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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Friday, 30 December 2005

it's still Christmas!

It's been a lovely Christmas - I was back to work on the 27th, so the festivities were brief but intense - we all had an exciting, enjoyable (dare I say a little gluttonous?) time.

The children enjoyed opening all their presents, and both Christopher and Eleanor received some wonderful gifts - thank you! (Hopefully we'll have time to sit down and write some "thank you" letters with them in the next few days...) I'll be honest, I very much enjoyed playing with the little pouch of Technical Lego with Christopher - introducing him to the delights of gear ratios and cranks. Apparently, he worked on one of his own projects today - I'll probably be shown it tomorrow before we trundle off down to Mother's for the day.

Although it's been bitterly cold (though not nearly as chilly as places far north of here - my colleague was telling tales of Christmas in Greenland!) the roads have been fairly clear, and I've not been too greatly delayed on my journeys to and from work.

While I was working, one of my colleagues suggested that I might enjoy a new site - www.pandora.com : it's described as the 'music genome' site; all you have to do is type in a song or artist that you like (it was developed in America, so quirky British acts will be a little harder to come by) and it will select other songs based on the musical stylings of what you've heard.

The closest thing I've seen is last.fm, which makes use of the Audioscrobbler media player plug-in; it's just as useful, but in a different way - more of a way to choose music similar to the tunes one listens to.

On the subject of audio and internet, I discovered gcast.com : a free host for podcasts, which is affiliated with garageband.com : one of the biggest independent artist MP3 sites, descended from the much-missed mp3.com. Perhaps the Podcast that's in the pipeline (I've got so much more writing to do!) will be hosted by them?

The webserver seems to be running a little slow these days - I'm going to have to investigate why this is (I blame the new OS!) - please bear with me! Despite my efforts, there are still spam comments and Trackbacks coming in; one of my next projects will be to upgrade movable type, which I understand will alleviate the problems.

Fortunately, though, the email's working, the printers are working, and - although I tried to upgrade the two galleries to Menalto's Gallery v2 it ran like a bow-legged turkey, so I returned to version 1, which does the job nicely. The printers are both working, and things are - for the time being - stable. (I'm afraid it won't stop me tinkering, though!)

Links of the day:

  • www.myspace.com/rayandtim : Myspace has burgeoned over the last year as the place to be seen - certainly as an emerging musical act. The Grand Union Music Show is a fine example - especially since they're my sister Cath's next-door neigbours! Mighty fine acoustic melodies they make as well
  • www.sumladfromcov.com : A fine artist known as sumladfromcov (not the most inspiring of names, but hey... the music more than makes up for it); he's an amazing guitarist, and he's recorded a wonderfully melodic album. (thanks, Elin & Rob!)

Hopefully I'll have time for one more entry tomorrow, before I run out of 2005! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

Posted by james at 10:09 PM

Friday, 23 December 2005

Festive Tunery...

Seeing as it's the last day of work before Christmas, here are a couple of sites boasting, well, 'alternative' interpretations of Christmas music:

  • DJ Riko's Christmas Mix! Play it at your party...
  • Santastic! is an album full of Christmas mash-ups. Nice

I'm still workin' on the webserver - thank you for your help, Ed! We now have a file store (or "E drive" as it's known at our house!), but I'm still struggling with the email.. I've found it (it's in /var/spool/imap) but I'll have to work out how to get Squirrelmail to see it...

Hope you're feeling festive!

Posted by james at 11:38 AM

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

The blog is back (with a bit of luck!)

Here goes with yet another tentative venture onto the internet! I've had to reinstall Linux completely on my dear little laptop, in the hope that the USB hub will start working, and I can use the freshly-arrived hard disk caddies. Both appear to have been successful, although I've had to wipe everything and start again in the process (!) Thank heavens for backups.

Annoyingly, I think I've managed to lose a blog entry - it was about the Penguin Books podcast of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, read by Geoffrey Palmer - get it while it's hot!

Slightly more concerning, though, I still need to sort out the following:

  • The printers are working, but you can't check the status of them (d'oh!)
  • Beth's files are online again, but she can't access them (d'oh again!)
  • Worst of all - I have no idea where my email database is, and how to get to it! This will present the biggest challenge. Well, certainly the most reading...

Posted by james at 7:37 PM

Monday, 12 December 2005

another strange weekday...

So, back to work again today. Fortunately, save for a few - fairly understandable - delays, the journeys to and from work weren't too frustrating; it was more than made up for by the almost cinematic spectacle of the conflagration, which was clearly visible from junction 8 of the M1.

M1 on a Monday morningI attempted a photograph with my cameraphone this morning, which didn't really do it justice, but although the heroic firefighters have extinguished half of the tanks, it was still as vivid to watch on the journey home as it was earlier. I'm just glad that the M1 was re-opened this evening - it could have been a long, slow journey home!

Take a look at the gallery for my faltering attempts at photography - although you might prefer the Flickr site, which has many far more stunning images.

There's not a great deal else going on, save for catching up with the emails that piled up while I was on the course last week and rearranging the other Microsoft courses I need to attend to Milton Keynes rather than the hellish commute to London...

That's about it, really, save to catch up with a couple more podcasts to which I've subscribed (I thought I'd download a couple more, just in case the journey home was protracted by motorway closures!):

/podcast blog:

Posted by james at 10:30 PM

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Hemel explosion - what we saw and heard...

