Friday, December 30, 2005

Organic meat, chickens in particular

Posted by Chris @ 1:41 PM

Around Christmas there was a program "on't telly" about how turkeys are reared for Christmas. It was the usual stuff about the conditions they live in before they finally get killed etc. Anyway what really got my attention was the difference in quality between a farmed turkey and an organic / free range (you know what I mean) turkey. Essentially the organic one had better skin, flesh, stronger bones etc. Generally all round it looked a much nicer bird to stick in the oven. I'm sure the same can be said for how chickens are farmed and sold in supermarkets.

Moving on then, whilst in Tescos the other night I spotted the organic chickens next to the normal chickens. Just looking at them you could see a difference in the birds, but the biggest difference was the price. The price of an organic chicken was easily double that of a regular bird of the same weight, and that annoys me. Whilst we're being told that these chickens are a better quality meat, surely they don't justify that price? I discussed this at work and Chris made the good point that we're conditioned to some degree to supermarket prices of chickens now, so the price of an organic chicken is the price I really should be paying, but still the supermarket has got to be adding a bit of a markup here to make their organic profit?

So how can I get this better quality meat, without spending over the odds? Its a tough question, lobbying the supermarkets to change their attitudes to farming meat to shift the balance back to organic good quality meat (making it economic) isn't going to be easy. My only real option is to start shopping in proper butchers, and pop along to some local farmers markets, but where are these markets held and when? Well luckily for me I can use the interweb thingy, and look, http://www.farmersmarkets.net/ a website telling me what I want to know! So some weekend in the future I shall be dragging Dawn to a farmers market, and then we shall feast on food that shall surpass all supermarket produce. Hurrah! (If you have any other tips for getting good quality produce at normal prices let me know.)

Oh, and supermarkets, in the mean time, sort it out.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

More birthday goodies, Blogger style

Posted by Chris @ 11:39 PM

Anthony and I have a little thing going on that we buy each other little funny presents for our birthdays each year. Things include air drumsticks, antaquariums, desktop air hockey etc. Anyway this year for my birthday he's bought me a Blogger T-Shirt and a Google Blinky Pin (a cool flashing Google badge thingy), and as a special treat for you all I've modeled them for you tonight as I wait for Dawn's bread to finish in the bread machine (note the time!) Enjoy laughing at me!

Blogger T-Shirt and Google Badge 1 Blogger T-Shirt and Google Badge 2

Image tag cloud update

Posted by Chris @ 11:11 PM

I've updated my image tag cloud to make it seem a bit quicker to load, and also to provide more feedback as it does so, using AJAX, rather than relying on .net to build it all then render it. Thanks Tony for the suggestion, I don't think it can get much quicker due to Flickr's slow API :o(

Anyway hope you like the update...

Image tag cloud

Posted by Chris @ 1:34 PM

I've been hard at work on another new feature for the site. This time it is an extension to the tag cloud I already have. I've created an image tag cloud.

The basic premise is this, I have tags, Flickr have images tagged, marry the two together and see what I get! Essentially it is a good way to see what images represent my tags, and a good way to find images related to topics / tags I like.

It works by taking each tag from the tag cloud and uses it as a keyword in a search on Flickr. The top result is then used as the image for that tag. I did develop it using the Yahoo Image Search API as a source for the images as well, but their safe search filter is shocking. It still turned up adult content for seemingly innocent words with safe search on!! So I've removed that for now.

In a little more detail, it makes use of the photo search method of the Flickr API. I've got a couple of other little additions I want to make to it, like choosing to view the photo in Flickr or the posts for that tag when clicking an image, and adding the Google image search as an optional source for the photos.

As usual all feedback is greatly appreciated, simply leave a comment and I'll do my best to respond / incorporate it. And if you want more info on the code I'll be happy to share it with you. Hope you enjoy looking at it!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Dawns been baking mince pies

Posted by Chris @ 5:41 PM

These are the first mince pies this year, and also the first out of our new kitchen. Obviously a Christmas of firsts this year, wonder what we'll be first to do next...
Mince pies 1 Mince pies 2

Review of the Humax 9200T Duovisio Freeview PVR (Personal Video Recorder)

Posted by Chris @ 4:47 PM

So as I explained I got the Humax 9200T Duovisio Freeview PVR (Personal Video Recorder) for my birthday. I've wanted this for a couple of months, and first mentioned it on the blog here, but have been rabbiting on about it to anyone who's interested.

Anyway I've got it, but what the hell is it, for all you people afraid of new technology! Well, it is a personal video recorder, or hard drive recorder. Essentially, you can do away with your video recorder and tapes, and just use this. No longer do you need to find a tape, wind it on to a free slot, record, wind it back to watch it, and suffer the poor quality of VHS. Simply highlight the programme you want to record in the tv guide and hey presto, its set to record in fantastic digital quality. So that's a good thing for a start.

