Micropore Refresh

In 2008 I purchased a pair of Julbo Micropore glacier glasses from Opticus. This was before PRK, so I needed prescription lenses.

At that time, Opticus was the main (perhaps only) supplier of prescription glacier glasses for the US Antarctic Program and Raytheon Polar Services. Opticus sent me the frames with the prescription lenses installed, but included the uninstalled standard Julbo lenses in the package.

After my surgical shine job I installed the standard lenses, but still did not get back into the habit of wearing the Micropore glasses. They had quite a few miles on them by then. Both the nose pads and the rubber covers on ear hooks at the end of the temple arms were torn up, which diminished their comfort. And outside of deployments under Special Circumstances – like being on a glacier (do they still have those?) – the Micropores are not as functional as my Rudy Rydons. They fail to meet my simple sunglass criteria. Yet they are fun to wear, and unlike sports-wrap style spectacles like the Rydons, the Micropores fold down flat (more so if you do not have the leather side shields installed, as I usually do not). That is attractive for travel when you want to be able to store your spectacles without taking up a lot of space in a bag.

Julbo Micropore

Julbo discontinued the Micropores I-don’t-know-how-many years ago. I think the modern equivalent is the Julbo Cham. But I recently learned that Julbo still offers spare Micropore parts. When I saw that, I jumped at the chance to refresh my pair. I purchased new temple arms, a new nose pad, and a new nose bridge.

I couldn’t actually figure out how to remove the old nose bridge. But once I removed everything that was obviously removable, I was able to clean my original nose bridge and decided that I didn’t actually need to replace that part (and my old one was already sanitized). The temple arms and nose pad were simple to replace.

The aggressive curve of the ear-hooks on this style of spectacles does not work well with the cable retention I use on the Rydons. Nor is such a thing necessary to keep them on your face – those big hooks keep them secure. But I do like the option of having some sort of lanyard so that I can drop the glasses and let them hang around my neck. This is especially useful given that the lenses are not photochromic. The Micropores originally came with a simple nylon cord, but I don’t know what happened to that. Now I am using a Chums Tech Cord. It is an injection molded piece of silicone, and about as simple as it gets. I like it.

Julbo Micropore and Chums Tech Cord

The Micropores remain inferior to the Rydons, but I’m enjoying wearing them again intermittently. It is pleasing to be able to buy new components and rebuild old equipment. Eventually I may get custom cut lenses.

Literata Book

My preferred e-reader font is Literata Book.

For the past two years I’ve used a Kobo Libra 2. Installing fonts onto the Kobo is a simple matter of copying the files to the fonts directory, though it is picky about the filenames. I install the bold, bold italic, italic, and regular variants.

Other fonts I have installed are: the standard Literata, Atkinson Hyperlegible, and Bitter Pro. But I use Literata Book most often.

$ ls -1 /media/KOBOeReader/fonts
AtkinsonHyperlegible-BoldItalic.otf
AtkinsonHyperlegible-Bold.otf
AtkinsonHyperlegible-Italic.otf
AtkinsonHyperlegible-Regular.otf
BitterPro-BoldItalic.ttf
BitterPro-Bold.ttf
BitterPro-Italic.ttf
BitterPro-Regular.ttf
Literata-BoldItalic.ttf
Literata-Bold.ttf
LiterataBook-BoldItalic.otf
LiterataBook-Bold.otf
LiterataBook-Italic.otf
LiterataBook-Regular.otf
Literata-Italic.ttf
Literata-Regular.ttf

I uploaded an archive of the fonts.

Kobo Libra 2, Literata Book

Link Log 2024-07-16

UNIX: Making Computers Easier To Use

Indirect Imaging, Elevators Gone Wild, Backlight Cosmology

OpenSSL get entire certificate chain from a domain or loop over entire chain in file

Return of a King: Talk by Mr William Dalrymple

Results of gun care product evaluation

Tennessee Beach

Night Run

I began running at night last autumn. I referred to them as “night runs” but this phrase was mostly aspirational, as I would usually take off around 18:00, or shortly thereafter. But it was dark, and that was the point.

