WATCH HOW THEY COUNT THE VOTES

Brooks Hilliard: ‘I’ve been a computer professional since 1965 (starting as a programmer on Air Force and NASA contracts summers and part time when I was a student at MIT) and have earned my living in the computer industry ever since. Krugman is absolutely correct. It is totally incredible to me – from a totally non-partisan standpoint – that anyone with any computer knowledge would advocate using electronic voting machines that do not have a paper trail available to audit the count. Even the best electronic security is vulnerable because there’s no way to check every potential breach (if only because there’s no way to be sure you’ve thought of every one). Thus, the only way to have even adequate security is to be able to detect when a breach has occurred. In the voting context, a paper trail combined with poll-watchers, is good protection . . . anything less than this is not. This should not be a party issue: both parties’ candidates are vulnerable to “dirty tricksters” from the other side . . . or malicious hackers from neither side. Walden O’Dell (the Diebold CEO), though partisan, is probably an honest and honorable individual. But he’s not the problem . . . latter day “plumbers” are, and our electoral process needs to be protected against them.’

THE ECONOMY ON SPEED

Andrew Scharf: ‘What do you make of the recent spate of very good economic news? Specifically, is it possible that any of Bush’s economic program has caused this upturn? I’m less interested in hearing the standard Demo line (that deficits will be problematic in the long run) than knowing whether there is any cause-effect relationship here.’

☞ Sure there is! Or I would think so, anyway. If you slash taxes, massively increase government spending, and, in concert with the Fed, offer consumers record low interest rates, you are likely to boost economic activity. And I’m very glad activity is picking up.

But the boost would have been greater if the bulk of the tax cuts had been directed at the bottom 95% instead of the top 5% and if the bulk of the massive deficit we’re racking up had been for investments in domestic infrastructure (and children), not a largely unilateral invasion that has led neither Iraqis the rest of the world to greet us with flowers.

As to the ‘Democratic line’ about deficits . . . wasn’t this until recently the Republican line? That we must have a balanced budget amendment? Such an amendment would have been going overboard and Democrats were right to fight it off. But the general notion of long-term fiscal moderation is a good one . . . one that the Democratic leadership has come to embrace . . . and one the borrow-and-spend Republican Congress and administration have completely abandoned.

CASSETTES TO CDs

I asked; you answered:

David D’Antonio: ‘My brother just did this, as a tribute to my Dad who recently passed away. I had a cassette of his audition playing sax for the NBC orchestra years ago, doing improv big band jazz. My brother took this cassette over to a friend of his, who played it on a tape deck connected to the ‘line in’ of his soundcard on his computer. He recorded the segment, cleaned it up (which apparently took quite some time) and then looped it so it played twice and burned the result to CD. They also scanned in a picture of Dad at my brother’s wedding and made a CD cover and liner notes and duped up several copies. We gave these out at the funeral, the entire process taking ‘only’ about 5 hours or so. It isn’t anywhere near as easy as ripping and burning tracks, since the tape deck doesn’t have a direct connection to the computer, the way the CD drive does. But it is doable if you are familiar with music processing on computers. Note that you can do the same with a record, should you want to preserve any LPs you have against the day when finding a turntable is as hard as finding a wax player now.’

James Redekop: ‘I’ve done this a few times, but it can be a slow process. Since audio tape isn’t digital, it can’t be ripped as easily as CDs. You have to have a sound card on your computer which can take audio input; audio recording software; audio editing software; and CD burning software. What I do is play the tape on a cassette deck hooked into the computer’s audio input and record the side to a single large audio file. Then I use the editing software to break the big file into individual tracks. This can take a while. Once the large file is broken down into tracks, you can use your CD burning software to burn the tracks to CD. Some things to watch out for:

* A full 90-minute tape will not fit onto a single CD. CDs are only about 74 minutes (though you can get 80 min CDs in some stores).

* Before you split the large audio file into tracks, normalize it first. This boosts the volume of the file so that it fills the dynamic range available. If you do this after breaking the tracks up, each track will get boosted a different amount — quiet tracks will get amplified more than loud ones, and you’ll loose the contrast in volume that was on the original recording.

* On each track, “fade in” the first quarter-to-half-second of track and “fade-out” the last quarter-to-half-second. Your edits will probably have cut a waveform at a non-zero level, and you’ll get a “pop” as your playback jumps from zero between tracks to the non-zero level. Fading in and out will smooth out this transition.

Brad Hurley: ‘Since most people will probably describe how to record cassettes into your computer, I want to mention another option: replace the CD player on your stereo with a CD player/recorder. If you have a lot of cassettes or LPs to copy, the latter approach is easier unless your computer happens to live next to your stereo (or you have a laptop). CD recorders can only record on special blank CDs designated for music, but they’re widely available. They’re more expensive than regular blank CDs, but still cheaper than good-quality blank cassette tapes. The great thing about using a CD recorder is that it’s fully integrated in your stereo — you just pop a tape into your tape deck, press ‘Play,’ set the recording level on your CD recorder, and press ‘Record.’ Tracks will be created automatically as long as your tape isn’t too noisy (the CD recorder makes a new track when it hears a few seconds of silence). I’ve recorded tapes and minidiscs directly to my computer, and while that’s easy enough I much prefer using the CD recorder on my stereo. There’s nothing to set up, I don’t have to worry about hard disk space on my computer, and good-quality CD recorders will produce a CD that actually sounds better than your original cassette. If you only plan to copy a handful of cassettes or LPs, recording on your computer is the way to go. Recording software for the computer is cheap; CD recorders for your home stereo are not.’

Randy Wolff:If you have a Mac, the built-in audio recording capability is too noisy to use…it will contribute lots of R2D2-type funny robot sounds. You could buy an ‘isolated’ audio interface for the Mac… I have an audio interface from M-Audio. This is the USB card they make – $179.95 list price. You just plug it in to your USB port. They make nicer ones too, but this is very good, 16 bit quality sound, like a CD. You will then have to set the volume levels and so on…it can take a while to do. Once it is digitally recorded, then you can remove noise and otherwise improve it if you wish, if you have the software. When you are done, just put the resulting audio file in ‘Toast’ or ‘iTunes’ or whatever you use to burn CDs.’

William McLeese: ‘For beaucoup info about transferring cassettes to CD’s and related topics, try this website: cdrfaq.org.’

 

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