Bog Roll ::

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

29 Apr 2004

Opera 7.50β

The Opera Browser Logo

Today over lunch I down-loaded and installed The Opera Browser version 5.70β on my Windows machine at work. I have version 7.23 on my home Linux system and work Windows system already. I alternate between Opera and Mozilla/Firefox, but my better half uses version Opera 6.05 almost exclusively. Version 7.50 is an interesting evolution of the browser, the various browser controls seem to take up less space, leaving more room for the actual web page, and like the 7.23 version, it's page rendering is both accurate and quick.


25 Apr 2004

1970's TV

Yesterday I saw on DVD the first three episodes of the BBC's long running TV comedy series "Last Of The Summer Wine", originally transmitted in 1973. There was a time, when I was a child, that I saw the programme regularly as part of the family Sunday evening TV viewing, and even today I see it now and then.

It is quite interesting to see how things have changed in the last thirty years since the first episodes were recorded. All the cast seem to be smoking, something utterly frowned upon by modern society, and the level of alcohol consumption is conspicuous by it's excess. Another very obvious change is the level of swearing, and insults, they are far more frequent and much stronger than the current family friendly series.

Society changes, and our TV programmes changes to reflect these changes, that is to be expected. While the UK may have become a more health conscious society, it's also fair to say that we have become a far more PC and considerably more intolerant of swearing in "family" entertainment. However, what was surprising was the level of clear anti-Conservative bias in the first three episodes.


24 Apr 2004

U2

Today I'm trying to rip all my U2 albums to Ogg, so I can have them all in one place on a CD-R. Music sounds much better on my separates hi-fi system, with proper speakers, but lugging CDs back and forwards between work and home is a pain. While a 128kbps data stream isn't as good as a full CD data stream, on computer sound cards, with computer speakers, against the background noise of case and power-supply fans it's not too bad.

What has quite surprised me is that even with aggressive compression, a few albums take up over 450MiB of disk space. Given that the first PC I ever used has only 100MB of disk space (unformatted), it's interesting how time changes perception. You can never have enough space...


XML::RSS::Tools to PAUSE

I've just uploaded a new version of XML::RSS::Tools to PAUSE, it will be on CPAN shortly. The module is unchanged, but there is a new test to try and help diagnose some of the unpredictable test failures. If I know what versions of XML::LibXML and XML::LibXSLT people have, I'll have a better chance of working out the range of valid correct responses.


23 Apr 2004

Fair Trade Juice

Fairtrade

Last weekend we bought some Fairtrade certified orange juice. It was GBP0.60 (~USD1) cheaper than the leading brand, and tasted much better. If only UK farmers could get a good deal from the middle-men and supermarkets too...

Our village super-market recently underwent a re-fit, they can now stock more products, including this juice. The Co-Op has always been an odd shop. They have high ethical standard, many of their own brands are now Fairtrade, they have clear and unambiguous labelling, yet their customer base isn't the one you would expect to care.


X Multimedia System

XMMS Logo

I read a recent article in LinuxDevCenter about the XMMS application. I use it at home, pretty much without thinking about it, and it's okay. On my Windows machine at work I use Zinf which I prefer. I'm running Debian stable at home, and Zinf isn't yet ready for it, and I can't be arsed to try and run it - too many changes required.

XMMS has some problems, I don't like the silly skin-able interfaces, they are mostly awful to use, I'm not interested in the silly visualisation plug-ins, an it doesn't have an "All Music" option. In many respects XMMS is a Nullsoft Winamp clone, so it copies the originals poor features all too well. It's better than Windows MediaPlayer, it plays Oggs and it works so it's not too bad.

Zinf has one nice feature I miss, "My Music", you point it at a directory, and it searches and builds a "My Music" database of all your music files. From there it's easy to build play lists if you want, or as I do, I just drag albums one at a time into the play-list and listen without even bothering to save the play-list.


20 Apr 2004

Apple iBook

Apple iBook

Today Apple announced a minor overhaul of their popular iBook and PowerBook families of notebook computers. All now have PowerPC G4 class processors, slightly faster than before, cost less, and the iBooks now can take more RAM.

A nice top end iBook with decent specifications now costs £1270, including VAT, not dirt cheap, but a nice machine running Unix out of the box, that can dance too. Very tempting...


19 Apr 2004

New Site

I rsynced the QA server with the live server, and therefore published the new web site at work. All things considered I'm not that happy with it. It's got some horrid broken html, and some of the usability isn't that good, and worst of all the content is dire.

