Sunday, November 29, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
- Small, and lightweight.
- Removable battery and memory card, a plus in my opinion over the rival Flip cameras.
- Quick and easy to use. Frame your shot on the LCD screen, then either press 'photo' to take a 5 megapixel still, or 'movie' to start shooting digital video.
- Up to 1080p video resolution.
- Fixed focus lens, which eliminates focus hunting issues which traditional camcorders can suffer from.
- The glossy LCD can be difficult to see in bright sunlight.
- The fixed focus lens can limit artistic shots, but then this camera is not designed for that kind of photography.
- No optical zoom, and the digital zoom is quite jerky. I can live without these though.
- Sony still sticking to their expensive Memorystick card format.
- Plastic enclosure feels a little cheap. Had a metal case been used this would have been a hugely desirable camera.
This video clip was shot at 1080p, and trust me when I say the quality is very good when viewed on my Bravia TV!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
In case you spotted my previous post, I'm dabbling right now with software development on the Android phone platform. To do this, I've set-up a dedicated development system on my Acer 4520 laptop, and below is my installation guide, in case anyone wants to do something similar.
The specification for the system is as follows:
- Kubuntu 9.04 running KDE 4.2 (I wanted a KDE environment specifically for this system, mainly for the looks!)
- Latest Eclipse Galileo development environment.
- Latest Android 1.5 SDK
Here's the installation sequence I used:
Screenshot of the finished environment:
- Clean installation of 32 bit Kubuntu 9.04. 32 bit required for Android IDE compatibility.
- Boot into desktop and enable wireless networking.
- Enter the WPA password twice when prompted.
- Just enter a blank password for the KDE Wallet.
- KDE might crash once networking has been enabled. Reboot at this point, and network will connect when you log-in again.
- Install all updates using System Settings -> Add & Remove software.
- Next install NVIDIA v180 driver using Hardware Drivers tool. Ignore the proprietary Atheros driver option.
Packages to install
- Using command line to install these packages in order for the Java license to be displayed correctly:
- sudo apt-get install flashplugin-installer sun-java6-jdk
- Verify Java version with:
- java -version
- javac -version
Installing Android development environment
- Download eclipse Galileo and Android SDK 1.5. Then install as follows:
- tar -xvf eclipse-jee-galileo-linux-gtk.tar.gz
- unzip android-sdk-linux_x86-1.5_r3.zip
- sudo mv eclipse /usr/local/bin
- sudo mv android-sdk-linux_x86-1.5_r3 /usr/local/bin
- Then add Eclipse manually to the KDE start menu:
- Name: Eclipse
- Location: /usr/local/bin/eclipse/eclipse
- Description: Java IDE
- Icon: Search for 'Eclipse'
- Start Eclipse, select the default workbench location, then close the Welcome tab on launch.
- Then select Help -> Check for updates.
Install all updates then restart Eclipse.
- Now set-up the Android plugin in Eclipse with:
- Help > Install new software....
- Click Add Site...
- Enter the Location: https://dl-ssl.google.com/android/eclipse/
- Select the checkbox next to Developer Tools and click Install...
- On the subsequent Install window, "Android DDMS" and "Android Development Tools" should both be checked. Click Next.
- Read and accept the license agreement, then click Finish.
- Restart Eclipse.
- Now modify your Eclipse preferences to point to the Android SDK directory:
- Select Window > Preferences... to open the Preferences panel.
- Select Android from the left panel.
- For the SDK Location in the main panel, click Browse... and locate /usr/local/bin/android-sdk-linux_x86-1.5_r3.
- Click Apply, then OK.
- Disable Google usage stats.
The Android environment is now ready to use. All that is left is to fine-tune the desktop to my preferences, and we're done.
- Install Adobe flash player: Having installed the flash plugin in the earlier steps, launch Konqueror and do the following:
- Settings -> Configure Konqueror
- Web Browsing -> Plugins
- Plugins tab -> Scan for Plugins
- Flash plugin should then appear in the list.
- Hit 'OK' to confirm, then test at http://www.bbc.co.uk/
- Settings -> Configure Konqueror
- Set homepage as: /usr/local/bin/android-sdk-linux_x86-1.5_r3/documentation.html
- Set Konqueror to load homepage on start-up.
KDE desktop configuration
- Right-click workspaces -> Configure Desktops. Increase workspaces from 2 to 4.
