1: Evil music-controlling button that SHOULD NOT BE.  2: Evil smoking battery.  Read on for some WTF-ness.

As we setup House 2.0, we are going through some of our old stuff, and setting up new stuff as well.

Technological WTF ensues:

#1. EVIL SMOKING BATTERY (not as strange as #2)

Okay,  we bought one of those “smokeless ashtrays” at a yard sale awhile back (estimation: 25 cents in 2002).  It has a motor which sucks the smoke into it.  You can smell the stench of smokers back in the built-in filter.

We wanted to try it out to see if it works, so I put in a rechargeable battery.

What’s that smell?  Must be the filter.  Nooooo…. It was smoke, coming out of the side of the battery.  I hadn’t installed the 2nd battery yet!  As I took it out, I saw a tiny spark.  WTF?  I’m really not used to things being alive before you finished putting every battery in!

#2.  EVIL MUSIC-CONTROLLING BUTTON THAT SHOULD NOT BE

This one is a little weirder.  My computer downstairs controls all the music in the house.

It has an audio output jack (full quarter-inch /guitar jack, not the eight-inch/headphones jack).  That jack is plugged in with a converter that converts it to 2 RCA (left, right) cables.  Those cables are 50 feet long and run through a hole in the ceiling to upstairs.  They are also both split via Y-adapters and go to the front-jacks on the downstairs stereo.

Upstairs, those cables plug into a stereo that has its own set of speakers, giving us central music by allowing downstairs music to be played upstairs.  (We also sometimes employ an FM transmitter.)

So, I upgraded the upstairs stereo to be a real stereo with real speakers.  It sounds much better.  (Old stereo had RCA-cable, not speaker-wire speakers — y’know, the crappy 70’s style speakres)

So anyway, WTF is happening here:

The stereo has a “tape monitor” button which can be toggled on and off, as well as other modes — phono, FM, etc.  So anyway, if I hit one of these buttons on this upstairs stereo — the speakers downstairs go quiet.  They go from 100% volume to about 1% volume.

It makes no sense.  I know there’s some valid explanation using induction or somesuch electronics concept, but it personally just strikes me as very strange to be able to control one stereo by switching a mode from another stereo — especially when they aren’t directly connected.  They are at opposite ends of y-adapted cables.

This is yet one more reason why the best audio output from a stereo is not mini-jack, or even RCA/composite, but is optical digital outSettle for nothing less.  Everything else is subject to electromagnetic interference.  The optical digital cables may be expensive — as much as $40 for a meter — but it’s totally worth it.  And the motherboard to my latest computer has optical digital out (and in) built into it.

Screw RCA cables.