Thursday, July 21, 2016

Intel Skylake and Z170 graphics : transitional technology. Skip it if you want 4K in your home theater PC

Intel released the Skylake CPUs in mid-2015, as well as the Z170 chipset to go along with it. These features 4K video capability, ie. 3840x2160 resolution at 60 Hz.

Unfortunately, 4K is only available on motherboards that feature a DisplayPort connector. The majority of Z170 motherboards don't feature a DisplayPort connector.

Furthermore, the majority of 4K TVs don't feature a DisplayPort connector either. Instead, they feature HDMI 2.0 connectors. Skylake only supports HDMI 1.4 . What this means is that you will only be able to get 4K resolution with the built-in Skylake graphics at 30 Hz on your TV, rather than 60 Hz.

What this means is that if you want to drive your HDMI 2.0 4K TV at 60 Hz, you will need a a separate, discrete video card, such as one from with an AMD or nVidia chipset.

While an adapter from Club 3D exists to convert DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0, the reports of compatibility with various DisplayPort GPUs and HDMI 2.0 TVs are mixed. And in the context of a home theater, an HDMI 2.0 receiver may be in the mix as well, which would further complicate compatibility, and thus I would not recommend it.

The bottom line is - the Skylake and Z170 GPU is fairly useless in the context of a 4K home theater PC. If you are upgrading an existing HTPC, it would be best to just switch the discrete GPU to a new model, and skip Skylake altogether. If you are building one from scratch in 2016, you may still consider Skylake CPU and a Z170 motherboard, but you will most likely want to disable the built-in GPU and buy a separate one from AMD or nVidia. If you are on a budget, going for a previous generation of motherboard and CPUs may save you enough money to save for an HDMI 2.0 discrete GPU.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Get some cash back by using your rewards credit to pay other bills.

I normally don't make commercial posts here, but hey, never say never

If you don't already have a credit card that earns rewards, feel free to skip this post.

But if you do, read on. Especially if the card has a sign-up bonus that requires a minimum amount of spending.

Here is how it works :
  1. Sign up for Plastiq with my referral link at .  If you don't use this link, then the promotion described below won't apply. Make sure to click "continue to site", as for some reason the "send download link" doesn't actually work at the moment.
  2. Using your rewards credit card on Plastiq, make a $20 payment towards any bill you have, except a credit card. You will incur a 2.5% fee of 50 cents.
  3. A few hours after your payment is complete, you will earn $200 fee-free dollars.
  4. Using your rewards credit card on Plastiq, make a $200 payment towards any bill you have, except a credit card. You will not incur a fee.
  5. Make sure you pay your credit card in full every month to avoid interest - otherwise this doesn't make sense.
  6. Afterwards, you will earn rewards on your credit card on a $220.50 purchase. With a typical 1% cash back credit card, this would be $2.20 . Or it could be much more, depending on the card you have. If you have a signup bonus with minimum spending to satisfy, it could be far more. For example, with a card that requires $4000 spending in 3 months to earn $500 cash back, the math is as follows :
    a) 220/4000 * 500 =$27.50 cash back earn from the signup bonus
    b) 220 *0.01 = $2.20 cash back earn from regular 1% spending
    Total cash back earned : $29.50
If you do signup, definitely do it through a referral link, preferrably mine, otherwise you won't get the $200 fee-free dollars for making the $20 payment. With the regular 2.5% fee, using Plastiq typically does not make sense. It only makes sense if the fee is much lower, or waived, as in the case of this promotion.

Note that the referrer (hopefully me) will also get $400 fee-free dollars. Once you have an account, you can refer somebody else and earn more fee-free dollars to earn more rewards on your card.

This is useful to earn rewards on your regular bills that you typically can't pay with a credit card, such as your mortgage, electric & gas company, water company, etc.

I suspect the Plastiq promotion won't last forever. I will take down this post when the referral program ends, as it surely will after Plastiq gets a sufficient number of users.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Complete French Suite 6 in E Major, BWV 817, by J.S. Bach - on harpsichord, by Julien Pierre

I recently completed my recording of every movement of this suite. This was a project that took me almost 2 years. Enjoy !

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Intel X99 SATA controller vs SATA port multiplier enclosure

Recently, I upgraded a computer with an old AMD Phenom II x6 CPU and a Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H motherboard, along with DDR3 memory, to a brand new Intel Core i7-5820k and MSI X99A Raider motherboard .

I was able to use my SANS port multiplier enclosure successfully with the AMD SB750 SATA controller when in running in RAID mode.

This is, sadly, not possible at all with Intel, as Intel has decided not to support port multipliers at all on any of their controllers.

