Apr 24, 2009

Charity Auction for Child's Play

Brigwyn over at The Hunting Lodge blog is organizing a Children's Week auction for the Child's Play charity. Please click the links above and participate! Donate an item to the auction, bid on an auction, or just make a cash donation - it all helps!

For those not familiar with Child's Play, this is a charity started by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade webcomic fame. The organization donates games, toys, and books to sick kids in childrens' hospitals all over the globe.

The cool thing about this charity is that your donation doesn't just go into some nebulous pot and end up who-knows-where. You literally choose which hospital you'd like to contribute to, and an Amazon.com interface opens, showing you a list of the specific items the kids staying there have requested.

This is not your typical bullshit, bloated, waste- and embezzlement-laden "non-profit" megacharity. The exact item(s) you donate go right from Amazon to the kids. The charity has been a tremendous success - it's now in its fifth year, and the 2008 holiday season saw almost $1.5 million in goods sent out to suffering kids.

WoW gamers - help a sick kid forget about their pain for a while. Giving 'till it doesn't hurt FTW!

Hey, Four-Eyes! Does Gaming with a Headset Give You Sore Ears? Read On:

My Windows PC croaked its last breath about a month ago, and being long fed-up with Microsoft's OS, I purchased a refurbished iMac to replace it. Apple's design and OS X are absolutely fantastic, and I haven't looked back once.

The only hitch I've encountered revolved around gaming headsets. The iMac has a audio in jack, but it is just that. A microphone is a much lower-gain widget, and requires amplification to be audible. PC sound cards compensate for this fact with a 20 db mic boost feature, but the iMac sound card doesn't offer such functionality.

I initially started shopping for a USB headset to solve this problem, and found that the industry is offering a pretty wide variety of USB units. Unfortunately, this is only half the story.

Like many other glasses-wearing gamers, I suffer from a comfort problem with the majority of today's headsets. The most popular type of headphones is an on-the-ear (aka "supra-aural") design. The pressure these models exert sandwiches the wings of our glasses between our ears and our skull, and quickly becomes painful.

As such, I've been searching for a headset with both USB connection and also a circumaural (fully around-the-ear) design. Far as I can tell, there ain't no such bird. That said, there are a few nice circumaural models sporting the old PC-style 3.5mm stereo connectors. Hmm...

So, how to hook a PC-style headset up to a Mac? Enter Griffin's iMic product. This little widget accepts both 3.5mm analog audio input and output, performs a full, 24-bit analog-to-digital conversion, and interfaces with a Mac or PC via USB. (So, it's essentially a USB sound card.) What's more, a little switch on the side toggles the input jack between a normal audio line in and an amplified mic input mode - perfect! This cool little widget lists for $50 on the Griffin and Apple online stores, but psst - Buy.com has them for about $35 including 2-day shipping!

I installed mine last night, and enjoyed a raucous, two-hour trip through the Deadmines with some good friends, completely sans ear pain! Can I get a "w00t"?!

BTW, the circumaural headset I picked up is Razer Carcharias (see pic). About $70 on sale at Best Buy, so not cheap - but no ear pain, remember? The sound quality is decent (the frequency response is only an acceptable 20 - 20,000 Hz), but they will certainly do. The mic performance seems just fine as well. They are an open-eared design, but since they are circumaural, they still block what I'd estimate as 30% of outside noise, so you do get a little noise isolation. My wife complained that I was talking a bit loud on Ventrilo, so that is telling in itself.

If any other four-eyed and sore-eared gamers are looking for the next step up on the audiophile ladder, Sennheiser's PC 350 circumaural headset is the ticket. I was very nearly seduced by their excellent 10 - 26,000 Hz frequency response, but couldn't quite justify the price tag. The best price I found was at Amazon - and they were asking $139.