Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Installing Ubuntu

Posted by Chris @ 8:42 PM

The past week or so has seen me take an interest in Linux, decide which version (distribution) of this free, open source, operating system I wanted to install (Ubuntu 6.06), which technologies (My-SQL, Apache, Perl, Python, Ruby, etc) I wanted to run, and actually go about it by using Dawn's machine (with her permission of course!)

A week or so later, I finally have it installed and the wireless working. Linux is normally as the preserve of geeks, and after the last 5 days I can see why. It takes a lot of cocking about with downloads, burning CDs, running commands, reading countless forums, wikis, documentation etc. I tell you, without a working Windows machine with internet access I would have been stumped. Anyway, suffice to say I've got it installed (that was actually the easy bit once I had an iso that wasn't corrupt), and have finally got the wireless network card working (which wasn't so easy, but this forum thread proved very useful).

So now its all working, what do I think? Well, I have to say I'm very impressed. Its a pretty slick, easy to use operating system, it comes with a load of useful software ready to install or installed, and best of all its all free! It makes the ideal machine for Dawn to browse the web on and do some word processing, etc. And it does some things Windows can't - like the network, Ubuntu can quite happily see my Windows machine, shared drives, and access the files, but Windows XP hasn't got a clue there is another server on the network, crappo!

The plan is, as well as Dawn using it, to get it all set up as a development web/database server so I can get my head around these programming languages I haven't used (despite Anthony saying they're a dying breed because of .net, not likely I say, .net ain't free to set up, get can't get a decent development environment for it for free, and its not easy to learn, but that's by the by!) I'll let you know how I get on with getting the server side set up at a later date.

So in summary, OKish to install and configure, but a pain if you're using a wireless card, but for a free operating system, with a load of free decent software, you can't complain. I'm quite fond of Ubuntu already!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

Posted by Chris @ 2:41 PM

We've just been to watch Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny. You don't have to like rock music to enjoy it, but you do need a sense of humour as it is funny. Watch this film.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Blogger Beta Feeds

Posted by Chris @ 1:29 PM

Blogger Beta has been about for a bit now, and one of the new features it talks about is not only post feeds, but comment feeds and label feeds. Now, if you've used the FTP publishing features of Blogger, these don't seem to get published to your site. So how do you access them?

As usual Tony helped to point me in the right direction. However, first some housekeeping. I've not checked you have to do this, but I think its probably best you tell Blogger to publish these feeds as step number 1. In Blogger, under Settings > Site Feed > set all of the feeds to “Full”. Secondly you'll need to know your blog ID. You can find this in a couple of places, the easiest place is on your own blog. On the “Post a Comment” link, look at where the link is going. In there it will say something like blogid=10446442, that number is your blog ID.

Right then, basically every feed for your site is hosted on the domain for anyone to access (the post feed is still published to your FTP site as well). So for example listed below is the post feed and comment feed for this blog, and the label feed for Tony's blog (because I haven't started using labels yet). They take the basic form[blog ID]/[feed type]/default

All of these are currently in the default Atom format, but you can specify to get this out as rss by sticking alt=rss on the end of the url, like so:

Now the really exciting stuff with all of this happened the other day, Blogger announced you can get hold of these feeds as JSON, again by simply sticking alt=json-in-script on the end of the feed url, like so:

So now we know how to get hold of all of the available feeds for our blog, in the format of our choice, what can we do with them? Well, pretty much what you like, but something I've been wanting to do on my site is to display recent comments, so using the JSON formatted comment feed I've added a section on the right nav called “Recent Comments”, and the code that does this is below.

<h2>Recent Comments</h2>
<ul id="recentComments"></ul>
<script type="text/javascript">
function loadRecentComments(obj) {
for (i=0; i<obj.feed.entry.length&&i<5;i++)
var sStr = obj.feed.entry[i].author[0].name.$t + " said \"" + obj.feed.entry[i].title.$t + "\""
document.getElementById("recentComments").innerHTML += "<li><a href=\"" +
obj.feed.entry[i].link[0].href + "\">" + sStr.substr(0,40) + "</a></li>";
<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

Hopefully that's helped you out, but please be aware that I don't think Blogger have publicly announced these feeds, so they may be subject to change. That said, enjoy!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Songbird update

Posted by Chris @ 9:45 PM

A few posts back I mentioned Songbird, a currently being developed advanced media player. Well, I took the plunge and installed it to see what it was like.

