Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Thu, 02 Nov 2006

Inventor of the Internet

Listening to Radio 3 this morning there was an item on the news about Tim Berners-Lee predicting bad things for the future of the net. What bugged me was that they described him as 'inventor of the Internet'. I guess that some people think the Web is the Internet. The same mistake may have been on the BBC News site, but seems to have gone now.

I've taken to listening to Radio 3 on my commute to avoid hearing the same old songs and innane chat every day. I'm also trying to get a better understanding of classical music. Had a nice blast of Mussorgsky's Night on Bear Mountain today.

Caught the second half of Mystery Men on ITV4 last night. When I read about it ages ago it seemed like a film a might like. It's very silly. Might have to see it all some time. ITV4 has some really low-rent advertising for things like telephone dating etc.

Finally, Last.fm have added various updates this week. The best one for me is a gig guide based on the artists I listen to. You can see the one gig I've tagged at my page.

[09:45] | [/News] | Comments | G

Thu, 26 Oct 2006

Edinburgh on a low (carbon) budget

We had another trip up to the Scottish capital to visit my sister this month. We chose to go by train because it's not too expensive, quick and not too stressful. It's also the greenest option. You have to know what you are doing when buying tickets as there are various options. Having a Family Railcard saves a lot for us. We used the GNER Mallard service. The new trains are comfortable and have mains power plus wifi. I didn't use either of those this time. Our audio players managed on battery and I still don't have wifi capability. Even if I did I would really have to need it. Considering that you have to pay a fair bit just to be sitting on the train I would think they could make the wifi cheaper. You have to pay a minimum of 3 for a half hour. Of course, first class passengers get it 'free'.

For most of our stay in Edinburgh we used the buses. It cost around 6 for a day ticket for 2 adults and a child, but we only made a couple of trips each time. It can be confusing to work out what tickets to get and which routes to use, but that applies in most cities. We were lucky to have someone with local knowledge.

We visited the zoo. It's generally a good one, but some of the larger animals, e.g. polar bear and tiger, could do with a lot more space. The tiger was pacing at the back of it's cage, others were just sleeping. I have mixed feelings about zoos, but most of the big ones are pretty active in breeding programmes. We can hope that seeing the animals will encourage people to think more about what we are doing to the planet, but I expect some just go to see something new. They had some good activities to keep the kids amused.

[18:42] | [/Travel] | Comments | G

Easy Listening

I've been looking around for some music playing software for the Acer. My main requirements were that it should play OGG, be simple to use and preferably free (as in beer at least). One thing I've found with the Acer is that it is very LOUD! No need for volume boosting technology as on the Palm. Windows Media is pretty useless so ruled itself out.

First up was MortPlayer. This has lots of nice features, including some good skins with big buttons, but I had some problems with the power saving. Once the screen turned off I had problems getting it back on. Whilst using it I suffered a crash that required a hard reset. Since then I have lost the ability to see the battery level. It just shows 0%. This may be unrelated to the application. It could be a hardware fault, but the battery still works.

Next was TCPMP. This is mainly a video player for those who want to watch films and TV on a tiny screen. For audio it's pretty limited. It doesn't even display the playlist whilst playing.

Finally we come to GSPlayer. It's fairly similar to Mort, but I have yet to find a nice skin. However, it works very well and was extensively tested on our recent train journey. This will do for now.

Like the Palm the Acer may be limited to 1GB SD cards. This is a shame as the bigger ones are getting cheaper.

For playlists I am using a little Python script I wrote. It scans my music folders for those without a playlist an creates one. This meets my requirements as I mainly listen to albums. I intend to publish it on the site eventually.

[18:26] | [/PocketPC] | Comments | G

Wed, 25 Oct 2006

Stuff to write

Just in case anyone is on the edge of their seat waiting for my next item (unlikely), this is to say that I do have a few things I want to write about audio software on a Windows PDA, travelling by train and other stuff, but need to find the time. It tends to take me more than a couple of minutes to write each item as I like to include some relevant links. I ought to find a way to automate things like links Wikipedia. I also want to add a wiki to the site, but mainly to hold semi-static information so I can easily update it. I'm playing with MoinMoin on my PC, but need to work out how to transfer it.

[22:03] | [/Site News] | Comments | G

Mon, 09 Oct 2006

Spammed to death

I get a fair bit of spam. As I have my own domain I'm a bigger target than most individuals. I've avoided some of it by directing some standard addresses that I don't use to a black hole address. I still get a lot to my personal address. I can't be sure where this has been taken from, but I suspect that someone may have scanned the PGP public key directories. The mail server I use is running filters that pick up most of the spam and tag it as such, so I can easily filter it. I just have some issues with Kmail filters on my IMAP email. Basically it insists on marking the non-spam as being read, so it's hard to pick up on what is new.

