Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Frackin apprentice idiots.

Altogether now


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Originally uploaded by nato060606
Who says that twins are attuned to one another. We were expecting a perfect, unified performance.

And from Nate


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Anything Tommy can do...

More Rhyme Time from Tommy


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Originally uploaded by nato060606
It doesn't just stop at Incy Wincy Spider....

Nathan does Incy Wincy Spider


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Originally uploaded by nato060606
After Tommy it was Nathan's turn. Nathan has the enthusiasm, while Tommy seems to understand the meaning.

Tommy does Incy Wincy Spider


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Originally uploaded by nato060606
The boys mentioned to us during dinner that they'd learned rhymes at "Rhyme Time" while they were at Playschool. Here's Tommy giving his rendition of Incy Wincy spider.

In praise of HDMI

So the XBox HDMI cable that I was bitching about arrived on Monday (praise has to go to Amazon third-party trader "Gadgetsville" for fantastic service) and to be honest I wasn't expecting much. As an A/V fan, I've got a fair bit of history of messing about with different cables and different output formats. Mostly, the differences are fairly subtle - certainly back in the standard definition world. So, while I thought that outputting from the XBox via HDMI might have some benefits for video playback and for upscaling standard DVDs in particular, I honestly didn't expect to notice much difference when gaming.

I tried out Fallout 3 and WOW! The game looks great through component output, but plug in an HDMI cable and the difference is veeeeery impressive. The amount of contrast is instantly noticeable. It seems to increase the range of brights and darks substantially. This increases the depth and three dimensional effect massively.

Have yet to watch a DVD through the new cable. First off, I'm hoping it sends aspect ratio info through to the tv as having to manually adjust when we watch The Wire is a bit of a pain. But I'll be interested to see the difference it makes to standard definition tv. Also makes me look forward to having Sky HD installed a whole lot more (come on Sky, hurry up!).

Has meant that I've added yet another thing to my list of necessary buys. Not only do I need a VGA switch for the office, but I now need an HDMI switch for the main tv.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Music, Mobbler and Me

I got introduced to Last.fm a while back and instantly fell in love. I liked it so much that when at work, rather than listen to music directly from my phone I'd put the SD card in my laptop and listen from there. That way I could scrobble what I was listening to. I really liked the idea that not only would I be tracking my listening habits but also building up an on-line library of my music habits.

When my phone was replaced (long story, involving many phone calls back and forth with O2 due to malfunctioning N82 and terrible customer service) with an N95 8Gb I found that I couldn't do this due to lack of removable memory.

So enter Mobbler. This is a fantastic piece of free software that I just can't praise highly enough. It's free and obviously prepared with love. The latest version is so good that I'd rather have that open in my phone than the standard Music Player. It even shows cover art automatically. So on with the scrobbling.

My scrobbling is going so well, I've even started using it to guide my music choices for the week. I trim out what Last.fm says I've listened to the most and then add stuff that I haven't listened to in a while.

So in the first of an irregular series, here's what I've been listening to the most in the last week:

Artists

1 The Beatles
2 R.E.M.
3 The Smashing Pumpkins
4 Foo Fighters
5 Pixies
6 Queens of the Stone Age
6 Pearl Jam
6 Jeff Buckley
9 Tool
10 Helmet

Albums

1 Nirvana - Incesticide
1 The Smashing Pumpkins - Pisces Iscariot
1 The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
4 Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah [Bonus Track]
4 R.E.M. - Murmur

Tracks

1 The The - I've Been Waitin' For Tomorrow (All of My Life)
1 The Smashing Pumpkins - Whir [#][Outtake]
1 The Beatles - I'll Be Back
1 [unknown] - ...
5 The Beatles - Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds

...and in the last three months

Artists

1 The Beatles
2 R.E.M.
3 Fugazi
4 The Smashing Pumpkins
5 Foo Fighters
6 Pixies
7 Jeff Buckley
8 BBC Radio 4
9 Sebadoh
10 Radiohead

Albums

1 R.E.M. - Murmur
2 Guided By Voices - Under the Bushes Under the Stars
3 Fugazi - Steady Diet of Nothing
3 R.E.M. - Monster
5 The Beatles - Revolver [UK]

Tracks

1 The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows
1 The Beatles - I'll Be Back
3 The Beatles - Dear Prudence
3 R.E.M. - Man on the Moon
3 Jeff Buckley - Lover, You Should Have Come Over

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Grrrr Microsoft

Back on the 15th of April, I posted about my adventures in extending our network.

