• Newsletter Issue #837

    December 14th, 2015


    There are loads of mics available for podcasting, and some are real cheap if you’re on a budget. Many can use your Mac or PC’s USB connection, meaning you don’t need an external mixer. But there are limitations. Muting the audio when you don’t want your idle sounds to be heard when the other party is speaking, may be inconvenient, and it’s not just a matter of dragging the Input level to the lowest setting in the Sound preference pane. Some of these mics have Mute buttons, which I recommend despite the limitations.

    Examples include the Blue Snowball, the Blue Yeti and the Blue Yeti Pro. Only thing is that the Mute function may cause an audible thump, so it’s best used when someone else is speaking, so it’s not quite as noticeable.

    Or just keep very, very silent when you’re finished talking. But if you’re too close to the mic, even breathing may be audible. If you have a case of the sniffles, well you get the picture. When I worked on a traditional broadcast station, I simply used the mic switch on the audio console, and there are stories about the consequences of leaving them on. Even though radio stations in the U.S. still don’t allow their talent to use the “seven deadly words,” some broadcasters can have real potty mouths when they are, or believe they are, off the air.

    My broadcast setup is a mixture of the old and the new. I have an external mixer, a Behringer Xenix 1204, which contains analog and USB outputs. My mic collection uses standard XRL connections, except for the Blue Snowball that is stored in my note-book bag. When I need to mute a mic connected to the mixer, I simply push a slider switch to zero, and push it back when it’s my turn to speak. My mic collection also includes a Blue Spark (not the Digital, which is USB and has no Mute button) and a pair of Shure SM58 mics, highly prized for professional voice applications, such as speaking and singing. With the Shure, you can get real close with a decent windscreen (to avoid pops), and it creates a wonderful intimate sound.

    I built my collection of broadcast gear over a period of 13 years, starting with mics and mixers from Radio Shack in 2002. As you can see if you price out my current lineup, you can really be well equipped on a relatively low budget. But I’m not being elitist when I say that I’ve been unimpressed with the sound of most headset mics.

    In any case, on this weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented author and columnist Bob “Dr. Mac” Levitus. The agenda included Gene and Bob’s choices for broadcast mics, some of the key events in the Apple universe in 2015 and a few predictions for 2016. Bob also presented his opinions about the iPad Pro and the Smart Keyboard, and his ongoing impressions of the Apple Watch. Has the quality of Apple software nosedived? Bob talked about that too.

    You also heard from commentator Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer. His bill of fare included reports that Apple has suspended its efforts to set up a TV subscription service. You also heard Bryan’s views on why large cable bundles, despite the higher prices, may be good for you. His logic is that, with more channels being offered, TV broadcasters have created a rich selection of great programing. With several dealers discounting the Apple Watch, Gene and Bryan speculated on why, whether it indicates lower-than-expected sales, or an effort to work with dealers to boost volume. Bryan explained why he likes, but doesn’t love, his Apple Watch and why he’d only buy an iPad Pro to provide more thorough coverage of the product.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present Walter Bosley, an author, blogger, former AFOSI agent and a former FBI counterintelligence specialist. The agenda includes amazing evidence of synchronicity, such as in the recent mass shooting in San Bernadino, CA. that was attributed to terrorism. Walter says, “Essentially these synchs relate to my Empire of the Wheel research and startled me, to be honest.” He’ll also talk about breakaway civilizations, focusing on his upcoming book, “Origin: The Nineteenth Century Emergence of the 20th Century Breakaway Civilizations” and possibly ancient aliens.


    The other day, I saw a photo of actress Melissa Benoist, star of the TV series, “Supergirl,” wearing her costume while seated on the set crouching over her smartphone. I assume it happened between takes. I don’t know if it was an iPhone or not, but it leads me to the subject of this week’s lead article.

    Now remember the edict: If you want lots of traffic for your blog, make sure it’s about Apple — or pretends to be about Apple. So there’s a story in a certain newspaper of record that complains about the downsides of ubiquitous smartphones. Now the main focus seems to make sense until it begins to go off the rails, and why must it be about the iPhone?

    Indeed, the article itself doesn’t actually mention the iPhone or any handset specifically. It’s about the headline writer trying to add a little punch.

