Oct 21, 2011

5. text

Thank you Steve Jobs, from the bottom of my heart. Without your mastermind what would the brilliant Carrie Bradshaw have wrote her column on. Where my SATC fans at? You know we have seen this scene far too often. Carrie restlessly typing away as she stares out the window at the picturesque New York skyline. How perfect is this? Typical Carrie. I can hear her now, "Later that day I got to thinking..." Then when her beloved motherboard crashed and Aidan came to the rescue. It was a sad day in Carrie Bradshaw Land! The thought of no more of Carrie's ingenius writings being brought to the readers of NYC saddens me to this day. Never fear, Aidan saved the day. Of course Carrie was broker than broke back mountain from buying too many pairs of Manolos so Aidan bought her new MacBook which she hated, returned and went back to her prehistoric MacBook g3 powerbook.¹

Really there was no brief. But the really funny thing was the only direction we got from Steve Jobs is: "don't make it cute". ... We presented two versions of the logo. One with and one without the bite. Just in case he thought the bite was too cute. Fortunately he went with the one that gave it the most personality with the bite. ...²

He bought his first Mac in 1999. In a second-hand shop near Wenceslas Square. He was twenty three years old. He brought it home and placed the various parts on the table. It was called a Power Macintosh 7300. He’d used a similar one at secondary school. He ran his fingers over the surface of the keyboard, touched the mouse incredulously, tried pressing the buttons on the CD-ROM and floppy disk drives. He still couldn’t believe it. He made greasy smudges on the monitor with the tip of his index finger. He was fascinated by the grey plastic casing with its slightly grainy surface. He couldn’t get enough of it. The logo with its colour stripes on the front side of the computer and monitor, directly above the model insignia, was probably the thing he liked most about it. It was just a centimetre in diameter and was shaped like an apple with a bite taken out of it.

Power Mac G3 B/W unboxing

Over the fireplace was a single picture, at which Soames glanced mechanically. What! Chinese! A large whitish sidelong monkey, holding the rind of a squeezed fruit in its outstretched paw. Its whiskered face looked back at him with brown, almost human eyes. What on earth had made his inartistic cousin buy a thing like that and put it up to face his bed?³

Well, I'm probably the least religious person, so Adam and Eve didn't have anything to do with it. The bite of knowledge sounds fabulous, but that's not it. And, there is a whole lot of other lure about it. Turing the famous supposed father of computer science who committed suicide in the early 50's was british and was accused of being homosexual, which he was. He was facing a jail sentence so he committed suicide to avoid all that. So, I heard one of the legends being that the colored logo was an homage to him. People think I did the colored stripes because of the gay flag. And, that was something really thought for a long time. The other really cool part was that apparently he killed himself with a cyanide laced apple. And, then I found out Alan Turing's favorite childhood story was Snow White where she falls asleep forever for eating a poisoned apple to be woken up by the handsome prince. Anyway, when I explain the real reason why I did the bite it's kind of a let down. But I'll tell you. I designed it with a bite for scale, so people get that it was an apple not a cherry. Also it was kind of iconic about taking a bite out of an apple. Something that everyone can experience. It goes across cultures. If anybody ever had an apple he probably bitten into it and that's what you get. It was after I designed it, that my creative director told me: "Well you know, there is a computer term called byte". And I was like: "You're kidding!" So, it was like perfect, but it was coincidental that it was also a computer term. At the time I had to be told everything about basic computer terms.

Unboxing: Mac mini

He also bought his second Mac in a second-hand shop. In 2003. This time it was in Žižkov. His old Mac was already rather worn and outdated. He needed something slightly newer. Well, and a year before that he’d seen the new laptops while on a year-long study trip abroad. So he’d set his heart on one. Finally, after several months of searching, he came across a used PowerBook in Žižkov. He managed to get the salespeople on his side and they sold it to him with a discount. They had no idea what they actually had in their possession. This thing had been lying there for several months and nobody had wanted it. So they wanted to get rid of it. He brought the computer home and once again he was fascinated. Especially by the fact that he could carry it around with him; it hardly weighed anything. It was made of mat grey titanium. The logo was on the outside of the monitor; when he opened the computer and switched it on, it lit up. He sat around with the laptop on the bed and at the table, turning it round so that he could see the bright silhouette of the apple from all sides.

