You may have a lot of unnecessary emails in your Gmail inbox, or have an old Gmail account that’s been idle for some time accruing emails that are now just old junk like I just had. I hate setting up new email accounts if I don’t need them because I already have more to my name than necessary. And I also hate to have a bunch of old junk taking up memory and creating visual clutter.
Repurposing the Gmail accounts seems like a better idea since generally, you already have them customized and set up to your liking and can remember the address and login better since you’ve already used them at some point, plus the available names you’d probably want to even use with a new Gmail address are long-taken. And even if you do set up a new Gmail account, Google hounds you to create a new Google+ persona, and on and on. Not worth it, usually.
Problem is, when you go to your inbox and check the box to highlight all the emails in your inbox for deletion, it only checks 50 of them at a time–the ones that are on the screen before you. That can be adjusted to a degree by going into settings and expanding that number, but if you have thousands and thousands like you probably do, that’s inefficient plus an unnecessary waste of time and energy.
So, what’s the solution? It’s surprisingly simple.
In the mail search bar above everything, type “before:_____” with the space representing the date you want to delete all your email prior to, in this format: YYYY/MM/DD. Most likely that would be today’s date. Then hit the Search icon/magnifying glass, or hit Enter.
This will bring up all emails before that date. Click the box above all the selection boxes to select all:
An almost unnoticeable message will appear above your inbox asking if you want to select all messages that meet that criteria. Yes, you do:
Then simply click the delete/trash can icon:
Depending on how many emails you’re deleting, this may take a while. There will be a small “loading” message at the top indicating that it’s at work:
You may need to refresh your page or inbox, but all your emails will now be deleted from your Gmail inbox. Clean and ready to use anew:
It’s very common for images to be the biggest weight for websites when they’re loading. They slow down page speed dramatically if not prepared for the browser correctly. Fortunately, it isn’t hard to optimize your images before uploading and posting them, but it does require some diligence and discipline. It’s important enough that it’s worth making a habit to practice each and every time, however.
Image optimization comes down to 2 criteria:
Optimizing the # of bytes to encode each image pixel
Optimizing the total # of pixels
The filesize is simply the total # of pixels multiplied by the # bytes used to encode each pixel. Therefore, posting images with no more pixels than needed to display the asset at its intended size in the browser is optimal. Don’t make the browser rescale them because it uses CPU resources and displays at a lower resolution.
SEO – Google and other search engine providers take page load speed into account in their ranking algorithms. If you want to be competitive and rank highly consistently, then making your site as light as possible must be a priority. That means, you guessed it, optimizing your images.
User experience – Your users expect your page to load as fast as possible. As in under a second. If it doesn’t, it causes them anxiety and they may very well leave your site. Obviously that’s something you don’t want. There have been studies showing how much revenue large retailers lose due to sites being fractionally slower, and while that may not be the nature of your site, it’s illustrative of the impatience users have these days.
The Basics of Imagery on the Web
There are several ways to display graphics online, for our concerns. And there are several formats we typically use these days. Some are more well-known and common, like .jpeg/.jpg and .pngs. But .gifs are making a comeback and the best way to really handle many graphics is none of these, but .svg, or scalable vector graphics, which is just code. As is CSS which, if you’re good enough, you can create animated graphics with as well pretty easily. But CSS3 can also be easily used to produce gradients and shadows that not only generate a lighter footprint, they’re easier to change on the fly if needed as well. Buttons and such UI elements are easy to make via CSS and much lighter, look better, perform better and can be edited more easily than using linked or embedded images. Web fonts are also a good choice to improve usability and performance.
Vector and Raster Images
Vector images are created with a series of points and lines, code really, that are ideal when dealing with geometric shapes because they’re zoom and resolution-independent, and look sharp and crisp at any size on any screen. They also can be a considerably smaller file size than a raster counterpart.
Raster images are created by encoding the values of each pixel within a grid, and at small or large sizes can look very choppy and jagged. Pixelated, in fact. They take the formats of jpeg, png, gif, tiff and jpeg-xr and WebP, which are newer.
Generally, vectors are great for logos, text, icons, etc… and raster is better for intricate images like a photo of a landscape, for example. Often, you’ll need to save several versions of raster images at different resolutions to deliver the best user experience.
Note: When we double the resolution of the physical screen the total number of pixels increases by a factor of four (double the # of horizontal pixels times double the # of vertical pixels) So a “2x” screen doesn’t just double, but quadruples the number of needed pixels.
Uncompressed file size (4 bytes/pixel)
100 x 100 = 10,000
100 x 100 x 4 = 40,000
100 x 100 x 9 = 90,000
Optimizing Vector Images
This is something that I, as your designer/developer will handle and worry about more than you but it’s good to be knowledgeable about what’s going on, and the usage of svg is becoming more widespread, so you’re more likely to cross its path than in the past. So I won’t go into major depth here, because it’s a large, complex subject, but you should at least be able to recognize it when you see it in the wild.
SVG is an XML-based image format. They should be minified to keep their size as small as possible, and they should be compressed with GZIP. All modern browsers support svg files, and they’re created using vector software like Adobe Illustrator, or you could code it up by hand if you wanted in a text editor. Illustrator is easier. There’s a lot of unnecessary metadata that’s created however, that can be cleaned up by running it through a tool like SVGO. There’s a plugin for Illustrator as well that I personally use.
Optimizing Raster Images
A raster image is a grid of pixels, and each pixel encodes color and transparency info in RGBA form (red, green, blue and alpha, which is transparency).
You’ll see “Lossless” and “Lossy” used a lot when trying to decide how to optimize raster images, but what do they mean? They look made up (and probably were, like “performant” and “canonicalization” and other words developers just dream up).
Lossless – describes an image that’s processed with a filter that compresses the pixel data.
Lossy – Processing an image with a filter that eliminates pixel data.
Any image can go through a Lossy compression process to reduce its file size. But there is no “optimal” configuration for all images. It depends on the contents of the unique image and your own criteria.
You’ll usually see lossy methods being applied with jpeg images in Photoshop, for example, when you’re saving the image for the web, and are given the option to customize the “quality” setting with a slider or set of numbers. The best way to determine this is really to just experiment and see what looks best with the largest file size savings, which in Photoshop may be seen in the bottom left corner of the screen.
This is as good a place as any to mention that when you upload an image in WordPress, it automatically is saved at 80% quality and at various sizes, which can be controlled in the admin panel. Out of the box, WordPress saves three other versions for you at a thumbnail size (150×150), Medium (300×300), and a large (1024×1024). But that can be changed to be anything and number you like of course, as can the 80% quality setting. Image file size is but one easy way to speed up your WordPress site. If you’re looking for other ways, here’s a very good pdf guide on ways to speed up your WP site:
OK, this is what I believe what most people are intereested in. In addition to Lossy and Lossless considerations, different image formats support different features like transparency and animation, increasingly important things for the web. So the “right format” depends on the desired visual results and functionality.
TIFFs are very heavy files and very high-res. Unless you’re doing some professional work or have a one-off, very good reason, you’re not going to need to use a .TIFF file.
