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Bristol baseball June 22, 2007

Posted by mark in : General, Personal , add a comment

Heard today that a baseball team has started practicing on the Downs – 1pm, Sundays, by the Water Tower – and hoping to get a proper pitch and games. No website that I know of, and no mention on BaseballSoftballUK.com yet. I plan to go along this Sunday (and I’m told that anyone’s welcome).

In the 90’s I played a few games for Crewkerne Cutters (initially at 3rd base, then shortstop and relief pitcher), coached by Patrick Carroll. The SW League folded the following year, but I think there were half a dozen teams, from Taunton, Plymouth, somewhere near Bristol (Yate?), etc. And I think that’s the last time ‘Bristol’ had a baseball team.

Broadband problems May 20, 2007

Posted by mark in : General, Networks, Personal, Telecoms , add a comment

Finally got home DSL service again, after more than 3 weeks, now that my ISP’s fixed the fault (or, rather, taken more than 2 weeks to ask BT to fix it). D’you think that’s a long time? I think it’s a long time. Nobody’s apologised, though.

Anyway, I’ve a few articles and links that I hope to put up, later this week.

AuPix blog February 14, 2007

Posted by mark in : Personal, Telecoms, Video, VoIP , add a comment

AuPix (my day job) started a blog recently, and I may post there occasionally.

Check out John’s posts, once he gets started properly, for insights from a ‘veteran‘ of the video telephony industry.

Clockwork Orange update February 13, 2007

Posted by mark in : Football, Personal , add a comment

Just back from 5-a-side in the rain, and collecting bruises! Since I last played, we’ve dropped to Divi 4 (of 10), and the pitches have been relaid with rubber granules. I’ve shed them all over the house, but better that than the astro ‘burns’ I got from sand.

Result was 8-8, and I got 2. One, a lovely chip over the keeper. The other bounced off me!

Andy Kirkpatrick – “PsychoVertical” February 4, 2007

Posted by mark in : Climbing, Personal, Review , add a comment

Just back from a very entertaining evening at Andy Kirkpatrick’s PsychoVertical show. Several hundred Bristol climbers (and others) in St George’s concert hall, and a 2 hour stream of experiences and laughs. The only ‘gag’ I remember was early on, and due to acoustics and delivery speed, I can’t be sure it’s what he said! :

Climbing’s a bit like masturbation. It’s great when it’s you doing it, but not to hear someone else talk about it for 2 hours.

Anyway, very amusing; and I left with a powerful craving for pizza!

Phone thoughts January 9, 2007

Posted by mark in : Design, Device, Personal, Wireless , 2comments

Desirable features for my next mobile handset (without wanting it to $satisfy all). Currently use a Palm Treo 650 (which doesn’t have 3G/ wifi/ gps/ multitasking OS), and not a landline. Grouped, but no particular order :

Things that I don’t really care about :

How I listen to Music January 1, 2007

Posted by mark in : Music, Personal , 3comments

My server is working again (after 12 months) and I’ve started to use Last.fm, so here are a few notes on how I listen to music at the moment, in case anyone has interesting comments.

My CD’s [...most of them! : **] are ripped and compressed (to FLAC files) with EAC, and the freeDB tagging manually corrected with Mp3tag. Music is streamed between my server and hifi (using SlimServer and a wireless Squeezebox v1), and a SlimScrobbler plugin sends the track data to Last.fm. Playlists tend to be albums, random, or with MusicIP (previously Predixis) …but that’s not integrated with SlimServer yet.

I buy new music I hear on the radio (or Pandora/ PandoraFM), or recommended by Amazon and blog articles. I hear unsigned bands on podcasts (Odeo : an aggregator) and may visit their MySpace pages, but rarely go to concerts. I ’subscribe’ to some podcasts with Songbird (as I said), so that the files are saved to my server (and played with SlimServer), but don’t keep them. I don’t buy downloaded music, because at that price I don’t want lossy codecs at low data rates (vs. CD’s) …and DRM [**]! AllOfMP3.com is an exception, but I haven’t used it.

Songbird has a lot of potential as a player, but it won’t read tags from FLAC files yet. So, no point using it to rate FLAC tracks in my library, and I use MediaMonkey for that. And any FLAC tracks I play with it won’t get recognised by Last.fm (even though it has its own audioscrobbler …which works for MP3), so I don’t play any!

