Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Mon, 30 Jul 2007

Cambridge Folk Festival 20070728

This was my first visit to the festival. I'm not really a folkie, but I like to hear a good live band. I've not even been to any other festivals, apart from the odd free one. If they were all as civilised as this one then I might go more often, although I had a couple of issues. The facilities were good. It started off dry, but there were boards down to get you around most of the site. There was a big camping area that looked more like a family camp site than some of the festivals I've seen pictures of. There was entertainment for kids in a quiet area.

The main festival area was a big field with three big tents for the stages. Two of these were open at one end so more people could see the acts. The problem was that all the available space outside was taken up by small camps consisting of folding chairs, rugs and assorted other furniture. Some of the rugs had been pitched inside the largest marquee, which reduced the available area for the audience. Some of those on the rugs were not even watching some of the bands.

I saw:

There were various acts wandering around, not all of the musical sort. It made for an entertaining day, but not a cheap one. The tickets are not too bad, especially if you can do all the days, but you have to pay extra for an essential programme. You can't buy a one day ticket for young children, but at least it cost less than a one day adult ticket. There were lots of food vans, but prices were a little high. I expect they have to pay well just to be there. I might consider camping there if I could get on the site, but for a whole family it would be a lot of money. The standard camping fee is for a small tent and we would need more space to be comfortable for four nights.

[22:34] | [/Music] | Comments | G

Fri, 27 Jul 2007

Buying a better you

I'm sure I'm not the first to think this, but it occurs to me that the current trend for carbon offsetting is something like the medieval practice of paying monks to pray for your soul to get into heaven quicker by spending less time in purgatory. Maybe I'm just being cynical. It is a good thing if rich people use some of their wealth to enable the less well off to have a better, stustainable, lifestyle.

I read a BBC report on patio heaters yesterday. It attracted the usual crank comments about 'enviro-fascists' and 'attacks on freedom and choice'. I particularly liked the one asking if would be asked to stop exhaling altogether. Well I think the world would be better off with a few less of these Daily Mail readers, so they can feel free to stop breathing. Everything we do has a cost and some are just not worth it for the sake of being a little more 'comfortable'. If it's cold outside then put on a coat.

I wonder if the government has calculated the environmental cost of all the patio heaters, shelters and other construction that's been put in to cater for all the smokers who have to stay outside. At my workplace a path has been built through the shrubbery to the smokers' refuge at the far end of the carpark. So that's less greenery and more concrete.

It would be better if the smokers could give up their dirty habit. As well as the effects on others of what they exhale the production of cigarettes is causing a lot of damage too.

[14:26] | [/Environment] | Comments | G

Mon, 23 Jul 2007

There is another

When I rebuilt my PC I transferred the old parts to the system that my kids use. They have been running Win98, mainly so they can run some old edutainment titles. I tried getting 98 to use the new hardware properly, but have not had much joy with it. So I decided it was time they got a proper OS. I thought about installing Ubuntu, but why not try something slightly different?

Mepis looked interesting. I had a live DVD that I booted up in the QEMU virtual PC. Mepis comes with a lot of stuff that I would want already installed such as Real, Flash and Nvidia drivers. I had to download the latest ISO as the other PC does not have a DVD drive. It booted up fine and worked pretty well as a live CD. I just had a few issues with the install program. It seems to get confused if you try and run anything else whilst it's running. The window does not refresh. It seemed to be taking ages to format the old 8GB drive, but did eventually manage it. There were only a few options to go through before the actual install. The choice of locale may confuse people as it just gives the abbreviations, e.g. en-gb and (I think). When that finished I rebooted and..... nothing. It POSTs, shows the usual BIOS stuff, then just sits there. Booting up the live CD showed that the OS stuff seemed to be all there. I did opt not to have GRUB, but I didn't think I would need it if I wasn't going to dual boot. So what could be wrong? I may try to install again and include GRUB.

My plan for the edutainment stuff is to install Win98 in QEMU, or possibly VirtualBox on the main PC. It can be handy to have a Windows system available once in a while. I have the old laptop with W2K, but that doesn't come out very often.

I had a go at sorting my Canon inkjet yesterday. I took the print head out and tried several cycles of soaking it to try and clear the black nozzles. It's slightly better now, but I may have to try something more extreme. I was going by this guide.

[08:44] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Sun, 15 Jul 2007

Jerking around

I really like my Ikea Jerker desk. It has two high shelves and three swiveling shelves for the monitor, printer and scanner. This keeps everything to hand and tidy. I was even considering getting an extra shelf for possible recording equipment. I just went to check on the carrying capacity and found that the Jerker is not to be found on their site! There's something called the Fredrik, but there's no mention of extra shelves. I see that others have noticed. No doubt the seond-hand value of Jerkers will now rocket. How many other pieces of office furniture have a shrine?