On first impressions you expect things to be good, the website is well designed, informal, downloading is easy, as is the installation. On the first run it asks if you want to scan your machine for MP3s (a bit like Picasa does for photos, but it doesn't give you as much control on which sub folders to scan), and it opens up, MP3s listed, ready for action. However that's where things go downhill. At the moment I'm not terribly impressed with Songbird. All of the MP3s it has found are now listed in one long list. Any careful folder structure I had is not available in Songbird, and to top it all it is using the ID3 values instead of the file names, so that isn't very reliable. So essentially what Songbird has so far done is to make finding the music I want to play harder. Hmmm.

I wanted Songbird to redeem itself, so I set off in search of a website with some music on it that their “web playlist” feature would pick up on. Now this bit I'm happy to report works really well. I don't care how it works, but it detects music to play on a website, allows you to listen to it, skip through it, and ultimately download it, with a very impressive latency (I rarely waited for more than a second after skipping forward in a track for it to start playing).

However playing music is where things go downhill again. I've learnt from Tony that this interface is modelled on iTunes, and I have to say its rubbish. Whilst the main info panel for the tune is in the top middle, the play, fwd and rwd buttons are in the top left, and I swear, it took me nearly 10 seconds to find them. To top it off the buttons surrounding the main panel mean nothing. The icons need some work, well, the whole usability of playback control needs work.

In summary? Well, Songbird is a promising application for its web playlist feature, but for a music management and playback utility its not great. The best thing they could do, split out the web playlist and playback feature into an extension for FireFox and IE, and keep the main library and playback as a separate media player. That way I don't have to use Songbird for browsing music websites, I can use the browser I'm used to, but I can have the excellent functionality the web playlist offers. Still one to watch, but maybe not as intently as I maybe would have....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Google Apps for Your Domain

Posted by Chris @ 9:27 PM

It has been a while coming, but last week I finally had my application for Google Apps for Your Domain accepted, hurrah! What did this mean? Any email sent to my blah at email addresses was now natively handled by Google, and their fabulous GMail interface, instead of being forward on by various entries in various email accounts. Now it is all managed in one place, and is done so for free!

So, a week in what do I make of it all? Well, I can't argue with the speed and ease of use of GMail, and administering users and email lists is a doddle. Another plus point is I can add other domains that alias my main one to the same account, so any mail sent to automatically falls into my inbox. You also get access to Google Talk/Chat, Calendar, Page Creator, of which Talk and Calendar are particularly useful. Finally, you can add DNS entries to your domain to be CNames to and then they will set up handy redirects to your mail, calendar and start page - a simple and functional feature.

Downsides, I'd love Google Reader to be part of Apps for Your Domain, and you can't migrate an existing GMail account to your Apps for Your Domain account (only two things, not bad now is it!)

Anyway, that's my experiance with it so far, anyone else using it day to day and got any comments?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Modern Toss book

Posted by Chris @ 7:30 PM

A while back there was a fantastic little comedy animation show on Channel 4 called Modern Toss that I loved and blogged about. Well, if you didn't watch it, or didn't get it on TV, then I urge you to try out the book.

Its full of bad swear words, but fantastic comic sketches, I'm loving it and I'm sure you will too - buy it!!

Buy the Modern Toss book

Five's new channels

Posted by Chris @ 6:21 PM

Since nobody watches “five” in the UK, I was surprised to find out (whilst watching Fifth Gear) that they have launched two new digital TV channels - five US and five Life. No idea what they are like as I haven't watched them, but just thought I best mention them in case you haven't rescanned your Freeview box for a while, since they are doing a piss poor job of telling people about them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

London baby!

