Tuesday 13 November 2007

Google Andriod

Wahey! This is the pot of gold at the end of the Google-phone rumour-rainbow. The Open Handset Alliance have released the first API and SDK for the Andriod platform.

Android is an Open Source mobile phone platform based on a Linux kernel and written under an Apache 2.0 licence. The OHA is led by Google and includes members such as HTC, China Mobile and other huge players in the mobile market.

First impressions are good. The SDK includes an emulated handset running the operating system and tools for creating your own Java based applications that take advantage of the proposed hardware.

The emulation looks good, including basic phone software but strangely no messaging support yet (SMS/MMS/e-mail). It does however have a Google Maps application and some developer demos and tools.

Overall the GUI has the simplicity of design that Google tend toward, though not quite so much as Apple does with the iPhone. We must however remember that this is a first developer preview release. It's unusually slick for a version zero Open Source project, but then I'm sure Google has been pumping cash in to get this party started.

Anyway, this could be the next big thing, so I'm off to try creating an application for it...

Friday 2 November 2007

Gorgeous Day

The weather is stunning. It's November and we've been sitting outside the local pub in tee-shirts, enjoying the autumn colours. There's nothing quite like a nice Friday lunchtime with work colleagues and some good food and drink.

The conversation flitted over T3's DIY efforts (We have many Tims), including a partial loft conversion. Very impressive. We're thinking of converting our loft and it'll cost at least 20 grand. T3 seems to have achieved the same in just over a thousand quid! Food for thought, although we are planning to get a full staircase put in, which will be the majority of the cost.

Other reasons for jollity include the fact that we have achieved our commitment for this iteration and that we included an afternoon of ''Innovation'' for exploring non-purchase-order based ideas. It's all a bit Google and I can only hope that it continues along similar lines in the future.

Monday 29 October 2007

Gondoliers Finale

It's all over - thank **** for that.

It turned out very nicely for most of the cast. The director did not fare so well. He has spent the last seven weeks converting an enthusiastic and supportive amateur cast to one that wouldn't even clap when he came on stage to take his closing night bow.

This was quite vindicating. Hearing of his tantrum (in front of several cast members who were about to go back on stage) about the orchestra performing a completely traditional act of minor rebellion - adding a cheeky bar of music where it wouldn't hurt anyone - confirmed my gradually evolving opinion of our "professional" director.

I expect this story will run and run. For now I must sleep, as I'm back in real life again and have to work to earn a crust.

Perhaps I'll be summoned to be the next King of Barataria and I won't need to bother any more.

Please note: Opinions expressed in this blog DO NOT represent those of the Operatic Society that put on the show.

Friday 26 October 2007


I'm knackered! Tonight (Friday night) is show 5 of 7 in one week. We're past the hump performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta The Gondoliers.

We got a glowing review in the Bournemouth Echo yesterday night. It praised the energy of the performance as well as the interesting set and lighting effects.

Each night there's a small party. You might think this is pushing things a little, but with the adrenalin still flowing it's practically impossible to sleep straight after a show.

Our schedule of entertainment this week is: Monday, Chinese takeaway; Tuesday, Italian restaurant; Wednesday, Wii & Karaoke night; Thursday, Curry at our MD's; Friday, Snacks and drinks; Saturday, End of Show Party at a local (and rather ancient) pub in Poole.

In retrospect I probably should have taken a few days off this week instead of just the matinée performance. Oh well, I'll try and have a bit of a lie in tomorrow before the Saturday matinée.

Thursday 9 August 2007

Not signal strength then...

I've realised that I can connect my STB to the through port on my DVB-C card, and it still receives an excellent signal. I conclude that my cabling is sufficient.

DVBShop say that the Linux drivers don't actually report signal strength correctly. I don't know if that means that they somehow diminish the actual signal. It seems unlikely, but I'm no expert.

I suppose I'll have to pull the card out again and put it in a Windows machine to see if the signal is significantly better.

Sunday 15 July 2007

Virgin Cable on MythTV

I've been trying to get my TechnoTrend C-1500 DVB-C card to connect to Virgin Media and tune in the FTA channels.

Linux detected the card and configured it automatically. The TechnoTrend card has been available for some time now, so support is good.

