AUDIO IDEAS: Not-So-Audio-Related Thoughts About Clouds, Passwords & Controlling Remotely!

      Date posted: November 22, 2012

Part I: Cloud Computing & Storage – For Airheads?

Hamlet, Act III, Scene II

Do you see that cloud up there that looks like a camel?
By th’ mass, and ’tis like a camel indeed. Cloud-1
Methinks it is like a weasel.
It is backed like a weasel.
Or like a whale
Very like a whale.

Maybe this doesn’t quite articulate what I think about Cloud Computing, but that’s what I think of, when I hear about it. Whether it’s a weasel or a whale, it is very dependent upon the ether, and I don’t trust it. I’ve looked at Cloud computing from both sides now, and I find it lacking substance or shape, and fully expect it to not be there when I need it.

It’s like entrusting your candy to the babysitter, or your booze to the handyman. You’ll look up and find your cloud gone. It’s inevitable. I put my trust in USB drives (I have a 250-Gig), SDHC (XC?) cards (great for recording music these days), DVD-Rs, and now Blu-ray-Rs.
I’m betting that the future is not in the Cloud, but in exponentially decreasing drive sizes with exponentially increasing capacity. Who knows, today’s USB may be tomorrow’s nano-chip. Already, the capacity of a drive has little relation to its physical size. With files being stored and accessed at the atomic level, and access to the Cloud being much less reliable than most people think, all we need is a good cyberstorm like Sandy to send people running to their real at-hand (or at-mouse) media, and become local storage packrats again. And I won’t even venture here into the areas of privacy and general security (see more on that below), which is yet another dark castle in Denmark!

Cloud computing is just another post-yuppie fantasy, more like a balloon than a cloud, one that will burst from over-use, cyber treachery or other natural causes.

Mark my files! It’s the only way I’ll be able to identify and access them in that little drawer over there full of micro- and nano-drives.

Part II: “UMPTEEN PASSWORDS” password1

“You may as well get used to the Kafka-esque scenario of constantly having to prove you are who you say you are. According to one Microsoft research paper, the average computer user has 25 online accounts and 6.5 passwords - and that was tabulated back in 2007.“

“’You might have different logins and passwords for Google, Facebook, Amazon, Flickr, your bank, your favorite retailers, and on and on,’ says Chenxi Wang, a vice president and security analyst for technology consultants Forrester Research. ‘If you’re trying to remember all the different passwords and security questions and combinations, it can be a challenge - and I haven’t yet seen a concerted effort to help consumers manage that challenge’.”

“To be sure, going through several layers of authentication is a good thing for consumers, helping reduce the risk of increasingly sophisticated hackers gaining access to their accounts and emptying them out.”

” ’Today, you have to have multiple levels of security, like those ‘challenge questions’ you have to answer whenever you’re using a new device’,” says Keith Gordon, a security, identity and fraud executive with Bank of America. ‘It’s what helps us identify fraudsters in Eastern Europe who have stolen your online credentials’.”

”But Gordon sympathizes with consumers who feel like they’re taking the SATs at every turn. In fact, he says the industry is moving towards challenge questions that focus more on recent behavior, rather than memory-challenging questions relating to childhood. “

“In future it will be more like, ‘You had a transaction this weekend at which one of these retailers?’” Gordon says. ’Or ‘You owned a home a couple of years ago in Indianapolis; which one of these addresses is yours? Those are things that are a little more relevant and real-time, than the name of the dog you had when you were 10’.”

