"It's all in the game" - Balitmore Traditional.

Tue 17 Feb 2009

Like many of you I'm sure, I've watched my fair share of TV. For the last two and a half years though I've not had one. My occasional glimpses of whats on the box are during visits to friends and family. Still, I don't feel this is a loss at all, when I want something to watch I simply use the all mighty Interwebulator. Not only does the BBC provide a fantastic service, there are many other places to get quality content. The fact of the matter is that I feel it has made me all the more selective about what I do watch. Yet another generic home improvement or reality TV show just doesn't make the grade. Despite this I've still found myself watching some absolute trash, recent seasons of Heroes and Lost come to mind. But today I'm not wanting to talk about what is rubbish, I think you can decide that for yourself, I want to tell you about one of the best shows I have seen in many many years; The Wire

The Wire is at it's most simplistic level a cops and criminals affair. Set in Baltimore, each season follows an ever expanding ensemble cast through different themes; drugs, the docks, politics, education and the media. The most striking aspect though is that a balanced amount of time is spent on each side of the different groups and equal measures of justice and injustice are received by both. Watching it you find yourself rolling through empathy, admiration and revulsion at both the prominent as well as the more obscure characters. You also find subtle points of interest are dropped in which later allow for little in-jokes for the more observant viewers. The Wire is a rich tapestry which doesn't beg for your attention with tacky ploys like explosions or excessive violence. To the contrary, it is often quiet, considered and will punish you if you were not paying enough attention before. There are no neat, self-contained episodes like CSI or NYPD Blue, you need to watch it as a whole. Don't let that put you off though, it pays back your efforts ten fold. If you only watch one TV show this year, watch The Wire.

Still not convinced? See what Charlie Brooker thinks of The Wire

This has caused me a problem though. I was fussy with my TV before, now my standard is going to be unbearably high. I hope that the next show made by The Wire's creators, Generation Kill, will meet these expectations.

Mid Feb

Fri 13 Feb 2009

Hey all. Not much going on here, lots of homework but nothing of more general interest. Erm, follow me on twitter!


Tue 20 Jan 2009

Sorry for being a little late with the post. I'll be quick as I'm still working on my aforementioned project.

I thought I'd talk a moment on favicons considering the talk on Google's recent change.

First thing you need is a favicon.ico file. There are all sorts of programs that, some free some not, that can do this job for you. Instead I'd recommend using a web service, favicon.cc.

Once you've saved your favicon and uploaded it to some webspace (however you prefer) then you need to link that icon to your code. This is pretty simple, just include the following code in the <head> section of your HTML:

<link rel="icon" href="http://example.com/favicon.ico" />

Job done.

The January Project

Tue 13 Jan 2009

Well, it's been busy over the festive period. Back in Thanet for Christmas then straight to Jersey for New Years Eve. Home in Oxford now, it's good to be back. I've got a busy semester coming so I've decide to just throw myself back into work. I'm planning on have my computing part of my dissertation finished by the end of January, thereafter leaving me eight weeks to write 5000 words on the open development of my computing dissertation in a suitably applied social sciences fashion. Lets start with a little open reflection what I'm constructing.

I am making a news and events information filtering web application. It works like this: News and event announcements comes in one end via submission, XML feeds (RSS, Atom, etc) and possibly some kind of easy tagging widget thingy. Once they are in people get to vote on which is the best story. We have some pages for displaying the popular stories which can be customised by the user based on factors like time or category. These customised filters can then be collected in XML, like Netvibes or iGoogle or just Firefox bookmarks. I'll probably also throw in some social networking tools as well.

The site should be going live at the start of February and will initially be targeting the Oxford area. At roughly the same time the beta code (built using Ruby on Rails) will be made available on another site with a suitable open license.

I shall post further updates through January on this very blog.

What I'm Up To Now

Mon 08 Dec 2008

I'm not going to give you a major post this week. I'm in the final stages of the semester so I'm having to do schoolwork. This week I am doing assignments on:

Political Situation In The UK 3000 words on the current political climate in the UK, includes social mobility from Marxist and Fiskian perspectives, political compass and Modernity via Giddens, language and power in the vein of Brodieu and power relationships in general.

Identity and Culture 3000 words looking at composition of identity by examining representative items. For this I'll mainly be looking at sexual consumerism (bring on the Chomsky!) and post-modernity pastiche.

Next week I have two exams. One in Networks For Media which includes both wave form mathematics as well as computer networking structures. The other in Programming With Objects, which will include writing structural programming designs on paper (which will be odd).

As I'm sure you can image, I'm not going to be posting big next week either. Take care all.


