Feet up!
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
 
Audio blogs
I've been listening to Russell's audio blogs, and I'm luke warm on the idea. That's a bit odd because I love listening to the radio, especially good speech programs like BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Maybe it's because speech is an analogue medium, so you can't search it, Google it, or run through it varying speeds; I think the problem is also mental, I can't conciously listen to speech whilst doing something else, something my wife already knows...

On a techie note, I wish Russ had used a slightly higher bit rate as there's too many audible artifacts for my liking on his 8kbps blogs, the 16kbps ones are much better. Also he's very quiet, I've wound up the volume but I've been half expecting him to shout something!
 
Burn all PDFs
ARRGGHH!!! I've got to read yet another specification in Pathetic Duffers Format...

I've got a huge disdain for PDF files, and I've absolutely no idea why someone thought they were a good idea. Invariably they don't even print well, and they tie you into an page based metaphor where extracting the data is hard work, inefficient and error prone. So wtf do people use them? Is giving up paper really that hard?

What I'm looking for is a simple app to pull all the useful info out of a PDF into say SGML, XML or HTML so I can parse it, search it, and present the data in a format that is genuinely useful, if you know of one please let me know!

Update: Mark Pilgrim's pointed me in the direction of PdfToHtml a Sourceforge project, cool!
 
Live weather
Somewhere on the left should be a neat little picture of what my current weather is, courtesy of The Weather Pixie. It might be out a bit, because it's actually the weather at Biggin Hill which is roughly 10km from the office in Bromley and 60km from home in Whitstable, but it shouldn't be too bad.
 
Parp!
Excellent! Protective underwear for flatulence I bet they wouldn't stand up to the after effects of 10 pints of Draught Bass though...
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
 
Just get it done...
I really ought to take Russell's current motto to heart. I've been writing a website on and off for my company for probably 3-4 years now, and I've never been happy enough with the results to release it. That's just crazy, a tech company not having a website...

I suppose what's really shown me up is that Zoe who teaches my kids to swim has her own site - www.swimforfun.co.uk - I've no idea how clued up she is on computers, she's great with kids so taming something that doesn't scratch and bite is probably a doddle by comparison! Anyway the site looks good and the html is pretty sane, some of it looks auto-generated but that's not really a hanging offence, is it? :-)
Monday, July 29, 2002
 
Good news, bad news...
We had some absolutely gorgeous weather this weekend, I had a day off on Friday and played with the children in the garden and then took them to the Kent Beer Festival for a long late lunch. The beer festival is held on a farm, so the children had a field to run around in whilst I had a couple of decent pints. Megan & Andrew made themselve badges; Megan insisted on writing the text on hers so she's now the proud owner of a badge labelled "Megan's Baj"...

In the meantime my wife went to see an friend of ours who's been fighting against a brain tumour for over 5 years, she loved the kids and was Andrew's godmother. My wife saw her on Thursday and said afterwards "I don't think she's going to wake up again". Unfortunately she was right, and Alex died on Friday afternoon whilst I was sitting in the sun in a Kent field admiring the blue sky.
 
BlogAgent
As Russell has mentioned (no link, 'cos I can't find it on his blog any more!) I'm having a quick play with BlogAgent, basically I'm just testing it to see if we can track down when it dies, I might fiddle about with some of the code to sort out a few things but I probably won't.

I was going to tell him about the Muse libraries too, but it looks like he's seen them them.

If you want to try it it's connected to Jabber as finewaybot@jabber.org and it might also be available on MSN as finewaybot@fineway.cx (Jabber/MSN gateways permitting). I'll be running it most weekdays between approx 8:00 and 16:30 UTC but dont rely on it! Be aware that there's currently a problem with the BlogAgent appearing to be offline when it isn't, if so try sending it a "help" command to wake up the connection.

