A brief look back at 2006
I haven't updated my blog in ages, because I've been mega-busy, working on my latest business project. But the New Year provides me with an excuse to take my work hat off and pause for a few minutes to reflect on 2006.
2006 was a mixed year for me. The saddest part was having to part with my best friend and little boy, Judge, back in June. Neither Jenny nor I could really get into the Christmas spirit without him here. Christmas morning used to be a noisy affair: between Jenny and I ripping the paper off our loot, Judge would help spread the mess by ripping up the discarded paper, leaving the remnants all over the living room. Or he would unwrap one of his presents, and run round the room squeaking his new toy. But this year was different: the gap between us opening our presents was eerily quiet--too quiet in fact. :-( Odds are we'll eventually get another dog, but not yet...
Solaris and OpenSolaris have improved in leaps and bounds: ZFS is now part of the shipping product, and Nevada has lots of new goodies in it, not least of which is GNOME 2.16, which is the closest thing to a usable alternative to CDE GNOME has yet released. There's still some work to do, but it shows great promise.
Sticking with the technical theme for a bit, the Simplified Chinese translation of my book, Solaris Systems Programming, was published. Sun's Joey Guo was kind enough to send me a copy. Seeing my book in all those Chinese characters sure is strange! The only downside is that due to my not being involved with the project, the code on the cover was replaced by Java (rather than C).
My technical writing continued (and still does) with a few articles being published. The writing helps keep my grey matter sharp, and also pays a few bills. When my current business project--which I'll blog about when it launches, hopefully in early February--finishes, I'll have lots more time to write. So expect to see a few more articles from me in 2007 than in 2006. :-)
My love of music returned with a vengeance in 2006. I'm an audiophile, which means that I like listening to music on a system where sound quality is the key criterion, not features and other gimmicks used by mass-market companies to sell their wares. When we moved from the UK to Canada, I brought with me my 1200+ LP collection and my audio system. Due to the difference in mains (the UK is 240V @ 50Hz, Canada is 110V @ 60Hz), my turntable span too quickly. The step up transformer I bought obviously couldn't change the frequency, but I was able to slow the turntable down enough to play my 45RPM singles (my 33RPM LPs sounded like the Chipmunks!). But I have only about 100 of those, so the choice is somewhat limited!
A couple of years ago a friend was kind enough to lend me his turntable that he wasn't using. I had to replace his broken cartridge with my spare one (an Audio Technica OC10), and it was an entry-level deck which wasn't anywhere near the same league as my usual record spinner. But it had the rather big advantage of spinning at the correct speeds!
So I made do with that, playing through my Mission Cyrus 2 integrated amp and Spendor SP1/2 speakers, all of which were from the UK (the amp works well, because it isn't sensitive to the mains frequency, only the voltage). I didn't listen to too many records, because although it was better than nothing, the system left quite a lot wanting. The in September, I (or rather, my company) treated myself to a new preamp for my birthday: an Audio Research SP9 Mk 2 from eBay. The vendor was Canadian, and the auction ended on my birthday, which I took as a good omen. I won the auction and a week or two later had it hooked into my system. Not ideally, mind, because I'm now using my Cyrus 2 as a power amp, by selecting the CD input (shortest signal path) and cranking the volume all the way up. But the increase in sound quality was palpable, and I started wanting more.
So I did a bit of research, and (to cut a long story short) managed to get my main record playing rig--a Forsell Air Force One Signature with a Lyra Parnassus cartridge--playing records at the right speed, using an inverter from Exeltech and a switched mode PSU from Samlex. I also treated myself to a 1M length of Nordost Blue Heaven interconnect between the SP9 and Cyrus 2 (thanks to the guys at HiFi Attic in Vernon for a great deal on the cable!). After giving everything a good clean, checking the cartridge alignment, and making sure my speakers were positioned just right, I started playing record after record. I was a happy camper, listening to music in a way that I hadn't since we moved here, back in 1999. For the first time in years, I got some new records (Xmas presents), from the fine people at Elusive Disc.
This year, I'm going to do my best to replace the Cyrus 2 with something more in keeping with the SP9 and Spendor SP1/2s, which works on 110V (I want rid myself of all 240V devices eventually). Top of my shortlist is a pair of PrimaLuna ProLogue Seven monoblocs. I also hope to upgrade the system's cables to Nordost Baldur, Heimdall, or Frey (depending on how the shekels go). Alas, Nordost Valhalla is out of the question (not to mention, not appropriate for my system at present)!
Well, that's about it. I hope all my readers have a happy and prosperous 2007!