- System Settings -> Appearance -> Fonts. Change font DPI to 96.
- Add the following apps to Start menu Favourites: Applications -> System -> Terminal; Development -> Eclipse
- System Settings -> Notifications. Event Source -> KDE System Notifications. Remove sound from Logout and Login events.
- Go into sound mixer and maximise Front and PCM sliders (or there will be no sound in Flash Player).
- Set wallpaper.
- Lock widgets.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
If you are unfamiliar with XBMC, it provides a slick interface to connect to your TV, through which you can access all kinds of media stored on network hard disks. I tend to use mine fo viewing photos on my TV, and accessing centrally recorded TV programmes from my MYTHTV viewer. Anyway, whilst an XBOX + XBMC works well, it cannot play high definition content, not to mention the fact it looks a bit ugly, and the fan makes a lot of noise whilst running. So, when I saw Acer had recently released a tiny, cheap desktop (or 'Nettop') PC called the Aspire Revo, this looked like the perfect upgrade for my XBMC system.
I won't go into detail about the Revo's spec here - many other sites have that well covered already. I purchased mine from eBuyer in the UK - the linux version, with 1Gb RAM and 160Gb hard-drive, for the bargain price of £160 including free delivery. I then set to installing this with XBMC, which in the most part was very simple, but I did struggle to get the WLAN working. Therefore, I thought it might be useful to note my installation procedure here, in case anyone else can benefit from the experience.
Before we talk software, here are a couple of shots of the physical installation using the supplied mounting kit. Neat huh?
Right, now for how I went about installing this. Proceed as follows:
- Physically install the Revo - connect HDMI, power, keyboard, and in my case, a Windows MCE remote control USB IR adapter.
- Switch on the power, and hit DEL to get to the BIOS settings. Disable Revoboot as this is not required.
- Next, download XBMC Live custom build including the latest NVIDIA ION drivers following the instructions in item 3 of this post.
- I burned the ISO to a CD ROM, then plugged-in my USB CD drive to the Revo, inserted the CD, and rebooted.
- Hit F12 to get the Revo boot menu. Select the CD ROM and proceed.
- Follow the instructions to install XBMC Live to the hard disk - pretty straight forward. Then reboot.
- After about 20 seconds of boot time, I was greeted with the familiar XBMC welcome screen. Remote control working right out of the box. Before configuring XBMC itself, some system-level tasks are required first.
- Since the WLAN does not work out of the box, I first install SSH from the command line by hitting CTRL+ALT+F2, logging in as XBMC user, and then typing: sudo apt-get install ssh
- If you like, you can continue to use this command line to complete the set-up, but I found the text was cropped by my Sony TV, so instead I plugged-in a network cable into my router, and SSH'd from my main desktop PC using PuTTY.
- Next, I performed a system update with sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade. I then rebooted after this.
- Next, SSH back into the box and install more essential packages for the WLAN to work: sudo apt-get install ntp wpasupplicant wireless-tools. I included NTP so the Revo can keep accurate time.
- After another reboot, time to set-up the WLAN. My home network uses a hidden SSID which, to this day, I have not managed to get the Revo to connect to. Having now unhidden my SSID it works, so I still need to figure out how to get the Revo to connect to an unhidden network. Not urgent though. Additonally, I have WPA / WPA2 security enabled. First thing to do is sudo vi /etc/network/interfaces and make your file look just like mine:
# Used by ifup(8) and ifdown(8). See the interfaces(5) manpage or
# /usr/share/doc/ifupdown/examples for more information.
iface lo inet loopback
iface eth0 inet dhcp
#iface eth0 inet static
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
pre-up wpa_supplicant -B -Dwext -iwlan0 -c/etc/wpa_supplicant.conf
post-down killall -q wpa_supplicant
- Next, you need to configure wpa_supplicant. Two pieces of information you need are: a) your SSID, and b) your WLAN password. In my example below, I will use your_essid
and your_ascii_key to replace my actual values used. A good reference for this part can be found here. First thing then is to get your HEX password by using the following command:
wpa_passphrase your_essid your_ascii_key
- Which will give you, as an example, this output in a terminal:
Next, copy this, and then sudo vi /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf and make the file look like this:
- Save this file and you are ready to test the connection. If all has gone well, running the following command will confirm you can connect via WLAN now: sudo wpa_supplicant -iwlan0 -c/etc/wpa_supplicant.conf -Dwext -dd
- Hit CTRL-C to quit wpa_supplicant. You can now manually bring up the connection with sudo ifup wlan0, or just reboot.
