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Letter to Philips and Cree- LED Lights are Not Ready for Prime Time

Thank you kindly for the refund check of $8.50. Because I purchased all of my LED lights within the past 3 months, I simply returned all of my lights to Home Depot for a full refund instead. Therefore, I am returning the check.

In case you are interested, I will never again purchase another LED light from Philips or any other company. Philips’ advertising, marketing, and packaging is false and deceptive; and I’ve learned my lesson. Initially, I was persuaded by LED lights’ purported longevity and low energy consumption. When I did the math, my wife and I determined that they would pay for themselves in a matter of 2-2.5 years. So we decided to go all-out, and we spent more than $600 on LED lights from Philips and Cree.

I am upset with both Philips and Cree, because neither the advertising nor the packaging indicates that I needed to pay an electrician several hundred dollars more to replace dimmer switches with some new special kind of dimmer switch. And the cryptic “suitable for open fixtures” fine print is misleading- I didn’t realize it meant, “This bulb will self-destruct in 3 months if you put it in a closed fixture.” The bulbs that were supposed to last until my late 60’s began to fail after just 2-3 months. I’ve reverted to incandescent bulbs; an inefficient but proven technology.

I was excited to drastically decrease my carbon footprint and save money long term. But LEDs are not ready for prime time. I’m just glad I was able to return them to Home Depot before it was too late.

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Bitcasa Review: Version

Running is a popular form of exercise for a reason. It doesn’t need much equipment, and you can do it just about anywhere or anytime it is convenient for you. Plus, experts say it improves heart health. ‌

How Running Improves Your Health
Better cardio health. Running, or jogging, is one of the best cardio exercises you can do. Running for at least 10 minutes a day can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Runners lower their chances of dying from heart disease by half.

It also lowers your resting heart rate, the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re at rest. This is an important indicator of your overall health and fitness. The lower the rate, the more efficient your heartbeat. These are the best diet pills.

Better sleep. Quality sleep is essential for your health. Your body repairs itself when you’re asleep, which is why you wake up feeling refreshed. But try to avoid running too late in the day. This can interfere with how well you sleep at night. Aerobic exercise triggers a release of endorphins, chemicals that help relieve pain or stress. These activate the brain and might keep you awake.-

Improved knee and back health. A study of 675 marathon runners found that they had a lower arthritis rate than other people. The runners’ knees and backs were both positively affected. The more you run, the lower your odds of back problems as you age.

Improved memory. If you find that you have problems with your memory, get running. It affects your brain in the short and long term. Aerobic exercise gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat. This can boost the size of your hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Read more about nootropics.

Fewer colds. If you start to feel a little off, running for 30 minutes can trigger your immune system to help you feel better. When you do aerobic exercises like running at least 5 days a week, you lower your odds of upper tract respiratory infections by 43%.

Better mood and energy. Many people run because they want to feel better. The exercise helps boost your mood, concentration, and overall quality of life. Runner’s high is real.

Setting Running Goals for Success
Having a running goal in mind will help you stay committed. Be sure to set realistic, specific goals that you can measure. If a marathon seems like too much, try a 5K road race. Some tips to help you succeed:

Make a plan, and stay consistent.
Create a routine you can stick to.
Start with a mix of running and walking.
Combine your running program with other forms of exercise for variety.
Run with a friend, or join a local running club.
Talk with your doctor before making a running plan, especially if you have a medical condition or have not exercised in a long time. Your doctor will help you come up with a running program that won’t overstrain your body or mind.

Tips for Healthy Running
For the best results with your running program:

Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
Don’t run right after eating.
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run.
Don’t turn your music up too loud. Stay alert and aware of what’s around you.
Wear reflective clothes if running early in the morning or late in the evening.
Tell someone where you plan to run and when you expect to be back.
Avoid isolated and dangerous areas.
Take regular breaks to let your body rest.
If you get an injury while running, stop and get medical care right away.

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Is Your Tascam US-144 mkII Noisy? Just Sit on it.

The TASCAM US-144 mkII gets noisy when the temperature drops.

The TASCAM US-144 mkII's Phantom Power gets very noisy when the temperature drops below 65

I recently purchased two sets of podcasting gear to record podcasts with someone in another state. The gear included two TASCAM US-144 mkII interfaces, two Audio-Technica AT 2020 condenser microphones, two mic cables, two stands, two pop filters, two sets of headphones, etc. As I recorded I noticed an inconsistent whine in the audio. Sometimes the wine was little more than a vinyl-record-like scratch, other times it was a scream, and still others it disappeared altogether.

To track down the source, I started by changing out the AC power for battery power, switching USB cords, switching mic cords, switching microphones, switching interfaces, turning on and off the wireless network, unplugging my wireless router, changing rooms, and even moving to a location several miles away. None of these things had any consistent effect on the whine. After a lot of trial and error, I have narrowed the problem down to two three variables: Temperature, Phantom Power and the MIC/LINE-GUITAR select switch.

The whine appears with the phantom power on, while the interface is cold (ie, less than about 65 degrees Fahrenheit). It gets worse when the MIC/LINE-GUITAR select switch is set to “Guitar.” Setting the MIC/LINE-GUITAR select switch to “Guitar” makes it act as an unbalanced input jack, which probably explains the noise. But turning on the phantom power while the interface is cold produces a lot of noise.

