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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, 13 April 2009

Just updated to Movable Type 4.25 - checking the Twitter feed still works!


Posted by james at 8:52 AM

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Goodmans CD1505Wi (and similar) - comments, news and an excellent blog!

I have finally been scouring through my blog comments - unfortunately, I still receive a huge number of spam comments (must get round to installing the Captcha interface!) - and would like to apologise to those who've left comments that have, until now, remained unpublished. Sorry!

One comment that grabbed my interest was from Voyager who wrote:

I have some hardware information that might be interesting for Goodmans/DNT/Centrios users. It is on http://penbex.wordpress.com

This blog goes into far more depth about the hardware and software of the excellent radio, and I'm very much looking forward to reading it in detail.

Thank you also to Jos, who wrote:

a helpful review

for your information, I only used the device on wire, and it has worked OK since, with Twonkey streaming thousands of MP3's out of a QNAP 409 Pro LAN storage device (4x HD). The display only goes up to 999, but the radio "sees" all of the MP3's, playing them at random

one thing that annoyed me was the horrible noice the device makes (in a 150m2 room, disturbingly audible everywhere), so I replaced the fan with a external 60x25/mm model on the BACK of the housing (silenX iXtrema PRO)

bought a second device for 100 euro's, but both sound and display broke down after 30 minutes of playing; still waiting for a replace[ment.]

That's a really useful suggestion with the fan - I'll see if I can find one!

Finally, I've been in occasional contact with Paul, one of the really helpful developers at Penbex; he is currently working on an Non-disclosure Agreement with BBC interactive so that all the interactive and on-demand services can be available on the radio. This could mean really good news for owners of this wi-fi radio, since the Listen Again / iPlayer service is simply amazing.

Once again, this is an example of real on-line community, sharing knowledge, resources and appreciation of a (currently) niche technology, and I'm really proud to be part of it.

Posted by james at 2:05 PM

On-line fraud - lessons learned (hopefully by Play.com, too!)

Beth received an email from Play.com on Wednesday morning to say that the order she had placed was ready for dispatch. To someone simply known as 'Mary' at an address in North London.

As one might imagine, this was extremely nervewracking, so the first thing that Beth did was cancel the order; fortunately, it was early enough in the morning that the offices hadn't been opened, so the process couldn't get much further, and no money had been taken off the credit card.

She phoned the office as soon as it opened, and the first thing Play.com did was close her account; somewhat summary, I suppose, but the most effective means to prevent a recurrence. It was obvious, from what the customer services assistant said, that other orders had been placed with other customers' accounts to the same address.

Once again, Twitter has really impressed me; Beth kept tweets up-to-date about her experience, and a friend of ours picked up the story and passed it to Rory Cellan-Jones, who's the BBC's Technology reporter. He gave me a call, and I put him in touch with Beth, who told him the full story. Whether anything will come of it, I don't know, but it's further evidence, if any were needed, that Twitter is a really powerful channel for finding news stories.

On reflection, I have a suspicion what happened. We were a bit concerned that Beth's laptop may have had the Conficker virus, which is why I spent a couple of evenings rebuilding it just before the 1st of April 'payload day' that security experts predicted could cause havoc on the internet, were the millions of infected computers instructed to create 'denial of service' attacks on major websites.

What actually happened on the 1st of April was.. very little. I was rather taken by the notion that what actually happened was that it was set as the end date for an 'auction', where the details of all the computers infected were sold off to the highest bidder, so all the information that was harvested could be used to carry out fraud just like that which happened to Beth.

There are, of course, lessons to be learned from these experiences. What was - and remains - quite concerning is that:

  • Play.com retains credit card details (in fact, it was certainly the case when Beth was victim of the fraudulent activity that one needs to call the customer service centre to remove them!)
  • It is also possible, without any verification whatever, to change the delivery address of an order.

In my opinion, this is why Play.com was seen as a suitable host for such criminal behaviour, and I would not recommend creating or retaining an account with them until they sort this out. On this occasion I think we (and Play.com!) were lucky; I know what a hassle - and possibly even embarrassment - it is to have to call credit card companies to inform them of fraud. It's a shame, because Play.com do some very good deals on games and music, but I can't put a value on security and reassurance.

Posted by james at 1:11 PM

Weekend away

Beth and I decided - as a sort-of birthday/anniversary treat - to take off last weekend and hide away somewhere, just us two, to relax and recuperate before the excitement of the Easter school holidays. After a little research, Beth found a hotel in Oxfordshire - the Lambert Arms, which offered bed & breakfast (and free wi-fi!) for a very reasonable price; better, even, than a Travelodge.

Our room door - with emergency fire axe!We couldn't have been more pleased with the room, the service and the friendliness of the staff - you could tell it was run by a small, close-knit team, and the manager, Neal, was a cheerful man (even first thing on a Sunday morning!) who was happy to help when we ended up having difficulty getting into our room. It seems the lock went wrong; consequently, one of the receptionists had to find an alternative route into the room to be able to unlock the door!