Stripping the coverings off the picture, Fleur brought it in, and setting it up on the jade-green settee, stood away and looked at it. The large white monkey with its brown haunting eyes, as if she had suddenly wrested its interest from the orange-like fruit in its crisped paw, the grey background, the empty rinds all round — bright splashes in a general ghostliness of colour, impressed her at once.

I discovered my appetite for writing right about the same time that the first season of Sex and the City started airing. Naturally, Carrie Bradshaw became my idol almost overnight. Even now, 12 years hence, I still have to consciously avoid Bradshaw-ish euphemisms when I’m (supposedly) free writing; the character’s influence on me is that great. Now, Carrie has always had a Mac. From the PowerBook to the iBook G3 Clamshell to the Macbook Pro – you name it, she’s had it. Because of that, I’ve always associated Macs as a ‘writer thing’, and I have drooled and fantasized about owning one since, thinking that it’s going to make a better writer out of me, or at least, inspire me enough to write more. The moment I could afford it, I got my first Mac, with the second – and current – one hard on its heels. And true enough, the switch did inspire me to write more and write better, probably because I no longer had to suffer the constant headaches that my PCs and netbooks of old used to plague me with.

Tech : 20th Anniversary Mac (TAM) UnBoxing & First Boot

He acquired his third Mac in 2006 when the motherboard on his G4 packed up. He was reluctant to part with the computer, but nothing could be done about it. In the repair shop he learnt that to have it repaired would come to about two thirds of the price of buying a new one. That decided it. Even this next purchase was something new, something he’d not experienced before. For the first time he was in possession of a brand new computer. He no longer felt like going from one second-hand shop to another, or looking for the best offers in the small ads sections. Also, Macs were now a lot cheaper. He decided to get another laptop. And so he bought a MacBook with a thirteen inch display. Finally he could unpack the computer for the first time himself. He brought the box home and for several minutes just looked at it. He turned it round in his hands, examining it from all sides. Finally he took the plunge and with a shaky hand he cut through the sticky tape. He took out the white paper fabric bag and a white object slid out – a monolithic rectangular prism with rounded corners, its top dominated by the outline of a bitten apple, it had a CD-ROM slit on the side and a number of ports for USB, FireWire etc. He gawped at the shape in disbelief and it seemed unreal to him. Several times he tried to open it, but each time the two sides snapped back together again; it took him a little while before he succeeded. His fingers glided over the keyboard several times, then over the touchpad and after that he softly pressed the on button.

“Why, it’s a perfect allegory, sir! Eat the fruits of life, scatter the rinds, and get copped doing it. When they’re still, a monkey’s eyes are the human tragedy incarnate. Look at them! He thinks there’s something beyond, and he’s sad or angry because he can’t get at it. That picture ought to be in the British Museum, sir, with the label: ‘Civilisation, caught out.’”

It's a real unique experience that still makes my day whenever I see it unexpectedly. You're watching a movie or tv and usually when they have a cool character they'll have a laptop with an Apple logo on it, like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. I've done a lot of traveling and early on when the logo still had multicolored stripes on it I was in China and there it was on a billboard somewhere. It was Chinese script that I couldn't read, but something that came out of my head was up there for all to see and to interpret. It's kind of a personal thing. It's kinda like having a kid. You're very proud of it.

Unboxing: MacBook Pro 2011 Core i7, 4GB of Ram, 128GB SSD

He bought his last Mac three years ago. He came up with more or less convincing reasons to justify the purchase. Firstly, he’d dropped his old computer on the floor, and although nothing had happened to it and it continued to function flawlessly, this incident made him rather nervous. Another reason was the back pain caused by working with a laptop for long periods. Also, he was tired of forever carrying the computer from one place to another. So he decided to heed the advice of his doctor and procure a desktop instead of a laptop. And so he sold his old MacBook and bought an iMac. This time he didn’t go to a shop, instead ordering it on the internet. Having done so he could hardly wait until the following day when the parcel delivery guy would arrive, ring the bell and hand him the box with the computer. Then it actually happened and he took delivery from the postman of a bulky and quite heavy box which he carried upstairs to the third floor. Once he’d set the package with the device down on the floor in the hallway he immediately ran into the kitchen for a knife. Quickly he cut through the adhesive tape on top of the box and opened it. He pulled out the keyboard, mouse and installation CDs. Next he took out the polystyrene protecting the computer from mechanical shock and finally the main object itself. He put it down on the floor in the hallway. He unfastened the paper sleeve so that he could slide it off and as he did so the black panel of the monitor encased in a textured, machined processed aluminium frame began to reveal itself to him. It this seemed to levitate on an aluminium base. Beneath the display, the black silhouette of a bitten apple stared at him. He was looking at it and at the object and saying to himself that he’d never owned anything as lovely before and that he was definitely going to keep this computer without ever wanting another. And so he stood there with his eyes fixed on the object of his desire.