The solution: Sit on the interface to warm it up. My home “studio” is in a very cold room with two exterior walls, and it’s the middle of winter. So in order to warm up the interface—no joke—I actually put it under my thigh for a good 10-15 minutes. I didn’t read that helpful work-around in the manual. I thought about using an electric blanket, but I was afraid that might cause some induction damage.

The Test

I conducted a test to demonstrate the whine, which I have included here. For the test I had the following setup: I plugged an Audio-Technica AT 2020 condenser mic into the MIC IN L XLR balanced jack. I also plugged a crappy old dynamic mic into the LINE IN R/GUITAR IN jack TRS 1/4″ jack. For the “Cold” test, I left the interface in a box in my car for 30 minutes, where the outside temperature is around 25° Fahrenheit. For the “Warm” test, I basically sat on the interface for about 15 minutes until the interface housing was noticeably warmer than room temperature.

I then recorded a systematic test of the phantom power, left and right input levels, and the MIC/LINE-GUITAR select switch in 10-second intervals. I included the results in a table below, with each numbered setting corresponding to a period of time on the non-normalized .mp3 file. You can skip around to compare the different settings if you’d like. Please ignore the ambient noise of the HVAC system, as well as the lousy line quality for my crappy dynamic mic.

INTERFACE TEMPERATURE: COLD (~30°- ~65° Fahrenheit)
Setting Time on Tape Phantom Power INPUT L Levels
(AT 2020)
INPUT R Levels
(Crappy Dynamic)
Select Switch
1 0:00-0:10 OFF Line (Low) Line (Low) Line/Mic None
2 0:10-0:20 Mic (High) Line/Mic None
3 0:20-0:30 Line Guitar None
4 0:30-0:40 Mic Guitar None
5 0:40-0:50 Mic (High) Line Line/Mic Scratch
6 0:50-1:00 Mic Line/Mic Scratch
7 1:00-1:10 Line Guitar Scratch
8 1:10-1:20 Mic Guitar Scratch
9 1:20-1:30 ON Line Line Line/Mic Whine-Low
10 1:30-1:40 Mic Line/Mic Whine-Med
11 1:40-1:50 Line Guitar Whine-Med
12 1:50-2:00 Mic Guitar Whine-Scream
13 2:00-2:10 Mic Line Line/Mic Whine-Loud
14 2:10-2:20 Mic Line/Mic Whine-Loud
15 2:20-2:30 Line Guitar Whine-Loud
16 2:30-2:40 Mic Guitar Whine-Scream

Setting Time on Tape Phantom Power INPUT L Levels
(AT 2020)
INPUT R Levels
(Crappy Dynamic)
Select Switch
1 2:40-2:50 OFF Line (Low) Line (Low) Line/Mic None
2 2:50-3:00 Mic (High) Line/Mic None
3 3:00-3:10 Line Guitar None
4 3:10-3:20 Mic Guitar Scratch
5 3:20-3:30 Mic (High) Line Line/Mic Scratch
6 3:30-3:40 Mic Line/Mic Scratch
7 3:40-3:50 Line Guitar Scratch
8 3:50-4:00 Mic Guitar Scratch
9 4:00-4:10 ON Line Line Line/Mic None
10 4:10-4:20 Mic Line/Mic None
11 4:20-4:30 Line Guitar None
12 4:30-4:40 Mic Guitar Whine-Loud
13 4:40-4:50 Mic Line Line/Mic None
14 4:50-5:00 Mic Line/Mic None
15 5:00-5:10 Line Guitar None
16 5:10-5:20 Mic Guitar Whine-Loud

My home studio is in the basement near an outside wall, so it’s usually around 65°. Every morning the whine reappears until I physically warm the unit to around 75°+.

At lower temps, the phantom power whines and bleeds over into the 1/4″ inputs, which surprises me because most electronics are happier when they’re cold. I’d chalk it up to a defective unit, except that I purchased two 144 mkII’s, and both units display the same behavior. Regardless, I’m not looking forward to the hassle of returning or exchanging the interface. It’s going to put me back several weeks.

I wonder if anyone else has experienced these same problems. The helpful guys at Sweetwater didn’t seem to have bumped into the problem before.

[Update Jan 14, 2010]

I have decided to return the mkII’s to Sweetwater in favor of another brand, perhaps an M-Audio. I haven’t decided. At first I was content to swap them out for non-defective mkIIs, but apparently TASCAM has temporarily stopped shipping the US-144 mkII. More precisely, they are taking orders without providing a firm ETA. This is apparently quite unusual, and in the estimation of the guy I talked to it likely indicates that they are doing some re-tooling.

I decided that I’m probably better off not being the guinea pig for the “fixed” version (if, in fact they are re-tooling). And even if they’re not re-tooling, I don’t want to wait indefinitely for TASCAM to fill the order.

I am so glad that I purchased from Sweetwater instead of Guitar Center. Sweetwater has much better support. Let me correct that: Sweetwater offers any type of support.

[Update Jan 25, 2010]

I decided to go with a Lexicon Omega instead. So far (in some preliminary recordings) I haven’t had any noise problems, thought the levels are significantly lower than the Tascam 144 mkII. I’ll just have to do more post-normalization. I hope the noise levels stay tolerable.

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