GIFs are very trendy right now for short clips of animation on the web. However, they are limited to a maximum 256 colors, and a PNG-8 delivers better compression for small color palettes. Only use GIFs when animation is required. For longer animations, consider using HTML5
There are a few things I do to WordPress websites to help lighten the load as far as images are concerned. Images account for so much weight on websites, every little bit/byte counts. But the web is a visual medium, and the use of graphics is crucial for so many reasons. A better user experience, SEO reasons, shareability, and images just make websites so much more dynamic.
For SEO and accessibility reasons ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be mindful of your ALT tags! Bots can’t see images, so they rely on what you tell them the image is of to decide what to do with it. Make sure you complete them.
WordPress plugins that help optimize load time by compressing, lazy loading and other tricks are widely available. I’ve settled on using WPMU’s Smush.it Pro to compress images, which is a premium plugin, and I put it on clients’ sites as a courtesy because it’s so good and what it does is so important. I have had some issues with it from time to time, but the headaches that arise are worth the savings in file size, to me. (The plugin is high quality from some reputable WP developers; what it does is just complex and it gets snagged sometimes. I can live with it.)
Use vector formats when available and appropriate. They’re future-friendly, light, easy to manipulate and change and look awesome on retina screens.
Minify & compress your assets. SVGs, PNGs, JPGs and GIFs can easily be shrunk significantly and doing so should become part of your workflow.
Don’t be afraid to dial down the quality settings on raster images; the quality remains high but you reduce the number of bytes significantly. Human eyes just aren’t all that great, unfortunately. Even though our screens are getting to be insanely high-res.
Remove unnecessary metadata like geo information, camera information, etc… there are tools to do this which I’ll provide in a resources addendum.
Serve scaled images, and automate as much as you can. There are lots of great optimization tools around, many for free, and many built right into editing software, waiting to be used.
A guide to choosing which format:
Compressr.io – A web app I use all the time to smush images before uploading. It works great.
Adobe Illustrator is considered the standard tool for creating vector artwork, and although it’s been challenged a number of times over the years, it remains on the top of the heap. That’s for many reasons, but being the simplest to use certainly isn’t one of them. It’s easier than Photoshop to learn, but both represent a considerable investment in time and learning to use with any efficiency and skill. Years, in many cases.
I’ve used Illustrator (actually all the Adobe tools in the Creative Cloud suite, and that’s a LOT) for years, and am a huge fan. I’m the owner of a Google Plus Adobe Illustrator community that has around 6400 members and counting, in fact. It’s easy for me to use because I’ve used it so much for so long, as is the case with anyone with anything. So when someone has that much invested, it’s sort of uncommon for people to jump ship to another program for no good reason.
The biggest complaint I hear about Illustrator, Photoshop and the rest of the Adobe products is their pricing model, which is a subscription. And it’s not exactly cheap. They used to sell individual licenses up to CS6 like most other products, but switched when they added a Cloud feature to sell storage alongside the tools. The other complaint would probably be, besides intermittent bugs, the time and effort it takes to learn if you’re just beginning. That’s where competing products try to get their feet in the door. I’ve lost count of all the products out there that you can use for vector design, but Google Web Designer is one, Macaw is another that was hugely-hyped and originally cost more than Sketch(it’s now free, incidentally), and there are others. I’ve played around with many/most all of them, and they’re all basically the same: a knockoff of Illustrator, but far less powerful, and with a learning curve to boot.
Sketch came along, and took the best of Illustrator and kept it, and took the worst, and reworked it. And they made it lighweight and fast. And also very easy to install plugins, and even develop them yourself if you’re so inclined. There are some great plugins available for free that increase productivity and workflows. That’s probably the biggest feature that makes Sketch so popular: it’s fast and easy. And comparatively cheap. Sketch is only available for Mac, however. As someone who uses both Windows and Macs, that strikes me as strange, because they’re missing out on a HUGE market. Of course, that’s their (Bohemian Coding- the developers) decision.
I’ve had Sketch installed for maybe 2 years and have never bothered to use it, so recently I decided to see how fast I could pick it up. A lot of designers use it, and it’s popularity has been sustained unlike other vector programs such as previously mentioned so it seemed worth some time and trouble. I’ve tinkered around with the interface a few times, and it’s laid out a lot like Illustrator, so I wasn’t expecting too much trouble. The wheel hasn’t been reinvented or anything. And, as expected, I didn’t have much. A large reason for that is also the excellent instructions and support Sketch has available, plus it’s pretty intuitive. If you contrast that with Adobe Illustrator, I’ve never been impressed with Adobe’s support for their products. (For a long time, they simply relied on Lynda.com for instruction, which is how I learned, along with trial and error.) That’s not because there’s a lack of them. To the contrary; there are too many. I don’t find it user-friendly, and I don’t think I’m alone because there are a gazillion third-party tutorials and help articles and videos for their products. An over-abundance which adds to the confusion since some are good and some are awful, and some are totally outdated, going back to CS2. And if you try to use the help menu IN Adobe’s applications, they divert you to your browser and take you out of the program completely to Adobe’s community forum which I’ve never found to be a pleasant UX at all. Users can go to the web themselves and do a search. And even then, you usually don’t find the specific help you need. Sketch has a menu on the app’s site that walks you through it, and that’s plenty, I found. Of course there are YouTube videos for any topic you may have as well, but I found them unnecessary. But there are some good ones.
I’ve picked Sketch up quickly, and that makes my workfkow speedy already. When I add the plugins that are meant to boost productivity for the activities I need them for, it’s really a great product. I especially like how lightweight and fast it is compared to Adobe’s products, which weigh in at about 1GB each. That adds up fast if You’re doing some serious creating with Illustrator, Photoshop, Bridge, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Animator, and so on. Premiere Pro is a monster. However Adobe has addressed that the best way they know how I suppose, byt being able to install an uninstall the apps via the Creative Cloud interface.
I still feel like Illustrator is a more robust application, for some reason, although I can’t justify that feeling. I can do anything with Sketch I can with AI, and in fact possibly more if you look at the new symbol libraries and export options and some other features I’m sure I haven’t stumbled upon yet. Sketch iterates pretty often, especially compared to past AI competitors. Sketch also has cloud storage built into their pricing, plus a free iOS app for mirroring your workspace. And the plugin ecosystem takes it to an entirely different level. Illustrator has plugins as well, but they aren’t maintained and you definitely won’t find them being consistently actively developed on GitHub, as with Sketch.
To that end, I’m posting here some of the better resources I’ve found for Sketch so far for my personal reference and anyone interested. They’re all free, and Sketch itself is a relative bargain at $99, with the option of a generous student/educator discount available (Adobe offers a discount as well-most software companies do). And it’s just a one-time fee, as opposed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which is an ongoing cost that’s also tiered. However, for that price you get quite a bit more. But whether those extra features, such as cloud storage and a TON of programs for creating anything you can possibly imagine is dependant upon the user, of course. So, am I switching to Sketch for good? Time will have to tell.