A more recent problem is that the spammers are faking addresses from my domain in the From. So I am getting lots of emails bounced back at me now. One of these days it will become impossible to use legitimate email as nothing will get past the filters.

Meanwhile, I've been continuing my open mapping efforts. The map of Arlesey is coming along nicely, but I haven't found time to get out and do all the minor roads. I've been too busy building new shelves in the study and gardening. This week I have the PFGM AGM and a Herts LUG meeting.

[14:48] | [/Internet] | Comments | G

Fri, 22 Sep 2006

Streetmapping

In order to get going on the Openstreetmap project I am having another go at using the Acer n35 PDA/GPS I borrowed before. I looked at various dedicated GPS units, but they were either too expensive or too limited for my requirements. I wanted something that would allow me to collect lots of traces whilst travelling, but also give me navigation when I need it. I'm having to compromise on battery life, but I don't expect to be out walking for hours with it. It has some advantages over my Palm, such as the option to add wifi, but it may take a while to adjust to different applications.

So far I have submitted a couple of traces of Arlesey around my house. I'll venture further afield as I get the time. I'll also be using it when out in the car, but this requires that I find a workaround for the GPS opaque windscreen on my Zafira. I'm hoping that an external antenna will work somewhere in the car. I may also buy some extra software called GpsGate that will allow me to log GPS traces even when using the navigation software. Their basic version is pretty cheap.

I'm still learning how to edit the traces to give the correct mapping information. There are lots of options for the type of road etc. There's also the issues with mapping things like post/telephone boxes, bus stops, parks, lakes etc. I'm hoping that I can build a useful map of my area that can be used by local organisations without all the expense and legal complications of the commercial alternatives.

There are a few other people in the area who are doing some mapping, so perhaps I will team up with them some time to cover other towns and villages.

[17:31] | [/Internet] | Comments | G

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] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Fri, 01 Sep 2006

Zoning in on the phone

This week I met up with Rev. Rumble after his extended trip around Europe and just before he returns to the southern penal colony. I checked out his phone, a Nokia 6630. It seemed to offer a lot of what I previously mentioned. No wi-fi, but that only seems to come with the top end ranges anyway. He has used it for navigation purposes as I would like to. Some on-line investigations revealed that is was superceded by the 6680 that fixed some of the issues and adds a second camera. This may aso be a dead range, but that makes for good prices. There's plenty on ebay. Then I just need a cheap Bluetooth GPS. Could be up and running for well under my standard mobile device budget of £200, but I might need extras like memory cards and some software.

Other news is that I had another week's camping, this time in Croyde, Devon. Had a good time despite the rain and managed a bit of mild surfing. That seems to be the main attraction around there, but also did some walking and visited the tourist traps. Bought a painting by Simon Clarke.

As part of my on-going lust to do something for the open source world I contacted one of the OpenStreetMap team about getting someone to speak at the LUG. So we now have a group of them coming along next month. Maybe they can recommend what I should buy.

[14:17] | [/Gadgets] | Comments | G

Thu, 17 Aug 2006

Ideal Mobile Gadget

Although I'm generally considered quite technical, I'm usually well behind the cutting edge when it comes to gadgets. My phone came second hand and my Palm is about 4 years old. I just find it hard to justify the cost of the latest and greatest. I hardly use my phone, but have it for when I might need it. The Palm gets a fair bit of use as an address book, calendar and general information store. It also sees occaisional usage as my audio player and I just acquired another 1GB card so I can carry more music for when I travel. The Palm and phone do not talk to each other at all, so cannot exchange data or allow me to get mail or web on the move apart from the very basic, text only web the phone can do.

Meanwhile, people I know have all sorts of wonderful toys. The main one these days is the combined PDA/phone/media device. This has some appeal as it would reduce the number of gadgets I carried around, but they always seem to compromise on something. They do seem to be getting closer to my ideal mobile gagdet. This would have the following features:

Some people have models from the Nokia Nseries that seem pretty close to what I want. It looks like wi-fi pushes the price up, but I think that whatever device I get next has to have that feature as it will open up posibilities.

I'm not desperate to buy and obviously prices will drop, but then the next wonderful thing appears. Maybe I'll get a bonus and can splash out. Alternatively I could pick up a slightly older unit when others upgrade. Meanwhile, I will be monitoring the trends. Recommendations welcome.

[22:27] | [/Gadgets] | 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] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

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