The privacy policy is as follows: I'm not permanently retaining Jabber or MSN id's although I may contact you (whilst you're an active user of this BlogAgent) purely for debug purposes. I don't care what weblogs you've got in your watchlist, although I might monitor watchlists for debug purposes. I will not disclose your Jabber or MSN ids or watchlists to anyone else.
 
Bungle, Zippy & George - update
Cease worrying, they've been found! I suppose it's good news, but I can't stop wondering if it's a publicity stunt.
Thursday, July 25, 2002
 
Free bandwidth, or not...
Being able to piggy back wireless 'net access from one of these i-plus points seemed like a great idea, there's at least five of these kiosks within a few minutes walk of the office in Bromley, sadly however none of them have a wireless network antenna on top.

Even sadder is that the one I can actually see from the office window is within 50m of 4 pubs :-(
 
Commonwealth Games start today
The coverage has been very low-key in the UK press until now. The best stories today are the human ones, the Gambian cycling team who arrived without bikes and who've never ridden up or down hills before, ok, Manchester is hardly in the Alps or Pyrenees, but the Pennines are hardly flat.

Also the English rugby sevens team have selected a player who's never played this variant of the sport before! Headline in The Independent: Rugby Union: St Hilaire thought call to sevens squad a 'wind-up'
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
 
Oh dear, Geoffrey
Maybe I'm being cruel, but I thought the theft of Bungle, Zippy and George was rather funny.

Cultural note: Bungle, Zippy and George were a set of pre-Muppet British childrens' TV puppets in a show called Rainbow, Geoffrey was their human sidekick.
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
 
Web street maps
This is rather cool, Russell's got a link to QDQ who've created a Madrid website mapping all the roads with photos taken about every 10m! Hopefully I should be able to find some of the places I went to on a drunken weekend there a few years ago, probably not though as I've already got lost trying to find the hotel, which seems rather apt...

The first time I saw this sort of thing was on Peter Collinson's Canterbury Tour, I've seen many imitations of Peter's site but none are as extensive as this one.
 
Long weekend...
Wow, that was a mad one! Note to self: Do not have any more children or make them atheist... As I've mentioned before, Sunday was Elizabeth's Christening and we had a few friends and family back home for a party after the ceremony.

We've got a reasonably big garden, but a 3m by 9m marquee (or "Giant tent!" as my son called it) a bouncy castle, and 60-80 people soon fill it up, funny that... Fortunately it's now all over, the marquee and castle have gone, all that's left is some of the remaining debris of party streamers, the usual garden jumble of childrens' toys, swings, climbing frame, slides and some good memories of a very busy day.
Thursday, July 18, 2002
 
FreeAmp is dead...
In name only, so a big welcome to Zinf please. More US legalistic nonsense, as someone is trying to claim the rights to the word Amp! Well I've got news for them, it's called prior art, I think it's rather unlikely that we'll only be allowed to refer to electrical current as V/R...
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
 
Music of the week
Today I've been mostly listening to The Minibosses, a rock band who play their versions of old arcade or console game tunes. Yes, the concept sounds lame, but it's actually great stuff to play whilst coding!

Also a big bonus is that most of their music is available on their website for download in mp3 format. Castlevania rocks!
 
More toys, bells, whistles, etc.
With any luck you ought to be able to comment on these posts now, thanks to those splendid chaps at Enetation, maybe that'll make me write some better stuff, then again...
 
Cool pda upgrade
My Ericsson MC218 really needs some more memory to play with, the standard 16meg goes a hell of a long way, but once you've installed Opera, Python, Phoneman, Nethack and a few other worthy apps it's getting a bit full...

The traditional solution is to get a CF memory card, but this takes up the only CF slot and I'd really like to be able to use an 802.11 or Bluetooth card, if anyone ever gets around to writing the driver software...

These ex-Psion guys seeem to have the answer, they install more memory on the main board, cool! Now to find the cash and write the network drivers...
 
