Thursday, December 30, 2004

Spanish Resource Podcast

The Daily Source Code threw up an interesting thought the other day while catching up after my bandwidth-starved Christmas at home with the parents: podcasts - what a great way to learn a new language. All the benefits of an audio-book, but more interactive, and with a tutor you feel more involved with. Almost as good as booking a group phone course with someone. Ok, so they need to keep up the broadcasts and you can't go any faster than they can post - but a good idea. I found the following after a search on

Really Learn Spanish

Rainbows (6) to Orders

Rainbow Six (Tom Clancy) was so good.

So gripping, so un-put-down-able. Full of tension, action, cool special forces military stuff.

Then there's "Executive Orders". The next one I tried to read, Rainbow Six being my first TC. What happened? I've tried more than once and never got past the first 15-20 pages. I just don't care about the new executive.

Maybe I'll do better with the other one I have - "Games of State". But right now anything else will have to wait til I've finished Pratchett's "Going Postal". Being a part-time employee of the postal service (well, the Post Office rather than Royal Mail if you want to be picky) and a fan of his earlier discworld books, a relative thought this would be quite a good present. It's turning out to be quite enjoyable and definitely readable. There's a fair bit of satire and a few political digs embedded within, choose to note them if you will as you read it - you can't get away from seeing them. Apparently his more recent books have been heading that way. I might post a fuller review once I've finished it (should be another day or two :-)

Firewire and USB at last

Hurrah, I have a USB2 hub and even though I don't quite have firewire or USB2 yet I only need await the PCI card arrival in the next few days before I'll be able to relax about the number of sockets I need. You go buying a computer (3yrs ago, admittedly) with what you think is enough ports, then accessories come along, standard input devices like the mouse and keyboard start wanting to be USB, and everything just grabs your ports and runs away with them. So I needed more. Plus it would be nice to do some editing on the DV footage recorded of the weddings I did the photography for this and last year. Make a proper video of it - something possible but really not easily accomplishable using just the camera and a video recorder. Adding titles and putting the decent segments together in a proper order would be so much nicer.

Plus as more stuff comes out firewire or USB2, I'll have some way of accessing it at least until I upgrade (could be a while yet)

Happy Christmas

Just a note now I'm back from my Christmas spent with my folks - happy Christmas to you all.

Eaten too many sweets already and I got a load more to get through - in fact I thought I'd have way too many to bring back so I tried to finish a couple off before I left.. Hope my waistline doesn't suffer for it. It doesn't usually - sorry, I'm one of those people with a fast metabolism who can eat loads and not get fat. Also hope everyone is safe here and doesn't know anyone who got caught in the tsunami on early boxing day.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

One Size (fits all...?)

One Size says the label on the woolly hat I'm looking at.

So I try it on, and guess what - they made one size too few. It should be called "Two sizes" (or more...). They shoulda made a "One Size - Large"... It fits, but it's a bit tight and might not be that comfortable for wearing for any length of time.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Orange vs. Vodaphone

Having been on my Vodaphone UK contract for a few weeks now I feel able to make a fair comparison with Orange, which I was on previously for 3 years. I also had a vodaphone pay-as-you-go phone before that, but I've never been a customer of any other mobile provider so I can't comment on anyone else (except from 2nd-hand opinions I've heard).

Which, by the way, tell me that Three are very cheap but not as good a service and not so great area coverage; O2 seem ok; and T-Mobile may be a little better than their old days as One-2-One (when they really were rather poor for both non-central-areas coverage and general service) but I don't know by how much.

Anyway, they each have pro's and con's of course. I ended up changing to Vodaphone as they offered a deal that Orange simply couldn't compete with on both the phone and the tariff. I'm picky about my phones, although I wouldn't consider myself a heavy user by any means I am a bit of a gadget person but I go for well-thought out functionality and power-user features every time over looks and style. Ergonomics are important, but that's not the same thing as style. To cut the story short I chose the 6230 (it was that or the SE T610) so anyone I was happy to go with (err... O2, Vodaphone, Orange) who could do me a good deal on that phone with a contract that did the job was going to get the business. I was happy with somewhere between 100 and 200 inclusive minutes per month

  1. Much cheaper with their special offers at the time (6 months half-price line rental and double minutes), 3 months half-price texts.
  2. The phone was free.
  3. Collect Nectar points as you make calls. I suspect this won't make up for the Orange Wednesdays film offer, fiscally speaking or, in fact, fun-wise.
  4. (this list may yet expand)
  1. No rollover of leftover minutes? Not sure if I'm right on this one.
  2. The services aren't as easy or direct or cheap to use: checking your free-minute count uses up your free minutes and requires a couple of levels of menus on the automated system; but they do text you the details (handy if you're forgetful).
  3. You pay for 0800 numbers, ok we get it - the annoying thing is they warn you of this before every call to one; so I hope you're not in a rush to be connected...
  4. (this list may yet expand)
  1. Orange Wednesdays (buy one cinema ticket get one free every Wednesday), not to be sniffed at if you're a film fan.
  2. Nice easy to use services for checking your free-minutes/other info.
  3. More of their phone numbers for customer services etc. are free.
  4. Free calls to 0800 numbers.
  5. (this list may yet expand)
  1. More expensive - they couldn't do any of the half-price offers Vodaphone were able to do, but they could do the double-minutes offer for the first (six?) months.
  2. (this list may yet expand)

In terms of network coverage, they both seem about the same, mind you I've not travelled very far with my Voda-phone yet.

