Holy fridge, Batman!

Dec 15, 2006 / 0 comments

I have a new fridge freezer. It has a hole in the back of the fridge. I can see through it to the outside world. This is apparently a drainage duct and part of the deicing/condensation thingy-ma-jig. It strikes me as just wrong. Won't all the cold escape? Simon tells me it's only a small hole and his fridge has one too, but I'm not convinced. I'll have to hide it behind some beer so I forget about it.

Small World?

Dec 8, 2006 / 0 comments

Having been reading about Small World Phenomenon (which I've been calling Small World Syndrome for some time now, guess I'll have to change) the other day I was vaguely interested in LOST when I was pointed at it. It doesn't really help model the interconnectedness of the matrix as it's a tree structure AFAICT, but I think it's an fun idea with about as much point as most social networking sites and none of the claims to usefulness. :)

I'd heard of Milgram before; my Mum did some stuff around Milgram's Experiment. SWP seems quite a different topic to me - are there similarities I'm missing or is it just the social psychologist equivalent of hacking on kernel code one day and a web app the next?

Making DVDs hurts

Dec 6, 2006 / 0 comments

I bought a Sony DCR-HC24E for the purposes of recording my wedding ceremony. I could have borrowed my parents', but it's an ancient analogue thing and although I don't really have a use for a camcorder I talked it through with Katherine (making it clear that part of the appeal was just sheer toy value) and we went ahead with it.

(I should point out the driver for recording any of the wedding came from my mother-in-law and I wasn't that fussed about the whole thing, but having experienced the "day was a blur" thing I'm glad we have it. Though I've watched it too many times as I'm about to explain.)

The Sony comes with both USB and Firewire. My desktop doesn't do Firewire, but I figured USB would be fine. First issue is that Linux doesn't seem to support it in USB mode. I don't know if this is easily solved, as reading the manual I discovered that Sony claim USB isn't as good quality and Firewire is better. Huh? It's all digital. What gives? The best I could come up with is that Firewire is better at guaranteeing latency/bandwidth so you don't end up with dropped frames.

Anyway. I buy a Firewire cable and dig out a Via EPIA-M board which has Firewire. Some poking about leads me to the conclusion that I want dvgrab. I fire it up, it seems to do the right thing, I end up with a huge file. Point mplayer at it and discover it's dropping frames. It appears raw DV is about 30Mb/s. The HD in the Via is an old 6GB one that only does ATA-33. So I find a newer ATA-133 capable one, double the RAM in the box (on Adam's recommendation) and try again. This goes better.

So now I have a bunch of AVI files, all of them about 1G in size. avimerge is employed to combine them (I might have been able to just get dvgrab to output a big file, but I was wary of large file support). Then I did ffmpeg -i bigfile.avi -target dvd smallerfile.mpg resulting in a couple of DVD format MPEGs (one for the ceremony, one for the speeches).

My first attempt at a DVD image was with DeVeDe. It seemed to work fine, but I ended up with something that the DVD player didn't like and neither did mplayer or xine. So I fell back to qdvdauthor, which I've used in the past but don't deem the most user friendly of programs. I finally end up with something that mplayer and xine seem happy with in terms of a menu and a pretty picture of us signing the register and working video.

And so to burning a DVD. I used growisofs for this. Firstly with a DVD-R, which mostly worked but had annoying pauses on my real DVD player. So I tried with a DVD+R and this seems to be much better, however there are some minor pauses. This might be my ancient DVD player not coping well I guess.

I'm sure DVD creation shouldn't be this painful. I bet if I ran Windows I could point and drool my way to a DVD with the software Sony supply with the camcorder. All I wanted was a basic menu with a background picture and some video attached to the menu options. I'm pondering doing a version with a picture gallery as well, but can I be bothered with the hassle?

Minor thoughts on the Nokia E70

Dec 5, 2006 / 0 comments

As I mentioned I saw Steve's Nokia E70 at Linux Expo and was quite impressed. After various bits of investigation into the cost of an unlocked version I thought I'd try ringing Vodafone to ask about an upgrade (thinking that I had 6 months left on my contract, but that they still might be able to do me a better deal than £290). Turns out my contract had expired back in August. Excellent. So I've been the owner of an E70 for a couple of months now.

First, the bad. AFAICT this is mainly Vodafone's fault. There's a new version of the E70 firmware out, v2. However only certain variants of the E70 have been approved for this version. Vodafone haven't yet done this for their handsets. The main manifestations I see of this are the phone being slow to rotate the screen when it's opened up (at least a few seconds) and the wireless being flakey. In particular it really doesn't like my WEP enabled house network - it'll associate, get an IP address via DHCP, exchange some packets and then stop. It can see my neighbour's non protected wifi fine, and another WEP network I tried (though I saw pauses with that). This is a pain, but as most of the time when I'm using wifi out and about it's not WEPed it's not a showstopper.

As a phone it's fine. I'm not a demanding user; I expect it to make and receive calls. It does. The addition of the keyboard is very useful for the few occasions I send SMSes. I haven't tried the funky SIP stuff (partly due to the WEP issue, partly as I already have a SIP hardphone).

Where it's really neat is mobile web and ssh. The web browser is quite nice (suitable for checking airport flight departure boards and cinema times as I discovered last weekend). The addition of PuTTY really makes the phone for me. It's small enough that I carry it with me most of the time, and yet it has a screen that can do 80x43 (even if it's very small) and a keyboard. It's really neat for checking my mail/irc while on the move. And because it's all built in I carry it with me in a way I never managed with the Zaurus.

Battery life seems better than my old v600i; with 3G turned on that managed 2 days max whereas with 3G enabled the E70 can happily manage at least 3 days and that's with a bigger screen and probably more use in general. I haven't felt the need to try it with 3G disabled yet.

The main thing I need to do with it still is get round to putting some games on it. Of the sort suitable for playing while waiting for a pizza order to be ready, or waiting for one's wife[0] to do whatever it is she's doing. I'll get round to it. I like the phone though.

Oh, I have a rant about the firmware upgrade. I emailed Vodafone to ask when they might approve the upgrade and moan about the wifi. They got confused about my mentioning wifi and assumed I meant GPRS, but pointed me at Nokia for firmware upgrades. I rang Nokia and they pointed me to my local Nokia Service Centre. I went to them and asked for a firmware upgrade and they said no problem and took my phone off me for 24 hours. In order to reflash the same bloody version I already had back on wiping my settings (which I'd backed up, but that's not the point). Muppets.

[0] I need to blog some more on the whole wedding thing, but I thought I was due something slightly more technical.

Totally married

Dec 1, 2006 / 0 comments

I am totally married, dudes!

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