And that's it for getting the WLAN working. The final base configuration required to ensure XBMC can play everything correctly is as follows:
- Go into XBMC's settings, and select the following:
- VIDEO: Setting > Video > Play:Set Render to - VDPAU
AUDIO: Settings > system > audio hardware > Audio output (digital) - DigitalAudio output device - plug:hdmi (if you just use hdmi here, your music files will play about 10% faster than they should!)
- Passthrough output device - hdmi
- Downmix multichannel audio to stereo - ON
The rest of the XBMC configuration is up to you, but having done the above, you have a solid, fully working system to build on.
First impressions of the Revo are excellent, and it appears to be perfectly suited to the low-cost media centre application here. I hope this information was useful - thanks for reading.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
I've been running an excellent Acer Aspire One since January, which I've tried a number of Linux distributions on. I pretty much settled for Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix, but decided last week to try OpenSolaris 2009.06 preview (build 111a). I've always been a fan of OpenSolaris' beautiful Gnome themed desktop, plus the feeling that it's a fully integrated Desktop. However, it's always fallen short, for me at least, on hardware support. Even the most recent official release will not even recognise the network card on my desktop PC - crazy!
Well, a huge amount of work must have gone into the latest builds of OpenSolaris, as, out of the box, everything works perfectly on my Aspire One, and even though I'm running a 'preview' release, the desktop is extremely stable, and very attractive. I'll be installing the official release when it comes out in June, and thoroughly recommend it to anyone wanting an attractive Ubuntu alternative.
Thanks for reading,
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Previous attempts to achieve pleasing digital B&W shots have been disappointing. Quite often because the technique has been to shoot a conventional colour shot, desaturate it in Photoshop, and then try to add some contrast and grain to achieve the vintage B&W look, without destroying too much detail. Last night I stumbled upon the following article by Tony Karp which gave me some clues as to how to configure my camera to take a good B&W shot directly, with little post-processing required:
I configured my Lumix with settings I believe are close to what Tony was using, and here are my initial results:
OK - not the most exciting subject matter, but I'm very pleased with the contrast and texture of these shots. Certainly the best B&W results I've ever achieved on a digital camera. I'll be taking more in the near future for sure!
Thanks for reading,
Saturday, March 7, 2009
I remember this having a huge influence on my at the time - from the revolutionary Synclavier sampling & time stretching (put to amazing effect on the classic track '19'), to the high-tech circuit board front cover. I pretty much wore out the cassette (chrome tape, with Dolby B if I remember rightly!) listening to this over and over again (it was my only album at the time after all)!
25 years, and almost a 1000 CD purchases later this album is still not available to buy on CD - something I've never understood. So, today when I found it for MP3 download at Amazon I couldn't flex my Amex fast enough. OK - ideally I'd like a lossless FLAC format, but listening to the album now as I type this, the quality is good enough, and so much better than the original cassette!
Finally, Paul Hardcastle inspired me to want to become an electronic music producer. Not something I ever did professionally, but I dabbled with various software on my Spectrum (yes, really) Amiga, and later Windows PCs. This week I've decided to build a new mini studio, based around my Vista laptop, an M-Audio Oxygen 8 V2 keyboard, and Cakewalk Sonar Studio 8. The Sonar software is still on its way from Amazon, but the rest is here ready to go. If I can bash out anything good, I might put it online - you have been warned!
Thanks for reading,
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Hello Nick, do you speak English (UK)?
Help translate Facebook into English (UK) so that it can be used by people all over the world, in all languages.
Hmm, so if the site is not already in English (UK) then what language is it in, and when did I learn it?
Seriously though, this is a great example of how us English folk find ourselves speaking a 'regional' dialect of the language, rather than just plain old English.
