Author Archives: jeff

Rear Projection Televisions: LCD vs DLP

A friend of mine recently emailed me the following question:

“We are looking at getting a TV and I was wondering what your thoughts are about TVs. We were looking into about a 42″ or 50″ HDTV. We were looking at the LCD Sony and also the Samsung with the DPL stuff. We only want to spend 2,000. We are in no hurry to get a TV and since everything is going to HD should we wait a year or so? Are prices going to drop soon?”

I replied to his email and then realized that it might be informative to others out there. My response follows:

I’m assuming by “LCD Sony” you mean an LCD rear-projection television and not a true LCD. LCD rear projectors are like regular rear projection televisions, the obvious difference being that an LCD provides the source image as opposed to a traditional CRT. LCD rear projectors are quickly becoming the de facto standard for rear projectors. DLP is another breed of rear projector.

So I’m going to operate under the assumption you are looking at LCD and DLP rear projectors (a true “flat panel” LCD of the size you’re talking would be big bucks). Rear projection sets are where it’s at these days when it comes to bang for buck, and the LCD and DLP models offer cabinets that aren’t as deep and awkward as the cabinets of yesterday’s CRT rear projectors.

You’ve picked a great time to by a television. Prices have plummeted and there are some excellent sets in the $2,000 range and below. Sure, prices will continue to steadily drop with the various TV technologies, but such will always be the case. As for high-definition, there is no reason to wait. HD is here and there are plenty of sets that handle HD signals with aplomb. And it doesn’t take $3,000 (or even necessarily $2,000) to reap the benefits, though your $2,000 figure is a reasonable one to start with and opens up plenty of possibilities.

As it turns out, you’ve picked two of my favorite brands. Though there have been times when Consumer Reports has given Sony sub-par marks on maintenance history, it seems like over the years they have been pretty consistent in delivering great pictures, from their Trinitron tubes to their upper line WEGA sets. Then you have Samsung, who has transformed their image from low-budget, brand-name-alternative to industry powerhouse with cutting edge technology at reasonable prices (there are rumors that Samsung is going to begin nudging prices up now that they have secured a substantial market share…dunno how much credence there is to that). I am a Samsung fan. For televisions, I’d have to seriously consider Sony, too, though.

As for the two technologies you’re looking at, as a general statement I think I prefer DLP RPTV’s (rear projection TV’s) over LCD RPTV’s. DLP has ironed out *most* of the wrinkles in its technology and it really can deliver. Probably the best set I’ve calibrated was a Samsung DLP. We watched Finding Nemo on it afterward and it was almost disgusting how good it looked (progressive scan DVD player will be a must for you, by the way…but that’s pocket change; most players are coming with progressive scan these days). Anyway, each technology does have its weaknesses, though each are capable of delivering an excellent picture…let me briefly breakdown the most notable…

LCD RPTV’s: A couple of things to look for on the sets, though. Sometimes these sets can exhibit a “screen door” effect since LCD sets, by design, demand a bit more room between the pixels on the LCD. I would guess most sets you will look at won’t have this problem, but it’s worth keeping in mind. DLP doesn’t have this issue. Also, the most critical aspect of LCD RPTV’s is contrast ratio. They have traditionally had a difficult time displaying “true” blacks and subtle variations in grays (accurate grayscale reproduction is vital for accurate color rendition). The latest LCD’s, though, have really come a long way in overcoming this. But again, it’s worth looking for. This can vary greatly by model/manufacturer.

DLP RPTV’s: Lately, the main culprit with this technology is what they call a “rainbow effect,” though the problem has been mitigated in modern sets. DLP sets use a single color wheel through which passes all three colors sequentially (Red, Green, Blue). This can lead to brief, almost imperceptible streaks of color on some sets. If it’s present, people typically only notice it when they’re quickly moving their eyes across the screen. It sounds like a strange phenomenon; personally, I’ve never experienced it…then again, I haven’t been watching too many DLP’s. DLP’s tend to produce great blacks. There was a time when they had issues mustering ample amounts of brightness but I think that’s pretty much a thing of the past. It’s also been said that DLP is prone to a bit more “video noise” than other rear projection technologies. DLP sets also tend to be more expensive.

Both types will require the replacement of the lamp periodically. And when I say periodically, I mean YEARS. The lamps have thousands of hours on them. Neither type of set is prone to the “burn-in” that you used to hear so much about with CRT’s. One thing that is a must if you buy a television of this caliber: CALIBRATE IT! Ideally, you’d drop a couple hundred dollars and have a certified tech come out, access the service menu, calibrate it, then save the settings. The next best thing, however, is to do it yourself. Though you can’t access the service menu, the conventional adjustments allow you to tweak it fairly well. Basic test patterns that can be used for calibration are on any movie DVD that is labeled as “THX”. They can be accessed through the DVD’s menu.

