Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Thu, 14 Sep 2006

Herts LUG 20060914

Last night's LUG meeting consisted of a talk I arranged by some guys from the OpenStreetmap project. There were three of them and they did a grand job of telling us what the project is about and demonstrating some of the tools they use. They planned their presentation on their great wiki. The meeting was well attended, with some new faces.

I've been looking this project for a while and would like to take part. To be honest, I'd like a GPS just to play with. As mentioned before I am on the look out for a new PDA and/or phone that should have some sort of GPS facility. Another possibility I've found is the Mio P550. As well as a built-in GPS unit with the latest chipset it also has Wifi. Price is reasonable too. I need to find some more reviews first. Alternatively I buy a dedicated unit that will probably be better for mapping projects, especially for battery life.

[16:56] | [] | Comments | G

Wed, 16 Aug 2006

Digital Viewing

I've now installed my new Hauppauge Nova-T PCI DVB card. It was recognised immediately by Kaffeine and I was able to scan for channels. I was actually quite impressed that I got a good signal despite using a passive aerial splitter to also feed the main TV. Watching TV is generally fine, but does get the odd glitch. This may be due to processor load rather than the signal. Kaffeine has the option to schedule recordings from the EPG. I need to test this more as for one programme it did not record all of it. I did manage to record part of Once Upon a Time in Mexico and it played back totally smoothly. It's also possible to pause live TV and continue watching from that point. Video eats about 2GB per hour.

I do have some issues with Kaffeine. It doesn't seem to allow for sorting the channels and you have to leave it running for scheduled recordings. This can cause clashes with other software that uses sound, but that's a general Linux issue for me. I did get the remote control that comes with the card to work, but need to work out what Kaffeine functions should be used for most of the buttons.

I may look at other DVB software. ZapDvb looks interesting. It looks like it might handle recording better by prioritising scheduled recordings that are run using cron. It also allows for recording radio channels to Ogg so I could copy directly to my Palm for mobile listening.

At some stage I will look at archiving recordings to DVD. This requires looking into editing and converting the files to the appropriate format. Meanwhile it gives an extra option for watching Freeview channels that may prevent squabbles.

[11:33] | [] | Comments | G

Fri, 11 Aug 2006

Herts LUG 20060809

Another well attended meeting. I took my PC and monitor along to try and get some help on a couple of issues. One was an apparently dead keyoard, but only on one user account. Turned out to be the Slow Keys option was turned on so you had to hold a key down for ages before it did anything. The other was my intermittent USB card. Reseated the PCI card and okay so far. Also had a go at installing a graphics card I got from Rob, but was hampered by a total inability to get into the BIOS screen. Something strange there.

As promised by Nicolas we had wireless networking. There was a Zaurus, an XDA and a Nokia 770 all accessing the web as well as the odd laptop. I'll have to get myself some sort of wireless device one day.

The featured presentation of the evening was by Malc on the delights of BASH. I certainly learnt a lot. Malc used my PC and learnt that you could have multiple KDE/X sessions running as I generally do.

Other news: I decided not to go for the Acer GPS so I'm looking at alternatives. The NAViGPS looks appealing for the price. I might have to go for the more expensive model with Bluetooth in case I get a PDA with that facility.

I just took delivery of a digital TV card (Hauppauge Nova-T PCI) so that I can use the PC to watch and record TV. I'm hoping it won't be too complex to get it working on Linux.

[14:36] | [] | Comments | G

Thu, 20 Jul 2006

Cool Computer Thing of the Week

Not exactly a regular strand on this site, but never mind. A couple of weeks back I finally got a working VPN connection from Linux to the company network by getting the latest version of KVpnc and finding the right configuration options. Using Citrix I can do most work things if I don't happen to have the XP laptop at home.

This week I got around to trying out Synergy. This allows multiple computers to share a keyboard and mouse. Very handy if you have several on you desk. As you move the mouse off the edge of one computer's screen it appears on the next and control is transferred. It works on all the main operating systems. I'm typing this on my Linux box, but can easily switch to the XP laptop and carry on typing there. The computers also share a clipboard that can do images as well as text. This is the most useful thing I have installed in a while. Checking on my del.icio.us I see that I bookmarked it nearly 2 years ago!

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

Thu, 13 Jul 2006

Herts LUG 20060712

Fun meeting last night. Rob organised a little quiz with prizes! My team won and I gained a neat USB light. Not only that, but I learned a few things about Linux. I think total attendance was about a dozen.

[12:07] | [] | Comments | G

Wed, 05 Jul 2006

End of an Era

Microsoft are ending support for Windows 98. I still have a PC that runs it just so that my kids can play some 'edutainment' titles. The problem now is that there will be no more security updates. I just found out that Zone Labs will not support 98 for their free ZoneAlarm firewall. They suggest that you install a more recent Microsoft OS, i.e. XP, but I don't want to have to buy that. Instead I shall look at the possibility of running the kids' games on Linux via Wine. The wonderful thing about Free Software is that you can just download the next version for free.

Some people have concerns that all those thousands of PCs out there still running 98 will now be vulnerable to all sorts of security risks that could cause problems for the rest of us. We shall see. We can always hope that at least some of them choose a Free alternative to the MS options, especially if they cannot afford to upgrade their hardware.

[13:15] | [] | Comments | G

Tue, 13 Jun 2006

Google does Linux

Recently Google released their photo editing/management package Picasa for Linux. There was some outcry in the community that this was a token gesture as it used Windows emulation rather than being properly ported, but if it encourages people to consider Linux then it's a good thing. I have tried it and it seems to work much as the Windows version does.

Today I see that they have now released a Linux version of Google Earth. From what I've read this seems to be a proper conversion, but may not quite have the look of a native application. I shall have a play with that too, but I expect my old PC may struggle a bit with the graphics. I keep checking the prices of new hardware and it just gets cheaper. My rule of thumb in the past was to consider a CPU upgrade when I could double the speed for under 100. The problem now is that I would need a new motherboard, memory and cooler as well. It would probably be worth building a whole new PC rather than upgrading what I have. Even that is pretty cheap. I just priced up a system and it came to under 350.

Update on the previous post. MP3 playback is now working in Amarok, but I'm not sure what has changed. I tried installing the recommended packages, but they seemed to be there already. Last night I was listening to the Digital Planet podcast whilst sweating off a few pints on our exercise machine.

[09:04] | [] | Comments | G

Mon, 12 Jun 2006

Ubuntu Dapper

As previously mentioned I have had a few issues with Ubuntu. Well I installed the new version a week ago. I could not just upgrade as I wanted to re-partition the drive to get all my data on seaparate partitions to the system files. Installation was easy, apart from me having to figure out how to partition as I wanted. The latest CDs can be booted to give a working system with an install option, so you can play with various applications. They even include some media files to try out.

There are new versions of many KDE and other applications, but I have not seen much benefit for what I need.

Some of the issues I have so far are:

Other people have reported improved performance, but I have not noticed much difference when starting the system.

[13:25] | [] | 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] | [] | 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] | [] | Comments | G

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