The cloud above HemelThe eerily empty M1Wow.. what a morning. OK, so it's not quite on our doorstep, but we were all woken at 6 o'clock this morning; I thought it was thunder, Beth initially considered it might have been something happening at the airport, and Christopher believed that little Christmas tree he put up in his room yesterday had fallen down.

We all went back to a fairly fitful sleep, only to discover - after a text from Cath (who lives about the same distance the other side of Hemel) - that there'd been an explosion. We put on BBC News 24's coverage and saw the smoke and flames.

The M1 was closed for much of the morning - the photo you can see on the right was taken around about when junction 10 was reopened. The sky's been a wonderful blue since first light; it's a bit of a shame the sun was shining so close to the direction of Hemel, since the photo of the smoke cloud, although fairly extensive, didn't really come out as dark as I was expecting. For something that size ten miles away, though, it's definitely ominous-looking!

It's a real blessing that the explosion happened at possibly the least-worst time that it could have - the oil tanks are in the middle of an industrial state on the periphery of Hemel Hempstead

It's going to be a turbulent week - especially for the commute, but I'm sure the capable emergency services that we're fortunate to have in the UK will get things back to some kind of normality as soon as they can.

Posted by james at 12:30 PM

Friday, 9 December 2005

Linux... printers and disaster prevention(!) [techie]

Yay! I finally managed to get the printers to work. It turns out - after a bit of googling - that the Linux hardware autodetection tool called kudzu was grabbing hold of the laser printer and not allowing it out to play. It's been turned off now.

Setting Linux to allow printing from Windows was very straightforward - I followed the instructions on the Samba website, and shortly after bedtime (ahem!) I'd been able to install printers on all the PCs in the house. Yay!

The colour printer, although it's working fine in itself, is causing me a few problems, though; well, it's more like the way my server interacts with the USB hub; it behaves itself when there's nothing plugged-in, but as soon as the printer is plugged-in, the lights go haywire, and lots of rather unpleasant messages appear on the screen. I'm hoping this isn't the case with the USB drives that are hopefully arriving over the weekend...

Speaking of which - I've been looking into system recovery, just in case the worst happens (or I finally get round to buying a quiet hard drive!)

I'm definitely intending to do regular full system backups - especially when the new drives are in and working, so that I can put things back together quickly in case I need to carry out a full re-install of Linux (I wonder if I'll go for Ubuntu in that event...? I've ordered five free CDs - please email me if you'd like one.)

Anyhow, I found a great article on creating a restore CD, using what would appear to be a handy application called mkcdrec.

Enough of my rambling... I guess I'm only going on about it because this annoying webserver has been somewhat all-pervasive of late!

Posted by james at 10:47 AM

Thursday, 8 December 2005

Course and Commute

I'm four days into a week's training - my first ever 'proper' Microsoft course. It's been very useful; I've learned some handy tips, and the way that the work computer environment has been set up makes a great deal of sense now.

I haven't decided whether or not to take the exam, but I suppose it would be a shame not to, especially since it's one (small!) step closer to becoming an MCSE, should I want to pursue it.

The Houses Of Parliament from the coachThe only real hassle I'm having is the commute. There are, I'm sure, much more effective ways of travelling between Luton and Moorgate, but seeing as there's a coach that does a direct journey with only five minutes walk either end, and it costs no more than a cheap day return at the weekend, it would be a bit of a waste of money to do it any other way. Conversely, though, the daily commute is now a monstrous five hours(!), which is a lot, despite passing most of London's famous landmarks. Fortunately, there's always the radio - and podcasts, of course:

/podcast blog

  • www.lugradio.org : LugRadio - it's a bunch of rather amusing (if a little geeky) blokes who chat about Linux and anything else that happens to come along. They do, however, seem a little obsessed with Ubuntu (a new 'user friendly' flavour of Linux)
  • www.bitjobs.net : bitjobs for the masses - a mix of new music and silliness.

Speaking of which, I'm hoping to manage my first venture into the world of podcasting, soon - Trev (owner of the Trev's Shed Comedy Café) and I are planning a collaborative one, full of yabbering, comedy (him) and whimsy (me). You will, of course, hear it here first.. when I've finally made some jingles and sorted out getting audio into Gizmo.

I have also spent some (or maybe a little too much!) of my slightly extended evenings attempting to remedy the catastrophic failure of Beth's PC; she has moved onto using her laptop, but there are other things that we need - printers, scanners and access to a networked 'data' drive that used to sit on her PC.

Having moved my Linux webserver to the kitchen, it's been something of a struggle getting the printers to work (it steadfastly refuses to look at the parallel port, and the USB connection to the colour printer keeps flaking out worryingly!) so I'm hoping to have a little more luck with the investment I have made in a pair of USB hard drive caddies which will hopefully suffice.

Plenty to keep me busy - aside from the usual goings-on at home! We're putting the Christmas decorations up on Saturday morning.. it's not so long now, is it?

Links of the day:

Posted by james at 12:45 PM

Friday, 2 December 2005

Christmas lights... it's getting to that time of year!

Christmas light displays - they're often rather impressive (4.8MB wmv), but you either love 'em:

Posted by james at 6:23 PM

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