There can be a dramatic difference between a calibrated and non-calibrated set. I could give you a hand with this, if the time should come. It’s not that difficult. The main thing that will almost certainly need to be adjusted is brightness. They are usually jacked WAY up from the factory. That’s why looking at TV’s in a store is usually pretty worthless; you rarely get much of an idea of the television’s true potential compared to those around it. Manufacturers know that our eyes tend to favor brighter pictures, so that’s how they ship them. Unfortunately, brighter is not better…it comes at the expense of things like color reproduction and contrast.

Sorry to throw all this stuff at you, but it’s good background information to have. As for specific Sony and Samsung sets, let me get back to you after doing some looking around. My instinct says that either one would be a fine purchase (though I’d probably lead toward the Samsung), but I’ve gotten behind in reading some of my periodicals…I’ll bet there’s a review or two that could come in handy. Until then, do some looking around on the Internet. When you DO buy, make sure you get it from a place with a decent return policy. And before I bought I’d consider taking along a THX-certified DVD and at least *somewhat* calibrating the set right there in the store (not the best with glaring fluorescent lights overhead, I know). They should have no qualms with you doing that. Then get right up on the set and look for anything suspicious. How do the blacks look? Is there any strange artifacting? The other thing that is kind of a bummer is the video signal fed to the TV’s in stores such as Best Buy, etc. are horrible. So you really won’t get an accurate idea until you get the set home. More upscale audio/video establishments usually have better set-ups: calibrated TV’s, dimmed lighting, etc.

All this being said, there are a bunch of great TV’s out there. And these days, the differences in quality are becoming fewer and more subtle, often residing as much between different makes and models as which technology is used. You picked a great time to buy a TV.

Freeware / Open Source Applications

I have decided to compile here a list of my favorite freeware/open source applications. For simplicity’s sake, I will limit the list to that software running on Windows since it remains the most prominent operating system.

You might be surprised to find there is a lot of freely available software that is as good, and sometime BETTER, than its commercial counterparts. No cost, no ads, no nagging (of course, consider donating to that software you find useful!). It’s a beautiful thing. Keep in mind, there are others out there; these just happen to be my favorites. I will likely revise this list in the future as I stumble upon new applications. Without further ado:

Office Suite: Open Office
Archive Utility: Zip Genius
Desktop Post-It Notes: AT Notes
Flow Charts: Dia
Media PC: Media Portal

Connectivity
Web Browser: Mozilla Firefox
Email Client: Mozilla Thunderbird
FTP Client: FileZilla (Firefox also has a very decent FTP extension)
SCP/SFTP Client: WinSCP
SSH Client: Putty
Instant Messaging (ICQ, AOL, MSN, etc.): Gaim
Peer-to-Peer File Sharing: eMule
BitTorrent Client: Yet Another BitTorrent Client
Telephony (VoIP): Skype
Multi-Platform Desktop Control: Real VNC
Port Scanning: Nmap

Audio/Video
Audio Editing: Audacity
Audio Encoding/CD-Ripping: Exact Audio Copy (EAC)
MP3 Stream Ripper: Stream Ripper
Video Encoding/Processing: Virtual Dub
Music/Video Player: Winamp
DVD Player: VideoLAN
Quicktime: Quicktime Alternative
RealPlayer: RealPlayer Alternative

Graphics
Viewing/Converting Images: Irfanview
Image Editing: The Gimp
Image Viewing/Organizing: Picasa
PDF Viewer: Fox It PDF Reader
PDF Creator: PDF Creator
Web Authoring: Nvu
RGB Color Calculator/Matcher: Easy RGB

CD-DVD Software
Windows XP SlipStreaming Utility: Autostreamer
Display Audio CD Tracks as .wav Files in Explorer: CDFS.vxd
CD-R Identifier: CD Media Code Identifier
VideoCD: VCDgear
CD/DVD Burner: CD Burner XP
Video-DVD Ripping: DVD Decrypter
Video-DVD Copying: DVD Shrink
DVD-R Identifier: DVD Identifier
ISO Utility: ISO Buster
Virtual Drives: Daemon Tools

System Maintenance
Anti-Spyware: Microsoft AntiSpyware and Spybot
Anti-Virus: AVG Free Edition
File Backup Utility: SyncBack Freeware and Allway Sync
Hard Drive Imaging: SelfImage
Floppy Imaging: RawWrite
Hard Drive Fitness: IBM Hard Drive Fitness Test
Disk and Data Recovery: ResQPro
Restore Deleted Files: Restoration