I found that I enjoyed running through the dark, sometimes through city streets, other times down wooded trails, solitary in my small forcefield of light. I’ve seen all sorts of wildlife: raccoons, coyotes, Donald Trump’s motorcade. I once ran by a guy valiantly attempting to blow on a didgeridoo while playing death metal on his phone.

San Francisco Night

This year, as the days lengthened, my late afternoon runs started to become light enough to not require a headlamp. That was no fun, so in the spring I rescheduled my runs to start around 21:30 – sometimes as early as 21:00 if I’m heading up Twin Peaks and want to catch the metropolitan alpenglow. Now they are actually night runs.

Golden Gate Night

Wherein the Author Learns to Compact Borg Archives

I noticed that my Borg directory on The Cloud was 239 GB. This struck me as problematic, as I could see in my local logs that Borg itself reported the deduplicated size of all archives to be 86 GB.

A web search revealed borg compact, which apparently I have been meant to run manually since 2019. Oops. After compacting, the directory dropped from 239 GB to 81 GB.

My borg wrapper script now looks like this:

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#!/bin/sh
source ~/.keys/borg.sh
export BORG_REPO='borg-rsync:borg/nous'
export BORG_REMOTE_PATH='borg1'

# Create backups
echo "Creating backups..."
borg create --verbose --stats --compression=lz4             \
    --exclude ~/projects/foo/bar/baz                        \
    --exclude ~/projects/xyz/bigfatbinaries                 \
    ::'{hostname}-{user}-{utcnow:%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S}'        \
    ~/documents                                             \
    ~/projects                                              \
    ~/mail                                                  \
    # ...etc

# Prune
echo "Pruning backups..."
borg prune --verbose --list --glob-archives '{hostname}-{user}-*'   \
    --keep-within=1d                                                \
    --keep-daily=14                                                 \
    --keep-weekly=8                                                 \
    --keep-monthly=12                                               \

# Compact
echo "Compacting repository..."
backitup                                \
    -p 604800                           \
    -l ~/.borg_compact-repo.lastrun     \
    -b "borg compact --verbose"         \

# Check
echo "Checking repository..."
backitup -a                                                         \
    -p 172800                                                       \
    -l ~/.borg_check-repo.lastrun                                   \
    -b "borg check --verbose --repository-only --max-duration=1200" \

echo "Checking archives..."
backitup -a                                             \
    -p 259200                                           \
    -l ~/.borg_check-arch.lastrun                       \
    -b "borg check --verbose --archives-only --last 18" \

Other than the addition of a weekly compact, my setup is the same as it ever was.

Working with ACSM Files on Linux

I acquire books from various OverDrive instances. OverDrive provides an ACSM file, which is not a book, but instead an XML ticket meant to be exchanged for the actual book file – similar to requesting a book in meatspace by turning in a catalog card to a librarian. Adobe Digital Editions is used to perform this exchange. As one would expect from Adobe, this software does not support Linux.

Back in 2013 I setup a Windows 7 virtual machine with Adobe Digital Editions v2.0.1.78765, which I used exclusively for turning ACSM files into EPUB files. A few months ago I was finally able to retire that VM thanks to the discovery of libgourou, which is both a library and a suite of utilities that can be used to work with ACSM files.

To use, I first register an anonymous account with Adobe.

$ adept_activate -a

Next I export the private key that the files will be encrypted to.

$ acsmdownloader --export-private-key

This key can then be imported into the DeDRM_tools plugin of Calibre.

Whenever I receive an ACSM file, I can just pass it to the acsmdownloader utility from libgourou.

$ acsmdownloader -f foobar.acsm

This spits out the EPUB, which may be imported into my standard Calibre library.

