Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thematic Photographic 46 - Round

This one's another inspired by Carmi Levy's Thematic Photographic, with a little help from peeking at Sweetly's pics over at Gaze Sweetly :-)

Ok ! It's wires !

But in the right hands, it's also a Secret Weapon. Or rather, the one on the left is. The one on the right is being retired in favour of something more appropriate (the new one has more plugs)

I spent a little more money yesterday on :

Surge protector for my internet bits, laptop & speakers.
New router
Big Long Wire

The new router (a Linksys Wifi-G model) is the third Linksys item I've acquired and I've been pretty impressed with what I've seen from Linksys so far. The new gadget has slotted in with no trouble whatsoever. Even my desktop with its dodgy wifi card can see it 100% reliably ! Incredible !

And the Big Long Wire means I can play Warcraft with no lag/latency coming in due to that dodgy wifi card. Although the "roundness" of that cable means I'm having to cover it with the plank to reduce it's chance of tripwiring me into a plaster cast.

PS The other end of that wire is hidden under the sofa ... When gaming, I'll have the cable running across the floor, underneath the plank. When doing other things, it'll be coiled up and hidden beside the sofa.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jargon busting

Spotted a news story on the BBC earlier about gadget jargon confusing people ... So I thought I'd help out with a little bit of decoding.

(people who know me well just groaned and now have their heads in their hands)

First up - Dongle. Is a widget that people hang around their necks and when they want something to work right, they'll plug it in. Really !!! Used to be for things like the AutoCAD drawing package, where they'd keep their £1000+ software under control by using these dongles plugged in the back to say it was a legal copy. Coming in more now with cryptographic protected laptops.

Cookies - otherwise known as Geek Ambrosia. Give a geek or a nerd a techie problem to tackle and as long as the cookie supply holds out, they'll keep going until they finish. (And then they'll play games until the cookies run out). Also helps to feed them Fizzy Caffeine drinks (see Abby in NCIS).

Word of warning : do not intentionally expose a geek or a nerd to coffee. They will attempt to take over the world.

WAP - Without A Purpose. Has other meanings like Without Application Potential or Wireless Application Protocol but the Without A Purpose fits best. It's something for phones that lets you run software on them, usually software that doesn't actually achieve much.

Phone jack - you know those shady guys who walked around, see a mark, open their coats and saw "Say, wanna genuine Rolex ?" The Rolex people have gone over to email peddling, leaving the Shady Coat Guy niche to mobile phone peddlers. So the Phone Jack will be the modern version of the Rolex Jack, except with a heap of mobiles inside instead of watches.
(or it's how you plug your phone into the wall)

Navi Key - Gotta admit, clueless here. Although if they ever come up with a satnav that attaches to a keyring, this is probably what they'll call it ...

Time shifting - This is what happens when you play the online games too much. Night becomes day, day becomes night and before you know it you're a hermit with pallid skin from never seeing the sun.
(or it's recording something that's on at an awkward time so you can watch it when convenient)
(or a means of encoding a message into a signal)

Digital TV - This is a Wiggly Amps thing. The old way of telly was Analogue, where the Wiggly Amps are all slooow, relaxed, move about in curves. Digital Wiggly Amps don't like curves. (Except when they're on hot actresses)

The problem with Analogue is that if there's interference or the signal's weak, the shapes of the curves are harder to figure out. With Digital, you know the curves should be square, which helps in figuring out what the signal should be. So instead of looking fuzzy, those curves are sharp. Unless they're hidden behind thin, gauzy, see through outfits.

Ethernet - If the Internet is International, doesn't this make Ethernet Ethernational ? Yeah ! This is how all the ghosts talk to each other, with the term borrowed by computer people (who are very strange) to give them something catchy to cover the semi-mystical realm of getting computers to communicate. It's a network thing - the Internet is the World outside your door, delivered by all sorts of software and hardware, Ethernet is just the wires level.

But the Ghosts and Mysticism link still works for me, cos networking can be somewhat of a Black Art. I think before I buy my next router, I'll have to investigate some luck rituals. (Or I can just buy Linksys instead of Belkin)

PC Suite - Another modern innovation. Before, we had chairs that extend their fronts up to support your legs. Now it's using the otherwise wasted space underneath the sofa. There's so many wireless bits around nowadays that we'll be able to shove a PC underneath the sofa and hook it up to the telly. Just plug it in at the back and away you go. An especially good PC Suite will have speakers hidden in the cushions and a subwoofer underneath so you really feel those vibrations.

Oh, it'll also have the heat made by the processor ducted upwards so it warms your bum.