So, without any further ado, here are some awesome Sketch resources:
If you blog you’re familiar with WordPress and most likely Medium. WordPress has been around for over 10 years and is a mature platform. Medium is younger and was launched by Ev Williams of Twitter and has become a publishing platform for both amateur and professional writers. There are, of course, other platforms like Wix, Weebly, Blogger, Drupal, Squarespace, and Joomla, which are different variations of basically the same thing.
I’ve been using WordPress for over 7 years and follow its development closely. I use it nearly exclusively for client’s websites and consider myself an expert at it. “WordPress” as an entity is sort of a mess, in my opinion, which I’ve written about in depth before. I’ve also talked about how, back when Medium was a different product, is WordPress’ main competitor, and not Drupal and Joomla as most people believed a few years ago. With the unveiling of WordPress’ new editor Gutenberg, it’s now evident that Matt Mullenweg et al. agree.
Ev Williams keeps changing the interface of Medium, and most users seem to applaud his efforts. That’s a play on words since the latest Medium update includes “claps” to show love and appreciation for writers’ work instead of thumbs-ups and downs. Basic gamification strategy.
Matt and WordPress do things a little differently. They make huge changes despite what the core users and customers think, and those are two very different and large groups of people. In my opinion, he’s not only risking having people defect but start up competing CMS/blogging platforms(WP can’t decide what it is). There’s a HUGE market out there which WordPress is trying to fully dominate, despite not ever putting forth a material plan for doing so. Iterate and pray seem to be the daily plan, and let other developers work on it for free as open-source software is the long-term plan. The profitable markets that have spun off in the form of plugin and theme shops, WordPress developers, and other niche businesses are what keep it propped up more than anything, and is what Medium and other competitors are missing. Medium has a payout scheme for popular writers, but that’s a small market comparatively. WordPress’ model isn’t unlike Apple’s app store, which is responsible for Apple’s astounding rise to financial and market dominance.
I have a feeling someone soon will create a platform that will take a large chunk of market share from Medium and WordPress. Ghost had the potential and still does to an extent, but it needs to become much more user-friendly and be marketed much more aggressively. I’m a big fan of Ghost and hope John and Hannah, the founders, succeed. Bootstrap could even come to be in the CMS/blogging space one day, although I don’t think that’s what Mark Otto and the Bootstrap community are aiming for, or is it the core competency. Bootstrap as a development framework is awesome and has a really big, and growing, development base. It’s the biggest repo on Github and has been for a long time. I’ve even published a lengthy book on developing with it, back when it was “Twitter Bootstrap.”
WordPress enjoys being a first-mover, although they weren’t really the “first” to offer an open-source blogging platform. They just emerged as the most popular back in the days of blogging infancy and took some bloggers and newbie developers along for the ride to make them pretty wealthy along the way. That’s given WordPress/Automattic/Matt a lot of wiggle-room and revenue to make mistakes without getting crushed, which is a good thing considering the noticeable lack of leadership at the top. There may be a vision but it isn’t made very clear to anyone, and the heaviest users of WP like to know what the roadmap contains beyond the next update or two because they come fast. And WP needs to be backward-compatible and is legacy software.
Gutenberg is all the WordPress world can talk about, which as I predicted years ago, is a response to Medium. Here’s a white paper by Human Made, and Medium is mentioned on the second page of the thing. It’s sort of a disingenuine piece. The author asks why did they decide to build Gutenberg, and then never answers the question. He calls it an “experiment” which of course it isn’t. It’s a strategy. You don’t experiment with something as crucial as the essence of the core product at this scale and Matt knows it. Ironically, the “blocks” direction which is the core concept of the new editor, keeps making me think of the Thesis theme, which very well may have just been ahead of its; time. The story of Thesis is rich. Not as Rich as Matt, unfortunately for Chris Pearson.
Louisville, KY has scant options when it comes to ISPs, just as with most places in America. How this came to be is a long story (telecoms & politicians) but there’s just not much competition, so the service is government-grade.
Luckily, Google Fiber is coming to town soon, which Louisville is abuzz about. For good reason, mentioned above. They’ll be up and running fairly soon, and I’ve even sent them a resume to do some marketing for them. I’m switching first thing.
But in the meantime, I’m relegated to Spectrum. They used to Be Comcast. Who was Charter before that. Who was originally AOL/Time Warner. Who now owns Spectrum. I think another acquisition was in there somewhere as well. That was all just over the past 5 years or so I’ve been in Louisville.
Ever since Spectrum became the name on my bills I’ve had service problems with a few agonizing stories I won’t go into. This isn’t about how they stink like everyone else enjoys complaining about.
I had service set up last week and had a tech come out to install it, despite it already being installed. And Spectrum was nice enough to waive that fee. But while the tech was setting up the modem and checking signals, which weren’t there, we were able to talk. A lot.
Spectrum sells a few internet packages. One offers 60Mps d/l speed. Too slow for my needs, but he promises the 60MBps crowd gets every last meg. They also sell what they seem to think is a premium service which is 300MBps. Every time I mention I have that service, the rep or tech acts like I’m Elon Musk and no one has that installed.
But the tech told me they only guarantee up to 100MBps and are unable to even deliver much over that, on the best of days. Nowhere NEAR 300. Can’t even do it. So really what they’re selling is 100MBps at 300MBps rates. Is that legal? I don’t see how, but apparently so. I have a Mercedes I want to sell, but it’s really a Toyota. And I can legally hold you to pay Mercedes prices. Totally legit?
I’ve learned the hard way prevention is a better approach than allowing problems to appear on their own terms and reacting to them all under a code red emergency, usually. Always at the worst time, it seems. And I’ve managed a lot of websites and machines for others and tried a lot of the products out there over the years including the newer ones. Here’s what I use to keep my PC running fast and clean. I have a MacBook Pro too and use similar tools, like Clean My Mac instead of Clean my PC, but the same company: MacPaw. For Linux folks, you’re largely on your own here. You can run a bunch of line commands to clean things up, but that presumes you have access to your terminal. Like the Websites that tell you if your computer isn’t working, go to their website and download something, when you can’t even boot into safe mode. Uh…OK. How, exactly?
So, just not letting your machines get crazy is the best idea. And despite your best efforts to keep the bugs at bay, you will one day wish you had done this because something always goes wrong at some point. We’re dealing with some complicated machines. It takes a small amount of very well-spent time to initially set these tools up properly (an important step people like to skip) and run them, but after that, you can set them to run automatically if you have the paid versions, which I recommend in some cases. Also, if you’re buying any of these, you can usually find discounts online or by giving them your email.
These products’ free versions are fine and work well. But after using the free versions for a long time and being happy with them, I decided out of a feeling of charity more than anything, to upgrade. And for these products, I learned it’s, in fact, worth it. Not always the case with software. And you still have to be mindful of what exactly is being installed. Don’t just hit download and click your way through the install wizard screens without seeing what’s checked and reading the fine print on each screen. That’s how you get problems these tools are meant to fix in the first place and 15 browser toolbars.
