Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Sat, 28 Nov 2009

URL ABC

Saw this over at Wulf's blog. Yet another meme to pass away the cold days. Put each letter of the alphabet into the Firefox 'Awesome bar' and see what comes up.

  1. http://www.amazon.co.uk/
  2. http://bagofspoons.net/blog/
  3. http://www.thecarbonaccount.com/
  4. http://del.icio.us/steevc
  5. http://ebuyer.com/
  6. http://www.facebook.com/
  7. http://www.google.com/ig
  8. http://herts.lug.org.uk/
  9. http://identi.ca/steevc
  10. http://www.jumpstation.co.uk/flog/flog.html
  11. http://www.ebay.co.uk/
  12. http://www.last.fm/user/steevc
  13. http://steevc.multiply.com/
  14. http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  15. http://openstreetmap.org/
  16. http://pfgm.org.uk/
  17. http://disqus.com/
  18. http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab
  19. http://www.sixstringbliss.com/
  20. http://twitter.com/steevc
  21. http://ubuntuforums.org/
  22. http://www.myspace.com/okavanga09
  23. http://wave.google.com/
  24. http://xml.mfd-consult.dk/foaf/explorer/
  25. http://www.youtube.com/
  26. http://www.zenatode.org.uk/

I've excluded anything financial or work-related. And no, there weren't any porn sites.

I find the Firefox address bar a real boon for finding sites I've visited as you can type any part of a site URL or title and have a chance of finding it. I rarely bookmark sites in the browser these days. Sites I may revisit some time go on del.icio.us.

[14:38] | [/Internet] | Comments | G

Sat, 14 Nov 2009

Muse at the O2

Standard rambling introduction: I first heard Muse about 10 years ago when xfm were playing Muscle Museum and Unintended. I wrote them off initially as Radiohead imitators, but they have carved their own niche over the years. They remind me of bands like Queen who would produce mini operas with loud guitars. My other half is also a fan, along with a broad swathe of the general population. They can sell out large stadia in minutes.

This was my second gig at the O2, after Prince. This time our seats were in the upper levels. I'd heard that these were not good for vertigo sufferers and we happened to have one with us. She coped well, helped by having a seat with a barrier in front of it. We were at the far end from the stage. So a long way away, but at least we got the front-on view. The O2 facilities are pretty good. Loads of restaurants and bars. It's a long way from anything else, but the transport links are reasonable.

Support was by The Big Pink who I knew from their single Dominos. They reminded me a bit of Depeche Mode in their industrial phase. It was hard to make out any lyrics. They were a bit annoying in using really bright lights behind them that shone straight at us. Maybe they are just really ugly and don't want to be seen except in profile.

The stage set consisted of 3 huge towers that I thought initially were just backdrop. The muse set started with nothing else visible on the stage and the towers lit up like tower blocks and then video of people marching up stairs. Then the middle parts dropped away to expose the band up on these high platforms. Later they would drop down so they could use the whole stage, but went up again later. The drum kit would rotate at times. The band played a storming show with hits from across their career, including early song Unintended. The light show was amazing with green lasers filling the hall and lots of projection on the towers. I've seen a few bands not using conventional rectangular screens. It's visually interesting, but not so good for clearly seeing them. We had a good sing-along to the hits. Unlike the McFly gig I took my daughter to the sound was not deafening. The level was about right, but not enough to drown out the people who insisted on chatting all the time behind us. Can't they just enjoy the music?

Overall I thought it was a great show for a big venue. I still like to see a good band in a small hall, but my other half likes to see the big names. The next day Muse announced they are playing Wembley Stadium next September. I'm sure they can do that well as they did recently, but do I really want to go?

Due to train problems the rest of our group drove to Cockfosters and got the tube from there. We managed to get back there despite the band finishing at 11. It took a while to get onto the platform due to the huge crowd, but then it was an easy journey. I don't know what we would have done if we had missed the last train. From Cockfosters it was an easy drive on empty motorways to drop off one person at Luton then home to Arlesey by 1:45. Luckily I was able to have a lie in.

[11:46] | [/Music] | Comments | G

#1pound40

I heard about this 'unconference' from Steve Lawson. He didn't make it in the end due to pending baby. I don't normally get to technical conferences as they are generally too expensive for me to fund and my work don't send me to any. This one had the attractive price of £1.40, although the suggested fee was higher when it came to booking, but with profits going to charity. I thought it would be an interesting experience and so took a day off to go down to the Reuters office in Canary Wharf.

