Building a music system

August 16, 2003 at 12:09 am

We have a ski place in Skykomish, WA (20 miles from Stevens
) that my wife and I have been finishing for the past couple of years (contractor
did the shell to painted drywall, we do everything else). Having music while doing
this is a critical factor, so I brought an old stereo (my first receiver, in fact,
from 1980) and a 5 disk CD changer up there. That’s has worked okay, but when your
used to having all your CDs (somewhere around 200) accessible and automatically scheduled
with your PC-based system, you kindof get tired of the same 12 CDs. (Yes, I know,
I *could* bring up more, but that would require me to plan ahead, and I still wouldn’t
bring up the right one).

I did some research into CD jukeboxes, and wasn’t terribly impressed. They’re a bit
smaller than a PC, but all they do is music, and they don’t implement the system that
my home-based on does. So I held off on buying one.

I’ve recently been working on a C# version of my system, and it’s starting to wake
up and look around, and it’s almost good enough to use. So I decided to build a small
PC to hold my music and run the software.

I started at NewEgg, who supplied the components
for my current office system. I wanted a minimal system with a reasonable size disk
and network. A little research got me a motherboard, case, cd-rom, memory, processor,
fan, and hard disk for $328 to my doorstep. One trip to the computer store to get
another IDE cable and to get a fan that would actually *fit* in the case (its a
micro atx size). That’s a pretty good price for an Athlon 1500, 256M of memory and
40 Gig of disk space.

So, once I get XP on the system, I’ll copy the files over, and probably install the
current version of my software. One problem with the system is coming up with something
that isn’t a big ugly PC. The Micro ATX case helps a bunch, but what do you do with
the monitor and keyboard? My real home system uses IR remote control, which is a possibility,
but the new system also supports using a PocketPC as a controller. At work I use a Toshiba
with built-in wireless as the test for remote control, and it works great,
but I’m not going to use a $500 PPC to control a $330 music system. I needed something
cheaper. I decided to forgo the wireless and bought a reconditioned Toshiba e310 on
ebay for $125, and I’ll use that in the cradle as a remote control (I hope. I think
I can get this to work over the USB, but I haven’t actually tried it yet).

Bike Fit

August 6, 2003 at 4:59 pm


I’ve been riding my bicycle a fair bit in past months, and I’ve been having some comfort
problems. The first hour is fine, the second hour elbows hurt and my feet and hands
fall asleep (and my butt hurts). The third and fourth hours are more and the same.

I’m planning on doing a metric century (100 KM) in September, which will put me on
the bike for 6-7 hours, so I needed to address the comfort issue. I made an appointment
with Erik Moen, a physical therapist who works at Seattle’s Pro Sports Club (many
Microsoft people belong to the Bellevue Pro Sports
). He came highly recommended as “the great guy” by a friend I have who rides

So, Tuesday morning I drove into Seattle, and wheeled my bike in for the fit. The
nice thing about going to a physical therapist for a bike fit is that he can consider
modifications to either the bike or to the body. My expectation was that I would be
shopping for a new bike when I was done, or at least some new components. Another
big advantage is that it’s considered a physical therapy visit, so I didn’t have to
pay for the session. Ka-Ching!

The session starts with the usual medical history questions, and then a questionaire
about my bike-riding tendencies. Except for marking “spinner” instead of “cruiser”,
I’m pretty much on the lightweight side of all the questions. My session with Erik
then began.

Erik is a really nice guy, and he started by doing an evaluation of my body mechanics
and flexibility. That took about 15 minutes. We then went to oneĀ of the studios
and put my bike on a trainer for measurements. This starts with static measurements
of the bike (seat highet, difference between bar and saddle height, reach to brake
hoods, stem length, seat setback, and crank length). While he did this I watched and
generally got in the way.

Next are the rider on bike measurements, which include the trunk angle (37 degrees),
distance between elbows and knee, knee angles, and a few others I’ve forgot). My seat
was too far tipped forward (moved it back one notch), and my bars were too low (raised
them 1cm and tilted them back). Saddle height was good, as we my cleat placement.

We then worked on position, to see if I could get the handlebar inline with the stem.
He adjusted me on the bike to the position he thought I should be in, and found that
overall, things were set up pretty well for me.

The problem was that I wasn’t actually in that position, due to some inflexibility
in my hamstrings and back (there’s a note about a “probable ham challenge” on my fit
sheet, but I don’t think that’s about lunch).

His prescription:

1) New shoes to replace my very old Shimano ones

2) Stick with SPD cleats, as they’re more practical for my use

3) Insoles (superfeet or biosoft inserts) to make my feet happier

4) A number of trunk and hamstring stretching exercises to stretch my legs and cure
me of the “software slouch”.

5) A recheck in October

Overall, a very worthwhile hour. Interesting that the bike setup is fine, it’s the
rider setup that needs some work. I knew I had crappy hamstring flexibility (too much
soccer, not enough stretching), but the back part is a new one. I’m going to ask my
group to tell me to “sit up straight” if they see me slouching.

I was going to ride this morning but felt to sick, but I’m hoping to get in a few
miles tonight. I’ll post again with my impressions of the adjustments.