabe, Incan Inthuatana,
Fundamental Concept

Every movement of this clock is related to a naturally-occurring phenomenon. The sun, moon, and constellations are actually physically overhead the longitude physically shown on the clock. The only man-made concept is the unit of time: hours/minutes/seconds.

Within the constraints of being two-dimensional and using only concentric circle movement, the clock graphically displays celestial movement as accurately and with as much detail as possible in a way that promotes a practical mental model for the observer.

The horizons move to show the correct day and night length. They move in the correct direction to match the idea that the sun follows a longer path in the sky on longer days and shorter path on shorter days. In post-industrial time, noon is when the sun is directly overhead. This clock shows noon at the various world locations by being directly overhead the longitude. “Solar noon” is an industrial time concept.

The angle of the horizons does not directly correspond to the azimuth of the sunrise and sunset itself. For example, the sun being overhead a longitude location on Earth 100 degrees from your longitude when it rises does not mean the sun will rise 10 degrees north from east.

Two-dimensional is convenient for hanging on a wall, inexpensive to construct, can be displayed on a screen, and in reality people prefer 2D. 3D TVs never caught on. The outdoors is 3D enough.

Concentric circle movement is practical to construct and control. In addition, almost all the movement of the objects in the sky is due to the rotation of Earth.

Nature presents us with an infinity of detail that the clock could depict. Computers enable us to easily do this and most products show maximum detail. This clock selectively provides the user with just the basis required to comprehend celestial movement in order to inspire the user to abandon the technology for the outdoors and more fully appreciate natural reality.

The Observer

On this clock, all objects are referenced to the observer as though the observer is standing aligned to the rotational axis of Earth. “Aligned to the rotational axis of Earth” sounds like an unnecessary complication, but it means all the objects move (almost) continuously and you can tell time of day, day length, night length, moon phase, moon rise and set, seasons, constellation and star positions, and even approximate world times, all using an intuitive mental model.

The observer is at the center of the post-industrial clock.

Observer’s Imagination

Notice, the gnomon of a sundial is aligned to the rotational axis of Earth. The ancients knew how to think about this. If you want to be familiar with the movement of the Earth and the relative motion of the sky, you must align with the Earth. If you accept the one complication of aligning with Earth, all else naturally falls into place.

You might say gravity is the biggest obstacle to aligning yourself to Earth’s rotational axis. True. To eliminate the gravity problem, just imagine you are on the north pole. If you were sitting on the north pole during an equinox, you would see all the objects on the clock rotating around your horizon just like they do on the clock.

Rotation and Orbit

Notice “rotate” means an individual object rotates, and “orbit” means an object moves in a path around another object. Objects can rotate and orbit in different planes, but because of the way the solar system was formed, rotation is mostly closely aligned with orbit. One notable example of misalignment is the tilt of Earth’s rotation relative to its orbit around the sun.

The Sun, Horizons, and Time

The position of the sun determines all time-related items.

The rotational position of Earth is shown by the sun appearing to move relative to the observer. The position of the sun in relation to the eastern horizon and western horizon tells the time of day.

Day length is determined by the distance the sun must travel through the sky from the eastern horizon to the western horizon. Day length is shown by the position of the two horizons. Night length is the remainder of the 24-hour period as the sun returns to the eastern horizon. The horizons move because of the tilt of Earth and its orbit around the sun.

The sun points to the season on the backdrop of the stars. The 12 Zodiac constellations are used because they are aligned with Earth’s equator and are visible from most positions on Earth. The Zodiac seasonal periods are named based on when the constellation is aligned with the sun. Ironically, it is exactly during a particular Zodiac constellation’s season that the constellation is not visible in the night sky because it is directly behind the sun.

The stars move around the observer because of the rotation of Earth, like the sun. Because of the orbit of Earth around the sun, the stars actually appear to move slightly faster than the sun. In a way, the stars “chase” the sun across the sky. Because of this, the constellation that is low on the western horizon immediately after sunset indicates the next season. The constellation will “chase” the sun down, setting because of Earth’s rotation and then each successive night set four minutes earlier until it sets with the sun.

Moon phase is determined by the position of the moon relative to the sun. The position of the moon relative to the sun is immediately apparent on the clock giving the user an intuitive mental model of moon phase. The moon rises and sets independently of the sun, so there are separate horizons for the moon.

