Sunday, November 18, 2012

So... Beck...

Ignoring the fact that there actually is a band named Beck.  This is entirely about the anime of the same name, which I've been watching at CAINE's weekly showings.  Our next showing contains the final three episodes, and this post will hopefully explain why I won't miss the series at all.

So in the beginning some kind of unimportant stuff happens where you just get to cringe at how stupid the show's main character, Yukio, is.  You think it's all going to be over once you actually start hearing the name "Beck" being thrown around when people are actually talking about a band.  This is also because there's a dog in the series that's named "Beck", and that's where the name of the band came from.

They play a few concerts and get their name out there.  So, smooth sailing, right?  Well, another stupid thing pops up.  It's the same deal whenever anyone first hears of them.  "Beck?  That's a stupid name for a band."  EVERY.  FUCKING.  TIME.

That's not that big of a deal though, because you thought Yukio was done being an idiot?  HahahahahahaNO.  Every time you think he couldn't possibly be any stupider, he breaks his previous stupidity record with flying colors.

Basically, there's this girl named Maho, and if Yukio wasn't a giant fucking retard he'd realize that she'd totally get in his pants if he wasn't a giant fucking retard.  They get along so well, then without fail he always does something to screw it up.  Every time.  Hell, she even promises him at one point that if he wins an event in his school's swim team competition that she'll do anything he wants, and even though he wins the event, he remains completely oblivious to what she meant.  Seriously.

The swim team?  What the fuck does swimming have to do with an anime that's about a band?  Well, there's this old guy, Mr. Saitou, who's generally a creep but is a really good swimmer and also happens to play the guitar.  He provides our resident retard Yukio with guitar lessons, a guitar to use until he can buy his own, and critiques his swimming at the local pool.  Honestly, you could take the swimming out of the series and it wouldn't lose anything.  Mr. Saitou later gains the affections of Yukio's teacher, and all but disappears.

So eventually they get a record deal.  With an American label.  Who tells them that the name "Beck" is no good in the States.  Rather than coming up with something else, they just let the label make up a name.  Which happens to be "Mongolian Chop Squad".  Add to that that the record deal doesn't give them any royalties.  So even though the album does pretty well, they get no money out of it.  Point, fucking where?  Nowhere.

For a show that's supposed to be about a group of people who start a band and try to rise to stardom, it has quite a lot of completely unrelated shit happening.  There's always setback after setback.  They can't go an episode without pissing someone off, it seems.  The grand motherfucker of pissing someone off comes up later on in the series when it's revealed that another character, Ryosuke, stole the guitar he plays, named Prudence, as well as the dog named Beck.  The original owner of the guitar tracks him down, and has goons beat the shit out of him before taking him away in a fucking helicopter that they landed in his front yard, all to end with Ryosuke playing blues guitar with him.

Then this music festival comes up and you'd think for once Beck could get its shit together for just one story arc, but no, everything falls apart there too.

I...  I don't even think it's worth mentioning anymore, to be honest.  It's not a series that's really worth anyone's attention.  If you want a series about people getting together and starting a band with the goal of trying to rise to stardom, just fucking watch K-On!.  Even if you absolutely hate moeblob anime, it'll be more enjoyable than Beck.  There's more of the "people playing music" thing and the random extra stuff is at least funny.  Yui may be an idiot, but she's a fucking genius in comparison to Yukio.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Logitech G930 Wireless Headset

So, the $20 Altec Lansing headset I bought at Best Buy seven years ago has been developing its fair share of issues lately, from the foam padding falling off, to the inline volume control causing static or a stereo channel dropout if nudged the wrong way, so I figured it was time for a replacement.

A friend of mine put together a computer a couple years ago and after doing so bought a Logitech G930 wireless headset, and pretty much had nothing but good stuff to say about it, so I grabbed one for myself off of Newegg.


The G930 is large and weighs more than your average pair of headphones.  Fortunately, this isn't too noticeable while wearing them, as the foam padding around the earpieces and across the headband helps keep them in the right place.  The earpiece padding messes with my glasses, though, and makes me feel like they're not in the right place, which makes me constantly adjust both my glasses and the headset.

In terms of how the weight of the G930 affects practical usage, let's just say you may want to get a straw for that soda, because if you tip your head backwards there's a fairly certain chance that the headset will fall off your head.


