Tuesday 4 November 2008

North West rail link cancelled/delayed

Bugger! I just read about this today (even though it came out on Friday). The NSW government has cancelled the North West rail link.  Pathetic and completely unacceptable.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Large Hadron Collider

Exciting week for particle physics with the Large Hadron Collider being turned on the 10th September. Pity though that some seem to think that it will destroy the Earth when it is switched on. Have a look at these links as to why this is not correct:

Wednesday 3 September 2008

New iPods next week

Yep 2 posts in one day! There has been some speculation on this on the interwebs but today Apple released invitations for the annual September iPod update. Easy guess is that the iPod Nano and Touch will be updated. The rumors are suggesting another big change to the Nano (much like the change from the 2G to 3G last year).

I think we will also see a price restructure of the Touch to align with the iPhone changes in July. There will also be an update to iTunes to v8 with appropriate features to justify going from v7 to v8 (MacRumors link). As for Mac updates, these will come later in September. 

However, it is also worth noting that Apple hinted at a product transition in September. Perhaps a Mac Tablet or a Nano that runs the iPhone OS? Or is this just the price restructure of the iPod line or something else Mac related? 

Google's browser released

Google released their web browser today, called Google Chrome. Currently it has only been released for Windows with Mac and Linux versions on the way. Overall they have taken a very minimalist view of a web browser, there is no menu bar and the tabs are on the top. For a good overview of the interface see John Siracusa's blog post.

I tried it out at work today and I am very impressed and I will probably use it instead of Firefox and Safari. However, at home I will most likely continue using Safari, but I will give Chrome a go when it comes out for the Mac. Interestingly the rendering engine they used is WebKit which is the same as used by Apple's Safari.  Also, a very cool feature is the saving web pages as applications (Safari will get this in version 4 apparently). Now I can just have a shortcut on the desktop to Gmail or Google Docs!

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Sydney Harbour Bridge blocked yesterday

There was an accident on the Sydney Harbour Bridge yesterday which caused serious problems for Sydney traffic yesterday. I heard on the ABC news last night that "transport experts" were calling for another harbour crossing. Maybe instead of this we should be examining why there are so many people driving into the city! I normally drive against the traffic and I am amazed that people would sit in traffic that barely moves for several hours a day.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Red Dwarf to return?

One of my favourite TV shows may be returning! This week on Seattle public TV station Robert Llewellyn (who plays Kryten) announced that the BBC would be filming a 1 hour Red Dwarf special in October. Hints of this were also posted on the official Red Dwarf website earlier this month. Also see this link: Red Dwarf Rumored to return

However, there has been no official statement from the BBC and the official Red Dwarf website has not been updated.

Lets hope this really does get made. Unfortunately the series has been in limbo as they were trying to get funding for a movie version. I had also read earlier this year that the BBC had passed on doing a Series 9. Hopefully if there is enough interest in this special a new series could be commissioned!

Sunday 10 August 2008

Our Ireland, New York and Seattle holiday

On Monday 7th July, Ruby and I left on our 3 week Ireland, New York and Seattle holiday which we were both looking forward to. I was also keen to try out my new Canon Eos 450D. Now this is a long post, so for those of you who just want to see the photos (all 112) here the links to the albums: Ireland, New York, Seattle.

It took us 35 hours door-to-door to fly to Dublin (via Singapore and London Heathrow) and for the most part this was on the new Airbus A380 (which we were very impressed with). For the first leg, our seats were more towards the front of the bottom deck of the A380 and we felt very little turbulence. The same cannot be said for the flight from Singapore as we were the 3rd last row and felt every bit! In fact while waiting for the toilets (which are right at the back) I lost my balance, ripped the back of my jeans and had to quickly get back to my seat. Not the worst turbulence I have been in, but then again I have never been standing up in turbulence before!

We arrived in Dublin around lunchtime and despite being tired we decided to make the best of it and wander around Dublin until dinner. Since we were staying close to Trinity College we had a quick look there and at the Book of Kells (which Ruby really wanted to see). Next we headed to look at the shopping area to get me some new jeans where we spotted Ronnie Wood eating at a cafe (nah no signature, might have if it was Keith or Mick). We finished off the day by grabbing a bite to eat at Gallagher's Boxty House in the Temple Bar area (the boxty is yum!). Now we did plan to stay up to get in sync with the Ireland time, however, we were very tired after dinner and slept very early.

