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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, 20 October 2008

Goodmans CD1505Wi wifi micro CD system - a review

It's now a week since there's been a wi-fi radio in the house. So.. how does it look; how does it work? What can it do, and what could it do better?

First and foremost, for the money and the size, it does quite well, sitting in the middle-ground between horribly cheap Argos systems, and the likes of Teac and Denon. The speakers are twin-driven (with separate bass and treble speakers in the cabinet) so there's no great issue with frequency response, and it has plenty of power to fill the kitchen with some fairly high-quality, pleasant sound, especially when playing CDs. (7/10)

Quite Important Thing I completely forgot to write in my previous blog post

Thank you to everyone who wrote a comment. Jon raised an excellent point - with conventional radio (both analogue and digital), a broadcaster has just one connection to make to get a radio programme to the listener. In the case of the World Service, this can involve using satellites and several megawatts of electricity, but given the potential audience of millions, it divides down to an apposite sum 'per head'.

In its current form, internet broadcasting works differently - every radio makes its own, unique connection to a server, which has to send what amounts to the same digital signal down each internet 'wire'.

So if there are a thousand listeners, there will be a thousand connections. Consequently, the broadcaster needs to pay their internet service provider enough to 'cope' with the bandwidth this uses. One way to reduce costs is to bring down the amount of data going down each connection - it's possible to reduce this bandwidth substantially with the modern digital compression algorithms, but there's a delicate balance to be struck between sound quality and the size of the data stream required to deliver it.

I have to say, though, that even at quite low bit-rates (32kbits/s Windows Media), the radio broadcasts sound reasonable on this radio. What's quite nice is that often the broadcasters will stream a different feed to that which comes out of 'normal' FM radio. Commercial stations often use strong audio processing to make their station sound 'loud' in comparison with others (so that, when flicking across the dial, it attracts attention and makes it more likely that a listener will stop) - compare Capital FM and BBC Radio 1 with BBC Radio 3 and the difference will be clear.

Conversely, though, because many presenters on commercial stations use their FM transmissions to balance their 'sound', the unprocessed version can be quite.. well.. variable in level and quality.

Right now we're playing Magic 105.4 - it sounds good, but I think the encoder sometimes gets a bit 'too much' signal from the station output, so every now and then it distorts. Such are the pitfalls of a secondary broadcast medium...

end of Quite Important Thing

Goodmans CD1505Wi micro hi-fi system with internet radio

The device is fairly easy to set up - I was surprised to see that it comes with a separate wi-fi USB dongle that plugs into a cleverly positioned socket at the top rear of the system. Once this was inserted, and the device was switched on and had booted up (I believe it uses an implementation of embedded Linux) it didn't take long to make a wi-fi connection and start looking for stations.

The volume control is a continuous controller (rather than a traditional 'fully anticlockwise is minimum volume, fully clockwise is maximum' one) and only works when a station is tuned and successfully streaming - which can be a little frustrating. There's no tone control, so what you hear is what you get, although there are buttons on the remote control that can give a small range of preset 'EQ' settings, such as 'pop', 'jazz' and so on. There's also an 'X-BASS' button, which renders the already limited bandwidth of the audio almost unlistenable. (7/10)

The FM radio is good, with a separate co-ax antenna connector (and flying lead supplied), and can pick up the local stations nice and strongly. We live in an area of pretty poor reception (hence the need for an alternative) so expectations weren't too great, but there are several presets, and it seems to work fine. It doesn't have RDS or radiotext. (7.5/10)

An excellent feature is the ability to record to SD card from CD, FM Radio, AUX in (which makes it rather a useful recording device!) and MP3 internet radio streams. Recording quality is good, too so I can't fault this as an idea. (10/10)

Christopher could easily navigate the menus and find radio stations; the up and down arrows select individual services, while the left and right (next/previous) arrows skip through intitial letters. It takes a little time to get used to, and sometimes the lists take a while to populate, but it's definitely fairly intuitive. At first glance, though, the list of available radio services was extremely limited - less than three hundred for the UK, which was far too few, and many of them simply didn't work. A frustrating on-line search ensued, until I checked the radio again, and discovered that in the 'information' submenu of the 'setup' section, a URL was displayed for the directory - http://station.penbex.com.tw. This was not configurable.