Norton is infamous for their kidnapping of computers with their totally invasive and permanent software. Some people like it, for some reason. I hate it. I won’t even link to them here. But I’m not talking about that level of invasion. Updates, even, that will put another program on your computer that looks like part of what you came for. But it isn’t. And it uses memory, has to be maintained, is prone to viruses, and you never wanted it in the first place, period. I don’t understand why software companies are so deliberately sneaky with their installs – even Adobe does it. If it’s a good product then market it standing on its own feet, not slip it in under the guise of something else to boost installation numbers. It makes your users feel used and the company appear deceptive.
One of the products I recommend, CleanMyPC, has an uninstall feature I use a lot and over other uninstall tools like the ones with CCleaner. It is fast, which matters to me, and does a thorough job. Better than CCleaner and definitely better than the Windows uninstaller. It’s cleaned all sorts of software traces left behind by that, adding up to some significant memory. And speaking of which, going into the Clean my PC uninstall panel and seeing what you can get rid of is a great idea. You may be surprised what you can delete, adding up to many GB of memory. Click on the memory header to sort by largest programs to least, and start firing away. You can (usually) always install them again later if needed. Create a backup beforehand if you’re worried about what you’re doing. Don’t delete something if you don’t know what it is. Google it if you aren’t sure. Adobe products, for example, are huge. (They also use tons of RAM.) Same with browser extensions: clean them up judiciously. Only have what you need and you know works well. Extension conflicts cause all sorts of buggy behavior that’ll slow you down when browsing.
CleanmyPC – This came out after the CleanmyMac product was such a hit, and was why I bought this. And it’s great. Maybe there’s a better one out there, but if so I haven’t ever seen it. Their Gemini II duplicate file finder works really well too, but is for Mac only.
CCleaner – Been around for a long time, and works great. The free version is fine, but the paid version is great too. If you have to pay for one cleaning service, make it CleanMyPC though. Note: these don’t clean deep filth off your hard drives. If you have some seriously persistent muck on your computer, you need to kick it up a notch. These tools are for prevention and light/medium cleaning and maintenance. Use them regularly and you won’t have big problems. And if you’re going to sites you know you shouldn’t, use a Tor browser at least.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus – You really need to have an anti-virus program, and not some free job. Getting a virus will blow up your system and ruin your life. There was a time when you could skate without an anti-virus program. Not anymore.
Malwarebytes – Because it pays to get a second opinion. Use the free edition.
Webroot Toolkit – Most people probably don’t know what a Webroot is, but it’s something that should be looked after. This tool has some features that are worth the paid version as well, I found. I don’t use this one the most, but it is indispensable when needed.
Driver Booster 4 – Drivers are something else people don’t update on their own all that often I don’t think. But it’s not only important, it’s just a better experience when all your drivers are updated and working properly. And though Windows and OS’s can update them, I’ve found they don’t do a very good job. They’ll miss some, or skip updates, or something that disappoints. And there’s no reason to EVER pay for a driver updater. They basically just glom onto the updating system just mentioned and make it work properly. You can upgrade for some luxury features, but they aren’t necessary. The basic program does the job well. Just a little more clicking on the user’s part.
SUPER Anti-Spyware, free edition – I don’t use this much, but I would recommend it when you hit some bigger problems the others can’t fix. I know PC repair shops use it as well. That doesn’t mean it’s the killer app; just a good thing to run every now and then, especially if you think you may be infected.
Defraggler – Defragmenting is a drag. This takes care of it for you and does a great job. By the same folks at CCleaner. And free. Your OS, of course, has a basic defragger, but this is better. I’ll just leave it at that. It’s also faster.
IOBit Advanced System Care – This is a feature-rich piece of maintenance software and the free version is great. It’ll clean up your RAM and optimize your disks with one click. But has plenty of other options you can mess around with to help you keep your PC running fast. Some more helpful than others depending on your needs.
I realize there’s overlap in what these things check for. Hardly a worry. CleanmyPC will often find things CCleaner doesn’t and not the other way around I’ve found. They have different databases to compare against. Also I don’t use the browser protection because it slows me down and I don’t go to sites that worry me. Plus there are already other protections in place for that for me. If for some reason I have to visit some illicit site for a client, I’ll take appropriate measures, beginning with not using my own computer or at least an old fortified laptop on another IP address.
If you’re really having speed issues, you may want to evaluate your hard drive situation. If it’s getting full, it’s time to add memory, and the best way to do that is with an SSD. It isn’t the easiest which would be just plugging an external hard drive, into a USB port or the cheapest, which would be installing another HDD or an external drive. But SSDs are better for a few very good reasons. Speed, reliability, and silence being three of them. No moving parts so they don’t break down. But they have a more average limited life span which is the main downer. Even though the price is more, it isn’t significantly so.
Installing an SSD is if you have a normal computer and not one with an Apple logo on it, which are considerably more difficult and expensive to work on in every way imaginable. Put your OS on the new SSD and boot from that and use the Hard Drives for storage and you’re off to the races. SSDs are quiet, small and fast. and pretty inexpensive on NewEgg or Crucial Memory. Definitely shop around since for the most part memory is a commodity these days.
Adding more RAM would be my step 3 after cleaning and an SSD. It’s often more of a pain and sort of pricey. For example, my computer has 6 slots with 2 GB of RAM in each, expandable up to 24GB, with 4GB memory cards. So I can’t just buy 3 cards=12 more GB of RAM, in other words, to max it out. I have to buy the full 24, which is for diversity reasons I can understand, but the dividends still aren’t as great as with ROM. That would cost me about $180 at today’s prices for 24GB of RAM for my Dell XPS 9100 desktop. I’ve seriously gotten a computer to go from taking 42 minutes to boot to 42 seconds, fully loaded with programs, files and apps, with these tips.
Put your OS on the SSD and boot from that and use the Hard Drives for storage. They’re quiet, small and fast. and pretty inexpensive on NewEgg or Crucial Memory. Adding more RAM would be my step 3 after cleaning and an SSD. It’s often more of a pain and sort of pricey. For example, my computer has 6 slots with 2 GB of RAM in each, expandable up to 24GB. So I can’t just buy 12 more GB of RAM, in other words, to max it out. I have to buy the full 24, which is for reasons I can understand, but the dividends aren’t as great as with ROM. If you aren’t sure how to install an SSD and aren’t technical, just take it to a good shop. They shouldn’t charge much and it’s worth it to not have to deal with mishaps, which always happen. Moving all your files and OS around is the trickiest part I’ve found. Macrium is another good piece of software to be aware of if you do such things.
A lot of people don’t seem to know what they’re looking at when they look at computer specs. There are only a few things to be concerned with, on a basic level. The Ghz is what you’d pay attention to for speed capability. The higher the number, the faster the processor can go. It seems relatively marginal to me though and definitely pay more attention to RAM and ROM and how they’re configured(SSD vs HDD) and just try to get the fastest processor you can afford. If it isn’t the fastest, don’t worry; even if it’s a 500000GhZ Cray Supercomputer, it’ll still be limited by it’s RAM and ROM and a few other factors. But don’t buy the base model, for Pete’s sake. Of anything. Rarely worth it and you’ll be yearning for the better model the whole time. Unless it’s just a bunch of features that’ll never be used, but that should go without saying.