The next day we woke up (early) to rain, but since it wasn't like Sydney rain so we decided to walk along the Liffey and then go to the Guinness Storehouse. This was a very impressive tour with a look at how Guinness is made. Ruby and I spent the entire moring there! After that we walked over to Kilmainham jail. I had not heard of this place before, but Ruby was keen to see it (she kept mentioning the video for the U2 song A Celebration and Bono's red jeans!). It turned out to be very interesting (read the Wikipedia and YouTube links for more info).

The following day we picked up our hire car and started our circumnavigation of Ireland. First stop was Slane Castle (U2 recorded an album there). We then moved on to Belfast where we ended up getting a city tour which included Shankhill and The Falls Roads where there was lots of conflict there during The Troubles. Now, however, Belfast seems to be a vibrant city with lots of development going on. That night we stayed in Larne, ready for the next day where we had lots to see and lots of driving to do.

From Larne we headed for Donegal along the northern coast of Ireland (which was a fun drive for Ruby!) and first stopped at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It was blowing a gale when we got there (so much that the rope hand rail was bowing inwards) but we were definitely going across (though on the way back Ruby did cross rather quickly!!).  Then it was on to the highlights of our trip: The Giants Causeway. This was simply fantastic and we were lucky the sun came out so we could get some great photos! We had filled in a lot of our day already, but pressed on to have a quick look at Derry, the location of the Bloody Sunday incident in 1972 and some memorable murals depicting events during The Troubles.  At the end of the day, with some lucky navigation (our road map was sort of useless for this part), we finally found our B&B in Donegal.
Our goal for the next day was to head to Galway where we would be spending the next 2 nights. However, instead of the direct route on the main road we instead took more of a zig-zag through increasingly smaller Irish roads. First stop was Knock, then west to Ashford Castle and then further west along the shores of Lough Corrib to Kylemore Castle and then a late evening dash to Galway.

The following day was meant to be a rest day and for the morning it was. However, since Ruby was going to spend the next day talking to her PhD supervisor, Niclas, we decided to head for the Cliffs of Moher (even though it meant backtracking!). This was via the coast road which was very narrow! The drive was difficult but the scenery along The Burren and at the cliffs was fantastic. Driving back to Galway, on the other hand, was awful...
Ruby and I spent a large part of the next day at the uni with the last part just driving to get to our B&B at Killarney. The following day we were back to being tourists and did tours of Ross Castle (more a tower than a castle!) and Muckross House before driving to the B&B at Waterford. To be honest I was really disappointed in Waterford as it was just dull and run down (though Ruby does have her own club there: the Ruby Lounge!).  The only good thing there was the tour of the Waterford Crystal. Our last day in Ireland was spent driving back to Dublin with a quick stopover at Kilkenny for lunch.

New York
We spent all the next day flying to New York (via Frankfurt). At the airport when trying to get to our hotel in Manhattan we nearly got conned into spending $100 for the trip, in the end we only spent $30 (though we had to walk a couple of blocks). Since we only had 3 days in New York we decided to fit in as much as we possibly could. Despite it being hot (35 C) we walked over 14kms and visited the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Wall St, World Trade Center, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square and the library from the start of Ghostbusters. I even managed to buy a new pair of Doc Martens on the way (only $AU90!!).

 On the 2nd day we went straight to "Top of the Rock" at Rockefeller Center which gave a great view of New York. From there we meandered back past Times Square to meet the bus for our "Sopranos" tour. While this was a good break from wandering about New York and we did visit interesting spots in New Jersey, the tour seemed geared more towards hard core fans of the show. On our last day we spent the morning at the Metropolitan Muesum of Art then wandered through Central Park on the way to the 5th Avenue Apple store and Dylan's candy bar.

Our flight was due to leave New York at 9am and we thought we would be in Seattle by mid afternoon. Unfortunately our Chicago - Seattle flight was cancelled by United. Instead we had to fly via Denver, on to Portland and then via a very small plane (it had propellors!) to Seattle. We ended up arriving at 10pm. In Seattle we were tired from being tourists so we didn't do much (well Ruby did do a bit of shopping!) except visit the Seattle Aquarium and the Boeing Everett factory (on our last day). The Boeing factory was cool and I enjoyed seeing how the planes were made.  However,  I really felt the tour guide went way too far with how wonderful Boeing is and how magnificent the 787 is. 

