HFS EZ Free!! Server

At www.rejetto.com/hfs/! You play with it; it’s a simple windows program you run, and then you can make some directory of the machine available to clients who connect to the address of the machine. I used it to refine this site’s mistreatment of Apple’s iThings; i.e., I told it to accept any connection, and ran it on a machine with a wireless USB gadget, and then going “ipconfig” — or actually HFS knows — I could use the wireless’ numeric address to go look for my beautiful files from my iPad without tediously loading my stuff to my official web server and embarrassing myself more than usual in public.

I may have donated money to the guy or maybe not, but I tried and he certainly deserves it. ... It’s just so simple and lacking in the typical annoyances people feel their free servers should exact as a kind of payment. I don’t think it’s really much use for serving files to the multitudes, but I’m ignorant; there’s a lot of stuff in the “Menu”, and I have no idea what it does, but that’s what so charming; I could just get it to work, and test my pitiful iThing HTML. ... And any further HTMLish adventures I might undertake....

And oh yes there’s Delphi source. It has the usual zoo of external components, but at least he provides a TXT file supposedly explaining what they are....

The Hidden User Account Control Dialog of DOOM!!!

This happens every few weeks as I recklessly install junk in the Komputer Attik: I’ll be in the middle of the usual dog’s breakfast of debris — iTunes, say — and it’ll “hang up”. Stop at “looking for frogs” or whatever idiotic message they show, and do nothing. I usually put a stopwatch near the keyboard, and when it goes over four minutes I figure it’s toast and cancel.

This happens infrequently enough that I forget it’s just Windows 7, or the frolicksome Vista before it, playing hide and seek! ... A symptom is the task bar, which I normally keep hidden, refusing to hide! It does this, of course, because there’s a little tiny icon there of the saintly UAC; it goes “mmmph mmmph” because some evil being — that is, the moronic Windows — has trapped it on the task bar, and it cannot speak! The poor little thing....

I mean, I know I’m not the only one who gets these marvelous things. But I google “hidden User Account Control” and nothing. Because all across the fruited plains people just give up; or they reboot and do it again — which is actually what I did, but after killing the stupid install — and try again, whereupon frequently the UAC will condescend to appear before our mortal eyes. ... Or actually, most likely, everyone’s turned-off UAC long ago! Only I still humor the cranky wacko! ... It’s just garbazh; it’s all junk, and it’ll be gone soon, and the wonderful geeky lovable cretins responsible have absolutely no clue of how to do anything, and then shockingly their enterprises grow moribund and they decay and sink away into the darkness of inevitable commercial eclipse.

... And Oh I forgot to rant the most annoying obvious thing: the geeks who create this tripe operate their stupid computers without UAC! Of course they do, just like all the Unix/Linux geeks always use root, despite all their lying solemn assurances. ... After all, the company pays, and even if the geek’s computer gets infested up the kazoo, they just “reimage” it from some magic corporate server, no problem! ... It’s so easy if you’re a geek insider without care or concern or the slightest desire to test anything....


The Beautiful HP15C

It was for sale at amazon and elsewhere, in the chic prestigious Limited Edition! ... After, apparently, a ceaseless campaign of calculator-loving geeks got HP to manufacture it again, because it is so beloved. ... Sadly whenever this important feuilleton you are reading debuted around 8/12 I got it for $130, a cunning bargain ’cause today @ 7/16 it’s $200 used, $850!!! new at amazon, and other ridiculous prices all over the starry web. So you sluggards blew it, and I got a valuable antique!

It came with a manual I will never read and a diskette with a PC emulator version of the calculator I will never run — the first, because I’m too ignorant, and the second, because I do not gladly tolerate utilities that phone home to their tyrant overlords. ... Presumably to emphasize its Hewlett Packard heritage, the HP emulator does that; it wants to call HP on the starry internet and make sure you haven’t stolen their emulator software and given it to all your friends. Which, at this point, would surely be a net plus for the company. ... Nobody on this earth wants to program in HP language whatever that is; I don’t think they ever did, except for a very select geek class, but if any such are left, as a public service HP should do everything they can to nurture them, not discourage the poor fragile creatures! ... And conceivably some lunatics might want to program their pocket calculator — and buy one of them, just because they were so impressed at the power and glory of the pitiful emulator — which sadly can’t happen because these lunatics can’t get the emulator from their friends....

