Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Tue, 04 Mar 2008

Rewriting the URL

I've wanted for ages to make the URLs on this site simpler. This can be done using Apache's mod_rewrite, but I wasn't sure if that was installed here. I just found out it was and have created a rule so that everything hangs off This may have caused a lot of old posts to reappear on the RSS feed. Sorry for any inconvenience.

[14:39] | [Site News] | Comments | G

Sun, 02 Mar 2008


Yesterday I attended my first WinterDrum event in High Wycombe. This was an opportunity to participate in workshops with some of the best drummers around. I was there for the African drumming, but there were also sessions for steel drums, Japanese Taiko, singing and dance. I did a session in the morning with Nansady Keita from Guinea. His English is limited, but his drumming was incredible. He really pushed me technically. Two hours of solid drumming was hard work, but I was smiling all the time. In the afternoon I was with Hans Sutton learning more about playing dunduns. These are the backline in African drumming. That was fun too. I just hope I can remember some of the rhythms I was taught.

In the evening there was a concert featuring many of the tutors, some with their pupils, although I did not perform. It was an amazing evening with some outstanding playing. You can see some pictures over on my Multiply site. That ended around 11:30, so I was pretty late getting home. It was a great day. I shall have to do more events like this.

On the web front I finally gave in to temptation and joined Twitter. This is a 'micro-blogging' service where you can let people know what you are up to right now. As opposed to here where it takes me a while to put together my thoughts. Twitter has some nice features like being able to update via Jabber. You can also tag messages as replied to what others have said. I have a few friends using it and have also connected with bassist Jeff Schmidt who I have been following on-line. There are other ways to post your status, such as in IM systems or on Facebook, but Twitter just seems more useful. It is another possible distraction, but I shall see if it is useful or entertaining.

[21:59] | [Music] | Comments | G

Thu, 28 Feb 2008

A new start

It has been my intention for a while to tidy up my site a bit. One thing I wanted was to have some content at the top level of my domain, i.e. Well now there is something there. It will act as my actual homepage that says something about me. It will also hold some less visible data for use by various semantic services. So have a look and let me know what needs improving.

It was pointed out to me this week that some of my internal links do not work, particularly when you view a post on its own page. I tried using relative links, but that obviously has issues. I may not update those posts as Pyblosxom will consider them to be new if I do, but I will be more careful in future.

[21:07] | [Site News] | Comments | G

Sun, 17 Feb 2008


I've finally written a few notes for my Green page. I hope to add to it in time. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Over on the booklist I have just added my review of a book on the mind and music.

Elsewhere I have posted my review of Sweeney Todd and notes about my audio collection. I could do those here, but they would not reach their intended audiences as well. Only a few of my contacts subscribe to the feed from this site. I need to educate others in the benefits of RSS.

[21:48] | [News] | Comments | G

Thu, 14 Feb 2008

HertsLUG 20080213

Malc gave myself and Rob a lift down to Stevenage through the fog. Lots of folk there. Interesting stuff was Mike's EPOS that James helped to get Ubuntu running on and David demonstrated some apps that he's been writing. One was a sort of remote-controlled presentation system that looks promising, but played up on the demo. I keep meaning to post my little Python scripts that I've written on this site in case they are of use to anyone.

I'll just include a few links to things that I brought up:

You can find my bookmarks at If you join then feel free to subscribe to my feed and I may well do likewise with yours. I find it a great way to discover interesting stuff. I'm into social sites that are actually useful and not too invasive. I did get a few people to join the Herts LUG Mugshot Group, but there's not much happening there are only a couple of us have active feeds. I may have another go at the Wordpress site that Dave set up. I may try and replicate the exiting site so we can see if it's worth migrating. Let me know if you want to play with it.

[21:28] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Sun, 10 Feb 2008

Wishy Washy

A while back I started having problems with the windscreen washers on my Zafira. Something was blocking it. I found that I could pull the pipe off the washer and blow down it. That sometimes cleared it, but not permanently. Then one time I went to do this and snapped a bit off the nozzle. I just got a new one that cost all of UKP2.30, but fitting it was not easy. Basically you have to destroy the old one by hacking bits off it as it pushes into a hole, but will not come back out. I couldn't find any details of this on-line, so perhaps this information will help someone else.

I'm guessing that the blockage was due to something in the reservoir, but that is fairly inaccessible in the wing of the car. I thought I would fix that by siphoning it out. I managed to get some lovely bright green screenwash in my gob, but managed using a bit of hosepipe. I did it a few times for good measure and, fingers crossed, it seems to be okay now. So it cost me a couple of quid, a chunk of my time and the skin of a couple of knuckles. I just don't have the time and money to take it to a mechanic.

I don't think too much of interest has been going on in my life lately. I have had some use of the Wii wireless to send things back and forth to our friends. My computer audio problems persist. I think I will have to reinstall Kubuntu and accept that I will have to set a load of stuff up again, but at least most user settings survive as my home partition will still be there. The problem tends to be finding a spare few hours to do it all.

[21:20] | [Motoring] | Comments | G

Fri, 01 Feb 2008

You can listen to the wireless

5 points if you can name the comedy song the title is from, minus 10 is you have to Google it.