I sent an email to the address on the 'Contact Us' page and have subsequently exchanged emails with a very helpful member of the Penbex organisation. He recommended that I carry out a firmware upgrade - this successfully increased the total number of UK stations listed to 1089, although there were more, since BBC Radio 4 (for example) had a number of 'On Demand' programmes that could be selected from a menu underneath this list.

Unfortunately, the list of content was horrendously out-of-date, and almost all of them refused to play - I have been assured that they're working on sorting these out; with the advent of the new iPlayer technology it will be interesting to see what platform and encoder the BBC uses, and how long it'll be before all the services catch up (since Reciva offers the BBC Listen Again services, too).

As I've already mentioned, I have an extremely catholic appreciation of radio, and know quite a few people who work on stations across the UK. Many of the student radio stations are listed (although Canterbury Student and Community Radio isn't on-air at the moment) but I'm still not convinced all the stations listed on the website are visible in the stations list. Our friend Stuart was broadcasting on the East midlands' Heart 106, but we couldn't listen..

The display of the wi-fi radio: there's no Heart 106 anywhere on the list

A screen-grab of the website: Heart 106 is there - twice; Heartbeat (which is mis-spelt) isn't..

From a usability point of view, this is probably the most irksome aspect of the radio. On a conventional radio, if you're scanning the band and come across a radio station, most often it'll just take a little adjustment of the aerial or a tweak of the tuner and it'll be audible. On the CD1505Wi, it can be on the list (sometimes even two or three times!) and simply return me to the menu when I select it, or give me a 'Data Process Err(11)' error.

This would be an ideal candidate for 'wikipedia'-style user contribution - if listeners could easily add new stations and report defunct ones; or even better, if the radio could automatically report the 'dead' ones if they occur over a period of time and expire them from the list, this would make the user experience far richer. The internet directory on the website doesn't follow the same hierarchy as the subdirectories on the radio, so it's impossible to know if there's a station hiding somewhere - perhaps a search feature would be useful? Right now, though, it really is very 'hit and miss' to find a radio station to listen to - certainly for the first time. (4/10)

The radio is capable of storing up to twenty Favorites - these are very easy to set, since all it takes is a click of the 'MEMORY' button when it's tuned in, or a hold of the 'OK' button when it's in the list, but once they're loaded, you can't re-order them (so you have to populate them in the order you think you'd like to see them) and if you go to the bottom, you can't click 'down' once more and appear at the top. These should, I imagine, be quite simple to sort out.. perhaps something for a future release?

Reliability and technology
Here's where the bad news starts. When a gadget doesn't do what it's supposed to - or, more often, stops doing it without warning - apart from the irritation caused by the failure, it's difficult to work out whether it's a manufacturing problem, an environmental issue or a design fault. Put simply, the radio loses its wi-fi connection at least once an hour. Considering the hi-fi is less than three metres from the wireless router, I can't imagine it's because of interference or lack of signal strength.

We do have quite a busy network in our house, but the internet capacity is generous (several Mbps download) and none of the other wi-fi kit (including a printer server and our i600s) have any problems maintaining a connection; in fact, I download podcasts to my phone every day using a wireless FTP connection. I can be fairly confident that the network's running OK.

Annoyingly, the station list will not refresh unless the hi-fi has been turned off. If it loses connection with the wi-fi access point while it's reading the station list, then I'm stuck with an even briefer list than before!

