Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Mon, 29 May 2006

HD, so what?

I've only seen HD TV in action a couple of times. The first was in Harrods and the second in a Sony shop this weekend. There's no doubt the picture is impressive with far more detail than a normal TV, but can they not find any demo material other than what looks like commercials for holidays in exotic locations? I'd like to see footage of action sports, wildlife or spectacular films. I hope that Sky have plenty of good stuff for their HD subscribers, if they can supply enough boxes.

I know a few people who are getting the new service, so I will see what they think. Of course they all have large plasma screens to view it on. I do wonder if it would make any difference on something the size of our 28" CRT. I'd like something bigger, but prices need to drop a bit more. One of the Sonys was UKP4000! I know you can get much cheaper plasmas, but I will want something that gives a quality picture with reasonable power consumption and lifespan.

I doubt we will see HD in our house for a few years yet, especially as we don't consider it worth paying the extra for a subsription service. Our Pace Twin Freeview box suppiles all the channels we really need with no monthly cost apart from the TV licence.

We got around to watching MI:2 this week. It's a load of silliness, technologially and actionwise. I thought it was a bit obvious that the motorbikes in the final chase switched to off-road tyres when they left the road. IMDB has a long list of other goofs.

[22:19] | [/Gadgets] | Comments | G

Thu, 18 May 2006

Ubuntu Issues

Ubuntu Linux is generally pretty good. I can do most of want I want from my computer with it, but I do seem to get a few strange issues. The latest was last night when it refused to start KDE. All I could get was a text mode log-in. The error messages said it was having problems with the NVidia driver. I re-installed that and all was well again, but why did it happen? Thanks to the Herts LUG team on IRC for their suggestions. I resorted to using the Windows PC to get on IRC, but could have used irssi from the terminal.

Other issues I have are that some keyboard functions are not working (Ctrl-Alt-Fx to switch sessions and can't get a sign), some issues with sound and the odd time when it doesn't shut down properly or just locks up. I can see on the forums that some of these are common, but others are not mentioned.

The next release, Dapper Drake 6.06, is due out next month. I'm considering a clean install with that in the hope that it will be better. There's a lot of new stuff there so it will be interesting to play with those.

[08:20] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Wed, 17 May 2006

Open Discussion Day

This Friday has been proposed as Open Discussion Day to promote the use of open standards for digital communication by not using proprietary instant messaging systems. I may not be able to participate due to having to communicate with people for work.

There is an open standard we all use called email. It allows any internet user to communicate with any other regardless of their ISP, operating system or email software.

Instant messaging is another matter. There are lots of competing systems such as Microsoft's MSN Messenger, ICQ and AOL's AIM. As far as I am aware these cannot talk to each other so if you have friends on different systems you need to run multiple clients. Each jealously protects it's protocol, in part to make sure users can only use their client software with it's associated advertising. I've only really used MSN and although the client has lots of tricks up it's sleeve for graphic and noises I find it very annoying to use.

There is an alternative to this mess. Jabber has been around for about six years as an open standard. Anyone can run a server or write a client for it that suits their needs. There are plenty of public servers that allow you to create an account for free. Free client software is availble for just about any platform. My preferences are Psi on Windows and Kopete on Linux. If your friends insist on using the proprietary systems then there are 'transports' available on some Jabber servers that allow you to talk to them from your Jabber client. You won't get all their 'winks', 'shakes' or other annoyances, just the text and possibly their smilies. If you want your messaging to be secure then there are options to use SSL to the server and even GPG encryption.

The only major protocol that cannot link to Jabber is Skype unless that has changed recently. Work is ongoing to implement the Google Talk voice protocol on other clients. There are also other open VOIP protocols.

The easiest way to get onto the Jabber network is to use Google Talk. This uses Jabber for IM. It can also be used from Gmail in a browser, but may require you to select US English as the language.

