Monday, October 10, 2011

Fix HDTV Sound for Senior Ears

HDTV televisions have technology built into them to deliver stunning sound.  Unfortunately most of them have cheap speakers, which produce bad sound.    There is no room to include good speakers, so that cheap 3” speakers are usually what you get, no better than one of the early radios in the 20s and 30s, in other words, awful.

With more and more concert productions coming over Internet and devices like TIVO, I wanted to hear the good sound.    There are two main approaches: obtain a remote headset, or add external speakers.

Here are some headsets.

Click for the Sennheiser RS120 926 MHz Wireless RF Headphones with Charging Cradle, which are are well-rated.    I like them, but if you do not like the large ear pads, there are stethoscope types, such as these Click for TV Ears Headsets.   Or you could go for wired earbud earbuds like those for the MP3 and iPod players.   Some of these have a volume control on them.

Click for Philips-SHE2850-37-Earbuds-Control/dp/B000G33V6G with volume control. You just plug them in to the earphone jack.

You could go out and buy a theater sound system for hundreds of dollars but those systems often take up a lot of space.

A few of the newest hearing aids have bluetooth technology which delivers sound directly into the ear and not out thru a speaker and back in through the hearing aids microphone, eliminating ambient sounds which interfere.  Click for Bluetooth Hearing Aids.   Normal hearing aids will just give you the bad sound from the set's internal speakers.

For seniors who may not have the space or want big speakers, this is a problem.   The average senior also has hearing loss.   Half of men have a 40% hearing loss, concentrated mostly in  the upper registers (see my earlier post on hearing aids).

Yet with some hearing loss, I still love music and and good sound.

One option was to plug in computer speakers into the headphone jack.   Dell has some good such speakers.

I realized that all I needed was an amplifier and good speakers.  I had an old set ot KLH speakers, 20 years old.   They were designed by the legendary Henry Kloss.   Could they still be available?

These speakers are used with a ancient amplifier and my PC to deliver sound from Spotify which are stunningly beautiful, even to my old ears.  Spotify provides sound using better technology than most computer sound.   I boost the weak upper frequencies with the computer’s equalizer.

The old speakers deliver as good sound as I have ever heard.   They are small, well made, and cheap.

I wrote the KLH company in Santa Inez California, a beautiful coastal town in California.   Sure enough, they still had a pair of 970as, shipped for $30.  Click here for KLH.   In BestBuy I saw what looked like the same speakers for about the same price, but under a different brand name, maybe a knock-off

Looking thru Amazon for a cheap amplifier, I found a well-rated one for $30 with lots of good comments on it from those who bought one.   The amplifier was from Pyle, a PCA1. Click here for the Pyle amplifier.

Like most HDTVs, ours has the ability to provide great sounds thru the amp and speakers.    The HDTVs usually have equalizers which adjust the sound to your hearing.   Add to that the wonderful technical sound cspabilities of the HDTV, and you have a concert home theater system for almost a  pittance (less than $65 as opposed to hundreds of dollars.

Note that the first set of speakers from KLH included one bad speaker, which was replaced at no cost by KLH.

Other well-commented bookshelf speakers from Amazon include a Sony pair, Sony SS-B1000 5 1/8-Inch Bookshelf Speakers, Click here for the Sonys, plus speakers from the amplifier people, Pyle Home PDWR50B 6.5-Inch Indoor/Outdoor Click here for the Pyles.   Dual and BIC also offer very inexpensive well-rated bookshelf speakers.

I also got  a switch to switch between headset and speakers, a RCA DT902AV 2-Way A/V Switcher   Click here for the switch.

It  is a good idea to check that the speaker “impedance” specs in ohms match those of the amplifier.   Also, read the many comments of Amazon buyers, including the bad comments.   If the bad comments are over-fussy, you are on to a good buy.

There is no reason for seniors to deny themselves good TV sound, if only to use earbuds with a long earbud extension.   Click for earbud extension cords

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review Your Subscriptions

You might review your subscriptions, paper and otherwise.

I switched from Comcast  to SeniorTV to save $40  month---I was paying for more than one HDTV/computer.     Then, when the price went up, I cut off NetFlix online, but kept the mail version which has more movies,   Then I cut that off, too.      I can resume for a month when movies come up that I like.           

I started up HULU, which offers a wealth of recorded TV, and subscribed to Spotify with its virtually unlimited music anywhere for iPad and iTouch.    HULU is $5.99 a month but it comes on a free trial with TIVO.    I then subscribed to TIME, paper plus Kindle, at $30 a year---works beautifully on iPad.

I do subscribe to the local Lancaster Sunday edition in paper form (it’s fun to spread it out and sit down with it), but discontinued the online daily until they offer it for the Kindle.     We get the Kindle edition of the Inquirer for $5.99 a month, and the New York Times latest news for Kindle for $1.99 a month, updated every 4 hours, a bargain.  

