Saturday, January 12, 2008

AUGI CAD Camp Toronto

I just got back from the first AUGI CAD Camp of 2008. This one was held in Toronto, Canada, in an absolutely beautiful facility in Mississauga, Ontario called the Living Arts Center.

It was a great event and we had a very appreciative crowd of more than 200 attendees. The local dealer did a wonderful job of getting the word out about the event.

I took the opportunity to record another one of my presentations that had not yet been recorded. So I am happy to announce that you can now view a webcast of my AutoCAD 2008 data extraction and tables class, entitled "Keep it Inside AutoCAD – Data Extraction Direct to AutoCAD Tables." That webcast is now available on my website.

I also took lots of photos of the Toronto event and those photos, like those from other CAD Camps, are available on my Flickr site.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Multi-Room Music Nirvana

When we hosted an open house on New Years Day, I wanted to have music playing in the main area of the main floor of our house, where there is currently no stereo. As a quick makeshift solution, I brought my inexpensive Altec Lansing speakers into the room, placing them in unobtrusive locations and hiding the subwoofer under a coffee table. I put my laptop on the hearth and streamed an iTunes playlist all day. It worked great.

That proof of concept prompted me to come up with a less makeshift solution. After several hours of research, I decided that while solutions like the Sonos and Squeezebox were nice, they also cost more than I was ready to spend for what would effectively be background music. But $99 for an Apple AirPort Express sounded just right.

So this afternoon I went to a local computer store and purchased an AirPort Express with AirTunes. I also bought a cheap set of powered speakers, but that's another story (which I'll get to at the end).

After plugging in the AirPort Express and letting it boot up, it's indicator light blinked amber, indicating that it was not connecting to my existing wireless network. Since I have an existing Linksys wireless router, the AirPort would not connect automatically. It took a few minutes to sort that out, but by going into the AirPort Utility and manually configuring the AirPort Express so that it was simply a client on the existing network, I soon had that problem sorted out.

I think it's a bit miraculous that after simply adding the AirPort Express, iTunes now has a new selection in the lower-right that lets me select where I want to stream my music.

The whole thing works so well, and the experience was so satisfying, that I'm ready to go out and purchase a few more of these things so that I can stream music to additional rooms. AirPort Express is perfect.

Now, the speakers, unfortunately, are another story. Years ago I picked up a set of Altec Lansing 221 speakers for my office. They consist of two small satellite speakers with a hefty subwoofer. While they're certainly not audiophile quality by any stretch of the imagination, they cost me $49.99 at Costco and have a nice clean sound through the entire frequency range, and a full but balanced bass. But these speakers apparently are no longer available.

I purchased a set of Edifier speakers from the same place that I purchased the AirPort Express. I had never heard of them before (it's a Canadian brand) but they were all that the store carried and since I could easily return them, what did I have to loose. They were, in a word, terrible—incredibly weak in the middle frequencies and almost no bass response in spite of the subwoofer. So I drove over to another store and picked up a set of Logitech X-240 speakers. The frequency response was much better, with nice clear treble and substantial bass that I could easily adjust thanks to a control knob on the subwoofer (something my Altec Lansing speakers lack). But when no music was playing, these speakers have a very noticeable hum. So they're going back tomorrow as well.

So while I've found nirvana in terms of streaming music to any room in the house, I am still searching for a decent set of inexpensive (under $100) powered speakers. Like I said, this is for background music when we entertain. When I want to really listen to music, I'll turn on the stereo. I'll probably add an AirPort Express to the stereo as well. Why not? But if anyone has a good recommendation for some inexpensive powered speakers, please pass it along, because I'm still searching.