Other features lost in the X99 chipset "upgrade" :

- Firewire 1394 support - which I need for my audio recording. I had to purchase a separate Firewire card for this.

- PCI support . No longer will I be able to use my Symbios PCI SCSI card to read my DDS-2 and DDS-4 tapes on OS/2. There are PCIe SCSI controller options, but none that work with OS/2. Fortunately, I have other computers that still support PCI, all of them with AMD CPUs & chipsets.

- this might make some people laugh in late 2015, but the floppy interface on the motherboard is also gone. Yes, my computer really still has an internal 3.5"1.44MB floppy drive. It's just not hooked up to the motherboard anymore since there is no plug for it. Don't ask me why I need it, but I do.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bill and Hillary Clinton are rewriting the history of DOMA

Hillary Clinton made the following comments in a Rachel Maddow interview on Friday, October 24 :

MADDOW:  On – on the issue of finding a path between the left and the right, finding what’s doable and what’s not doable, I’m a true-blue liberal, and I’m allowed to say that.  OK?

But one of the things that I have been struck by – and during the Obama administration – is that a lot of the – really, the civil rights achievements of this administration have actually been undoing things that were done in the Clinton administration.

Whether it was “don’t ask, don’t tell” or the Defense of Marriage Act or the – you know, tough on crime (ph) mandatory sentences.  Former President Clinton is progressive on all those issues now…

CLINTON:  Right.

MADDOW:  …but the policies that he signed – for politically practical reasons – in the ’90s have taken – you know, the political mural – miracle of Barack Obama’s election and – and – and a decade of progressive activism to unwind those things to get back to zero.

And so I know that you and President Clinton are different people, and I know that – I don’t – you – you’re not responsible for what he did as president.  But is your approach to civil rights issues the same as his, or is it different?

CLINTON:  Well, I – I want to say a word about the – the issues you mentioned, because my – my – my take on it is slightly different.

On Defense of Marriage, I think what my husband believed – and there was certainly evidence to support it – is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that there had to be some way to stop that.

And there wasn’t any rational argument – because I was in on some of those discussions, on both “don’t ask, don’t tell” and on – on DOMA, where both the president, his advisers and occasionally I would – you know, chime in and talk about, “you can’t be serious.  You can’t be serious.”

But they were.  And so, in – in a lot of ways, DOMA was a line that was drawn that was to prevent going further.

MADDOW:  It was a defensive action?

CLINTON:  It was a defensive action.  The culture rapidly changed so that now what was totally anathema to political forces – they have ceded.  They no longer are fighting, except on a local level and a rear-guard action.  And with the U.S. Supreme Court decision, it’s settled.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is something that – you know, Bill promised during the ‘92 campaign to let gays serve openly in the military.  And it’s what he intended to do.


This is not the first time the Clintons have offered this narrative about the 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage - namely, that it was passed into law to prevent the passage of a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Bill Clinton made the same claim 2 years ago. His claimed was debunked then, as follows :

Statement from Elizabeth Birch, President of the Human Rights Campaign.

"The fact is that the true threat of a Federal Marriage Amendment did not arise until 2004."

Another statement from Elizabeth Birch

Statement from David Mixner, gay activist.
"Clinton today says he signed it to prevent a Constitutional Amendment from passing. The problem with that argument is that such an amendment wasn't really even being considered in a serious way. Not until Karl Rove got a hold of the idea after 2000 did the amendment concept have any legs at all. It just wasn't a serious political factor at all in 1996. "

Article about this claim, including a statement from Evan Wolfson, founder of "Freedom to Marry.
"In 1996, “there was no serious prospect that Congress was going to enact a discriminatory constitutional amendment for the first time ever,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. “That threat was not even significantly talked about.”"

No one should believe that Bill Clinton did the gay community any favors by favoring and signing DOMA on September 21, 1996.
The federal marriage amendment was not an imminent threat, at the time.
Clinton signed DOMA in the name of political expediency, namely to further his 1996 re-election campaign.  This calculation worked.

While it is true that political realities at the time mean that there was very little support nationwide for same-sex marriage, it took the LGBT community and the Supreme Court 19 years to completely overturn this discriminatory law - which finally happened on June 26, 2015.

Bill and Hillary Clinton should refrain from rewriting history. They have both evolved on the subject of same-sex marriage. There is no need to pretend that DOMA was a favor to the LGBT community. Doing so will not earn them any goodwill, but will rather anger all the marriage equality activists who had to work so hard to undo DOMA.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Things that I wish existed : video card that can pass DSD over HDMI output

This is one in the long list of items I wish existed, but don't.