Rather than your standard headphones, which just place a speaker up against your ear directly, the G930's earpieces fully encompasses the ear.  This contributes to their size, but also does a decent job of blocking out background noise.

The left earpiece is also home to the controls and the microphone boom.  The microphone boom can be rotated into place, or up out of the way.  When it's rotated up out of the way, it automatically mutes itself.  The boom can be adjusted even further to position it properly relative to your mouth, to get less distortion or whatever the technical term is.

Controls and Software

The physical controls on the left earpiece consist of a volume dial, a mute button, the power button, a switch that I'll cover in a moment, and three programmable "G keys".  The included software allows you to configure the "G keys" to control a variety of multimedia software out of the box, such as iTunes, Winamp, and Windows Media Player, and you can also download plugins to add support for whatever else you might need.  I found a plugin that lets me configure them to send the Next, Previous, and Play/Pause signals from a multimedia keyboard, and thus control Foobar2000.

The switch on the left earpiece toggles the G930's 7.1 surround sound mode.  If used with a regular stereo signal, it will apply some effects to it and have the sound coming from all channels, which in my experience seems to work better for music than voice.  With voice, it sounds more like you're in a lecture hall, where the person talking has a microphone, and the acoustics aren't quite right so there's some reverb.  Disabling the 7.1 mode puts everything back to plain old stereo.

I was worried that it would be confusing as to where everything was on the left earpiece, since it's impossible to see it without taking off the headset, but everything seems to be intuitively placed and hard to accidentally press.

The software affords a range of configuration options, from an equalizer to three different volume sliders.  One volume slider is for the headphone volume, the second is for the microphone volume, and the third controls "Sidetone" volume.  "Sidetone" allows you to hear what's coming in through the microphone, which I guess can be useful, but I prefer to turn it off.

The equalizer has a simple mode that has a slider for treble and a slider for bass, but you can enable the advanced mode and get more sliders for specific frequency ranges, allowing you to more finely tune the sound that comes out of the headphones.  This is handy because the headphones have decent bass, but sound incredibly tinny at the same time.

There's also a surround sound mixer, that lets you fine-tune the volume level of each 7.1 surround channel.  Note that if the 7.1 surround is off you will only be able to adjust the regular stereo channels.  Amusingly, the volume levels go up to 11.

The software also has a few different voice morphing modes.  I don't really know how much use anyone will ever get out of these in a practical setting, but they're fun to play around with.

Connectivity and Battery

The G930 comes with a USB charging cord that wraps up into a round base unit that has a USB port on it.  This USB port is primarily useful for plugging in the headset's USB transceiver, so that with one USB port on your computer you can both use the headset and charge its battery simultaneously.

The battery ships with a minimal charge and takes upwards of six hours to charge initially, during which time the G930 can still be used.  Once fully charged, the software claims an eight hour battery life.  The included software has an option to provide notice that the battery is getting low both as an audible notice and as a system tray notice.  Either or both of these can be toggled off if you so choose.

The specifications claim a usable wireless range of up to 40 feet.  I would place emphasis on the "up to" in that phrase, because in my house I can barely get over 25 feet, which isn't enough to let me mill about the kitchen to get myself a snack while listening to music.  I have the same issue with wireless game controllers, so it's most definitely an RF limitation and not a limitation specific to this one device.

Completely unlisted anywhere, and not configurable in the provided software, is the G930's automatic power-off feature.  This serves to save the battery life by shutting off the headset when the software thinks it's not in use.  Though I haven't encountered it, people across the internet have complained that it can occasionally power off while you're using it.

Also, since the headset installs as its own separate audio input/output device, independent of your sound card, if the application you're choosing allows you, you can choose to send some audio to the headphones and other audio to your speakers.  One thing I'm surprised about is that the driver/software doesn't automatically swap your system's default output device back to your sound card when you unplug the USB transceiver.  If this issue is OS-specific, I'm running Windows XP SP3 32-bit.


The Logitech G930 Wireless Headset is an excellent choice if you're looking for a headset.  It's relatively easy to set up and use, and provides a decent range of configuration options and intuitive features.  While I wish its battery life was a bit longer, it's decent enough that you can use it off and on during the day and then charge it overnight.  The MSRP is $160, but if you look around the internet you can find it for around $120 instead.  If you need yourself a headset, you could definitely do far worse.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012