Burning Down The House

feuer hs 11 jeannot groß(Photo: Holger Wentzlaff)

This week got off to a difficult start when fire broke out in a neighbour’s flat early Monday morning. We had 22 fire engines here, it took all day to get the fire out (and even then it started up again 2 days later) and we were very, very lucky to get away with only one person in hospital with light burns. Another person had to crawl across the roof to escape, three flats are completely burned out – the people living there have lost everything they possess – and a further eight flats had to be evacuated and will take at least six months to repair and renovate.

For the first time ever I could understand someone contemplating getting rid of all those potentially flammable books and LPs cluttering their living room and keeping only a Kindle and a stick with their music collection on it. Apart from the fact that USB-sticks lose their memory at some point, or so I’m told, I cannot imagine not being surrounded by books, and the sound quality on my laptop is so pathetic that I much prefer listening to CDs on the stereo. It did get me wondering, though, so I thought I’d ask if any of you have completely digitalised your music collection(s) and if you could offer some insight as to how happy you are with the results, which gadgets work best, or whether it’s the work of the devil and we should stick with the discs…

Now here comes the song you’ve all been waiting for:

22 thoughts on “Burning Down The House

  1. That sounds seriously frightening.

    I’ve never really considered digitising all my music. It would take forever. I’d never consider putting it all onto a PC hard drive anyway, because the sound quality would be rubbish and those Brennan boxes are expensive and you’ll end up having to scroll through to find the album you want to play, and it would still take forever to get all your music onto the thing anyway. I went from vinyl to CD. I’ll stick with that, I think.

    As for books and kindles/e-readers. No thanks. I like books.

    • Seriously frightening, yes indeed.

      I share your thoughts on sound quality and time wasting, but I’ve never heard of a Brennan box, so I’m off for a google…

      • I don’t use Windows. My PCs are all Linux.

        Even so, I don’t keep any music I want to keep on a PC. I prefer listening to music on a hi fi.

  2. Bloody hell, hope you’re OK, and glad no one was badly hurt. How are “they” going to re-home the people whose flats are too badly damaged to return?

    No, haven’t digitised everything. I did sell my LPs some time ago but I still have some cassettes and CDs. There are about 2000 songs in my iTunes – I would be sorry if I lost them but on the other hand there are always new songs and lots of music on the radio / internet.

    I grew up with books. I’ve got rid of a lot but kept my favourites – I do wonder why, sometimes. I wouldn’t mind getting rid of them but I would like them to go to someone who would enjoy them rather than just dumping them.

    The older I get the more I want to clear out my stuff, give things away, and stop accumulating (this last one is easy because I’m skint, so making a virtue of necessity!

    • We’re fine, thanks.TBW’s best friend lives in one of the affected flats, but they were away on holiday – never have I been so glad not to have them around! For now, people are moving in with girlfriends and boyfriends for a couple of weeks and giving up their flats to those people needing rehousing. The local council is obliged to find temporary homes until the building’s habitable again, but people don’t want to end up living in a completely different part of town.

      Everyone’s been helping carry stuff out of the parts of the building we’re allowed to access, and our front room is currently full of smoky relicts from our friends’ flat. We’re taking it turns to cook for everyone and I am aiming for a new world record in muffin production 😉

  3. I went completely digital a dozen years ago when I downsized into a travel trailer. Never regretted it.

    Two tips:
    1. Laptop sound is unbearable, and the problem is more the soundcard than the speakers so a cable to your stereo doesn’t accomplish much. I spent £40 on an external sound card (Creative Labs Go-Fi Pro http://goo.gl/T7zArX ) and love it. It plugs into your USB, and you plug your headphones/stereo cable into that. Whether you play a CD, youTube clip, mp3…the sound is processed by it, not your internal soundcard.

    2. I have 3 backups of everything = 4 copies. Sounds excessive and perhaps it is. But I like my sleep at night 🙂
    1st copy (song, pic, document…) is on the computer
    2nd is on an external (there’s free programs you can use to automate backups. Most externals come with one)
    3rd & 4th are also on externals, one of which is stored offsite. Flames like drives as much as anything else. I update once every few months or so depending on how important any new stuff is and rotate – Update #3, bring it to a friend’s house, come home with #4.