Lastly, Desktop - people used to have all their mess on the tables they worked on right ? Modern age has had its thing to say about that ... People (aka Thought Police) say we should tidy our work tables up when we go home, in case someone desksharing needs to use it tomorrow. So all the mess that used to go on our tables to make it look lived in and comfortable has to go somewhere else. Hence the use of the icons on the computer screen to get that lived in messy look back.

(also see note about keeping Geeks & Nerds happy)

That's all the terms in that BBC report dealt with, so it's time for me to head back to looking at PC World's site to see if they have any PC Suites. (While I attempt to get over Cookie Withdrawal)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A little more tinkering ...

Been up at my mum's and dad's this weekend for a bit of a delayed Easter, plus a Happy Birthday for my mum & nan.

Bit more tinkering with various things - I'm pretty confident I know why my network and internet performance hasn't been particularly great lately. And that's when my internet's been happy. Looks like the Belkin wifi card I bought for my desktop isn't up to the job so I'll be buying some more bits :

1 - a new router to replace my old one
2 - A Big Long Wire
3 - another multigang plug
(I have various bits plugging into an extension lead, which isn't particularly ideal)

There's more about the various testing on my Techie blog, which can be found via a link in the Blogroll.

My nan now has a copy of The Sound Of Music, which I'm sure will end up annoying mum & dad at some point. At least I've spared them the Sing A Long copy :-)

Swanholme has a new waitress. Very lush :-) Efficient with lots of politeness and a ready laugh. Yep, good meal at the pub today :-)

Still getting good signs from the latest car. Usually on the road trip, I'll take one or two breaks to stretch my legs. But I've been quite happily doing the 3 hour trip in one block, with no stops. My back tends to tell me that's a little silly but not enough to force a stop. Plus the traffic's been good - one reason for stopping is to extract myself from groups of morons who are otherwise going at roughly the same speed.

I think my sister and I may be getting more converts to some new music. Dinner time on Saturday was enhanced by a bit of music playing :

My Laptop + iTunes library + Airport + Denon hifi = Great sounds

I think I may be buying the Airfoil utility soon too, which will allow not just iTunes sounds but things like Youtube videos to be piped across to decent speakers. I get the feeling my sister would wear out my Bat For Lashes Fur & Gold cd if she got her hands on it, although she's more interested in this video of What's A Girl To Do.

More Bat For Lashes on Later ... With Jools Holland - gotta admit I've only watched 1 track from that so far, looking forward to watching the rest.

(Addon - link for Carmi - car adaptor for Wii. Crazy !)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Back to work ...

... which means a distraction is needed. Cos while I'll natter about the people, I'm not too fond on talking about work.

I have a new Science Project :-)

And those words usually have people who know me diving for cover or grabbing a gas mask. Previous Sleepy Science Projects have involved things being left in fridges long enough that they grow tentacles and fur. This one is a little different and it'll be highly techie, so it'll appear on the techie zone blog as it evolves.

Been having the annoyance of a dodgy internet ... I went a long period where I just wasn't interested in playing online games but now the interest is rising again, it gets highly frustrating when your enjoyment of the online game gets blocked by you getting knocked offline every few minutes ... One of the things I've tried is to try out different ways of connecting up my PCs to see if that makes an improvement. Which brings me to the Science Project :-)

I back up my iTunes library reasonably often - and now it's gotten rather big (11GB, almost 3000 songs !) it takes a while to copy it from laptop to desktop. Especially when the wifi card on the desktop apparently isn't too good :

Copy using wifi - I gave up after over 2 hours
Copy using a wire link - About an hour :-)

So that's my Science Project - checking out how fast I can wing the Bits around. Lot more boring than growing Alien Life Forms in the fridge. Dinner's about to come out of the oven and it's gaming tonight, so this one will take a little while to implement. Curious about the results ...

Oh - highlights of the new additions to the library are :

Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) - well worth a listen this girl
Goldfrapp - I'd recommend Supernature if you're into something loud or Seventh Dream for more relaxed and ethereal
KT Tunstall - curious :-)

Addon - Having Goldfrapp's Supernature on in the car makes you drive 10mph faster. Fact.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Waking neighbours - and getting sidetracked into piracy ...

Nah - don't think I've done any of that, although I have listened to half my iTunes library over the past 3 weeks :-) And at 2794 songs, not counting duplicates or songs I really dislike, that's a decent sized library now.