“Forrester’s Wang predicts the tide will turn towards fewer passwords. Online retailers will likely gravitate to logins for the sites that ‘know you best’ - like Facebook or Google - thereby cutting down on the reams of information you have to dredge up, she says.”
Bureau Report, NET NEWS

I guess other people worry about identity theft. I worry about identity denial! password2

I quote the above online article at some length because it gets close to a problem that won’t go away. In fact, it’s getting worse. I’ve pretty much stopped dealing with quite a few online sellers, Amazon for one, who treated me like a criminal when I returned to do business with them after the first time as a buyer, demanding ever after, passwords and identity proof, as if I were somehow out to sabotage them. And then, when I try to buy as a new or occasional buyer, they identify and single me out and still demand a password, or worse, make me create a new one. Can’t I even go underground and have a separate online identity to shop twice at the same place? If they then show again that they know who I am, what’s all the fuss about? I’ve been identified! Why won’t they now accept me, since they truly know who I am? Just asking…

Boy, all this harassment sure makes shopping online fun! Maybe “the industry should move towards” or “the tide will turn to” common sense. Even my personal bank has gotten into this nonsense, locking me out of my own online banking because of my dyslexic typos, and, again, the requirement of stupid personal questions’ being answered correctly, again raises its ugly head. Here are my own questions: Do I have to always remember whether it’s my mother’s maiden name, or middle name? Who thought up all this crap? Aren’t we all paranoid enough already?

And what about queries related to your recent behaviour, as suggested above? “Well, Mr. Marshall (if that’s indeed who you are), didn’t you get stopped for speeding last week in your new Genesis 2.0T sports car? And don’t you have a penchant for weird and unusual wristwatches?” And what if they start giving you the answers instead of the questions? Is the trade-off for their (or your) security, in fact, your privacy? Is it all part of another possible conspiracy known as ”information mining”? As they say, inquisitive minds want to know. Big Brother sure seems to!

I’m told that having one all-purpose password is wrong and dangerous, so that danger must extend to the answers to the stupid questions, too. Make them all different and nobody can crack your security, ultimately including you. As suggested, keep a logbook of your security fibs along with the passwords. Then lose it (one way or another, if you catch my drift: see “madness” below).

Isn’t life in the 21st century getting a little too complicated? I think I’ll just go out and buy the things I want downtown, or at the mall, until this stupidity blows over. And perhaps I’ll just forget about using credit cards, since they’ve become a pain in the ass, too.

Part III: Ruling (Or Being Ruled) By Remote Controls RemotesOnCouch

Speaking of anal agony, what about what’s happened with remote controls? The universal remote was supposed to solve all related problems, but it didn’t. At least with several controls you can remember the relevant buttons on each one. But with one single remote with multi-tasking buttons, it becomes, to me anyway, just a jumble of mostly unidentified buttons. I gave up on universally confusing remotes years ago (maybe it’s the dyslexia again).

Perhaps Pioneer inadvertently hit the nail on the head with their concept of GUI (Graphic User Interface) menu systems. I mean especially the GIU (translate “gooey”) part - layer upon layer of command levels that you have to enter, follow, and back-pedal through until you’re blue in the face. And maybe it still doesn’t work right! You might notice that this company is out of that business now.

What’s the solution? VELCRO!. As you can see in the photos, strategically applied strips of the wondrously conceived re-stickable stuff, with a little tab of its opposite gender on the back of each remote control, can solve all of your home theatre management problems. There’s one strip for the little guys on the pine footstool, RemotesOnStool and another on the couch arm for the big mothers (as shown above). It’s absurdly simple, and much less intellectually taxing than figuring out what each button does each time on each command layer of your universally loathed single remote.

And the fact is, there is, as far as my extensive experience has shown, no true universal remote in existence. They all, like the rest of us humans, have obvious flaws and blind spots. As has been said of another part of our species, “turn’ em upside-down and they all look the same!” Well, we experienced men know that’s not true, but let’s not go there, tempting as it may be. A remote control turned upside-down cries not for rape or battery, but for new batteries, as we all well know.

