Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Fri, 01 Apr 2005

Goings on

It's been a few weeks since I added anything here. I'm sure you've all been eagerly awaiting an update ;)

We took a week off work to visit my sister in Edinburgh. Friends and family will be able to see the photos at my Multiply site. The geek aspect to this visit was that I was able to meet up with some people for a keysigning. This was facilitated via Biglumber. This is a site for those interesting in keysigning to advertise the fact, along with their location. I signed keys for four people and am gradually getting their signatures on mine. Managed to have a brief chat with them before dashing off for a great veggie meal at David Bann.

I had my first bit of guestbook spam this week. It's deleted now to deny them any benefit. Spam seems to be generally getting worse. Some is being filtered by the mail server, but Thunderbird picks up most of the rest.

After my earlier deliberations I bought a new digital camera. It's a Canon Powershot A400. It's near the bottom of the Canon range, but I was going for economy. It offers 3.2 megapixels, a 2x zoom and lots of features like movies, sound, panoramic shots and much more. It will do for our family snaps. I'm trying out KimDaBa as a simple photo management tool. It lets me classify pictures according to location and subjects. The Gimp is handling the image manipulation nicely.

[20:42] | [News] | Comments | G

Thu, 10 Mar 2005

Herts LUG Meeting

My third time at the LUG and 7 or 8 or us there. This month's features included a new homebuilt PC that won't start up, a hardware prototype of a radical new keyboard and a demo of a DIY media PC running GeexBox.

The latter was interesting as I intend to build something like that one day. The control system looked good as it was more like a DVD player than a PC to use. It was running on a humble 800MHz C3, which is not much by modern standards, but allows it to run cool and quiet. When I get around to it I'll be looking for the ability to play DVD, CD, various video file formats, MP3/OGG etc as well as recording TV from digital terrestrial. Another option in this field is MythTV.

Apart from my digital video success my other Linux find this week was that you can use a URL like fish://user@server in some browsers to get secure file transfer. It works in Konqueror, but I've not been able to find much documentation on it apart from some forum/mailing list comments. It seemes to be related to the command line scp, but allows you to drag and drop. I know I'm losing geek points by now using the command line, but I sometimes like a GUI. This goes back to my early days of using the wonderful Norton Commander on DOS. I ought to try out the Linux clones.

[13:39] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Digital Video on Linux

One of the computing jobs that I mean to get around to is transferring our limited home videos to DVD. It's mostly stuff of the kids. I did some on Windows using Pinnacle Studio DV. This did pretty good job, but at the time I only had a CD writer so ended up creating a S-VCD. Good enough quality for home movies.

Now I'm moving to Linux I want to do some more editing/DVD creation. Actually I need to put together a better PC first with lots of disk space and a DVD burner. Both are relatively cheap these days. Meanwhile I wanted to get some footage off the camera of a bird in our garden.

I installed Kino and gave it a go. Didn't work at first, but after some false starts and some help via Google, I got it to work! Only runs as root for now, but I'm still impressed.

[22:09] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Sat, 05 Mar 2005

Digital Dilema

Recently our Kodak digital camera went wrong. First the battery door fell off. I did a temporary fix on this, but then it kept saying the battery was low, even with new ones. It's only a couple of years old, so it's annoying if it's essentially junk. It's a basic, 2 megapixel model, but still cost around 200 at the time. That's the second camera that's died in the last four or five years. It's an expensive hobby.

So I'm on the search for a new camera. Obviously things have moved on and now 3 or 4 megapixels is the minimum to consider. I'd also prefer an optical zoom and some sort of movie capture with sound would be nice for capturing the kids when we don't have the video camera with us. I've standardised on SD memory as the Palm uses it too. I don't really want to pay over 200 all in in case it doesn't last. Extended warranties may be considered if not too expensive.

The problem is that the choice is enormous. There must be a hundred cameras in our price range. There's the Canon A400, which looks very good for the price. Today I looked at a nice Olympus that has actually been designed to resist dust and moisture (uses XD cards, but I could live with that).

I'll be buying in the next week or so when I get some vouchers from the credit card. I just need to decide what the money goes on.

[22:54] | [Gadgets] | Comments | G

Thu, 03 Mar 2005

It gets worse

Going home last night took nearly two hours. It started with a broken down car on the NCR, then the usual roadworks with added snow for interest.

