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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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Tuesday, 30 May 2006

phone resurrection

So my poor little Nokia 5140 has stopped working again. All (I believe) it needs is a reload of the operating system; this is what an engineer did - fortunately under warranty - last time it went wrong. I popped to the Oxford Street branch of Carphone Warehouse and, after waiting in a queue for half-an-hour was told by a charisma-free and sales-oriented 'customer' 'service' representative that it would cost £40 for an engineer even to take a look at it.

That seemed a little excessive - it can only be a twenty minute job at the most, and if I had the equipment, perhaps I could do it myself. I have considered this eventuality, and it does look possible, although there are a few hoops to jump through:

  • I need to find the right cable to connect a computer's parallel port to a DCT-4 series NPL-5 with firmware version 3.17. The simplest requires quite a few electronic components and some soldering, but even then it might not do what I want it to do.
  • I need to find the appropriate software to programme the replacement firmware (MCU and PPM, apparently) into the phone. There is software out there, but it's fairly complicated - www.panuworld.net/nuukiaworld has a couple of interesting bits to look at.
  • Finally, I'll actually need the firmware/MCU itself. This isn't (or at least shouldn't be) in the public domain, so it's not a trivial matter to get it.
  • Mix all three together and then hope for the best... i'm not really sure I have much chance of getting to this stage, though!

There are alternatives - I've already emailed for a quote from fonefix.com, but none of them seem particularly attractive, really.

For now, then, I'll stick with my trusty 6510... OK, so it's not got a camera and novelty ring tones, but it does the job!

Posted by james at 10:45 PM

Monday, 29 May 2006

Birdsong and bizarre car comedy

It was a proper spring day yesterday - we were able to make the most of it with a trip to Oxford to see Pete, Lisa and family.

During the course of the afternoon - after a rather disappointing lunch at the Royal Standard (it wasn't very family-friendly, and only did a roast on Sundays) - we kicked a football around the garden and generally enjoyed the sunshine. At one point a tiny little bird fluttered down onto the patio; I couldn't believe how tame it was, brazenly checking for breadcrumbs before zooming off to a nearby tree. I wish I'd had the camera to hand, although there'll (hopefully) be photos on the gallery of the visit soon.

I have to admit that I've been watching a fair bit of TV just lately - it's a nice way to relax, curled up with Beth of an evening. One programme that I wasn't expecting to be recommending to blog readers is Top Gear - a far cry from the days of Tiff Needell and the posh smug bloke. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and this week's episode is hilarious (especially the 'interior decorating' bit).

mac bits
Onto more technical matters, I'm struggling a bit with getting the email server bits to work; 'fink' is in and working, as is Fetchmail and 'mutt' but I'm not sure how the mac's email server actually works. It looks like sendmail and postfix are both installed, but it's entangling them and then tying them up with CyrusIMAPD that'll prove the challenge. I'll just keep on tinkering...

Oh, and my mobile phone's crashed again - back to the repair centre for it, then..

Posted by james at 11:06 AM

Saturday, 27 May 2006

whoosh goes the weekend.

I can't believe it's nearly a week since the Eurovision Song Contest (hooray! Finland won!) and, with a bit of work and some days at home that rushed past with the recovery from nights and general pottering about, here we are nearly at Sunday again!

Things are moving on apace with my new webserver. Hopefully you'll have spotted that the website, gallery, forum, and - of course - this blog will be working that much more quickly.

That's not without a substantial amount of wrestling, though - I had to re-install mysql and php for Apache and - more frustratingly, work out how get my Movable Type blog to work. In the event it turned out that I needed a specific Perl module for mysql to get it going...

As if that wasn't complicated enough, to compile this cheeky little bit of software, I had to install the elusive Developer Tools which, for Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger) are available on the installation CDs (phew!) but it did have me worried for a while.

So.. the website's across, I've finally wrestled with File Sharing to make sure that all the data is accessible from the various Windows PCs about the place, and sorted out the printers... once again, I'm really glad it's got a fairly familiar Linux back-end, so I can fine-tune it to my satisfaction.

So.. all that needs to be sorted now is:

  • email : I've yet to install various bits to port my email database across
  • MP3 streaming : I've yet to install nicecast yet - hopefully it'll be quite trivial, though.

I've really enjoyed playing with my new mac mini, though. If I have any gripes it would be that Front Row (the whizzy "giant iPod with a remote control" thing) keeps hanging up when I'm running OSXVnc, and that, despite its claims, iPhoto runs like a bow-legged dinosaur with the 7000 photos I threw at it this morning.

I guess I'm probably doing something wrong though... as soon as I find out what, I'll let you know.

links of the days (photo special)recycle sign

Posted by james at 10:25 PM

Monday, 22 May 2006

tiny mac thing (a bit techie)

it's a mac mini!It's all rather exciting, really... I've finally saved up to buy my first Apple product - a dinky little Mac Mini that I intend to use as my webserver, once I've got it all set up. I'm sure you can guess what I'll be spending my evenings doing, then!

pip, as it will now be known, arrived this afternoon, and I've spent much of this evening learning how to use it. I have to admit that, since it's based on Linux, I have spent a fair amount of time 'under the hood' but it's fair to say I've been blown away by the main user interface.

