Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Tue, 20 Feb 2007

Two 10k in One Day

We all have our own little personal scoresheets to see how we are doing. Personally I'm a little too obsessed with statistics and numbers in general. Today I achieved similar numbers in two completely different categories.

The first was to pass 10000 tracks on Last.fm. All that means is that I have listened to that many audio tracks whilst using software that talks to this site over the last three years. I do this using Quintessential with a plug-in on Windows and the wonderful Amarok on Linux. Last.fm also provide a nice music streaming service that can match your tastes and bring you new music.

The second milestone was achieved on my new Powerball that just arrived from Amazon (ordered Saturday on free delivery). I hit 10353rpm after getting 9992 on Dad's a couple of days ago. That puts me top of the office league for now.

Just got the father-in-law a new TV so he can have Freeview. To keep things simple (single remote) I found one with it built in. It's a rare item as it's not a flat panel, but a good old 4:3 CRT. It's this Bush, but does not match the picture. It's old technology, but half the price of a similar size LCD and does what he needs. So far it seems good. It takes a few seconds to come on, but it found all the channels. I've set him up a restricted list to exclude all the shopping and pop stuff. EPG is okay, but he may not use that much. He was renting a TV and video from Box Clever that we asked them to take back, but they have told us to keep them. It's obviously not worth them picking them up as I doubt they would use them again. I hate to think how many old TVs are being dumped in the stampede to the latest fads. Mind you, I was awestruck by the sight of this 70" rear-projection in the Sony shop. It was just enormous. Their 52" LCD was a little more manageable, but still big and lovely.

[13:06] | [/News] | Comments | G

Fri, 16 Feb 2007

Regional Reports

My new Sony DVP-NS76H DVD player is looking good so far. I made a slight mistake in my last post. I am using a component video cable, not the inferior composite. The picture is rock solid. I tried some old Divx films I have on CD and those played perfectly, apart from me needing to manually adjust the TV aspect ratio to make them fill the screen. For audio I'm still using half of a free stereo cable to carry the digital signal to my Yamaha amp and it sounds fine.

Today I made it multi-region. Most of the mentions of this on places like AV Forums said to use a OneForAll remote, but I couldn't get mine to do it. It seems you cannot just use the standard Sony unit. So I tried an alternative of using the demo version of OmniRemote with a special configuration on my Palm. A few screen taps later I was playing my region 1 (Canadian) Harry Potter with no problems.

Things are less good on the Powerball front. Mine is suffering a problem where the screen locks up, so it's going back to John Lewis. For reference it's sold under the name 'Strength Ball'. I've now played with an original Powerball and there is a significant difference. The Powerball is much smoother in operation. It also has more functions on the display, so I think it's worth the extra few pounds. Both are made in China/Taiwan, possibly in the same factory, but maybe one gets more attention.

[22:10] | [/Gadgets] | Comments | G

Wed, 14 Feb 2007

You know your computer is old when...

...the BIOS battery dies. This just happened to me. I was having to set the BIOS date and time when I started up, but I had a spare battery (good old CR2032!) and now it's fixed for another few years. I'm not sure how long I've had the motherboard, but the Duron 1200 CPU has been around for nearly six years according to this comprehensive list.

I've had a few issues with the computer lately, mostly down to my earlier mishaps. I managed to get printing working again after bypassing the official way of installing CUPS. I still have a few issues including the screensaver not turning the monitor off. Yesterday Firefox stopped working completely. It seemed to be due to some sort of file corruption, so I ended up re-installing it. I also lost sound from the web via Flash and Realplayer, but that's still under investigation. Perhaps when the next version of Ubuntu gets released I'll try a fresh install in hope of fixing all these niggles, but I shall be careful to preserve all my user files. I'll just have to re-install a whole load of stuff. The graphics card is going to have to come out as it's making a lot of noise whilst not giving me much benefit. I just hope this doesn't mess things up again. I could wait until I do the re-install to be safe.

I just took delivery of a smart new DVD player. It's a Sony DVP-NS76H. I've not bought Sony stuff in the past, but this got a good rating from Which. I've plugged it in with a composite video cable to the TV and it looks good so far. Next steps are to make it multi-region, which may need my One4All remote, and set up my Harmony remote to work with it. My old DVD was an Acoustic Solutions unit that came from Richer Sounds many years ago. It has worked fine and is being passed on to someone. The Sony has features like HDMI and progressive scan, but these will not work with my current TV. I'm holding off buying a flat screen for now. The price/quality ratio should improve and settle down in a couple of years.

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

Wed, 07 Feb 2007

Free the music

Very interesting post by Steve Jobs on the Apple site. Basically he is saying that the use of DRM on music could be scrapped if the big music companies would agree to it. They already sell x10 as many tracks on CD as on-line with no protection at all. Removing the DRM would allow music from any provider to be played on any player, as long as the format is supported. OGG Vorbis would be my preference. There's even a new chip that can play it with less power usage than previously. There are already a number of places where you can already buy DRM-free music, sometimes in much better quality. Despite what some people say 128 kilobit MP3 is not CD quality. When I listen to music I ripped in that format several years ago it sounds noticably worse than more recent rips in 190 kilobit OGG Vorbis, at least on my Grado SR60 headphones . Now I'm using FLAC to preserve the original CD quality, but still have to sort a way to transcode it for portable use.

I have a new toy that is a clone of the Powerball. It's an exercise gadget in the form of a gyroscope that works your arms. There's a thriving community of users who like to see who can spin it fastest. I'm still struggling to reach high speeds, but we're running a league table at work. It seems to be more about technique than strength.

We've seen some very low temperatures this week. It was -7C as I drove into London today. Not quite as cold as our holiday destination. The forecast is for heavy snow tomorrow, so I intend to stay at home to work.

[14:29] | [/Music] | Comments | G

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