The HDMI 1.3 standard - and later versions - allows transmitting DSD over HDMI connections. Many audio-video receivers on the market can receive DSD streams, including my Yamaha RX-A1000 . Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, it seems there is no computer-based solution that allows transmitting a DSD stream digitally over HDMI to such a receiver.  This might be just a software issue, rather hardware, but nevertheless, the end result is the same : this is still an impossible task for a PC in April 2015, even though HDMI 1.3a was specified in November 2006 .

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Make fresh French baguette daily

I grew up in France and I can appreciate a good quality bread. There is nothing like the taste of fresh baked bread .

Years ago, after moving to a somewhat remote location on a hill, far from any decent bakery, I purchased a bread machine in order to make my own bread at home. It is a small Zojirushi model.

This machine makes bread reliably, but the quality of the bread is inferior to that found in many commercial bakeries.

Recently, I took it upon myself to try making French baguette instead. I am using the machine on the dough cycle to mix the dough. I then bake the baguette in my oven.
The dough can be kept easily for a week in the refrigerator. This allows me to get fresh French baguette at home every day.

The recipe is exceedingly simple, with only 4 ingredients.
  1. 170ml water . I measure it by weight, not volume, as 170g. I use room-temperature water from my reverse-osmosis water filter.
  2. 250g all-purpose flour . I have used inexpensive Conagra flour with plenty of success.
  3. 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast. This is approximately 9 to 11g by weight. I use SAF brand.
  4. 1 teaspoon salt. This is approximately 5 to 6g by weight. I use Morton kosher salt, which also conveniently works great as dishwasher salt in my Miele dishwasher's water softener.
Here are the very easy, can't fail, steps to make baguette.
  1. Measure the ingredients and put them into your bread machine's bread pan . In my Zojirushi, water goes first, then flour, salt and yeast.
  2. Make the dough using the machine's dough cycle. It takes 1h45 minutes in the Zojirushi.
  3. Separate the dough into two balls of approximately equal weight  - they will be about 210g each.
  4. Start preheating the oven to 260°C (500°F). I use the "convect bake" mode on my Thermador convection oven.
  5. While the oven is preheating, shape each ball of dough into a cylinder of a length of about 28cm (11") .
  6. Lay down the 2 baguettes on an oiled baking sheet or baguette pan. I use a Chicago metallic pan.
  7. Score the baguettes using a sharp knife or scoring tool. I use a lame from Weekend Bakery to make about 4 or 5 indentations.
  8. Once the oven has reached the desired temperature; bake the baguettes in the oven for 18 minutes. You may need to adjust the time depending on your oven, or if you are baking more than 2 baguettes at once.
That's it. The baguettes are ready to eat . You can let it cool down a few minutes, but don't let it sit too long.  It is meant to be eaten the same day.

You can obviously make this recipe without a bread machine. I have not tried kneading the dough by hand.

I have also used a Ninja Ultra blender to mix the ingredients.

The Ninja can mix the dough ingredients quickly using the food processor bowl and the dough blade. However, you will still need to let the dough sit afterwards for at least an hour before you can bake it, so you won't really save time. If you want to bake the baguette the same day, then the bread machine is more convenient, in my opinion. In addition, I haven't figured out the right amount of time to use the Ninja. When blending in "dough mode" for 6 to 7 minutes, the resulting dough was hot. I don't know how much shorter it should be run, I would still need to experiment. It might be as few as 3 minutes.

Where the Ninja comes in handy for me is to make larger quantities of dough for future use. Unless you have a much larger bread machine, you will be limited in how much dough you can prepare.

I have used the Ninja Ultra to make enough dough for 4 baguettes, by simply doubling the quantities of ingredients, and separating the dough into 4 balls. I believe the Ninja food processor bowl should be large enough to make dough for 6 baguettes, and possibly more, but I have only tried up to 4 at a time so far.

I use some Rubbermaid Premier airtight food containers to store the dough in the refrigerator. They work well to keep the dough fresh. Some have been known to freeze the dough, but I haven't tried.
When using refrigerated dough, I take it out of the refrigerator at the same time as I start preheating the oven. The baguettes always come out great. In fact, no matter how many I bake, they always get devoured right away. So I keep to baking one a day only as I'm watching my weight.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

HIV sex education 404 : some inconvenient truths, not always found in other sex-ed classes

These are some facts that every sexually active gay man should know, and my commentary on the implications of these facts.

HIV Status Unknown for Most “Negative” Men Online . From .
You can never know if someone claiming to be HIV-negative actually tested negative. Many have actually never been tested at all. Others had tested a long time ago and are actually positive and unaware of it. And some men who are aware of their positive status don't disclose their status because of stigma.

HIV test window periods . From San Francisco AIDS foundation
All types of HIV tests have a window period, which varies from 1 to 12 weeks . 3% of HIV infections still show up negative on the most common screening test, the antibody test, after 12 weeks.