The children have really enjoyed playing with the remote control, too and media player thingy - it's certainly a device that would be equally at home in the lounge.

At the business end, though, it's really quick, and I've managed to get ssh access, and a remote desktop connection (using the rather marvellous guide at www.redstonesoftware.com.

The web server's up and running, I've updated the mysql database software, and played around with print and file sharing, so that the family can access the various bits and bobs that are connected to the box.

What remains to be done, then?

important stuff

  • Get php to work with Apache
  • Attempt to migrate the website over
  • Test file and print sharing
  • Move the USB data drive upstairs (it's still connected to the current webserver), ensure it works and import all the audio into iTunes
  • Migrate my email server to the new machine. This isn't going to be trivial (I wrestled with it quite substantially when I carried out the last install) but there are a couple of fairly substantial projects to port Linux applications to Darwin (the Mac's Unix core) - Fink and The Darwin Files - so hopefully they'll be of some use.

trivial stuff

Special thanks must go to Ed who has been really helpful (and something of a Mac evangelist!) and to Pete and Emma at pr.ag.ma for their suggestions.

Onwards, then.. to a faster blogging experience (at least!)

Posted by james at 10:36 PM

Saturday night entertainment, rain and hackers...

Much as it is anethama for me to spend hours gawping at the television, Saturday night was an exception - we watched both episodes of the spectacular (almost to feature-film standards) Doctor Who, followed by the Eurovision song contest (which Finland won, yay!)

Beth and Lenni at GulliversWe had a rainy day at Gullivers Land yesterday with some friends - it was fun despite the wet bottoms - and the weekend came to a swift close.

I've been intending to do some more work on the main site for a while; OK, so I've not really made much music recently, but it's been nearly six months since the last update! However, I've had regular messages from friends (thank you Suzanne and Percy) that the site's been hacked, and it's taken me at least two evenings of patching and fiddling to get it to a state where hopefully it won't happen again. Thank heavens for database backups!

Link of the day:

  • www.badqualitysuperglue.com : Much as I dislike viral marketing, this amused me - and I was quite struck by the quality. Perhaps I might have to get a Nokia N90 when the price isn't so astronomical!

Posted by james at 9:57 AM

Friday, 19 May 2006

The day of rockoning!

Eurovision Song Contest - Athens 2006It's nearly that time of year.. no - not the grotesque spectacle (that rapidly degenerates into pitiful tedium) of Big Brother 7 - I'm talking about the The Eurovision Song Contest!

Here's a brief run-down of some of the highlights that I'm hoping to enjoy on Saturday night:

The videos are available on the BBC website (Realmedia) if you want a sneak preview of what to expect!

As for Saturday night - the phones'll be set to silent and I'll have a bottle of wine at hand.. I wouldn't miss this for the world. Enjoy! And if you are in the US.. it looks like you can look forward to a similar event soon...

Posted by james at 1:44 AM

Monday, 15 May 2006

seaside, nights and TV mixups

I've embarked on a set of nightshifts, which has followed a brief but enjoyable family weekend - we drove down to Sussex for the day on Saturday, to spend some time with my mother and sister, and on Sunday afternoon we went for a splash around in the swimming pool (much less dangerous than the tumultuous sea - the red flags were out!)

The photo is of Christopher and Lenni standing on the balcony of the newly refurbished De La Warr Pavilion, which also included an exhibition of Erich Mendelsohn's other designs.

Now, though, I'm trying to adapt to a nocturnal lifestyle - it generally takes a couple of days to get used to it, but hopefully by tomorrow, I'll still be able to string a sentence together when the dayshift arrive!

The radio group that owns nearly every major commercial station in the UK (GCap) has finally started podcasting to the masses. You can find their offerings, which range from films to fishing, at creationpodcasts.com.

Most notable is the republishing of Kenny Everett's bizarre and amusing Captain Kremmen shows that have recently been aired on BBC7. Well worth a listen!

Still with the the world of broadcasting - if you've not heard about it already, this is an absolute gem of a story. The receptionist at the BBC's TV Centre sent the wrong man in to be interviewed, and a bewildered job applicant ended up on telly... read the story and cringe at the video here: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4774429.stm

There's also an entertaining blog entry from the Guy who never got to have his say: www.newswireless.net/index.cfm/article/2708.

Back in January, I mentioned a virtual on-line world called Second Life. Well, with all the advances in technology, it's not much of a surprise that the BBC have made an appearance in this alternative universe, too - here's a news story (news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4766755.stm) about how they're putting on virtual rock concerts for the inhabitants... clever huh?

Link of the day:

Posted by james at 8:48 PM

Monday, 8 May 2006

spring sunshine and ... oh, the usual!

Another week starts.. the fortnight ahead seems to be quite intensive, workwise - I've got four shifts to do this week, and four (perhaps five, depending on how things go on Sunday) nightsihfts next.