But if you really want an hp15c emulator to use and even program, you can get one without a tyrant overlord, for free, from here, and a very nice one it is too. ... Actually it was in fact this emulator, and before that the $9 RPN-15C for the iThings, that inspired my purchase!

Stupid White Guys

I have seen this appellation on the internet in recent years, but I was a forerunner, in this as in so many things, and abused management in such terms at numerous organizations I ricocheted through in my glory years. ... Of course, I am, quintessentially, a white guy; and, I’m sure, stupid enough. ... But nevertheless, never in management, where these creatures swarmed, blithely rearranging complicated software and hardware projects with nary a care nor thought, the latter being entirely beyond their ken. ... I had assumed our internetty, off-shoring, out-sourcing world had pretty-much exiled them to government service — but obviously not so! ... They still apparently thrive at HP, in a lingering preserve, and I suppose HP is to be credited with nurturing them in their natural habitat....

— the so well-balanced programmer
7/16

The Endearing HP35s

But bless the HP guys; they will never abandon their principles, they will screw the customer with the sacred rites of fuddled confusion and high art even into the echoing empty years ahead, entirely devoid of any rational excuse. Their PR is so incompetent I never heard about this machine until recently — it was released in 2006 I believe — and it has endearingly-slanted keys “reminiscent of classic HP calculators from the 1970s to the 1990s” (wikipedia) which I indeed lusted after in the day. It supposedly commemorates the original HP35, so beloved of geeks, if not by me, which is entirely bereft of any slanted keys, and in my time was always too expensive, and still now that it’s a revered antique, but it doesn’t have nearly as many ingeniously-stacked functions as the quick-to-follow oriental competition and HP’s own subsequent offerings.

But not so the HP35s; it is stacked to the kazoo, and has the little slant on the front of the keys where the “blue shift” and numerous other marvelous functions are denoted. But before all else, the sacred HP trust demands it must not compete with their important hex calculator, and so to enter any hex number in any mode on the HP35s, one must add 37 superfluous keystrokes — no, make that four — no no, just three; and just in case you manage that, the hex “numbers” A-F aren’t marked on the keys you’re actually supposed to use, which otherwise include numerous cabalistic signs, the entire zodiac, and the complete alphabet from A to Z (that last is actually true)....

The Elusive HP16c

HP presumably only included the hex in the hp35s because every other scientific calculator on earth has had it since around 1985, but they couldn’t bear the idea of so unfairly competing with their own beautiful HP16 — oh wait a moment, according to the internet they don’t even make the HP16 anymore! It’s a cherished antique apparently, and amazon’ll sell you used ones for $165 (“acceptable”) up to $300 or so (“used — like new”). ... And that is the true greatness; to continue useless redundant key strokes just to avoid competing with a holy discontinued HP calculator! ... That is what we mean when we say with solemn intonation, True American Design....

Stupid White Guys Redux

And so realizing the HP16c was a valuable antique, I scurried off to check my unit, and discovered the tragedy of fading batteries. And when I replaced them, they didn’t unfade! ... Terror fear. ... But a little gentle bending-outward of the tiny metal battery tines, and a prophylactic application of DeoxIT ridiculously-expensive pink fluid, and it’s back in business, ready to enter hexadecimal numbers without 17 superfluous keystrokes at my beck and call.

... But Wait Just a Moment! ... Speaking of stupid white guys, I didn’t own an hp16c! ... It was just raging Mild Cognitive Impairment stalking my neural byways and back alleys littered as they are with decaying debris. ... I did indeed repair an almost indistinguishable antique calculator, my beloved HP11c which is, of course, a predecessor to the HP15c. So after searching for “my” HP16c for a year or so, I finally realized it didn’t exist, and was filled with joy. ... And bought one at Amazon for $185 or so. ... Which is still a bargain, at least according to this inflation calculator, which suggests HP’s 1989 $150 price’d work out to $288 or so @ 2015. Of course that’d be brand new with all the useless manuals and box and stuff. ... And is why I never owned one in the first place; the 11c must’ve been on sale or something, as they introduced one of the endless stream of newer versions — well actually it was a $110 @ NYC Willoughby’s, sometime in the early 90s. http://www.hpmuseum.org/hp11c.htm says it was $135 @ release in 1981, and it was discontinued 1989, so I paid those Willoughby’s skunks too much yet again....