I don’t think that SlimServer or Songbird record the number of times I play a track, nor handle smart playlists (but I may be wrong), and it’s the main reason why I began using Last.fm. When I get an iPod (or other portable device), I’d like to be able to combine the metadata it records with my other sources.

Plenty of software (eg. Songbird) seems able to handle file transfer and syncing between a library and a device, so I don’t intend to use iTunes. If the iPod firmware remains unable to play FLAC, I’d consider loading Rockbox onto it.

I’d like to set up SSH tunnelling (with Softsqueeze as the client), to stream music from my home server to workplace, and that track data would also go to Last.fm. (FLAC files are typically 1000kbit/s, but upstream ADSL is only 250kbit/s; so I’d transcode on the fly to a format with a lower data rate – MP3 or Ogg. My ISP provides static IP addresses, but others could use a dynamic DNS service – eg. dynDNS). If I got a flat rate mobile data plan, I may try streaming to my phone, but doubt it’d normally be an enjoyable listening experience.

** : “Defective By Design” sounds a good description of DRM-enabled music, not just because DRM tries to prevent playback of ‘your’ music on devices that are technically capable, but because distortion is deliberately added to the music, so that good CD rippers ‘think’ that there is a fault (…and there is : by design).

Alcatel-Lucent logo December 20, 2006

Posted by mark in : General, Personal, Telecoms , add a comment

What a shame that the old red Lucent logo is being retired. The “Infinity” branding of the new merged company looks pleasant enough, but just doesn’t have the same ‘class’. And it makes me think of a drug/ biotech company.

Early days yet, though. Plus I’m biased : I was at Lucent for nearly 7 of its 10 years, and always liked the logo.

…[via Design Observer]

SETsquared November 4, 2006

Posted by mark in : General, Personal , add a comment

After a brief interview (yesterday), I’ve joined the SETsquared support community, to help accelerate hi-tech startups at the University of Bristol centre.

I offered one day a month (unpaid), but they have enough mentors already, so I’m most likely to be involved on occasional review panels.

From Palm to iCalendar : Part III October 20, 2006

Posted by mark in : Calendar, General, Personal , add a comment

In Part I, I moved my data from Palm Desktop to a .csv file, via Microsoft Outlook. In Part II, I found that it was a mess when imported into Mozilla Lightning, and looked at other options to get my data into iCalendar form. Now I’ve tried AirSet and Google Calendar…

AirSet : I downloaded the tool and synchronised with Palm Desktop. It was simple, took only a minute or so, and the events looked correct. I’d have put up with the small niggles that (1) all events were in the same Group, despite me creating [Business] and [Personal] Groups (and Unfiled) as suggested; and (2) the sync changed items in Palm Desktop from Unfiled –> Personal. However…

“Completed Synchronization : Desktop calendar events over 12 months old have been skipped in this transfer. These events remain on your desktop, but will not be available in AirSet.” …etc.

So, an interesting diversion, but not a solution.

Google Calendar (GCal) : The import process was simple, but repeatedly generated a server error message of “temporarily unavailable”. Overcame this by creating several smaller .csv files instead (ie. exporting from MS Outlook, one year at a time), and imported the first few files without problems. However, then came the message…

“Processed 1194 events. Successfully imported 1160 events”

…and files after that had their events processed but not imported. I didn’t get any help from Google Groups; and when trying to delete current/future events, to make space to complete a year, repeatedly got the message…

“Error : Server failure. Try again later”

After 4 days, occasionally able to delete an event, I gave up and deleted the whole calendar (dustbin icon). The re-import went smoothly, every “processed” event was also “imported”, and all looked ok. However, I’ve noticed that some items in Palm Desktop are missing from GCal (even though they were in Outlook and .csv). eg. For 1998 I had “Processed 392 events. Successfully imported 392 events”; and I’ve had to manually input 139 events. There was no obvious pattern.

Events are also missing from (at least) 1999, so it’ll take me a couple of weeks to complete my conversion; but the end is in sight! It’s been a long and frustrating process, and the easy alternative would have been to leave my calendar in Outlook, and hope that better tools exist in future. Anyway, I’m happy that I’ve got my data into iCalendar format, and hope it’ll last for a while!

Next steps will be to figure out how to keep my Treo handset ‘in sync’ easily (or not to bother), and whether I should have my primary calendar offline. Meanwhile, here’s an explanation of how to export iCalendar data from GCal to somewhere else, or how to set up a feed if you want GCal to remain your primary calendar

From Palm to iCalendar : Part II October 13, 2006

Posted by mark in : Calendar, General, Personal , 3comments

In Part I, I created a .csv file and imported it into Mozilla Lightning. The result was an unusable a mess! I recognised events, but they were duplicated many times, and showed up in dates when they shouldn’t. I couldn’t see a pattern, let alone explain it.