Now, the Velcro’s own adhesive may need help from a few well-angled pushpins, as it does on the arm of my HT-room couch, but a solider surface like the back of the pine footstool is ideal just with the standard stickum. And the reach for the right remote is very easy, and less confusing than finding the right control layer with its politically correct buttons for the component you want to tune in or turn on one way or another. VelcroPins Years ago, as noted above, I gave up reviewing Pioneer’s and other makers’ similarly over-complex receivers because of the utterly impenetrable remote menu systems. known by some as “embedded” commands, or sub-menus, as well as “GUIs”. I will admit that my HT system is unusual in its inclusion of just about every video format/source, from Beta to Blu-ray, including VHS, 8mm, Laserdisc, CD, DVD, satellite, off-air, and a few more I prefer to keep to myself, if you don’t mind. Cable may yet come, if it offers yet another perspective, but it’s not available currently out in the country where I now live. Urbanity is beckoning in the new year, so I’ll consider it then, if it offers something Bell TV satellite doesn’t.

I’ll also admit that I’ve had to create a chart, a roadmap, for my video system to allow access to and through all the various boxes in the local HT jungle, but I still find it easier than fighting with one (or maybe even three) alleged “universal” remote controls to uncover various layers, or levels, of complexity – therein lies madness…or anger…or sheer psychosis. Nobody wants to go there!

All your remotes in a row (or two) – that’s the true solution to this bewildering universal problem!

Part IV: Finally, A Merry Note on A Remote!TEACremoteBox

I have an almost identical pair of TASCAM open reel recorders, a 4-track 34B, and a 2-track 32. I’ve already invested in the typical wired remote for the former deck, which is in its own slant-stand mount with its own more accurate matching MU-40 meter bridge. The latter, standing up on its own at the moment, also came sans remote control, and I wondered if I should go for yet another identical wired remote control, which might seem perhaps a little confusing, when both were facing me beside my mixers.

I pondered this minor dilemma until I saw a listing on eBay for a conversion box to provide wireless remote control for just about any tape deck with a wired remote control input jack. Its headline read,” “Teac RC-70 Wireless Remote for A3440 & Tascam 22 32 34″, and the key part of the text was as follows:
“A unit that supports Tascam decks that use the DB-25 connector like the Tascam 112MK II, 112R Mk II, 122 Mk III, 134 and 134B is available in this eBay auction” I initially thought, “Does this mean what I think it does? That I can convert the wired remote capability of my recorder into wireless operation? And here’s the bonus: if you have one of the specified original Sony, TEAC, or other remote controls for other components, it may already know the codes, and you can specify among the available brands when ordering.

TEAC-SonyRemote As supplied, the package includes an inexpensive DirecTV universal (sort of, see above) remote control programmed to your specified recorder, but if you have an original dedicated remote control for any of the specified brands in the ad, whether it be for a VCR, or other component with the right buttons, this little box can be programmed for the necessary codes for recorder operation; that is, Play, Record, Stop, Pause, Fast Forward, and Rewind. This learn ability is restricted to “11 different recorder brands (Aiwa, Akai, Ampex, Crown, Nakamichi, Otari, Revox, Studer, Tascam, Teac and Technics)”, which is certainly enough to cover most open reel and cassette recorders with wired remote control jacks. But other popular brands’ control codes can be used for the remote employed.

As far as knowing the codes, I had on hand a remote from an old Sony Beta machine that is long gone, and which was in the ballpark of those that were said to be usable with this box. So, I ordered the conversion package so specified ($69.95 plus shipping), and awaited delivery and the anticipated outcome eagerly, almost with the old Sony remote in hand. It arrived quickly, within a couple of weeks by mail, and upon hooking it up, as preset for the TASCAM codes, tried out the ancient Sony control. Lo and behold, and pass the potatoes, it worked like a charm, without any of the latency (or slight delay)TEAC-DB25connection sometimes encountered with wireless remotes: just hit the correct button, and it starts, records, pauses, fast forwards, rewinds, or stops! Right away!

If this idea speaks to you, check it out at: Consumer Electronics > Vintage Electronics > Vintage Audio & Video > Reel-to-Reel Tape Recorders and the above title (for your brand equivalent), on eBay.

It’s nice to be able to end on a positive note.

Andrew Marshall

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