Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Mon, 27 Jun 2005

Film Review: Adaptation

I'm going to mirror my Multiply film reviews here for now. At some point I may move them here.

This is a hard film to categorise and review. It's by the people who brought you Being John Malkovitch, which should warn you that it's a bit weird. It's about the writer of that film Charlie Kaufman and his fictional brother Donald (who gets a writing credit and was jointly nominated for awards). Charlie is trying to write a script for a real book called The Orchid Thief, but is having some problems. Meanwhile his brother decides to be a script writer too in a more mainstream way.

Nicholas Cage plays both of the brothers and Meryl Streep is the book author. It's basically a film about writing that film and so is a bit up it's own behind. However, I enjoyed it as a comedy. It made me laugh a few times and kept my brain working. It's tempting to investigate the characters further to see how close to the truth it is or if it's all made up.

I'll give it 3/5

[08:14] | [Review] | Comments | G

Thu, 23 Jun 2005

Pre-history of Bag of Spoons

Whilst reading about the new servers at the Internet Archive I thought I would check out what they had for my site. The results were interesting. They go right back to my early html fumblings of 3 years ago. I had forgotten some of that stuff.

At some point I am going to dump out all the stuff from my old Postnuke site into some sort of text/html so I can include it here for completeness. It's for my own reference even if nobody else reads it.

Coming up to date, I read this article at Leigh Dodds' site about giving people access to all your various web feeds. He's written a little generator to produce data for a FOAF. My first attempt did not work in the FOAF Explorer you can access from the top of the page, but after a short email discussion with Leigh I sorted this out. My FOAF now includes some details of sites I am registered on and RSS feeds from them. These are the same feeds I have on the site itself, but in a more semantic web friendly form.

I also found Blogdigger which lets you combine multiple feeds, but I haven't worked it all out yet. I'd prefer to do something on my own site so that I have control.

[08:32] | [Site News] | Comments | G

Thu, 16 Jun 2005

One Year of Pyblosxoming

I just noticed that this version of my site has been up for a year now. I'll admit I started with ambitions of learning some Python so that I could customise the site, but have not done that yet. I think my version of Pyblosxom is a bit out of date. I ought to look at upgrading. I guess I could try running it on my home Linux box first. As always it's a case of finding the time. Well I did at least find time for 75 entries this year.
[15:00] | [Site News] | Comments | G

Herts LUG June Meeting

I have been a bit lax in blogging the latest Herts LUG meeting. It was another interesting meeting. I took along my PC for the first time. I gave a little talk about encryption, the why and the how, that went down well. Malc had his old Research Machines PC there and used it to test some SCSI drives that Nicolas had acquired.

I was after some help on getting my sound working properly. I had some success by running the alsaconf script. This got it working for Skype and RealPlayer that has previously been silent. I later found out that this configuration does not survive a reboot. I'm currently investigating what files and settings are required to make it permanent. From my search results it is obvious that I am not the only one to have this problem.

I've acquired a large selection of Linux Magazine back issues from folk in the LUG. They have some very good articles on setting up various software. I've got enough to keep me going for a while. There's still a lot about the concepts used in Linux that I want to learn.

On the upside I learnt two things today, one was about the Oracle COALESCE function that could be useful in my work, and the other was how to make playlists work better on my Palm using AeroPlayer.

[13:25] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Tue, 14 Jun 2005

Grado SR-60 Headphones

I spend a lot of time listening to music at work. It helps block out the distracting noise and gives me some pleasure in the process. About 7 years ago I bought some fairly cheap JVC headphones to use in the office. They are lightweight portable headphones that I actually chose because they came with a fairly long cable that would reach the rear of my PC. They have actually been quite good, but now the foam is starting to wear out.

In my search for headphones for portable use I discovered Head-Fi. This is a meeting place for headphone obsessives, but contains lots of useful information. So far this has led me into buying my Sennheiser PX200 for use when travelling and to acquire my Koss KCS-55 for office use (but lost out due to comfort).

One of the most consistently rated headphones on Head-Fi is the SR-60 from Grado. This American company produces a range from the budget SR-60 up to some very expensive kit for the perfectionists. They seem to control the distribution channels to the extent that their products are a lot cheaper in the USA than everywhere else. The SR-60 retails at $69, but is more like 70 in the UK. I couldn't justify the higher price, but managed to find a supplier called The Sound Room who would ship them (free!) to a colleague in Miami. I was able to pick them up from him this month and have been giving them a good testing.

They look quite old-fashioned compared to the futuristic models from most manufacturers. They are more like something you would expect a WWII radio operator to wear. What I noticed at first was the very thick cable. This hints at quality. The cable ends in a gold-plated 1/8" mini-jack, but it comes with a gold-plated 1/4" adaptor. The headphones are easily adjusted to rest on the ears. The metal headband can be bent slightly, if necessary to adjust the pressure. The pads are a form known in the headphone community as 'comfies'. They are fairly soft and easily removed if replacements are needed.

