Monday, July 31, 2006

Cable Rod - Cable installation system

Cable Rod is a highly effective professional cable installation tool which has been proven to make significant savings on a wide range of cable installation work.
This practical and self-explaining device facilitates the quick and easy installation of cables behind walls, under floors or via suspended ceilings. Rods made of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) are simply screwed together and fitted with one or more of the clever attachments. Three diameters and bending radius guarantee high flexibility, so that rods can either be bent, pushed or pulled.

I got one of these sets whilst helping Tony with some fibre cabling at Channel Five - what a revelation - I shall never go on site again without one of these bad boys! It is just what you need for getting cables run in tight spaces and means you can go the whole length of a room lifting a fraction of the floor tiles you'd normally need to. The torch gadget is very useful when you're in a dark void.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

SCART pins and their functions

Since I use this blog as a repository (via the search box on the right - go on, give it a go!) and a colleague asked me about SCART pins today I thought I'd better squirrel the info away.

  1. 1. AUDIO Output Right
  2. 2. AUDIO Input Right
  3. 3. AUDIO Output Left
  4. 4. AUDIO Ground
  5. 5. BLUE Video Ground
  6. 6. AUDIO Input Left
  7. 7. BLUE Video
  8. 8. Function Switching (See Note)
  9. 9. GREEN Video Ground>
  10. 10. Comms.Data Line 2
  11. 11. GREEN Video
  12. 12. Comms. Data Line 1
  13. 13. RED Video Ground
  14. 14. Comms. Data Ground
  15. 15. RED Video
  16. 16. Blanking
  17. 17. VIDEO Ground
  18. 18. Blanking Ground
  19. 19. VIDEO Output
  20. 20. VIDEO Input
  21. 21. Common Ground / Screen

Note: Pin 8 provides function switching. Applying 9.5-12V to the pin will cause a compatible TV or VCR to switch to the AV (SCART) input. It may also switch on the equipment from standby. Applying 0V or leaving unconnected will switch back to TV. Some TV's also use this pin to select the aspect ratio. Applying 5-8V to pin 8 will switch to 16:9 mode. This may be used by DVD players to set TV to correct ratio. Connect ground to pin 14 or pin 18.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

ISO Recorder v2

ISO Recorder is a tool (power toy) for Windows XP, 2003 and now Windows Vista, that allows (depending on the Windows version) to burn CD and DVD images, copy disks, make images of the existing data CDs and DVDs and create ISO images from a content of a disk folder.
ISO Recorder has been conceived during Windows XP beta program, when Microsoft for the first time started distributing new OS builds as ISO images. Even though the new OS had CD-burning support (by Roxio), it did not have an ability to record an image. ISO Recorder has filled this need and has been one of the poular Windows downloads ever since.

My groovy MacBook has a combo-drive that not even the current release of Nero recognises. Initially I thought this would be a problem as I often make CDs at work and I'd never used the Windows CD burning wizzard (or whatever they call it!) - but since I only ever have to put files onto CDs (never audio or video CDs - but as it turns out the Windows wizzard will do audio somewhat clumsily) I figured I'd give it a go. It's fine, but won't burn the contents of ISO images directly - this little Windows add-on does the business - I needed something to burn the ISO of the Dapper Drake!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My favourite band in my living room!

Be near my house in the first week in October and enjoy an acoustic set by Bill Mallonee, ex front-man of The Vigilantes of Love;
We've become increasingly displeased and discouraged with the politics and dynamics of club oriented shows and tours over the last two years. I played that scene for 14 years, so i know of what i speak. And while we still do club and rock club gigs, we find the cooler places diminishing. With no label, formal distribution or booking, the "bottom line" all too quickly kicks much good music (we believe) to the curb. It is not without notice that the whole "House Show" industry has exponentially grown over the last few years as artists will always be driven to "take their music to the people," and give expression to their vision that isn't cluttered by beer sale quotas and late night dynamics that tax the ability of many folks (who'd like to hear good music) to attend. The fact that many artists who played the club circuits in the 90's are now playing more and more hosue shows testifys to something of what i think is a revolution in this area of the music business.

hope this finds all well...thanks for gracious support.

bill mallonee

Monday, July 24, 2006

Packard Bell Medi@ TV 2

Here's an interesting gadget (with a silly name!) - the documentation is (as ever) full of how it will revolutionise you digital lifestyle yada yada, but what it is (I discovered after trawling the manual) is a remote network display for Windows Media player - if the clip will play on the PC their software runs Media Player silently and re-directs the output to the gadget over ethernet. For less that fifty quid I may give it a go - if the SVideo o/p is good it might be a nice front-end for MediaPortal. It handles tunes, movies and still photos with a very nice interface on the TV.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Microsoft buy SysInternals

Wow - the freeware site everyone who is serious about networks and security uses is being taken under the umbrella of the evil empire!
It reminded me to make sure all of their utilities I use are up to date - who knows how long before they are taken down. TCPView is particularly useful - it's a GUI front for netstat and amazingly it's only 87 kilobytes big!
Remember that obsolete measurement of file size? - the kilobyte!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

iRed light

You have a beautiful new Mac with a built-in Infrared port and an Apple Remote control? Front Row is not enough for your needs?

Then try out iRed Lite which pushes IR control to its limits!

* Remote control any application by remote keystrokes
* Call AppleScripts for finer control
* Use your Apple Remote for iTunes, then for iPhoto, then ...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Quartz Winsetup

Quartz routers really are the easiest systems to configure - I've just been programming a dual-level SDi/RS422 rig for a job and compared to Probel and Leitch the software is intuitive and straighforward. Another neat feature is that no cross-points change when you are downloading new configs - essential if your matrix is in a transmission area, for example. Once you have named your sources and destinations it all follows on. I've raved about them here and here.

