Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Podcasts

Posted by Chris @ 8:00 PM

As part of my New Year resolutions I decided to listen to more Podcasts. At the time I asked what were the essential podcasts to be subscribing to, and I got a few suggestions. Well, a month or so on I've now got my own subscription list I'm happy with, so I thought I'd share.

  • Russell Brand - Very entertaining if you like Russell Brand, highly recommended
  • Jonathon Ross - Entertaining, some good banter and the odd good guest.
  • Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's film reviews - The best podcast by far. I don't watch a lot of films, but Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo together make such amazing radio you don't need to.
  • Radio 4 News Quiz - Can be amusing, but it can be pretty obvious at times that they don't aim it at twenty-somethings, and you have to be able to stand Sandy Toksvig.
  • MoneyBox and MoneyBox Live - I'm a dad now, and I have a mortgage, pension, job, credit card, car, etc so keeping up to speed on money matters can actually be very interesting when consumed via MoneyBox. And MoneyBox Live you get as part of this podcast where listeners phone in can be both helpful and amusing. “I've got £20,000 of debt, should I take out a loan to help pay it off!” - they helpfully replied that might not be wise ;o)
  • Radio 1 Mini Mix - a short 5 minute mix broadcast on the radio on Friday nights available as a podcast, isn't always amazing, but sometimes you can unearth a real gem that is for keeps.
  • Radio 1 Dance Weekly - if you like a bit of dance music then this short podcast will help you keep down wi da kidz on the latest in dance, although it has a severe lack of music!
  • Best of Chris Moyles - I've put this last purely so Chris Hill didn't stop reading my blog post halfway through, but if you do like to listen to Chris Moyles in the morning then this is a good way to hear the odd bits you might have missed during the week. Can't say fairer than that!

If you're wondering I did also try out Russell Howard's podcast for a couple of weeks, but just couldn't get into it, so that got unsubscribed. And Ricky Gervais, from what I can tell you have to get that iTunes installed for his podcast, so bollocks to that.

So there you have it, a very BBC affair, but to be honest I haven't really found any other podcasts on the Internet that take my fancy. As usual comments welcome, and if you have any other podcast suggestions let me know.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ditch the tripod with this genius idea!

Posted by Chris @ 12:44 PM

This is genius, instead of taking a tripod with you everywhere to take good pictures/video take this natty easy to make string and bolt idea instead! The simple ideas are always the best. Get the full lowdown in the video.



[via iain tait]

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

del.icio.us and link sharing

Posted by Chris @ 1:30 PM

I've started using del.icio.us, possibly badly timed given the whole Microsoft wanting to buy Yahoo thing, but I decided it was time I stopped being Web 1.0 when it came to my bookmarks. You see for a while now I've been finding links of interest, and either bookmarking them at work, or at home, or emailing the link to myself, or recently using Google Notebook (but I don't really like it) and then having visited the site have deleted the bookmark / email to stop cluttering up my browser / inbox. Well enough is enough, I want to keep track of these links, and share them, and have API access to them!

So, I've chosen del.icio.us to do this for me. I know there are a wealth of sites that do this, but I know of this one, I know it is used by my peers, and it has a great Firefox extension for easily bookmarking links. So if you want to see what I'm currently reading up on, checking out my recently bookmarked links is a good place to start. I've added the del.icio.us icon to my list of profiles in the top right of my blog, and in the next couple of days hope to use their JSON feed to pull in the top 5 bookmarks straight into my side nav so you can all share in the link based fun.

Link sharing
You may have also noticed those icons that have appeared under the number of comments for each blog post. (If not, try Ctrl+F5). Since I'm bookmarking sites I figured I'd make it easier for visitors to my site to bookmark my blog posts. I could have gone down the route of having loads of links to different sharing sites, but as that looks awful and is a bit overkill I've decided to limit it to just three carefully chosen ones instead.

