Monday, January 30, 2006

Winter Olympics on the BBC

Posted by Chris @ 9:54 PM

At last, the Winter Olympics in Torino are nearly upon us, and all us winter sports fans can sit down and watch the best version of the Olympics. And to help us achieve this goal, it looks like the BBC are pulling out all the stops to make this years games coverage better than ever, with a special BBC Winter Olympics website.

The Games run from the 10th Feb, through to the 26th Feb. The particular event I'm going to be keeping an eye on, along with old favorites the Bobsleigh and downhill skiing is the snowboard cross. This is a new event to the Olympics, and sounds like a great watch, I'll let you read the BBC site to get a feel for it, they do it better than me! (If you've got any other favorite events let me know, and I'll try and watch them too.)

Finally, on this particular page is a link to a cool short video (2.10mins) showing a beginners guide to snowboarding. What is contained in this short 2 minute video is what Dawn and I have been trying to achieve for the past year or so. She makes it look so easy, it makes you sick. Oh well, we'll nail it one day!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Yes, I've done it, at last!

Posted by Chris @ 4:46 PM

Now at this point in time, many of you may be wondering what I could be on about with a post title like that. Those of you that know me a bit better, will realise it is a Sunday afternoon post, and therefore the subject is only one thing, snowboarding.

For at last, after 4 weeks of trying, I have passed my level 5 snowboarding!! Hurrah!! Hurrah!! Chris is a star!! Well, I've scraped through after managing to finally complete a toe to heel turn!

Anyway, next week is the last level, predictably, level 6, before I can join Dawn roaming free on the slopes of Sheffield. Lets hope I pass it first time!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

1 year old!

Posted by Chris @ 5:53 PM

Wow, I can't believe I missed the birthday of my own blog! Yep, you heard right, it is one whole year and one day since my website became a blog. We've been on quite a journey since then, and the site has seen a couple of changes and cool additions along the way.

Highlights of the last year include:

A couple of admissions too, I lied in this post, I'm not still using Sphere XP. And in this post I talk about the standards page like I was going to finish it. I haven't.

However I do feel I am still partly right in my theory about Lost and the Wizard of Oz. Lets see you argue it now, after the mechanical sound the monster was making at the end of season 1!

Finally though I think the best post I've written all year is this one. Happy birthday!

P.S. - If you think I've missed something of note from the past year, let me know!

Friday, January 27, 2006

If you don't ask, you don't get

Posted by Chris @ 6:41 PM

We've been watching "Pay off your mortgage in 2 years" on BBC2 recently, and it has inspired Dawn and I to try and get our own mortgage paid off as quickly as possible. In our particular situation, if we do this, we'll save ourselves over 30 grand! We've started on this path by doubling our monthly mortgage payment, but another part of trying to do this is to maximise your income.

So here is our attempt to maximise our income. Help us pay off our mortgage, there's more info on the page and a couple of new links in the top nav and side nav.

Now I'm sure you're thinking we are mad, who is going to donate money to us. But you know what, I literally don't know who is going to donate money to us, and as the title of this post suggests, if you don't ask, you don't get. So lets find out!

The page is pretty rough around the edges design wise at the moment, but given time, and gauging response to it I might improve it, make it look nicer, and update the wording. In the web world you never know what's going to be the next big thing.

I'm hoping obviously the next big thing will be our little page, that thousands of people will flock to it, be amused enough to donate a pound or a dollar, and even if they don't donate, blog about it so that their friends can share in our bare faced cheek!

So there you have it, success or not of our mission is in your hands. Go forth and blog about this page, and be a part of internet history.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Open source all the way

Posted by Chris @ 5:26 PM

Warning This is a long post, so either have 10 minutes to spare before you start reading it, or to summarise, open source is great, free, and you can get a free open source application for any common application on your PC today.

Having downloaded the most recent versions of FireFox and Thunderbird, and again thanking the Internet community for creating such great applications for free and as open source, it got me thinking.