This means even if you go get tested today, a negative result doesn't prove you are actually currently negative. It means you were negative as of 1 to 12 weeks ago with 97% confidence. The test can only confirm if you are currently positive, but cannot conclusively prove if you are currently negative.

You can know that you are currently negative based on your own recent sexual history in the last 1-12 weeks. But you can never know for sure about anybody else, even with recent test results, because you don't know their sexual history, only your own.

Thus, gay men who are insisting on meeting only other "HIV-negative" men are only fooling themselves, and are insisting on something that's impossible to prove.

Fast Facts : Acute HIV infection . From UCSF
The acute phase is the early phase in HIV infection. During that period, individuals are more highly infectious due to high HIV viral load. Estimates indicate that up to half of all HIV transmissions may step from acutely infected individuals who are highly infectious and unaware of their disease status.

Unfortunately, this early acute HIV infection phase often coincides with the window period of HIV antibody screening tests. During this period, one may receive a false negative result, but in fact may have been recently infected and be highly infectious to others.

Thus, the knowledge that a potential sex partner has received an HIV negative test in the past provides little comfort that this person is not actually HIV infected and highly infectious.

Swiss experts say individuals with undetectable viral load and no STI cannot transmit HIV during sex

The use of antiretroviral therapy to reduce HIV transmission . UK government.

HIV Transmission Risk Essentially 0 if Heterosexual Partner Has Undetectable Viral Load. 3rd International Workshop on HIV & Women

No-one with an undetectable viral load, gay or heterosexual, transmits HIV in first two years of PARTNER study. From AIDSMAP .

These various studies all point to the same finding ; namely that people who are infected with HIV, are on daily HIV antiretroviral medication long-term, and maintain an undetectable HIV viral load, are unable to transmit HIV to others. This remains true even if no other safe sex precautions are taken, such as the use of condoms. Of course, other STIs, if present, can still be transmitted, if condoms are not used.

HIV nPEP, non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis. From
This is a mouthful, but really important.
If you have had unprotected sex, or if you experienced a condom failure, with someone of unknown HIV status, or someone of confirmed HIV positive status and off-treatment, you can benefit from HIV post-exposure prophylaxis.
This is a 30-day course of HIV medication. It must be started within 72 hours of the exposure in order to be effective.
If this happens, don't panic, but do go to your emergency room as soon as possible to obtain the prescription. Even if you are uninsured, the county should pay for this treatment in most places.

HIV PReP . Pre-exposure prophylaxis . From the CDC .
If you have frequent unprotected sex with multiple partners, or experience a high rate of condom failure; are unable to sustain erections with condoms; or want to utilize every available tool to ensure that you don't contract HIV, then you can benefit from HIV PReP.

PrEP currently consists of taking one daily pill, Truvada, which is a combination of two popular anti-HIV medication. This has been studied and shown to prevent HIV infection, for those who take the pill on a regular basis. This is not a pill you can take on a one-off basis, or just prior to having sex, unlike a condom you can just put on. It only works if the level of the drug is sufficiently high in the blood.

Why isn't every sexually active HIV-negative person on PrEP ? The 2 primary reasons are cost and potential side effects.
Regarding cost, Truvada is a brand-name drug that costs over $1,000 a month. Those who are uninsured, or underinsured, and on high-deductible plans, may not be able to afford the drug.
Regarding side effects : short and long-term side effects of Truvada are well known in HIV positive individuals. Truvada affects kidneys, especially for long-term use. It appears that the side effects may not be as bad in HIV negative individuals. However, PrEP has not been studied long enough as of this writing to know the long-term effects of taking Truvada in HIV-negative individuals.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Andrew Sullivan grasping at straws

This is a response to an Andrew Sullivan blog post .

Quote :

