I want to apologize for the lack of new developments…

If you have been to my blog and read my blog posts on doing business, you should know that I support keeping your day job and running a part time business. It’s indeed having your cake and getting to eat it.

You enjoy the best of both worlds – the stability of income, the flexibility of taking off any time (from your day job)… but yet also the opportunity to explore your interest further and not to mention the extra income (from your part time job).

Yup! Indeed it’s wonderful!

However, lately I have been hit by a double whammy.

Due to the excellent work of many greedy bankers, circumstances beyond control forces many companies to take drastic measures just to survive. My day job company too. A number of my colleagues got retrenched and those left behind had to shoulder the extra responsibility. On top of that, pay cuts were instituted too.

What this means is…

I now have less time as I work more on my day job.

I now have less income as my day job has a pay cut and I have less time to work on my part time job..

Yes! A double whammy!

You would have thought that having a part time job would be perfect for times like this. Well, it’s a safety net should you receive the dreaded pink slip but I didn’t expect I would not get the chance to supplement my day job loss in income via my part time job.

And the loss of personal time!

Thus I apologize if you see lack of activity on my site. Life just has been more hectic these days, but for less.

Dang… I should have been a banker!

BlackBerry Withdrawal Sympton

BlackBerry 7290 

 

I have had the privilege of using a BlackBerry for the past 4 years. This particular model above. When I first started using it here, it just looked weird as QWERTY type keypads weren’t the rage then. I still remember young school girls giving me the bewildered look as if I was talking to my calculator!

I got to use one as my day job (not diyparadise) pays for it. The convenience of reading/replying emails on the go was fantastic! Needless to say, I quickly had it set up to “push” my other non-work related emails too, like the diyparadise email accounts, yahoo email accounts… Guilty as charged! But then have you ever wondered how I could sometimes reply your email barely seconds after you send it out? Now you know!

But all good things will come to an end and in the latest bout of cost cutting, this has to go. 

So I got it cancelled and…

 

Now I’m suffering from BlackBerry Withdrawal Sympton.

 

Over the past few years, without me even realizing it, I have taken to the habit of taking a look at my BlackBerry almost every few minutes, looking for the red blinking LED, cause if it I see it, this means I have mail! Someone wrote to me! Bet it’s important! Could be some big order! Could be some customer complaint! Could be some diyer has discovered another nice tweak and wants to share with me! Needless to say, I check my BlackBerry almost hundred times a day. Every day. Why heck, I even bring it to the toilet with me!

Then there is this excellent Meteor Crusher game! I’m proud to say after hours spent blasing meteorite rocks, killing alien spaceships, yours truly now ranks at World No 138, but this ranking I’m sure will slip pretty soon due to my recent “retirement”.

So now, just back to regular cellphones, without the instant access to emails/Internet, I feel soooooo…. disconnected. So disoriented. So helpless. 

It’s like you let me drive a Ferrari until I love the speed and the sound of the engine, then suddenly you take the keys away from me. 

It’s like you introduce this drop dead gorgeous babe whom we have just so much to share, and then she suddenly disappears without a trace.

 

Yup, it feels like that. It feels like I need to punch someone. Or at least the bolster my wife hugs to sleep.

 

But then, I slowly realized I now talk more to people around me. I learn more about them, seeing sides of them which I was blind to before. I also became a bit more productive and spend more time doing… whatever’s more productive then checking my BlackBerry. 

Hey! Slowly I gained a life! Even my wife says she’s glad I no longer have my BlackBerry. Geez…

But hey, this phone I got, it has sudoku…

BFM89.9 The Business Station

 

 

when i was studying in the states, my tuner was only tuned to 94.9, the classic rock station! it was a blast! i had it playing almost all the time, and it introduced me to lots of rock dinosaurs!

 

but back home in malaysia, i’d rather listen to chinese than english radio stations. they are just so bad, so juvenile, so silly… it seems that the people behind the radio stations only cater to youths. it’s all just today’s hits, silly boybands, hopeless singers doing inept cover versions, and silly deejays! i really think many of these stations hire radio deejays from some circus. they are THAT bad!