A $20 Casio

Incidentally if you actually want a scientific calculator, the Casio “fx-115ES PLUS” I just got for $18 at Walmart is undoubtedly more than enough for any mortal. And has hex/bin/octal calculations; the $12 and $8 Casios didn’t. ... Although it does have a weird tendency to render its results in regular fractions....

— the maybe not so well-balanced programmer
7/16


The Sacred Hum of the Telecaster

Oh my precious! ... The beautiful iconic dangerous raw Fender Telecaster: I have loved thee, and now I mourn thee, even before the end. ... Well actually I’ve only got the degraded “Squier” Fender official off-brand unit, and I only got it because it’s cute and I felt the musical attic should have a tele. I even got it a little amp, and a battery-eating “Snarling Dogs” fuzz pedal to keep it company.

All of which explains something, probably. I’d always play my tele, very infrequently, through the snarling pedal, and it would indeed snarl satisfyingly, and my little museum was copacetic. ... But then I was tempted by the wicked cheap-enough Roland MicroCube amp — with effects, amp sims, all the modern stuff! ... Through which, without the snarling dogs, the Telecaster hums, loudly: like a piece of 50s tube-ridden bad-power-supply junk!

... Oh. Of course. That’s what it is — or at least, those are its natal origins. ... How forgetful of me. ... I just didn’t expect them to reproduce it all these years so faithfully. ... It seems the fuzz pedal was hiding the hum, like a primitive noise gate. ... And probably the general fuzz/distortion/noise tendencies of rock would explain how anyone could stand it. Indeed, explicit noise gates are a common accoutrement of the finest pedal boards. ... Also, the antique tube amplifiers were so cruddy you’d hardly notice a little extra pickup hum....

... I play the guitar just about as well as I play the organ: badly. ... And, as I explain from time to time to the youths and not-so-youths of the rock ’n roll generations, I pretty-much checked out when that traitor Dylan went electric. ... I mean, I was a folkie, preoccupied with the girls with long hair and easy morals and high ideals, like the guy Bluto wacked on the stairs in Animal House. ... I didn’t need no electric junk. ... My Squier tele was my little joke; one of so many fallen so flat over the years....

Flimsy Excuses

But even to that, I am loyal. ... And I am perturbed when the admirable Vintage Guitar magazine is so faithless to the sacred relic, preferring all these wimpy more-expensive Les Pauls and strange boutiquey stuff. And are all so super-high-minded in their brand choices, as if playing stuff that sounds like electronics explosions requires special subtlety....

But now I think I understand a little: guitarists dumped the tele ’cause it was too noisy, and then made flimsy excuses. ... You can google “telecaster hum” and find thousands of people just like me — well, maybe without the extravagant pretensions — whose teles produce enormous amounts of hum unless they hold them in just the right position. ... While reading of the sacred Hendrix, who apparently played a tele very occasionally, I found a forum poster opining that the hum was part of the show, and then I finally remembered — that wacko rock ’n’ roll sound, the painful feedback, the monstrous hum, the awful distortion that would drown-out the monstrous hum — it all came back; and I felt ill....

Mike Bloomfield

And then Vintage Guitar (5/14 p 96) wrote it was the esteemed Butterfield Blues Band guitar wiz who founded the craze, whose sizzling telecaster sent all the kids out to get the exact model he played; and then later, when Bloomfield switched to an antique Les Paul, they all then wanted that. That’s what Vintage Guitar says, anyway, and I believe that’s probably why I venerate the telecaster at least; I never got to the Les Paul phase. ... Still observing strict omerta, nothing is mentioned of any hum/noise issues in the multiple-page, sometimes touching article, although an obvious pedestrian reason (shhh! shhh!) for Bloomfield’s switch might well have been the hum....

It Always Hums

The Telecaster hums because the pickups are coils of wire, like an antenna. It is a cliché of the guitar puffery biz how the telecaster’s just a piece of wood with electronics wacked on it, as if all the cuter “carved” things are somehow inherently technically superior — that is, aside from obviously less-hummy pickup electronics. Some of the faithful claim our increasingly electronic age is to blame, but that’s just denial and it always hummed, and that’s why so many guitarists, despite the obvious iconic tele-ness, turned away when they could afford it and worshiped at lesser altars. ... But, naturally, concealed their apostasy with all these bogus “tone” claims about their pieces of wood with better electronics wacked on them. ... Most notably, the “humbucker” pickup, contrived of two pickups next to each other, jiggered so they detect the metal string’s vibrations good, but not the ambient hum and noise. ... I mean, good for them! ... But Leo Fender didn’t use them on the Telecaster....