I'll quote from there now:

"The priority then was:

  1. Get network access in the spare room in order to turn it into an office.
  2. Get MP101 working in play room.
  3. Turn any wired access points into wireless ones where necessary.
  4. Get second XBox ;)
"

Well, I haven't exactly kept to that order of priorities. The option came up with a colleague at work to get a nearly new XBox 360 for a bargain price (actually, a straight swap with our Wii that had been gathering dust for a while). So I jumped at it and am now the slightly embarrassed owner of two XBoxes.

So this left me requiring an answer to the question that I posted back then:

"Is there any reliable way to share my DLC between two XBoxes, especially considering that I'll be using the same profile on each?"

The answer to this is quite convoluted. I've been through the steps outlined in the article on XBox.com, but it hasn't been without a bit of a struggle. Which brings me to the real topic of this post...

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not some frenzied Microsoft hater. I work with Windows tools and my livelihood therefore depends to a certain extent on Microsoft. I find most dealings with their products to be fairly painless, they are no worse in mind to any of the other big tech companies (Apple, Sony, Google, etc) and I've been a fan of the XBox 360 and it's predecessor for quite a while. But there are a couple of things that remind you every now and then of how they became quite so... well... rich. Here are the issues I've found so far:

  1. Sharing content is not easy and even now, I'm not sure I'm gonna get the level of access I'd like. I've transferred the licenses from my old XBox to my new one. I'm in the process of downloading all the content to the new console. I should be able to use my DLC on my old console as long as I'm signed in to XBox live, with my original profile but this functionality is so buried away in the smallprint that I'm not entirely convinced. In addition, what about any new content I buy - is there any way to get that onto my old console too? I can't help feeling that I'm being pushed into buying everything twice.
  2. HDMI + digital audio relies on a product only available from Microsoft. The new console has an HDMI output. I connect the video output of my console to my tv and the audio output to my A/V Amp. HDMI contains both audio and video information. The HDMI output is too close to the other A/V slot on the console to allow a normal HDMI cable and the standard A/V connection to be plugged in at the same time. So rather than buying a standard HDMI cable, I have to buy Microsoft's one.
  3. The 360 has USB slots, but you can only read data from them, not write through them. So if I want to transfer my games from one console to another I can't just use a Memory Stick (retailing at around £1 a Gig) and have to use a special Memory unit (£13.99 for 64Mb or £29.99 for 512Mb).
And don't get me started on Microsoft Points. Or the fact that they've changed the power supply connections both on the power block and on the "kettle" lead too.

So it's not been as plain sailing as I'd hoped. But hopefully, after the wife has gone to bed I might get a chance to actually use my new console to *gasp* play something.
Amazed at how The Beatles can still blow you away with their awesomeness. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds is just immense.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Radio 4 trailer: I had no idea Eddie Mair looked like that. Shock!
The apprentice just got really surreal. Dance in your pants is gonna be an internet hit.
Vote my sa friends, i urge you. Even if you think it's hopeless.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

You know I said that the John Barrowman thing was camp? I hadn't seen Gok going through Alan Carr's wardrobe.
I'm coding. Like riding a bike, eh? Feel like Scotty in Star Trek IV. Computer, computer?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Finding the latest louis theroux tough work, but fascinating.
Another good and exhausting day. Wildlife in the morning. Friend's Christening in the afternoon. Lots of sun. No naps. Very few tantrums.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wow. This john barrowman thing is the campest thing i've ever seen. It could turn vin diesel gay.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wouldn't MVC make more sense as MCV? It's the right order and isn't an out of business CD/DVD shop.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Getting angry with MVC now - database relationships just aren't working.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First proper post in a while

Writing a proper post after all this time is a bit of a toughy. It's like when you don't buy a lot of music and then decide that you want to buy a CD (some people still buy those, right?). My advice to people in that situation has always been to just buy something completely arbitrary and then it'll make the next purchase so much easier. So, for no other reason than it's a bit of a home project I've been working on here's a post on home networking.

Anyone who has followed this blog from a while back will know that we live in a bit of a weird house. It's old and it's kind of a bit of a weird shape. It's kind of long and stepped and has interior walls that used to be exterior walls. From the top/front end we've got spare room, dining room, living room, kitchen and then play/informal dining room.

Now, for those of you who don't know; I'm a geek. An obsessive, tinkering, gaming geek. This means that we need to have connectivity in order to live.

Networking this place has been a nightmare.