 

so i was pleasantly surprised when i first listened to bfm 89.9, the business station.okay, call me jaded but the music selection from these folks is soooo refreshing. perhaps i’m biased towards rock music (and this station plays mostly rock) but the whole “attitude” of the station, the programming, the interviews, the deejays and even the website shows folks behind this station really give serious thought to what they do.

 

the daily interviews are just great! it’s a great learning opportunity for everyone to learn, not just from the business end but also about life as there are sessions by life coaches too. heck, the interviews are even saved in mp3 format as podcasts and could be downloaded from the site. i’ve saved a whole bunch of them and just cycle thru my ipod during some days when i commute by train (and still keep an eye on the occasional pretty lass i come by). so who says guys can’t multi-task?

 

then of course, unlike other radio stations run by seemingly juvenile deejays who think what’s going on with britney spears life is more important than issues that may affect your life directly, the deejays here don’t yak too much! one of my major turn-off is deejays who just love the sound of their voice, sometimes yaking over nothing and laughing loudly just to fill the airwaves with some noise. grrrrr!!!!!

 

i also like the way they play with the bfm acronym. there’s the finance related “bankers, financiers, money-makers”, “bring forth money”. there’s also other fun acronyms like “bmw, ferrari, maserati”…

 

but the one i like best is “bond frustrates moneypenny”. nice pun!

 

to me still, the best thing is the music. it’s not perfect but it’s already a great step in the right direction for malaysian radio. get ready for some ccr, pearl jam, u2, led zep, acdc, sting, eric clapton (early stuff), jimi hendrix, grateful dead, inxs, nirvana…

 

so tune to this station if you are in kuala lumpur. if not, visit the website, you could hear it live from there too.

 

http://www.bfm.my

You Wouldn’t Believe Whom I Met!

About 10 years ago, I began my first foray into DIY audio. I built a Darling amp. There’s quite a lot of articles on Darling amps on the net, just do a search.

Even though I’m trained in electronics, I was totally fresh out of school and damn wet behind the ears. Yes, the schematic looked simple enough but at 250VDC, this isn’t the time and place to “experiment”, so I thought.

And building my first amp, I had so much to worry. Guess what? I found this guy, possibly the first guy to build a Darling amp in Malaysia, willing to help me build my Darling amp. But only from a distance as he stayed hundreds of miles away from where I was.

What followed was a long exchange of emails, asking all sorts of questions, to clear any lingering doubt and gain more confidence before tackling the project. Like I said, at 250VDC, my apprehension should be understandable.

Now, Shamsul is not only a very patient guy, answering all the emails, he’s enthusiasm just “pops” out of the emails he writes. You must be a piece of dead wood if you don’t get infected by his enthusiasm.

Couple weeks later (I’m slow you see), finally got it built and voila! It works!

I was so excited I even built a page for it (and it’s still there today!)

My first DIY amp!

You could see, I was so lazy I didn’t even got the wooden base built for it. Just a top plate, supported by rubber door stops and playing music! Ahh… those carefree days…

Anyway, my friendship with Shamsul didn’t stop there and we continued to exchange emails on many topics, even outside audio.

Then suddenly for some reasons, all communication stopped. Shamsul sort of went “missing in action”. He was sooooo quiet that, forget about the Darling amp, even a 0.00001W amp is louder!

Many years later, I was surprised to get some comments on my blog. From the initials and the wordings, I guessed it’s him. And it’s him! Shamsul’s back!

And  what a coincidence! He has been working at an office just 2 miles from where I work! For the last 5 years!

So yesterday, finally met him face to face for the FIRST time. The guy who set me right on the path to DIY audio. My humble thanks to you for guiding me right on this journey.

