Geek central

I have been enjoying listening to the Naxos Music Library. (Some of this post originally appeared in an email message to my sister.) If one joins the sheet music library IMSLP, at a cost of about $20 for a year, one gets access to the Naxos Music Library! This is quite vast, over a million tracks. They are not all Naxos recordings, either; NML seems to have licensing agreements with a lot of other labels. There are only two drawbacks that I have found:

  1. it doesn’t support gapless playback – only an issue with a composer like Wagner or Puccini, where one section segues into another. (I had a free trial of Deezer for three months, and that doesn’t do gapless either; at least for Android.)
  2. it doesn’t have Chromecast capability. However Apple households are in the wrong ecosystem to use Chromecast.

I can play it back through my all-analogue valve stereo through a slightly Heath Robinson arrangement, which I describe below. (A modern stereo could probably use Bluetooth.)

I first tried casting a Chrome tab to my Chromecast. This worked fine, but the sound was a bit harsh. Enter a bit of slightly old-hat magic called MHL. This is something I only stumbled on when looking through the user manual for my Cambridge Audio disc player. MHL is an audio standard; I had never heard of it until a few weeks ago. It answers the present purpose, however, in allowing me to connect my old Samsung tablet to the disc player. Why do I want to put a digital audio stream through the disc player? The latter has a good digital-to-analog converter, which removes the hardness from a digital audio stream.

To use MHL one needs stereo equipment and a device (phone or tablet) that are both compatible. Look under “Home theatre” and “Mobile” on this list to see if you have the magic double. A HDMI cable and a special connector is also required to link everything up. The latter is el cheapo; I just got this from eBay, for about $12.

It is a bit of a fiddle to hook it all up, but not difficult:

  • plug one end of the HDMI cable into one end of the connector, and the other into the disc player
  • connect the mini HDMI cable from the connector into the tablet or phone
  • scroll through the HDMI inputs on the disc player until it is looking at the correct one
  • on the tablet or phone, connect to the IMSLP web site
  • navigate to Naxos Music Library and follow that link
  • in NML, select a piece of music and play it.

IMSLP membership only entitles you to the lower sound quality from NML. However, I think the sound is very good. Streaming music eats up a lot of battery on the old tablet; I just start with it fully charged.

Little wins

I had a couple of little wins the other day. The issues that are trivial in themselves, but it is surprising how irritating they can still be.

The first and more trivial of the two was to find a refill for my notebook pen. I have a small Filofax that I am using as a notebook for ideas for the memoir and other things. This notebook has a very short pen that I bought years ago in Pen City, the wonderful shop on Swanston Street. (This pen is the perfect diameter for the pen loop in the Filofax. One that is too small just falls through the loop and gets lost; a bigger one would strain the loop or tear it off.) Much as I enjoy browsing through Pen City, I didn’t want to go into town just for a pen refill. So it was more in hope than expectation that I asked in a paper shop on Burke Road.

What do you call a shop that sells paper and pens nowadays? “Paper shop” sounds like a newsagent, but “stationer” to me means a shop with pens, inks, ledgers, notebooks, writing compendiums: every conceivable thing to write on and with. Brands like Churston Deckle, Osmiroid, Parker, Qink, and whoever made that onion-skin writing paper. Anyone who wanted to write anything went to a stationer’s. Whether it was an accounts ledger, a letter to Mum, a note on your desk calendar, a short story or a love poem, they had what you needed. After a visit there, countless words evolved from being inside someone’s head to written form, like salmon eggs morphing into fish.

The other one was working out why my new-ish tablet wasn’t connecting to public wifi (such as at shopping centres or the library). This was a puzzling problem, as the older tablet does this perfectly. I had rung Samsung tech support about it. Their first suggestion, which was to switch on automatic date and time in the settings, worked perfectly. Then the problem recurred. During a second phone call they suggested all sorts of unlikely things. You need to go home and see if you can connect to your home wifi. (I have been been using it all the time, most recently that morning.)  Maybe the wifi isn’t working at the shopping centre. (The tablet finds it and can tell me the signal strength.) Maybe the wifi is slow because there are lots of people using it. (It was ten-thirty in the morning on a weekday.) You need to do a factory reset on your tablet. (I’ll lose all my data.) Yes, but we can tell you how to back it up. (I need to be at home to do that.) Yes, you do. We’ll save your details so you don’t have to explain it all over again. (Yeah, right.)

Anyway, I figured it out myself. In the settings I could see that several apps had permissions. I guessed that one of these apps was interfering with the messages you get when you try to connect to public wifi.  No message getting through, you don’t get to accept the terms and conditions: no wifi. One of these apps was Twilight, something that gradually turns your screen less blue (i.e. more red) to reduce the amount of blue light getting through to your eyes in the evenings. I uninstalled the updates, then deleted the app. Now I can connect to wifi anywhere!