Firstly, we live out in the sticks. The fastest broadband connection we can get is 2-Meg. So it's kind of hard to justify going with a premium ISP. So we plumped for Sky's basic package. This is capped, has a 2-Meg maximum speed and has a proprietry (and therefore a bit locked-down) router. But it's free, so you get what you pay for.

Secondly, the house isn't designed for wireless. The broadband runs into our lounge, which is where we spend a lot of our time (it's where I'm writing this from, for example). From this point, the range of the wireless router is roughly 3ft into the dining room (those damned interior walls that used to be exterior ones) and not much further than the kitchen (I put this down to having to broadcast through tins, built-in cupboards and kitchen appliances).

Which is a bit limiting.

What I wanted to do was have the spare room as an office (and, to be honest a bit of a retreat where I could go and play XBox some time in the future), our music broadcast to the play room (especially now that we've got the decking done, so we've got a nice entertaining area on that end) and wireless access wherever we need it (we surf a lot, especially as we now both have phones with wi-fi).

The priority then was:

  1. Get network access in the spare room in order to turn it into an office.
  2. Get MP101 working in play room.
  3. Turn any wired access points into wireless ones where necessary.
  4. Get second XBox ;)

First thing I tried was a wireless range extender. While this worked in principle, it wasn't much use and didn't overcome the broadcasting-though-big-sandstone-walls issue. It allowed the range of the wireless network to extend to the whole of the dining room, but no further.

So I decided to take a punt on Powerline netorking. This was a bit of a dream to be honest. Literally, plug it into the wall and the router and then plug the other one into the office and a cheap wired router (did I mention that this all had to be done on the cheap?). Had a bit of a problem with the software CD that came with them (didn't run) and another problem with DNS failures (had to resort to static DNS settings and therefore static IP addresses). Otherwise, all good.

With the network working in the spare room, the work could start on turning it into an office. That's worked out well and has meant that working from home is now a dream, rather than the uncomfortable, warm-crotched experience it had been in the past. It's also meant that I could plug our old beast of a desktop in as a media server to stream music, etc to the XBox.

So this left me with a spare Wireless Extender, which I have now set up in the play room and which is giving us wireless access at that end of the house and (I have to imagine as it hasn't stopped raining since) on the decking.

So this leaves:

  1. Setting MP101 up (with my old amp and speakers).
  2. Replacing cheap wired router with cheap wireless router to give wireless access in the office.
  3. Saving up for second XBox 360 (and convincing wife that it's essential).
Lessons learned in this exercise:

  1. How to write a batch file that allows me to easily switch between my static IP settings at home and my static IP settings at work.
  2. Not to bother trying to set a PC up as a wireless access point (by bridging a connection to a wireless card) - too much of a PITA to be worth it.
  3. Phones don't like wireless extenders.
  4. www.skyuser.co.uk is a great resource for hacking into your Sky router.
  5. Apart from the dodgy CD, cheap powerline network adaptors seem to work just as well as expensive ones.
Questions that I could do with answering:

  1. Can I get my Netgear MP101 to work with WPA encryption? I'd prefer not to have to change the settings on the router as it means changing the settings on all my wireless devices.
  2. Is there any reliable way to share my DLC between two XBoxes, especially considering that I'll be using the same profile on each?
  3. Is my network secure without having run any configuration on my powerline network adaptors? The CD didn't work, so the two adaptors are just plugged in.
  4. Can I get generic powerline network configuration software anywhere that will allow me to lock it down a bit?
Thanks for your time,

Chris

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tiiiiired. Not used to the fresh air. Think I may have even got a bit of a tan. Gradually turning from blue to white.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Setting off for hull for a second time. Not been a great week for f*ck ups. Thanks to the wife for her understanding.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Money saving fail. Saving of £15 a month leads to loss of £425 grrr.
Nathan's mysterious disappearing ear infection has left Daddy a very tired old man.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Love it when unexpected tracks turn up on random play. Today's stand out was northern star by hole.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Working from home while the guys do the decking. Could get used to working like this.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Have just realised that i've had replies on twitter that i've completely ignored. Apologies folks. Must do better. Slap.
Howzit China. Impressed with Leo's accent in blood diamond. Good film too.
A day in the garden followed by dinner from the chippy. Thats called contentment.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Thursday, April 02, 2009

OK. Been in the job two years now and I finally feel like I know what I'm doing. Does this mean it's time for a change?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I'm wondering what is hurting Amy more... the swollen glands or the idiots on The Apprentice.

Stuff

My ugly mug and my beautiful family Geek Stuff