Relative to the Observer

The stars do not move relative to each other, so you can relate your favorite constellations to the Zodiac constellations to quickly know where they are if desired. The position of the Zodiac constellations on the clock are accurate relative to the observer. The observer need only adjust for latitude. If a constellation is directly overhead on the clock, it is directly south in the northern hemisphere or north in the southern hemisphere, or overhead on the equator.

Approximate world time is asking the question, “What time is it to other observers?” or “Where is the sun relative to other observers?” The user can look at the other cities on the clock and see where the sun is relative to them. If the sun is directly over another location on the clock, it is noon in that location. The sun is moving relative to other observers just like it is moving on the clock. If the sun appears directly to the side of another observer, it is near rising or near setting. If directly below, it is midnight to that observer.

Sun/Moon/Stars to Sundial to Pendulum to Quartz to Atomic Vibrations to Smartphones to Sundial to Sun/Moon/Stars

Progress is a cycle.

Pre-history: humans evolved with celestial objects ruling our lives and became familiar with them. The sun and moon are encoded into our genes in our circadian rhythm.

Thousands of years: humans quantified the movement of the sun with sundials, and used charts for the phases of the moon and seasons.

Industrial Revolution: humans used rudimentary machines to club our minds to submit to rigid schedules.

Post-Industrial Clocks: humans use advanced machines to conform technology to nature and re-connect with our natural selves.

Like this clock, the gnomon of a sundial is oriented parallel to the rotational axis of the Earth. If you called this clock an “indoor sundial” you are not too far off. However, “indoor solar, lunar, and celestial fully-automated schedule” would be more accurate. Therefore, is this new? No, but is anything new? Not according to the Bible,

Ecclesiastes 1

9  What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. 10  Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.

Life is a cycle and it is time to revisit some of our past. We now have the time and resources to do it.

Knowing what the sky looks like can certainly be done with charts, phone apps, websites, maps, but to develop a useful mental model, you need to periodically and quickly see something that is practically relatable to practical day-to-day events. This is our natural ability that was erased by industrial time. Industrial time is great for rigid old obsolete machines to cheaply give us rigid schedules, but computers enable machines to imitate nature and can enable us to re-connect with nature rather than brutally beating nature out of our minds with the incessant ticking of pendulums and gears. Computers can be better, let’s use them.

history, manufacturing, time, astronomy,

Respect Literacy: Blogs are the New Book

Like books, personal blogs seem to have an innate ability built-in to the medium to bring out the best in people.

Do not confuse blogs with social media.

I have been keeping this list of my friends’ websites for several years now. Many are small business sites (pillars of society), none are vanity-driven, and all of the information is thoughtful, meaningful work by people who care. All of it is good. It represents the cream of 100+ years of electronic communication. That’s a strong statement and it’s true.

If you became literate and started reading books 500 years ago after the Gutenberg Press, you got ahead. If you understand the power the internet brings to people by enabling blogs, you get ahead.

Audio Terminology

Stereo Versus Mono

Stereo sound means left and right can be a different audio signal. Usually the two signals are nearly identical, but sometimes the difference is very noticeable. A stereo signal is two mono signals. Most people are familiar with this concept.

“Channel”

When buying mixers, pay attention to what “channel” means. Each stereo input is two channels. Therefore a “four-channel” mixer or recorder can often only properly handle two inputs. Indeed each channel is a separate audio signal, but if configured as stereo, there will only be one volume control for two channels together, for example, among other inconveniences. The mixer I bought is 12 channels, 4 microphone (mono by their nature) and 4 stereo inputs for a total of 8 separate volume controls. 8 has been plenty for me and I expect to never exceed it in my whole life.

Balanced Audio Signal Versus Unbalanced Audio Signal

Balanced audio uses two separate conductors carrying the same audio signal with opposite polarity. There is also a third conductor called ground or shield. The advantage is any noise picked up by the cable is picked up equally on each of the two conductors and therefore the noise cancels itself out leaving only the audio signal. The most common example is a microphone connected to an XLR input. See the XLR pin diagram below as the archetypal balanced audio example.

Unbalanced audio uses a single conductor to carry the audio signal, plus a ground. The most common example is headphones. There are three conductors because of stereo sound but each of the signals is a single unbalanced audio signal to the headphone speakers.

Microphones: Dynamic, Condenser, Electret Condenser, MEMS

Dynamic microphones use a magnet and coil to produce the audio signal. Advantages: do not require phantom power as the moving coil produces the electric signal, no self-noise, better at loud sounds, usually rugged and durable. Disadvantages: not as good at capturing detail. The most common example is the Shure SM58 performance mic.