Now Shamsul, it’s MY turn to corrupt you! Will get you to my place some day and corrupt you with big fat evil horns!!!

i worked on a tube preamp over the weekend

It has been a while since i worked on tube gear. Not that I don’t want to but ever since toying with Monica, Charlize, Beyonce etc, it doesn’t matter what is the technology, great sonics qualifies it as good gear!

But I agreed to working on this tube preamp as this guy been sucked dry by a local audio company. He bought the preamp, found some problems, sent back for repair, was charged heavily and then spewed some bullshit here and there…

I know the manufacturer, and know how bad his work is as I “rescued” a previous victim of his. I’m just fed up of listening to this smooth talker, giving other local audio companies a bad name…

When I got the preamp, I was kind of shocked.

The signal circuitry, component for component, is a direct replica of the Simple 5687 preamp on my site! This circuit was published on my site in 2003! It’s actually not my design but a take from vt4c’s design which was published in a local paper. The power supply circuitry is totally different from mine as cost is clearly a major consideration for the manufacturer so one choke and the tube rectifier was omitted. I can tell you this, out goes the sonics!

This “victim” came to me as this preamp, despite repairs, is still giving him problems. And I could see why!

In all, it’s a sloppily done job. And the components… there’s no regard for quality at all. The same type of resistor is used for plate, cathode and bleeder. The same size for all.

The manufacturer didn’t even try to optimize the sound. I know this as feedback from diyers who built this preamp told me the sound could be optimized further. If you spend some time on this circuit, you know the sound could be improved very easily by changing some parameters. Nope, this manufacturer didn’t bother doing that.

And the volume pot! It’s not even the usual Alps Blue but a cheapo Panasonic type I’ve used before. There’s a reason I don’t recommend this Pana pot ove the Alps. Wait, scratch that. There are many reasons not to!

There’s more to it but I’ll stop here. That’s the problem, the gullible public is always taken for a ride by folks like these. You have been warned!

The Barney Oliver Amplifier Story

Another audio brother, Thomas, sent me this link last week.

The Barney Oliver Amplifier Story

Doesn’t it sound like HP was a wonderful company to work in back then? If you read The HP Way, you’ll appreciate better the way Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard envisioned the company is run.

I was working in Agilent (the original HP later became Agilent) when I read The HP Way, and you can’t help but feel that in today’s cut throat, competitive, great-results-every-quarter biz world, a lot of what makes this company such a nice place to work in, is gone forever.

Thomas is right to say that visiting  the site only makes you reminisce on the “good old days” back when people don’t go gaga for results every quarter, when management still take long term views when making decisions.  Read The Barney Oliver Amplifier Story and you’ll realize, they even know how to have fun within the organization.

I would love to get my hands on this amplifier!

A great audio friend has passed

I received this email from Harry Zweben of twobaldguysaudio.com this morning.

Greetings-
I am writing with no small degree of sadness to share the news of Dave Merrill’s passing.  Dave died last Wednesday after a long battle with heart disease.  “Battle” is hardly the right word, as Dave knew that his time was limited over the past year or so.  Despite news that he would not qualify for a heart transplant, he remained the epitomy of grace, equanimity and good humor– as I imagine that he was throughout his entire life.  He was a fellow traveller to the end; the last time we spoke, a week or two before his passing, he told me of plans for a new cabinet design for his DCA 4 drivers as an alternative to the Zigmahornets, and he was still spending as much time in his shop as possible to finalize the prototype.

Kent and I attended Dave’s funeral service on Tuesday, which was a fitting tribute to our friend.  The eulogy was memorable and the priest was both eloquent and funny; Dave would have enjoyed being ribbed as “the only sinner in Canby” since he would attend confession on Saturday afternoons and was often the only parishioner to be seen or heard.

Dave left a wonderful legacy and contribution to the audio arts with his miraculous little DCA 4 and DCA 5.5 speaker drivers, and music lovers world wide will miss him.  And for those of us who knew him, albiet briefly, we are better off for the privilege.

