Make It Right

I’m a huge fan of the programs featuring Mike Holmes and his crew. You may have seen “Holmes on Homes” or “Holmes Inspection.” Mike finds home owners who have done their due diligence when purchasing a home, only to end up in a money pit. Mike’s slogan captures what he and his team does: Make it right!

My home is only a few years old, but after seeing episodes about homes of similar vintage, I’ve been looking around for any odd attributes.

I have a couple of holes in garage walls that would make Mike cringe – I need to take care of those. One is where all of the phone and TV services enter the garage to a distribution panel; the other is where I drove a nail into a water pipe (that was repaired!). I need to get this closed off.

Just after moving in I noticed that the upstairs was noticeably colder than the downstairs. I poked my head into the attic and discovered there was zero insulation. The next day a subcontractor was at the house to blow insulation into the attic. What a difference! Even in the mild, Seattle climate.

It’s been several years, so I thought I’d check the attic for any problems since then. I was pleased to see a dry, undisturbed space with 15 to 19 inches of blown cellulose in great condition.

Now that I’ve been watching Mike’s television programs, I have ideas what to look for – such as trails from water leakage, animal infestation, mold, etc. The attic looked pristine to my eyes! I recently checked the dryer exhaust system, including the roof-mounter vent – looks good.

Next? The crawl space beneath the house! I hope to find a dusty vapor barrier and no critters.

Checked your house lately?
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RadioDAVE Gets a Facelift

If you’re a regular listener of RadioDAVE, then you will have noticed that it looks quite different this week. The hosting service is in the thralls of a major upgrade. Some of the upgrade is pretty cool, some is a little irritating, and some of it just does not work. Let me start with the ugliest problem.

The “High Def” (HD) stream is broken. It’s just not there. The upgraded system was supposed to “auto-detect” the abilities of the computer playing the music and automatically adjust, but it doesn’t work. I’ve asked that they reinstate the old “HD” / “SD” switch in the interface; it should reappear as the programmer gets done with the biggest problems. In the meantime, the standard definition stream still works – it’s just not as clear or clean as the HD stream.

There is a new interface for mobile devices, such as smart phones. It is far easier to use than the old web interface. With the old interface, I had to zoom in to see the controls, and often hit the wrong button; it was very frustrating. The new interface couldn’t be any easier, although the HD stream is missing. After they get the HD stream working correctly for computers, I’ll bug them to get it working for mobile devices. I miss listening to it in my car through my phone!

The computer web browser interface has some cool new features. It will display pictures of the current artist most of the time. Sometimes they don’t have the pictures, and it just shows a generic image that I created to fill the space. Still, it’s kinda neat. I’ve had one listener who was concerned that the images were using more Internet capacity than they wanted; I’ve asked that a switch be made available to users so that they can turn off the images, if they desire.

So, is the upgrade a good thing? It’s been a rough start, but I think it will be better in the long run. I’ll feel much better about it after the HD stream is running again.

Let me know what you think.

Oh, by the way, the Christmas music will disappear after Christmas is over… there are some pretty obscure songs in there!
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Fair Pictures 2011

I've uploaded a bunch of pictures from this year's Evergreen State Fair to my Facebook page. You can find them here.

Streaming New Music at RadioDAVE

Week by week I'm adding new music to the RadioDAVE library. Honestly, it's often something that I haven't heard for a while, or I feel fills a gap in how I want the system to sound. I've been in a tear lately over 80's music, trying to get the playlist to more broadly fill the 70's and 80's.

To give you an idea of the kinds of music I'm buying, here's a sample of some of my recent purchases:

  • Berlin - Metro
  • Europe - The Final Countdown
  • Michael Jackson - Bad, Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean
  • Sade - Smooth Operator, The Sweetest Taboo
  • The Police - Every Breath You Take, Spirits in the Material World, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, Synchronicity II, and several others.

I'll continue to update the music, little by little, week by week. There are currently 1,244 songs in the playlist, which take over 86 hours to play. I'd like to double this number!

 

What is RadioDAVE?

Short answer: RadioDAVE is an Internet music stream I’m providing for my friends and family.

Way longer answer!

Prior to my life as a full-time geek, I used to work in broadcasting. For over a decade I worked in commercial radio and the Armed Forces Radio and Television Services (AFRTS). Radio was definitely my first love; I gave it up more money and my secondary love – computing. Radio appealed to my love of music and my heart to bring joy to others. I really miss it!

Some old school friends have been occasionally streaming bootleg music recordings and rare rock recordings. I enjoyed their shows and was intrigued by the idea of sharing music across the Internet. So, I decided to dig into myself, although my musical choices would be predictably more pedestrian.

It turns out that there is a significantly high entry cost for the legal licensing fees to stream music through the Internet. Initially I was concerned that the fees would block me from sharing my musical stream. I discovered that there are several companies for people just like me. These companies log the songs being played and make sure that the license fees are paid. Since they service a large pool of streams, the entry fees are spread across many people – making the fees more affordable.

My streaming music connection will support five listeners at the same time. Since I have friends and families scattered across multiple time zones, and with different listening habits, I haven’t found the five-listener limit to be a problem. If the stream becomes more popular, I can increase the listener limit easily. The cost in tolerable!

The music library is eclectic. Many of the songs are “Top 40” hits from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Sprinkled among the hits are album tracks from popular LPs, as well as occasional personal favorites. During one set I heard an AC/DC song followed by “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid.” You never know what might come up next. There are about 1,300 songs in the current playlist. I wrote a customer C# program to shuffle the songs. It does a pretty good job of creating a listing that is well jumbled.

One of my goals was to provide a stream that had a “radio” sound – the volume levels were very even and could be enjoyed in an office environment. Achieving this goal required that I strictly control the music, rather than relying upon a service to store the music, then play it without any processing.

All of the music is stored on my home computer. The computer uses local programs to process the sound of the music, and then send it to the hosting service in the Internet. The host service streams the result to the listeners. This allows me to tweak the processing to get the sound I feel will work best for my listeners. I know that most folks are listening through either laptop computer speakers, or inexpensive computer speakers. I will continue to tweak the sound to get the best sound from the typical speakers – people listening with nicer systems should find the stream to be similar to a good FM radio station.  

Around the “top” of each hour, there is a “bumper” that announces the station. I’ve created a fistful of different bumpers to keep it interesting. A friend from my last radio station continues to do voice-work for broadcast and he has volunteered to make some custom bumpers – those should be amazing.

If you have ideas for the stream, please let me know. I’m adding a few new songs each week and regularly reshuffling the list.

You can never what RadioDAVE might play next – you’ll just need to listen!

Dusting Off the Blog

My son, Kenny, is a US Marine, recently deployed to Afghanistan. We’re mighty proud of him. He’ll be gone about seven months; we are already eager for his return!

Kenny had noted that I haven’t been updating my website, relying instead on Facebook as my information outlet. Since he’s so far away, he’s hoping for a little more depth into our lives, so I’m going to dust off my writing skills and put some meat back into the website.

I’ll be probably posting stories about family activities, photography, local events, and RadioDAVE. I’m glad that we have this medium to share information with Kenny on the other side of the world.

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