Condenser microphones are delicate studio microphones that require phantom power to charge a “backplate.” While they produce some self-noise, they are better than dynamic mics at capturing sound detail, especially with with quality phantom power and using balanced audio signal. The most common examples are studio music recording mics and tech nerd podcasts. There are large diaphragm and small diaphragm condenser mics but if you care about that you are reading beyond this post.

Electret condenser microphones cheap and small. They don’t match professional mics in quality but they are very good and make up for the quality with small size and price. They are condenser microphones because they use a capacitor (charged plate) to produce the signal, but they do not require phantom power because the “backplate” is chemically charged in a way that does not decay for hundreds of years – pretty much permanent charge, like a permanent magnet. Note: I have had little success connecting these microphones to an audio mixer. While the description says they do not require power, I have also heard that they require 5V or 12V or 3-12V that is provided automatically by the computer or phone they are connected to. … ?

Cell phones use MEMS microphones (MEMS = microelectro-mechanical systems) because MEMS microphones are etched directly onto a silicon chip, often together with required circuitry, and they require very little power.

Phantom Power

Condenser microphones require phantom power to charge a backplate.

  • Music mixers provide phantom power on their XLR inputs.
  • Phantom power is almost always de-selectable with a switch on the mixer.
  • Although dynamic mics do not require phantom power, most will not be damaged by it. Many musicians use phantom power with dynamic mics all the time without knowing what it is and the only result is a barely-audible hum.
XLR Input and Pin Diagram

An XLR input is a dedicated balanced input typically designed for microphones.

Male Versus Female

I don’t need to explain “the birds and the bees” here, but pay attention with XLR because it’s not immediately obvious especially when buying cables. Pictured above is female XLR that would require a male cable to connect.

TRRS Diagram

TRRS stands for “tip ring ring sleeve.” The only use I know for TRRS is stereo sound plus microphone:

*Note: some TRRS diagrams show the microphone as a ring and the sleeve as ground, but I believe this was probably an old standard now obsolete that was abandoned because the audio signal could interfere with the weak microphone signal.

TRS and TS

TRS is “tip ring sleeve.” The standard example is stereo headphones:

Notice the two signals on standard TRS headphones are unbalanced, therefore unbalanced stereo. Unbalanced sounds “bad” but it is just slightly more susceptible to noise than balanced audio, an effect less important than many other factors in most cases.

TS is, you guessed it, “tip sleeve.” The most common TS example is a mono audio signal. The tip is the audio signal and the sleeve is ground.

“Phone Plug” Sizes (“Phone Plug” = TRRS, TRS, & TS)

I quote “phone plugs” because although it may be the official term, you will have better luck searching TRRS / TRS / TS. “Phone plugs” come in the following sizes:

  • 1/4″ = 6.3mm = “phone plug” = “the big ones”
  • 1/8″ = 3.5mm = “mini-phone” = “normal headphone”
  • 2.5mm = “sub-mini phone plug” = “the tiny little ones”
Balanced Audio on TRS

TRS can be used to carry a (mono) balanced signal (not common). For example, see the female 6.3mm TRS input on the XLR diagram above. The TRS input says “BAL OR UNBAL” beside it. A TRS balanced signal looks like this:

Signal Levels: Passive, Powered, Amplified

These are not “official terms,” but I would say there are three “signal levels.”

A passive signal is the signal a microphone produces for example. The signal is generated by the physical movement of the internal parts of a microphone. These signals must be amplified and are therefore sensitive to noise because any noise picked up will be amplified along with the audio signal. For this reason, passive signals often use balanced audio. Passive signals cannot even drive headphones.

A powered signal is the most common type. Once any electronics are involved, there are small amplifiers to drive the signal. Any powered signal can drive headphones, but usually not a speaker without external power.

An amplified signal can by itself drive a large speaker that does not have external power. Notice, with mono audio, some amplifiers will output an amplified signal via TS capable of driving a large speaker. You must use a robust TS mono cable to carry this signal to drive the speaker and not all TS mono cables are capable of this.

RCA Connectors

RCA connectors are common enough to warrant their own heading. They usually carry unbalanced mono signals and come in color-coded pairs for stereo.

