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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 January 2007

lists, mac streaming and trimfones

Copper coloured top!It'm still annoyed with myself that I'm leaving it two weeks between blog entries. Fortunately, there's been so much going on of late that there's lots to write (when I remember it). Take, for example, my attempt to dye my hair (see the photo) something I've been meaning to do for ages. I'm not bothered by the ribbing I've got at work - and I've already had one offer of help next time I do it (it didn't turn out quite brash as I'd expected)

In an attempt to be more organised, I'm also writing more lists. The "tasks" function on my iPAQ is useful for that, although I even have problems with things that come spontaneously to mind, since they can escape my mind in the time it takes to pick up the PDA!

I went to a 'bash' on Saturday at Trev's - he's my podcast partner and an excellent radio DJ - which was an entertaining occasion. Unfortunately, Beth couldn't come up because we couldn't get sittage, but there'll be another opportunity, I'm sure.

boring internet streaming radio bit
Speaking of internet radio, I've finally done some work on the studio, installing the four unbalanced audio connections to lounge into the second patchbay; this had the intention of taking the studio's mixer output up to the Mac, I googled a couple of neat little bits of Shoutcast encoding software, although I've struggled a bit with both of them:

  • MuSE : A lovely application that can be used to play MP3s mix them with the audio input , and stream it to the waiting public. This works really well, although it is missing a rather critical "icy-ICQ" setting which is used on some on-line servers to identify the user. Jon, king of programming, is hacking away at the source code as I type. He's remarkable.

  • AudioRack : This is a heavyweight, background server based suite of software that I'm not sure I quite understand. I got it working once, but I like to leave the main screen (which is the only one that has access to the audio hardware) logged in as a non-administrator, but I've been having trouble starting the server in that state. Slightly easier to work around, I suppose, but a bit of a hassle nevertheless.

Sound and music
Incidentally, if you'd like to buy a CD that really reflects the musical tastes of people today - at least, according to the customer reviews - you can't go far wrong with this.

Finally, I was suprised to hear that one of my colleagues has the same ringtone as me - a bit of a same, since I thought I had a unique sound. For what it's worth, though, if you ever wanted your phone to ring like a 1980s trimfone, now's your chance:

trimfone ringtone mp3 (285k)
trimfone ringtone amr (25k)

More - hopefully - before too long!

Posted by james at 9:47 PM

Thursday, 25 January 2007

working my way through 2007..

Halfway through another working week and I've slightly changed my method of getting to work. The horrendous queues on the M1 have consistently been delaying my arrival in the office until - at times - upwards of twenty minutes, so I'm compensating by taking a walk into town to catch a slightly earlier coach.

Two of my colleagues are off on paternity leave at the moment, which doesn't help much, so things are a little more intensive during the course of the day, which has made taking a lunchbreak that much more important (which I would relinquish to compensate for my lateness)

My journey to work is often spent catching up with the goings-on in politics,now BBC Radio 4's Today In Parliament is being podcasted; clearly this - and Prime Minister's Questions - merely represents the public theatre of our governmental machinery, but it's still a way to keep informed.

Apart from a lovely day down at the South Coast visting Mother, which co-incided with Cath, Martin and Luke staying there which was fun for the children, it's not been a particularly remarkable week. I think it must have something to do with the time of year - we had a morning of snow yesterday, and everything's a little subdued because it's just so cold outside!

This weekend, though, I'll be going up North to spend an evening of daftness with Trev and other ftlfm.com listeners and DJs, so that'll get me out of the house - it'll probably be a late night, but I have Monday off work to recover!

Oh, and I'm pleased to say Princess Petals and Silver Spy are still very much alive, and appear to be permanently ravenous! We're feeding them a little twice a day at the moment, but it doesn't stop them from whizzing to the front of the tank as soon as anyone comes nearby!

Links of the day

  • www.sweetwater.com : daily tech tip for sound engineers.. some of these are quite useful
  • xkcd.com : an entertaining maths/sarcasm-based webcomic (thanks, Beth!)
  • amigaremix.com : music based on tunes on the much-loved Commodore Amiga.
  • implicit.harvard.edu/implicit : Some intriguing (although I'm wondering how they work!) quizzes from Project Implicit.

