Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Wed, 06 Jun 2007


Another cracker from XKCD. You need to click it for a bigger version. I have one minor issue with this site. It always has a piece of text for the image that you see as a tooltip. In Firefox it displays as a single line and sometimes gets truncated so I have to view the page source to see it all. In IE it gets wrapped to all fit in a box. Is there any way to tell Firefox to show it all?

Listening to Radio 3 this morning I heard part of Vivaldi's Four Seasons played by Red Priest. This was great fun with incredible lead recorder playing. Another one for the wish list.

[08:20] | [Humour] | Comments | G

Mon, 04 Jun 2007

First Gig

It's getting on for two years since I started drumming with Secret Bass. It's fun to just play, but there comes a point where you need to get out and perform. I missed at least one opportunity for this due to other commitments, but last Sunday I remedied that. We performed at the village open day in Little Berkhamstead, just up the road from where we practice. This involved lots of rehearsals with varying sub-sets of the perfromers where we honed our performance and worked out a set. On the day it went pretty well, apart from me fluffing some moves and our glorious leader getting carried away with soloing ;) The small audience seemed to enjoy it. We have another gig for next Sunday at Hertford Fun day.

Here are some pictures of our performance.

Although I've been playing music for most of my life I have made very few public performances. There were a few things at school and when I was learning classical guitar. I regret that I never got into any bands, but I'm trying to make up for some lost time now. For a start I plan to do some recording at home to build my skills. If I can find some outlets for some performance then that will be a bonus. I'm just not sure I would be up to playing solo just yet. Just don't call it a mid-life crisis ;)

[21:52] | [Music] | Comments | G

Thu, 24 May 2007


I'm starting a new category for this post as I hope to be setting up my own mini-music studio at home.

Jokosher is a multi-track recording application for Linux. It's a project instigated by Jono Bacon of LugRadio fame. It's aimed at musicians who just want to record several tracks rather than those who want to tweak waveforms and perform all sorts of manipulation. It still has facilities to use software effects and other add-ons.

I've been keeping an eye on the project, but yesterday they announced the latest release (0.9), so I installed it. It's looking pretty good, but there are a few issues, mainly in the sound quality, but that may be specific to my PC. I don't normally have problems, but with the audio I imported it sounded very garbled some of the time. I quickly plugged in my electro-acoustic, after finding the appropriate jack plug adaptor, and played along. I managed to get some sound recorded, but the guitar really needs to go via a pre-amp to get a decent level. It was a very brief test, but I posted my impressions on their forum.

There's a nice set of videos of Jono talking about the project on Youtube.

I've been reading up on audio and recording. There's lots of forums out there, of varying audio geekiness. It's a field with no limits on the amount you can spend on equipment, but I intend to just get the basics for now so that I can record at least some guitar, drums and my daughter's violin. Some of those require a reasonable microphone and probably a mixer or pre-amp to plug it into. For my guitar I have my old Korg Pandora that can act as pre-amp and some effects. Later I can look at things like better sound cards and guitar effects.

One of our LUG members is planning on giving a talk on Linux Audio at the July meet. That should be interesting. He is likely to using stuff like JACK and Ardour. I will also be seeking guidance from my good friend Malcolm who has far too much gear.

[12:41] | [Studio] | Comments | G

Wed, 23 May 2007

Another Distributed Casualty

Following on from the end of I now read that the RSA Labs challenges are ending too. This was what kicked off the whole distributed processing movement, outside universities and industry. For the latest project it was looking like taking a few thousand years to test all possible keys, so it had at least proved how hard some codes are to break. It seems a lot of people were just in it for the statistics. will still have an active project called OGR, which aims to find some potentially useful mathematical structures, but they are polling uses as to whether to continue with the RSA project. I think they should give it us and do some more useful stuff. I think they have already lost most of their contributors to things like Folding@home. I will probably switch my home PC back to that once I get it upgraded.

[08:55] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Sun, 20 May 2007

Expanding the Library

We bought a Pace Twin Freeview box some years ago to replace the cable service we were using. It gave us all the channels we needed without a monthly cost and allowed us to record to disk. This has been so much better than using tapes. I know it's pretty standard now, but it was a revelation at the time. It wasn't as intelligent as the Tivo boxes I saw at the time, but it is generally good enough. One limitation was that you could only record 10 hours of TV on the 20GB hard drive. It uses a 2.5" drive and those were relatively expensive at the time. Now they have come right down, so I finally bought an 80GB unit to upgrade the Twin. This sat on the shelf for a few weeks until we managed to watch everything on the old one, but I did the swap today. It was very easy to do. The unit seems very well put together. It should last a few more years. There's not really anything to wear out apart from the drive.

My other method of recording TV is on the computer using my Haupauge DVB card. I'm still using ZapDVB despite it's limitations. I use this when we need to record multiple things simultaneously or if it's something I know we will want to keep, mainly for the kids. I had to install it again after my latest expisode so I'll just publish the steps I had to follow in case they are useful to someone.

It lacks any sort of EPG, so you need to know when things are on. It also may have issues if one recording is to start immediately after another finishes. I need to test that some more. I still like it as it uses minimal CPU and does it's thing in the background. Maybe I should look at things like MythTV, but I can't justify dedicating a PC to TV.