Can I replace all standard paid for software (bar the OS, and I'll cover that in a second) on my machine, with a free open source version?

Obviously to make this interesting you can extend the question a bit and say, open source software that will have the ability to work with my existing files, and have a relatively similar feature set to the paid software. I set off on a voyage of discovery. (I haven't included the OS in this little adventure, because quite frankly I'm too used to the way Windows works to try and even begin to make sense of Linux. Plus I don't like messing with my OS too much!

So to cut a fairly long story short here is a table of the software I use on my machine, or like to have on my machine as a web developer, and the open source equivalent I have found.

Existing SoftwareOpen Source Version
Microsoft Internet ExplorerFireFox
Microsoft Outlook Express / OutlookThunderbird
Adobe PhotoshopGIMP (The GNU Image Manipulation Program)
UltraEdit (a text editor)Notepad++
Anti-Virus SoftwareAVG Anti-Virus - Strictly not open source but free! is quite simply amazing. It is a complete open source replacement for MS Office, and is, in my opinion a lot better! Features like being able to convert documents to PDF within the software, a better looking interface, improved support for XML files, stunning. But it is not just a word processor, it has the lot, spreadsheet, presentations, database, drawing etc, all for free and open source. From what I've seen they all work with existing MS Office file formats (Access would need a little cajoling using the ADO connector I think, nothing major), and all seem much better than the MS offering. I'm a convert, and I didn't have to pay for it. It is beyond me why more businesses don't use it, apart from wanting MS support I guess? Next time you're about to shell out to get MS Office on your PC, don't and get instead! Go, do it now!

So on to FireFox and Thunderbird. FireFox you don't need to get unless you are fed up with IE as it comes free with Windows. However thunderbird you do need to get, as it makes managing your email and rss feeds as easy as Outlook does, for nothing! Get it.

Onto the more specialised web developer stuff now. I've used Adobe Photoshop on and off for a few years now to produce the odd logo and graphic for various websites, but now I need no longer use it, as there is GIMP! Despite the unfortunate (but I guess intentional) name this is great! Its free, works, does everything Photoshop does that I need it to do, opens and works with psd files, and did I mention its free!! Also, if you are really used to the menu and layout of Photoshop, you can get a GIMP version, called GIMPshop, that recreates GIMP but with the Photoshop menus and options. That's the beauty of open source software you see, if its not quite how you want it, change it! So that's Photoshop taken care of.

UltraEdit is a tool I use to write code at work and at home. Whilst it is very good, you have to pay for it, and I don't like that. So the free open source solution is Notepad++. I've only really fired this up a couple of times, but from what I've seen its great, plenty of features that UltraEdit has, with some improved ones, like block management (indents and matching braces etc for you techies reading this). Especially good is the wide variety of syntax highlighting it comes with, especially for my .net and xml / xsl work, which UltraEdit is lacking in places. You never know, I might even use it in place of UltraEdit, we'll see...

Anyway that is my round up of open source software to replace all the common software found on a PC. As you can see I succeed in my original mission (hurray), you don't need to pay for anything these days, just get broadband and download it, legally! Hopefully this will have given you enough information to spur you on to investigate and download / sample some of these applications, and will help you save some money in the long run too! For now I've got all these applications installed, so if you don't want to install them yet but have any comments or questions then let me know. I'll do my best to try things out, answer questions, and post sample documents.

A sad day

Posted by Chris @ 5:26 PM

The West Wing has been axed by NBC. Idiots, it was a great TV show, ah well, it did well to last 7 seasons I guess...

Scoop - New Blog

Posted by Chris @ 2:01 PM

Oooh, it seems have launched a blog! Obviously I only have this scoop because I work for SDL's web department, the company behind Free, but hey, cool! Anyway, go take a peek, and get it in your rss reader / whatever you want to call them, and in time you will find out loads of cool stuff about Freetranslation.