Analog Versus Digital

All signals I refer to here are analog. USB is a good example of digital. Digital signals can be manipulated by software and digital can travel lossless over long distances. Digital has its advantages, but the conversion to digital and back to analog means delay even locally so once you are dealing with digital signals, you cannot listen to locally-produced sounds in real-time because you can perceive the small delay.

Bluetooth Transmitter

Once you have an audio signal on a standard headphone TRS, notice how versatile a Bluetooth transmitter can be with battery-powered Bluetooth speakers. Search for a Bluetooth transmitter and find many options, very affordable.

Bluetooth Receiver

If you want to mix in a pre-recorded track, a Bluetooth receiver is a great option to connect a music-playing smartphone or other digital device to your mixer. Many options, very affordable.

Surround Sound

I don’t know! I’m sure a home theater system salesman can talk for hours about it for free though!

No Mask Zone

This year, being polite requires being a bit forceful. As I have said from the beginning along with most people I know, there is a no-mask zone around me. Under no circumstances, directly or indirectly, will I be the reason you are required to cover your face. Breathe free, friends.

That said, there are many people who support wearing masks. We have to have a way of dealing with it consistently. My responses all year to even an allusion to mask support have been harsh. I have even been harsh if I perceive a failure to actively resist. After having had time to cool off, my only regret is not having done more to resist.

Being a divisive subject, I have decided the best course of action is active listening. Therefore I will directly quote the mask support I have heard and repeat it as best I understand it.

Active Listening 1

Mask supporter: “Masks are polite.”

What I hear: “Cover your face – and I don’t consider it impolite to tell someone to cover their face.”

Very well. You’ll be safe. Don’t come within two meters of me.

Active Listening 2

Mask supporter after I suggested that businesses post whether they require masks or not: “Of course businesses can post a requirement for shirt and shoes, ‘no shirt no shoes no service,’ but masks?!? … Obviously the government has to step in and mandate that everybody wear masks in public.”

What I hear: “My fear and belief in masks trump a business owner’s right to operate with open faces. Cover your face.”

Load and clear. Don’t come within two meters of me.

Active Listening 3

Mask supporter during a discussion about the various prevention measures: “Come on man. Masks aren’t political. It’s science. Of course governments have to require masks.”

What I hear: “No discussion. We have all agreed that all security trumps all individual rights. Cover your face.”

Loud and clear. Keep your distance from me.

Active Listening 4

Mask supporter admitting that outdoor masking is probably a waste: “OK yeah, they probably don’t do anything outside, but we need to show we’re all together in this.”

What I hear … ? “Join my cult. We cover our faces everywhere. Cover your face if you are near me. My government will require it.”

I’m a bit confused to be honest, but you said it. Keep your distance.

Active Listening 5

Mask supporter relating mask wearing to health codes in restaurants: “So you believe people should ignore the mask mandate, which is a health code, and not wear masks? Isn’t that a slippery slope of people not following health codes?”

What I hear: “I think I’m clever. Cover your face. My government will require it.”

You are a real threat because people will buy that line if the TV says it.

Active Listening 6

Mask supporter: “Science says cover your face.”

What I hear: “The TV says cover your face, so I do.”

Take your “science,” your science, your TV, and your mask, and shove them all up your ass … and keep your distance from me.

Mask Etiquette

Having considered, the following categories apply for me:

People who actively respect a human being’s right to show their face while interacting, including whatever “risk” is involved: I appreciate your friendship more than ever.

People wearing masks. Depends who, where, and why.

People who fail to actively resist masking: I strive to be stronger. Writing about it is a form of resistance, hope this helps.

Any indirect support for any mask mandate: you are a mild threat. I am actively planning to avoid falling victim to any government you vote for.

Direct support, any enthusiasm for masking, or any in-person social pressure to wear a mask, even out of a perceived sense of duty: I will do my best to maintain two meters from you for the rest of my life.

Online Conferencing Studio Using Music Equipment

For a quick guide to all audio terminology you have heard and halfway understand, click here.

The #1 most important aspect of online communication is the internet connection. #2 is the sound and once you have a quiet location, the best audio situation you can set up is with music equipment. Here’s how. I will progress in the following order:

  • Capturing your local sound with microphones
  • Using headsets and splitting microphones from speakers
  • Expanding and mixing multiple local participants, nearly unlimited, including musical instruments, who hear each other locally in real time
  • Connecting all local sound into the computer
  • Hearing the remote sound from the computer
  • Mixing the remote sound from the computer into what all participants hear
  • Mixer recommendations
Microphones Capturing Sound, XLR Inputs!