... Sad ...

I was sad when I realized all this, not sure why. But it’s another illusion fallen into the dust: the iconic American rock ’n’ roll guitar is also an iconic American mediocrity. And I’m surprised. ... And then there’s the seemingly more popular Stratocaster; which is obviously wimpier and also hums.[1]

And so I wandered through the next Musicians Friend catalog with “new eyes” and saw that many of the guitars on offer had humbucking pickups, noticeable because they’re twice as big. Fender even has a $600 Telecaster with magical humbuckers that look like the historical tele’s. And in the next issue of Vintage Guitar I saw the ads, where the special super boutique guitars almost all had suspiciously fat pickups.

But Lo! ... The Switch

And then a little while passed, and I came unto the attic again and got out my old stupid 2nd electric guitar I must’ve bought in some flea market for $20 and it didn’t hum as much! ... I was stunned; I couldn’t believe the Fender would be that much worse! ... So I plugged my humming tele back in, and set the pickup switch to the middle position. And Behold: the hum was much reduced. Not eliminated, but eminently usable; particularly at my exalted skill level. ... Of course it would be one of my unique talents not to notice a thing like that in extensive tests....

And that, my children, is why even cheap guitars have two pickups: so they can be jiggered to cancel-out the hum. ... And note there’s still plenty of room for relentlessly noisy electric guitars even with this insider hermetically-concealed wisdom: i.e., tinkerers who install wrong pickups and/or wrong way wiring.

Also The Fender Telecaster and The Telecaster Guitar Book of RWRP knew not .

How Can This Be?

Some of the thousands of articles I’ve skimmed might’ve mentioned something about this, not that I’d remember, but three coffee-table tele books I acquired in a burst of late-life teleidolatry were without clue. ... So it must be this is my unique discovery which I could’ve kept secret in my heart but I will generously share with you, my invisible following, here. ... Well, secret to me and multitudes of guitar manufacturers and tinkerers, who presumably are without the power of speech or writing....

But once the electric guitar has two pickups, they can be setup two ways: right and wrong. Presumably most are manufactured the right way. And the two pickups even on cheap guitars suggests manufacturers know this, along with another clue: the two pickups should have complementary-polarity magnets — south pointing towards the strings on one, north on the other. Which doesn’t seem likely to happen by accident.

I would guess this practice represents a minimal way of evading humbucker patents, which would explain the omerta, i.e. the First Law: “don’t get sued” — and/or alternately a historical accretion, the cherished secret knowledge of underground electric luthiers passed down through years or at least months of hidden toil. ... Humbucker technology apparently originated in the 1930s, so the knowledge was out there. ... The tele switch fits either a patent-evasion theory — “see, it’s just an effect! we just accidentally wired it that way!” — and a competitive feature strategy, so idiots won’t buy the other guy’s guitar which provides soul-destroying hum and special tonal effects....

I bought my tele along with a vs840ex in 1999.

What is Truth: RWRP?

There is a term for a properly jiggered 2nd guitar pickup: “RWRP” aka “Reverse Wired Reverse Polarity”. And once you google it, you will find vast seas of knowledge and ignorance, but apparently teles and other guitars with RWRP pickups are common and indeed with careful scientific tests I have verified the magnets on my Squier Telecaster are reversed polarity bridge versus neck and I am so happy. However my cheapo stratojunk did not show this,[2] but I still figure one pickup is RW at least — right, the RW’d be $0, but RP requires a different pickup == inventory co$t. ... I notice none of the astonishingly-knowledgeable authorities on the web have any opinion on what a non-RP pickup sounds like in combination with proper RWing, but it might be OK or phasey-cool or who knows.

... And then there’s the ~$140 (amazon) Electro-Harmonix “HumDebugger” pedal which apparently suppresses the hum and the precious single-coil tone supposedly beloved of the faithful. ... A Youtube somewhere depicts an uncritical enthusiast playing typical fuzz metal rhythm riffs with and without HumDebugger magic and I must say, that’s my hum he’s got, and it goes away when he presses the pedal button. The tone sounds the way it usually does with this kind of music — fairly indistinguishable from noise — but of the seven amazon HumDebugger reviews, four despaired at the tragic pollution of the pure single coil sound. ... However it is cheaper than a genuine “Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele Pickup Set” ~$160 @ musiciansfriend.com which undoubtedly poisons the single coil purity since they’re apparently cute little “stacked” humbuckers....