My next job is to get video into the PC from our camcorder via Firewire. I've had this working in the past, but for now I can't even get the camera to mount as a device I can access. This needs further investigation.

[21:13] | [Gadgets] | Comments | G

Mon, 14 May 2007

Crashed and Burned

On Saturday I started up my PC and was greeted by a series of errors. Something had gone wrong and trashed some system files beyond repair. I decided that this was an omen that I should do a fresh install of Kubuntu that I had conveniently burned to CD earlier. The install went very smoothly. I just had to answer a few questions and tell it not to format my existing data partitions. It took around 30 minutes in all.

Then came the process of re-installing all the extra things I use. I've got most of it, but have a few outstanding issues:

I'm assuming these are all software issues, even though my hardware is getting on. I've been planning an upgrade for ages. My current planned configuration is:

The new kit ammounts to around 200-250. I'll re-equip my old PC with some old drives so we can still use it. It can replace the one the kids use (800MHz Duron).

[12:58] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Thu, 10 May 2007

Herts LUG 20070509

Rob continued his demo of Blender. It's an amazing piece of software that I would love to have to time to get into. I would also need some ideas and some creativity to put it to work. I should dedicate more time to my higher priority of recording some music. The LUG was well attended and we were able to raise enough to keep our room for another year. Only one more meeting when we will have to put up with the smoke in the bar!

For those who have looked at OpenStreetMap before it's worth another look. They have revamped the map so that it looks much better now. There are two different renders of it, but the Osmarender one seems to keep more up to date. I added some local roads and they were visible the next day. There are also extra options on the user settings to record your location, so you can see who is nearby, and some notes about yourself. There's also a Users' Diaries page, but I can't see how to add my own. I hope to get my GPS mounted on my bicycle so I can map the rest of Arlesey this year.

I'll add a quick plug for my Suzuki GSX600F that is up for sale. I've been planning to get rid of it for some time, but it is now in full working order with tax and MOT. I'll consider any reasonable offers.

[13:07] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Wed, 09 May 2007

Wanna be in my gang?

I've played around with a few social networking sites. My current preference is for Multiply. I wanted something that allowed me to restrict access to certain content and it had to be easy to use so that my non-technical contacts could use it. I have various friends and family on there, but they don't make much use of it. It's a shame as there is great potential for sharing photos and news with people you don't see all the time. At least they get to see my pictures and other stuff. I've started a couple of groups there for various purposes, but again the other members do not contribute much. Maybe they are scared to. Personally I love the fact that I can share my thoughts with the world, but I realise that for others this is a leap into the unknown.

I also looked at Orkut. That's part of the Google empire so I didn't even need to register separately, but I was underwhelmed. It didn't seem to offer much. I've not even bothered with things like Myspace as that seems to be more about getting as many contacts as possible, regardless of whether you know them.

My latest candidate is Mugshot. This is a different animal in that it acts more as an aggregator, but can host groups and comments. You can use it to combine updates from a variety of social sites such as and I was attracted to it as it is produced by long-time Linux people Red Hat. It's all open source, so it should be possible for users to improve it. I've not worked out what skills are required for that yet.

Of course, to test out a social network you need some contacts. So does anyone fancy a play?

I managed to accidentally hack the site when I first tried it. To register you have to let them send you an email with a sign-up link. Trouble was that my link took me to someone else's profile where I could see their private details. In this case all I could see was their email address. I reported it to their support. It seems that they were caching the information and that, on rare occaisions, you would see the old data. They reckoned that once you had activated the account then this could no longer happen, but they have made changes to avoid it in future.

[13:03] | [Internet] | Comments | G

Fri, 04 May 2007

Green Shoots

It looks like the local elections yesterday have resulted in a depressing rise in the number of Tories sitting on and controlling councils. Living in a rural area as I do there is very little chance of anyone else gaining power. I was however cheered by the news that the Greens have made substantian gains. If any had stood here I would have voted for them. As it was I had to be satisfied with protest votes against the Tories.

Oh, and May the fourth be with you.

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

Wed, 02 May 2007

Map of the Intarwebs

This is just brilliant. XKCD is one of my favourite comics. He's not the greatest artist, but I love the geekiness. I don't get all the references on this one. Here's an interview with the creator.

I also enjoy Dilbert, because it reminds me of where I work, and Userfriendly, because it looks like the kind of place I would like to work.

Musical geekiness in the form of music decoded from carvings at Rosslyn Chapel. Sounds okay. I'll accept for now that it may really have come from the carvings. I was at Rosslyn last year and it is pretty amazing. Religion has inspired a lot of incredible art, but that still doesn't mean it's true. And then there's Dan Brown. I watched part of a programme last night that dismissed a lot of the stuff behind his Angels and Demons. As my good wife says, "It's fiction!". I was taken by Da Vinci Code when I first read it, but it's not great writing. His earlier books are worse. We can be sure that his next book will break all records, and he has spawned a whole industry of books, tours, documentaries etc. Everyone loves a conspiracy.

[13:37] | [Humour] | Comments | G

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