Run these things at least once a week or so and your computer should speed up dramatically.
Buying audio equipment is a fun, but dangerous game. Not just the prices. Cheap stuff has to be replaced and is a total waste of money (Buying cheaper stuff and compromising in the name of saving a buck is usually a poor person’s game, but that’s another post). Medium range stuff has a better lifespan and quality but often is loaded with features you don’t need, trying to compete with all the many, many other mid-range components out there. You’re paying for those features, even if you never use them ever is how I look at it. And I’d bet most people don’t use 95% of the features their electronics offer. I’ve noticed most females don’t even bother to change the treble and bass on their stock car stereos, in fact. Whatever.
But the high-end stuff, and I’m not just talking about the out-of-this-world dream stuff that only billionaires can listen to and 99.9999% of people will never see, can last forever. Even pretty beaten up, some loudspeakers will still sound fine. That’s why there’s a strong market for used high-end audio equipment like Marantz receivers and Klipsch Heritage speakers, and partially why they cost more: they live longer. That even includes Sony, which costs more and lasts forever, even if it isn’t the highest quality and you may not want it to. Please don’t get me wrong; I consider Sony as a baseline for middle-of-the-road, discounting their flagship stuff. Not saying they’re high-end–their stuff just lasts forever, and has a premium price. They do make some seriously amazing electronics, but most is for the masses. “Lifespan” referring to how long the unit operates and “quality” being how well it performs during that time.
I have a giant old-school Sony Trinitron television I’m donating now for example that still works great but we’ve outgrown it. This will be the second giant old Sony TV I’ve given to another home. They’re tanks, and weigh as much. And I also still have an old Sony home theater system with 5 DVD carousel that has proprietary connectors so I can’t split it up, and have nowhere I want to use it. So it gathers dust. And (most) Marantz and (most) Klipsch are examples what I’m calling high-end. It’s all relatively relative, so if that’s junk to your budget, then please bear with me. I’m well-aware of the higher end gear that I wished I could afford out there. A Peachtree Nova300 Amp and SVS PB-16 sub and Klipschorn speakers would be my preference, but I have mouths to feed and heinies to diaper.
So back to business. Somehow I’ve ended up with a 5.1 Energy Encore home theater system with a Sony STR-DE885 A/V processor as my stereo.
The sound is actually great(I’m not claiming audiophile standards, which I’m starting to believe is usually just someone with a lot of disposable income, an oscilloscope, and an attitude), and in fact excessive for my listening area, which happens to be my office as well. Excessive space-wise as well. Most of my large desk is covered in audio equipment. Cable management is a pain too in such a small space. You think it’d be easier, but you have to be creative with placement, and more importantly, how they’re hidden, yet secure. And since I’m using the same cables I used when the system was being used for a home theater system in a giant room years ago, I have miles of dirty cables piled up in corners and under chairs and rugs.
Happily, this system will be returning to service in a way it never dreamt and going in the master bedroom with a new 65 inch curved 4k tv for my wife. I’m planning on mounting the screen on the wall too, which I’m dreading. And I splurged and got a Blu-ray player for her as well. It blows our old DVD players away. And cost $42.00 shipped (I had a $5 Amazon credit). The old Panasonic RV-31 of which we have 2 and I’m donating one, work surprisingly well still and are still forward-compatible and have optical jacks, but no HDMI ports. As nicely as those still work, the new one still blows those away for modern quality and features and for $40+ it’s a no-brainer. (I don’t know why electronics firms still make Blu-ray or especially DVD players; what kind of margins are they getting for these things? You can even still buy VCRs, for about $20 made by Craig, who is obviously low-end and a brand I think I’ve seen sold at Walgreens pharmacy.)
What makes me more excited is that I got everything (well) below retail, and with bonuses, that I hadn’t even planned on, like white glove delivery, a free wall mount, extra warranties, etc… I never pay retail for anything ever, unless it’s an emergency and even then I get discounts from my banks and other creative ways so I still pay less than sticker price, always. It’s become pretty easy with the internet, but some things are far more difficult to find discounts on than others, usually higher-end products where the companies are serious about protecting their margins and their products from counterfeiters. Barbour jackets and Bose junk are examples of that.
OK, so enough blah blah; what’d I get?
I’m finding I’m using my computer as the source nearly all the time these days. Either Pandora Plus(which is worth it for the quality improvement, no ads and being able to FF/RW maneuver around all I want), Archive.org, Youtube (I embarrassingly admit) or from my own library which usually plays via VLC. A lot of streaming in other words, and nothing else really; certainly no turntable, DAT, cassette tape(I still have a working JVC from 1984), reel to reel etc… and I never listen to the radio so no tuner needed either. I either just need an amp/preamp or integrated amp. For space, cost, features needed, quality available, outputs available (many integrated amps, even some Marantz, have no sub output or optical input, and I don’t just mean headphone amps). So the field for amps narrowed quickly. The final contenders: The questionable Sprout and Denon which are both compact amps, and a Teac, which is what I ended up getting. I’ve never owned Teac before but am very familiar with their R2Rs. The Sprout looks like something Radio Shack would have sold with the cheap faux-wood vinyl sticker(that everyone else seems to love), and is either underpowered or overpriced. Your choice. The Denon looks awesome and I nearly bought it. But the wattage difference and double the price of the Teac made me choose the Teac at 100w vs. the Denon and Sprout which had 35w and ~26w, respectively. I know wattage isn’t everything and this is a majorly low-impedance system, but I’m going to be driving some big speakers and those are a big leap from 100watts. The Teac has everything I need and among the least of what I don’t. An equalizer is something I’ll probably end up getting since I can’t imagine everything not needing to be tweaked, and using online EQs isn’t ideal, to me.
I’m running an optical cable from my computer, which has a 5.1 sound card (which I’ll adjust) and some auditory tweaks I’ve made to the Teac integrated amplifier, with DAC of course. That keeps it simple and small on my desk and has just what I need. The theme of this system is “simplification and quality.” I’m going from a 5.1 system to a 2.1 again. I looked at more expensive, feature-rich options, and really tried to talk myself into a Marantz or Cambridge Audio amp, but they didn’t make sense for one reason or another. Mostly size and features; I already have a giant black box on my desk with a zillion cables and controls that would confuse Elon Musk, so replacing it with exactly the same=no good. I have a feeling I’ll eventually be getting an EQ though because of what I expect the tweaking process to be like using the Teac software. That doesn’t sound like something I’m going to be interested in. EDIT: I’ve looked high and low at EQs and there aren’t any for my purpose; they’re all for PA equipment and autos. So, software it is. EDIT#2: The speakers and amp sound so clean, I don’t need software or to make any adjustments to the sound. Just the gain and crossover frequency on the sub and common audio tweaks in my OS and a preference for “loudness” and that’s it. It sounds realistic with a broad, deep, well-defined soundstage. The amp comes with an HD audio player that they REALLY try to get you to use. I was eager to give it a try and discovered it’s junk.