Hum No More?

The HumDebugger’s worth every penny! I’m probably ripping-out the single-coil soul of my Squier Tele but I don’t miss a thing. ... And that’s on the “strong” super-Republican setting. ... I set the Squier pickup switch to the middle position where it doesn’t hum anyway, at least if I don’t provoke it, and then I stepped on the footswitch and it sounds the same, effect on/off. If I switch to either the neck or bridge position, it’s quite noticeably different: lotsa buzzy hum in one footswitch position, none in the other....

Now it’s perfectly true, I’m not a guitar tone expert like the thundering web hordes. However, I didn’t catch any of them doing the middle-switch-position test on the HumDebugger or, heaven forfend, a double-blind test. ... And on the other hand, almost everything sounds different. ... If I listened long enough (Tim Hardin anyone?) the HumDebugger would no doubt reveal shocking degradations as I switched it on, even in my Squier middle switch position. But I’ve noticed that any change in an audio system is often detectable by our sensitive hearing, even perhaps including those ridiculous $10K hifi cables. That’s what the double-blind is for: you gather as “expert” a sample of auditors as desired/feasible, and they have to consistently assert (more than half), that one thing sounds better than another — without possibly knowing which is which. Sound on Sound magazine, to their credit, did such a test with high-end studio preamps (page 154, 10/12), and concluded that while all the SOS guys thought they could hear the high-priced spread, the blind test faked ’em out. They haven’t subsequently referred to that test much in the $uper-preamp “reviews”. ... Of course, you wouldn’t bother with a hummy telecaster for a HumDebugger test, but use one of those refined super humbucker guitars — to compare only the HumDebugger, not the hum. ... Or, cheaper and better, just use a test signal....

HumDebugger Scores...

But regardless of all the fiddlefaddle, the HumDebugger is the obvious choice for your Fender hum suppression needs: just leave the effect off, and you get that original precious single-coil spiritual revelation, totally unaltered, as it was in the beginning and ever shall be. And a useful panorama of local electrical noise. ... Or you can engage the button, and the stupid thing stops buzzing. ... Best of both worlds, and no expen$ive anti-single-coil-tone humbucker pickups involved....

But I really don’t care; my iconic tele hums no more, the effect isn’t obviously awful and in fact is obviously better. ... I guess I just don’t got the subtle tone sensitivities of the modern electrical guitarist; I think this is exactly the kind of technology Fender somehow should’ve incorporated into their gadgets in the 21st century....

Tone?

And I’ve realized, after a few months and the wandering miles, that the supposedly acute “tone” sensitivity of the modern electric guitarist is really about how these silly machines all sound the same! ... Of course! ... Obviously violins or even acoustic guitars would have fairly apparent tonal differences, but the poor electric guitar, particularly the rock ’n’ roll flavor, and especially the metal/shredder/noise style? Cranked up to life-destroying volume? ... Note, if you will, that the professed tonal sensitivity appears to increase as the style of music becomes closer to the sound of garbage cans in the morning. ... So they cling to what ever more obviously doesn’t exist. ... Of course....

Other Noises

My web wanderings revealed how Gibson also has a supposedly-revered single coil pickup the “P90” which, sensibly, was replaced by 1958 or so with less-annoying humbuckers but are now being retro-exploited in a fashion comparable to the ridiculously solemn Fender obsequies. Helpfully, the P90 is “fat” and so can be mistaken for a humbucker. ... The Sweetwater summer 2014 catalog has a Gibson ES-390 puff (page 18?) which boasts their shabby-chic $2600 guitar with “Custom Shop P-90 single-coils” is “even wired with reverse polarity, for hum canceling when you’re using both [pickups]” — of course they mean reverse wired reverse polarity. But it was the first commercial mention of this highly obscure and controversial topic I’ve encountered, although it could’ve been in the catalog for years I suppose....

And then I heard some guy on youtube demoing three pickup flavors, and by golly yes they sure sounded different, just as if you used EQ on ’em, which I gather is a concept so advanced it escapes the general attention of the pickup obsessed guitarist. ... And be sure to see http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/nov98/articles/pickup.htm, an authoritative review/discussion which I finally stumbled on, from Sound On Sound....