It concerns me that the USB wi-fi dongle gets more than a little warm - in fact, it gets rather hot. Furthermore, it annoys me a little that the USB wi-fi dongle remains powered (since it stays hot) even when the unit is in standby mode. To save electricity (since we do try to keep our energy consumption down, despite all the gadgets!), I have taken to completely depowering the system overnight. In the morning - guess what! It has lost its wi-fi connection settings, and I have to select an access point and re-enter the key again. Fortunately the favourites are still there, but it is not acceptable for Beth to have to dig out the encryption key every morning in order to listen to the radio, wasting at least five minutes of valuable breakfast time.

I would say, though, that this is the clincher for internet radio systems; if it doesn't do what it's supposed to first time, every time, a normal user will very quickly get annoyed and give up with technology, and with good reason. Unfortunately, this is close to happening with the CD1505Wi wifi micro CD system.

We have to return to that first question - is this a duff box, or a bad design? Either way, we're nowhere near 100% happy with its reliability, I'm afraid. (2/10)

To attempt a stay of execution, I'm planning to try it on the wired network for a while, to see if that improves the reliability, and I'm hoping the fine folks at Penbex will take on board some of the comments in this blog entry so that the radio delivers what it promises.

That's one thing I couldn't be more pleased with, to be honest - I have had some really positive email exchanges with the webmaster of the World Radio site, and he has been very helpful, and expressed genuine interest in my feedback. It's not often I feel so well listened-to by a manufacturer or service provider; on this occasion, I would give Penbex an emphatic 10/10 for their customer service.

Other things
One other aspect I've not yet covered is uPNP - the ability to share media (and other data) across network devices, which is a great way to keep all the music in one place, and listen to it anywhere in the house.

We only have one uPNP device in the house - the recently purchased D-Link DNS323 which makes up our central data storage. The hi-fi could see 'Dave' (as it's known) but only seemed capable of playing WAV files.. not a huge amount of use, considering we have mainly MP3s.

That said, I'm currently investigating the implementation of mediatomb which is available for the DNS323, and is recommended as a suitable uPNP server in the manual.. we'll wait and see if it's possible to play our music collection on the hi-fi! (TBC)

Posted by james at 9:40 PM

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

A rambling internet radio pre-amble (or 'My Life as an Anorak')

A month or so ago, Beth asked for a stereo system for the kitchen, with a CD player and digital radio. This was primarily because the mac mini's DVD drive has started to reject all kinds of optical media, and it is rather a bothersome process to listen to any radio station, even with an icon on the desktop. In fairness, the mac mini's excellent for video (we regularly stream the TV through the Neuros OSD, and watch programmes on BBC iPlayer) - other on-demand services are frustratingly Windows-only - but I set myself a challenge to find a little CD micro system that has internet radio capability.

Why internet radio rather than DAB? Well, I started researching the options long before the announcement that Channel 4 were to withdraw from the second national digital radio multplex, I have long believed, though, that DAB is very limited in its scope, since our local FM station didn't even make it onto the first multiplex, promised much in terms of quality but delivered much less (MPEG simply doesn't sound good enough) and - in its current form, despite the fairly impressive uptake, is more expensive as a single platform, certainly than conventional analogue radio (you can still buy one for just a couple of pounds). Even DAB+ - which offers some improvements - seems a long way away, and although I'm really taken with the amazing distances covered by the new digital shortwave service Digital Radio Mondiale, there are precious few devices available that support it, and it's still(?) very much in its infancy.

Moreover, I'm hearing impressive things about the capabilities of mobile internet devices, certainly in the US; with an 'all-in' data package, a mobile phone can be used to stream any of the tens of thousands of radio stations on the web, and even cars are being fitted with cellular data cards, bring web mobility to the road as well. I believe internet radio is definitely the future, especially since there are already capabilities for it intrinsically available on so many portable platforms.

I was honoured to be given the DAB radio that we kept in the kitchen in the meantime as an award at work; it sufficed while I carried out my investigations, but because we live in a valley, reception wasn't perfect for all stations.