    Hope this helps. Oh, and I use a Kindle for reading. You can read on a tablet, phone or laptop, but the Kindle is a way better experience. And gives you something to do while your phone is charging 🙂


    • Ah, so you reckon it IS possible to achieve enjoyable sound? I must look into that external sound card for my laptop anyway. Thanks for the tip!

      I cannot imagine living without books and turned my nose up at e-readers when they first came out, but I was given a Kindle when I was in hospital last year. It took a bit of getting used to, but I am surprised at how many situations there are where it’s really convenient having this device as opposed to schlepping a pile of books around with me.

    • I like the idea of the external soundcard. Can it be used with an external speaker or bluetooth speakers, or only headphones?

  4. The house we lived in when I was 13 caught fire six weeks after we moved in and part of the roof collapsed. I’ve been nervous of fire ever since. It is a horrible experience and I hope you don’t have too many nightmares.
    I buy CDs and copy them onto an external hard drive straight away. The hard drive is backed up regularly to the Amazon cloud for which I pay about £21 a year. Lots of photos backed up there too.
    Most of my listening is done on the CD player in the kitchen or on the computer. I have a JBL radial speaker plugged into the computer that also acts as a recharger for the iPod and can play from it if I take it away with me on holiday.. The sound quality is so good that a sound engineer friend bought one for himself after hearing mine. He often does sound set ups for the Festival Hall so he knows what he’s talking about.

  5. Sounds like a terrifying experience – nice to read about everyone helping each other out. I must admit the song that popped into my head was Peggy Lee singing “Is That All There Is?” which starts off with a description of a house fire.
    From what I’m reading I really must get my techno-savvy brother to advise on back ups for the online music. I still have loads of CDs, vinyl and cassettes though.
    Kindles (even though Amazon are doubleungoodwise) are a fantastic invention which I wouldn’t be without. Especially on holidays.

  6. Good to know that everything is O.K. with you Debby.Thankfully I’ve never been involved in a fire and hopefully never will.
    As for music and reading I much prefer the c.d. and the book. I do burn my c.d’s onto the laptop and back them up onto a memory stick. I didn’t know that sticks loose their function in time, I must check that out. I’ve just invested invested in a set of Bose QC25 headphones and, thanks to tincanman’s post above, will now get myself an external sound card.
    I must admit that when visiting other people’s houses one of the first things I look for is evidence of their reading habits or lack thereof. I think a house without books is missing something. I have a friend who almost boasts that he has not read a book since leaving school. That’s something that I cannot imagine.

  7. I’m very analogue, no kindles, iPads, smartphones or even a CD player in our house!

    I lost most of my iTunes tunes last year (because of my own stupidity!) and I don’t really miss it. I buy new vinyl as you know. These days most vinyl LPs come with a free download code for the album, which is perfect for me. I still have the record to listen to at home, but I can listen on my laptop in my office too.

    I read real books for novels and stuff, but find myself reading a lot of quite long PDF articles for my job. I still can’t get used to reading properly on my laptop and it almost feels like I haven’t read it!

  8. Apart from my relief that all are safe from your fire, Debby, I don’t have much to add.

    I did post a Spill thread some time ago about how to listen to music in the house, during which the Brennan was mentioned, considered, and then rejected on various grounds. Hang on …

    I am a reasonable backer-up of files, but only because my business is home-based. Main files on the PC; two [minimum 1-terabyte] hard drives which alternate between here and DsGran’s house. That discipline is precisely over the fear of fire, rather than of machine breakdown or even burglary.

    I’m the only non-Kindle owner in our house, but cannot remember the last time I had a book on the go, tbh. I would call myself a reader, but it’s only fave author new releases and the occasional sporting/music biography. DsMam and the kids are all voracious readers, but happy to swap between paper and electronic without a thought. We’ve got shelves and wall units all over the house absolutely stuffed with everything from my 1960s Ladybird books onwards. Every so often we have a cull [of paperback novels] to make room for the piles of new-boughts that start to rise from the floor. The local Shelter charity shop does very well out of us.

    Take care.

