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September 25, 2006

New Toy

I've decided to pick up the guitar again. I've owned a classical guitar for about 10 years, and took lessons for a while. I didn't stick with it because my teacher wasn't very good, and the classical guitar is more difficult to learn than the electric (in my opinion).

So, I decided to purchase an electric guitar and amplifier. I decided on a Fender Stratocaster HH and a Vox AD30VT amplifier. The Stratocaster HH uses dual humbucker pickups instead of the standard three singles. This supposedly results in a "fatter" or warmer sound. My reason for choosing this configuration was purely aesthetic, however. The HH models use a black pick guard instead of the standard white, and I liked the way the black looked against the Electron Blue finish I chose. I chose the Vox AD30VT not only because Vox has a good reputation, but also because it uses both analog amplificaton and digital effects. The AD30VT is a "modeling" amplifier, as it can model different types of amps, depending on the sound you want. It also has a suite of standard effects (chorus, flanger, phaser etc.), so you don't have to go out and buy a slew of effects pedals.

My interest in the guitar piqued again for a couple of reasons. First, I bought a digital piano for my wife earlier this year. She has picked up her piano skills (she played as a child) and has really been enjoying the piano. I have a strong music background as well, having played both the piano, French horn and mellophone in my youth. Getting the piano re-awakened my interest in music again. Second, both of my brothers play guitar. So, I have a ready resource for questions and tips.

I've really enjoyed playing around with the guitar and the effects on the amp. My next challenge is to find a guitar teacher worth his salt. Hopefully I can find someone who will challenge me and teach me the instrument properly.

September 08, 2006

Bah - LCD Woes

How frustrating. My Inspiron 9300 notebook, which has been rock-solid for 18 months, exhibited its first problem today. I installed the first EQ2 expansion pack on my notebook today. Everything proceeded normally, as one would expect with a standard software installation. However, once the installer had finished, I noticed a red vertical line extending from top to bottom of the notebook screen roughly 6 cm from the right edge. Thinking it was just an artifact of the installer (the installer uses a red background throughout), I rebooted. To my dismay, the red line was still there. I tried several utilities for stuck pixels, and the line remained.

So, it looks like I'm stuck with a flaky LCD. The warranty for the notebook expired in March of this year (I didn't purchase the extended warranty, regrettably), so I can't get it replaced without shelling out $500. It looks like I can pick up a new WUXGA display for around $300, so that may be an option at some point.

The good news is that the red line is off to the right side of the panel. And, it doesn't appear on white backgrounds. So, most of the time I don't even notice it. I can live with it, provided it doesn't get worse. We'll see.

Update -10.03.2006:

The problem just got worse. In addition to the vertical red line on the right side, there is now a band of semi-dead pixels about 5cm wide on the left side of the panel. The band has an interlaced look to it, as if half of the pixels aren't working properly. Looks like I may have to replace the panel after all.

Update - 12.09.2006:

Looks like I'm not alone in my panel troubles. A number of Inspiron 9300 users are experiencing vertical bands of dead or stuck pixels like I have. One user has set up a web site to document all of the problems. I'm investigating the possibility of replacing the panel with a lower-resolution (WXGA+) model.