Good job I got another laptop at the start of the year, the old one woulda been creaking :-)

I've got a couple more days of off-work time to go, I'm wondering if I can get the recently played in iTunes up to 1500 different songs over the last fortnight. Going to iTunes has revolutionised the way I listen to music, as its Party Shuffle (now iTunes DJ) lets me pick and choose what's coming up. So instead of lobbing cds into the player, I'll listen to a variation. It's very good quality too, as the Airport Express widget lets me pipe the music through to my cinemasound speakers. They're not up to separates hi-fi standards but they're still pretty good. Good enough that I've not felt the need to cart around the separates system I still have stored at my parents' place.

I still listen to the albums too, my iTunes DJ typically has an album queued up along with the semi-random picks.

The iTunes habit brings me to something in the news today, where the people behind a major file-sharing network have been found guilty of copyright breach on a massive scale. The way UK law stands at present, I'm technically in breach of the copyright law by importing my cds into iTunes. Even though after import, the cd then gets stored on the shelf, safe in its box. Let's examine that :

Sleepy buys cd in the shop
Cd gets imported into iTunes
Cd gets stored on the shelf, while I listen to the copy that's inside iTunes

The dodgy (according to UK law) part is the "copy" bit, even though I've bought the music, law says I can't import it into a software program that then allows me to drop it onto an iPod. I can't even leave it on the safety of the shelf, where it won't get damaged or scratched by whizzing around inside a cd player at several hundred rpm.

Crazy law, out of date now we're in the digital age.

Another curiosity is Youtube. I've used the video site to check out new bands and new singers, to see if it'll be worth me buying a cd or not. For one or two groups, I wouldn't have bought the cd's if I hadn't checked them out on Youtube first. So the people uploading a copy (there's that word again) to Youtube have led to me (and quite possibly many others) buying what they've watched. I suppose the best way to think of it is to see Youtube as an equivalent of Top Of The Pops or MTV, where you get to view or listen to the music but you don't walk away with your own copy of it.

My sister and I do our own file sharing too - we'll bounce tracks off each other via MSN. That's technically breach of copyright too, however I can name a whole heap of albums that neither of us would have bought if we hadn't done that.

I'm starting to sound a bit like a frustrated teenager at the moment, railing against a law that while it was a good idea at the time, hasn't kept up with events. My real interest is in the music, I get bored quick so one habit I've developed is to hunt around for new music. When I find something promising, I'll get the wallet out and lay out the cash. Actually buying your music instead of pirating it means your favourite artists get something back from the hard work they've put in and hopefully, they'll make some more :-)

The pop industry is littered with artists who have simply given up because they're not feeling appreciated enough. If they give up, then they're not producing interesting new music for us to buy. And as the pirates don't believe in paying for anything, they're cutting down the chances that they're going to get lots of new stuff to listen to.

Right - that's the rant out of the way and this post has grown far too big to add in what I intended to, which is to tell people about the wonderful new music I've been listening to lately ! Think I need to do another post ...

PS Now at 1466 different songs listened to over the past 3 weeks :-)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thinking about ... voices & space

The game that currently has me caught is called Mass Effect, where the hero (you!) is going for that long used staple of sci-fi stories, they're out to save the galaxy :-)

It's by Bioware, people who are extremely strong on Role Play, so there's a lot of story and side quests alongside the main event of saving the galaxy from the machines. And with Role Play comes voice acting, which brings me to what I was noticing earlier ... Some voices stand apart and in this case, it's the female version of Commander Shepard, the heroine of Mass Effect. I should really have recognised the voice, as I listened to it all the way through another of Bioware's games.

The voice behind the game belongs to one Jennifer Hale and my surprise at the voice being shared shows how good she is at her job. Games are sometimes criticized for the poor quality of their voice acting, often because Hollywood actors/actresses are used to provide the voices. Star Trek's Marina Sirtis also turns up in a cameo in Mass Effect. Not quite sure what the difference is between the Bastila character in the second game and Shepard in Mass Effect but the Commander personality exudes the confidence, professionalism and authority you'd expect from a tough soldier of the 22nd century. And it's different enough that I only recognised it when seeing the page on the Mass Effect wiki (linked above)

There's another common factor between the two games, they're both space scifi games. Doh - I never said what the other game is. Jennifer Hale's previous credits include Bastila, a character from the Star Wars universe set 4000 years before the movies. Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic was a classic too, played that one to death a few years ago :-) (bugs mean I don't touch it now)

I have a few games but it seems like it's the space sci-fi games I go back to most often. I have a couple of others fairly new in the collection that haven't seen so much attention, which are both swords & axes games. I was wondering why that was and I figure, I must have a hankering to live more in the sci-fi world than the medieval world. Definitely more interest in living other places than the 21st century ...

