Monday, October 31, 2005

My new snowboard

Posted by Chris @ 10:03 PM

Whilst up in Carlisle it so happened that we met up with Rob and co, as we usually do. However this time he had good news for me! He's donated his old snowboard to me, as he's got a new one, and I got his for free! Wicked! Picture of it below, and click on it for a better picture. I'm very happy with it, so a big thank you to Rob! Just need to give it a clean now.

In other snowboard news Dawn and I were back on the slope this weekend for the first time since our holiday, and I must say we did OK. I even managed to do some heel edge garlands on the dendex matting! Groovy. (For those who have no idea what I just said, it was boarder speak, if you learn to board you'll understand.)

My Snowboard

Richard's 40th Birthday

Posted by Chris @ 9:21 PM

Once again we were up in Carlisle this weekend, this time for Dawn's uncle Richard's 40th Birthday. It was a surprise party, and did amazingly genuinely seem to surprise him! Photos of the birthday party can be found in the photos section as usual. It was a really good do, and the wine flowed freely, a little too freely into Dawn however, who felt the worse for wear the next morning. However there is an upside, because, as Dawn never wants to look like this again...

Dawn collapsed on the floor

...she has told me that if she ever drinks more than two alcoholic drinks in an evening, I am allowed a PS3 - rock on!

Broken News on BBC Two tonight

Posted by Chris @ 1:40 PM

A new TV programme is on BBC Two tonight at 9.30pm. It is called Broken News, it is a satirical swipe at rolling news channels, and if the trailers are anything to go by, it is going to be great. Watch it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tags - Tagging Blogger Posts

Posted by Chris @ 8:27 PM

A few days back I posted a long boring techie post about a couple of projects I had planned. I have now completed one of them! And this post isn't techie, so please read it!

You can now explore the posts I make to my blog using tags (keywords). There is a new link in the nav which tags you to my tag cloud (what's a tag cloud?) and also against each post is a new link which shows you the tags attached to the post, like below.

Simply click on the tags that interest you, and discover my site in a whole new way!

So how does it work? In a nutshell I assign tags (keywords) to each post programmatically, using the Yahoo Term Extraction API to determine keywords from the post content. I then produce a couple of xml files which the pages you'll be clicking on are produced from. Simple!

If you want anymore information about how its all done, read my previous post, as that gives the method in more detail, or email me, or leave a comment.

Enjoy the tags!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Chris's cat - a conversation

Posted by Chris @ 9:00 PM

To be honest, I was a little disappointed with Chris's cat post. After a weekend of hype, he didn't deliver the usual banter between himself and Jimmy, the cat. Therefore, taking this picture as inspiration, I present the conversation Chris had with Jimmy, that he didn't post.

Chris: What are you doing with that piece of string?
Jimmy: I'm trying to split it out into individual threads to weave a bracelet for you.
Chris: I don't want a bracelet, so stop it please.
Jimmy: You are going to love this bracelet, it will look great on you.
Chris: I'm not wearing it, I'm not gay.
Jimmy: Regardless of whether you are gay or not, I want you to wear it.
Chris: Why do you hate me?

Not a patch on Chris's normal cat conversations I know, but at least it should help to fill a void I know we are all feeling at the moment.

Snowboard Club UK

Posted by Chris @ 8:16 PM

If you are a snowboarder rather than a skier then you, like me, whatever level you are at, probably find getting information about snowboarding on the web rubbish. Everything on the web is all a little bit too ski orientated. Well now I've found this great site for snowboarders in the UK, http://www.snowboardclubuk.co.uk. It seems to have loads of info about boarding in the UK, and a really active forum, which is great for me as I try to pick up tips on my snowboarding technique as I learn.

Hopefully this will help some of you fellow boarders to find snowboard information, but share and share a like, if you know or find a good snowboarding resource, let me know via a comment!

Google Database - base.google.com

Posted by Chris @ 9:09 AM

Well, on the cusp of another Google service, Tony has sniffed out another Google sub domain, base.google.com, and they've started to make some of the content live. Essentially it stands for Google database, and it will let you upload stuff to its database, then index it and allow you to search it and use it.

More information on Tony's original post - All your base are belong to Google and on Google Blogscoped - base.google.com?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

TV programmes you should be watching

Posted by Chris @ 9:07 PM

Now I've had the online TV guide for a while, I have to say, with a smug look on my face, it has made finding what's on tv across all the channels much easier. In amongst all of the programmes on TV there are some real gems. Below is a list of programmes I/we think you should be watching, and if you haven't seen them start watching them, and if the series has finished, watch the next series. In short, watch them. In return, please let me know what I've missed and what your list of must watch TV shows is, basically comment away!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sacra Bleu - Blogger's alive!