"The choice was either civil marriage or civil unions with all the state-accorded rights and benefits of civil marriage. Now I have long argued that civil unions are no substitute for civil marriage – but am I prepared to say that everyone who disagrees with me is motivated by the kind of rank bigotry that Sterling represents? Of course not. That was the position of the Human Rights Campaign for many years, after all. They may be tools, opportunists, resource-hoggers and credit-grabbers, but they’re not bigots."
A few corrections are in order :
  1. there have never been any civil unions in California. There are domestic partnerships. Please be historically accurate.
  2. California registered domestic partnerships (RDP) didn't actually offer all the state-accorded rights and benefits of civil marriage. There are a few differences, most significantly, the requirement that both partners must reside together at the same address in order to enter into a domestic partnership.
    Please see
    This caused some to be excluded from CA RDP, notably prisoners, which could still enter into a civil marriage.This may sound like a small difference, but it is actually significant in light of this case :
    This common residency requirement for RDPs existed back in 2008 at the time of the Proposition 8 campaign, but has apparently been lifted since
  3. CA RDP did not enjoy much recognition outside of California, especially not in other countries, whereas CA same-sex marriages did. Most significantly, those who entered into a CA RDP never got any federal recognition. The 18,000 same-sex couples who married in California got federal recognition in retrospect in light of the Windsor case . While that may not be a state-accorded right, but it is definitely one very important benefit of marriage that CA RDPs lack.
  4. Therefore, the actual choice that was on the ballot in CA's 2008 Proposition 8 was :
    Keep both the superior CA civil marriage and the inferior CA registered domestic partnerships
    for same-sex couples in California.
    Eliminate the existing right to a CA civil marriage, and keep only the inferior CA RDP as an option for same-sex couples in California.
  5. Whatever you may think of HRC, they never advocated voting for Prop 8 and eliminating the rights to a civil marriage from same-sex marriage in California.  HRC actually gave $2,057,981 to "No on 8". It is simply a lie to interpret HRC's past positions as supporting Proposition 8. In reality, HRC never advocated the elimination of rights to a same-sex civil marriage for anyone, in any state, at any time. 
  6. In my opinion, anyone who donated to "Yes on 8" and thus contributed to successfully taking away civil rights was, indeed, an anti-gay bigot, unless proven otherwise.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

About the Mozilla CEO resignation

There has been much news over the last week about Mozilla .
See  .
Here is my take.

Prop 8. was passed after an extremely deceitful campaign. The "Yes on 8" TV ads were blatant lies, and just horrible. Even some of my low-information, non-voting, gay friends who say them thought they should vote for prop 8 after seeing them.
Prop 8 was unlike all other state constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage, because it revoked rights that were already legally recognized.

I was deprived of the rights to marry my partner in California for many years, as many other LGBT couples were. Brendan Eich contributed $1000 towards that campaign. Unlike the 52% of the California electorate who voted for Prop 8 in 2008, this contribution was not the mere expression of an opinion, but something he actively did to influence the result of the referendum that stripped me and others of rights. While the Supreme Court declared in "Citizens United" that money is speech, I don't accept that.
I cannot simply ignore that he made that this contribution. Neither do I think the rest of the world can. I think some backlash against Brendan Eich is entirely warranted.

Whether backlash against him should translate to a Firefox boycott is much more debatable. For better or worse, a CEO represents the corporation, and his political opinions cannot be merely considered private matters. I believe CEOs should be held to a higher standard than lower-level, non-management positions. In this particular case, Brendan Eich was already in a high-level position, as a co-founder of Mozilla, and previously CTO. He was not recently hired, but merely internally promoted to CEO. His "Yes on prop 8 "donation was uncovered years ago, and did not make headlines as big then as now. The Mozilla board probably underestimated how big of an issue this would become after his promotion.

There is no evidence that he has taken discriminatory actions against Mozilla LGBT employees in the past. He has promised that he would not do so either as CEO in the future.
However, he has never publicly discussed his reasons for funding Prop 8 in the past, and there is no evidence that he has changed his mind on the subject. If he did, I believe he would have told the world already, and ended the controversy already.
In my mind, it is difficult to reconcile having funded Prop 8 and not being an anti-gay bigot. While many were deceived by their churches and very strongly encouraged to fund Prop 8, we don't know if that was the case here. I believe he would have said so as well if this was the case. That leaves with him having been and still being an anti-gay bigot as the sole explanation for the funding Prop 8. He is certainly entitled to his bigoted beliefs. But free speech under the First amendment only means it is free of repercussions from the government, not from individual citizens. A boycott certainly falls under free speech as well. Several Mozilla employees have called for him to step down from his CEO role last week.

I'm a long-time contributor to the Mozilla project, including 9 years working on the NSS security library - but never as a Mozilla employee. I certainly don't want to see the Mozilla project disappear into oblivion. I am glad the controversy ended, before the damage to Mozilla and Firefox became irreparable. Having Brendan step down from the CEO role was the best outcome.

Of course, Brendan's $1000 contribution towards Prop 8 was relatively small, considering the $40 million+ spent on each side. I incidentally also donated $1000 to "No on Prop 8" - the same amount he gave to "Yes on 8". But I'm proud of having done so.
Other CEOs have contributed to anti-gay causes, even in tech . When AOL acquired Netscape, Steve Case donated millions to anti-gay organizations, all the while paying Netscape/AOL employees to contribute to the Mozilla project .
And obviously, companies like Chik-Fil-A, Barilla, Wal-Mart, Exxon, and their CEOs have done much worse.
In that light, the recent reaction to the new Mozilla CEO may be overblown.
Ultimately, it comes down to how much intolerance we can tolerate. I think it's a good thing that the bigots are being pushed into the closet, for a change. I worry that many will still continue to promote their bigotry anonymously, however.