Okay, I know you want to know how they sound. I'm not a great expert at describing audio sensations. All I know is that they sound great to me. The sound is extremely clear. You can hear every little nuance in the music. There is bass there, but it's not overblown and sounds very focused. These headphones are of the open type, which means that they will leak sound that others can hear at higher volumes and allow you to hear what's going on around you at lower volumes. That's okay for work as I need to hear my phone and when someone wants my attention.

I have found that they make my ears quite warm, but are otherwise quite comfortable. I may have to make them slightly less tight on my head.

So overall I'm very happy with them. Definitely a bargain at only 35 to me.

Incidentally, I had the opportunity to try some Shure E2C earbuds at the airport on the way home. These are a very different animal, designed for musicians on stage, but suitable for travellers who need to block noise. I tried them with the foam sleeves that act like earplugs, but they come with other types. In the short time I tried them they sounded good. Listening to a track with a driving kickdrum it seemed to be hitting right in the middle of my head. A strange sensation. I might consider something like this one day if I was doing more air travel. They sell for around $99/60. I saw a few people on the planes with the Bose noise-cancelling headphones, but those are a lot more expensive at $299.

[21:32] | [Gadgets] | Comments | G

Distributed Consoles?

I think this article is just someone tossing an idea in the air about getting the next generation of consoles to contribute to distributed processing projects like Folding@home, but it has great potential. If millions of idle consoles were working on the project they could achieve a lot. The new consoles are more powerful than most PCs and come with internet connectivity, so are ripe for this. The issue may be persuading owners to install the software.
[20:53] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Fri, 27 May 2005

Challenging Level 12

After a short break I'm back on the Python Challenge. Some levels involve a bit more than just writing a program. There's an element of the cryptic crossword about them. They have added a wiki with suggested solutions that you can access once you know the answers for those levels. My solutions are not so neat, but then I have not been exploiting the full power of Python. I need to get into the wonders of regular expressions and some of the cleverer list processing.

I actually solved one level accidentally when viewing the image involved with Paint Shop Pro, but I did it by writing a program as well afterwards to prove I could do it.

[19:04] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Tue, 24 May 2005

FOAF Updates

I've made a few additions to my FOAF file. These consist of a few extra friends and some extra information about me. I'm taking a risk and putting my email address in there, but my spam filters should block any extra spam if the scum actually read these files. The easy way to see the file is via the link on my name at the top of the page. I'm still mulling over my plan to use the data on this page. I've found some Python that reads a FOAF and so just need to mangle it into the form I want and get pyblosxom to read it.

I anyone I know objects to having their name and webpage in my file then let me know. Your email addresses have been hashed, so you should be relatively safe from spam.

[13:36] | [Site News] | Comments | G

Sat, 21 May 2005

Rehoused my PC

I bought my first PC about 7 years ago. I had been using an Amiga, but it was becoming less supported and the interesting stuff was happening elsewhere. So I handed over a large wad of dosh to a company called dotlink who were based a short distance from where I work now in Wembley. This was a Pentium II 350MHz machine with 128MB of memory, a Matrox G200 8MB graphics card, a CD-ROM and an 8GB hard drive. It didn't work when it arrived so I went to their base to get a new motherboard. Back then you got Windows 98 and I used that for some time.

Things moved on and this was upgraded to an AMD Duron 650 and later to a Duron 1200. I gradually replaced everything in that case, including the power supply. I think only the floppy drive is original now. Recently it started playing up and I suspected the power supply was faulty. It was also very noisy. I had long lusted after things like the Shuttle barebones PCs that offered a powerful PC in a quiet, compact form. I couldn't quite stretch to one of those at the moment, so I went for the Antec Aria. This comes without a motherboard, but my Asus fits it nicely. It has space for three hard drives and an optical drive. The front panel has USB, audio and firewire ports and a card reader. I also upgraded to a new NEC dual-layer DVD writer.

This case is nicely designed. The side panels just need a press of a clip and the top panel a single screw. Inside is a drive tray that can be easily removed. Fitting my board involved removing the power supply and attaching lots of wires for the switches, lights and front ports. In all I spent a couple of hours to get it all right.

I am still using my old CPU cooler which is not the quietest, but overall the PC is now a lot quieter than it was. I hardly notice it under the desk apart from the blue lights in the front panel. Most things are working apart from the front Firewire port that needs an adaptor to connect to my card and the card reader seems to need a Linux kernel patch that I may try later.

Pictures can be seen at my Multiply site.

[15:01] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Fri, 20 May 2005

Google becomes a portal

Google is the internet as far as a lot of people are concerned. It's where you start any session to find what you want. I've been very impressed by their progress. I used other search engines in the past, but now I just Google it.

They've acquired a few products by buying them in, e.g. Blogger, but have also created many of their own innovations. The best known example is GMail. I signed up for that to see what it was like. It's pretty good, but I'm just using my 2GB for extra storage just now.

The have also added Search History, which may have more privacy implications, and Desktop Search, which I find very useful at work.

Today I read that they have added the facility to personalise your Google page with news headlines etc. This is quite neat as it integrates GMail more. For many years I have had a home page at Yahoo! that did something similar. If Google could add some cartoon strips I may have to change my browser home page.

[07:50] | [Internet] | Comments | G

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