The Shrine of Mendacity

Then as the weary world spun, I read a few of my ridiculous telecaster books, which were pretty amusing really, and then one about the Gibson Les Paul. This guy Dave Hunter seems to be the brand leader in these things, with a Paul Balmer not far behind, and there are others: nice inside-baseball books with lots of color pictures of somebody’s favorite stars and wonderful guitars. And what started as annoying is really amazing: particularly in the Les Paul book, to discuss a guitar whose latter-day fame at least is significantly wrapped-up in its humbucker pickups, without devoting undue attention — that is, more than a 100 words in the entire book, probably more like 20 — to the minor detail that single-coil guitar pickups are noisy, and will pick up with ease the hum of a thousand transformers — this is a kind of existential poetry! ... A rhyme of untruth! ... A song. ... A saga! ...

And I must not omit honorable mention for 2,000 Guitars, which isn’t actually for sale but I bought it used at Amazon for $15 or so, which is a tremendous bargain since it weighs a ton and there really are 2,000 of ’em, or at least far too many; I didn’t count, but it’s stuffed with color pictures + text, with some lengthy entries, for all the guitars in the universe — not so distinguishable from the latest Sweetwater catalog I suppose....

And then the 9/16 Vintage Guitar in an $1,800 Strat puff on page 138 suggested that the “infamous single-coil hum may ... be something we’ll tell our grandchildren about around the hearth”, in fulsome praise of the unit’s “noiseless” “single-coil” pickups....

Another Humbucker

While I’m on the subject, I will mention a pickup I was inspired to acquire for $45 at Amazon: the “Dean Markely Strings ProMag Grand Pickup”. It’s a portable humbucker for an acoustic (steel-stringed of course) guitar, and has the obvious advantage of outraging swathes of the pure-tone faithful in several ways. ... Don’t confuse with other similarly-priced, at least at Amazon, Dean Markely single-coil non-humbucking pickups, presumably for the noise/hum-loving crowd.

And it sounded pretty good to me, plugged into a mic preamp and monitored with headphones. A little hissy, but that could be the cheapo preamp — well actually it’d probably sound better with an actual instrument input, which I just didn’t bother. ... The gadget sort-of snuggled into the sound-hole of my Genuine Antique Gibson LG-1 which works better than the description sounds. But the cable is mysteriously-shoddy and permanently-attached; I plan deployment on future imaginary acoustic recordings where it has the great advantage of ignoring ambient noise, i.e. sirens, air conditioning, screaming, etc. in your ridiculous attic studio — i.e., it’s an acoustic DI. The cunning Markely claims to have optimized the device for acoustic guitars, and the online reviews were as usual incensed, but I lived through the era of wretched clip-on/fall-off/screw-on-mutilation piezo acoustic pickups and this is infinitely easier to use and much better-sounding. ... Your $4000 mics in your elaborately sound-treated/isolated studio might be an improvement — but perhaps not, if you want to record the singing guitarist in the same take....

Stringing the Telecaster: Pity the Poor Drug-Addled Musician

Moving on to further irrelevancies that don’t seem to fit anywhere else on my ridiculous site, in a spasm of aimless productivity I restrung my silly Tele with super-extra-light .008-.038 strings, with the strategery that if I only play a few times a decade, I should have the superlight strings at least and then it’ll play good even without calluses, which I’ll never develop again in this life most likely. ... Fat chance; it felt as clunky as ever, and measured something like 0.025’’ at the first fret, what’s supposed to be 0.010’’, according to a fender book and fender.com.

Nut Height

And it’s obvious the nut’s too high. As they always were in the old distant dreamy days, when I went through endless pitiful $0 struggles to make them righteous, which never happened and I will not repeat or repent. ... This time I’ll buy another nut (just search amazon for “telecaster nut” and there’s a page of em’! ~$10!), wreck the current one most likely, and the truss, and fiddle the bridge....

You will see oh hostile twisted guitar fates! As I shake my powerless fists at the empty ceiling. ... In a subsequent field expedition to Guitar Center, I noticed all the guitars below $200 or so had nuts with the strings held-up proud and high like my humble Squier, and all the expen$ive guitars had much lower strings at the nut — the difference is easily visible. ... Apparently cutting a ~0.015’’ sliver from the bottom of the nut is a major cost component in modern guitar manufacture....