I have finally entered the wireless networking age. Although I ran CAT5 cable throughout my house when I built it four years ago I have yet to make use of it. All my computers have been in the study and within reach of my router. My old router was playing up a bit and I needed a way to get the Wii on-line. A good friend had a spare Linksys WRT54GS that he has passed on to me. These seem to be highly rated, partly because you can replace the firmware. I have looked at some of the alternatives, but I don't see any reason to change it just yet. My networking needs are fairly basic. It has the usual web-based set-up screens with loads of options. I made the essential changes to the passwords and it seems to be working, including the Wii which is in the next room. This configuration will also give me more options for where I use my work laptop when I have it here.

I know I could open up my network for others to use, but I'm not sure that there would be much demand. The neighbouring houses are not too close and those who need internet probably already have it. I would have to be very sure of not compromising my own network security before taking such steps.

Getting the Wii on-line was just a matter of finding the router and setting the password. This now gives me the following possibilities:

So what else can I do now?

The other recent networking change is that I now have 20Mb broadband instead of 4Mb, but am not noticing much difference. My rare big downloads may be quicker, but general internet seems much the same. A reason for changing was that I also get more free landline calls that may actually save me some money on the phone bill.

I just heard a newsreader refer to the 'Information Superhighway'. Does anyone say that apart from newsreaders and politicians?

[22:04] | [Gadgets] | Comments | G

Fri, 25 Jan 2008

Feed Me

I mentioned before that I was playing with some feed aggregating sites. FriendFeed is my current favourite, largely because it lets me create feeds for friends who have not signed up. I accept that they may not want to, but I want an easy way to see what they are up to on various social sites. FF keeps adding features. One useful one was the ability to add multiple feeds of the same type. That's good if you have more than one blog or want to use feeds from sites that are not directly supported.

I've also played with ona*swarm. They use the right technologies, such as OpenID, but nothing else really stands out.

This week I've been looking at Pownce. Kevin Rose of Digg is behind it and it just became available to anyone to register. So far I can't see anything that really makes me want to use it, although they do use some semantic technologies that I favour.

I've used the FriendFeed gadget on my Multiply page. I may use it here when I decide if it's what I want to use 'permanently'. Nothing is permanent on the internet.

[14:21] | [Internet] | Comments | G

Fri, 18 Jan 2008

What's in your pocket

Jeff Atwood on Coding Horror posted an update about what's on his keychain. He carries a flash drive, a multi-tool and a mini torch. All that's on my keyring, apart from keys, is a Tesco barcode tag for when I buy fuel. I do, however, have certain things in my pockets when I am out and about.

I carry a phone, an ancient Samsung V200, but don't use it very much. I have a wallet for cash and a few cards. In a pocket of the wallet I have a guitar plectrum and my old 128MB flash drive. It's a very flat one, so doesn't make much of a bump. I always wear a watch out of habit. It's currently a solar-powered Casio Wave Ceptor that should always have the correct time due to picking up a radio signal every night.

I like to have a PDA with me as my phone doesn't do much in that area. I used to use my Palm Zire 71, but have been trying to switch to the Acer n35. I got the Acer for it's GPS for Openstreetmap, but it's also a better audio player than the Palm. I just haven't got around to moving all my address data across yet. Synching a Pocket PC to Linux is not so easy. I keep thinking that I should get something newer, but can't justify anything expensive. Maybe there's a cheaper phone that would give me most of what I want so I could just carry one gadget. Mind you, one the train last night I was surrounded by several suits all twiddling their Crackberries. Two had audio players as well even though I would expect the 'berries to be able to handle audio. I know that combining gadgets involves compromise, but you just run out of pockets.

For listening to audio on the Acer I have some Sennheiser earbuds. I've been listening to lots of podcasts lately. I've not been travelling far enough to run out of battery lately, but I could use my Freeloader if I had a USB power lead. Whatever gadgets I buy in future should run from USB power. It means you don't need as many power supplies and I spend a lot of time near a PC.

I see some people blogging about all the gadgets they carry around, usually requiring a bag. In some cases it just seems excessive. If they get mugged that's a lot of stuff to lose. Mine probably all cost a few hundred when new, but is not worth much now. My financial situation helps my anti-consumerism to win over my GAS.

That's enough of my rambling. Anyone else want to list what they carry?

[16:41] | [Gadgets] | Comments | G

Mon, 14 Jan 2008


As I still haven't found a way to get audio recording working properly on my Kubuntu system I've been thinking of alternatives. One is to do a fresh install of the latest version and hope that it resolves my various issues, another would be to rearrange my drive and install something like Ubuntu Studio with a dual-boot. Somewhere I picked up on dyne:bolic and its derivative pure:dyne. These are audio/video-biased live CDs that can write to existing partitions and even be run from there. I downloaded the latter to check it out.

It booted fairly quickly, but seemed to confuse my monitor which had problems locking onto a signal at times. Eventually I got to their very minimal desktop. It was running in what looked like 800x600. It was using the open nvidia drive. The preferences only offered 640x480 and 320x256. I'm not sure anyone would want to use those modes. Everything is run from a menu when you right0click the desktop. It offers things like Ardour, Audacity and Hydrogen along with Jack. I had a go at setting it up, but could only get playback with a bit of distortion at fairly high latencies. I obviously need to tweak it for my on-board sound. I didn't manage to record anything on the first attempt. Ardour didn't even load properly. So not a great first impression, but I will try it again after reading up. There is a later version that uses a DVD to provide more modules.

Malc had more success when he used it on an electronic music course. So it should be possible to do someting on my 'mighty' PC.

This week's Secret Bass drumming session had more atmosphere than usual when there was a power cut. We were drumming by candlelight, in a building made of straw. Torches were used at times for demonstrations of technique.

[22:13] | [Studio] | Comments | G

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