Tool of the week
The humble wood chisel. What a wonderful tool, if I as an unskilled craftsman can get good results quickly with an old blunt chisel, then a real craftsman must love this tool. There's something very satisfying about shaping wood with such a primitive device.
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
 
The death of free speech
My friend Russell Beattie the developer of blogAgent and leading light in Simpleface is getting severe grief at work. Or as he puts it he's "an inch away from getting his ass thrown out onto the street". Why? Because he highlighted in his personal weblog how mediocre a particular piece of software is.

Surely that's good consultancy, is it really good practise to rip your clients off and advocate a product that isn't giving them value for money?

I haven't mentioned names yet, but I know the parties involved, and no it's not MS. Maybe they'll start to see sense and concentrate on the real problem, their software and business practises...
 
Elizabeth's christening
It's my younger daughter Elizabeth's christening this weekend, at St Martin's church in Herne, it should be a really good crack as we've got a huge number of friends and family coming down, I think Derrick's going to claim the prize for most circuitous route, from Eindhoven to Herne via Schipol, Heathrow and Hook I suspect. Anyway to help him on the final leg here's a link to a map of the church, although he ought to know it by now as he's been there three times before, hell he even drove me there for my wedding!
 
Absolute madness
I said earlier that the F1 cars at The Goodwood Festival of Speed were slightly insane, well here's a little proof. According to this report in Autosport Allan McNish took his Toyota up the 1.16 mile hill in 41.565 seconds, I make that an average speed of just over 100mph (or 160+km/h), not bad from a standing start on a road narrower and twistier than the average country lane...
Monday, July 15, 2002
 
Small World, Big World
It's funny really how using the 'net makes distances seem both insignificant and important. I frequently exchange email and IM with friends in Australia, 10 or so hours away by timezone and the best part of a day away by plane. But also I use it look up local news or community events like the Whitstable Oyster Festival.

Here's another local sort of thing, the GBlogs logo, a site collecting together some 500+ British weblogs. Ben's also provided a useful search engine for these sites called Gbloogle, but don't ask me how to pronounce it!
Sunday, July 14, 2002
 
Summer's here!
Despite reports of doom and gloom in other parts of Europe, it's been a scorching weekend on the Kentish Riveria, mid to high twenties and lots of sunshine as my red neck and nose can testify to, it's gone seven in the evening and I wish I could sit in the garden a little longer rather than getting on with some work around the house.
Friday, July 12, 2002
 
Festival season
What with the Whitstable Oyster Festival, Kent Beer Festival and everything else I quite forgot to mention the Goodwood Festival of Speed, no it's not a horse race for Motorhead fans, but something rather different for petrol-heads.

This year there's something like 350 different enties from the sublime to the truly ridiculous. Six Formula 1 teams will be there with this year's (Renault, Toyota) or last year's car (Ferrari, McLaren, BAR, Williams), and the sight of a modern F1 car being launched full chat down the tree lined driveway of an English stately home is really quite awesome. As well as the F1 cars from all eras, there's a big field of sportscars including this year's Le Mans winning Audi, plus some exquisite motorbikes.

Drivers, yeah, there's a couple of famous names... Jenson Button, Allan McNish, Alan Jones, Ralf Schumacher, Riccardo Patrese, Jack Brabham, Patrick Tambay, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Satoru Nakajima, Alex Wurz, John Surtees, Frank Biela, Hannu Mikola, Stirling Moss, Al Unser Sr, Phil Hill, Vic Elford, Luca Badoer, Eddie Lawson, Sammy Miller, Giacomo Agostini and many more!
Thursday, July 11, 2002
 
The World is your oyster...
The Whitstable Oyster Festival starts soon, a whole week's worth of festivities devoted to a humble filter feeding bivalve. It's a fun event and I'll certainly do my best to consume a few, not with champagne though, I find they go down much better with a pint or two of something like Swale Brewery's Whitstable Oyster Stout.