It took a while to work out the correct numbers to give to the tuner program, but I eventually found out how to boot into the Engineering menu of the Samsung SMT-2100C STB, which contains the current settings. I used DVB-Tools on Linux to scan the channels. Here is the config file for scandvb:

# Virgin Cable (UK)
# freq sr fec mod
C 666750000 6952000 NONE QAM64

This worked well, detecting 344 channels, 94 of which were unencrypted (Freeview channels and radio).

My main problem now is signal strength - I'm getting 0-1%, which is just not enough to watch most of the channels. I think the quality and shielding of the cable I've used (TV aerial RF) is much less than Virgin's and I'm connecting to the end of a fairly long extension. I'll try to get a better one this week and give it another go on a machine nearer the Cable access point.

Friday 25 May 2007

Free Books and Sheet Music

Project Gutenberg has out-of-copyright books and Mutopia has out-of-copyright sheet music.

The Web is a wonderful thing... Yay!

Technotrend C-1500

Yay, my Cable TV card has arrived! It has an add-on CI reader, into which I can plug a module that will read the smart card used to decrypt paid-for Virgin Media TV channels.

It may be some time 'till I get it up and running with MythTV, but I'll post when I do.

Sunday 20 May 2007


Until recently I've been using an open source diagram creation program called Dia. It's an adequate (if a little clunky) alternative to Microsoft Visio. You drag and drop different shaped blocks and join them together using stretchy arrows, all of which can be customised to look as you wish.

However, as a programmer, I want to lay out a set of relationships and let the software work out the best way to represent them.

Enter Graphviz, a set of open source tools for doing just that.

I used the DOT language to describe my MythTV set-up as a collection of elements connected together with wires, IR and Bluetooth. It also allows you to group similar elements together and even create subgraphs.

It really does an excellent job of laying out a readable diagram and I'm itching to find some way to use it in production.

Friday 18 May 2007

Note to self

I took the Carlsbro Orion 10 active speaker that I bought for Jay's birthday back to the shop when it stopped working. I'd checked the fuse in the plug and thought that the damn thing had just broken down after an hour's use.

Embarrassingly, when I took it back to the shop, they quickly pointed out that the internal fuse had blown (very kindly not abusing me for my stupidity).

In future I promise not to take things back to the shop when they blow a fuse!

Thursday 17 May 2007

Bass Guitar

Listening to music in the car back home from rehearsals last night, Penny suggested that we learn the song Paranoid Android by Radiohead, with myself on guitar and Penny on bass.

There's only one tiny snag in this plan, Penny can't play bass... yet!

She does have a lot of experience singing alto vocal parts (kinda like female bass singing) and can already play other instruments and read music, so presumably she'll have a natural ear for basslines.

We shall see... I've bought a beginner's bass guitar book, a Muse notation book, some new Super-Slinky's and a couple'a plectrums.

We'll start tonight!

Wednesday 9 May 2007

Around the World with Gilbert & Sullivan

Over the last couple of weeks, I performed Around the World with Gilbert & Sullivan with the Bournemouth G & S Operatic Society. This was a compilation concert of Gilbert & Sullivan mixed with other popular music, that went down very well and was highly enjoyable to be involved with.

Auditions for the next show, "Gondoliers" (Half term, Oct 2007) take place in a few weeks time, so I'd better get practicing those audition pieces.

Saturday 31 March 2007

Now hosted on TextDrive

I've not been terribly impressed with the speed or quality of service of my Rails sites running at ASmallOrange.com. I think they are using mod-ruby in Apache, which doesn't quite work as well as it should, giving Application Errors fairly regularly for no good reason.

TextDrive are the official Rails host, as they hosted the first Rails project - BaseCamp. They support Lighttpd as a Rails Web server, which is very quick and fully compatible. They have an offer on at the moment for $99 a year shared hosting, which is not much more than ASmallOrange, so I thought I'd take the plunge and switch over.

It's taken a little longer to get Rails set up on a sub-domain, but since Textdrive has been hosting Rails applications longer than anyone else, there are a lot of good tutorials and users who can give a helping hand.

Follow up..

The Application Errors that I used to have with ASmallOrange.com stopped happening some time ago. They've obviously updated their setup at some point and fixed the issues. I still run a site on their service and would recommend it.