Acoustic Energy WiFiRevo BlikSo.. what's out there at the moment? There are quite a few internet radio devices available, using the Reciva internet radio directory. Unfortunately many of them are - even to my uncultured eye - horrific looking (the Revo Blik and Acoustic Energy wi-fi radio are two examples of designs that don't sit well with me) or rather plasticky (the otherwise excellent Roberts Stream 202 is lightweight, knockable - and doesn't have a CD player).

I like the concept of Reciva - the comprehensive directory is updated and the system discussed by an active community of users, and it's also possible to create a personal account on the site and populate a 'favourites' collection that will automatically be downloaded to any radio that supports it.

Frontier Silicon, a British-based radio chip designer offers a directory as well, which is probably the largest 'competitor' to Reciva.

There are other internet radio systems available, but they are very expensive and a little overkill for what we need. There's a Philips Streamium system that's designed to play audio around the house - it's seven hundred pounds and.. yet again.. looks awful! Sony also does a high-end hi-fi system that uses its own internet radio system (they are always keen to do their own thing!) and once again, well out of my price range.

One piece of kit, caught my eye, though, by Centrios I first saw it on a Canadian shopping website, but there was very little information about it. I was interested to see if it was Reciva capable, so I wrote a post about it in the community forum, and received some interesting responses - some that advised that I should buy a separate internet radio and CD micro system, and one that suggested that the same device was available in Comet under the 'Goodmans' brand.

Goodmans CD1505WiI found the stereo system on the Comet website - the Goodmans CD1505Wi and it did seem to be of the same design as the system I saw was available in the US. Once again, though, there was very little information about - there was no doubt that it plays CDs (using, I noted, the Gracenote internet database to retrieve artist and song information) and could tune into 'thousands of internet radio stations'. but - once again, it wasn't clear where it got that information!

I called Goodmans customer services - it was interesting to discover that Comet owns the rights to use the 'Goodmans' brand and badge for equipment they buy in themselves. I called Comet customer services - they suggested I go to a store that had one available and ask the staff there for a good look at it, because they had no information about it. Unfortunately, there wasn't one at our local store. Another dead end!

Serendipity stepped in - I was given another award at work, this time in the form of High Street gift vouchers that would cover much of the cost of what could amount to Hobson's Choice in terms of a CD micro system... Beth and I took a trip to Hemel Hempstead (with Suzi, who we've not seen in ages!) to do some further research. They had some in stock (yay!) and I was able to open the box and look at the instructions. Fantastic! I could see it offered some excellent features (more on this later) but still.. no information about where it got its station list from!

Yeah.. of course I bought it!

Before I go into the excitable unboxing and the results of some intensive fiddling, though, I ought to explain why it was so important to me to know where the internet station list came from.

When I was in my early teens, I had my first go at using 'proper' radio - can you believe it was my Dad's ancient clock radio? What made it so special was that it had an enormous tuning dial, and a fine-tuning knob. Within a couple of months (ahh.. the delights of summer holidays!) I could pick up over fifty medium wave stations, stretching to Chiltern Radio (just about, considering I was on the south coast) during the day and RTÉ 2 and Vatican Radio's English service when reception was improved at night.

I then received a short-wave radio - the seeds were sown for a vehement enthusiasm - I would spend whole weekends listening to stations and those distinctive up-to-the-hour callsigns from across the world, from Russia to Taiwan, and even some shortwave pirate stations in East Anglia on a Sunday morning!

Every year I am fortunate to receive a Radio Listener's Guide from Jon's parents as a Christmas present - I used to have an encyclopedic knowledge of radio stations both in the UK and in Europe, and knew when the English services were on air for my favourite world stations.