YubiKey Replacement

Since I began using a YubiKey for PGP operations in 2015, I’ve always kept a spare YubiKey locked away with my USB Armory, in case the one on my keychain failed. While performing my annual key renewal this month I decided it was time to switch to the spare YubiKey. My old one still works, but it often takes a few attempts to read.

YubiKey NEO

Both YubiKeys are 9 years old. But one has spent those 9 years locked away, while the other spent every day of those 9 years in my pocket (and saw repeated use on most of those days). The new one always works on the first attempt, and it fits into USB ports with a comforting amount of friction. The old one had been worn down so much that it often just falls out of ports if it isn’t being held in. (My calipers measure the front contact area of the old YubiKey at 2.26mm thick, where the new one is 2.40mm.) I’m glad to know that YubiKeys can reliably work for nigh a decade, but next time maybe I’ll start to think about replacing this one after around 5 years of EDC rather than 10.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that modern versions of GnuPG are happy to use different cards for the same key, so you no longer need to delete keygrip files when switching cards.

Hafny FR03 Jones Bar Mirror

I tried a few different mirrors on my Jones Loop H-Bars.

The D+D Oberlauda UltraLite Bike Mirror mounted underneath the bars just before the weld worked decently, but the mirror’s clamp is annoying when you want to rest your hand on top of that part of the bar.

Oberlauda UltraLite Mirror

After further trials, I developed a preference for the Hafny HF-M951B-FR03. This opinion is shared by others.

The FR03 uses the same high quality glass and mount as the FR06 model Hafny on my road bike, but the two models have slight differences. The mirror of the FR03 is round, where the FR06 has a subtle teardrop shape. The bracket which connects the FR03 to the bar plug attaches to the edge of the mirror, where on the FR06 the bracket attaches in the center of the rear of the mirror. These differences make the FR03 better suited to flat bars, and the FR06 better suited to drop bars.

Rear View Tamalpais

A bike with Jones bar is a wide load, and a bar-end mirror makes it even wider. I compensate for this by only having a left-side mirror, which gets the job done. I also keep the adjustment bolt loose enough that I can tilt the mirror into the bars if I’m squeezing through a narrow passage.

Link Log 2024-06-03

Merchandizing the Void

Ben Pobjoy’s Tips for Long Walks

A love letter to bicycle maintenance and repair

Baghdad Bus: The Crazy 1930s Off-Road Desert Bus with a Kitchen & Beds

The obscure federal intelligence bureau that got Vietnam, Iraq, and Ukraine right

OTB

Link Log 2024-05-07

I travel full time for work and live in motels. Had to put a little kit together for my tea gear!

A Few Notes on the Culture

Saunders Militaria

Soft Electronics

Parachute Mobile HF jump

The Bicycles of World War II

The Man Whose Sound Systems Make You Feel Like You’re On Psychedelics

Devon Turnbull / HiFi Pursuit Listening Room Dream No. 2

Henson AL13

Last July I purchased a Henson AL13 razor. I’ve been using my Feather AS-D2 since 2018, and remain pleased with it, but I wanted something lighter weight to travel with. The Feather AS-D2 weighs 91 grams. The Henson AL13 weighs 39 grams.

When I first got the Henson I used it for a week or two, and then used the Feather for a week or two, and then returned to the Henson. I continued going back and forth like this for about 4 months. I couldn’t decide which I liked better. The experience of using both is a bit different – each presents the edge of the blade at a slightly different angle, necessitating that the handle be held at a different angle against the face and neck, and the significant weight difference between the two causes some difference in the feel of the action – but once you make a few passes with either and understand how it wants to be used, the quality of the shave (and the required number of passes) is the same.

Stating that they perform the same is a huge compliment to the Henson. The Feather AS-D2 costs $170. The Henson AL13 provides the same performance for $70.

For the past 6 months I have only used the Henson. I load it with Feather blades.

Fu Shou Shan

This year I’ve mostly been drinking Fu Shou Shan.