  9. Re. digitizing music. I do it regularly and routinely, it’s very simple and requires a couple of key components. I have a very good German device called a Behringer U Control, it’s credit card size and has 2 RCA inputs and 2 RCA outputs, plus a headphone jack, volume control and optical output; it also has a wired USB cable that plugs into my computer. I bought it online some time ago and I think it was around $30. Adjacent to my iMac I have an Audio Technica turntable plus a Sony Cassette deck, either can be patched into the Behringer. The other item you need is somewhere to feed the signal to, I use Sound Studio 3.5 but anything similar would work, I’ve used Audacity and it works fine. To digitize an LP simply connect the turntable, put the record on start, press record on Sound Studio and press play on the turntable; it immediately shows up as a waveform on the computer and will keep recording ’til the end of that side. You will see in the waveform where cuts start and finish, you can with a click insert ‘markers’ which when you’re done you can ‘split my markers’ which will give you all the cuts on the LP separated and sitting on your desktop, you need to add titles. It’s a simple process to insert ’em into iTunes. Digitising a cassette is exactly the same process.
    When you digitize with Sound Studio it asks you which format you want, there’s a dozen ranging from mp3 to AIFF and also sample rates from 8 bit to 32 bit, I always stick with 16. I just recorded 30 seconds of silence, if I save it as mp3 it will take 476 kb of memory, if you save it in AIFF, CD quality, it will take 5.1 MB. The computer doesn’t know it’s silence, it’s just a 30 sec recording. So if you’d like to digitize a decent sized collection in CD quality you’ll need terabyte size hard discs for storage.
    I’d never heard of my namesake the Brennan JB7 before, just Googled it; it looks ideal but an expensive way of digitizing.

  10. Thank you, everyone, for your concern and for your recommendations! I’m definitely going to be looking into some of the suggestions made above, although I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to part from all my treasures. The day will come when downsizing will no longer be avoidable, though, so I’d like to be prepared 😉

    On a side note: I suggested to TBW that he might now consider packing his favourite guitar in its case every time he finishes playing, preferably with a copy of his most important documents in the side pocket, so that he could grab it on his way out if ever there was an emergency. He looked at me, horrified, and said: “Do you really think I wouldn’t save my SISTER first?”
    That’s my boy!

  11. Oh, sounds a dreadful near miss for you all, and sadly not even a near miss for others. These things tend to strengthen communities, but it’s not a price to be recommended. Hope all back to normal before too long.
    I have all my CDs, half my vinyl on a computer – but still keep the physical stuff in a store room as back up, as well as an automatic on site back up (time machine for mac) and an offsite copy in background automatically (Crashplan). Sadly when I came to digitise my cassettes, most wouldn’t play at an even speed anymore – I feel mugged by the music biz, really. My hearing is so shot from too many rock gigs when I was young, that I can’t really tell much difference between a high bit rate MP3 and a CD – though I do like the sound of a vinyl on a hifi when I can be arsed to set it up. I use a Bose Wave player for CDs and can plug my 160gig iPod into it too. At the computer I listen with high quality sennheiser headphones – and I have a wireless set of headphones for when I want to dance!

    • I’m also a fan of Sennheiser and still have the original headphones I bought in 1979, when they cost as much as the entire stero system they were attached to. Lovely for late night listening in the early days of RR, when we still had the midnight feeding frenzy.

  12. Debby: My sincere condolences for anyone involved in a fire, an horrendous experience.
    But once during WW2 when I was about 8-9, I was staying with my Auntie Winnie and Uncle Albert in Hasland Chestertfield; they lived in an old Victorian house off the Mansfield rd. There was no electricity and I remember an old man who came by every night with a long pole to light the street gas lamps, he returned in the morning to turn ’em off.
    My auntie Winnie rented the ground floor flat, the upper level was rented by an old blind woman. One night I was tired and wanted to go to bed, she gave me a candle to see me upstairs, I went on my way. Half way up I encountered this figure on the staircase, coming down, it was huge and dressed totally in grey, also with a candle. it was the old blind woman! It scared the shit out of me!
    I pulled in as far as I could to the left and she passed me, I was terrified but I continued up to my bedroom.
    When I reached the bedroom I went to bed but apparently I fell asleep reading.
    My Uncle Albert came up some time later only to see lights flashing under the door, he opened it and the bed was ablaze!
    Tony! Tony, Wake up, Wake, Up the bed’s on fire!
    And sure enough the entire left side of the bed was ablaze, the candle had ignited the blankets!
    And I’d slept entirely through it! What a close call!

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