So now, I'm working in radio, and still have an affection for many commercial stations - from FUN Radio (an excellent digital station for children started by GCAP/Global Radio, in conjunction with HIT Entertainment, who make Bob The Builder and the legendary - and lovely - Susan Stranks) to Big L (Mike Read and David Hamilton's radio station based in Frinton-on-Sea in Essex which was the subject of a hilariously tragic TV programme last year); there are also podcasts with a 'radio' format, like Flat Four Radio and the unique Vobes Show available on Internet Radio through Reciva.

With Beth's requirements (Magic 105.4 and Absolute Radio - not to mention Chill and Chiltern) you can probably surmise that the requirements for this internet radio were extremely high!

I've not had a huge amount of time to play with it this week, with work and its associated commutes taking up so much of my day, but I'll be writing a full review of it in the next day or so...

Posted by james at 9:49 PM

Monday, 13 October 2008

Qik! Get the cameraphone! (techie)

Looking through old entries in this blog, it's fairly obvious that I like to make good use of my technical toys! Windows Mobile ('PocketPC' or 'Windows CE' as it was) has been the mainstay of my mobile gadgets, from my first iPAQ 3760 to my i600, which can do nearly everything I need when I'm out and about, including email, Twitter, playing MP3s with Coreplayer Mobile for Smartphone,

The only thing I'm really after is some terminal software (much like PocketPuTTY, athough it doesn't format properly on the landscape screen). There are a few web-based alternatives out there (such as AnySSH) but I'm struggling to get them working, and even then the Javascript capabilities of Pocket Internet Explorer and Pocket Opera are fairly woeful, so I'm not holding my breath!

I've also spent a lot of time researching SatNav software for it. Even older versions of TomTom refuse to work, and it looks like Copilot Live is the only option. Whether I'm content to spend £63 on something that will be a lot smaller than what I've already got is another matter...

So what can I do with my i600 that actually works?

Well, it's possible to run Java applications (including games!), although Java is not installed naturally on the phone, so something called a 'MIDlet' is needed. There's a guide to getting this working here:

This expands the capabilities of the smartphone a little, releasing it from the bounds of Windows Mobile only software. I've not been overwhelmed by the quality of the software available (perhaps something to do with the fonts.. sometimes they come up looking a bit - well - odd!)

The main thing I've been playing with this weekend has been Qik, though. This is part of a new generation of video streaming websites (like Ustream and Stickam) with the added selling point of being mobile phone-based, so live videos can be 'transmitted' to the internet without any fuss. Cool, eh?

What's quite clever is that, outside wi-fi provided areas (and if cellular data communication is turned off) videos are recorded offline and then sent to the server afterwards. Perfect, then, for catching and automatically uploading those off-the-cuff moments.

Here's an example of the capabilities of Qik - when Lenni and I went to the bridge over the main road near our house, and dropped spinning sycamore seeds to the grassy area below. More - and I'm sure there will be a few! - videos that I've recorded are at qik.com/syzygy.

Posted by james at 10:29 PM

Friday, 10 October 2008

A visit to a World Service Transmitter site...

I was rather excited to be invited to an open day at a World Service shortwave transmitter site, run by VT Communications in the west of Dorset.

The arrangements were set; we were to meet at Waterloo by 8am, so I caught the 6.15 from the airport - far earlier than I normally depart, and before the rush hour traffic has had time to congregate. By 11 o'clock, and after a coach, train and brief minicab journey, I, and the rest of the delegates from across the organisation (including two with whom I work) had arrived. Rampisham Transmitter Site is - as the name suggests - near the village of Rampisham; we caught the train to nearby Crewkerne.

Rampisham Transmitter Site from above

Once we'd settled in, we were shown a presentation about the history of the place, what they do there and why, and then an explanation of DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale - the digital version of shortwave, and pretty breathtaking to listen to, since using decent compression they can squeeze quite a high quality signal into a tiny bandwidth) and the refurbishment of transmitters on the Ascension Islands.

Because most of the gathered delegates were technical sorts (often they have editors and studio managers to visit) there were some very in-depth questions and educational answers.