Tweaking and Miscellany
System Information: Belarc Advisor and CPU-Z
Benchmarking, 3D Peformance: 3DMark
Benchmarking, Application Performance: PCMark
Benchmarking, Hard Drive: HD Tach
Hard Drive Temperature: Hard Drive Thermometer
Monitor and Control Motherboard: Motherboard Monitor
Memory Diagnostic: MemTest86
Boot Analyzer/Cleaner: BootVIS
Disk Wiper: Darik’s Boot and Nuke
Partition Manager: Ranish
Windows Process Management: Itt Bitty Process Manager
File Encryption: Cypherix
Tweak Windows XP: TweakUI
Find Out What Program is Locking a File: WhoLockMe?

For All Those Times You’re Using Your Computer Outside: Anti-Mosquito

And don’t forget the ultimate open source software: Linux and it’s myriad components. Feel like taking the plunge? I’d recommend Ubuntu. It’s a cinch to get up and running.

Maritime Terrorists

So a company named Dubai Ports World is based in the United Arab Emirates and wants to buy six U.S. ports. We’re opening our borders to terrorists. Everybody run.

It’s funny–well, laughable, anyway–how we can outwardly hold American ideals to be so important to us only to roll over on them at the slightest whim. We should try to remember that the ports in question are privately owned by Britain’s P&O shipping company. I’d be willing to bet that P&O does not base its business decisions on the ill-informed American public’s image of an ideal business partner (good thing, too). No, I would be willing to bet P&O bases its business decisions on profit, that omnipresent, ever-powerful motivator serving as the backbone of capitalism. You remember capitalism, don’t you?

Right about here is where I should be pounced upon for implying that the pursuit of a (at least partially) free market economy should necessarily supersede security interests. Yes, let’s take a look at those security interests.

I won’t bother discussing Los Angeles, the largest shipping port in the U.S., to dwell on the fact that 80% of its shipping ports are owned by foreign entities. I’ll keep this post focused on the ports along the eastern seaboard which are currently in such eminent danger of Dubai acquisition. Why is it so typical for the United States to treat an ally with such impunity? The United Arab Emirates IS an ally, after all, and not merely in name. Aside from continual support in our “War Against Terror,” the U.A.E. was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to acquiesce to U.S. requests and sign the U.S. Container Security Initiative. The agreement places U.S. customs agents in overseas ports of origin to begin screening cargo. Does the simple fact that the United Arab Emirates happens to be in the Middle East warrant more scrutiny than a country located in a different part of the world? I think that’s a slippery slope to start down.

To place blame on the United Arab Emirates for 9/11 is also disingenuous. Their counter-terrorism efforts of the past few years aside, as far as we know, one or two of the 9/11 hijackers may have been born in the U.A.E. A few others traveled through the country at some point or conducted some business there. Does that constitute “ties” to 9/11? If so, perhaps we should consider Germany, where several of the hijackers were based for a time, as also “tied” to 9/11. Would such a ruckus be raised if a German entity was interested in buying U.S. ports? I doubt it.

One more issue I would raise: how will the situation on the ground change at these ports? Currently, dock workers are members of the longshoremen’s unions; the same will be true after any handover. Furthermore, port security has always been the charge of the U.S. government; that, too, will remain the same. Please, tell me, what exactly is changing again? Before and after any sale, the shipping ports are worked by American laborers, secured by the American government. And did I mention that some of Dubai’s top executives are American expatriates? Oh yes, this company reeks of Al-Qaeda.

Yes, I believe it prudent to demonstrate heightened scrutiny when a business deal of this magnitude involves foreign interests, absolutely, and perhaps especially when a foreign interest is state-controlled; but I think we should be careful with our tone. Does the call to place a hold on the sale stem from a sense of general caution, or is it the result of the buying party being Middle Eastern? An ally of the United States is an ally of the United States, regardless of what region of the world it is located. Treating a Middle Eastern country differently only serves to highlight the American hypocrisy that has gained such global notoriety in recent decades.

one down…

Well, everonward recently lost its biggest fan. That’s sad not only because that person happened to make up a large percentage of everonward’s fan base; it’s sad on a personal level, too.

Pointless post? Perhaps, but I certainly don’t think so. Well, Mort…looks like it’s you and me.

Hello world!

This WordPress installation went live on November 22, 2005.

Well, I made the switch from MovableType to WordPress. The transition was actually fairly smooth. The ease with which themes can be changed means I may switch up the appearance of the site a bit more frequently, but I’m kind of partial to its current design.

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