As someone who is in an interracial, same-sex marriage, I would certainly be just as upset if he had donated to a group that opposed interracial marriage. I suspect the rest of the world would be more upset about it than about his donation to "Yes on prop 8".

There is a line between political opinions and human rights. Most people nowadays recognize that racism affects human rights and is not just a mere political opinion.
Many people, but not as many, also recognize that LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage, are human rights as well.
Hopefully In 50 years, there will be as few homophobes as there are racists today, but that will still be too many.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Goldberg Variation N°19

I just made this new recording of Bach's Goldberg Variation N°19 on my grand piano.

Friday, May 17, 2013

M-Audio Profire 2626 vs Yamaha RX-V2500 SPDIF and M-Audio Pulsar II microphones

I recently had several bad experiences trying to update my home recording studio, first with a MOTU 828mk3 interface, then with a Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 interface . Not deterred by the previous incompatibilities I encountered, I decided to try another model.

On monday may 13, I picked up a used M-Audio Profire 2626 interface . It was in like-new condition, still in box, with some cables still unopened.

After I hooked it up, I immediately noticed that there was no sound playing through the SPDIF digital output of the M-Audio through my Yamaha RX-V2500 receiver .This was the exact same incompatibility I had encountered with the MOTU 828mk3 . I did some google searches and found that I was not alone with this problem. Other M-Audio customers had already reported the problem as early as 2008 . There was a suspicion that this was related to the SPDIF copy protection flag, but a separate unit would be required to strip this flag. The issue was never resolved by M-Audio.
I contacted M-Audio support about the issue on may 14 and may 15 and was told to expect a callback within a week about a possible fix.

One of the nice features of the 2626 is that it can operate in standalone mode, without being hooked up to a computer at all. I figured I could use it as an 8-channel analog preamp, in combination with another interface, as I needed more channels than the 2626 could provide on its own at 24 bits / 96 kHz.

I tested all the microphone inputs on my 2626 unit to make sure they worked. And I also tested all my microphones with them. Much to my surprise, I got a very a nasty high-pitched hiss in my recordings when I used a pair of M-Audio Pulsar II microphones in combination with the 2626 . None of my 7 other microphones had any hiss issue with the 2626 and sounded clean.

I double-checked the Pulsar II microphones by recording them using the preamps in my old Roland VS-2400 CD all-in-one digital audio workstation, and my ART DPS II digital preamp . They sounded clean with either one. So, the microphones were not at fault.

After I posted about the issue on gearslutz, a kind forum member pointed to me that I was not alone with this hiss problem either . Others had seen the same problem using some MXL 990 and 991 microphones on the M-Audio 2626 .The M-audio forum members suspected that it had to do with phantom power on the M-audio 2626. But one of them said their other phantom-powered mikes, AKG C3000B, did not show the hiss. I own these mikes as well, and they did not show the hiss on my 2626 either. My conclusion was that this is an issue with the preamps built-in to the 2626 that only shows with certain microphones, for some reason. This is an issue that many others have seen with multiple microphones, but not at all. It is once again, an issue for which M-Audio does not have a fix. What makes it really unforgivable is the fact this this issue exists between M-Audio's own Pulsar II microphones and Profire 2626 preamp . I contacted M-Audio support about this second issue on May 16. I asked them to test their microphones with their interface. They told me that both their interface and microphones were discontinued, and they did not have them in house to test with since the recent acquisition of M-Audio. Basically, I was shit out of luck on this one.

This second issue made the 2626 unsuitable for me even as a standalone preamp.

I contacted the craigslist seller who very kindly took the Profire 2626 back today, on friday may 17. He was actually glad to have it back, as he had just upgraded his new Apollo unit's firmware which caused some trouble for him. He was lucky enough not to run into either of the incompatibilities I found with the 2626.

Edit : I received the following message from Adam Gay at M-Audio on May 23 :

You had asked me last week to reach out on the status of the driver updates for the Profire 2626. They haved received your feedback request, but unfortunately, due to new products coming out and a lot of older drivers needing to be updated for Windows 8 and mac 10.8.3 compatibility, it may be some time before an update for the Profire 2626 control panel is released. My developers did not give me an estimated time.

Any updates to the drivers will be posted to our website when they become available.

Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 vs ART DPS II SPDIF digital preamp

After my recent bad experience with a MOTU 828mk3 interface, I bought a Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 interface .

The first thing I tested when I got it was its SPDIF digital output against my Yamaha RX-V2500 receiver's digital input . Fortunately, that worked just fine, all the way to 192 kHz using an optical cable.