Will that do Tony? Hehehe...

Update - New site design

Posted by Chris @ 12:43 PM

OK, I've made a couple of changes. With the help of a bit of code Tony wrote I've sorted out the translation links, and just for you Ant, I've added in German. The header text still doesn't display quite right when translated due to the way I've applied the shadow, but hey, not that many people will translate the site, and even less will care that the header is a little screwed up.

Finally I've been playing with the image tag cloud to try and get it to look a bit better in FireFox. I'm still having some real issues here, so any suggestions greatly received as I struggle on! I guess FF just doesn't like AJAX supplied images!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Terminal and news

Posted by Chris @ 8:41 PM

This weekend we have mostly been watching the film The Terminal. It stars Tom Hanks as a guy caught in a legal loophole, which means he has to live in the airport terminal.

This film is actually quite funny, despite the slightly dodgy premise, and I found myself enjoying it immensely. I recommend it to anyone. What is also quite interesting is that this film is loosely based on a true story, t'ats amazing!

In other news, Dawn has passed her level 6 snowboard lesson, so is now free to roam the slopes of Sheffield. Meanwhile I'm still stuck on level 5, although I have overcome my commitment issues on my heel to toe turn!!

Finally the floor is down in the kitchen, thanks to Kevin's efforts. And the light is up too, thanks to Ross' efforts. Magic. Photos to follow when we have a bin, drainer, last coat of paint on and blind and shelves up!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New site design

Posted by Chris @ 7:52 PM

So, as you may have noticed my site has had a redesign. Let me talk you through it.

Firstly why? Well as you know this site was a personal C.V (see way back when) and then morphed into a blog, and on the way took up this blogger template. Whilst I hacked it up a bit, it has never really got away from that. So this my attempt to stamp my design ideas and styles onto the site.

Secondly it is coming up to the year anniversary to me launching the blog, so now is a good a time as any for a redesign.

Finally I wanted to make the site a bit more accessible, making the posts easier to read, and removing some dead wood, like the style sheet switcher and links.

So what are the new features of the site? Well...

  • The navigation has moved and is now in the header. Whilst this will take a bit of retraining for you guys, I'm sure you will soon pick it up, and it means the main links are easily found on every page.
  • The header has a selection of 8 background images that it selects at random, and all the images are taken from photos I've taken and you can access in the photos section of the site. Also the header text has a funky CSS only drop shadow.
  • There are now some links to translate the site into Spanish and French. Since I work for a translation company it was about time I added these in!
  • The side navigation has been updated to include "code projects", and also, on Jakob's recommendation, the "most popular posts" on my site, based on site traffic.
  • The site feed is now represented by a new icon that some people are trying to make the standard for rss and atom feeds.
  • The family tree pages have had a full makeover (with some help from Tony) to be styled like the new site, and remove the need for frames.
  • The site now renders better in FireFox, in particular there is no longer any annoying horizontal scroll.
  • The photos section now includes links to view the photos / sets in Flickr to let you add them to your favourites and make comments a bit easier.

Planned changes are to update the archive to make it more intuitive, link it in better with the tags, and also show a mini tag cloud for each month when you click on it.

So there you have it, my new site design, the reasons and features of it. Let me know what you think, and if your comments are valid, you never know I might take them on board!

Monday, January 16, 2006

New Honda Civic tv ad

Posted by Chris @ 11:02 PM

I'm not sure who Honda have as their ad agency, but whoever they are, they produce some damn fine adverts. Check out their latest Civic advert online, and also check out the use of a video podcast to access it! You can also get access to the rehearsal footage (which was unavailable due to high demand when I tried just now).

This advert actually made me break off a conversation to watch it, I hate that. Well done Honda.

BBC Standards and Guidelines

Posted by Chris @ 8:20 PM

Anthony passed me this link via email.