If the .csv file exported from Outlook has errors, I could try Outlook2vCal or Outport instead – but am reluctant, given their age. However, I didn’t see errors, with it open in Microsoft Excel, other things may be the cause.

The .csv file that I exported from Lightning (as a check) was different from the one imported into it, which isn’t a good sign. Although I’m a very happy user of Mozilla Thunderbird and Firefox, Lightning is only at version 0.3 (as is the stand-alone Mozilla Sunbird, that it is based upon), so maybe bugs within it caused the problem and I should look for another app until it improves.

30 Boxes : I’ve had an account for a while, but not really used it. Can’t log in at the moment because of a database error.

AirSet : Just found this. It offers a downloadable desktop application that will synchronise with Outlook, Pocket PC Devices, Palm Desktop, or Palm Devices …and data can be exported, as iCal. Will probably try this.

Backpack Calendar (37Signals) : I have a paid Backpack plan, a free Basecamp plan, read the Signal vs. Noise blog, may learn Ruby on Rails, and am still avidly waiting for Sunrise! So, I’m very impressed with this company, but the calendar won’t import a file unless it’s already iCalendar (and with a url).

Trumba : Think I had a free account a year or two ago, which has lapsed. No reason to choose this above others.

Google Calendar : I’ve had Gmail as a reserve email account for a while, but haven’t used the calendar. Lots of widgets get built, and there’s active coverage on Lifehacker. I’m a little concerned about my data being crawled, even anonymously, but will probably use this.

More comment when I find a solution.

From Palm to iCalendar : Part I October 13, 2006

Posted by mark in : Calendar, General, Personal , 2comments

I use Palm Desktop for my calendar and contacts. In its favour, it synchronises with my Treo handset, and isn’t Microsoft Outlook (which I’ve used before). However, I’ve wanted to move to an open data format (iCalendar) for a while …for reuse/ mashup, for stability because I’m over a size limit, and in case support for PalmOS ends.

If this was easy, Palm DT would export all the data in a single iCal/ vCal file, or the Treo would sync with a (Windows) app that supports iCal. End of story.

BUT NO, Palm DT only exports to a .dba file, (for archival) …or to vCal, one event at a time! I have 9.5 years of data, so neither is helpful. For Windows users, the only suggestion I can find is to go via Outlook …Ironic, but at least I have a copy.

So, the planned steps were :
Palm –1-> Treo –2-> Outlook –3-> .csv file –4-> ‘app’.

Palm Desktop –1-> Treo :
Sync Palm DT with Treo, as usual.

Treo –2-> Outlook :
a) Change Hotsync conduit : Start > All Programs > PalmOne > PIM Conduit Sync > Sync with Outlook. I was prompted for a file from my Treo “companion CD” : \\English\PostInstall\OutlookSwitcher.exe
b) Change Hotsync Manager, so that “Handheld overwrites Desktop” for Calendar; and Contacts, Memos and Tasks “Do Nothing”
c) Sync Treo with Outlook.

Outlook –3-> .csv file :
a) Try to export from Outlook as a “Comma Separated Value (Windows)” file : File > Import and Export… > Export to a file
b) I had a copy of the requested PRO11.MSI file, on a “MS Office Professional Edition 2003″ CD. Chose advanced customization, and then to ‘Run all Outlook “Importers and Exporters” from my PC
c) …Continued by exporting from the Calendar folder, and not mapping Custom Fields. After clicking “Finish”, I had to select the date range to be covered. The .csv file was created.

.csv file –4-> App that can export iCal :
Imported the .csv file into Mozilla Lightning.

However, there’s no happy ending (yet). More in Part II.

AuPix September 25, 2006

Posted by mark in : General, Personal, Video, VoIP , add a comment

Tomorrow I start a new job, as Finance Director of AuPix Ltd, a Bristol startup working on ‘Video and Voice over IP‘ (VaVoIP). It took an opportunity like this to tempt me back into regular employment, and I’m really looking forward to it!

AuPix acquired IPR from SCOTTY Group, video technology which had been developed by UK-listed Motion Media plc before its 2004 ‘merger’ with SCOTTY. The AuPix team is mostly directors and engineers from the former Motion Media