They are planning a "focus group" to look at the site, but the problem I feel is that they don't know what they are doing, and worse still they don't appreciate how hard it is to get useful content for the web site form the rest of the company...


18 Apr 2004

Ripping CDs

I don't have a lot of free disk space on any of my systems, or a media-player like an iPod. In the past I've ripped the odd CD, just so I could have the songs with me, without having to actually have the actual CD.

At work I listen to the odd ripped CD, just so I don't have to cart the CDs back and forwards between home and work. Even at work, I don't have that much disk space, so even with an aggressive compression setting in ogg, it's not a lot of songs.

Today I thought I'd give a try at ripping an audio CD on Linux. In the past I've always used CDex a nice open-source windows tool. cdparanoia seems to do a good job of extracting the audio data to raw files, and oggenc seems to be quite happy to compress them. Seems very simple and civilised - though it would be nice to have an automatic freedb look up...


17 Apr 2004

Multi-Threaded Books

I just finished reading a multi-threaded book. It was a real pain to get into, for every time you got hold of what was going on the story switched to another parallel thread. Two thread, possibly three are manageable, but this one had four (one of which was not directly connected), and was written in "future-speak" which is a pain to get to grips with.

The book: "Queen of Angels" by Greg Bear was okay, nothing exciting, but worth getting through. It's back on the shelf now, I don't think it will be a book I read time and time again though.


16 Apr 2004

Lunch at John Lewis

Today was my monthly visit to the oncologist. Everything is okay, which is good. They were very busy today so we spent several hours waiting around, and only a few minutes actually interacting with actual health care professionals.

Afterwards we had lunch at the nearby John Lewis department store cafe. It's not bad and fairly priced, and makes up for the waiting in the hospital, and the discomfort from the blood tests.

John Lewis is a very nice shop, with lots of nice things in, but not quite as nice as Printemps in Paris, and their Cafe Flo is very nice - if you are ever in Paris.


14 Apr 2004

Diary Of Success

People have been on holiday so the actual switch on of our blosxom at work project has been delayed. It's all in place, it's just awaiting people to come back from holiday and to announce it.

It has given me a little extra free time to tweak with the CSS and add a few more minor features. Yet more IE defects and limitations fell out of the tree, and where possible I added work-arounds. To see the site at it's best, you really need a recent Mozilla or Opera, which only a handful of people have, as the corporate standard is stupid old IE...

All things considered, Blosxom has worked out quite well, and it's been an interesting and easy project - I'm very happy!


Paris, France

Over Easter we were in France visiting family. It's not really fair to compare Paris with London, as I know Paris much better, but I do like Paris better than London - it's a fun place to visit.

To visit family in Paris is also cheaper and easier than visiting family up in northern England. If only our transport infrastructure was as good as France's...


04 Apr 2004

Why are most web sites awful?

Most web sites are awful, because the people doing the work, many who should no better, allow the clue-less idiots in charge to dictate what the web site ends up as. All too often the marketing department gets involved, and fusses about silly things like colour or animation, yet they don't address what the customer wants - information.

While it's fun to have a meet the board, or our history, or any of the other common self congratulatory drivel on a web site, they should not be allowed to exclude the useful and important things about a site.

For example, where can I find a single usable map of the UK rail network, with all the stations on? Not on Network Rail's site. Why do train companies not offer proper timetables? You can get the awful on-line train service, or the much better accessible version, but still, what is wrong with being allowed to punch in a start and end, and getting all the possible trains (there and back) for a given day(s)?


London

We went up to London yesterday to do some shopping. We wanted some "English" gifts for the family next week. The problem was that it's so hard to find nice well made things that aren't actually made on the continent. All the chocolate is Belgian, or French, so there is no point in buying it and taking it back to France.

We had a look round Harrods, and Fortnum & Mason, and found a few things. On the whole I don't like Harrods, it's rather tasteless and very overpriced, and to be honest the quality of the goods is very poor. However the French in-laws will be delighted with something in a Harrods box, even if they could buy something better from a run of the mill French super market.

You can get excellent goods in the UK, it's just increasingly hard to locate. As a nation we are ashamed of many of our own ideas & products, and instead would rather import products form overseas, or our own producers fight for the space at the bottom of the range...


01 Apr 2004

April Fool's Day

Today is April Fool's Day. Surprisingly the day went without too much silliness at work. The newspapers and online media had fun, but overall it has been a fairly painless day.