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.
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
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.
I've been looking around for some music playing software for the
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
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.
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
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.
Fri, 22 Sep 2006
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
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.
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.
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 Â£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
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.
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
came second hand and my
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:
- Good colour screen - Big enough for basic web browsing
- Internet access - For the odd browse when I really need to
- Email - Mainly for when travelling as I'm generally not far from a PC
- Camera - Something around 2MP would be useful. The VGA unit on the Palm
is not much good
- Removable storage - Preferably some form of SD, mainly for music. I can get
by with a couple of GB
- Music player - Has to support Ogg
- Software - I'd like the option to install various useful software.
The Symbian platform looks good, but
there are limited Palm options too. I'm not sure I need/want Windows
- Bluetooth - Seems to be standard these days. Will allow me to play
- Wi-fi - Would be nice to have to make use of all these hot-spots that
are appearing, especially the free ones
- Phone - I just need the basics. I'm on PAYG as I only spend the odd quid
in a month so nobody is going to give me a cheap/free upgrade
- Not too expensive - Naturally
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.
Wed, 16 Aug 2006
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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
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.
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