I have to say that Reuters looked after us very well with ample food and drink laid on. They have some nice looking offices with a large room that was used for the conference. I didn't really know many people there and so plonked myself at a random table. I was expecting to hear a series of talks, but the format consisted of someone introducing a topic (politics, news etc) and then we discussed it among those at our table and should post a tweet with our thoughts. At my first table were people from The Guardian, Reuters, the Open University and other organisations. We had some wide-ranging discussion around the topic. Later I met up with my former colleague @TiaAzulay and some new people, including @edent for a different discussion. For the final topic Tia and I were with @mattbuck_hack and @alexhughes of @drawnalism who were drawing the event. You can see the results here, including one of me.

I made my first appearance on Audioboo elaborating on a comment I made in the politics discussion.

The day ended with a panel of twitterati luminaries summing up the state of the twittersphere (not sure about the new language). Common themes from the day were that Twitter is not very representative of the general population and that there is more to journalism that just reporting what is happening. I think that the simplicity of Twitter and open alternatives like identi.ca means that they can be used in many ways. The 140 character limitation can be a pain. You can't explain complex topics and so conventional writing on blogs and elsewhere is still needed.

After the panel people milled around drinking and chatting. I didn't get the names of everyone I met, but I know I talked to these folk, @paulafeery, @misetak, @anniemole, @nchnone, @countculture. I left with my head buzzing from all the cool discussions I'd had. I have to plans to start any sort of internet or Twitter-based business, but I do want to play more with the technology. I just need to find the time.

[11:19] | [/Internet] | Comments | G

Mon, 09 Nov 2009

Karmic Koala

The title refers to the code-name of the latest version of Ubuntu Linux that was released late last month, also known as 9.10. I ran an upgrade on my system, after backing up, and it ran very smoothly. The 1.5GB of packages took about 20 minutes to download (bit faster than my old modem) and the install was all done in under an hour. The system restarted cleanly and all looked well.

The KDE apps look a little different and there are some new options for decorating the desktop. I don't bother as I'm always running full-screen apps. Amarok has been updated with improved podcast support. It's still not up to where the old V1.4 was before the re-write, but getting better. Kmail seems a bit more stable and less likely to stall when reading my inbox.

Gwibber seemed messed up, so I installed Choqok micro-blogger. It lacks there combined timeline, but is otherwise nice. I had to re-install MythTV, but it picked up the old settings and is working.

I still have problems with losing sound when multiple users are logged in. I seems to come back eventually, sometimes. The more serious, new, problems is random X Server crashes. I've seen this most when a third user logs in. Their session crashes with minimal messages in the log. I don't know if it's related, but I now see two sessions for each user when I run w, one for startkde and another for kwrited. I've not found any other references to this.

Overall I would rate this as a reasonable successful upgrade. The PC was not un-usable at any point, but the crashing sessions are a concern. I'll try and work out what might be causing it, but I'm not great at this sort of diagnosis.

[21:45] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Sun, 01 Nov 2009

Up - 3D

The posters for this film seem to have been around all year, but today we actually saw it. This is the first 3D film I've seen at the cinema. I remember seeing some 3D western on TV as a kid and my daughter has a Barbie DVD with a 3D version. Both used coloured filters as these are the only way to do it with a conventional TV without extra hardware. The current crop of 3D films in cinemas use polarised glasses that do not affect the colours. Sky are experimenting with 3D TV, but that will require a new TV. We still have a CRT (very nice Toshiba), but may consider a flat panel when we can get HD Freeview. I'm not considering 3D at home for now.

After the usual boring adverts we were instructed to don our glasses and had a couple of trailers for other animated films (Christmas Carol and Battle for Terra). Both had lots of 3D content such as spaceships or snowflakes. The effect is startling at times with objects appearing to come out of the screen. At other times they just give more depth to the image, but there is sometimes more of an impression of layers.

Before up we had the usual Pixar short. This one was called Partly Cloudy, a cute, wordless story about storks delivering babies that they get from living clouds.

Up itself is a poignant tale of an old man who feels he has not had the adventures that he and his late wife had planned. The sequence that shows them meeting and growing old together is quite touching. Events inspire him to take an adventurous trip to South America by attaching balloons to his house. He accidentally takes a boy scout along with him and they have lots of adventures that I won't spoil. There are plenty of laughs and thrills along the way. The animation is amazing as always. It doesn't aim for total realism, but some shots look very natural. The 3D is fairly subtle with not too much thrusting of objects towards the 'camera'. Pixar always seem to come up with the goods. Original stories, quality animation and a lack of slushy sentimentality. You should see this film.

Going to the cinema at peak times is getting very expensive. It was £36 for the four of us, but I think there is a premium for the 3D films. There was some confusion over whether we were to keep the glasses. Apparently we can use them again and get a discount, but some ended up in their recycling bin. If you buy food there it soon adds up, but I expect that they hope 3D will attract more people. It certainly seemed fairly busy there this afternoon.

[21:30] | [/Entertainment] | Comments | G

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