Posted by Chris @ 4:19 PM

Well, it is about time, but finally Blogger has stuck something in their systems, shaken it about a bit, and things are back to normal. So I am free to waffle to the masses once again.

Anyway much has happened in the last couple of days, but the post underneath, that I could not get Blogger to publish, covers it all.

"And the sheep said, thank The Lord, for our Shepherd is back." - Riley (ch. IV, v. 2)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

New gallery online, and customised 404 page

Posted by Chris @ 1:53 PM

Right then, I'll try not to waffle too much. The new gallery is now live, I've only got a couple of albums left to upload to Flickr, so I thought I'd take the plunge. If you try and use the old gallery, it should give you a page telling you I've moved the gallery. I'll be trawling through all my posts and the site updating those links in the coming days and weeks. Let me know what you think of the new gallery with the comments, I'm quite happy with it.

It uses the Flickr API, as I mentioned before, the particular methods I use are:

  • flickr.photosets.getList
  • flickr.photosets.getInfo
  • flickr.photosets.getContext
  • flickr.photos.getInfo
  • flickr.photosets.getPhotos

If you want more info let me know.

Finally I've put a customised 404 page on the site, to help out all those poor saps who end up here after clicking on a link in Google and getting nowhere (useless search engine, can't even update its listing!) Anyway I've tried to make it a little amusing, so have a look at it sometime!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Yahoo term extraction, Blogger tag clouds and intelligent rss readers

Posted by Chris @ 1:25 PM

Whilst work on the new gallery is ongoing, and is soon to be completed, I already have a couple of new ideas forming in my head, and I thought I'd share them to see if the blogsphere has any decent input!

As a pre-cursor, both ideas involve using the Yahoo Content Analysis Term Extraction API in some way or another. So firstly I came across this site, TagCloud.com, which takes any number of rss feeds, and produces a tag cloud from them, by extracting keywords using the Yahoo API, and then using them as tags for the various posts. This works fairly well, as you can see from the tag cloud produced for my site, however one, their site isn't that reliable, two, the cloud isn't updated very often, and three, when you click on a tag it takes you to their site, to a page loaded with Google Ads.

Now me being me I don't like the fact it does that, so what I want to do is create my own tag cloud. Now the limitations from using the rss feed of my site are obvious, its only the last 15 posts. And you can't use blogger to do it as they don't let you tag posts as yet. Furthermore you can't use the blogger API to retrieve all of your blog posts to then tag, because its rubbish. That leaves a problem, of how can I programatically extract keywords from all of my posts, and organise them into a tag cloud, on my site.

Luckily, I have a brain! Because my site is all XHTML strict, that means that all my blog pages are a XML document, meaning if I just fiddle with my blogger template a little so I can identify the div that has the content of my blog post in it, I can use asp.net to parse all of my static blog post pages, pull out the relevant content, pass it through the Yahoo API, thus generating tags for each post, organise the tags and produce a tag cloud, and stick it on my site, brilliant! I've then got full control, no adverts, no other sites required. Obviously I will need to setup an word exclusion list so any tags the Yahoo API comes up with that aren't relevant, I can block.

So, any comments, has anyone else already done this with a Blogger blog, and any potential downfalls you can see to my method?

So that was the first idea, the second is to use the Yahoo API to train an rss reader to only show me posts that I want to read. This is a trickier problem to develop. Essentially I will need a custom rss reader, that will not only display posts for me, but will also pass it through the Yahoo API to determine the main content of the post. Over time I can tell it which posts I'm reading, and which I'm not, and thus it can be trained to spot the keywords in posts I read, and ones I don't. Once I've got that nailed down, then each feed I subscribe to I can pass through my intelligent filter, and then only get to read the posts I am interested in. Any that are filtered out I could screen, and if needs be the post added to the keyword filter. And any I read that I don't want I can then remove from the keyword filter. Essentially it then means that whilst an rss feed is generally specialised, I can specialise it even more to my particular taste, with the filter training itself.

So again, not a bad idea I think, but do you think its useful, have you seen something similar elsewhere? Let me know your thoughts!

Watch this space and see what I turn out next!!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Flickr and my site's photo gallery

Posted by Chris @ 1:07 PM

Not that it is anything new to scream and shout about, but I've signed up for a Flickr Pro account, and have been uploading images like there's no tomorrow. Currently I'm up to the wedding, so a few more albums to go yet. You can see my Flickr photos and my Flickr profile by following said links.