It is a Formosa oolong tea, on the lighter end of the oxidation spectrum, which gives it a creamy and buttery taste that is somewhat reminiscent of a green tea. In the way that Snow Dragon blurs the boundary between green and white, Fu Shou Shan blurs the boundary between green and oolong. I seem to be going interstitial with my tea. Liminal, even.

I bought a little bit to try in January, and then in February braved the Lunar New Year crowds in Chinatown to procure a larger supply. I’ve been drinking it regularly since. Now that the weather is warming up, I will begin to bring the fruitier Mi Lan Xiang back into rotation – I’m especially looking forward to cold brew on hot days – but Fu Shou Shan will stay on the menu.

There aren't that many rocks, they said.

Pine Mountain Fire Road

It isn’t too difficult, they said.

San Geronimo Ridge Road

You’ll be home before sunset, they said.

Golden Gate Sunset

Link Log 2024-04-19

Personal Best

People Person

In Praise of Buttons - Part Two

The Loss of Things I Took for Granted

A Free Download Now and Forever: ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’

Dominion (Heartworms, 2024)

Beach Babes

Expanding the Fleet

In 2011 I visited R+E Cycles and ordered a custom Rodriguez bicycle. Since 2013 this had been my only vehicle. For the past decade or so I’ve been thinking about what a second bike may look like.

This year I decided I was finally ready to make a move. In the beginning of January I called R+E (once you’ve had them build one bicycle there’s little motivation to look elsewhere) and relayed my dreams. After two or three weeks of hashing out the build, I placed my deposit. 6 weeks later they shipped me a new bike.

Twin Peaks Baby Steps

Back in 2011 I was interested in a bike that could take me on any road. So it made sense for the second vehicle to be one that didn’t need roads. If it was 1994 this would easily be classified as a mountain bike. In 2024, the industry uses that term to refer to something completely different, and I have no idea what they would call this type of build.

The wheels are 26”, with a SON 28 dynamo hub in the front and a Rohloff SPEEDHUB in the rear. The frame is the same Reynolds 725 as my road bike, and in the same size, but with all the extra bits needed for a purpose-built Rohloff frame. Jones Loop H-Bars give me a range of positions.

Eldridge

This past summer, when I decided that I was ready to start thinking more seriously about a second bike, I first asked myself if I would rather spend money on my existing bike. If I had an unlimited budget, what would I change? And the answer was nothing. There may be some minor components I’d be interested in experimenting with here and there, but that bike is basically the idealized expression of everything I think a road bike should be. It took 12 years to get to that point. I’ll spend the next 12 years perfecting this one.

Link Log 2024-03-18

Jackals, False Grails: Nothing is fake when everything is information

It’s All Ball Bearings: Chris King Precision Components Factory Visit

Factionality and the Rise of the Single-Interest American

Varda Capsule Reentry - Full Video from LEO to Earth

Aquamira: Why we like it, and how we use it

Blacked out lens markings

Welcome to KEXP Bay Area

Davies Hall, Prometheus: The Poem of Fire

The Elusive Triple Crank

I broke the drive-side crank on my New Albion XDT crankset. I have strong legs.

New Albion XDT Crank Break

The crankset was only 5 years old. I don’t track distance, so I don’t know what sort of mileage it had – more than 10,000 miles and less than 100,000, on a healthy mixture of pavement and dirt – but it is certainly too new for these sorts of shenanigans.

New Albion is one of the many brands of local company Merry Sales. They are responsible for bringing a number of Japanese bicycle components to the American market, and are usually associated with quality equipment. The New Albion XDT is basically a clone of the Sugino XD – made from the same molds, in the same factory, out of the same 6061 aluminum. I also have a lot of miles on an actual Sugino XD (and I put an old one back on after this break so I could limp around town while deciding on a more permanent fix). I’ve never had any problems with that crank. So I’m prepared to accept that this was just a fluke, and it probably would not happen again, but I still wanted to replace it with something I could have more confidence in.

Unfortunately the dystopian hellscape that is the modern bicycle industry means square taper triple cranks are few and far between.