After lunch, we were shown round the transmission switch (an amazing matrix of large metal 'pipes') and the satellite downlinks, followed by a tour of the transmitter hall - ten enormous boxes, most of which whirred and buzzed. One of the transmitters, though, made a most unearthly sound - the audio from the transmission was being - I suppose - induced and demodulated through the high-powered equipment, as if trapped inside the cabinet alongside the lethal voltages within. Unfortunately there was a gentle breeze blowing inside the transmitter hall and I didn't put the muffler on the H4, so the best recording I got was a brief one:

The eerie sound of a transmitter at work...

transmitter-sound.mp3 (192kB MP3 @ 192kbps)

They have a combination of water-cooled valve and 'solid state' (transistor) modulators and amplifiers that create radio signals of up to half a megawatt each... some of them were out of service, with their doors open so that we could see how the 60 thousand volts that are delivered by the National Grid combine with the signals that are delivered by all sorts of organisations, from BBC World Service to the military to be sent to the enormous (100m tall) transmission aerial arrays and beamed thousands of miles to Africa, Russia and the Middle East.

The weather was, once again, spectacular for October; I had worn my fleece and winter coat on the cold, dark walk to the coach stop, but was in my shirt sleeves when we were taken to the mast field, and wore less than the sheep that were grazing underneath the vast collection of transmission lines and antennae.

All too soon - which was a bit of a shame, since we could have spent much longer there, but for the irregular train service on the nearby single track route - we had to head back to London and from there, home not too long after normal time.

I took lots of photos, though! The best are in the gallery, and there's a scattering below.

Posted by james at 10:14 PM

Monday, 6 October 2008

Nasturtiums - even in October!

I was most surprised to see that the nasturtiums that I planted earlier in the year (shortly after the rest of our vegetable crops failed, since it caught the last frost) had not only shown splendid flowers, but had also spread to the vegetable patch, to create a wonderful sea of flowers and broad leaves.

What's really amazed me is that they're still flowering - even into October!

Here's a picture I took over the weekend - it's still not too cold, so they might last a little longer. Here's to next year and a more successful vegetable season.

Nasturtiums in October!

Posted by james at 1:51 PM

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Birthday party in Didcot (or at least half of one!)

We were invited to celebrate the birthday of my nephew and niece, over in Didcot. The route involves the M1, the M25 and the M40, which can be quite slow at times, and this was one of those times!

As a result, we were a bit late, but it didn't stop us from having a wonderful time - thank you, Cath and Martin for making such a wonderful effort.

Here's a rare photo of the cousins all together (and Martin!)

Cousins - in Didcot, October 2008

Posted by james at 5:16 PM

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Today's the day the guinea pigs get their bath!

Just a quick bit of light relief for a Saturday morning - I found some photos we took last weekend of Frisbee, the guinea pig, having her first bath.

I was going to type 'as you know'.. but it turns out that I've not related this in my blog up till now! Anyway, shortly after we brought some cute cavies home, we had to say goodbye to Hula, since it turned out he was a male piggy, and it would have been pretty disastrous if he'd stayed with Pogo!

He was replaced by Frisbee - half piggy, half tribble, who is squeakier than I could ever have imagined a guinea pig being!

Now they're six months old, we thought it might be a bit of a treat to give them a bath. The photos below are the rather comical results (click them for bigger versions).

Posted by james at 4:07 PM

Friday, 3 October 2008

Berocca - blogger relief (and some fine marketing!)

Berocca Blogger Relief PackI have learned, discovered - and, I suppose, shared - quite a lot with Twitter. It's such an amazing way to keep in contact with friends, meet new people (I follow three or four people from the Luton/Dunstable area), and there's a wonderful sense of community there.

It's definitely not everybody's cup of tea - some might say it's blogging for the attention-deficit egotist(!) - but, along with the daily digest that a handy little shell script produces (unfortunately, I cannot rely on Twitter's archive), it also provides an excellent chronicle of my life so that I can look back on it.