It is the BBC's own standards and guidelines and gives some quite interesting insights into life working on the BBC website. Of particular interest is the supported browsers page, which, looking at the change history, shows they started to support FireFox in December 2004, and still have to test their pages in Netscape 4.7!!

Other interesting pages point to their policy on cookie use and database design and development, revealing they use Oracle and MySQL.

Most interesting of all for me is the HTML Integrity page which lists loads of requirements a single page must stick to. But mentioned quite a bit is Barley. From what I have found out through a contact who worked at the BBC, this is their own template system. Apparently its archaic, inflexible and not many people like working with it! Martin Belam's blog gives a few more clues as to the nature of Barley. It seems to be a home grown system, can anyone else share any light on it?

Also of interest are things like "All pages MUST include a link to a text-only or low-graphic version of the page in the banner/top left-hand area of the page and a "skip to main content" invisible-gif shortcut to aid screenreader users (see information in the forthcoming Screenreader Requirements Standards) as the first link in the toolbar." It must put some real pressure on the web masters to come up with designs that meet all these requirements!

Anyway I'll leave you all to go off and explore it, it is an interesting read, I assure you!

Gap in the market

Posted by Chris @ 1:27 PM

I spent lunch today, amongst other things, in WHSmith. I was there looking for a magazine that doesn't exist. Now this at first might seem an odd thing to do, so I shall elaborate. Dawn is subscribed to Glamour magazine, and it is, like most womens mags, about fashion, lifestyle, horoscopes, celebs, agaony aunts, reals life stories, a smattering of men's secrets "revealed" and a famous celeb interview for the front cover. What I was looking for was the male version of this.

Now I'm sure this will cue a barrage of "but r u gay tho?" comments, however I'm serious, what is the equivalent male magazine. I've long been a reader, in my teenage and very early 20s, of FHM. It is a good read, but now I'm married and moving on in my life I'm a bit sick of every mens mag being full of half naked women to sell it to me. What I want is a magazine that is FHM, without the half naked women and emphasis on sex. Some interviews with women would be fine as long as the photography is tasteful. Sections on real life, interviews with interesting men, dvd reviews, film reviews (like Empire), gadget reviews (like T3), music reviews (like Q), food and drink, lifestyle, fashion. The sort of stuff relevant to men, but without having to read 5 different magazines (that go into too much detail) to get all the information I want to know. I did see one mag like this, called Dazed and Confused, but flicking through it I thought the layout was so pretentious and up itself, it wasn't right.

So there's the problem / gap in the market / challenge. Produce a magazine for young men who are fed up with "sex sells mags" that is filled with interesting stuff, and isn't stuck up its own arse. And if you know of such a magazine, let me know!!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Layer Cake and stuff

Posted by Chris @ 5:50 PM

It has been over a week since my last post, mainly because I've been busy working on this site in other ways, which will become apparent in the coming week! However I felt I had to break my silence to big up a film I've watched.

Layer Cake is an amazing film. To look at it is stylish, slick, the photography sublime. The writing is clever, the plot much better than expected, and the acting, from such names as Daniel Craig and Michael Gambon, is spot on. To top it all, Sienna Miller (who I've not yet seen in a film) plays a small but super sultry role as Tammy, and helps to break up this male dominated film.

I'd not watched it before as I thought of it as another Lock Stock / Snatch Guy Ritchie film, but I was wrong. It was much better than either of these films, and not funny, which is a good change for the British gangster film. If you haven't watched it, watch it.

In other news if you need to sand down woodwork in your house, get a Mouse, they're great!!

Finally it wouldn't be a post on a Sunday without mentioning snowboarding. It hurts when you fall, but is bloody great when you nail a turn. That is all.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Snowboarding 2006

Posted by Chris @ 8:25 PM

Well, its that time of year again, we've been to Sheffield Ski Village for snowboarding lessons. Only this year we have all the kit!