Fortunately Rivendell is still fighting the good fight. The best option I found was their Silver crank. These are made of 7075 aluminum, and Rivendell claims that they pass the EN 14766 mountain bike fatigue standard. They use a 110 BCD for the middle and outer rings, and 74 BCD for the inner. That makes them compatible with any triple chainrings a reasonable connoisseur would want to use.

I bought their full triple crankset with 44x34x24 chainrings. But as I was waiting for it to ship, I sat staring at my broken New Albion crankset and decided that its 48x36x26 chainrings were all still in pretty good shape (if in need of a cleaning). And while I was prepared to try Rivendell’s gearing, I do really like the big 48 ring for flying down mountain roads, and I’ve never really felt like I need anything lower than a 26 granny gear on this bike. So when the Silver crankset arrived, I broke it apart, stored its chainrings for later use, and installed the (cleaned) rings from the New Albion.

The Silver seems to have a slightly wider Q factor than a Sugino or any of its clones. I run a Phil Wood bottom bracket with a 113mm spindle, just like God intended. After slapping on the Silver, I was getting some chain rub on the big chainring when in the two outermost sprockets on the cassette. I was able to adjust the derailleur to account for this, but that makes me think that a couple millimeter shorter spindle would be needed to maintain the same Q factor as I had before. The difference is minor enough that I don’t notice it when actually pedalling. It rides great. And it looks pretty good too.

Rivendell Silver Crank

The other options that turned up in my search all disappointed in one way or another.

The Velo Orange Grand Cru 110 is pretty, but they recommend a 124mm bottom bracket. I didn’t want to buy a new bottom bracket.

The Rene Herse Triple is pretty and passes the EN 14781 racing bike fatigue standard (which I’m guessing is lesser than the mountain bike standard), but is prohibitively expensive, and they too recommend a wider bottom bracket. Their instructions also state that “if you have broken cranks in the past, we recommend that you do not use lightweight components like the Rene Herse cranks.” I now belong to that rarefied coterie, so they’re not for me.

Sugino triples are still to be found here and there, but can be difficult to locate. I wanted something stronger than the 6061 aluminum of the XD, if only for my own psychological comfort. Some years ago I ran a Sugino Alpina 2 Triple. I don’t remember what kind of aluminum it was made of. I stripped the threads on the drive-side after I wore down the bearings on my previous Phil Wood bottom bracket until they were mush and rounded the spindle (they said it couldn’t be done – I took that as a challenge). So I didn’t really want another one of those.

If I had been displeased with the Silver, I would have purchased a Spa Cycles TD-2. This is another Sugino clone – made in the same factory, out of the same molds – but it is made of 2014 aluminum, so ought to be plenty strong. (It’s also a clone of the Alpina 2 rather than the XD. That means the 5th bolt is easy to access, rather than hidden behind the crank, which makes swapping around rings easier.)

But as it is I’m very happy with the Silver cranks. If you need a well designed and well built square taper triple crank – and who doesn’t – I’d say just buy one of those and be done with it. I see no reason why the cranks shouldn’t last me forever. When I need new chainrings, if I don’t want to go with the 44x34x24 gearing from Rivendell, I’ll probably buy the Spécialités T.A. rings that Spa Cycles sells. (I’m pretty anal about staying on top of chain wear, so it may be a while.)

Battery McIndoe

Elzetta Retention

As I have previously mentioned, I started out using a Prometheus Lights Titanium Pocket Clip on the Elzetta Alpha before switching to the now-discontinued Raven Pocket Clip in 2016. The O-ring provided by the Raven Pocket Clip is key to how I use the light. It allows me to release the light and use my hand for something else, without dropping the light. The clip itself is perfectly adequate, though not as tight and springy as the titanium clip.

Last summer, I decided to move back to the titanium clip, but to add my own O-ring. I basically knocked off what Retention Ring sells, just using spare bits I already had around. It consists of a little bit of Lawson Ironwire, an O-ring with 1” internal diameter, a tiny piece of heat shrink tubing, and a knot. It isn’t pretty, but it has been working great as part of my EDC for the past 8 months.