Can't wait for the new albums to be released. Having seen Prince live a few times now, most recently during the 21 nights at the London O2, I'm partucularly enjoying the CD which came with the Randee St Nicholas book. Just buy the book for the CD - it's that good!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The best ones are on-line here
I find the winter sun a much better light than in summer, as you have a lot more time (i.e. all day) to enjoy the soft light and long shadows. Next time I fancy getting out onto the Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach a few miles west from where I was yesterday.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I like travelling to places, and the map below shows where my carbon footprint has lead me so far. It's a big world!
visited 19 states (8.44%)
Create your own visited map of The World or try another Douwe Osinga project
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I've always found Windows a little painful to use - not sure why, and after all, should it really matter? A computer's OS is just a way of launching your web browser or e-mail client, so why do I (and many others) feel the need to try new alternatives? I've often been tempted to get a Mac, but exquisite as they are, I could never justify the premium compared to much cheaper PCs. So how to get the Mac experience, without buying one?
I've been playing around with Linux alternatives, and think I have finally found one to move wholesale from Windows Vista: Fedora 10.
Whilst I still don't believe Linux is easy enough to use for the mainstream, it does now offer a powerful and attractive alternative to those who want to 'Think Different' without buying a Mac. Fedora 10 (a product of Red Hat) works very well for me, having tried all the mainstream alternatives (Ubuntu: too ugly; SuSE: too fussy). I might talk a bit more in detail about the benefits some time in the future, but for now here are a few screenshots to show how my desktop looks as a basic illustration of the Fedora experience:
1. Here's the basic desktop, as it appears having booted-up:
2. Firefox web browser:
3. The OpenOffice suite, an effective alternative to MS Office (and of course, free):
4. Virtualbox running Windows Vista for occasional times when I can't get a job done in Fedora (i.e. updating my Tom Tom, and synching my iPod). I admit, this is not an ideal solution (especially as you have to buy a copy of Vista!), but it works very well:
5. For me, here's the best bit: multiple desktops. When I started work at Nortel, my first PC was a HP Unix workstation, which had multiple workspaces on the desktop. Once you're used to this way of working, it is very hard to go back to a single desktop (i.e. Windows). Even Mac OS X has recently added this feature - I was surprised Vista didn't have it. In my opinion, Fedora, and the other Linux distributions, implements this feature the best out the lot. My last screenshot is just one example of how this looks - you have to see it in action, and use it, to reaslise how much easier it makes juggling multiple tasks. Anyway, here's a 'zoom out' of my four virtual desktops:
Alright, that's enough nerding around for today. There are loads of reviews and videos of Fedora out on the web in case you want to see more. If I have already inspired you then get over to the Fedora web site and download (yep - it's free) the operating system and try it for yourself.
On a slightly more serious note though, why on earth hasn't Apple released OS X as a software product you can buy and install on your standard Windows PC, to rival Vista directly? Surely this would open a whole new route for people to migrate from Windows to Mac, generating more sales for Apple. Right now, you have one option if you want to migrate:
1. Buy a new (expensive) Mac.
2. Dispose of your old PC.
Not the cheapest, nor the most green approach if you have no good use for the old hardware.
Instead then, if people could buy Mac OS X and install it over (or along-side) Windows, then this is what could happen:
1. PC user buys an iPod. Installs iTunes on their Vista PC, and likes the simplicity and style of his small Apple product. He wants more of it.
2. He buys a Mac OS X CD-ROM and installs it on his Windows PC. Apple will have written a very friendly migration tool, so the PC user does not lose any documents, all his mail is migrated, and his internet bookmarks. He's now a Mac user, albeit on his existing PC hardware.
3. After a while, the PC user is loving the Mac OS experience, but hates his ugly old PC hardware. Time to upgrade, so he walks into an Apple Store, and buys an iMac.
There you have it. Apple have ultimately gained a sale of an iMac which they might not have got otherwise. They have also made some high-margin revenue from the sale of the software-only Mac OS X CD. Finally, as long as the technology all works, the user is then locked-in to the iMac hardware, and so becomes yet another very loyal Mac fan.
No doubt this is a stupid idea, otherwise why haven't Apple already done this (well, perhaps the iPod and iPhone have kept them busy enough)? Anyway, seems like a good plan to me!
Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Today's announcement, and resultant media coverage, that the company had taken protection against bankruptcy was quite a shock, but to be honest, not the most surprising news.
I'm not a financial expert, but our business is struggling to shake off debt, a lot of which is left over from the dot com boom & bust. Admittedly, the company has had it's dark times during the early 2000s, but those responsible have been punished, and we have an entirely new organisation. Our current CeO, Mike Zafirovski (Mike Z to us employees) is the best we've had in a long time. Hell, even us Brits have adopted the 'Mike Zee' rather than 'Mike Zed' pronunciation, such is our loyalty. That's a big deal!