All in all, much better choices.     With all media, including paper, you want it so that it is available wnen YOU want it.   With libraries all over WV, it is fun to see what others are reading, like Grogan’s autobiography I browsed thru up at Spring Run but then checked out of the Lancaster library online for the Bookmobile   Some books just don’t come in eBook form yet, or are already checked out online by someone else.

The books I have published come both ways---don’t know why anyone would do it any other way.   I get the cheapest way when I buy one, lots of time an overun like TIVO for Dummies at a few dollars.  My Lulu books are free online.   Be sure to publish the stuff you are creating.

So far, Flipboard on Ipad brings me the New Yorker, The Atlantic Wire, the Economist, not to mention Facebook, and even this website, all in magazine form, all free, for now.   I get the Wall Street Journal online “TV” channel on iPad.  I read both the WSJ and NYT and LA Times on the browser..

I should add that I read the online Lifehacker website and enjoy it immensely.  Try it!

Old or New Hardware with the Cloud??

With cloud computing, and with the computer acting largely as a terminal to other  powerful computers in the internet cloud, you would think an old computer would do fine.

Yes and No.

There are trade-offs.   There are pros and cons.

Battery, speed, multitasking, software, proprietariness, ease of use, cost, and so on.

I got out an abandoned 7” EEE PC to see what it could do.   It runs Ubuntu 9.10 very well indeed, so it has access to internet.     It is fast enough if you are doing only one thing at a time.

(Available now is a slimmed-down fast version of Ubuntu for old netbooks, called Lunbuntu (light Ubuntu).     Click to download Lubuntu, then follow the simple instructions.   You download two files--starting one sets up a flash drive which, when will start up a live version.) Ran live on my 10" EEE PC without incident---runs lightning fast. hmmm.

It lacks a Kindle reader for now, but it does have Lucidor, a very capable reader.    It also accesses most cloud music, and Hulu recorded TV..     It runs Chrome browser and apps generally.

It has no spinning drive, a big advantage for portability.   But its battery life is low.    It is fussy to connect to wifi.     Otherwise good.

Newer devices are proprietary to some extent.   They do not access everything.  The new Kindle Fire is nice and small, easily carried in a big picket.     The unknown is to what extent  browsing will be limited by having Amazon mediate everything.

Now  I don’t mind that mediation.    If I subscribe to Spotify (nearly all) music for a fixed fee for anything, it is OK with me for Spotify to see what I am listening to, and pay royalties accordingly.  However, if mediation restricts my access too much, that will be a no-no, and a farewell to that system.

Whether the Spotify  marketing scheme will come to eBooks is still unknown.   This scheme offers broad access at a fixed fee (or free with advertising).  I would welcome it.    In the meantime, I am stuck with the Fire’s library or the iPad/Touch  libraries.

I would do the same for TV, pay a fixed fee for my choice of content, a little like cable or satellite.    

The selection of device, therefore is  contingent on content availability and content cost.

There is also the choice of apps, with Apple way out in front.     Old equipment will handle most Google apps, though.

We will see what apps are coming with Windows 8. 
  Each provider has a unique marketing stance.

Apple sells content in order to sell devices.    Amazon sells devices in order to sell content.     Google provides device and content in order to sell advertising.     Microsoft sells Windows software for nearly any computer.   Ubuntu gives it away free.

They all have a role.   They all need to do what it takes to compete with each other.  I don’t see  a “winner”.  I see development until all media is available at the least cost.

Keep your old computer for generation of documents (what more do you need, unless it is too slow?) and try a new device for consumption of media.     Minimally, have a Kindle, iTouch, or iPad.     In not too long most of us will have shifted from paper to device for a lot of reading (I still read the Sunday paper; I get some stuff BOTH ways--does not cost any more for TIME, for example ($30 a year).)    

Then, with a cheap cellphone and GPS you have it all on the cheap.     The iTouch even has a GPS adapter.    

Check out eBooks from (Lancaster,etc) Library

As of this month, eBooks may be checked out of your local library for Kindle (available earlier for some other devices):

Click here for the Lancaster Library Check-out Page

Update 4-8-2012: Or Click here to start the process.

Check Out a Public Library Book for Kindle

You can borrow Kindle books from your local library's website, and, with the click of a button, have them delivered to your Kindle device or free reading app.
  1. Visit the website of a U.S. library that offers digital services from OverDrive.
  2. Check out a Kindle book (library card required).
  3. Click on "Get for Kindle." You will then be directed to to redeem your public library loan. You may be required to login to your account -- or create a new account -- if you're not already logged in.
  4. Choose to read the book on your Kindle device, free reading app, or Kindle Cloud Reader.
Note: Public library books require an active Wi-Fi connection for wireless delivery to a Kindle device. Library books will not be delivered via your Kindle's 3G connection. If trying to send to a Kindle device and do not have an active Wi-Fi connection, you may instead choose to load your library book via USB. Both Mac and Windows users can manage Kindle content through a USB connection.

You may also check out audio books.