¹Keepitclassyalabama.blogspot.com/2011/10/how-i-am-relating-death-of-steve-jobs.html; 19. 6. 2012.
²⁵⁹Creativebits.org/interview/interview_rob_janoff_designer_apple_logo; 19. 6. 2012.
³John Galsworthy, A Modern Comedy, http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/galsworthy/john/white/chapter10.html; 19. 6. 2012.
⁴Creativebits.org/interview/interview_rob_janoff_designer_apple_logo; 19. 6. 2012.
⁵John Galsworthy, A Modern Comedy; http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/galsworthy/john/white/chapter17.html; 19. 6. 2012.
⁶Goddess-i-am.com/tag/carrie-bradshaw/; 19. 6. 2012.
⁷John Galsworthy, A Modern Comedy; http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/galsworthy/john/white/chapter17.html; 19. 6. 2012.
⁸Creativebits.org/interview/interview_rob_janoff_designer_apple_logo; 19. 6. 2012.

Oct 9, 2011

iPhone 5 Unboxing and Review

4. text

Už delší dobu mám problém najít na Youtube UNBOXINGové video s mobilním telefonem. Není tam nic natočené pouze z čisté radosti. Několikrát jsem se o to pokoušel, ale nepovedlo se mi to. Vždy jsem objevil něco, co se tvářilo jako UNBOXING, ale ve skutečnosti to byla reklama. Pokaždé je to stejné – nějaký muž vybaluje mobil a bez vzrušení, bez jediného záchvěvu nervozity se do kamery snaží předmět ukrytý pod vrstvou kartonu a plastu, co nejvíce vychválit a nekriticky adorovat. Je to takový internetový teleshoping. Jedině u fanoušků Applu jsem se setkal s tím, že přes velké množství komerčního UNBOXINGu stále natáčejí své první setkání s jejich novým miláčkem. No, a protože teď je na světě nový iPhone, dokonce ve dvou variantách, rozhodl jsem se najít na Youtube nějaký UNBOXING s tímhle mobilem. Co se ale proti mému očekávání stalo, našel jsem pouze parodie. Minuty a hodiny míjely a já neobjevil žádné UNBOXINGové video s novým iPhonem. Nakonec jsem zjistil, proč. Jako spousta dalších zvědavců jsem zadal do vyhledávače heslo: „UNBOXING iPhone 5“. Poslední typ se jmenoval „4“ a tak jsem jeho následovníku logicky přiřkl číslo „5“. Což byla chyba. Nový iPhone se totiž jmenuje „4S“. Po tomhle nedorozumění jsem zkoušel hledat dál; ale zase marně. Nenašel jsem nic zajímavého. Publikuji zde proto tu nejpovedenější parodii.

Oct 6, 2011

Lehmann Audio Black Cube Linear unboxing

3. text

So... how did I get from industrial machines to electronics. Actually... this blog was originally supposed to be about audio; about equipment with brand names such as Mark Levinson, McIntosh and Accuphase. These amplifiers and preamplifiers immediately attract our attention – with their front panels with knobs and buttons, potentiometers, analogue or digital indicators of the left, right channel... There’s something about them reminiscent of machine tools, lathes and horizontal drills.