So first off is del.icio.us, a no brainer really, I'm using them, I know a lot of other people use them, so it makes sense to have them. Secondly Facebook, because, well, it is Facebook! And thirdly StumbleUpon. I've chosen these guys for two main reasons, one the BBC use them on their news stories, and two because I seem to get quite a few referrals from them, more so than any other link sharing site, so it seems to make sense I should encourage their users.

And that's it, no more news here, go off and read someone else's blog....

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Logitech Harmony 555 universal remote control review

Posted by Chris @ 1:28 PM

Logitech Harmony 555 remote controlI've bought a Locigtech Harmony 555 universal remote control - replacing the 4 remotes I have in my setup (one for my TV, PVR, DVD player and AV receiver).

I'd been in the market for a universal remote for a while, but hadn't really bothered to research them. So, when Chris mentioned he had bought one, and Christian duly commented he had a Harmony remote as well that was all the peer reviews I needed! After a quick read of the Logitech website and some reviews on Amazon I took the plunge.

A quick point Chris raised first of all. This remote is good because it has buttons, and so unlike those big customisable LCD jobs it is easier and more tactile to use.

So how is it in use then? Well, if you've read some reviews on this already you'll know that setting it up can be tricky, and I'm afraid I didn't fair any better. It took me about 2 and a half hours before I had it working properly, but there are some specific reasons for that - namely my TV.

So, to back up a second my TV is a Samsung LE26R88BD (I reviewed it here) and my PVR is a Humax 9200T (I reviewed that here). The remote worked flawlessly with my DVD player and AV receiver, but on initial setup wanted to learn a few commands for the Humax that it didn't have in its database. These were the power toggle, direction up, direction left (I think) and select.

Tip: When you are teaching the Harmony a command you have to point the source remote at the bottom of the Harmony for it to pick up the signal, something I found out after a couple of frustrating minutes, a case of RTFM!

Those learned it carried on with the setup, and given our TV model number recognised the fact that you have to cycle through the source inputs on a Samsung, rather than just choosing one directly. To this end it asked for the inputs and in what order they were in. I turns out I got this wrong on initial setup, and so consequently when trying to setup activities (a way of having the remote turn on everything required for a particular activity, like watching TV or a DVD) it kept cycling through to the wrong input source. To resolve that I had to tinker with the settings after setup in the devices tab, but once it had the right input list it was happy.

The second issue I had with my TV was that as you cycle through the inputs, if it lingers too long on “PC” it goes into standby, and so then can't switch it to “Ext1.”, and again gets confused. To solve this, again go to the devices tab, and this time alter the input-delay setting, and make it smaller. Finally our TV takes a good 5 seconds to “warm up”, but in the meantime the remote might be sending switch input commands, and so to combat that set the startup delay (I think it is called that) to say 6000ms so that the remote knows to wait a while before sending the switch input commands.

With those tweaks in place, and after a bit of testing the remote is working well, and I'm really happy with it. It works well with the Humax. The main feature of course it that it is one button to switch on and off everything you are using for a particular activity. The other great feature is that the volume controls the right device depending on the activity, so sometimes it controls the TV, other times is controls the AV receiver. I've also setup the custom buttons with various PVR functions (such as playlist, text, picture in picture) and don't be put off by the fact there are only 4 buttons in the picture, as you can have multiple pages of buttons on the LCD bit. The only niggle, because of the delay the TV needs you have to hold the remote at the equipment for a few seconds when switching stuff on and off. However, should it miss anything the great help feature means you can solve the issue very quickly.

Most importantly it is wife friendly, once setup Dawn hasn't had many issues, and is glad to see the back of the sea of remotes we used to have! If you are in the market for a universal remote I highly recommend this one. The only thing I've not managed to achieve with it yet is altering the volume on the TV depending on the activity I choose - I might have to contact the supposedly excellent Logitech Harmony support for that one. I'll let you know if I get a solution.

Update: If I'm an average user of the remote then battery life is about 4 months.