We decided to repeat a level 4 lesson before going straight onto level 5, and it was a wise decision. We were both a bit rusty, more so me than Dawn! Onto level 5 and the lift was OK, didn't fall off it, and neither did Dawn, so that was a success. The not so successful bit was trying to get down the main slope!

Anyway that is this week over and done with, level 5 again next week then!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Google now a celebrity following news of Google Pack?

Posted by Chris @ 7:09 PM

Many people are talking about Google Pack now, and I won't go into it all again, Tony has done a great wrap up of the latest on his blog.

My thoughts are more where this positions Google. It is behaving like a celebrity now, endorsing certain products, and no doubt getting some kind of reward from it, be that monetary, converting people to different products, annoying Microsoft, trying to clean up the web, etc.

This is a bit of a departure from the usual Google model of releasing its own (usually better) version of other products in the "Me Too" way, and instead just using products already out there and making them easier to get at. Obviously with Google's influence in the web world the download rate of these products is going to shoot up (although not so much Norton antivirus I feel), knocking out many of the competition these products have. Is that unfair, and is Google abusing its position? Maybe, maybe not, but worth a thought. What will the next endorsement be...?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Celebrity Big Brother and George Galloway

Posted by Chris @ 10:10 PM

Oh dear, I don't think Labour and Blair are going to like Celebrity Big Brother this year. This should be interesting. The rest of the housemates, I can take them or leave them.

Kitchen news

Posted by Chris @ 8:54 PM

Kitchen news, I've finished doing the tiling, with a little bit of help from Dad (thanks dad). Plus I've sorted out the electrical sockets and fitted the under cabinet lights.

I must say it is all looking very good, if I do say so myself! There are some new pictures, so if you've been following the kitchen gallery start here, otherwise you can go from the beginning.

TV Highlights

Posted by Chris @ 1:10 PM

At last, a television programme that the masses can watch to discuss what I've been saying for a long time, get rid of faith and religion and the world would be a better place. Don't believe I've been saying that? Check out my footer, or the same question I asked on Yahoo Answers. Anyway the programme is called The Root of All Evil? and the best sound bite I've heard from a trailer is (roughly) this:

There are good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. Religion is what makes good people do evil things

Fantastic, I couldn't have said it better.

Other TV highlights for the new season are Celebrity Big Brother (starts tonight), ER, Invasion, and Desperate Housewives. If you have any other TV highlights you think I should be watching in the coming weeks, let me know!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Dawn's snowboard

Posted by Chris @ 5:26 PM

Typical, the minute I get something Dawn has to have it too. So she's got a snowboard for Christmas, and not only that it is new! The cheek of it.

Anyway I'm sure you can tell I'm joking, I'm not really bitter about it. Dawn's new snowboard is great, girlie and has given her loads of new confidence on the slopes. Check it out...

DSC01068 DSC01070

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Gold digger alternative

Posted by Chris @ 11:16 PM

Just looking at random videos on Google Video and came across this. If you're a Kanye West fan, like what I is, then you should appreciate this parody!

Oh, and another, this time a parody of the Eric Prydz song Call on me.

Happy New Year 2006!

Posted by Chris @ 6:36 PM

Happy new year to all my readers, and thanks for continuing to read my blog in 2006. I understand some of you may have made new years resolutions to avoid my rambling, if so, its probably a wise decision. For those of you who haven't, tuff luck, you've missed your chance now!

Anyway Dawn and I spent new years at Tony and Suzy's this year, and much fun we had eating food, drinking, playing Cranium and most importantly, Singstar on the PS2. For those not familiar with Singstar it is a karaoke game, where you don't need to be able to sing in tune, just move up and down the notes in time. Anyway, the reason it was an important part of last night? Because quite simply I am the best singer on Singstar ever. Even when I wasn't trying I still won! So to pat myself on the back I have created the below award. "On behalf of me I accept this award!" Magic!

Winner Singstar Party Award Chris Riley