However it can do more, as this is also a Freeview receiver. So it gets all the new digital Freeview channels. Finally its a duovisio, dual tuner box, which means it has two Freeview receivers so you can record up to two digital channels, and watch a third digital channel at the same time! Even a normal tv / video setup couldn't do that, so that's cool. Its also got all the features of Sky Plus, so you can pause and rewind live tv, and have picture in picture if you're trying to watch something on two channels at once!

So that's what it is, but what is it actually like? Well, bloody good if I'm honest! Compared to my old Philips OnDigital box (unsliced bread) this is way better (sliced bread). In operation channels change when you tell it to and not 2 seconds later, the interactive services are actually usable, and not only that but so quick even Dawn agrees its quicker to use it over normal teletext now! The signal / picture is also brilliant, and outstanding considering its splitting the signal into two tuners. Its got 160GB inside, so no real chance of running out of space for stuff to record. Quite simply this box will change mine and Dawn's life forever, and if the rest of the family haven't got one (or one similar) by the end of next year I'll eat my hat.

I could continue to rave on about it for another 10 paragraphs, but I won't, other than the mp3 and photo playback features, great user interface etc. The only downsides so far, and they really are minor, is that the audio line out is really quiet, but still works, sometimes the channel info in the tv guide can take a few seconds to load, and the plug is molded on so I had to cut a bigger hole out of the back of the tv cabinet before it could be plugged in. But they really are minor issues.

I'm so happy with this present I might marry Dawn, ah already have! But I'm that happy with it, and can't recommend it enough. As a final comment I was looking at the Topfield PVR, but went for the Humax instead, and it was the best decision I ever made. Buy one, now!

Update: Humax have issued a couple of over the air updates, I've blogged about them here!

Happy birthday to me!

Posted by Chris @ 4:07 PM

It was my birthday yesterday, I've turned a grand old age of 25! More importantly however, it was Tony's sisters day to give birth to her first child, so I share my birthday with a new born and that's way better. If only I were 0 days old again. Anyway, I'm sure Uncle Tony will post something / photos about all of this soon.

So back to my birthday and what I got. As you'll know I was deeply frustrated by Dawn's surprise, so finally I got to see what it was - a Humax 9200T Duovisio Freeview Personal Video Recorder! Wicked! I'll be posting a review on this soon.

Other presents:

  • Burton Moto snowboard boots (the black ones) from Mum and Dad - again, wicked!
  • Phoenix Nights series 1 and 2 from Ali
  • Snowboard socks
  • 3x bottles of red wine
  • 2x Dairy Milk fruit and nut
  • Toblerone - consumed
  • and the usual bit of money.

Not a bad haul for a 25th birthday!

To celebrate I went out with the family to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (which is a great film, if you haven't watched it, go watch it!), and then we headed into town to La Mancha on West Street. It is a tapas restaurant and was really nice. The staff were friendly, the food great, and importantly the sangria was superb! I'm also reliably informed that the desserts were pretty damn fine too. All in all highly recommended, and a good end to a great birthday.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Surprise - no thanks.

Posted by Chris @ 1:21 PM

For the purposes of this post I shall call Dawn "the wife" to avoid hurting her feelings.

At this time of year I'm plagued by "the wife" and others determined efforts to surprise me with their presents for my birthday (tomorrow by the way, I'm 25), and for Christmas. It is nice that they put so much effort into surprising me, but they really needn't bother because I don't like surprises! Well at least present type ones.

You see, what "the wife" doesn't understand is that not knowing what I'm getting just frustrates me, because I can't look forward to receiving it and having it. It works like this, tell me I'm getting a present, and I say that's nice, but then I can't do much else other than wait to get it, which is frustrating. However tell me I'm getting a Humax PVR9200T, or a XBox 360, or a funky remote controlled helicopter, snowboard boots, etc then I can do more. I can research it, find out everything there is to know about it, get excited about receiving it, so that when I finally do get my grubby mits on one I can dive straight into it and enjoy it immediately, instead of spending half a day reading manuals and deciding what the best thing about it is.

The most annoying thing is that in a heartbeat I could find out what "the wife" has bought me by checking her email or looking at the bank statement, but then I would have to endure a fate worse than death, served by a women who will be with me for the rest of my life. And it is simply not worth it.

So to conclude, in the future I'd rather know what I'm getting so I can look forward to it, than be told I'm getting something and have it frustrate me for weeks on end. A simple premise I think you'll agree, but something "the wife" and others simply can't comprehend.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

New photos

Posted by Chris @ 8:02 PM

Right then, with the modem back working at home I can get some photos uploaded. So firstly the pictures of the damage done to the car, you can just make out the slight dents.