The L-590AX did the magic and completely erased the loudspeakers from my listening room so that with my eyes closed I was not able to identify their positions. Instead, I could identify the musicians within the three-dimensional soundstage and that was why (with the lights still dimmed) the listening turned out to be a be-there experience. As if the L-590AX could render also the cigarette smoke, heavy curtains and a worn out carpet, fingers dancing on strings and the ice, slowly melting in the last glass of whisky.¹

With their dangerously looking corners and branched coolers jutting out into space they really are reminiscent of industrial machines. In reality they’re merely consumer goods - like motorcycles, sports cars and pleasure boats; just like them they’re a source of joy and a symbol of social status. Even so, there’s something here... something that makes them different... these goods are capable of creating a semblance of reality. That’s why I myself refer to them as machines, even though they do not manufacture anything, but merely reproduce compositions from a record, tape, CD or MP3 device.

Have you ever had a chance to listen to a plucked double-bass from the distance, let’s say, of 1 meter? If your answer is yes then you would probably agree that it is not just the deep strumming sound we all know from our home audio systems but that it is very palpable. One can see the effort a player has to put into the plucking a string a when he does than the mighty THUNG! shudders a room. Well, such a THUNG!… The guitar that joins the track at around  2´50 is precisely outlined and introduces delicate details like microresonances of strings, resonating bodies of instruments or a soft hiss of an analogue master tape. We travel against the flow of time to the age when digital silence did not exist and one could listen to the breaks between songs.²

In order for audiophiles to be able to listen to their favourite song they need a source of audio signal, in other words a gramophone, CD player or computer, a device to amplify it, i.e. an amplifier, and equipment to reproduce the sound, i.e. loudspeakers. This is known as framing. It’s like looking at an empty space bordered by a beautiful steel frame. The whole situation is as follows: a room and in it a sound system, opposite a seat, and as a general rule one or more men. They are listening to music, staring into the space in front of them. Their eyes are scanning the surfaces of the devices. They’re examining each element of the player, the amplifier, the speakers; and they’re dissatisfied. They were expecting something to happen, that reality would vanish and instead members of Kiss would appear in their prime, or Metallica in their heyday or those crazy guys from The Cure... but they’re simply not materialising... there’s a hitch, somewhere. Their inner voices are saying – “If I could just buy that amplifier and those speakers and those wires to go with it... then... then it would surely work... then they’d finally materialise right here... right here, right in front of me.”

You may not be familiar with Siesta movie by Mary Lambert but you may be familiar with the soundtrack to the movie that was composed by Marcus Miller and Miles Davis, the latter also playing his trumpet throughout the score. The title track of the album (Marcus Miller/Miles Davis,Siesta, Warner Bros 7599-25655-2) is, apart from being compositionally the most complex one, the most acoustic piece on the disc with live drums… The trumpet line hovers over the background music in a simple melody… The trumpet was impeccable through the Titan; subtle microdynamic shifts were documented with ease and self-assurance and very close to what you can hear in concert. I did not find any trace of congestion or transient limitation of peaks and this did not change even at higher-than-appropriate playback levels. There is an extreme power reserve in the Titan; I cannot imagine a load that would drive this amp to be short of breath.³

I get plenty of ideas about how to write about these machines, but I still don’t have the exact key. Articles posted on audiodrom.cz have helped me a lot. Thanks to them I grasped that meld of social schemata that define – for all of us – how we listen to something... how we look at things. It’s actually quite simple. Each one of us in their own way believes that it’s possible to control space and time; through the use of technology. We have accepted this faith, and audiophilia is just one of the most radical, and therefore also most interesting, sects. It’s an unbounded faith in machines and their abilities. A belief that one day the breakdown of the time continuum really will be achieved and it will be possible to travel through time; and it’ll be done thanks to musical recordings, or if I stray to other media, with the aid of photographs, film or video.

Rick Fryer of Spectral Audio admits that the development of home audio is somewhat limited by our little understanding of aspects of human auditory perception and by some controversies in interactions of digital and analog technologies. He also warns against a purely scientific approach in designing an audio equipment as this never overcomes our subjective aesthetic issues. Though Spectral Audio’s team has the access to the most advanced audio technologies they keep following the rule that in any contest between theory or test bench measurements and what the ear actually hears, the ear ultimately decides.

¹http://audiodrom.cz/en-version/314.html?start=2; 19.6.2012.
²http://audiodrom.cz/en-version/286.html?start=1; 19. 6. 2012.
³http://audiodrom.cz/en-version/293.html?start=1; 19. 6. 2012.
⁴http://audiodrom.cz/en-version/280.html; 19. 6. 2012.