Personal

Time for a spring clean

It’s been far too long since I last looked at this blog but I decided it’s about time for a quick facelift and a bit of TLC. If you’re reading this via a feed reader then head over to the blog and take a look at the new theme.

The theme is PixelPower and makes nice use of both HTML5 and CSS3 to produce a responsive design that works well on mobile devices (so I’ve been able to do away with WPTouch) and still have an accessible site on mobile devices.

Giving the blog a facelift was the easy part. Now I need to actually get some time to write some posts!

Twitter

twitter_logo_headerI’ve decided that it’s time to get back on to Twitter. I used to use it about a year ago, and had the username ‘jb’ but decided to give it up as I wasn’t using my account. I’ve just added my twitter posts to the sidebar of the site, but if you use twitter then feel free to follow me, and drop me a message every now and again…

Snow snow snow…

View from the bathroomI’m writing this post for two exciting reasons… One it’s snowing outside! Something that hardly ever happens in the UK (especially where I live) and secondly I’m writing this post from our new house, looking out at the snow-covered garden!

Here’s a pic of the view into our new garden.

We moved in a few weeks ago and we’re finally getting sorted out. We’ve moved from a two bed ground-floor flat into a two bed house, so it’s nice to actually have enough space! No doubt I’ll post more pictures and details as we get settled in and start to decorate and make the place our own.

If you want our new address then you know how to contact me to ask…

Friday fun with books

“When Bob receives a message from Alice, how does he know it is authentic? If Alice signed her message, this is easy. Alice’s digital signature is enough to convince anyone that the message is authentic”

Book meme:

– Grab the nearest book.
– Open it to page 56.
– Find the fifth sentence.
– Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
– Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

via Leah Culver’s Blog

This is quite sad, but the closest book I have is a copy of “Applied Cryptography” by Bruce Schneier

Last.fm and other musical things

Last.Fm LogoI’ve been a huge fan of last.fm since I started using it back in 2006 (for those who don’t know, it’s a social music website that logs every song you listen to, and connects you with people of similar taste, and suggests other music that you might like), but one feature that I’ve often overlooked is the stand-alone last.fm player.

On windows it’s the main tool that scrobbles your tracks as you listen to them in iTunes or Windows Media Player, but you can also type an artists name, or a specific tag, and listen to a stream of similar music; something I’ve been using a lost this Christmas. It’s been great to fire up the player on a laptop and listen to music tagged with ‘acoustic’ while I cook dinner, or type in an artist like ‘John Mayer‘ and find similar artists.

Last.fm Player (streaming)

A side-effect of this is that I’ve also discovered 7digital, an online music store that offers DRM[?] free music (last.fm direct you to 7digital if you want to buy an album electronically) which is perfect now that I’m using Linux. There’s also a Linux version of the stand-alone player, and other options like built in support for scrobbling and listening to last.fm streams in Amarok.

One issue that I have experienced since I switched to Linux, is the downside to DRM. I’ve purchased quite a bit of music over the past few years from the iTunes Music Store, which is copy protected and won’t play outside of an authorised copy of iTunes, which is a problem if you’re using Linux and can’t actually run iTunes. Thankfully it’s a pretty common issue and thanks to the Hymn Project I’ve been able to get all of my purchased music into a Linux friendly format!

Happy days.

Linux

Linux screen-1 300×240Its official, I’ve decided to drop Microsoft Windows completely at home, and use Linux instead. It started off as a little experiment, to see what Linux is like these days (it’s been a few years since I used it last), but after a few days of using it I love it!

I’m currently running Gentoo Linux, with the KDE desktop (3.5). I’ve included some screen shots of what it currently looks like.

If I’m honest I thought that running Linux day to day would be a bit of a drag, but it’s been great so far. I’ve managed to find open-source equivalents of everything I used to use on Windows, like:

  1. Browser – Firefox (same ol’ browser, with the same plugins)
  2. Instant messaging client – Kopete (includes MSN support)
  3. Music Player – Amarok (even includes built in Last.FM support)
  4. Image editing – Gimp (on a par with Adobe Photoshop)
  5. Open Office (Perfect replacement for Microsoft Office in 90% of cases)
  6. VLC & Xine (media and DVD player), Realplayer, Adobe Flash 9 plugin, and Last.FM player

Linux screen-2 300×240The obvious comment to make is that all of the software above is free, so there’s no need to pay for expensive image editing, or office software!

Getting the software is easy too. From previous experience I was expecting to have to either a) compile everything from source code and track down if one program was dependent on another when something broke, or b) use RPM or another package manager to install software that someone else has configured for you, leaving little room for your own configuration. Thankfully Gentoo have Portage, which is a great package manager. You can search their repository online, or from the command line, and it downloads the latest copy of the application and then complies it for you. The best thing is you can easily set flags to control what options you want the program to compile with, and there’s no need to worry about dependencies, if it detects one then it installs whatever is required first.

Linux screen-3 300×240.jpgOne criticism I had, and somewhat still have of Linux, is that it doesn’t look quite as polished as Windows or OS X does, but I’m still learning what to tweak, and what fonts etc to install so I’ll get there. One excellent feature has to be Compiz Fusion, which provides some real eye-candy with window and desktop animations! I’d never really seen the point to having multiple ‘virtual’ desktops running at the same time for the same user, but Compiz really lets you make full use of those additional desktops. Think of it as having multiple monitors, but without having to give up the desk space.

I’m also using Avant as a dock(which you can see at the bottom of these screen shots), and gives you a nice 3D styled launcher, and task bar of running applications.

Here’s some screenshots of Compiz in action. The first shows a linear view of all four desktops with different applications running simultaneously (from left to right: Gimp, Firefox with news.bbc.co.uk, Xine playing Sean of the Dead, and Konsole).

Linux screen-4 300×240.jpg

The second shot is of the cube desktop view, showing the same four desktops with the same applications running, but you can manipulate the 3D cube, and move between desktops.

Linux screen-5 300×240.jpg

The desktop background I’m using at the moment is by 1600 Squirrels you can see the original at http://www.flickr.com/photos/acornsarebitter/2106652468/in/photostream/

Design Update

I’ve just updated some images, and CSS styles to expand the size of the site. It should sit nicely inside a browser at 1024×768. We’ve had quite a debate at work about designing sites to 1024×768 rather than 800×600, especially with the newly designed BBC home page being 1024×768.

I really need to do some more work on the design of this site (well to be honest I need to do some design work in the first place because it’s a bit bland at the moment). Maybe if I get bored over Christmas you’ll see some updates.

For those of you reading in an RSS reader head over to the site and let me know what you think by leaving a comment

WordPress Upgrade

Wordpress LogoI’ve just completed an upgrade to my WordPress installation, and it looks like some of my plugins might not be compatible with the latest release. As soon as updates are released I’ll get them installed, but in the mean time tags are disabled. If you see any error messages, or anything that looks odd then drop me an email or leave a comment, and I’ll get it fixed asap.

Updated 05/10/2007 11:54
As mentioned in the comments below WordPress 2.3 supports tagging, you can import tags from existing plugins in the Manage -> Import menu (instruction for adding templates tags are here)

I’ve finally caught up with the 21st century!

BT Openworld Router (Grey Background)Believe it or not, I’m finally writing the post from home, using a broadband connection! I’ve been waiting to get broadband installed for three years, but the local infrastructure couldn’t support ADSL on our line (for those interested, BT installed fiber cabling rather the copper, so they had to overlay copper).

It’s great to be online at the same time as the rest of my family, and not have to wait until the phone line is free before I can get online!

Maybe I’ll be able to get around to updating this blog a bit more often now.

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