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November 18, 2004

Review: XM SKYFi 2 & XM Radio

xmskyfi2.jpg

The XM service itself is great in terms of content. The variety is very impressive and most of it is commercial free. The playlists themselves seem staggered so you don't hear much repeating if you listen to it around the same time every day. When I first got the Roady and went on a 9 hour road trip, I noticed the second or third day that I was hearing the same songs but they were about 4 hours later that day than when I heard them previously.

I purchased an XM Roady about 6 months ago and have been pretty pleased with the service and the device but I don't get to listen to it often because it's not convenient to move from the car to the house. I recently picked up a Delphi XM SKYFi 2 for $169.99 at Best Buy which included the car kit. If you already own SKYFi home or auto docks, you can pick the device up alone for around $99.

The SKYFi 2 kit for $169.99 comes with the radio, an auto crade with vent clips, a dash mount, 12 volt power adapter, small antenna, and cassette adapter. It builds upon the older SKYFi's feature list by including a 30 minute TiVo like rewind, pause and fast forward function in addition to supporting stock quotes and sports scores. It also has a built in FM modulator for those who decide not to use the cassette adapter or directly connect it to their stereo.

Usability:
The radio itself has a large 5-line reversible lcd display with a white backlight. The contrast is good and the test can be reversed so its white on a black background instead of the normal black on a white background. At any given moment you can choose from 4 display modes which vary on the standard mode which displays time, signal strength, channel, artist and song title. The new SKYFi 2 introduces stock tickers, sports scores and large artist/title scrolling display modes. The buttons are decently placed and the only gripe I have as well as others is the way the scroll wheel turns. Unlike scroll wheel mice which usually have deeper grooves the wheel "clicks" into when it turns, the ones on the SKYFi 2 are barely felt. The wheel also has a tendency to jump back when stop scrolling. Again this is not a major concern. The TiVo-like functionality is interesting but I haven't found myself using it much. It allows you to pause and play tracks in memory.

The car and home cradles are nicely weighted with big rubber pads to keep their position stationary. The home cradle I received is flakey so I'll be exchanging it. Sometimes the unit will go to no signal and the cable needs to be fiddled where the connector is to get things back to normal. The cradle system is a must for those thinking about transporting their radio between cars, the office or home.

Audio Quality:
The audio quality depends on two factors which are connection method and the XM compression itself. The ideal connection method is using audio patch cables through the 3.5mm jack on the back of the cradles. The FM modulator or a cassette adapter can be used in the car but don't sound as good as a direct connection, the FM method sounding the worst.

The XM audio feed is compressed to varying degrees on different channels but overall I would say it's equivalent to a 96kbps mp3. XM tends to use more bandwidth for some of the more demanding channels and less on traffic and talk radio.

Conclusion:
Overall I would definitely recommend XM radio and the SKYFi 2 unit to anyone who enjoys variety on the radio but doesn't like to listen to commercials. The talk, comedy and news channels also make it worth the money. The only thing both Sirius and XM need to be careful of is over-compressing the audio feeds to add more content. Quality is more important than quantity to me so it will be interesting to see as time goes on how both companies choose to enhance their offerings. The MyFi unit which costs $349.99 and was just released from XM aims to be a portable unit which has over 5 hours of storage to buffer programming and comes with car and home kits. It was overkill for me and probably wouldn't get used for its intended purpose as much since I use an iPod for portable listening.

Posted by beamz at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

November 6, 2004

Under new management

Leaky Faucet is now under new management. The previous managing editor has been fired due to inconsistent content development and a strategy which differs with the publisher's goals.

What can I expect? More content at the very least. There will also be more reviews of products, music, movies, and books. The goal is to deliver content worth reading as well as something useful. The content will be a bit more focused whereas it was a blog with no purpose before.

When is it coming? Over the next few weeks we will be ramping up our content and as always, feedback is appreciated.

Posted by beamz at 2:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 3, 2004

Kids see everything so clearly...

I couldn't pass this opportunity up. I've refrained from posting anything political but if there is one post about the election that can sum up how I feel without going into details or trying to pick sides and become partisan, it is this.

There are many other reasons why I feel this election should have gone another way and maybe it just comes down to what Jon Stewart said about being driven into a ditch by someone. Even if that person said "Ayuk yuk, don't werry, I'll git us outta here", he said he'd give the keys to a 7 year old. We'll see where the next 4 years takes us but again I agree with another comment Jon Stewart said. He quoted Bush's statement, "History will judge me", and said "We don't have the luxury for history to judge, we need to get it right."

Here's the good stuff via Jim from wirefarm.com:

Nixon Wins in Landslide: "In 1972, I was a six year old boy. Thirty-two years ago this morning, I raced downstairs to the living room, after a night on which I was allowed to stay up later than usual to watch Walter Cronkite read election results as they trickled in. My father had just retrieved a the morning paper from the front porch. As he opened it and set it on the coffee table, I read the headline, set in large block type across the top of the page: "Nixon Wins in Landslide." How was it possible, I wondered, that the people of my country had re-elected someone that even I, a boy of six, could so clearly see was a Bad Man? How could they have not taken the opportunity they were given to correct the mistake they had made four years earlier? I was disconsolate. I was disheartened. I lost some bit of faith in the majority of the people in my country. President Nixon was to me, a child, the face of the Viet Nam war. He was the dark, ugly face of social unrest. It was his face under every blue helmet of the club-wielding policeman who tear gassed the crowds of protesters who looked a lot like my older brothers and sister and their friends. To me, a child, his was the face of evil. The face of fear. I wondered how people could not see what I saw, and know that there had to be something better, anything better, than this very bad man. My country has just re-elected a man who lied to wage a war against a country that posed no significant threat to us. A war that has killed 1,100 young Americans and left thousands of other American soldiers without arms and legs or hands. A war that has killed a hundred thousand civilians in a country that "has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction." That was "unable to project conventional power against (its) neighbors." A hundred thousand dead civilians. Men, women and children dead because of the lies told by the men who were just re-elected. That morning, I was just a kid. A kid who didn't know or understand all of the issues. But I was a kid who listened in when his brothers and their friends talked one night over a game of pool about how exactly a person dies from Napalm. A kid who couldn't see how the other arguments for things like economics mattered when people were dying in such great numbers. I was a kid who knew even then, that a very bad man had just triumphed over hope. That morning, I read and re-read that headline and tried to make sense of how such a thing could have occurred. This morning, I feel so very much the same."

(Via Wirefarm.)

Posted by beamz at 9:30 PM | Comments (1)