The workshop cam returns!

Should be a bit more stable now (we're hosting it on our LINUX server!) - if you want to see if me, Stuart or the wiremen are in;

Bit of a treat for the ladies today - I'm wearing my shorts!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Not that I worry about this kind of thing!

This tool checks your computer for infection by specific, prevalent malicious software (including Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom) and helps to remove the infection if it is found. Microsoft will release an updated version of this tool on the second Tuesday of each month.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hot today!

My favourite pluggin for Firefox is showing a flaming thermometer for today's weather!
Phew, what a scortcher......

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

MGE Evolution UPS

We are currently integrating an XSan with 2 XSERVE RAIDs, primary and secodary MDCs (MetaData Controllers), an Open Directory server, QLogic 2 gig fibre switch and a couple of gig ethernet switches (for the MetaData network and the general IP LAN). One of the things about XSan is that it rarely recovers gracefully after loosing power - unlike Avid Unity or Facilis Terrablock it is the kind of SAN you NEVER want to loose power to!
In the past I've often been at a loss when integrating UPSs into Apple configurations because the traditional Powerchute software (that talks over RS232 to a server) has never been available for Mac - in the past I home-brewed a little EPROM circuit that spoofed a USB keyboard and sent the necessary keypressed to gracefully shut down the system when power died - not ideal.
The new range from MGE addresses all of that - they work nicely with Apple in one of several configurations;

  • Single XServe RAID in a storage configuration (JBOB to use PC talk) - the Evolution 2200 will talk over RS232 to tell the JBOB to firstly flush the RAM cache, and then after n-minutes without power it gracefully powers down the chasis.

  • XSan with a primary metadata controller - the 2200s attach via USB to the server and you run Personal Power Solution (MGE "PAC" sofware) on the MDC - again, the UPS sends the command to flush the caches and if power ain't back in two minutes (user definable) it gracefully shuts down the SAN

  • Multiple UPSs, multiple MDCs - the 2200 all sit on the IP LAN (via ethernet) and they talk to the same PAC software on multiple servers - a bit more configuration but rock solid - it'll even send out an SNMP alert.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Super-fast encoding on my Macbook

I have to keep telling people "...look, I'm no Mac fanboy, but..." and then explain how pleased I am with this little 13" Macbook. This screenshot is an encode of a Doctor Who episode to DivX (using the "Home Theatre" profile - 980kbits at SD resolution). The new v.6 DivX codec is multi-processor aware and on typical television content I get close to two-times realtime encodes. It's been a long time since my laptop has been more pokey than my main desktop at home! The dual-core Intel seems faster than the dual 2.4Ghz P4s in the family's main PC. Now I haven't explored any encoding under OSX but as a Windows laptop this is a superbly fast little machine.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Closer Look at Damn Small Linux

In this article you will learn how to turn a blank CD and an inexpensive USB keydrive into a powerful, portable, take-along operating system complete with modern applications like Firefox, a Web server, and multimedia tools. All this can be done using free Open Source Linux software.
The article goes on to explain how since the memory footprint is small (typ. <50megs) \home\ directory) on the thumb-drive.
I'm going to give this distro a go and I'll report back.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ancient BBC proverb

If you can see it and hear it - there's scope for future economy.

They've got big salaries to pay, you know.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Eight channel chaser

Joe is going to a fancy-dress party tomorrow and he wants to go as a mad scientist - he's building a kind of "mind probe" helmet and wanted a set of LEDs to chase - I dug out this circuit which is very simple - the NE555 pulses the dual 4-bit counter. When bit3 is pulsed high it flips over to the first bit of the second "nibble" and hence you get an eight-way chase. That's why pins 15 & 10 are strapped together on the CD4015. It works well - I hope the party is good!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bill Mallonee's new record "Permafrost"

This arrived in the post yesterday - all the way from Athens, Georgia in the US of A - very exciting! It's the new CD by my longtime favourite (and ex-frontman of The Vigilantes of Love) Bill Mallonee. I saw him earlier in the year where he has playing some of these tunes live.
So, slammed this new disk into the CDRom tray and have been enjoying it since - Flowers has been tugging at my ears and Bank has the makings of a classic.
Bill isn't a wealthy musician but his ilk are well worth supporting - if you want a great introduction to his music then his fan website is a good starting point.
"Why has Phil blogged a picture of the jiffy bag?" you ask - well look closely at the customs form - it's signed by Bill himself! You don't get that level of attention to details and care for the fans with Robbie Williams....

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Dark side of the moon

I'd forgotten just how good a record this is - partly because I put my vinyl deck away ten years ago and partly because I've been listening to lots of Americana for the last few years. Anyhow - I saw the BBC documentary (which repeats endlessly on BBC4) and is nearly always available for download on UKNova. After that I just had to go and grab the CD - it sounds better than I ever remembered!
Something that tickled me is the Wikipedia page on progressive rock - here is a little extract;
...lyrics that convey intricate and sometimes impenetrable narratives, covering such themes as science fiction, fantasy, history, religion, war, madness, and literature. It is relatively rare for progressive rock songs to be about love or sex, and practically unheard-of for such songs to concern other pop staples such as dancing or cars.

...and mercifully never about bitches, hoes, money, guns and widescreen TVs!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

We're there!

My wife Sarah can't wait!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Joe playing in the East Barnet Festival

Sarah took these photos of Joe's school jazz group playing - in case you can't tell they are doing their own arrangement of Herbie Hancock's Watermelon man - more like the one off "Head Hunters" rather than "Takin' Off".