Elzetta Alpha, Prometheus Titanium Clip, DIY Retention Ring

Link Log 2024-02-23

The future of silk

Uta Genilke - Replikant

WHS’ bicycle stuff: component reviews & more

U.S. Commercial Shipbuilding in a Global Context

Magnolia

Recent Inks

Goulet Pens will sell you sample vials of ink. I took advantage of this to expand beyond my long-time staple of Noodler’s 19001 Black, without ending up with a bunch of full bottles I wasn’t going to use. Mostly I was looking for a blue. I came out the other side with two new favorites – neither of which are really blue.

Noodler’s 19808 Heart of Darkness is more black than black. It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black. It also dries relatively quickly, and writes well on the cheap paper one often encounters out and about in the world.

Noodler’s 19040 Air Corp Blue-Black isn’t really much of a blue-black. It is more of a teal-black. It’s a really pretty shade, and unique, but still subtle enough that it can be used anyplace there aren’t strict color requirements. This one also dries relatively quickly, and writes well on the vulgar paper of the unrefined. This ink loaded in my Pilot Vanishing Point is my daily writer now.

Working through all these sample vials over the last few months also caused me to move away from piston converter cartridges. I now just use standard cartridges, and refill them with a syringe and needle. This ends up being quicker, cleaner, and less hassle. It also means I can use the last little bit of ink in the container, without buying a snorkel.

The Things I Do for Time

I am a believer in the sacred word as defined in ISO 8601, and the later revelations such as RFC 3339. Numerical dates should be formatted as YYYY-MM-DD. Hours should be written in 24-hour time. I will die on this hill.

Since time immemorial, this has been accomplished on Linux systems by setting LC_TIME to the en_DK locale. More specifically, the git history for glibc shows that en_DK was added (with ISO 8601 date formatting) by Ulrich Drepper on 1997-03-05.

A few years ago, this stopped working in Firefox. Instead Firefox started to think that numerical dates were supposed to be formatted as DD/MM/YYYY, which is at least as asinine as the typical American MM-DD-YYYY format. I finally got fed up with this and decided to investigate.

The best discussion of the issue is in Thunderbird bug 1426907. Here I learned that the problem is caused by Thunderbird (and by extension Firefox) no longer respecting glibc locales. Mozilla software simply takes the name of the system locale, ignores its definition, and looks up formatting in the Unicode CLDR. The CLDR has redefined en_DK to use DD/MM/YYYY1.

The hack to address the problem was also documented in the Thunderbird bug report. The CLDR includes a definition for en_SE which uses YYYY-MM-DD2 and 24-hour time. (It also separates the time from the date with a comma, which is weird, but Sweden is weird, so I’ll allow it.) There is no en_SE locale in glibc. But it can be created by linking to the en_DK locale. This new locale can then be used for LC_TIME.

$ sudo ln -s /usr/share/i18n/locales/en_DK /usr/share/i18n/locales/en_SE
$ echo 'en_SE.UTF-8 UTF-8' | sudo tee -a /etc/locale.gen
$ sudo locale-gen
$ sed -i 's/^LC_TIME=.*/LC_TIME=en_SE.UTF-8/' /etc/locale.conf

Now anything that respects glibc locales will effectively use en_DK, albeit under a different name. Anything that uses CLDR will just see that it is supposed to use a locale named en_SE, which still results in sane formatting. Thus one can use HTML date input fields without going crazy.

Notes

  1. The Unicode specification defines this pattern as "dd/MM/y", which is rather unintuitive, but worth including here for search engines.
  2. The Unicode specification defines this pattern as "y-MM-DD".

I spent yesterday afternoon at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair.

They had first editions from everyone from William Gibson to Isaac Newton, proofs and manuscripts from Neal Stephenson and Ludwig Wittgenstein, 17th century books on witchcraft with binding that did not appear to be from livestock, and Turing’s programming manual for the Ferranti Mark 1. But the books I saw the most copies of at different booths were firsts of The Monkey Wrench Gang and Grapes of Wrath.