I guess that's why I go for the games so much and the sci-fi movies. Even the swords & axe type books I read tend to have a sci-fi flavour to them occasionally, even if the sci-fi is magic. Both forms of storytelling allow one to escape the world we live in right now, to jump into one that has action, adventure, romance (yep - it's programmed in!) and that little bit of magic. They allow us to do things we couldn't imagine doing for real, like all those people who play Soldier on the online games or who have an alter-ego in Warcraft. And there's no consequences too, the "save" button lets you reverse decisions and it takes away the risk that real soldiers have to cope with.

Currently taking a rest from the virtual world, if you could call watching Die Hard 4.0 escaping :-) And later, I'll be back to listening to some more of those wonderful voices.

New artist alert ! This one's Natasha Khan, centrepiece of Bat For Lashes. Amazing voice here and another album on the list to grab :-)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

One more day ...

... And then a decent period away from work to rest, recharge and repair :-)

I've been feeling the strain lately, which usually manifests in me seesawing between hyperactive and hypoactive states. I'll lose track of precisely which day of the week it is too, as the days blur into each other. Of course, it also doesn't help that I've been more into the computer games lately, which leads to not getting quite as much sleep as I should be getting :-)

Heh heh heh - self inflicted wounds ...

There's good sides and bad sides to being away from work - I won't miss being able to lock the duties in the drawer with the rest of the papers but I always miss the people. There's some very special people who I have the pleasure of interacting with at work. I guess that's another reason I keep coming back to the online games too, there's good people in those too. But nattering over text isn't nearly the same as being able to lean over the Snow Queen's or The Boss's desks and make them laugh.

Yep - hearing a lady laugh (and seeing the smile) is far better than just reading "lol" in text.

So I'm looking forward to chilling out for a solid week but I'll definitely miss a few of the personalities at work. People like the Snow Queen, The Boss, WT and Ms Sunshine (who is almost as jumpy as me with people walking up the floorplate!) who make working on my project a lot more fun. Also Ms Cantina and her friends who are constantly trying to outguess me on what sandwiches I'm going to have for lunch :-)

Right - time to get back to the finale of Star Trek Voyager, it ends soon which will allow me to turn the telly off. It's started to develop a high pitched "singing", which is probably why neighbourhood dogs are howling ...

Addon time - Peeking round the web, I found this story from the Register - Bacon Sarnies Cure Hangovers ... Official !

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Recession Observation (aka how to stay alert when driving!)

After earning a little streetcred this morning with the results of a little miracle working last night, I was heading up and down the motorway again today.

As well as iPodFM, I'm usually hunting for something to keep my brain active and fully awake while driving. When you're going on Britain's motorways, it pays to maintain a very sharp level of attention to keep an eye on the Nutters in the other cars. Unbelieveable people like the one in the service station who waits, waits ... waits even more - and then pulls out in front of me at a time when I have to then slam the brakes on.

Yep - there was the predictable Bluetooth telephone headset in her ear.

So what was the Entertainment Of Choice for today's drive ? I was curious ... And started looking at the registration plates whizzing past. The question on my mind was - "ok, it's 3 months into the new registration plate, how many new cars out there ?"

The answer, sadly, is not many ... I saw a few "08" and "58" cars out there but only one "09" car. Over in Britain we now mark our cars with numbers for when they were made, so my Focus is a "52" car, which means it was registered in the second half of 2002. My last car was an "S" registration, which takes a little more working out ... (it was registered in 1999).

So that's my observation of the day - connecting a lack of new cars out there with signs of Recession. Of course it could be because I was travelling at 10.30 to 1.30 and 16.00 to 19.00, so I probably missed all the RepMobiles (Sales Reps get a bad reputation on our roads for a Devil-May-Care attitude) and the hire cars.

Trips out aren't too much of a hardship, as they allow me to indulge my biggest addiction (for now), which is listening to music :-) However, IpodFM isn't as clear as it could be due to increasing pollution of the airwaves by commercial stations. At least the music doesn't seem to be the cause of the lag I'm suffering on Warcraft, as I still had the lag even though no music was playing earlier. Think I have a little more to do with my network setup to get better gaming performance.

Right ! Time to get updated with what's been going on in the world while indulging that music addiction. Current track is "Think About You Now" by Gloria Estefan. Thinking about a few people at the moment. There's the Rose with her illness, Snow Queen with her bugs, the gaming people and whether they got bitten by the food poisoning that got me on Monday, Miss AB who I've sadly not spotted since she left our project and Ms Cantina who will probably be wondering why I wasn't hunting sandwiches today :-)