Considerations For Your Own Website

Mon 01 Dec 2008

I was recently contact by Parker Jones to see if I could add to the development of http://activethanet.com, a wiki site dedicated to clubs and societies in Thanet. I thought to myself, what a great idea, just add yourself. Still, seeing as I don't live in Thanet anymore I wasn't sure how I could help, I could think of no other clubs to add. I'd like to be helpful though and I saw my chance in their FAQ. He suggests that people create their own site and then get that added to the list. It really is very easy to do and needs little technical skill, especially if you are using a service like GooglePages or Webs. These are easy enough to do, but in my opinion lack a something important, your own .com/.co.uk address. What you can do though is get a .co.uk address from a domain registrar and then get it to just forward to your Google Sites webspace. I've used uk2.net as my registrar for years, but others I know have recommended 1&1 who also do an easy site builder. It's always worth having a look around though, it will cost you maybe £15 a year, which is little more than a cheap night out and gives a definite 'pro' factor. If you really want some cheap hosting with loads and loads of geeky goodies then I'd recommend a look at Dreamhost, you won't get the greatest search rankings, but they give you loads of space (off-site storage perhaps?) and do include one click installs for popular software like Wordpress (blogging) and MediaWiki (same as Wikipedia).

If you want to host your own site (not a GooglePages type thing) and still keep your site up in the rankings then then you really need to use a UK hosting server, especially if you are using a .co.uk extension. Maybe then consider shared hosting like 1&1, who have UK servers. Naturally we are spiraling up in cost here, next steps are Virtual Private Servers (VPN) from £15 a month all the way up to dedicated servers where the sky really is the limit. It really depends on whether you are serious about visibility or thinking of this as a business or hobby.

Lets take a look at http://oonagi.co.uk which has been around for eight years, they are hosted on shared server-space with Dreamhost in California, a google search for "oonagi" brings them top, a search for "Thanet music" brings them in 4th, for "Thanet gigs"and nothing till page 3! That has cost about £40 per year, it would probably be a little more but the cost is offset by sharing its space with other sites. Now there are some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) issues there to start with which could bring them up the rankings, but still it provides a gauge as to cost/visibility balance.

If one thinks about it though, where does traffic come from on a local focused site like a club or society. It is going to be links from other local sites, like Active Thanet or some of the blogerratti (EastcliffRicahard, BigNewsMargate). So to conclude, you can do yourself a free site using any number of web services, just contact some people, get yourself linked and they will come.

Move Along, Nothing To See Here

Mon 24 Nov 2008

EDIT: correction to Active Thanet link.

Eeep and the Brotherhood Of Man

Mon 17 Nov 2008

Now doesn't that sound like a bad book title? Or even something from the Harry Potter series, which incidentally I've just finished listening to the audio books as read by Stephen Fry.

Anyway, i digress. Following on from my previous two EeePC posts, firstly on adjusting the default desktop, then on changing to a full KDE desktop, I'm going to spend today talking about removing the whole Xandros OS and installing Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex. Lets first recap as to why we'd want to do this. The Xandros OS that comes with EeePCs is woefully out of date. Open source, and especially desktop Linux, is a fast moving beast. Where one day setting up wifi or connecting to a VPN or playing a DVD may be difficult in Linux one day, the following will not be true the next day. So having a system which feels a few years old and struggles to keep up seems pointless, and in my opinion explains some of the return rates found with Netbook Linux editions. As a further struggle on EeePC, the simple mode is a nightmare to tweak, especially considering those things that we want to tweak should really be done for us anyway. So what I propose is that we update with arguably the easiest and most widely supported distro out there, Ubuntu. I'm going to keep the actual method very succinct as there are 101 tutorials out there (links at the bottom). I'll stick with what to do and what to avoid:

Ingredients * Copy of Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex Desktop. It's fine to get the Long Term Stable Hardy if you like, but I do recommend the new one. * Unetbootin for putting Ubuntu on your USB stick * Ahh yes, the spare USB stick of 1gb or more

Method Open Unetbootin with your USB stick stuck in your machine (you don't have to do this on your Eee). Unetbootin gives you the option of downloading straight to your USB from the web, but we've already downloaded our distro so we just need to select the Diskimage ISO radio button and browse to our downloaded file and hit OK (This is another one of those things you used to have to do manually in the past, ahh the advances of technology sigh). It will tell you when it's done.

Next we safely remove our hardware (unmount in Linux parlance) and plug it into our little Eeep. Press the power on button and start hitting F2. This takes us to the BIOS menu. I had loads of problems getting this to work right, you have to go to the Boot tab and make sure that your USB key is top of the list in the boot device order (this just means where the computer checks first for an operating system, all computers have this). This is what caught me out, you need to check in both the Boot Device Priority settings AND Hard Disk Drives. for some reason it changes with each consecutive boot which one you need to change, so check both. Save and exit (F10 I think, but it should say).

You should now be booted into an Ubuntu desktop. We've not done anything irreversible yet, so for now we can just play. You'll notice that your WIFI and webcam isn't working yet, that's because you don't have all the drivers you need. That can be fixed once you have installed.