Antiquarian Book Fair, Monkey Wrench Gang

Many of the sellers were from London or Paris. So I find myself imagining a shadowy cabal of Parisian antiquarians, realizing that they have a show in San Francisco coming up and wondering what the Americans will buy. “J’ai trouvé!” one of them declares. “Ed Abbey and Steinbeck. They won’t be able to resist.”

Link Log 2024-01-21

2023 Rotation

How America Got Mean

The Most Important Thing

Turtle-Pac Cargo Spheroid 50

Tor censorship attempts in Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan

The Dead Flag Blues (Midjourney & Godspeed You! Black Emperor)

Intermission

Link Log 2024-01-07

To Own the Future, Read Shakespeare

2020 Qualified Military Available Study

Canned Fish Files w/ Matthew Carlson

Tales from the Afternow: Little Rocks

Best Croissant in Paris

Winter Picnic: Oolong, Chocolate, Deenz

How I Audio: Mobile Edition

I do not regularly listen to audio of any sort outside of home or the office. But I value the ability to do so, so I always carry earbuds in my bag. As with headphones, the cable is the usual failure point. The solution, once again, is modularity.

Specifically, I recommend skipping the entire consumer earbud category and going straight to “professional” in-ear monitors.

I carry Shure SE215 IEMs. These are near the bottom-end of the IEM market. I’ve heard people claim that paying hundreds, or thousands, of dollars for custom-molded IEMs is worth it. I’ve heard other people claim that the Chi-Fi market now offers IEMs that are cheaper than the SE215s and yet provide better audio quality. To my non-discerning ears, the SE215s sound great, and they satisfy my listening and comfort requirements. But more important than the specific make or model is that most products in this market segment will offer replaceable cables. The SE215s use an MMCX connector.

For portable use, I want a cable with an inline mic (and 3-button remote) so that I have the option of using it to go hands free with my pocket telephone. Shure sells IEMs with such a cable. This cable failed for me after a couple years. Fortunately, the Chinese Communist Party has realized Marx’s dream of a practically infinite supply of generic MMCX cables with inline mics for dirt cheap. I’m now using a cable I bought off AliExpress for about $10, and if I have to spend another $10 in another couple years I shan’t shed a tear. (If this was for more than occasional and incidental use, I would likely purchase something like the Antlion Kumura Cable or Kinera Gramr, but I’m not going to carry that sort of thing around in my bag just in case.)

I prefer silicone eartips when out and about in the world. They are long lasting and easy to clean. They don’t provide as much isolation as foam tips, but I consider that a feature rather than a bug; I don’t want to be cut off from the surrounding environment. (In special circumstances where I do actually want to block or diminish environmental sound, I use actual ear protection). My favorite tips are the Spinfit CP100+. The medium size feels good upon initial insertion, but I find the small size is more comfortable after a couple hours of continuous penetration.

As a general rule, I subscribe to the Kamala Harris School of Audio Peripherals, as documented in my favorite example of modern hard-hitting investigative journalism. Wireless is a trap. But I admit that there are times when a wireless connection is convenient and worth the additional hassle, however few and far between those times may be. With a modular system, this can easily be addressed by the addition of an adapter.

Originally I thought I might purchase something like the FiiO UTWS5 or Shure RMCE-TW2. But both of these utilize telephone software, which I’m allergic to, and I realized I didn’t actually understand what the sales pitch was for this new-fangled category of “true wireless” earbuds.

Instead, I ended up going back to AliExpress and purchasing a much cheaper necklace style adapter. This isn’t something I carry everyday, but it’s nice to have the option to grab it when plans warrant.