The sources I typically have are high bit rate mp3’s, and a lot of Pandora and Spotify premium, with settings on extreme. And of course, Youtube and the other junk everyone uses. I’ve used every medium out there over the years, mostly because I’ve had to, and the hassle of vinyl and tape and even CDs isn’t worth the quality difference, to anyone who claims to be able to hear one. You’d have to really try with some good, trained ears and a really good system and even then, it’s pretty subjective. The only people who are into records these days are lazy butts who never got rid of their collection from when they were stoner teenagers or hipsters with a big new income that don’t know what they’re doing.
The Teac’s connected to a Klipsch R-112SW which is a Reference series 12-inch sub that I already have hooked up and looks like a giant piece of black furniture. It has to be broken in, but it still sounds a lot better than most of my other furniture though. I was wondering what difference a “better” sub would make to a pretty decent, but nowhere nearly as powerful system as the reference series, would be. Turns out a lot. Not WOW!, but a big enough difference to make a big, noticeable difference. Bass frequencies are different animals because they’re omnidirectional. I didn’t get the 115SW because a 15-inch sub would be totally excessive for my current needs. The bass is tight and precise, not muddy or furry. Or boomy, which is a typical problem people have with subs. Although subtle, my wife can now sense the bass frequencies 2 floors away when I have the 112SW turned up a little which I’ll have to be careful of at night or naptime. Plus the 15-inch sub, which must be MASSIVE, would have more than doubled my price for the 112SW. With some of the money I saved, I got a Klipsch wireless adapter (WA-2) for the sub so I can put it where it sounds best and has no cables(except the power of course). It’s too nice-looking to have a long cable running out of it and as I mentioned I’m simplifying. There are quite a few wireless sub adapters out there, and even though the WA-2 isn’t the cheapest or best-rated in the world, depending on what site you’re on–it’s 5 of 5 stars and rave reviews on Klipsch.com– it’s custom-made by Klipsch for the 112SW and 115SW models, which I’ve learned is often a valuable feature and renders it the best choice. I never considered wireless satellite or bookshelf speakers because there’s no way I can be convinced there isn’t signal loss and/or other quality compromises that I don’t want to make, even if some high-quality firms are making them now. Most wireless speakers lack character as well and are boring. Since sub frequencies aren’t directional, I’m not as worried.
There are quite a few wireless sub adapters out there of the universal breed, and even though the WA-2 isn’t the cheapest or best-rated in the world on some websites(no reasons were given for poor reviews, and I doubt they were by verified purchasers), depending on what site you’re on–it’s 5 of 5 stars and rave reviews on Klipsch.com– it’s custom-made by Klipsch for the 112SW and 115SW models, which I’ve learned is often a valuable feature and renders it the best choice. Especially when if you ever want to resell them. I never considered wireless satellite or bookshelf speakers because there’s no way I can be convinced there isn’t signal loss and/or other quality compromises that I don’t want to make, even if some big-name, high-quality firms are making them now. Most wireless speakers lack character as well and are boring in every way. Since sub frequencies aren’t directional, I’m not as worried. Wireless satellites are great solutions for setting up home theaters in rooms with weird layouts.
Klipsch is a brand I’m loyal to. I heard a pair of Klipschorns when I was a teenager, which is also what we had in our music department in high school, and my roommate in high school had some giant, groovy 1970s Klipsch speakers he yanked from his older brother as well, although I don’t remember the model. Heritage, though for sure, so possibly Cornwalls. Whatever they were, they shamed my bookshelf Advents, which I hated. No mids at all and barely any bass. So I was exposed to some really good audio right after growing up to that point with a furniture-sized console tuner/turntable from the 1960s and a lame transistor AM radio from Radio Shack. My music selection for the longest time was limited to my mother’s old classic and classical records and the terrible pop radio station in town playing terrible pop 1970s and 1980s music. (“Terrible” is redundant.) So hearing what high-quality audio could do was like hearing music for the very first time. Hearing it play music I loved was transformative, especially for someone who came to really enjoy listening to and making music as much as I do. And now I can even choose what I want to hear!
I finally got my hands on a pair of nice (used) Klipsch KG-4 speakers when I was in my 20’s and had them promptly stolen from my house in Atlanta, along with a bunch of other easily pawnable items I had grown fond of. I used the insurance $ from the Atlanta heist to get the Energy speakers and AV processor that are turning our bedroom into a man-cave for my wife. Energy is a company in Canada that isn’t super well-known but makes some very good equipment despite their obscurity and cheesy name. They’ve certainly become a lot more established since I bought them 20 years ago even though they’re still a pretty small and obscure audio company.
I have a Klipsch Groove Bluetooth speaker for my shop, or kitchen, or backyard, or wherever; it’s super-handy and sounds really good for what it is. I love it, and they’re available for a good deal at World Wide Stereo, which is a great company, if interested. I’ve also had several pairs of Klipsch Promedia 2.1‘s for my computers over the years. They’re the best computer speakers out there in my opinion and have been for years, which is why they’ve been unchanged for so long. The price, too: stuck at $150. Some would say Harmon/Kardon Soundsticks are better, but they don’t sound as good to me. They look cooler though; there’s no denying that. (Until you quickly get tired of how cool they look.) The Promedia 2.1s sound great for computer speakers but aren’t without faults, which Klipsch should have addressed by now. The speaker wire is a joke that comes with them. Klipsch shouldn’t even include wires if this is the best they can do. So you have to special order some decent cables. Also, the power switch is on the back of the sub and is totally inaccessible. The jack for the sub connector is really flimsy too, so watch for people tugging on it. That may sound crazy, but 2 (TWO!) sets of these were ruined by my stepdaughter poking her fingers into the woofer cones and someone, maybe my dog, tripping over the sub cord. So that was the end of buying those. Also, you can buy just the control pod for them from Klipsch which makes me think it might go out a little too often. I had no problems with mine. What I’m setting up is basically my own extreme version of the Promedia 2.1.
So as you can see, acquiring Klipsch speakers hasn’t been the real problem; keeping them working and in my possession has been the issue. You have to play defense I’ve learned when you have small children and reckless teenagers around. Epoxy those grilles on.
Something I just learned is that Klipsch seems to have acquired Energy at some point over the years after I bought those Energy speakers. I find that amazingly cool and vindicating for buying such an obscure brand because of purely sensory reasons. They look really nice as well. The Klipsch Group includes Klipsch, of course, Energy, Mirage and Jamo. Not exactly household names, but some fairly premium stuff at their high-end models.
This time around I sprang for a pair of cherry Klipsch Heresy III‘s, which should pair with the R-112SW nicely. The best of both worlds. Old-school Heritage series speakers and New-school Reference series subwoofer living together in actual harmony. A 2.1 setup with an integrated amp and single optical input source. That’s as simple as it gets. And some killer soldered 12 gauge cables from Amazon. I found a local contact that is delivering the Heresy 3’s to my home office white glove, fresh from the Klipsch factory for $500 off and no sales tax. And I live out in the country. Swish! As an aside, what I’d really like is the special edition California walnut Heresys, but they’re the same sound-wise and would be $925 more, even with my newfound Klipsch hookup, which I just couldn’t talk myself into. Even though that was the exact amount I ended up saving by looking under every rock possible when putting this system together.
