Snow Sign!

29 December 2005

It’s snowing! It’s also dark, so no chance to take a picture but if it’s still there in the morning I’ll see what I can do. According to the thermometer thingy on the garage it hasn’t been above freezing today. That’s more like it.

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I shuffle you not

28 December 2005

I’d hope by now that those who know me would say that I’ll give an honest opinion on something when asked (and when not asked too (sorry)) and not to say something is fantastic just because I have one, so I have this to say on the iPod (stupid), the designer of the iPod (stupid) and, therefore, by extension, people who buy the iPod (stupid / unlucky). Why? Well, perhaps I was a bit harsh back when I said those things, but consider this:
You’ve got several thousand music tracks and only a certain amount of time to listen to them, you’ve got your favourites but you don’t want to hear the same track over and over again, you want to listen to something new, but at the same time you want to select from a particular range of music (genre, for example) a list to be played, a playlist if you will. You want to play a random track from a playlist. Sorry, iPods can’t do that. You tell me; Stupid, or not? Bear in mind that I’m talking about (I think) the sixth iPod variant here.

In my defence and that of other unsupecting iPod owners out there, who knew? I mean, who’d have thought that any sort of music player wouldn’t have a half decent shuffle mode? I should say at this point that it is possible to play a random track from the entire library of those available but want kind of mood would you have to be in to want Handel -> Snoop Dogg -> Shola Ama?!
I realise that I’m in danger of generalising from my specific case; Believing that everyone listens to their iPod in the same way I do. The thing is, the only built-in way I can see of avoiding starting from scratch every time is to have no play lists and just have the whole collection laid out before you. Secondly, when you start looking around, lots of people (more than three, anyway) are having this problem.

The question now is, would I have changed my purchasing decision if I’d known about this sooner? Probably not, but that’s only because the competition is so very weak:
Someone make a portable media player with a four inch screen that can play wma, mp3, aac, flac and ogg, that has an interface that doesn’t need four thumbs and a degree in quantuum physics and that has a dock connector for connecting to a car / hi-fi / PC, stick wi-fi in there too, what the hell, it’s Christmas and a 80GB hard drive. Oh, and that can be left charging without being a fire risk as Creatives Xen Xtra is (the instructions say not to leave it charging because there’s a danger of over charging. Eh? Say what now?)

That turned into a bit of a rant didn’t it? Still, right now my iPod is playing All Saints (begins with an ‘A’, you see) through my seperates stack while being controlled by the remote I got for Christmas (thanks Scott) and there’s no other player that can do that.

There are supposedly work-arounds for the random playlist ‘feature’ so I’m going to take a look at those and I’ll report back for posterity if I find anything that works.

I’m not paranoid

23 December 2005

Last months PC Plus magazine ran a letter from someone who was using Microsoft on-screen keyboard to avoid being monitored by key loggers, he reasoned that if he didn’t use any keys there’d be no keys to log. I wrote an email to PC Plus saying that since Windows operates by moving messages around and the on-screen keyboard is trying to be a straight replacement for the real keyboard, not a security device, then it will create the same messages as the real thing, which, guess what, will be picked-up by the key logger. Doh!
Well, this months PC Plus dropped onto the doormat and I’ve had my letter published! Woohoo!

See, all that time with subclassing has finally paid off!

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
Kiss My Ass
Kiss His Ass
Happy Honica

(Name the film)

Hmmm… Upgrades

23 December 2005

I’ve been having trouble with my mouse lately, with it not correctly tracking as I move it. So I decided it was either the mouse, a Logitech MX700, or the mouse mat, an Everglide Giganta, which I have warn smooth in places. To try to identify the problem I put a peice of white paper on the mouse mat and used that as my mousing surface for a few days. That improved things so I decided to try sanding the surface of the mat (it’s plastic) with rough sand paper to see if that made things any better (it’s not working, so what’s the worst that could happen?) Well, that improved things a bit not good enough. It was about this time that the mouse started flashing red, well, the LED on top did at least and that indicated that the batteries were getting low. Now, considering that the mouse in on its charger all night and should go seveeral days without a charge that suggested that the batteries weren’t holding a charge. Great. So, I decided that it was time for a change: I’ve always liked the Logitech MX1000 and ebuyer had a shiny black version in stock (normally they only come in a sort of satin blue). I should mention at this point that another nail in the MX700s coffin was that the satin silver finish was coming off both from where my fingers rest on the buttons and where the charging cradle rubs the back of the mouse while it’s charging. So I was (am) hoping that the shiny finish will be longer wearing. What’s so good about the MX1000 over the MX700? It’s got a frickin’ laser, it’s got sideways scrolling, the application switch button (think one-button Alt-Tab) is by your thumb rather than under your palm like it is on the ‘700 (Logitech engineers must have weird hands; no palm, all fingers), it’s got a frickin’ laser (I like that), it’s really fast and accurate and it wakes-up instantly from standby. It’s also got a three-bar LED power meter which is good, but not essential (laser). Oh yea, and unlike the latest Logitech mice, it still has forward and back navigation buttons whereas the newer ones only have one button, an I like having forward and back easy to get to like that.

Right, that’s the mouse, now for the mouse mat. A bit of research revealed… that there’s no real concensus. So I looked for something hard wearing and came up with this, an Icemat 2nd Edition in black. It’s made of glass! It’s big and smooth and hopefully will last for a long time. It also comes with a set of pre-cut ‘skates’ that attach to the pads on the bottom of the mouse to help it glide better. The MX1000 tracks perfectly on it.

Okay, I’ve got more stuff to cover, like iPod cases, speakers, lightscribe and Sky’s new delivery system but that’ll do for now.

Quiet PCs (Update)

16 December 2005

Not everything went as planned with the quiet part upgrade:
I noticed that there was a high-pitched noise coming from somewhere in the PC which I tracked down, at six o’clock Friday evening, to one of the new fans. These things happen; a dodgy ball-bearing is all it takes and spinning at a couple of thousand RPM will soon show any flaws.
So I sent an email to QuietPC.com asking how I go about returning the faulty fan for replacement and went off to get a coffee, expecting to hear back on Monday or perhaps Saturday if I was lucky with instructions on the returns process, but when I got back to my PC there was a notification of the impending dispatch of a replacement fan and a note advising me to throw out the faulty fan because of the difficulties with the post this time of year.
So the moral is, get quiet parts for your PC, even if you’ve already done so a few years ago because things improve, and when you do, buy them from QuietPC.com!

Quiet PCs

14 December 2005

I’ve just upgraded my PCs power supply because my old power supply couldn’t cope with the new graphics card I’m getting. So I went to QuietPC and got myself and Elan Vital Greenerger SSM PSU, a set of the latest quiet fans (I already had quiet fans but thought there was room for improvement and fan technology moves on like anything else) and some vibration absorbing gaskets to mount the fans on. Now, this power supply (PSU) is a bit special because the single 120mm fan only runs when the PC is doing some hard work, otherwise it stays off, in case the benefit of that isn’t obvious, I’ll spell it out: No fan = No noise. Contrary to a recent review in PC Format, the cables are all wrapped in mesh and colour coded, with a dedicated graphics card power lead and four Serial ATA plugs while the molex (power for the big stuff like CD drives, hard drives) are an easy remove type. The cables aren’t modular, which is to say you can’t disconnect the ones that aren’t needed, but the way the cables are arranged suits my PC just about right.

So, is it quiet? I’ve never heard anything like it.