All-in-all, I would definitely recommend the Lambert Arms for anyone staying near Oxford!

Beth and I took a trip into central Oxford on Sunday morning, using the Park And Ride service. It was possibly my first 'proper' tourist visit, and, in the spring sunshine, I was really taken aback by the gorgeous architecture and the well-preserved, traditional nature of the city; most towns, if you go off the main streets, you find some rather untidy, urban backstreets. In Oxford, though, even these small streets are cobbled and filled with charming stone buildings - halls of residence, and (I would imagine) the houses of those who teach at the many University Colleges.

We also had a gentle walk along the Thames, on the other side of the river to Christ Church meadow, and watched the rowers as they did their practice, their trainers cycling along the bank shouting (mostly) encouragement! I took quite a few photos - the sights were some that I really wanted to be able to remember.. miles away from the technology and rush of the life we'd (mostly) escaped for that weekend! There are a couple of photos below, and more in the gallery.

Oxford County HallBeth and me by the river
A snapshot of the Thames at Oxford on a Sunday morningBeth outside Christ Church College

Posted by james at 11:11 AM

Friday, 3 April 2009

Can I get the MT-Twitter plugin to use TinyURL?

This evening, I've had a bit of trouble getting my blog entries to appear as sensible URLs on Twitter. For some reason, the clever API that used automatically to send the web link to the ever-useful TinyURL.com seems to have stopped working, leaving a half-finished URL which - frankly - doesn't work.

As I mentioned in a blog post over a year ago, I've been using the MT-Twitter plug in from Chopstix Media, which is a clever Perl script that posts the entry to Twitter.

I thought I'd make a slight modification to twitter.pl, based on a useful post by James Januszka. I took:

require LWP::UserAgent;
my $intro = 'Published a new blog post: ';
if ($config->{twitter_intro}) { $intro = $config->{twitter_intro}; }
my $text = $intro . $entry->title . ' ' . $obj->permalink;
my $ua = LWP::UserAgent->new;

and replaced it with:

require LWP::UserAgent;
my $intro = 'Published a new blog post: ';
if ($config->{twitter_intro}) { $intro = $config->{twitter_intro}; }
my $posturl = $obj->permalink;
my $url = 'http://tinyurl.com/api-create.php?url='.$posturl;
my $browser = LWP::UserAgent->new;
my $response = $browser->get($url);
my $tinyurl = $response->content;
my $text = $intro . $entry->title . ' ' . $tinyurl;

my $ua = LWP::UserAgent->new;

The theory's sound.. this, however, will test whether or not it works. A crash-course in Perl if ever I needed one..!

[edit]Hooray - it works![/edit]

Posted by james at 10:37 PM

Google Maps over 3G / GSM on the i600 (techie)

I'm fairly sure I've mentioned during earlier blog entries that Orange does an 'Orange World' all-day internet tariff for just £1. This is extremely useful for occasions when I'm out and about (as I was last Monday) but despite my best efforts, I couldn't get Google Maps working over the phone's cellular internet connection.

No matter which version I installed, whenever I tried to run it, it would say "This application requires a data connection" and it steadfastly refused to acknowledge the dialled-up line.

It was when I was (once again!) wrestling with this, just before I took the trip into London with Chris a couple of Mondays ago, that I was reminded of a setting I changed to stop the phone dialling up whenever I opened an application that required the internet. I wrote about it in a past blog entry:

If my i600 can't find a wi-fi connection (or can't find it in time!), it'll dial up a GPRS connection, which - certainly since I'm on a pay-as-you-go arrangement - costs money, and is very very slow.

To avoid this happening, I change the settings for GPRS thus:

Start -> Connections -> More -> GPRS -> Orange Internet

Change the Connects To menu item
from The Internet
to WAP Gateway

Obviously, this stops it from connecting to the GPRS system entirely anyway, so I need to put it back if I want to browse when I'm out and about...

In fact, what I did when I wanted to use GPRS/3G connections for any particular application was to change the application's individual connection settings to "WAP Gateway" - which, of course, worked. Google Maps doesn't have the option to change the connection, so it occurred to me that what I needed to do was - for the duration of the day's internet use - change the GPRS settings back:

Start -> Connections -> More -> GPRS -> Orange Internet

Change the Connects To menu item
from WAP Gateway
to The Internet

... doing this had exactly the right effect: Google Maps worked perfectly (with Streetview, too!) and I didn't have to change the settings for email or Opera to be able to check my messages and surf the internet while I was out. Most importantly, I could actually work out where to go without getting lost - something of a miracle, given my poor sense of direction!

Of course, when I got home, I had to change it back; because wi-fi doesn't connect straight away when the phone is in use, it's far too easy to dial up and - once again - spend unnecessary pay-as-you-go credit!

Posted by james at 9:57 PM

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