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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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Monday, 22 September 2008

The North South Divide - 8 - 'sky'

The North South Divide 8 - skyOnce again, it's been a long time coming, but I've finally put the finishing touches to the latest of the comedy podcasts that Trev and I have been producing sporadically for the last couple of years. Here it is!

Listen online

NSD8 - "Sky" 192k mp3 version

We wrote and recorded 'sky' - the eighth of our sketch shows - at various times over the course of 2008, and I spent several evenings and afternoons editing it and getting hold of all the necessary voices (thanks, Richard, Paul and Judy, various work colleagues, Beth's Grandma - and Beth of course!) and sound effects to make it sound distinctive and authentic.

I try to avoid using other people's music in the podcast if I can - there are obviously some recognisable tunes that end up being included because of the nature of the sketches, but this time I made the main theme, the backing tracks for the adverts and the 'Flash Ramsbottom' instrumental using just my Alesis QS6 keyboard and Adobe Audition (I'd only just rebuilt my PC - a story for another day!). It was quite an entertaining challenge to play live - I think the main theme is a little overbearing, though, and if I'd had more time I would have pulled it back a little and put in some distorted guitar... there's only so many times I can listen to the 'This Morning' theme to dissect it, though!

Much of the vocal recordings were made over Skype; Trev would send me the 'clean' copy of his recordings, and I edited together each phrase and sentence to elminate the delays, edit out the fumbles (of which there were many in my case!) and - hopefully - retain the comedy timing!

I hope you enjoy it - with any luck we'll be starting work on the next one soon. I've already had an idea for one of the news stories (that tends to be my main writing duty) and a sketch which is rather surreal and amusing in my head - I only hope it works as well in practice!

Back to work tomorrow, though, after a busy, entertaining weekend with a slightly dark overtone - but more about that anon, I hope!

Posted by james at 10:39 PM

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Watching TV on my i600 and the mac mini... (techie!)

Since I invested in the remarkable Neuros OSD about five months ago, the main purpose to which I've put it has been to stream TV across the home network, so it can be watched - for example - in the kitchen.

As the excellent stream_fuse has evolved, it's now really easy to make this possible. If the stream_fuse software's been downloaded, installed and enabled (which is quite simple to do) and as long as the OSD hasn't been rebooted, it'll sit there waiting for a request from a capable media player.

The latest incarnation of stream_fuse has made it easy to customise the player for various screen sizes and bandwidths. What I've done is create a 'playlist' file with the correct parameters for each, and associated them with my media player of choice. Here's what I've done, then...

Streaming TV to the mac mini

The media player: VLC by VideoLAN. It's free, fast and extremely versatile. This would be my recommendation for Windows PCs, too.

The playlist file: I created StreamTV.pls as follows:

Title1=streaming TV

The address set as File1 is intended to contact the Neuros OSD and configure it to give a high-quality, high-resolution video stream using the excellent new manual settings, so I can run it full screen. I simple associate .pls files with VLC, and double-click it to start it playing. Easy!

Streaming TV to the Samsung i600

The media player: The Core Pocket Media Player. The link is to - what I believe to be - the last 'free' version of this software. A new, improved $25 dollar version is at corecodec.com

The playlist file: I created StreamTV-i600.pls as follows:

Title1=i600 streaming TV

The only significant difference is in the parameters after the address - this reduces the bandwidth and video quality so it can display at 320x240 resolution across the wi-fi network. Once again, setting TCPMP to open .pls files is all that I need to do - the stream will automatically load and play.

Now, if only it were possible to change the channel using Matthew Wild's excellent Wooble (hopefully something that'll turn up in the next version), then remote TV Nirvana would be mine!

One of the most remarkable things about the Neuros OSD is the amazing sense of community it has. I have had email conversations and comments from many of the developers - people at the heart of this system. I can't think of a product that's so closely involved with its users, and I think that's what sets the Open Source model apart from the corporate world. Long may this continue and grow!

Posted by james at 12:08 AM

Saturday, 13 September 2008

The National Space Centre - another fun day out!

The National Space Centre, LeicesterOnce again, armed with some Tesco Clubcard Deal points that needed to be used by the end of September, we took a drive up the M1 to the National Space Centre, on the outskirts of Leicester.

It's an unusual looking building (certainly when seen from above) but quite small when you're actually in there, which makes it fairly easy to navigate - and hard to lose the children!

Our ticket price included an amble round the many hands-on exhibits, which were well-maintained (I've been to so many museums where 'out of order' posters were dotted around the place - on this occasion I just saw one, and that was only for one of two identical sides of an activity, so it was still usable) - and a show in the enormous hemispherical Space Theatre. This was spectacular - and a testament to the creativity of the place, since the two films we saw were created in-house.

Abbey Pumping Station, LeicesterIt was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday, but I guess so soon after the summer holidays makes it less likely that people will be taking a day out.. there's no doubt that the children had an absolutely brilliant time, though, zipping from one place to another, constantly distracted by all the exciting things that caught their eyes. I think we'll definitely be going there again - there's enough there to enjoy twice, and a few things we didn't get round to seeing.

As we left, I was interested to see that the Abbey Pumping Station nearby was a museum of science and technology, with free entrance, so that's a potential destination for our next visit.

Here are a few pictures of the children enjoying themselves - there are more, as always, in the gallery.

Chris switching things off and on again..Lenni, watching her voice..The children running around a weather globe!

Posted by james at 8:22 PM

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Radio Pop!

This is quite cool.. internet radio (well, BBC internet radio) + socialnetworking = Radio Pop
Well done Mr James Cridland and his team. (Speaking of social networking, I've rather ignominiously been ejected from Facebook because of a foolish click on a link to a video that turned out to be a virus... oops! I'm waiting for a verdict from those who know better than I whether my account will be re-enabled, although I don't miss it that much!)

Posted by james at 4:32 PM

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