Posted by Chris @ 10:30 PM

This weekend we took a trip to London town, mainly to see my uncle and his family. As always though we wandered into central London to have a nosy about and see what was what.

What was what turned out to be a few good photographs if I do say so myself. With this particular set I've put fairly descriptive descriptions along with each photo because I wanted to explain them a little. I think to get the best out of them view them in flickr just this once, rather than my simplified photo gallery. And to whet your appetite here's one of my favourite photos. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Posted by Chris @ 7:14 PM

I've just watched this screencast about a piece of software called Songbird that is currently only on version 0.2 (a developer preview apparently), but looks very interesting.

I encourage you to watch the screencast (it is only 4:40 long), if for nothing else so we can have an informed discussion about if this is actually good and/or useful or not. (The American voicing it is also funny towards the end, which always helps!)

From what I can tell its pretty cool, a media player kinda like iTunes, combined with a Picasa for music and video, and it has some new funky shit going on too.

I think for now I'm not going to install it, but keep an eye on it. However if you've watched the screen cast or know any more about it please let me know what you make of it all.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Joy is...

Posted by Chris @ 3:22 PM

...fresh batteries in your remote controls.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

BBC Touch

Posted by Chris @ 10:38 PM

I've released a little new site called BBC Touch. It compares the BBC news front page with the list of popular new stories and attempts to give a value as to how close the two match, in the hope that this value can be used to say how “in touch” the news editors are with the public over time. Anyway, this is much easier to explain if you go have a look, and read the about page. Done that? Good, you may continue...

So what I really want to talk about is the responses I've had from the BBC Backstage community. Firstly they found it and contacted me about it before I'd even publically mentioned it, which was nice! Of particular mention is Jem Stone (who I like to call a big wig at the BBC) who said this about it:

“It's the best use of the most popular feeds (and some good visual representation) offered by News we've seen so far. Thanks Chris.”

I'm quite proud of that! But then there have also been a few negative comments, questioning the value of the data. They have some valid points, but at the end of the day if the popular data is so useless, why include it on the BBC News site at all? If you'd like to read the discussion in part or full, you can find the particular thread in the mail archive here. That is all really, just wanted to let people know it was there, and the discussion surrounding it. Have fun!


Posted by Chris @ 9:53 PM

Ghostwatch. If the very word strikes the fear of God into you then fear not, you are not alone. For Dawn and I also watched this programme 14 years ago and let it scare the bejesus out of us. Obviously back then we were kids, and the events in Ghostwatch seemed very real.

For those reading this going “what the chuff is Ghostwatch?” it was a programme shown on BBC1 on Halloween in 1992 as a “live“ show, when in fact it was all fake. But anyway I digress. You see Dawn and I bought this on DVD a few weeks back, and last night we had a little Halloween party to watch Ghostwatch 14 years to the day it was last seen.

I'm pleased to report that, whilst being a little dated, it still had the power to make me look away from the screen, and be a little bit scared. (It had Suzy in the other room!) To that end I'm happy, because I was really worried it would be rubbish, and Dawn and I would be sat going why were we scared? But we weren't! Watching it back was great, and I think I'm safe in saying everyone enjoyed seeing it (again or for the first time).

More fun was also had because with the advent of DVD it means you can freeze frame it now and get a good look at “Pipes”! I'm also looking forward to watching it with the commentary now.

For more information on Ghostwatch, check out the BBC's Ghostwatch site, Wikipedia, and the BFI Screenonline website. Finally, if you too want to relive the horror (or see if for the first time) you can buy it!

Spaceship Street - Part One

Posted by Chris @ 8:16 PM

My cousin Joe (who is now 14, man do I feel old) has always been keen on making home movies with his Dad's camcorder, and now he's honed his editing and direction skills in his latest piece of work. The good news is he's also got to grips with YouTube, so it means the world gets to see his efforts.

So, without further ado, put the kids to bed, make a brew, grab some popcorn and sit down for 4 minutes of quality Sci-Fi - Spaceship Street - Part One.