Monday, February 19, 2007

Playing the bass guitar

I've been shopping around for a nice electric bass guitar for the past few months. Just searching Craigslist and visiting local music stores to get an idea of what feels nice. A month ago I found a really nice Ibanez bass at my local music shop. It was on sale and went back twice to test the bass out, just to make sure it was the one I wanted. After playing the bass more on the second trip really found it wasn’t as great as I thought. The strings buzz slightly and for the money I could find something better.

A few weeks later I was visiting another local music shop and asked the owner for any cheap basses. He showed me a few, first was a no name brand Fender P-bass copy in sunburst for $99. The bass played really nice, felt very solid and had pretty good weight to it. The only slight downside to the bass was the sharp frets on the neck, but I think a simple setup could have fixed this issue.

The second bass I played was a used Ibanez Roadstar II from 1985 and was selling for $100. It was in used condition but still felt nice and broken in. The frets were smooth and only had slight wear to the bass, also it was made in Japan, something rare these days. So instead of the new bass for $99 I choose the used bass for $100.

After taking it home I felt the strings were too soft sounding. They were flatwounds and when playing don’t have the loud sound but a more soft jazzy sound. After a new set of strings the bass sounded great. Unfortunately I only had to listen to the bass through my headphones on a guitar amp.

Last week I finally bought a real bass amp, a small 75 watt Line 6 Studio 110. It’s actually very loud and for my needs is great. Also sounds much better in the headphones than my guitar amp did.

So after getting everything I needed I started to search around for bass instructions on the web. Here’s some that I found.

Fender Players Club bass lessons (decent amount of lessons for beginners to advanced players).

Active Bass (Lots of lessons and information about playing bass).

Guitar Noise Bass for Beginners Lessons (Good basic lessons on bass).


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Gateway 24" widescreen monitor

Recently I've been looking for a monitor with a larger desktop than my current 19" LCD monitor. When I upgraded to an LCD monitor I was used to running high resolutions, typically 1600x1200 on a 19" CRT. On my notebook I also have a slightly higher resolution at 1400x1050, which is great for a 15" screen. The problem I ran into was the standard 19" LCDs where all in a low resolution of 1280x1024. Now this size is great for general use but found in applications with many windows or menus bars, it made the desktop very cluttered.

After the prices started to come down on 19" LCDs I bought a second monitor to run with the first one on my computer. Soon I was able to run an application in full screen while keeping another screen open for web browsing or typing notes. One problem with this configuration is gaming, for some reason most games had a problem running in Windowed mode, and the ones that did run had a much larger performance hit than running on one desktop.

So I switched back to one monitor and decided to wait until the 20" or 22" widescreen monitors dropped in price. In the past few months I saw the price of the of Dell 2407WFP 24" and the Gateway FPD2485W 24" monitors slowly lower to $680. Still too high but saw a web only pricing for the Gateway at a local electronics dealer and thought it was a good price. So hours later I was testing out the monitoring at home.

Just as soon as I got the monitor hooked up I installed the drivers and downloaded a few updated files for World of Warcraft. Running late for a dungeon run I didn't change the default settings on the monitor. After about 2 hours of playing, I was glad to say the monitor was actually very easy to change. I saw little if any decreased video performance jumping from the previous 1280x1024 to the higher 1920x1200. When taking a screenshot I did not a lag longer than before but after I checked the file sizes, each screen shot increased from 2.5mb to 5mb in size.

While it might not seem like a huge differnce in width from 1280 to 1920, it's an amazing amount of added view. Below is a screenshot from the dungeon, if you have played WoW before you know just how cluttered the gaming view can get, you need all of the extra desktop you can get.

One of the biggest selling points for me on this monitor is the ability to use HDTV, component, and composite inputs. Now I can remove my old tube tv and save some space as well as get a better picture. :) Tonight I'll test the monitor with my Playstation 2 using the component cables to see the quality difference on this monitor from my CRT television. I don't own any new game consoles or HD-DVD players so for now the PS2 will have to do.

Of course there are some problems with any item, this monitor not excluding. I found that while the colors were very bright and clear, there was a slight ghosting with very fast gaming movements. Only noticed this when I was actually looking for it, didn't bother me during actual gaming. Also with the overall size of the 24" monitor, the stand to hold it is larger than regular sized monitors. On my small home styled desk space is always an issue and lost some space with the larger stand but it's not a major issue.

Overall for the money, this is a nice monitor. For a multimedia system this monitor would make a nice mix with Media Center version of Windows, or any system with high resolution display. For a business solution, again this is good monitor since you can view two full pages side by side. Just personally but I perfer one larger monitor as to two smaller monitors. For the average pc gamer I think this is a good monitor but some of the faster games might not look as great. It's a trade off for the lower pricing, which I'm willing to accept.

Personal rating 4.5/5


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Grind to 60, or is it 70?

For the past year I've been on and off playing World of Warcraft, the popular MMORPG game. My main character is a undead female warlock with various lower level characters. Since starting this character last year I have taken time away from the game for school and work. Also while playing the game I like to explore the game world myself and not rely on game maps or web sites for hints.

After a few nights of wondering where that special animal or quest location is at I started to get very frustrated with this game (as you can tell I'm not good with maps). Not to mention I was moving so slowly up the levels it felt like I was taking forever.

After realizing just how slow this process is for leveling I decided to change my playing style using more help from guide books and leveling walk throughs. In the past few weeks I've been making a not so slow pace from 36 to my current level 49. I spend about 2~3 hours a few nights a week and at this pace I should be at 60 in a few weeks.

While 70 is the level cap, many friends say that at 60 you get to explore the new content which is more interesting to me than actually just getting max level. I would have really liked to see more new areas for mid level people like myself, such as a new dungeon or questing in a new land. Currently at level 49 the grind has become easier, I'm making a decent amount of gold each day but it's still hard to get to the top. Guess that's way they call it a grind. :)

Just for the people new to World of Warcraft here's some helpful web sites I've used in the past.

General Help (Information about World of Warcraft).

Questing Help (Both sites have quest information and item locations with maps for each).

Quest leveling walkthrough (If you want to level the fastest to 70).

World of Warcraft UI's (custom UI's for making the game easier such as maps, buttons).

Learning to play the bass.

I've been playing the guitar and learning basic chords, got a few down but I still need a lot of practice. Recently in the past few months I've been very interested in learning to play the bass guitar. It's hard to describe but the bass guitar is very different from the guitar in more ways that just tone or sound. The bass feels like you are playing a percussion instrument, like a drum set, where the guitar feels like you are singing or in a lead position of the music.

In the few months of playing I enjoy the guitar but it didn't feel right for some reason. Then I tried out a few bass guitars at the music shop and really liked the feeling of keeping a beat and deep low end sound. Just personally, I like drums and funk sounding beats from the late 70's like Sly and the Family Stone type stuff. It's different from a regular guitar, the strings are very thick, the bass guitar feels huge to a regular guitar and you usually play with your fingers than a pick but it's still a fun instrument to play.