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Crosstalk By Various

Busting PC Jargon Again

In SOS February 2004, in Martin Walker's PC Musician Jargon Buster feature, he states "You can normally enter the BIOS Setup program by pressing the Ctrl or F8 keys during bootup." Pressing these keys will bring you into Safe Mode. He should have said "You can normally enter the BIOS Setup program by pressing the Delete key during bootup."

George Kondos

In the PC Musician feature in SOS February 2004, I read that "Musicians should choose the Power Scheme named Always On," while in the PC Notes column in the same issue, it says "The Power Saving scheme should be set to Home/Office Desk..." Which is true?

Abel Korzeniowski

PC music specialist Martin Walker replies: The Delete key is of course the one most often used to enter the BIOS Setup program, as I've said on many previous occasions, while to enter Safe Mode you would use the Ctrl key when using Windows 98, and F8 with XP.

However, the reason I added the word 'normally' is that older BIOS versions can be accessed using a variety of keys and key combinations, including Esc, F1, F2, F10, Ctrl-Esc, Alt-Esc, Ctrl-Alt-Esc, Ctrl-Alt-Enter, and Insert, which is possibly why I had a mental aberration while typing the sentence in question! For instance, most of the laptops I've had in for review recently have used the F2 key instead of Delete to enter the BIOS Setup.

As for Abel's query regarding Power Schemes, both comments are in fact true. What I actually said in PC Musician was, "Musicians should choose the Power Scheme named Always On to get maximum processing for the whole time the laptop is running, whether from the mains supply or the battery. Switching to Home/Office Desk will give you more battery power when you unplug the mains supply, by activating various power-saving schemes, but you'll not be able to run as many plug-ins or soft synth notes."

So it's up to you. On a desktop PC, Always On will act exactly the same as Home/Office Desk as far as Power Saving technologies are concerned, since it's always plugged into the mains — only standby activation time, hard drive and monitor turn-off times will have different default settings, and you can change these to suit yourself in the Power Options applet, or set them to Never for Home/Office Desk, when the two schemes become identical.

Most laptop musicians I know tend to run their music software while still plugged into the mains, and only perform tasks like word processing when running from battery power. So, since Home/Office Desk will activate power saving when you unplug the mains cable, this is probably the more useful global setting for most musicians (which is why I mentioned it in PC Notes). Just switch to Always On if you ever need to get the maximum clout from your music applications when running on battery, although be aware that your battery life will drop significantly as a result. I discussed Power Schemes in far more detail back in PC Notes December 2003.

Optical Illusions

Readers FeedbackIt was stimulating to see the ideas about alternative microphone technologies being explored in last month's Cutting Edge column — if nothing else, this reminds us of why we have the devices we have today!

A major problem with the optical mics mooted by Dave Shapton is the wavelength of light. We imagine it to be vanishingly small at 400-700 nanometres — but in practice that is quite coarse in terms of the movement of a mic diaphragm, which might typically be 1000nm to 0.001nm. This movement could be amplified using an optical lever, as Dave said, but the diaphragm would have to change the angle of a light beam. Diaphragms are usually required to work as nearly as possible as linear pistons, so angular deflection is a problem.

There have been several designs for optical mics, but despite these, nobody has overcome the basic hurdles and produced anything that compares with today's electrodynamic or electrostatic devices. And I wouldn't want to put too many bets on it happening soon!

As far as digital mics go, Neumann's contribution is worth mentioning. The Solution D (pictured) concept might appear to be no more than an A-D connected to a normal analogue mic, but this can be useful. One limitation of analogue mics is the dynamic range of the electronics — 120dB is about the limit for conventional designs, given the inescapable noise floor of a device and the practical rail limits of its supply. On the Solution D, because the A-D is integrated into the front end, this limitation is bypassed, and dynamic ranges of greater than 130dB are possible, which would be difficult by analogue means. Perhaps it is this kind of improvement that we should be seeking rather than actual digital sensing.

Chris Woolf

A Bose For Detail

I enjoyed your article on the new Bose Cylindrical Radiators in the February issue, and applaud the sentiment that the industry should try new ideas. However, I do fear that any band wishing to use this kit in anywhere but the smallest of venues will be disappointed.

Bose say that their system reduces slap reverb from monitor sound hitting the back wall of a venue. But the new columns are described as having a horizontal dispersion of 180 degrees — do I take it that the concert hall has no side walls? You also say that "with this approach, the stage level is almost the same as it is at the back of the room". Have Bose found a way to defy the laws of physics and allow sound waves to travel without losing energy? I usually respect your reviews, but on this occasion you may as well have just asked Bose to write it for you.

Olly Gibbs

Managing Editor Matt Bell replies: We shared some of your concerns about the mooted Bose speaker system, and think that there are quite a lot of remaining issues that still need to be ironed out. So why, you ask, if we had such reservations, did we review the Bose system in such glowing terms?

The answer is that we didn't! The Bose article was actually a preview. We give these articles to products which we think are technologically interesting, when news about them first breaks, and when we feel that there's more to be said about a product than will fit into one of our news items at the front of the magazine. Focusrite's Liquid Channel is another example of a product we've featured recently in this way. But perhaps the most important distinction between a preview and a review is that there's little or no evaluative comment in a preview, with no attempt made to exhaustively test the product ourselves — indeed, previews usually predate the final release of the products, as was the case with the Bose system. When the system is finished and released, they'll get the full SOS review treatment, complete with proper performance analysis and discussion of their implications for the world of PA.

Personally, I thought that it was reasonably clear that the article was just a preview. Paul Lehrman explained that the claims for the system in the piece were Bose's own, and even made the point at the end that it was far from clear whether the system would pass muster once it was released. I'm sorry if you feel this didn't come across clearly enough, but the article certainly wasn't intended as the definitive SOS statement on Bose's new technology, which has yet to be written.

Published April 2004