I then hooked up my ART DPS II digital preamp to the Saffire's digital input via SPDIF .
Everything worked beautifully at 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz . But when I tried at 88.2 and 96 kHz, the audio transferred from the ART to the Focusrite was garbage. I tried both optical and coax SPDIF cables. I tried different clocking configurations - making either the Focusrite a clock slave to the ART via SPDIF, or making the ART a clock slave to the Focusrite via a BNC word clock cable. Neither helped with the transfer of audio at 96 kHz.

I knew the ART unit was not at fault, because I can transfer data from it to my Roland VS-2400CD DAW over SPDIF at 96 kHz just fine.

I contacted Focusrite about this issue. They got back to me promptly, but were not an aware of existing problem. They suggested I exchange my Saffire 56 unit for another one to rule out a defective one. I did not get a chance to do that as my local Guitar Center did not have another one in stock for me to try.

Because of this issue, I ended up returning my Focusrite Saffire Liquid 56 to Guitar Center for a refund.

Even after this return, I have remained in touch with Focusrite . Their UK team said they are in the process of obtaining an ART unit to reproduce the problem. If they are able to do so and fix it, I will purchase it again, provided I haven't found something else that works in the meantime.

Somehow, everything else I have tried has had problems so far, unfortunately.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

MOTU 828mk3 hybrid audio interface SPDIF vs Yamaha RX-V2500 receiver and Roland VS-2400CD DAW

Last friday, I purchased a new MOTU 828mk3 hybrid interface at Guitar center. The intent was to move from my venerable self-contained Roland VS-2400CD recorder to a computer-based setup.

Unfortunately, I ran into a very strange problem : the digital output of the 828mk3 did not work at all with my Yamaha RX-V2500 receiver. There was no sound whatsoever !

I confirmed in the MOTU audio console software that the interface was sending data. MOTU tech support had me hookup its own digital output to the digital input, and I could see a waveform.

The problem happened with the receiver regardless of the sampling rate.

I also tried hooking up the digital output of the 828mk3 to the VS-2400CD digital input. I had a little more luck this way. The Roland was able to lock in to the signal when the interface was at 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz. But no such luck at 96 kHz. The Roland can do this successfully against my ART DPS II digital preamp at all sampling rates including 96 kHz..

I contacted MOTU support. They said they had were not aware of this or any other current issue with the 828mk3. They suggested I swap my unit for a different one to rule out a manufacturing defect. My local Guitar Center did not have another one in stock, however.

While I really liked the MOTU 828mk3, I could not get past the incompatibility of its digital output with the rest of my equipment. I ended up returning it to the store for another interface, a Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56, which does not have this problem. More on this.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Invention N°1 in C major by J.S. Bach

I just re-recorded this piece again on my new piano. Hopefully the interpretation is better than my previous recording also.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Goldberg Variation N°9 recording

Here is a clip of Goldberg Variation N°9 by J.S. Bach , which I just played and recorded today, on my Schimmel K280 .

Friday, February 22, 2013

Prelude in C major recording

Here is a recording of the Prelude #1 in C major, BWV 846 from Well Tempered Clavier, book 1. Recorded on February 13, 2013 on my new concert grand.

Monday, July 2, 2012

My new Schimmel K280T full size concert grand piano

I just bought a new full concert-size grand piano. It is a Schimmel K280T. This is the first recording I made with it, on the first day of getting the piano. Not my best performance, but not the worst either, and I was happy to get the piano.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Test recording

A recording I made about 6 weeks ago. Mainly intended as a test for my Canon T3i video DSLR.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UDH3 built-in ATI HD4290 video vs Asus nVidia GTX 560 Ti

About a year ago, I acquired a Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UD3H motherboard. It has a built-in video card with one DVI-D digital port, and one VGA analog port. I never used the video card and always had it disabled. I was using a separate discrete video card from nVidia, previously a 9800 GT, and now an nVidia GTX 60 Ti from Asus .

I am now running a triple-monitor setup, with a pair of HP LP3065 30" 2560x1600, and a Gateway FHD2401 24" 1920x1200, fitted with a custom mount to run in pivot (vertical) mode. Since the GTX 560 only has 2 DVI-D ports, I decided to enable the internal ATI motherboard video card to get a 3rd port. Unfortunately, I ran into several issues.

  1. I connected both the large HP LP3065 monitors to the much faster nVidia GTX 560 Ti video card. These monitors are setup horizontally on my left. I wanted the boot display to be the leftmost HP monitor. In the Gigabyte BIOS, under "Advanced BIOS features" / "Init display first", I selected "PEG" in order to select the nVidia card as my boot video card. It booted fine to the correct display, but unfortunately, when the OS loaded, it turned out that the internal ATI video card had been disabled !

