Wednesday, November 29, 2006

DRM is evil

DRM or Digital Rights Management is more than just an annoyance. It is an assult on you as a consumer. Its purpose is to allow -them- to restrict what *you* can do with *your* music which *you* paid -them- for.

With all the recent chat about, and its imminant closure the options for buying DRM free music are diminishing.

There is no reason why other sites cannot offer DRM free music for a reasonable price. I can buy a CD from cd-wow for £2.99, and apply a £0.50 or £1.00 discount to it, where they probably spend about £0.50 for shipping, leaving about £1.50 - £2.00 for them. Now I'm no businesssman, but I doubt they are making less than £0.50 on the sale, leaving the cost price of the CD at somewhere between £1.00 and £1.50. Why can't I buy the content for that price online? Why do itunes want $0.99 per track for aweful quality, DRM ridden downloads?

Where does the itunes $0.99 go? According to various articles about $0.34 goes to Apple, the rest to the music company, of which about $0.10 goes to the artist. I'd prefer to give the $0.10 directly to the artist...

What if I change player? Perhaps I have bought music from Rhapsody or MSN Music and want to play it on my Zune. Perhaps I buy from Apple and want to play on my random £10 256Mb MP3 player. Stuck? You bet I am! In my opinion this is the one that will bite the companies in the long run, people will revolt after finding that their music libraries are useless except on antique devices.

If you buy content with DRM you are perpetuating the problem and storing up problems for the future, you have been warned. I'll just stick with my 3221 3222 DRM free mp3s, which I get to stream to our 2 PCs, laptop, xbmc and listen to on my iPod at work or in the car. Its great, its almost like I can do what I want with *my* music, a freedom soon to be relinquished from consumers.

DRM is designed to hurt you, don't let it!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tagalog Proverb

Apparently (and I hope this doesn't spoil this for all who will read before attending church in the morning) there will be a reading in Tagalog tomorrow at church. So wifey and I had a google for Tagalog, and it turned up this page from wikipedia.

I thought one of the proverbs listed was particularly appropriate to one of us (I'm not saying who, but she sleeps a lot)(oops) :

"Magbirô lamang sa lasíng, huwág lang sa bagong gising."

Which translates to :

"Joke around with someone who is drunk, but not with someone newly awoken."

Wise words

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wireless networking

When I managed to pick up a laptop that was being disposed of, I decided it was time to go wireless. In my usual manner I went scrounging, and managed to persuade friends at work to lend me a wireless usb adapter, and a PCMCIA card. After fighting with it for a while, I had managed to share the internet connection from the Kitchen PC with the laptop.

I quickly popped to eBay for a more perminant solution, and managed to pick up a wireless router, and a PCMCIA card of my own. Both are the now outdated 802.11b 11Mbps standard, but for a total of around £20 I couldn't complain.

The PCMCIA card arrived quickly, and was a straight swap for the one I had borrowed. The router on the other hand had not arrived. It was coming internationally, and so I left it for a few weeks. Last week I finally contacted the seller and told him it hadn't arrived. He kindly offered a refund if it didn't appear shortly, and it didn't, so he did.

I managed to pick another one up, slightly more expensive, but it arrived in a day, and after a bit of messing it was installed last night.

As I already had an ADSL router I wanted to connect this more as a switch and access point, and this guide at Tom's Networking showed exactly the way to do it. Thanks Tom.

All working now, and much more reliable than the other access point, I'm writing this over the wireless now!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The heat is on

As all you avid readers will know, my initial deployment of the heating system met with difficulties on day 1, but after a quick fix it has been working well ever since.

You will also have noted my lack of blog postings recently. The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, there hasn't been a lot happening in these shorter, darker days. Secondly, and possibly the reason for the first, I have been spending most of my free time working at tidying up the heating system software.

The new version of the system, deployed today, is a lot tidier, and hopefully more robust. It is also more
feature-filled with SMS, Web and Yahoo Instant Messenger clients now in operation.

I had a wrestle with the SMS provider, quite a saga really. They provide a free reply-to service - this means I can register for replys, send a text from my account to my phone, and any replies to that message are fed through a URL of my choice. They switched it on and I got this working at once, with a little test program. However, when I came back to my test program this week, it didn't work! After a 15 email marathon, we finally discovered that the SMS folks don't support dynamic DNS. Annoying, but at least we found the solution. Now I have a wrestle with my ISP to get a static IP address :((

Now the completed system is all written, and comlpete, bar a few would-be-nice features, I can rest on my laurels for a few days. Probably means it won't be looked at until Oct 2007 :)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Apache in WinXp

Few funnies when trying to set up .htaccess in Apache for Win32. I was trying to set it up so that all access was allowed for a certain IP address, and any other IP would have a login prompt.