    I might have linked to the article had it not been for that singular problem. Publishers shouldn’t get the benefit of emphasizing the potential damage caused by a product with only about 15% of the global market, particularly since the remaining products are subject to the same perceived faults.

    In any case, the main complaint is that, “smartphones are ruining our posture.” No argument with that.

    Specifically, I sometimes wonder how people manage to avoid running into one another when they are so intent on staring at those tiny screens in their hands. I know I will sometimes spend a few moments checking messages on my iPhone while dining out with Barbara, at least the few times we’ve managed to eat outside the home in recent years. When I’m having a meal with her at home, however, I make sure the iPhone is not readily available and she always sets her iPad aside.

    My son, Grayson, appears to take a different tact, or maybe that’s true only when he makes his annual treks from Madrid to visit his parents. Whenever he is seated in our home, or we are out having a meal with him, he will inevitably take out his iPhone to catch up. At least he doesn’t make phone calls with it, since it’s configured for a European mobile carrier. He sticks with Wi-Fi, but that doesn’t stop him from messaging. In fact, it makes him use that feature more often since he doesn’t want to pay an overwrought roaming fee for making calls.

    Except at night, I usually leave my iPhone in the former bedroom that serves as an office/recording studio. I let the tones it generates, for receiving a phone call or some sort of notification, drive me to its display to see what’s up. When I’m lying in bed, however, it remains readily accessible on the night table. I’m not the innocent bystander.

    In any case, the author of the article, unfortunately saddled with the iPhone connection, is listed as a professor at Harvard Business School, but it doesn’t indicate that she is a medical practitioner or therapist that is trained at dealing with posture and other issues related to the neck and spine.

    Regardless, there are some sensible points, such as the danger of stooping a little too much as the result of chronically staring at these gadgets. So the possibility is raised that teens, not fully developed physically, might end up with the tendency to stoop over. But another point made in the piece seems questionable, citing a survey that concluded that, “slouchers reported significantly lower self-esteem and mood, and much greater fear.”

    From staring at smartphones? Theres one more point, and it appears to be an effort to fear monger, “there appears to be a linear relationship between the size of your device and the extent to which it affects you: the smaller the device, the more you must contract your body to use it, and the more shrunken and inward your posture, the more submissive you are likely to become.”

    So does that mean if we spend too much time staring at handsets, and tablets for the matter, we will be more subservient to the “master”? Does that mean that even Tim Cook, who never leaves home or office without an iPhone and iPad at his beck and call, would somehow become submissive by virtue of spending a little too much face time with such gear? The CEO of Apple?

    Again, there are some points that seem valid enough, that there are physical consequences in slouching or stooping a too much. I bet some chiropractors are salivating over the prospect of having such patients, but no insult intended.

    But I take exception to claims that spending too much time focusing on your handheld gadget will somehow impact your self-esteem. Far too many people, from retired people, to students, to workers and corporate executives, are doing the very same thing. That includes political leaders too, so I’m suspicious of the conclusions.

    To me, it’s more about manners.

    It’s also true that we are often told that everything we do is wrong, from diet and exercise routines, to the sort of medications we take. So an article about the dire consequences of slouching over your smartphones and tablets is just one more effort to make you afraid of everything. And don’t watch TV too much, because it might hurt your critical thinking abilities.

    In fact, might as well just lie down and give up on everything, since whatever you do has potentially nasty consequences.


    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
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    One Response to “Newsletter Issue #837”

    1. dfs says:

      Whenever something new gets introduced into the world, the question arises of how that thing should and should not be used. On one level that raises legal questions. But on another, you’re right, Gene, it’s Emily Post stuff. We have to work out the proper social etiquette for using, and not using, that thing in polite society. Maybe someday I can go to a concert and not receive a scolding about switching off my phone because doing that becomes such an ingrained habit for everybody that warnings are no longer necessary. That would be nice.

      I bet there’s plenty of jostling going on in Colorado and Washington about the accepted etiquette for using marijuana. When can it be done and not be done in public? When children are present??? Should a good host offer joints to his guests as well as alcoholic drinks? All of this will get negotiated and worked out in due time, but I bet they’ll hit some rough patches along the way.

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