Friday, December 17, 2004

GPS: Gross Paranoia Scare

I've heard via Adam Curry's weblog that President Bush wants to have emergency plans to allow him to temporarily disable the GPS satellites that are such an essential part of today's navigational systems during a crisis.

Ok, it would stop any terrorists being able to use it; but I suspect the US Army and many other people would suffer far more. How paranoid can you get?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

BitTorrent - better to give than receive (b/width)

BitTorrent's great, but it's not perfect. It's only really worthwhile for larger files, and once you've downloaded the file what incentive is there to keep your client open? Even if you're not using your upload bandwidth, and you're feeling generous (leaving it on until you need the bandwidth or reboot), are you going to bother to manually start an old download up again? One solution might be to create a start-up run tool/service that sits in the background and (configurably) keeps up the swarm count for any torrents you have - encourage users to turn it on, and make it part of all clients; but another idea I just had would be to credit people for providing upload bandwidth somehow over time. Is there a way of safely implementing this (ie. unhackable) without resort to servers? Then each client could decide how much bandwidth another client gets by how much they've helped the swarm in the past. It would be quite easy to do if each client kept a record of how much it's uploaded over all torrents; but keeping it so you can't exploit that to pretend you're massively in credit would be the hard part. hashes?

I have heard of another attempt at a 'swarming download' technique called exeem, developed by the people who run Suprnova, a major torrent archive (although most of the content is illegal copyrighted stuff. It's still in closed-beta testing as far as I know, but their aims are to reduce the load on the central seeding server and turn it from a monolithic system into a more distributed one with a few of the 'swarm' of PCs downloading the file turning themselves into mini-servers, selected by bandwidth or connection availability. Sounds like a nicer idea if it works well.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

256Mb in my Nokia 6230

Hurrah... Got back from work today and found a postie had left a card for a packet that needed signing for. I suspected this to be one of three things. I was going to have to go out again anyway to sort/post my sister's birthday present so I thought I might as well go into town and pick it up. It was going to be either my latest DVD from Xiddi (DVD swapping site) which still hasn't arrived; Spiderman 2 on DVD which I ordered the other day; or the MMC memory card for my mobile. It turned out to be the memory card, so now I can fit more than the 32Mb provided with the phone allowing some podcasts (e.g. the Daily Source Code which I've been keeping up with) without having to limit my music listening (mp3) options.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Taxi - French vs. American

How could they do it! I've not seen the new American version of the film but I bet they've completely ruined it. If you've not seen the (subtitled, ignore the dubbed vers) French original go rent it, especially if you like cars and zany (maybe slightly geekish but accessibly so) comedy. Mind out for general spoilers below so don't read on if you want to watch it from fresh.

The French original has to have absolutely the best ending in any movie ever. Well, if you like cars and the bad guys getting what's coming to them. It just hits you without warning after this great, quite mad, chase sequence and the surprise and the situation they're left in before the credits roll is very cool. I bet the only thing the remake has going for it is the hot model-chicks.

Podcasting and Audio Blogs

I was watching the Culture Show on BBC3 (or was it 4?) the other night (repeat of BBC2 original showing) and they were talking about PodCasting, not mentioning but also meaning audio blogging. For any non-techies/geeks who won't have a clue, I'm talking about creating audio programmes (or in the analogy to blogs, "posts") made of music, talk, interviews, whatever - anything really, and publishing it onto webpages, usually as a regular show people can "subscribe" to with appropriate software and download ready to listen to whenever, wherever they want. Kinda like recording a regular radio show and listening to it later on, with a walkman/your hifi. A walkman (sorry, "personal stereo") is probably the better analogy what with iPods being so involved. The whole portable electronic music player phenomenon gave this idea wings although there are many other ways to do it. Many mobile phones nowadays, particularly the high end of the market can download and play mp3 audio files at reasonable quality for their size, and there are an estimated 30million portable mp3 players worldwide.

So I started looking at a few links -, and had a listen to one.

I had a thought that you could probably create one while out and about with your mobile phone too if it's got a voice recorder - or leave yourself a very long voicemail and record it later when you pick it up (gets expensive though). But proper microphones and PC sound editing software is the best way.