So why, I hear you screaming at the monitor, am I doing this when I have a perfectly good gallery system already in place? Well, I've been working on a new gallery for a couple of weeks, the main reason being it currently is a php gallery, and I'd rather it matched the rest of the site and was in ASP.Net. Secondly it is another good little .net project for me to get my teeth stuck into, and it means I fully understand and control how the gallery works. Finally I couldn't put captions to my images easily enough, and that annoyed me.

So why Flickr? Well, I'd nearly sorted out my own XML .net version of a gallery, when backing up my vast bank of photos became an issue. I don't want to loose all of my photographic gems, but the resized versions on the website aren't the full res versions I'd want backed up. Step up Flickr and their pro account. You see I can upload my full res photos to them, they'll backup the photos for me, plus handle organising them, putting captions on them, tag them, provide feeds to them, etc, etc. There are many, many benefits, not least that people will find my photos from browsing Flickr, and won't have to visit my site, and the bandwith will all be at the Flickr end. Finally, though, the main reason is the great Flickr API. I'm going to be modifying my new gallery code to access the pictures direct from Flickr, and beam them into your cgriley.com browser windows.

Why bother doing this when Flickr displays them perfectly well? Because I can, because I rather like my new gallery interface, and because I like to give people a consistent browsing experience when on my site.

I think I've covered most questions the inquisitive might have about my motives here - if you do have any further questions, please comment, in the meantime check out our photos again on Flickr, read the funny captions, and then when the new gallery is released (which I'll post about) you can enjoy them on my website.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

To London we have been

Posted by Chris @ 1:49 PM

Well, as you might have guessed from my previous post, the weekend was spent down in London visiting family. Part of this trip was to watch my cousin Joe (13) perform a small part in the current production of Siegfried (the third opera in Wagner's Ring Cycle) at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Surprising both myself and Chris, Dawn and I actually quite enjoyed the 5 hour spectacle, despite Joe only being in it for a total of 15 minutes! However the critics have not been so encouraging, our particular favourite scathing review goes to The Sunday Times - Stop the Ride, where Joe is described; "assistant stage managers dressed as wood pixies" and "the whole scene looks jejune and ridiculous." Blimey!!

Anyway moving on to the pictures the Opera house did give me a chance to get a good shot of Covent Garden, the shot of Nelsons column below, plus an architectural gem, the glass walkway between the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet. A couple of other nice shots of the Royal Opera House were taken by Chris when he was down there.

Moving on we had an night out with one of our friends from the DEFRA days, Alex, and jolly good it was to catch up. It felt like we hadn't seen each other for only a few weeks, let alone years! Another plus point was that we ate in a Spanish tapas restaurant for the first time, and that was really good. We'll be seeking out some of those in Sheffield (Tony, where is your restaurant guide....)

As my auntie works part time backstage in the theatres of the West End, we managed to get an exclusive backstage tour of Chicago. I took plenty of photos, mainly of funny backstage things, like the cast creative corner, props, and Dawn posing with props!

Finally we spent the Sunday lazing around in the barmy October sun, and out in the park, taking arty pictures of leaves and flowers, playing with their dog, Bertie, and generally having fun!

That's it, you can find all of the photos from our weekend in London here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Nelsons column, a different view

Posted by Chris @ 9:32 PM

I'm just sorting through the photos from our weekend in London, and this particular photo I've fiddled with a little bit I am quite proud of, so I thought I'd give you a sneak preview before I get the rest of the photos uploaded. It is of Nelsons column, from the terrace of the Royal Opera House, in amongst the sky line of London.

Nelsons column

Wedding video

Posted by Chris @ 1:15 PM

It has taken only 3 months, and now it is here, the Wedding video (15.9MB) (right click and choose "Save target as") is finally ready for general release.

This version is only a quick 5 minute one to wet your appetite, and given the size can't really put the full version on here, but its definitely good! Many thanks to David and Joe for working away on it in darkened rooms, your hard work is appreciated. Hope you all enjoy it, and feel free to comment.

Chris and Dawn

More4 added to the online TV guide

Posted by Chris @ 10:24 AM

To coincide with the launch of More4 tonight on Sky, cable and Freeview, I've added the channel to my online TV guide. So now you can plan your tele watching with ease, as I continue to keep a pace with the televisual world. A definite watch for me is The West Wing, Fridays at 9, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart sounds like it could be fun too, weekdays at 8.30.

Of course there may be those of you out there who will say this post is nothing more than a shameless linking exercise to try and improve my search engine rankings off the back of the More4 launch. I say to you people, you don't understand search engine ranking at all do you. Ha! (Now link back to this post you morons, saying something link Chris Riley discusses More4 in the link text...)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bingo!

