Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Netgear Skype client handset still comming!

...but $250 - ouch!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Solitaire plays with a stacked deck!

I took this photo of my PDA's screen - notice anything? I've been playing this Windows card game for twenty years and I've never seen this sort of thing!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Old BBC document

Here's a BBC document that dates from 1958 and details various BBC engineering firsts - really interesting as there is a bit of an expose of VERA - the Beeb's own video recording system that they were using a couple of years before Ampex launched Quadruplex in form of the VR-1000.
It struck me that most of the content is similair to the state of the industry when I started in the eighties and fundamentally different from how the industry is now. When I started digital video was only just being talked about (I didn't see a digital VTR for a few years - D1 & D2 took a while to find wide acceptance at the Beeb) and all distribution etc. was analogue.
There are even some good atists impressions of the yet-to-be built Television Centre!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Technical thoughts from Spain

  • I've seen 4x3 tube'd TVs everywhere - even the larger model CRTs aren't widescreen. Plasmas and TFTs seem available in 4x3 (honest!) as well as 16x9.
  • Every PDA I've seen has been a Blackberry - not seen one Windows Mobile device.
  • Lighting circuits (even low load ones - akin to UK 5 amp feed) must be earthed. This goes against my predjudice that safety specs in Europe are lower than in Blighty.
  • The PCs on the reception desk of my hotel were running Windows 3.11 - honest! They seemed to be doing the bookings on them - in fact my invoice was printed from them. I thought perhaps they might have been NT 3.5 (which had the same pre-95 GUI), but no - a trip down misery, erm memory-lane!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Old newbies are better than young ones!

I've spent a few days setting up and cinfiguring a PC for my inlaws. They've been into digital photography for a couple of years and are keen to start editing their pictures, post them on Flickr (see the right hand link bar) and generally do email/browsing etc. Skype and VNC have proved invaluable in subsequent tech support sessions!
Anyhow - I've been reflecting on how nice it's been dealing with none-technical users who have a lifetime of dealing with kids/friends/family etc. rather than the arrogant young idiots I normally have to instruct. It made me think of a couple of instances when I was working on a big reality show (ok, Big Brother if you really want to know!).
  • I got a call to a production office where someone was complaining that their PC was beeping - when I got there I noticed that there was a camcorder resting on the numeric key-pad. I lifted the PD150 and the PC stopped it's electronic moaning and ceased the string of zeros it was entering into Microsoft Word. I glanced over at the person (who was no doubt about eighteen months out of meeja-skool) and they seemed unimpressed. So, to illustrate what the problem had been I placed the camcorder back on the keypad and within a few seconds the "fault" returned. Rather than a "..oh, how silly of me - terribly sorry.." I got a dirty look and a curt; "Well if that's the problem then don't put it back!".
  • Emily, one of my engineers, got called to sort out a broken printer. When she got there the printer was out of paper - what made it ammusing was that although it was a network printer it was on the desk next to the user. The "paper-out" light was winking and the paper-hopper (top-rear of the printer, so clearly visible) was obviously empty. There was even a ream of A4 on the desk! When Emily pointed this out they made her load the paper. At that point it became clear that they had sent the document MANY times. Now I'd have let them wait while all 207 copies came out but Emily had a bit more grace than me and cleared the server queue.
  • I was talking someone through moving a file over the network. When it became clear that whatever had wound up at the user's workstation was not what they expected I asked "..how big is the file?" the response was "..oh, about two by three millimeters, little yellow icon..". The few seconds of silence on the 'phone let them know I hadn't expected that response!
With these three examples I was astonished how young-adults' arrogance often shines through. A smile and an apology would mean eveyone would walk away feeling good rather than an angry exchange and my prejudice of media-fools being confirmed. Give me OAP newbies any day!

Saturday, April 15, 2006


mp3DirectCut is a fast and extensive audio editor and recorder for MP3. You can directly cut, copy, paste or change the volume with no need to decompress your files for audio editing. This saves encoding time and preserves the original quality, because nothing will be re-encoded.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tektronics HD measurement book

Engineers like me who grew up in the eighties/nineties will remember with great fondness the two Tektronics books "Solving the component puzzle" and the "Guide to Digital Video" - at the BBC they were included as part of the standard training syllabus. Anyhow - this is the HiDef one which ain't freely available, but as a Tek reseller we get it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lies, lies & HD Televisions!

I buy lots of stuff from Novatech - they are great for PC parts but they really have fallen into the same set of falsehoods as the high street when it comes to selling plasma and TFT televisions. The HD Ready logo seems to mean exactly the opposite - the only sets I have seen that really are HD ready (i.e. that can display a 1080i signal without down-scaling) don't bother with it. All of the 720 line units (and worse the 768 line plasmas) can't be described as HD ready now that Sky (and the Beeb) have committed to 1080. Aside from the fact that HD-DVD (in whatever flavour wins out) will be 1080 you have to realize that spending a grand on a cheap plasma that can display a bit more resolution than your tube TV (but can only display half the motion renditions - no solid state monitor can yet display interlaced pictures - even worse if it's a TFT it's running at 60hz and doing some awful pull-down on the pictures) is a waste of money. If you're in the market for a new TV and you care about picture quality your choice seems either a decent tube (there are a still a few!) or spend >£3k on a decent TFT. If you were looking to spend between £500 and £2k then save your money.
Don't let the guy in Dixons in the cheap suit persuade you to part with the readies because of how bright and gaudy the images look!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

LCD displays

I'm currently monkeying around with a programmable LCD display module I found in a box at work - it's a Jenlogix 40x4 module and I've not been able to find any info on the web - it responds to serial commands over RS232 at 19,200kbits but aside from that it would be cool to be able to interface it to LCD Center or something like it. If you have any info.....