If you want to try it out then set up an account somewhere and contact me as 'steevc' at either or

[13:03] | [/Internet] | Comments | G

Mon, 15 May 2006

Strawjam 20060514

I really enjoyed the last jam for Malcolm's birthday. This one was preceded by a walk though the local bluebell wood. Then it was down to business. A different combination of instruments this time. Malcolm had brought his bowls again and also a selection of flowerpots, kitchen bowls and other noisemakers. Tony had some drums and an accordian. Another Ian was there with a very nice old Gibson SG and his Marshall, but had forgotten his cables so ended up sharing my Peavey. The rest were on assorted percussion. There was some straight african drumming, but the rest was a series of extended jams. My favourite had accordian, flowerpot and minimal guitar in D. I made a couple of recordings on our iRiver. These will not be as good as Malcolm's DAT, but give a flavour of the vibe. I haven't done any editing and there is some talking over the start plus ambient noise of birds and small children.

When I'm improvising on the guitar I generally stick to simple chords and scales. There is rarely time to work out anything complex and I lack the musical knowledge to do it on the fly.

There are a few pictures on my Multiply. Much as I'd like to run my own gallery and audio archive they offer a simple service with enough capacity for my needs.

[14:37] | [/Music] | Comments | G

Thu, 11 May 2006

Herts LUG 20060510

The LUG has been suffering from poor attendance of late and this was putting our residency at the community centre at risk as the normal subs would not cover the cost. Nicolas suggested that if enough people were prepared to club together and put in 15 each we could get booked for the next 12 meetings. I think there were about 10 of us there, plus a couple were sending cheques, so we are secure for now. Although the group used to meet in a pub before I joined, it's much better to have a place where you can set up computers with internet access.

I introduced a new member to the group. I found Rob as his site, like mine, has GeoURL data. The LUG site also gained this feature recently. If you use Firefox, then you should look at GeoURL Extension and/or Greasemap to make use of GeoURL.

Malcolm volunteered to give an introduction to the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). He had a bit of help from others, but this was very educational for me as I had only used it in a very limited way for resizing and cropping images. I shall be experimenting further in future.

I managed to gain at least one more signature on my GPG key. I hope to gain more at future meetings. I'm way behind people I know of with hundreds of signatures, but it all helps to build the Web of Trust.

This post includes some extra semantic detail in the form of XFN tags on some links. These indicate how well I know the people. My friends list on my site already has these, and the information is repeated in my FOAF file. One of these days I will look at automating the tagging. The XFN page has a Javascript applet to display all the relationships on a web page.

[13:35] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Mon, 08 May 2006

Half a Life

As I reach a certain significant age I get to thinking about how short-lived most of our possesions are. I do have a few items that have been with me for around half my life time.

There's probably a few other items that have hung around that long, but may just be stored away somewhere. It seems that most electrical items are doing well to last half as long as the above if that. As for computers, three years and some will consider them redundant. Mine are slightly older than that.

Updated 8/5/06 to add watch

[09:16] | [/News] | Comments | G

Wed, 03 May 2006


I know lots of other people have mentioned this, including the BBC, but I still think there is a certain coolness about the fact that in just over three hours it will be 01:02:03 on 04/05/06. I know it's just numbers, but I like patterns. I'm not geeky enough to plan on staying up to witness this moment.

And of course tomorrow is also Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you.

Update on the telescope is that we all had a look at the moon this evening. It's only a cresent at the moment, and it wasn't even fully dark, but we still had a great close-up view of the craters. We even used the extra eyepiece to get a closer view, but focusing got a bit tricky. I'm sure I haven't even got the telescope properly mounted on the tripod as the fine adjusters are tricky to use. Still, we are making progress.

[21:55] | [/News] | Comments | G

Mon, 01 May 2006

Eye to the Telescope

Not the KT Tunstall album, a fine work. We recently acquired a Newtonian reflector type telescope. This should allow us a close-up view of the moon, stars and planets. We just need to learn how to use it properly. It came without instructions, so I am scouring the web for useful information.

How much we can observe from home may be limited by all the artificial light around us. It's a struggle to even see the Milky Way. I'm waiting for the moon to be properly visible so we can check out the craters.

[14:21] | [/News] | Comments | G



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