Monday, July 14, 2008

The amazing copper.

Part of being a skeptical - is to question. It's almost the whole part. Claims made, need to have evidence to support them. Easy. Well - not so much. 

At a young age, I first questioned the coolness and utility of having air pumps in my shoes - until around about the first time I saw a pair actually worn by someone. Then - at that moment - decided that I needed $110 for a pair of shoes.

I wanted them - really quite badly. And worked doing odd jobs, until I made enough money to buy them. As I recall - it took an exceptionally short amount of time. About 4 days or so, if I can trust my own memories.

When I finally worked up enough scratch to make the big purchase - my mother took to buy them.  At Cloverleaf mall - for those who care to know.  Upon trying them on - the salesmen seemed to think that somehow a 12 year old boy - who walked into the store with his mother, and cold hard cash - needed further persuasion to make the big purchase. Yeah, right. Those shoes we sold at least 5 days before I actually got there.

In his sales pitch, he mentioned that the pump really did make your shoes fit better enough - to help you jump higher. His reasoning, was because there was less 'space' in the shoe from the tounge to the top of the foot. You know....where they put the pump. How handy.

In addition, he claimed - in a normal shoe you get a massive top-of-foot to tongue-of-shoe 'gap.' You know - the ever perplexing ToF to ToS conundrum - perplexing shoe makers everywhere. And that this 'gap' hindered your ability to jump.  Oh really?  By how much, exactly?

Well - maybe, he was just full of shit.

Yeah, I think I knew it was crap when he told me.....but I bought it. All of it...the shoes - and his STUPID idea about why they would make me jump higher. I then repeated his lie to everyone who cared enough to listen as they checked out my super-cool new shoes for the next 3 weeks or so. Until, at which point, they were dirty and everyone else had a pair just like em.

But in that fit of emotion, making my first significant purchase of my young life - I was out and out lied to by a Salesman. Go figure, right? Yeah, this was before I knew they were all gonna lie to me. Wow, I hate me a salesman.

But soon my critical thinking won me over. I noticed there wasn't really any gap, no matter how fancy the show.  And surely the weight of the pump and bladder would offset any jumping ability increased caused by the tighter fit.

I hope similar reflection will soon spread to another group of folks who are also being lied to. People in this group come in a few flavors including - those who know they are being lied to.....and those who don't.  I'm out to help convert the ones who just don't know.

This group of folks - who haven't given it much thought.  Perhaps some of them are just currently caught up in their own self-delusion (similar to my 12 year-old pump-wearing self).  This group of folks are most broadly defined as the Audiophiles.

I'm not talking about the people who just like their stereo and have made it a hobby.  I'm talking about the Audiophiles who take their love for accurate sound - and basterdize it with claims that they, or anyone, just can not show to be true - in the form of  $7,250 Pear Anjou Audio Cables. 

I know....I'm the one generally sketpical about'S MY EVIDENCE?'s coming - and it's from Google, so suck it.

Choice quote for those not into following links:

"I can't begin to describe how much effort Google spends maximizing performance at every level. We would tear down our data centers and rewire them with $500 ethernet cables if you could prove that it would reduce latency by 1%"

What is awesome about this quote, is that it comes in the wake of Googles open sourcing of their Protocol Buffers. Which is cool - because it certainly underscores on a very real and technical level why they care so much about that there 1%.

I'm not saying I understand it all perfectly....or that you need to either....but I'm geeky enough to know that Google takes latency (for any reason) in their data centers very seriously. It's important (again, see their work on Protocol Bufffers).
Denon (the makers of the $500 ethernet cable AND high-end audio gear) are claiming something that cost $500 is better than something that really should cost less than $5. And it's something Google uses quite a few of - they have lots of computers and I'm sure at least a few of them use copper wires to talk to each other. Copper wires they would gladly pay top dollar for if they could be demonstrated to show supierior ability to plain-old boring, inexspensive, copper wires inside the basic ethernet cable the rest of us use. Google has the need (if there is any meaningful advantage) - and the money for this product.
And I'm sure it costs Google damn near nothing compared to the $101.49 a FOOT Denon is charging. But Google would likley be among the first to pay for it.....if it Denon's performace claims even threaten to be worthwhile.
So one needs to ask the question.....if it's not worth it for Google (who processes WAY more data daily than I can even fathom).......perhaps - it's just not such a good deal for my data processing needs.

When it's important (anything really - Ethernet and Speaker Cables, Life, The Universe and Everything) you need to get it right. To get it right, you have to test the claims.  And testing these claims is fairly easy.  Either you get better data rates - or you don't.  Meaningful results - are not hard to achieve.  

If you want good datacenter performance, one should not expect to just purchase the most expensive unit available for each part and hope that alone makes it the 'best.'  You need to test each part to ensure the preformance is real and optimal.

In the case of super expensive Ethernet cables - and Audio cables....the conclusion I seem to find is that if you think these expensive products outperform standard are wrong.

And if someone tells you they do - then you are being lied to. Possibly, but not always - by some sort of Salemen.

I guess, it's possible one would that understand these types of super-cables aren't actually better and buy them anyway. However, I think that is the exception - not the rule. Most folks just don't know.

So I ask those folk to look around a bit - see what the evidence is...don't trust me - go do the research. Or look to the folks who deal with these sorts of claims on some level, in the real world - like Google.

Google tests preform their tests everyday. I've performed a few of my own several times myself constructing this very post. And you know they are good at it (whatever it is...but it seems they have the potential need for lots and lots of Ethernet cables).

$500 ethernet cables are STUPID. And if you don't understand WHY - then perhaps you should look somewhere for an opinion on the matter. Let's see....where would I go to look something like this up? I've got some books around here somewhere....

And why we're making shit did you know that if you type google into google - you'll break the Intenet. Go on....try it!

And for those of you reading this who do understand exactly WHY $500 ETHERNET CABLES ARE STUPID - perhaps you should read up on the Protocol Buffers, they seem pretty hip.

So there you have it....Google wouldn't pay to replace their ethernet cable in their datacenters with $500 dollar Ethernet cables (because they aren't worth it)......and the CEO of PEAR Audio Cables, wouldn't test their Speaker Cables to earn a free $1,000,000. Surely the jerk at PEAR would have the common decency to take a 30 minutes test (of his own product) and give the free money to a good cause.

But no. He can't do it....he can't go into a Google-like Lab (or any other controlled setting) and perform a simple test to verify his super-audio cable quality claims. Much like the makers of the $500 Ethernet cable CANNOT DO.

If they could...they would. They can't do it - because they don't have the ability to do what they claim. At least, not in any meaningful, testable way. And if you can't test it - then the effect become rather questionable. Always - that's how Science works.

The questionable claims at hand become even more dubious - when you consider the undocumented nature of the claimed improvement over standard products of 1/500th the cost (or even less). If you have a claim....let's see your data. Give it to Google - let them see'll make a BIG SALE.

But I think I can safely predict Denon would never sell Google on the need to pay obscene amounts of money for their Ethernet Cables.....And likewise - it seems unlikely anyone could sell them a truckload of $7,250 Pear Anjou Audio Cables. No matter how well the Salesman manages to lie to them.

So, the next time someone makes claim about the incredible nature of their amazing copper wires - perhaps you should ask them to show you the data.

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