Something I found incredible is that the dealer I bought the speakers from said in 7 years I was the third customer he’s had. And one of the others was from Indianapolis. He said Louisville won’t support a high-end audio store. People around here would rather watch TV and spend their budget on screens from Sam’s and best Buy instead of very at high-def audio dealers who usually can’t afford to keep a respectable and updated inventory. And he’s right.
And I’ll be using the same speaker stands from my first set of Klipsch’s I had which I’ve still been lugging around with me. Full-circle!
May 28: OK; I’ve had the system running almost nonstop for a few weeks now and have some thoughts of course.
Here’s a photo of the setup. I usually have this office very very dim, so I didn’t have the best lighting.
As you can see, the speakers are in place, and although I cleaned and updated the speaker stands, you can’t see them. Doesn’t matter; even if I get a glimpse of them, they’re still better than seeing a stack of cinder blocks. And floor placement, which they have the risers for, isn’t a possibility or desired.
The speaker placement creates a great sound stage. If you close your eyes, you have the best seat in the house. And they are incredible sounding, with the sub and the amp. You can see the little amp to the left of the monitor, and the remote on the left side of my desk mat-thing. And the amp is LOUD. The headphone jack and circutry work great and sound amazing. Having an upgraded DAC somewhere in your computer setup really is necessary.
Something I learned along the way was that this Teac amp is actually 26w, and I had seen it listed at 100w. That was wrong, but I found out too late. I was worried I’d be disappointed, but I’m not at all. I learned a lot about audiology, I guess is the word, when putting this system together. Wattage isn’t everything. Impedance is important, as is whether you’re at 4 or 8 ohms, and a few other technical issues that you need to know for things to work properly together and produce optimal sound. The Mhz and bit rate of your sources need to be checked once installed for example.
I can’t say enough good things about the speakers and the sound, except any improvement in any way would be super-expensive and extremely marginal. They put you right there where whatever you’re listening to was recorded. Ideal. The 12 gauge Mediabridge cables look very cool with them too. They’re very big and very heavy. The speakers and the cables.
The best way to care for the cabinets, in case anyone wonders how to care for such types of finished wood, is definitely not Pledge, lemon oil, or Murphy’s. Pledge and Murphy’s being the worst stuff for wood around. Lemon oil is great for some finishes and woods, and some people report happiness using it on their speaker cabinets. I use it a lot of some of our furniture. But Watco Danish oil natural is the best thing for these and is also exactly what I use to treat and coat my workbench top with. Great stuff. Tung oil could probably be used too but I know the Danish oil works, and I don’t want my speakers to be guinea pigs.
The Teac amp is great but with some annoyances. Neither digital readout nor illuminated dials were something I had considered but in my office, where I keep it as dim as a tomb, I can’t see where the volume is or anything else, really. It’s all analog. Which wouldn’t be that big of a deal except I have other people in the house to consider. The amp, as I said, is LOUD. And the volume knob isn’t motorized, which some people complain about. I can see their grievance now. I’ve never not had a motorized volume knob, but the difference between when you use the remote and the knob isn’t equalized smoothly when automatically adjusted. Picking nits here, I realize. Like the fact their software stinks, which you pretty much have to download, unless you’re into maintaining your own drivers. It was an afterthought. The driver works well, but the HD media player that comes with it is trash. The player has to be used with a USB cable while it’s running, is outdated from the get-go, and doesn’t work well, if at all. It’s no-frills, which would be fine, but I never had any success with it all, but I don’t care. VLC is far better. Anything is far better, honestly. And I aim to not have any more cables than necessary, and a USB for a crummy piece of software I won’t use isn’t one. If I were the product manager of a product made for streaming data from the internet and for people who typically aren’t technophobes, I would make quite sure I had some appropriate software. Especially if you expect users to use it as much as Teac seems to. End of rant. It doesn’t make the amp itself any worse.
The Bluetooth feature of it is awesome. It works well and pairs easily and the sound is fine. If there’s an infinitesimal reduction in quality for some reason, I can’t pick out where it is. I use an optical cable running through a Sound Blaster sound card, then through the computer’s processor which I’ve optimized as well. I think people probably often forget that step. A lot of settings have to be adjusted for best performance in hidden little OS menus here and there.
Although I was already looking for an equalizer, the Teac amp is more than adequate, and the quality is so good as-is, I can’t see the need for anything else. I don’t want it running through a bunch of sound “enhancing” software, effects, or anything more than I absolutely need to. I wouldn’t even know where to start to improve it at this point, really. Without spending a fortune and ending up with an entirely new system. The only few issues I have could be fixed, but I already know the next steps up are from what I have and it’s a doozie price-wise. It’s why I didn’t get them instead. This stuff is like guitars; you’re always in search of the perfect one, or one that’s just a little bit different and maybe better in some indescribable way. The system I have is almost zero impedance. Source-to-ear is as short as I can get it. High-quality sources, high-quality equipment, arranged ideally. Maybe one day we can transmit such things to the correct parts of our brains inductively but until then… I think I’m done. For now.
EDIT: Not long after I wrote this, my Energy speakers fell apart. Literally. They’re about 20 years old, yes, but they’ve been well-cared for. However, the glue that holds the front of the speakers to the housing failed. In addition, the plastic “rim” that also is responsible for keeping the tweeters and cones in place cracked all the way around, specifically with the center speaker, causing the front of the speaker to become detached. I repaired them as best as I could with some appropriate glue and clamps, but my confidence has been shaken as to their longevity. Just something to note.
Chef Cecelia prepares her imaginary Easy Mac and ice cream wearing her diaper and toque, which looks a lot like a diaper. Who wants a moose lip omelet? Joking aside, she does cook her own eggs in the real kitchen and clean up after herself, which is pretty impressive.
I got my hands on a pre-release screening of the new Mystery Science Theater episode 1101, and have been watching the newest shows as time allows on Netflix. I was one of the early backers when they launched their comeback campaign (and raised over $6 million clams) so I’ve been following along closely with the relaunch. I’ve gotten 53 email updates, in fact! Their Kickstarter campaign was, and still is now that rewards are being distributed, exemplary in their communications and follow-through.
I’m trying to watch these new episodes with an upbeat, open mind, and also view it as if I had never seen it before; was the age I was when I discovered the show which was early 20’s; and all sorts of different perspectives to see who it may be trying to click with. Being somewhat of a marketer and having a graduate degree in marketing strategy, I enjoy doing that. It was changed around significantly from the old classic episodes, and the reasons for those changes were deliberate. So I like to try and figure out why and I’m usually close to the bull’s eye. But I’m having a hard time with this so far. There are interviews and podcasts and media available with Joel Hodgson, the creator, about the directions they chose. I love the show, obviously, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m not sure “confounding” is the direction they realized they chose, however.
I’m updating this post as I watch more of the new episodes. I’m thinking as with the “classic” episodes, some of them have to grow on you after watching them a few times. Some of the ones I thought were the lamest are now among my favorites, like Girls Town and Prince of Space. Some of the later episodes of season 11 do seem a little better. The cast is looser and the jokes are funnier because the timing is better. But I’m really going to have to focus on these to maintain impartiality between the Mike and Joel episodes and the new Jonah ones.
