Thursday, March 12, 2015

The just-so society

It wasn't working properly, so I got rid of it and bought a new one.

This is almost the mantra of our society. One even hears things like

I'm pleased I dropped my phone -- now I can buy a new one

This is a waste, plain and simple. It's amazing how pervasive this attitude is, and it provides opportunities for people who are not likewise blinkered. We have this idea that things ought to be just right, that if things aren't perfect there is a problem, and that problems like this are fixed by buying something new.

My stereo systems

This post was prompted by Cherokee Organics' post about his new FM rooftop antenna. (I'd been thinking about writing it anyway but was procrastinating)

I love music -- and have lots of music.
When I was a kid, I had a huge collection of cassettes, many recorded from the radio. When I was about 14, my uncle lent me an old hifi amp from the 70s and a couple of speakers to go with it. I bought a second hand Philips CD player (late 80s) to go with it for about $100. I still have the CD player, it sounds great.
About 5 years ago, I bought a "proper" hifi. An NAD 3020, with an AM/FM tuner and Bowers and Wilkins speakers for $150 (it is a proper audiophile system and would have cost $2000-3000 equivalent twenty years ago). The seller was getting rid of it because it was black and he was changing his hifi to silver (!)
I've also found an NAD receiver (amp and radio together) and CD player on the side of the road, as well as a few CD-boom-boxes. I picked up a fantastic cheap hifi at the op-shop for $25. All in all, we have 3 CD players and 5 FM radios (three of which are very good) and have paid a total of about $350 for the lot.

Wallace radio

I have a fair collection of computer music. Although I love listening to CDs and vinyl, digital music is great because it's easy to come by, and I can get music that would be otherwise unavailable. How to listen to it?
I set up an old (hand-me-down) laptop (cost: $0) with a USB FM broadcaster (brand: keene, cost: $10) and a USB key full of music (cost $30). It's on my local network and can be controlled by my (hand-me-down) smartphone. It broadcasts at FM 102.7, and I can tune in any radio in the house (it has a range of about 20 meters), and the sound quality is pretty good. I can even use it to stream internet radio and then broadcast it to FM to listen to it.

The upshot

I can set music to play on my phone and can listen to it in any room in the house or even outside -- just by tuning in the radio. Similar commercial systems cost thousands of dollars -- particularly for a 7 room system. I feel that this system is a real winner!


Computer: 2004 Apple iBook running Debian Linux
Music server: "Music player daemon" -- Free Software
FM USB key: Keene FM broadcaster. (These are not made any more, but there are others available)
My lounge room stereo. Philips CD player, $120. NAD receiver: free on the side of the road. Sounds fantastic. You can also see a heap of records -- I found about 1/2 in a box on the side of the road and bought most of the rest at the op shop for an average price of $2 each.

Sony CD boombox. It had a broken ariel and was free on the side of the road. I replaced the ariel for $3. Sound is ok, not great, but it's convenient.

GE speakers - free. Stereo $25 at op shop. Sounds great.


I wanted to talk about this system, because I'm a bit of a nerd and think it rocks. But I also think it shows a general idea: There is a lot of good stuff that is going to waste -- If you tap that resource stream you can become rich, without spending much money.

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