Fortunately, though, I had a wonderful weekend with the family. A quiet day on Saturday, playing - among other things - Lego Creator Knights' Kingdom (again, free on NTLWorld BroadbandPlus for high-speed customers... for now, anyway!) and an entertaining yet frustrating game called Warbears (which reminded me a lot of Hapland) with Christopher.

Beth and I have both been enjoying the latest series of Doctor Who; as ever, there are secrets and subtleties, but the storylines and televisual entertainment is great as it is. That and Green Wing are my current 'must watch' programmes (although the surreality of the latter tends to be helped along with a couple of glasses of wine!)

Sunday, after church, we went to Sainsbury's for lunch, and then played out in the back garden of Beth's folks' house; the sun shone, though with a spring-brightness that didn't make it too hot.

It's been a while since I've posted any photos of Christopher and Lenni... here are my rapidly-growing children, as captured by my trusty cameraphone!


Link of the day:

  • www.erightsoft.com/SUPER.html : Here's some pretty cool - and free - video transcoding software.. it's called "SUPER" and it might just live up to the name.

Posted by james at 11:02 PM

Friday, 5 May 2006

Elephants, internet radio and cheesey wotsits

There's an interesting event happening in London this weekend - a French performing arts company called are carrying out a spectacle called The Sultan's Elephant which I can only describe as a giant street marionette show. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to see it from work, since it was quite a busy day but the pictures on Flickr are spectacular, and go some way to make up for it!

Mechanical creations like that are probably my favourite kind of art - a multisensory experience you can watch, marvel, hear and share; I don't think I'll ever get tired of the clock in Midsummer Boulevard shopping Centre in Milton Keynes, and the way it unites any watching children in a dance of enjoyment as bubbles float down for them to grab and pop...

Perhaps I'll be able to take the children to an event like The Sultan's Elephant next time it takes place.

AAC+ bits
In audio news, I was heartened to see that, rather than being subdued by the development of Winamp's free AAC+ encoding and streaming capabilities, Orban - who charge $99 for the essentially the same service - have responded by releasing a much needed plug-in for the ubiquitous Windows Media. You can download it here, and it finally gives Windows Media Player the capability to play iPod audio!

internet radio stations
Speaking of which, here's a couple of fine internet radio stations to enjoy:

  • Nova Radio : Chilled out music from France - a favourite at work.
  • Soma FM : a high-quality mix of unsigned indie, electronica and ambient music, listener-supported from the USA. (Thanks, Trev).

Finally... Luton's made it into the news again, this time involving a woman who was proscuted from throwing a cheesey wotsit out of her car window. Make of that what you will!

Posted by james at 10:36 PM

Monday, 1 May 2006


Strange KitKat PricingIt's been quite a quiet bank holiday at work - few phonecalls, but plenty of opportunity to catch up with those annoying "need some quiet" jobs. Collect a bunch of engineers into one place, and the conversation will turn to trivia... today's being the Women's FA Cup Final, the synchronicity of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard Of Oz... something I'd like to do one evening, if anyone cares to join me.

The photo on the right: despite the crazy pricing, you'll still not persuade me to buy Nestlé.

May Day in the UK is traditionally a day for unofficial protests. The only evidence I saw and heard today was a bunch of cyclists whizzing down a nearby street behind a sound system playing Bob Marley's Get up Stand up (Windows Media video); apparently they were heading for a sit-in at Oxford Circus. It was interesting to see, among the back-markers of the bicycles, a small cabal of policemen on their mountain bikes - the ideal way to keep order among them, I guess.

Well, one more day at work before I zoom up north to see my internet pals Trev (with whom I collaborate on the North South Divide podcast) and Jenny for a couple of days, then back to the grindstone before the weekend. Time goes by so quickly (Madonna... you're so wrong).

Oh - and while I remember, we finally found the second half of our first ever geocaching mission yesterday. It involved clambering around in brambles for a bit, but isn't that what being at one with nature is all about? I hope so... our garden's overrun with them! Thanks, Percy, for your text help!

My subscription list is nearing 40 - how on earth will I get time to listen to them all? Here are the latest additions; I'll list the whole lot when I get the chance...

British Mac : Guess what! I'm saving up for my first Apple Mac. More on that in a future blog, I'm sure, but this podcast is a very British, quirky guide to the world of Macintosh.

The Emma And Pete Show : It's Emma and Pete, a couple from Oxfordshire, and a gazette (as opposed to a gazelle) of their lives - kinda like a Bluggcast but without the aliens, technology and irregular podcasting habits.

Links of the day

  • signsoflife.goose24.org : the art of the slightly wrong sign...
  • www.pimpmysnack.com : If you've not seen the site that features a gigantic bourbon biscuit already, here's your chance! (thanks, Beth!)
  • towel.blinkenlights.nl : You'll need a decent telnet client to see this, but when you see this ASCII version of Star Wars, you'll be impressed that someone might take that amount of time to make it. And, as ever, ask yourself "why?"

P.S. I always thought the Railgun in Quake was just a work of fiction. That was until I saw these two websites - although it's not something that'll be in production any time soon (OK, so that would be a bad thing for everyone), some of the videos are spectacular. Science, eh?

Posted by james at 10:57 PM

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