Anyway, you've heard all that before! One of my twittering friends mentioned something called 'Berocca', and I thought I'd look it up. I was most pleasantly surprised to see that there was a special website set up to offer relief to bloggers in the form of some free goodies called - unsurprisingly - the Blogger Relief Pack. Of course, I tweeted this, and decided to apply for one, as did some of my tweetmates (is that a word?). Emma received her email within just a couple of days; I had almost given up on my attempt (perhaps I simply don't update this blog often enough!) when I received an email saying they were going to dispatch a pack to me.

The pack, excitingly, arrived yesterday morning, and I arrived home from work to take a look at the contents. It contained everything the site mentioned and more - see the photo for everything that arrived amidst some rather delightfully green shreddings (and click for a bigger version!).

One thing I ought to mention is that one of my colleagues had some Berocca at work a couple of years ago, and offered some to me. I tend to be on a bit of a caffeine high most of the time, but this made me a bit hyperactive! It's definitely good stuff, and I've had some this evening - it doesn't taste too strong, despite the vitamin C, but it certainly gave me a boost.. I think I'd be asleep by now!

So, thank you, Berocca, for sending me the Blogger Relief Pack - I'm sure the children will enjoy playing with the ones I let them have(!) and I hope this is a commensurate piece of publicity for your rather fine product. (It's about the closest I'm ever going to come to sponsorship.. there'll be no Google Ads on this blog!)

Posted by james at 11:27 PM

Family catch-up...

I thought it was time - if not well overdue! - to write a blog update. I'm sitting on the coach on a Friday evening, taking my last trip home of the week. Since I'm never out of the office dead-on (or just before) six, I tend to aim to catch the half-six coach, but I was a little delayed getting everything shut down and tidied up for the weekend, and was approaching my stop just as I saw the coach leaving. Since the next one wasn't for another twenty minutes, I took it upon myself to run up the road, chasing the stop traffic lights; it was only a quarter mile (if that!) but I was puffing and panting by the time I made it to the stop - but I beat the bus, so I won the race! My goodness, I'm unfit, though.

But what's been going on? I've been tinkering, really - the production of the podcast was quite intensive, and sorting out Dad's laptop (the hard drive failed just weeks after I rebuilt it - typical that the free software I used to make an image of it created a file of 57MB.. I should have checked! I also put together a PC for Lenni, with some bits kindly given to us by some friends, so both children have a small PC on which they can learn (and, of course, play!)

The weekends have been spent with family and friends - we went to a birthday party in Cheltenham (the pictures are on Facebook), and - oh yes - we had some pictures taken by our fantastically talented friend Tamara. It was blessing that the weather was so pleasant, since we were able to have the pictures taken in Stockwood park, and the results are lovely! See the bottom of this blog entry for three of our favourites.

Work's been busy - I was thinking it was going to be quietening down, but we keep on experiencing minor crises (yesterday was a good example, with an IT server failure that was out of our control, but had a serious effect on clients connected to our broadcast network - I can only hope someone's going to learn some lessons from this) so I think I'm earning a living!

And that's about it, really.. Beth's been studing hard, but suffering a little from back pain (she has an appointment at the hospital next week - hopefully that'll shed some light on it), and the children are doing really well and enjoying the new school year. Chris has had the first of his latter milk teeth fall out - this was something of a worry because we'd not realised that there were more to come! He's really enjoying design software (like Phun, the excellent Bamzooki and our long-time favourite, Scratch) Lenni's as cheerful and creative as she always was - unfortunately her goldish died (she was less than a year old) so we've had to replace her - amazing to see how much they've grown, because there's a tiddler (Princess Petals 5) in with Silver Spy.

Another weekend approaches, and includes a birthday party for two of our littlest nieces and nephews!

The Hart family - by TamaraChris and Lenni - by TamaraThe Hart family - by Tamara

Posted by james at 10:57 PM

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