The Zero Fret

And I should note that in the weary wandering months a few sources have blown the gaffe a bit by mentioning the zero fret — first, as a despised accoutrement of old junky “European” guitars but then later, one of the fancy guitar magazines foolishly carried a column by some guy who fixed-up a crummy guitar by, among other luxury fittings, putting some kind of nut-with-zero-fret assembly on it as a high class upgrade. ... This “zero fret”, if it’s not obvious, is a fret below the first fret, i.e. right where the nut is, that provides an uncomplicated string height arrangement without precision delicate nut adjustment. And, consequently, making it much harder to produce an “expensive” and a “cheap” guitar on the same assembly lines. ... And, hey, apparently a 2015 upgrade for Gibson is ... an “adjustable zero fret nut”! Of course the Gibson thing is all pure and Jetsons, nothing like those eurotrashy thingeys....

These amazing observations, incidentally, have convinced me at least to never buy another guitar without seeing the nut string height — interesting full-employment project there for brick ’n’ mortar music stores — or gain guerilla expertise in nut mutilation. Or perhaps just always play with a capo on the first fret, and maybe tune the strings down a half tone. ... Of course I wasn’t planning on buying another guitar anyway; I’m going to win one of those contests the guitar magazines relentlessly flog in my email.

The Perfect Tune

... Anyway, my great triumph was, after a decade of keeping the thing in tune by ear and an occasional low E clonk on one of my silly keyboards, and after changing the strings, keeping it tuned-up while I went along — good for the tension you know — as the beautiful illustration shows, a genuine scientific machine said the E was still right on the money! ... It’s like John Henry and that steam drill....

Yeah and no wonder these drug-addled guys have guitar techs! ... To get the string into and through the bridge, I had to bend it up a little bit at the front, and then hold it with a clamp pliers or else it would infallibly twist itself in the wrong direction and wouldn’t get out the right hole. And when I unclamped, the pliers wanted to “clonk” the shiny finish, so I had to do it with a towel. ... And up at the head end, it’s only a little easier, requiring serious attention to the wandering tendencies of silly springy metal. ... No walk in the park no sirree. And I’m in the middle of bright lights, spacious tables, and a ridiculous over-abundance of tools....

— 3/15


1. Eventually I happened to read in one of these shoddy guitar magazines that the strat switch does bridge+middle and middle+neck — fender explains it like

Position 1: Bridge pickup only.
Position 2: Bridge pickup and middle pickup together.
Position 3: Middle pickup only.
Position 4. Middle pickup and neck pickup together.
Position 5: Neck pickup only.

But that’s today’s strat. The fender article continues to explain that the original strat had a 3-way switch which’d turn on each of the three pickups alone; nothing else. Which led to players’ well-known “trick” where they’d “nudge” the switch to get the “middle” positions, like positions #2 and #4 in the modern strat. Presumably the hum-bucking positions, if the middle pickup’s wired RWRP to the other pickups, which I’m pretty sure it is, even if googling “stratocaster RWRP” does turn-up suspects who think the middle pickup is configured non-RWRP so any position of the strat switch’ll still pick-up all that lovely hum & noise and Holy pure single-coil tone. But googling “telecaster RWRP” also finds pilgrims who complain about their tele being that way, accuse strats of the heinous fault, and others who say the holy original tele wasn’t — which last I’m willing to believe, but I know for a fact my cheapo Squier tele is RWRP, so I’m just going to assume all the web witnesses are ignorant fools. ... My shoddy guitar magazine article was actually morally superior and did mention noise, but hum and noise are entirely absent, of course, from the fender article, which insists that players’d do that “trick” to get a different tone — where I suppose “different” could mean, not burdened with the hum of a thousand transformers. ... Anyway, this is why the guitaritariat take-up the strat in preference to the tele: two anti-hum positions, + 3 total hum & noise, as opposed to the pitiful tele’s one and two. ... Or, translated into the liar-ese of the industry, “that super hot strat tone”. ... And, I would note, the strat would doubtless also benefit from a little hum debugger magic....

2. The <$20 Stewart-MacDonald “Schatten Magnet Polarity Tester” is a little plastic tube with a jiggly magnetic ball of plastic in it, which I could poke at my cheapo telecaster lying on a table and determine that one of the pickups was “N” and the other “S”, just as I had already concluded by cruder means. But the gadget came with a brochure which insisted that all telecasters pickups were from “the mid 50s” both south-up — so much for snooty omniscience. ... And my stratojunk had pickups with the same magnetic polarity, as I suspected....