    This happened despite the fact that I had "Advanced BIOS features"/ "IGX Configuration" / "Internal Graphics Mode" set to "UMA" . I tried the other values, "SidePort" and "UMA + SidePort". No go. The only way to have the internal video card enabled was to select that card as the boot display. This didn't sit well with me, since I had a pivot monitor attached to it, and thus all the BIOS bootup messages would appear vertically ! This is clearly a Gigabyte BIOS bug. The only way I was able to solve it was to physically switch the monitor connections between the two video cards. I connected the leftmost HP LP3065 to the internal ATI card on the motherboard, and then the second HP LP3065 and Gateway FHD2401 to the nVidia GTX 560 . Then I was able to have the boot display on the leftmost HP LP3065, and run all 3 monitors with both GPUs.
  2. After solving the first problem, when Windows 7 loaded, it recognized both GPUs and 3 monitors perfectly. But I started getting strange messages that "Windows has detected your computer's performance is slow". This was not actually the case. But the messages were incessant, every 30 seconds or so. Windows was inviting me to disable Aero and switch to Basic. Even when I switched the Windows setting to "optimize for quality", the messages continued. I did about an hour's worth of google searches, and nothing I found helped. I concluded that this was a software conflict between Windows 7 x64, the nVidia 296.10 drivers, and the ATI Catalyst 12.3 drivers.

    The only way I was able to solve this was to disable the motherboard's ATI GPU. I had an old 8600GT video card lying around, and put in the second PCI-E x16 slot . I used it only to drive the smaller Gateway FHD2401 display. Now that both video cards are nVidia, everything works fine, without any pesky bogus performance messages.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

USB composite device vs Gigabyte motherboards keyboard power-up

The two desktop in my home office feature recent Gigabyte motherboards, specifically models GA-990FXA-UD3 rev 1.1 and GA-890GPA-UD3H rev 2.1 .

One notable "feature" of these boards is that they only have a single PS/2 port for keyboard or mouse, but not both. This is a stupid design. If you use PS/2, you normally want to use it for both keyboard and mouse.

The omission of the second PS/2 port has forced me to purchase adapters to convert the PS/2 mouse signal to USB, more specifically the PS/2 mouse signal from my Iogear GCS84B KVM switch.

Simple passive adapters did not work. There was no mouse signal on the computer. I had to purchase smart active adapters. I literally tried 10 different models at Fry's Electronics and Micro Center before I found that was compatible with the mouse signal from the KVM switch, a noname one when I got the GA-890GPA-UD3H motherboard a year ago, and a Belkin model when I got the GA-990FXA-UD3 motherboard more recently.

These smart adapters actually take a pair of PS/2 signals for both keyboard and mouse, and turn it into a single USB signal. The computer sees it as a USB composite device.

I figured I would try to use it as designed, and connect both the keyboard and mouse to the adapter.

I immediately noticed a problem : I could no longer power the machine through the keyboard.

The BIOS on the motherboard normally allows you to power the system through the keyboard or mouse. You can select any key, or a password, or mouse motion or click. I choose a simple 1-character password option.

The feature just does not work when using the PS/2 to USB adapter . I tried all the possible options with mouse and keyboard. I set all the wake-up options to "Enabled" in the power management menu. But nothing worked, except pressing the power button on the front. This is OK for one of my systems that is close to my chair, but not OK for the other one.

This is a bit puzzling, because the BIOS otherwise supports the keyboard on this adapter just fine for purposes of entering into the BIOS setup menu.

I switched the keyboard connections back to the PS/2 port on both motherboards, leaving only the PS/2 mouse on the adapter, and powering up the machine through the keyboard worked fine again.

The lesson here is that 15-year old USB technology still has not caught up to good old PS/2. It could be argued that this is a problem with the motherboard implementation of USB power-on. But there are likely many other motherboards with the same problem.

Yamaha KX61 MIDI keyboard vs Windows 7 sleep mode

The Yamaha KX61 is a very nice USB-powered MIDI controller. I have owned a pair of them for about 3 years.

While trying to reorganize the dozens of USB cables in my home office, I found out the following problem : if the KX61 is hooked up directly to my PC's GA-990FXA-UD3 motherboard via USB, the PC is unable to stay asleep. More precisely, the PC will go to sleep, then wake right back up 2 seconds later. I found out that the KX61 was the problem through trial and errors by unplugging USB cables one at a time.

The Windows powercfg -lastwake did not show any reason for waking up.

The fix was to connect KX61 through a USB hub instead of directly to the motherboard. In this case, the computer was able to remain asleep. I'm not sure if this is a software or hardware problem. Probably a combination of both.