I may pop to the Ikea near work to see if they have any old stock that I can grab. I also need to ask if they will ever have their Benno CD shelves in oak finish again. I bought a couple along with some matching bookshelves for my study, but need a couple more to handle the expanding collection and fill up a wall. Unfortunately it seems that finish was taken off the catalogue due to some production problems. I was told it would be back soon, but it's still not on the site. It would be a shame to have to get some that didn't match.

This whole Ikea episode started when I wanted to check if the Jerker shelves could support an HP 2600n Colour Laser. Our old Canon i455 inkjet seems to have clogged black nozzles, so I was looking at the options. Colour lasers have got very cheap now. I'm not so bothered about printing lots of photos, but the kids will want colour prints. This model can also work on a network, which may become more important at some stage. There seems to be a driver for it, but it's not mentioned over at Turboprint. There are a couple of other printers in the same price range so I will see which has the best support.

[11:21] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Thu, 12 Jul 2007

Herts LUG 20070711

This month's talk was by David Honour on the subject of producing music using free software. I took along my guitar, some speakers and assorted cables in case they were needed, but it turned out they were not.

David and Malcolm had built a small recording studio in our meeting room with PC, PA system, electric piano, microphones + pre-amp and an assortment of percussion and string instruments. There were around ten of us there. David was using an assortment of software hooked together with JACK. This makes for a powerful system as you can combine a drum machine, sequencer (driving soft synths) and effects. Ardour was used to record the results. This does involve being careful to start all the right programs in the right order and to ensure that they are all connected correctly. That looked to be a little prone to error, but the results were impressive.

For my own musical experiments I may settle for something simpler. I still think that Jokosher has possibilities if I can get it all working. I tried to record some guitar this week, but couldn't even get the audio to record. Something is not set correctly somewhere in my system.

I had slightly more success with getting video from our camcorder into the PC. I'm using Kino. It recognised the camera, but I could only control it when running as root. I hope to resolve that. A bigger problem came when I tried to export some video. I thought I would try Xvid, but I never get the file. It seems there is some issue with either Kino or mencoder. I will look at upgrading Kino. I also tried some other formats. VCD worked, but DVD got errors. Any of these should work with my DVD player, but I will go for whatever gives the best quality to capacity ratio.

My wonderful remote control has been playing up lately. Various buttons stopped working. At the weekend I took it apart and cleaned the contacts. They are very basic, just a rubbery button with some conducting material that touches a grid on the cirecuit board. Finger grease may get inside and mess it up. It's much better now.

I finally got rid of some redundant kit. Firstly I sold my old motorbike! It's been sitting in the shed for years, but still runs well. Then I posted my spare computer bits on Freecycle. I had lots of responses, but they went to someone just up the road who is ivolved with Electroshare, a volunteer group who pass equipment on to needy causes. He said that my PCs would be going to a school for the deaf. That's perfect as far as I am concerned.

That's enough catching up for this week. I always find that there was something else I meant to write, but it can wait.

[18:00] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Wed, 04 Jul 2007


I first heard of this play whilst reading Brian Eno's diary. It sounded interesting as it featured discussion of mathematics, including chaos theory. It was broadcast on Radio 4 as the Saturday Play last weekend. You can listen to it there for a few more days, but that page will get overwritten soon.

The Wikipedia page has some links to various articles about the play and the mathematics.

I listened to it yesterday and it was great fun. It switches between the early 19th and late 20th centuries, with both played out in the same room of a country house. The people in the later time frame are trying to work out what went on in the earlier. This gets a bit confusing in parts as the switches can be very rapid and radio lacks the visual cues as to who is speaking. It made me laugh in places due to some witty dialogue. The mathematics is not too intrusive, but made it more interesting for me. I worked out a couple of the twists before they were explained, but others caught me by surprise. I may have missed some of the subtleties, but then there is so much going on.

The acting was nothing spectacular. Fairly typical radio/stage acting where everything is overstated, as opposed to the naturalism you get in most TV. I would still be interested to see it on the stage.

On the technical front, I recorded the broadcast via my Hauppauge Freeview card using ZapDVB to set up a timed recording and convert it to Ogg Vorbis audio. I listened on my Acer n35 PDA using GSPlayer. Free software and formats all the way. The resulting audio quality was excellent.

[12:58] | [/Review] | Comments | G



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