Secondly are some pictures from the SDL 2005 Christmas party, taken by Tony and reproduced here with his permission. I've captioned them so be sure to read them. We the web team did make an effort to dress nice, which I'm pretty sure was appreciated by all, and hopefully you, the reader! Enjoy.

I'm not a comic genius, and it is annoying me

Posted by Chris @ 9:07 AM

I'm fed up. I'm not very funny, and it is annoying me. I want a funny blog, one that entertains and keeps people coming back. Yeah I have my moments, but not enough. I rabbit on about technical stuff far too often, and that is not funny, that is boring. Except for Tony, Ant and Chris, they seem to read them, but even then I think they switch off and go look at interesting things. I don't blame them.

So what can I do about this? I'm not sure yet, but I wanted to let you know, so you could possibly pep me up with some amusing comments. In the meantime I'm up for any kind of amusing endeavor like this one highlighted by Chris, catsinsinks.com and kittenwar.com.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Manslaughter, murder and homicide

Posted by Chris @ 5:10 PM

I got wondering today what the difference was between murder and homicide, and since it is a bit of useless yet interesting information, it is perfect for a blog post!

Just so we are clear, and to cover all bases, manslaughter is killing another human being(s) without malice, and murder is killing another human being(s) with malice. So where does homicide sit? Well, homicide is the act of killing another human being, with or without malice. So, to conclude a homicide detective will investigate both manslaughter and murder cases. Hope that has helped clear that up for those of you out there considering a profession in the law.

For more references see manslaughter, murder and homicide.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Firefox message in Internet Explorer

Posted by Chris @ 2:02 PM

As you may have noticed, if you use Internet Explorer, I've put an annoying message at the top of every page telling you about the Firefox web browser, and to give it a go. Really, do, because it is great, and gaining on Microsoft's hold on the browser market pretty rapidly in browser timescales.

Of course those who love IE and won't try anything new or can't be bothered will be annoyed by this new message, and so once it's initial impact has been gauged, I'll give you the option to hide it. However for now you'll have to suffer it, and maybe, just maybe, you might try downloading Firefox and giving it a go.

Of course for those already using Firefox to view my website, well done, you won't see the message as you already have the benefit of a better standards compliant browser packed with features and better security. Bravo to you chaps and chapesses.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Tag cloud updated

Posted by Chris @ 9:16 AM

The eagle eyed amongst you (Tony) will have noticed my tags and tag cloud have altered slightly. Why, I hear you cry? Let me explain.

Good as my automated tagging system is, Yahoo's Content Analysis returned a lot of keywords per post, and meant each post had a lot of tags. Not good, especially when some of the tags like "hopefully" and "nice" were more prominent than they should be. So I've tweaked the code to try and make the tags more meaningful, and less of them.

The first problem to solve was to remove tags like hopefully and nice. They really are useless, and also handily classed as adjectives and adverbs. So via the power of http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ and some screen scraping to discover if a suggested tag is an adjective or adverb, off they went! Secondly I discovered rather handily that the Yahoo service returns keywords in relevance order, so by limiting the number of tags per post to a maximum of 5 also means the rubbish is removed from the list of tags, and only the most relevant retained.

I think you'll find the resulting tag cloud has fewer, more relevant tags (Dawn doesn't like it for obvious reasons) and posts themselves have less tags cluttering up their footer area. I've also removed the expanding feature of the tag cloud, it is no longer cool and was getting on my nerves. If you have any further feedback let me know via a comment.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Our modem is dead but it is Emily's birthday!

Posted by Chris @ 1:13 PM

As you have probably ascertained from the comments in the previous post, our modem / router has died. That means I can't do anything online from home. Which is a real shame. I've no idea when I'll have a new modem, I'm currently in negotiation with "the wife" to secure a new one in the near future :o)

Meanwhile it is the 6th December, so happy birthday Emily! I was going to send you a text message, however my phone doesn't have enough credit on it to send an international text message, and Vodafone is refusing to let me top up online. Rubbish.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Argh, this blog is rotting....

Posted by Chris @ 1:21 PM

Yes, it has nearly been one whole week since I last put a post on here, so here I am to stop the rot / ramble on like a crazed loon. The last week has been pretty busy, with work trips and journeys to the in laws. (On a side note I'm hoping to write another car review for the Golf and Astra hire cars I got to drive for work.)

On the blog you've hopefully noticed the tags now get displayed below the post, you don't need to click to another page to see them. I've also tidied up and adjusted advert placement - don't forget folks only click on the ad if it is relevant to you.

A blog of note I've stumbled across is http://xooglers.blogspot.com - a blog run by an ex-googler. It makes for an interesting read into the early workings of Google. The posts are long, but worth it.

Finally, a tip from the top. When driving, don't crash, it costs money, as I've been finding out. :o(