The fireworks on the first Saturday night should be good, last year they were fired from a barge moored a couple of hundred metres off shore opposite the Hotel Continental and the Ski club. I guess they might even be visible from Whitstable Windsurfing's webcam! Top tip for the queue at the bar of the Continental, get some bottles of Shepherd Neame's Whitstable Bay. It's about the only beer they sell that isn't grossly over priced and service is a bit quicker too! I think we'll take a cool box this year, far quicker (and cheaper).
Wednesday, July 10, 2002
 
delete or rm
I think it depends on how well you type as to which command you prefer, and I'm in the rm camp... This spoof article by Peter Collinson about the history of Unix explains it better than I can.
 
Haircut 100
A haircut seems like a damn good idea, it's a few weeks since mine was last done and it's well overdue. Something like Russell's looks like a good idea for the summer, especially the English summer - it's far less hair to get wet...

Oh, and for the record it's currently about 18 degrees, overcast, humid with light showers in London.
 
How old?
I passed a local builders' van this morning, the signwriting on the side proclaimed "builders since 1591", I know some builders can be slow, but really... Now remind me, how old are the colonial countries? :-)
Tuesday, July 09, 2002
 
Red Black trees
I was wondering how red black trees worked, as used by C++'s std::map container, and this song really sums it up.
 
Silly faces!
See the icon on the left? That's a blogchalk!

Later: added the following text for the benefit of Google etc... Google! DayPop! This is my blogchalk: English, United Kingdom, Whitstable, Tankerton, Jim, Male, 36-40!
Monday, July 08, 2002
 
Analogue wireless
Yep, FM radio and the like. Doc Searl (and others) have been talking about iRock a small FM transmitter that can be plugged into the headphone output of an iPod, ok it's nicely packaged, but it seems pretty limited.

I've been using a similar FM transmitter from Canakit for a while now, their UK222 product, and it's great for doing silly stuff like broadcasting foreign radio stations from the 'net around the house, listening to Radio Le Mans at the bottom of an English garden, or pumping out my MP3s and Oggs. Canakit have now got what looks like an even better product, very tempting...
 
Corny or not
Reading the small print on the side of my breakfast cereal packet the other day I was surprised to find that "corn flakes" contain no corn! The "corn" alluded to in the name is maize (or sweet corn), I'd always wondered why corn flakes didn't seem like a grain based product, now I know.
Friday, July 05, 2002
 
More blog/IM action
Russell Beattie has taken the blogToaster concept a big step further, he's built a similar app that talks to Jabber, MSN & AIM, and has far more functionality. His version is called blogAgent and you can download it or follow the instructions in his Russell's blog to connect to the version running on his server.

The only minor problem is that I've broken the version running on his server, whoops... (later: now back and running fine, Russell even sort of thanked me for finding a bug!)
Tuesday, July 02, 2002
 
Stu's Smudges
My friend Stu is a rather handy photographer, I hadn't looked at his website for a while and I've just found that he's now got even more excellent pictures there. Some great atmospheric monochrome shots and some bright colourful pictures from India.
 
Channel tunnel rail link
Union Railways are building a high speed rail link through Kent from the Channel tunnel to London, it feels like one of those never ending projects just like the tunnel itself seemed. Going past the new rail bridge over the River Medway the other day I actually saw a train, ok it wasn't a eurostar but a freight train with ballast wagons, but at least it means that the rail bridge is now connected to the UK rail network somewhere.

Snake charming
Maybe my mobile blogging is going to get easier as I've stumbled ('net stumbling, it's a bit like browsing but more haphazard...) across pyBlogger, a Python script that talks XML-RPC to the Blogger api. I've just got see if I can get it all to run on this Ericsson, if so I can live 'blog pretty much anywhere that's got GSM coverage!

Mark Pilgrim the author of pyBlogger is also writing what looks like a great book on Python called Dive Into Python, for once it's a developer's book that doesn't start with five chapters on subjects like "this is a computer" and it's very readable too.