First problem is the .htpasswd file, need to force MD5:
htpasswd.exe -m .htpasswd guest

Then I needed to specify security for the directory in .htaccess, set up password access as normal, specifying the AuthUserFile and require valid-user.

Then comes the clever bit "Satisfy Any" - this instructs Apache to look for *any* of the criteria, rather than the default all. So if the ip address is correct, the user is not challenged for a password.

AuthUserFile "/path/to/htdocs/.htpasswd"
AuthType Basic
AuthName "Madly Secret Stuff"
Satisfy Any
require valid-user

Order deny,allow
deny from all
allow from localhost
allow from

Friday, November 10, 2006

What a weird week

I don't normally post about work, because that seems to be a good way of getting fired, but this week has been so bizarre it's worth a mention.

Before I went on holiday I was told I would continue on my current project until mid-November, when I would move onto another project.

Upon my return from a weeks holiday on Monday, I received an expected tap on the shoulder to tell me what I would be working on. I was unexpectedly moved onto another team, where I wasn't sure I wanted to be. However, I suppose I grabbed the nettle to see if it would sting, and it didn't feel that bad.

On Tuesday I was told the opposite of Monday's story, and that it wasn't supposed to be that way. That seemed like good news, no need for me to act, everything was working out!

On Wednesday I heard that Monday's plan was back on. My disappointment told me that I really didn't feel like more nettle-grabbing, and so I penned a note to senior management outlining the fact that I feel underutilised, which is bad for both the company and me.

Thursday brought a very uneventful day, I worked on the same job all day!

Today, however, saw a return to the flux. Good news. I'm not sure if Wednesday's email brought it about, but basically another change followed by the pre-holiday plan, all as it was in the beginning.

Hopefully next week will bring some continuity :)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Heating 1, Simon 1

I was going to call it a nil-nil score, but I decided on 1 all.

I finally installed the heating controller downstairs last night to replace the current timer unit. Now the heating in the house is soley controlled by the computer, which monitors settings and switches heat on and off as programmed.

I entrusted my warm water to it this morning, and the upstairs heating, and surely when I woke up (4 hours after going to sleep) the LED was on, and the room and water were warm.

All looked rosey, until mid-afternoon when I received an irate call from another member of our household (who will remain nameless to protect her anonimity). The heating wouldn't go on! 1 point for the heating. My heart sunk. I thought I had done enough testing to ensure this couldn't happen. It was vital that this didn't happen. I spent the rest of my work day distracted, trying to analyse where the source of this problem could be.

When I got home I worked on it for another while, and I believe that problem is solved. I also spent some time tidying the user interface. Now I am happy, and all is working well - 1 point for me. That's 1-all in this round.

Monday, November 06, 2006


A couple of panoramic shots I took while we were out on our walk on Saturday.

The Nerd Test

I am nerdier than 61% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Go on, try it!

My score :
"39% scored higher (more nerdy), and 61% scored lower (less nerdy).
What does this mean? Your nerdiness is:Low Ranking Nerd. Definitely a nerd but low on the totem pole of nerds.

Not too nerdy afterall. Need to concentrate harder.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ballintoy to Dunseverick to Causeway Walk

Today we embarked on an epic walk, starting at Ballintoy harbour, walking around the coast to Dunseverick Castle. We stopped there for a picnic, and then continued around the coast to the start of the Giants Causeway. It is a super coastal route, and there are many parts of it we would have loved to explore more, such as the secluded tin house in one of the stony bays. We couldn't put an exact figure on the milage, but estimates vary from 10-13 miles. We didn't walk the exact route we planned, and we took a few small detours for exploratory purposes, but this was the planned route :

Friday, November 03, 2006

More heating progress

After a week of work on the heating controller the software is working great, and I am really pleased with it all. With the software all working, and the hardware working on breadboard it was time to make some real hardware, in a 6th year school project fashion. So I got the drill and file out, and made up the controller. I think it deserves an 'A'.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I hate painting

It has to be done. Got a new coat on the front room today. All ready for the wooden floor. How come there's always another job???