Are you impressed with how good I am at buying stuff? I am.
I am a very sceptical person when it comes to computer hardware and software. Hell, anyone who knows me would call me an outright fanboy or even evangelist. Yeah, fair enough. I have an extreme dislike for all things proprietary and all things that ride the sales wave powered solely by the hot air of marketdroids. It takes a special circumstance for me to be able to say ‘I love hardware x’ – but, today, I feel as though I am able to say that about two brands of computer hardware.
Specifically, Dell and Asus.
Why? Dell, because their computer systems are nearly always Linux compatible from top to bottom. My Dell XPS M1330 laptop is a perfect example; everything works out of the box with Ubuntu Linux (even the media keys!). The same goes for most of their other models. Dell typically uses quality hardware components which aren’t manufactured by obscure impersonators. Also, apparently they’re really interested in what their customers have to say.
Why Asus? I haven’t ever really thought much of Asus in the past. I used to think their products were overpriced and under-performing. Maybe I was right five years ago, but things change. Today, I have many Asus products which I find to be of excellent quality and well worth the associated price premium over similar products. My desktop machine is based on an Asus motherboard; it has more bells and whistles than I will probably ever use, but the knowledge I can in future is nice. Not only that, but the Asus uses superior power delivery circuitry than most other motherboards.
My sound card is an Asus sound card; this is great. For a long time, Creative were the only company making sound cards worth buying. Consequently, they got lazy and barely innovated. Their product updates brought little improvement, and their support was atrocious. Knowing they were the only vendor worth giving money, they pretty much stopped caring. If you’ve ever tried to search for drivers for a Creative sound card on the internet, you’ll know what I mean.
So, I was glad to not buy a Creative product. The Asus Xonar DX in my desktop system is arguably the best sound card for its price, and it works well with my Alessandro MS-1 headphones. Not the best solution for gaming, but I don’t care too much – I prefer the clarity, richness and size of the soundscape that this combination gives me in music.
However, recently, I decided that it was rather ridiculous for me to turn on my desktop machine just to listen to music while working on my laptop. (I am a bit of an audiophile – no, the inbuilt sound in my laptop is nice and all, but not really good enough for me.) So, I went ahead and bought myself a shiny new toy, also Asus: the Xonar U1. Essentially, a USB version of the Xonar DX. I did a little research beforehand to ensure it would work in Linux – thankfully, it does. As it uses similar hardware to the other products in the Xonar range, a driver was already available. (No thanks to Asus for this of course – they’re not that good). Currently the hardware volume control of the device doesn’t appear to work, nor does digital-out at present, but I don’t really use either, so I am not worried. I care more about the quality of the output, which is great for a $63 piece of equipment.
So, I plugged it in, configured my sound devices through the PulseAudio configurator, and now I’m happily enjoying high-quality music through my laptop just as I would my desktop! This also eliminates the need for me to remote desktop into my desktop to change the song, which is another story of horribleness courtesy of Microsoft arbitrarily defining ‘Home’ versions of Vista as being incapable of supporting remote desktop technology (I use VNC, it is a pain as it has to be started in user mode, it is blocked by the kernel due to “security reasons” if I try to run the service).
Anyway, this is pretty much a post inspired by my being chuffed at succeeding in having things the way I want them. At the end of the day, that’s what life is all about, right?