Bluetooth is the one component of the modern audio stack where the technology is still improving – or, at least, getting less bad – so using an interchangeable module here makes sense. The adapter I purchased is built on the Qualcomm QCC5181 chip, providing Bluetooth 5.4, which appears to still be the latest and greatest thing. Portable Bluetooth devices have a limited service life due to their integrated batteries, so again, modularity makes sense here. When these batteries fail, or when I determine it is worth updating to the latest chip, I just buy a new adapter rather than purchasing a whole new system. (It’d be great if we could buy adapters with replaceable batteries, but that seems to be a dream too far.)

If someday in the future I decide it is worth it to buy custom molded IEMs, I’ll just order them with an MMCX connector and they’ll be able to play nicely with my existing ecosystem of cables and adapters. This is the antithesis of the market trend and may result in the revocation of one’s listener license.

Modular, Portable Audio Rig

How I Audio: Desktop Edition

At my desk, I use open-back, circumaural, wired headphones. This technology peaked decades ago. Despite what marketers may claim, there is no reason to keep up with the flavor of the month. At home, I use the Sennheiser HD 600. At work, I use the Massdrop Sennheiser HD 6XX. These two models have some aesthetic differences, but in my experience they are identical in use. I can’t tell a difference between them when they are on my head, either in feel or in sound.

The key with both of these headphones is that they are modular. Every pair of headphones I’ve ever had fail has failed either at the cable or due to the disintegration of the padding. Both are replaceable on the Sennheiser cans. The cables and ear pads on the 600 and 6XX are interchangeable, so I only have to stock one set of spare parts. (The headband pads are different, but I wear the headphones with this pad just lightly resting on the top of my head, so those pads last indefinitely.)

I had to replace the cable on both headphones after five years of use. In both instances, I went with a generic 3-meter Chi-Fi cable from NewFantasia. It is cheaper than the official Sennheiser replacement cable, and it works great. The braided sleeve may provide some extra durability.

I replaced the ear pads in one pair after four years, and in the other pair after six years. Since ear pads can actually effect the sound, unlike the cable, I went with the official Sennheiser replacement pads.

Both my Sennheiser cans have Antlion ModMic microphones attached (one has the Uni, the other has an older discontinued model). This allows for audio calls without needing to switch to some sort of inferior, integrated solution. Boom mic or bust. Importantly, the ModMic has an integrated mute switch. This allows the microphone to be kept muted, and only made hot when actively speaking. (When not on a call, I unplug the ModMic cable.) Because it is a simple two position switch, it provides haptic feedback and thus can be toggled blindly. With this system, you don’t look like a noob trying to find the software mute button in whatever video chat software the kids are using this week, nor will you start talking without realizing that you’re still on mute. Just touch the switch with your finger and you’ll know what position it is in.

The ModMic cable and headphone cable are wrapped together in a length of Techflex Flexo F6N0.25 braided cable sleeve. This keeps the cables together, and also provides some extra protection when they inevitably get stepped on or rolled over by a chair.

Both cables are plugged into a Schiit Fulla DAC. This is the only piece of audio equipment I have that is approaching the “audiophile” market (but is incredibly cheap by the standards of that market). More important than the purported improvement in audio quality that this provides is the volume control knob. I’m a sucker for sexy knobs.

I recently got the newer USB-C model of the Fulla at home, and moved my older Fulla from home to work. Previously I used the UGREEN USB Audio Adapter at work. This was adequate for solving the problem of needing to plug dual TRS connectors into my laptop, but it did not provide the hot knob fondling action I desire.

I also keep Kingtop Headphone Mic Splitter cables in a desk drawer at home and work, so that I may use this rig with my cellular telephone. I use this rarely, as most voice communications these days are VoIP based, and thus performed on my laptop, rather than PSTN.

When not in use, the headphones are stored under my desk on the Elevation Lab Anchor.

The theme with my entire desktop audio setup is modularity. The headphones allow for pads and cables to be replaced. The mic is a separate unit. The DAC is a standalone device. All these components can be easily swapped if one fails. All of them are based on long established technologies that have already reached a practical level of perfection, providing me with a level of immunity to advertising in these spaces.

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