I joined Nortel in the UK straight from University in 1996, so have seen the amazing highs of 1999 - 2001, and the subsequent lows. A lot of people have come and gone, sadly most have gone. What remains, however, is in my opinion a group of tough, battle hardened, dedicated professionals, just aching to enjoy the good times again. I know we would all agree the excesses of 2000 will never return. Fine by me. All we want is a fair chance to turn a decent profit, and continue to contribute to the global telecoms revolution.
Reading the Canadian Globe & Mail news coverage of today's events, I was most impressed by comments left on their web page, in the middle of the freezing Canadian night, by readers of various opinions. There was a lot of support for the company, and some people ready to have a kick. What most made me smile, though, were those who were correcting the other's spelling and grammar. Great fun, and an example of how the Canadians take pride in everything they do.
I've worked in Nortel's Technical Support organisation for the majority of my career, and have recently moved to become a Project Manager. I have worked with some of the most innovative, clever, and hard working people in the industry. A lot of them are still here. If you can value a company on it's products, people, and customers, then we are certainly a world leader (even despite my admittedly biased opinion).
Tough times, but tough characters. The banks have had some help - I hope there are a few dollars (or a few hundred million dollars!) still free for the manufacturers. Then we can get on with delivering the future.
Thanks for reading,
Saturday, January 10, 2009
The usual items are all there: get fitter (I'm a part-time long distance runner, and have had a few modest successes, completing the Greenwich 'run to the beat' half marathon in London last year in under 2 hours). Learn to play my (two!) guitars is another I hope to make some progress on. Watching 'Guitar Heros at the BBC' on TV last night gave me a bit of inspiration. Perhaps I'll pick-up my white Stratocaster later today...
One other project I'm looking at, as an observer at least, is Richard Nobel & Andy Green's new bid to produce a supersonic land speed record car. Bloodhound SSC is aiming to hit Mach 1.4, or 1,000 mph - quite incredible. I was a close follower of the Thrust SSC project back in 1997 (via their then ground-breaking web coverage) and watching the on-car video of some of the supersonic runs, I'm amazed Andy Green wants to go through that again. I do love his comments on the Bloodhound web site, stating that breaking the land speed records is considered his 'holiday job'! Anyway, I'm toying with the idea of buying the Gold membership for £75 which includes, amongst other things, to attend a test run of the car in the UK. Seems like very good value to me.
Anyway whatever speed you drive today, be it 30 mph, or indeed Mach 1.4, it looks pretty icy out of the window today, so take it easy around those bends!
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Working down my list of new years resolutions for 2009, the next to get started is a blog. Well, here it is!
I've no specific agenda to talk about - I plan to post my thoughts as and when I feel like it. My main interests are technology related, so chances are I'll be posting some thoughts, and tips on items such as computer networking, migrating from Windows to Linux, and that sort of thing. I may also impose my tastes in music on you (you have been warned!), and if anyone has spotted the musical reference in my blog's title, then you'll know what my favourite album is currently!
I'm also getting more into digital photograph, having received a recent birthday gift from my folks of a fantastic Lumix DMC-FZ28 (thanks again Mum & Dad)! This will replace my good, but tempremental, Samsung Pro815 I've had for a few years now. I've not had much chance to test the Lumix out in anger much yet, but plan to as soon as the dreary English winter weather brightens up. Meanwhile, I've recently set-up an on-line gallery (another new years resolution) where I'm uploading some of my favourite shots. Hopefully you might like some of them too. The photos are located here: http://picasaweb.google.com/mobile.harvey
I'm sure other topics will come and go through this blog - let's see where 2009 takes us.
Final thought for today: I, like a lot of people, will be heading back to work tomorrow, into unprecedented workplace uncertainty, which of course started last year. I work for a Telecoms manufacturer, and have been going through cut-backs, redundancies, and falling share prices since the dot com bust in 2001. From a personal perspective, I'm hoping my company is doing enough to weather the storm, but only time will tell. I just want to wish everone out there, heading back to work this week, a smooth return to the office - whatever form that takes. If we all get our heads down, work hard, roll with the punches, and make the most of whatever comes our way, I hope we'll be facing a more certain future this time next year.
Thanks for reading,