XLR XLR XLR! Microphone = XLR input.

The most important rule when using microphones with music equipment is the microphones should be plugged into XLR inputs. If you are new to music equipment, XLR inputs will appear obscure, complicated, expensive, and you will subconsciously try to avoid using them. Use XLR! XLR inputs are designed for microphones and once you accept that you must plug microphones into XLR you will buy the appropriate microphones and headsets for future purchases and you will happily buy the converters for any equipment you already have.

Committing to XLR is most difficult when selecting headsets. Fortunately, the difficulty can be summed up and solved by answering one question at the time of purchase:

“Can this headset be connected to XLR for the microphone and TRS for the speakers (headphone)?”

Headsets: Split Microphones from the Speakers

Many headsets are designed to be “plug-and-play” with one plug, often a 3.5mm TRRS (TRRS is a standard headphone jack with one extra ring). This is great for one person with no instrument. Sure, video chat with grandma at the click of a button. Not set up, go. However, as soon as you add any second device or a second participant, you are going to wish the microphone signal were split from the speaker signal. Also, of course, you want the microphone to terminate in XLR.

I recommend the Audio-Technica BPHS1. The headset audio is split exactly how you want it, XLR plus TRS. Some of the reviews I read were written by podcasters, indicating that the headset is often used with professional audio setups.

Expanding to Multiple Local Participants

If you have committed to XLR for your microphones, expanding is pretty much already finished. Plug in and go.

The only thing mixers may lack is enough headphone jacks for everybody. Fortunately that problem is solved for under $50 with a simple headphone splitter, for example the Behringer HA400

Locally, Better than In-Person

Music equipment mixing is so smooth and high-quality that you can have a normal conversation even talking over each other and the sound of multiple voices in a conversation will be arguably better than without the equipment. Elderly people or anybody who uses hearing aids may prefer headsets on a mixer to just talking! Mixing multiple sound sources is exactly what music equipment is designed for. Podcasters use mixers and routinely have natural conversations over headsets with four or more people. Delay? There is no delay. There is no processing and electrical signals travel faster than sound.

Connecting to the Computer, Local Sound Into Computer

The critical point of success when interfacing with a computer (in my opinion) is to keep the ‘in’ and ‘out’ signals analog and physically separate from each other all the way to the computer. This means your locally-generated mixed sound signal should enter the computer through a sound input TRS receptacle. Maybe it will be labeled ‘mic in’ on the computer, maybe ‘audio in.’ At a minimum, you should be able to separately identify the sound signal in the computer’s settings independent of what software you are using.

Connecting to the Computer, Remote Sound Out From Computer

The sound coming from the remote person (or people) from the computer must be fed into the mixer to be heard by all the local participants. The tricky thing here is, the remote sound should be heard by the local participants, but NOT mixed into the sound fed to the input on the computer. If the remote sound is fed into the computer, the remote person will hear himself on the internet delay, or “echo,” which most of us have experienced and we know it is nearly intolerable depending on the volume of the echo.

Note: some conference software may automatically cancel the echo but it’s better not to rely on the software.

Fortunately, many music mixers are designed to allow musicians to listen to a recorded music track that they don’t want recorded – because it’s already recorded and that’s how they are listening to it. This is perfect for conferencing because the remote sound can be fed into this input and deselected on the mixed output that is connected to the computer. The mixer then only sends sound produced locally, but the local participants hear the remote sound as though they are “recording over it.”

Mixer Recommendations

Almost all mixers will have XLR, phantom power, TRS inputs, at least one output, separate volumes for each input, etc. Being able to deselect one input from mixing to one output to eliminate the echo feedback into the computer is a bit unique. Below are two recommendations that have the capability.

On the Behringer XENYX 1202, you can plug the computer remote audio into the “2-TRACK” RCA input, deselect “2-TR TO CTRL ROOM” and use the “CTRL ROOM OUT” to send to the computer as it will include all audio except the remote audio. Local participants then hear everything over the headphone out. Perfect.

The Behringer XENYX 502 has a similar setup, but notice only one XLR input.

Cables and Adapters

The variety and number of cables and adapters is as many as there are combinations of plug types. See the cable requirements in an example setup below:

[setup diagram]

Expanding Notes

Internet conferencing lives and dies by the sound. Minimum quality sound is absolutely necessary to make online conferencing viable and really good sound can often make video nearly unnecessary in many situations.