Posted by james at 11:53 AM

Tuesday, 9 January 2007


I think it must be something about this time of year - post Christmas,with a house full of things, with lovely, shiny and new plonked on top of the mainstays of everyday life, which are themselves placed onto the things we never use... yup - definitely time for some rationilsation and tidying.

When I'm home of an evening, and not pottering round the house with podcasts stuck in my ears; once the children have gone to bed and things having settled down enough to get some tidying done, I've been down in the studio, sorting out the terrifyingly large CD collection I have accumulated over the years. Both 10" cube shelving units are chock full, so I've started removing the lesser-cherished CDs from their cases and jackets and sticking them into the used plastic stacks of CDs that would otherwise be discarded after burning countless episodes of Torchwood (which, I have to admit, picked up a bit towards the end, but I'm still a bit disappointed with the gratuitous teen-angst-drama element and two-dimensional characters, but I digress), Doctor Who and the occasional DVD I've edited using iMovie (yup.. I'm definitely a Mac user now!)

I'm also trying to cut down on all the duplicate MP3s on the Mac, too - previously, Beth and I maintained our own collection of tunes, which led to upwards of four separate copies of songs, like those ubiquitous tracks that may be found on driving/soft rock/ballad compilations!

My downtime's been shared somewhat, too, by the unfortunate hard disk failure of Beth's Mum's PC. Rob's building a new one, but I've taken on recovering as much of the data as possible - I've been using some rather serious-looking tools, and although I don't think the Windows installation is savable, I think all the critical data (email and the like) has been recovered.

So it's all been go, really, since the new year's kicked off! Work's been fun - I've spent the weekend trying to get to the bottom of a phone problem, and dealing with a server failure. This is rather unfortunate, since we'd been briefed to make a start on a big 'workshop tidy'; this'll have to wait for another weekend.

Sorry if this blog entry's something of a stream of consciousness - I'll get to the good linky bits in a bit! Before I do, though, I should mention that we have some new members of the Hart Household - goldfish by the names of "Silver Spy" and (Eleanor's favoured Pet Name) "Princess Petals". They've survived a week so far, and the water's not been too nitritey - technical term - so I'm quite optimistic that the'll make it where the more exotic ones didn't!

PC bits
So.. what delights have I discovered recently? Well, I was looking for a (free, naturally!) virtual CD-ROM so I could check out an ISO image without having to burn a CD that I might not need, and what do I find? Microsoft have actually released their own application as an option for Windows! Most useful, I'd say.

GPS bits
I'm a convert to the delights of TomTom - it's a great bit of navigation software, and actually quite customisable. Take, for example, the voices.. you can actually make your own, with a little guidance, some OGG format audio files (Beth has agreed to make a set - she's got a great voice!) and a small application..

There's also a rather jolly site called www.tomtomfree.com, which features a selection of Points Of Interest (such as churches, petrol stations and supermarkets) that are free to download and easy to install. It's good to have a 'tricked out' sat nav!

Well, after a weekend of work, I ought to resist the temptation to sit myself down and sort CDs (and don't get me started on the cassettes of my old stuff, computer music and rare oddities that I want to record to MP3!) and chill out with some mindless computer gamery (it seems like ages!) I had the briefest of goes at an excellent online strategy (don't let that put you off - i'ts got a great dynamic to it!) game called Flash Element TD, and I think I want to have a proper go at it!

Welll I think that'll do for the time being. While I haven't really put enough thought into the preparation for the next North South Divide (hey - check out our shiny new domain - thenorthsouthdivide.com!) I'm also toying with the idea of doing a ten minute weekly podcast from a different place in Luton every time... perhaps a pipe dream at the moment, but there are so many remarkable places to record from, and take photos of, despite the reputation of the town. We'll see how things go!

Oh, Just one more thing - the winter pansies have already started shooting! How exciting and wonderful to have some colour in the drabness of this season. Not so long till spring..

Posted by james at 5:39 PM

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