So, let's assume we are brave and we are going on with the install. Most things you just need to follow the instructions, but here is where I shall give you a little advice. At the partition stage do not use guided, use manual. There are two hard drives in the Eeep, for the smaller of the two (4GB) it should be just system files. You want to set aside 100mb for mountpoint /boot and the rest for mountpoint "/" (known as root). The other hardrive you want a swap the size of your RAM, 1GB in the 901 (some places say twice the size, but one should be ample) and the rest for /home, where all your personal files will be stored. I'll assume you have finished the rest of the install without issues. :)

Now we have rebooted into our new Ubuntu system we need a little moding to make everything work just right. First and most importantly you need the Array.org Kernel. There are instructions on the site as to how to get it. This will fix such things as WiFi, webcams and hotkeys. After that I recommend adjusting the layout to better suit the screen size. This is very easy to do by right-licking the panels and modifing to suit your needs. Here is mine:


A quick recommendation of some things to avoid. * Don't use a specialist distro like ubunu-eee. I know it makes things look easy but you'll be in trouble if they stop supporting. Standard Ubuntu is stable and here to stay. * Avoid using user made scripts that claim to ease all your woes. They may just cause you more problems than they fix and because you didn't do each bit yourself step by step you won't know how to fix it.

Now, here are some of those tutorial links: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/EeePC http://wiki.eeeuser.com/installingubuntu8.04 http://forum.eeeuser.com/viewtopic.php?id=51041

Well, it is Monday

Mon 10 Nov 2008

Which means I've come round to my promised post time. I don't really have a lot to say for myself though. Perhaps I'll chat about what I've been up to.

I was back in Thanet over the weekend, just thought it was about time I visited me Ma. For my efforts I got roped into helping set-up the Manston Parish Plan open-day. Some of the local residents wanted to get together some form of formalised plan in order to give some direction to the parish council as to what they people in the area wanted. I think this is a really good idea, a sentiment initially shared by a hundred or so other residents of Manston, it helps guide the councilors in their decisions on funding allocations rather than just pampering to their own whims. During previous village events a team of volunteers handed out questionnaires covering topics such as transport links and traffic, public services (like doctors, etc), clubs and the local environment with a reasonable response rate. I've also been 'lucky' enough on previous visits to help input this information into spreadsheets so the information can be easily analysed. What I found on reading through was that many people wanted to see all sorts of events being run, such as computing courses or art classes, but no-one was willing to help out run them.

This attitude is very familiar to me as it is something I have encountered with any and every event I have organised in the past. The attitudes of apathy from others are morally draining when you are trying to do something for the better in your community. If what I saw in typing up the figures from the survey wasn't enough the fact that the open day in the village hall on Saturday, asking for further discussion, had around ten people come visit. I wasn't all that surprised to be honest, I was in the Jolly Farmer the night before and you could see people visibly squirm when asked if they were coming, various weak excuses rolling off their tongues. It still doesn't make it any less disappointing to find that residents care so little about their village that they won't spare ten minutes to come and tell someone who'll listen what they think.

So Saturday night I went out with Danny. After what happened during the day I was looking forward to a good ale session. We started in the Dickens in Boardstairs, which was just snoozeville. I even question whether it was actually a Saturday night and I'd not just got my days mixed up. To resolve we decided to leave Sleepy Hollow and head to the bright lights of Canterbury city. This was certainly more bustling and it was good to go to the Hobgoblin again after such long time. The place was as punk-rock as ever and good fun to be in. Funny really, we have a Hobgoblin pub here in Oxford but it's just not the same. I expected it to be just as cool as the Canterbury one but it just doesn't have the same character. Anyway, after that we headed to the Orange Street Music Club and I'm pleased to say that was as delightful as ever, with a fantastic trad-folk band playing some soaring music. The down side? Last train out of Canterbury to Thanet is ten past eleven so we only got to hear a couple of songs and had to do a runner. Still, a good night out.

And now, well, it is Monday and I have work to do. See you next week.

Upgrading to Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex

Mon 03 Nov 2008

Since it's only a few days since the release of Ubuntu's Intrepid Ibex, I though I might do a quick note on how to upgrade from the Long Term Stable (LTS), Hardy Heron (if you are a Windows user and you just want to try out the new version, you can use the Wubi Installer and treat it just like any other Windows application). It is worth noting that a new install will often be a far quicker process and provide you with a clean slate. You can also save almost all of your personal settings and files if you installed / (known as the root directory) and /home in separate partitions first time around, allowing you to just install the new OS in /

In this post though we shall assume that you just with to upgrade an existing install and as such save all your setting, files, etc, with the minimum of fuss.

Normally when a new release comes around your update manager will tell you that a new version is available. Yet from Hardy to Intrepid this will not happen because Hardy is an LTS. There is, as always, a way around this. It is as follows; System > Administration > Software Sources, then the Updates tab. At the bottom it will say Release Upgrade. You'll then want to change that from "Long term support releases only" to "Normal". After that head back to System > Administration > Update Manager and you will be offered the choice to upgrade to the latest release. Click that button and follow the prompts.

As you run through the upgrade you will be prompted with questions as to whether you want to keep/merge/replace certain configuration files, normally ones you have changed. There is one that you must replace (or merge if you know what you are doing) and it is called menu.list. This file selects things like what kernel to boot from and you should use the latest that comes with Intrepid. Good luck.