Most people shy away from using music equipment for computer sound because it appears complicated and it is “not made for conferencing.” I think that’s why anyway? Maybe people feel like using professional equipment makes the online situation permanent? Maybe they assume it’s expensive? Really though, why not?

Regardless of the reason, musical sound equipment is the highest quality and most versatile, especially for the price. As an electrical engineer and amateur musician, I believe music equipment is the overall best solution to online conferencing sound. I would caveat that with the following statements:

  • You should commit to using music equipment and analog electric signals entirely up to the point where the sound enters the computer. The sound should be completely mixed before it gets digitized.
  • Attempting to take short-cuts mixing in the computer will complicate to the point you regret the attempt.
  • The primary complication is interfacing the music equipment with the computer, but if you commit to separating the signals, you simplify this.
  • A secondary complication is interfacing microphones of headsets that are often designed to connect to computers and conferencing and not music equipment. See the XLR / microphone discussion above.
  • Music equipment produces near perfect sound and being the analog electrical equivalent of real sound, your set-up does not “go obsolete” like digital equipment and software does. Computers must interface with analog audio at some point and electrical audio signals cannot become obsolete. (Watch me eat these words somehow? Never say never?)
  • Regardless of purpose-made conference system marketing, online conferencing set-up is always complicated.

Quit TV Cold Turkey

I quit TV cold turkey about 17 years ago, in 2003. I was about 20 years old. I had always watched some TV up to that point with whatever free time I had, maybe an hour a day. I did not consciously quit. I just moved and never bought a TV. I still watch movies if they are planned and I sit down to watch one I’ve chosen with friends. I also watch live sports, which I prefer to watch in a public place like a bar.

Stage 1: “I’m Missing Something”

For several years, I felt like I was missing something. I felt like people knew something I didn’t know.

Stage 2: “No, They’re Missing Something”

Maybe 5 years in, I started realizing I was getting all the relevant news within a few days just by hearing conversations. I wasn’t missing anything, I was just getting it second-hand. Instead of “news” I was seeing people’s emotional reactions to the news and it was very disconnected from real life. For the first time, I felt like they were missing something, not me.

Stage 3: Produce for Perspective

In 2014 I started a blog with the goal of being able to at least amateur produce every type of media available. In 2018 I spent a lot of time learning to record and edit video. That gave me really interesting perspective.

Often when watching a movie now I’ll switch to imagining the studio set around the scene instead of the movie plot and it transforms their acting into an awkward situation. You have to be a bit maniacal to act as intensely as actors do in a movie studio full of colleagues.

The teleprompter is the other thing I notice. For a monologue looking into a camera, one minute continuously is about the max I can memorize to record. Watching news anchors or commentators go on and on for 20 minutes reading a teleprompter with feeling as though they really believe what they are saying it is creepy. The teleprompter is obvious if you have ever tried to record a message into a camera.

Stage 4: Twilight Zone

Within the last few years I’ve more and more gotten the feeling that I’m John Boyega’s character from the movie The Circle. Fun to imagine I’m a hero of course! I still see people’s emotional reactions to news and TV shows that are mostly fictional or over-dramatized – but now those emotional reactions are widespread enough that they are literally the news. It’s bizarre.

With the coronavirus recently I made a concerted effort to systematically find the most truthful, reliable, objective news sources possible. It is helpful to have actionable information.

TV I Have Seen

I can nearly list all of the TV I have seen for 15+ years and why I saw it.

In early 2008 my roommate had several seasons of The Office on DVD. We binge-watched 3 seasons in a weekend. That’s the last TV show I really got hooked on and binge-watched.

In 2009, my roommate had a TV and I watched a lot of Family Guy by default because he watched it all the time. It was comical how little else we watched. Pure random Family Guy episodes. 90+%.

In 2011-2013, I remember that several of the new type of TV series started coming out because people were binging Dexter, Eastbound and Down, Breaking Bad, Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The conversations sounded like fun but watching the shows sounded like a chore to me. I never did. I would say by this point I had completely lost interest. I was irreversibly uninterested.

I played a video game for the last time in ~2001. I played Age of Empires for about four hours straight. I attended a swim meet afterward and I was imagining the people to be little characters from the game. I haven’t played anything since other than maybe Wii at friends’ houses.