Posted by Chris @ 7:56 PM

Last night, about 20 of us headed out of work, but instead of parting ways, we headed straight to our local Gala Bingo place (what do you call a bingo place?) (ah of course, a bingo club!) and got down to some serious bingo fun.

So why bingo? Why not, to be honest it was a good laugh. For 10 quid you get a load of books, making up 13 games, and in each game you get 6 chances, so that's 78 chances to win maths fans! What surprised us the most was the speed, there's about half a second, no more, between each number, in which time you have to check all 6 boards, dot your number, see if you've got a line, two lines or a full house, and holler if you have!

We seemed to manage it just, however during the entire night not one of us from work won. Tony suggested it might be a fix as we were the new members, I'm not so sure ;o)

So, as gambling goes I put this in second place, ahead of horse racing, which is too slow between races for me, but behind Greyhound racing. You can't beat the quick succession of races, seeing your dog run it's heart out round the track, small bets, and nigh on impossible chance of losing on every race in a session. If you haven't tried it, get down your local dog track on your next free Saturday night.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Review of the Nissan X-TRAIL

Posted by Chris @ 8:43 PM

So, given a Nissan X-TRAIL, and a round trip to Maidenhead from Wombwell (some 7 hours driving), what better chance than this to write a review!
Outside of the Nissan X-TRAIL
The looks
Well, as you can see from the picture the X-TRAIL is a standard size 4x4, this particular model finished in a very nice metallic black. Details include the rear spoiler, and I have to say the overall look is great, a little aggressive, something a man can be happy to be seen driving, but also not too big to be a handful to park and get around town.
Score: 4/5

Inside
In the cabin everything is as you would expect in a Nissan, well put together, no rattles, all the buttons have a purpose, are intuitive, and feel right. Closing the door rewards you with a good clunk sound too. The chairs are fully adjustable, and the best bit is the driving position. As a first time drive in a 4x4, I found the ride height was actually really great, and gives you great visibility.
Inside the Nissan X-TRAIL
As for features, this particular model is stacked with them; 6 CD changer, electric sunroof, climate control, electric windows all round, power steering, it goes on and on. And the cabin has plenty of space for 4 adults, with loads of head height and boot space to spare.
Score: 5/5

The drive
And so to the drive. After seven hours behind the wheel of this thing, I have only a smile to show for it. It may be a diesel engine (I'm not sure on the engine size), but my God can this thing shift. It has the acceleration and power to match any petrol engine, and shows in my average speed on the motorways. (I won't put it on here for fear of being nicked by the police, but it wasn't slow.) Attached to the engine is a gear box that's as tight as a guitar string, and as precise as German, a joy to change gear. The steering was also good, I felt connected to the road, it wasn't too light, and it went where I pointed it - essential really! My two criticisms; the brakes felt a little light to the touch, and despite always stopping the car, giving me the confidence to drive as I did, I still prefer a weightier brake pedal, and the suspension; with any 4x4 its always going to be a trade off between ride comfort and roll through the corners, however I felt it could have been stiffened up a bit to reduce the roll without affecting the ride too much. Small points though.
Score: 3.5/5

Conclusion
So to conclude, this is a great looking car, packed with features, with plenty of room for a family and their stuff. The engine is superb, and with the Nissan badge you know it is going to be one reliable car. The drive was good, with only a couple of minor criticisms on the brakes and suspension. Overall, if I was in the market for a 4x4, I would seriously consider this car. Well done Nissan.
Score: 4/5

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Kitchens, burglars and cars

Posted by Chris @ 7:22 PM

Well, today has to be one of the most expensive days of my life. We have spent just shy of 1500 of your English pounds on a new kitchen!! We've got it from Wickes, in the Aston range, and is not only going to look great, but make our kitchen 100 times more useful than it currently is.

In other news I've finally bought a replacement burglar alarm control box to replace the broken one we inherited when we bought the house. It is a Maplin job, so I'll be having fun wiring that up tomorrow, and no doubt annoying the neighbours with random sirens during the day!

Finally cars. As a general rule I don't tend to talk about work on the blog, however there are couple of perks working for SDL International. One of those is that when I have to take a trip down to HQ in Maidenhead, I get a hire car, and as I'm going down there on Monday the latest one has been delivered. Now I swear the receptionist said as I'm under 25 I had to have a smaller car, however, what turned up this morning is far from small, its a flippin' Nissan X-TRAIL!! So, I've not done too bad this time, and the other two cars I've driven are a new Renault Megane, and a Honda Accord. Thank you work for letting me sample a variety of new cars. If you're lucky on Tuesday you might get a Top Gear style write up of the X-TRAIL!