Best-

Harry

It was Gabriel who introduced the Merrill DCA4 then DCA5.5 drivers to me. I was really shocked to hear how good these drivers are! The performance for price value of the Merrill drivers is simply way way way off the charts. Never have I come across such nice drivers. If you don’t even consider the very affordable price, it already beat all models of Fostex I have heard before.

So it’s really sad to hear of Dave’s passing. Attach is I believe the most extreme  horn design built for the DCA4, built by Gabriel and we exhibited this at the 2008 KLIAV Show.

Rest in peace Dave!

No one is sacred from being layed off

Brother YH sent me this link about National Semiconductor’s Bob Pease being layed off.

Now this is a MAJOR, MAJOR disappointment. You will think that a company like NS will recognize top engineering talent, or someone like Bob Pease will be immune to being retrenched, but there you go. It happened!

YH introduced the work of Bob to me couple years ago. I have tried to read up all his columns when I have the time. If you like analog electronic stuffs, his articles are a treasure trove, full of little snippets of insights that could only be acquired over a lifetime of top engineering work.

Sigh, what more could we expect from folks who are only interested in the bottom line every quarter? Where’s the long term view?

On a personal level, the company I work for has been retrenching folks too. A few of my colleagues got the chop too. I could feel my turn is coming. Hey, if even someone like Bob Pease isn’t sacred, what chances does Average Joe Engineers have?

I could smell it coming…

The passing of a friend

Due to workload commitments, I have been working on the road since Christmas Day 2008 itself. Short for a week long break for Chinese New Year, been away throughout this time and only now things are settling down.

So I was shocked to hear from a friend of John Potis’ passing on 22 Dec 2008.

You may associate John’s work with diyparadise through this review of our products on 6moons, of which he gave us a Blue Moon award, but we got to know each other more than 10 years ago when I was just a college student in the US.

Why heck, I’ll tell you this. John was the one who set me on the right path in audio!

You see back then, all I knew of was mini-compos the likes of Sonys, Aiwas etc. You know, those black plastic pieces advertising glorious powers of 1000W PMPO? It was when I visited a friend Brandon, then I realized for the same amount of money, buying used audio gear, one could get some really decent sound. His was a pair of used Polk speakers and other stuffs which I can’t remember.

Piqued by the decent sound at such modest budget, I did what was considered really hip then – I surfed the Net. Hey, remember this was in 1997! And the Net was still in its early days.

I stumbled upon John Potis article on “Advice from a Friend to a Beginner in Hifi”, err, I can’t remember nor find the original article but it was something to that effect. Anyway, in that article, John was really nice to give some really useful advice to first timers (like me then) dabbling their toes into the hifi world.

I recall John featured particular models like PSB Alpha, NHT Super Zero, Paradigm Mini Mk3, Rotel integrated amps and a host of other goodies. As I then emailed him (I remember the email program was a Telnet. Wow!), he quickly replied and answered my queries and gave me more advice.

Why heck, he even told me not to be too concerned over cables and interconnects, telling me that even the $12 (back then) interconnect set of 4 cables from Radio Shack will do.

I took his advice and was rewarded with a pretty decent system which still works well till today. As I ventured into other areas of hifi, I realized over time his advice has held me in good stead. And over time, we sort of developed a friendship where we discussed many things. Why heck, like he said on the 6moons review, he even consoled me when I was going through a rough breakup. Looking back I realized I was just stupid with that girl but it showed what a nice chap John was.

After I left the US, I lost contact with John. Over time I lost interest in hifi too as hifi products are just so expensive in Malaysia. Besides when you first start working, buying a hifi system doesn’t seem like a priority.

Couple years later, got bitten by the DIY bug, and things have never been the same again.

When I finally found that he is reviewing for 6moons, I contacted him and couple months later, we decided to send him something to review. But after the review I have meant to contact him again but didn’t do so. Dang…

So I’m really shocked to suddenly learn of John’s passing.

He really touched the live of this fella at the other side of our planet.

Rest in Peace, John.