However, my initial impressions are that the new shows are sort of comedically weak and there’s a lot going on that doesn’t seem to have a purpose or exist for any real reason. The wobbling camera when it’s on Patton and Kinga makes me seasick and plead “why?” Perhaps it was explained and I missed it, but what is it adding? As far as the design of anything goes, that isn’t ideal. The cast? It seems bloated and not really funny in a quirky, spontaneous way. Which is what I enjoyed about the first run, and am not seeing it here. Maybe Jonah isn’t writing a lot of his own lines so they don’t pop out like they would for the originator. And all the people. It’s getting crowded around there. Even the weird voodoo band that plays(The “skeleton crew.” Groan.), with the motorcycle helmets and half-bones on their heads and personal flotation devices, formerly known as life jackets, have 7 members. What kind of accident is that band expecting? Does cutting to them serve a purpose? Is it becoming a late-night talk show? Someone just had a big payroll, which is evident by watching the credits. I’ve never seen so many co-producers and writers and editors since watching some of the MST3k movie credits. The cash sure didn’t go towards impressive computer graphics, though.
I can’t figure out what’s with the bone theme. Used to just be the SOL. Kinga, the bucktoothed lizard-faced girl that I can’t believe was the top choice, has them in her hair, and the set’s designed with them too. As if people that have the technology they supposedly have wear animal scraps as clothing accessories and wall-art? I don’t know how they can rag on cheesy graphics when theirs are even worse. The sets and backdrops are a mish-mosh of hot glue projects that are visually confusing a lot of the time, and lazy at others. Poor animation mixed with bad stop-motion, combined with paper mache models, models built from junk, and backdrops of a bunch of rivets. All deliberate, I realize, and part of the show’s character. But…why, and why so much? It wasn’t a lack of resources. Some people may enjoy all that zaniness, but I prefer to focus on the actors and writing rather than figure out what it was I just watched. Maybe like many MST3k episodes, they age well and the more you see them, the better they become.
I don’t know how they can rag on cheesy graphics when theirs are even worse. The sets and backdrops are a mish-mosh of hot glue projects that are visually confusing a lot of the time, and lazy at others. Poor animation mixed with bad stop-motion, combined with paper mache models, models built from junk, and backdrops of a bunch of rivets. All deliberate, I realize, and part of the show’s character. But…why, and why so much? It wasn’t a lack of resources. Some people may enjoy all that zaniness, but I prefer to focus on the actors and writing rather than figure out what it was I just watched. Maybe like many MST3k episodes, they age well and the more you see them, the better they become.
I’m not sure what Patton Oswalt is supposed to bring to the table except maybe his name, whatever a C-level actor’s name is worth these days, which may be some quality action figures with the nerd crowd. I can’t see or hear him as anything but Doug Heffernan’s loser friend Spence on the King of Queens, which isn’t unlike this character not suprisingly. He’s no Lawrence Olivier. His character here also seems inept and clownish but it isn’t funny because he doesn’t demand respect. He’s just a bag of fail. Har-har. He seems to simply accept his lot as a minion-boob, and that’s the depth of his character. I understand the tragedy of losing his wife before shooting, but if it was a distraction, he should have bowed out.
His boss, Kinga, not surprisingly, isn’t funny at all(I don’t think she’s supposed to be. I hope not, as weird as that would be for a comedy, but she’s not), and her parts don’t add much except contrived subplots. And her appearance, as much as I try not to let it distract me, is weird. She needs a good orthodontist. And she’s prominent in the show, for some reason. I’d guess 99% of the people who like the show are males. Even gay ones I know like it. But females think it’s stupid for the very most part. (Not all of course; I even once dated a girl that liked it as much as I do, so there are a few gems out there.) Yet diversity has crept into the show, for no apparent reason other than what seems like part of a simmering exit strategy, which is to grow the brand and sell out, as they joke in the first episode. I don’t believe that’s a joke. And part of gettings ducks in a row to be bought in Hollywood/Silicon Valley these days is making sure you’re PC. Whether you think that’s hypocritical or not is your call.
And other useless or unnecessary things: the robots popping up and flying around for no apparent reason. Gypsy makes a cameo during episodes by her silhouette descending from the ceiling and cracking a riff, then disappearing. And the joke is never funny. She’s just a strange-looking distraction. Servo, who I simply can’t get used to with a different voice, flies about like a runaway drone. I’m not sure why Servo wasn’t replaced with a whole new robot since the voice, which are the essence of the characters and most of the show relies on (It’s all we listen to for most of the show) was changed. Dubbed over just like one of the Sandy Frank Japanese monster episodes they make fun of.
Hearing other people riffing on these shows isn’t hard to get used to when they do it well. Jonah does a fairly good job but I miss Trace and Bill’s wild voice-acting though. You’ve got to be good to rely on deadpan. And it seems they pulled back on the sarcasm. (No more sashaying through the sarcasm) Sometimes they now miss getting the improvisational feel of the classic shows. At 46:35 in ep. 3, Time Travelers, Jonah stumbles over his line, for example. Or blow the riff, in my opinion, with things like in Reptilicus/1101 they start singing “Little Red Corvette” when a red Porsche 356 comes onto the screen. Fail. They’ve got to know the geeks that watch this show aren’t going to let that slide.
No one can do impressions, which is a shame. They don’t even try. A lot of the riffs are predictable and obvious, which is sort of lame too. I shouldn’t be able to outriff these guys. They seem to have gone with the “quality in quantity” theory because in some cases it seems they’re racing to see how many riffs they can fit in. Then other times, the clock ticks away. The movies chosen are a good selection of genres they typically rag on: 1960’s teen go-go movies, Japanese monster movies, campy sci-fi, monsters, etc… So at least the cheesy movies are cheesy. Even though a lot of the same names appear across the season as far as directors and studios go. That’s probably because of licensing, or lack of restrictive licensing. Like public domain. Although the movies are indeed cheesy, they aren’t funny-on-their-own cheesy, like many of the duds in the old seasons that could stand on their own for ridiculousness.
MST3k has always been a divisive show; people either are big fans, or they think it’s idiotic. That seems to be the case with a lot of things I like. And when Mystery Science Theater 3000 came out the first time a lot of people just scratched their heads. It’s a hard premise to sell in such a small amount of time. And has become more complicated with the new season. If all you saw was the skits or the intentionally terrible set design and effects, I can’t fault you for thinking it’s infantile. But it reminds me of Calvin & Hobbes in that regard. If nothing else, you have to admit there’s a lot of creativity involved. I hope Joel Hodgson is able to maintain the same control over MST3k that Bill Watterson sought to have with Calvin & Hobbes. Netflix has a reputation for allowing a lot of creative freedom, which is good. And probably explains why they’re having so much success with their original shows. Let’s hope Mystery Science Theater finds the same success.
NOTE: The “It stinks!” part of the title of this is a line from Pod People & Time Travelers. it doesn’t really stink. Much. But the first Season One was really rough around the edges, too.