This morning I heard on the radio that the M25 was shut and traffic was diverting via the A1, so decided to avoid the area and use the M1. That ended up taking 1.5 hours.

Why do all the roadworks have to be done at once?

[13:12] | [Motoring] | Comments | G

Wed, 02 Mar 2005

What's up with the roads?

I'm amazed I got the office at all today. Recently there seems to be more and more roadworks on my route. There are long-term works under the M25 to re-surface the road. This involves a long contraflow. Then there are some overnight works at Stevenage that still seemed to affect the morning traffic sometimes. There's another contraflow at the Brent Cross flyover due to a burst water main. All that is bad enough, but this morning there was an accident in the Hatfield tunnel and new roadworks at Fiveways.

Add to all that the general bad weather conditions, it's getting ridiculous. I suppose it's a price I pay for commuting into London for work, but this is beyond a joke. I could come by train, but it takes longer and costs more (to me, not the environment). I'll have to try and get some days working at home. Luckily I can do all I really need to from there, but need to come to the office some of the time.

BTW This post is being done via the Pico editor in an SSH session on the server. There's still some problems with secure FTP, so this was easier.

[08:34] | [Motoring] | Comments | G

Sun, 20 Feb 2005

Lack of updates

There's been some issues with the web server lately. It was relocated and in the process suffered a disk problem. So it's all been re-installed and gradually Lance is getting everything working again. Meanwhile I have yet to sort out secure FTP from Linux, so can only update from Windows. I need to do some more reading on SafeTP. I also ought to have another go at getting the web form for blog entries working.

I have just added Sweden to the list of visited countries in my foaf file. Maybe one day I'll make it to some of the other continents I haven't been to yet.

I recently made my first contribution to the wonderful Wikipedia. I spotted a mistake in the Keysigning entry. Since then I've set up a proper account on there so that further changes will be credited to me. I have my own entry there now. Yet another steevc page on the web. Googling that name returns lots of results for me on the first page.

I'm still awaiting my first guestbook entry. The PFGM one has had one comment, plus a couple of spams. It's always nice to get some feedback on what I do. On the other hand I know this site is just a vanity project. Nobody is going to come here for the latest news. My Multiply page is doing slightly better. I'm growing a community of acquaintances there.

[12:41] | [Site News] | Comments | G

Thu, 10 Feb 2005

Second LUG Meeting

Last night I went along to the Herts LUG again. Not so many there this time. Actually there were far more computers than people as someone had brought along several very old PCs to see what could be done with them. We actually managed to get enough bits to almost build a Smoothwall firewall. It was only a P200 with 32MB, but it seems that is enough. The biggest problem was finding a CD drive that would read a CDR. I'm not sure I need a dedicated PC as a firewall. I have a router that can do what I need and it's cheaper to have that on all the time than a PC. It's also silent. It just means I always have lots of flashing lights in the study with that and the cable modem.
[20:59] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Tue, 18 Jan 2005

Starship Troopers, through the keyhole

I tuned into this fun film, but five had decided to screen it in 4:3. For a modern action film this is disgraceful. A lot of people have widescreen televisions these days and to cut the picture down like that removes large portions of the action.

Oh well, I'll just have to borrow the DVD from someone and watch it properly. The only time I've seen the whole film was on a lousy video recording.

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

Thu, 13 Jan 2005

Scary stuff

Tonight I watched the scariest TV I've seen in a long time. Horizon was about a phenomenon I'd never heard off called Global Dimming. It seems that all this global warming we've been worrying about has been partly cancelled out by sunlight being blocked by all the crap we put in the air. Now that we put out 'cleaner' gas from our cars and power stations the dimming effect is lessening, but this means that warming may accelerate. There was a prediction of a 10C rise in the next 100 years! That is seriously bad news.

So what can we do? As individuals very little apart from making an effort to cut consumption of energy and goods. I try to do little bits like not using more lights than necessary and driving economically, but I do drive about 400 miles a week just to work, which is not really a good thing, but I'd struggle to find a comparable job nearer to home.

The politicians need to really wake up and do something. Air travel is too cheap and needs to pay towards the damage it does. Do people really need to fly that much? If it's this cheap they will do it more.

For the sake of our children we need to do something right now.

[22:40] | [News] | Comments | G

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