This time our flight back from Seattle was a little different. Normally we fly back going via San Francisco. However, we found out that Air Canada now flies non stop from Vancouver. This does take 15 hours, but overall should have taken less time than via San Francisco. We hardly noticed the 15 hours as we slept most of the way...
Overall we really enjoyed our 3 weeks, but looking back we should have included a couple of rest days. The food was good too and the highlights were the Irish Champ mash along with the Pizza and cheesecake in New York. On the beer front, after trying a number of Irish beers, I still prefer Guinness. Also, there were many foods with Guinness as an additive (from fudge to stews). They were are not really any better due to the Guinness, better to have the two separately!

Oh and the camera went well too, though I am thinking about a new lens...

Saturday 5 July 2008

Blog update & Picasa Web Albums

Well, it has been a while since my last post! I have been meaning to write on various things but I have been very busy helping to deliver a project at work and supporting Ruby writing up her PhD. However, I have also been playing about with Blogger and Picasa.

So the first thing you will notice is the new URL for my blog, which you were (most likely) redirected to. When I setup this blog I used Blogger to publish files via FTP to our site at benandruby.com. Originally I thought this was good as it was on my own URL. However, there are a couple of disadvantages in doing this. Firstly it took a while to publish to the ftp site and secondly there are a lot of cool features that I could not access (blog roll, dynamic layout features, scheduled posting). In fact, I think the set of features supported for blogs on the Blogger servers and versus those via FTP is only going to increase. So I decided to move over to the Blogger servers.

Moving over was not a simple matter as I had made many customisations to the Blogger template (the rounded corners and the changeable backgrounds for example). But after lots of fiddling and testing I was able to get this working much like the old blog. Using the "new" layout editor is great and it was easy to add things like the Blog Roll and RSS link. Overall, I am happy with the change however, there is still a bit of work to do on the redirects at the old site (not all pages done).

The other thing I have been playing with is Picasa Web Albums. I had previously been using Galerie to create web albums from our iPhoto library and posted these to our website. However, I was not completely happy with the results compared to the effort I had to put in to create them. This is partly the reason why our Cairns photos had up until now never been to our photo pages. After seeing what Alellie and Phil have done with Picasa web albums I decided to give that a look (especially since we have a holiday to Ireland and the USA coming up!).

After a quick look I realised that Picasa was the way to go. It had plenty of storage (1 Gig), a good layout and Google Map integration for geotagging. Google even provided an export plugin for iPhoto and a dedicated app for uploading! Unfortunately, the Google apps and the web upload have a bug which means that either GPS data or the captions are uploaded. Not both! 

In the end I purchased an iPhoto plugin from Ubermind which uploads photos and correctly adds the captions and GPS. It also includes more photo resizing options.  Below are links to the Picasa web albums for our last 3 trips: USA 2006, New Zealand 2007 and Cairns 2007.

As for how I geotag the photos? That is for another blog post...

Tuesday 13 May 2008

New iPhone release closer?

A number of recent news reports and press releases are pointing to a new iPhone (and most likely a 3G one) release in the very near future. Additionally these confirm the post on MacTalk just over a month ago. Another post was added today summarising this.
- both Vodaphone and Optus have announced they will be selling the iPhone in Australia (as well as several other countries). Interestingly Telstra has not said anything...
- 3G on/off settings have been found in the latest iPhone SDK. This is apparently to help with battery life
- iPhones (as of Saturday) are unavailable on the US or UK Apple stores. See this AppleInsider report.

I think this points to an iPhone release sooner rather than later (possibly even this week). Whether this means you will be able to get the new iPhone straight away is another matter as Apple sometimes announces products that will ship "in a couple of weeks". However, in the case of us here in Australia I think we will definitely be waiting until Sydney Apple Store is opened in mid June (mainly as this is a great marketing opportunity).

Saturday 3 May 2008

U2 3D

Back on Sunday 13th April we went to Sydney's IMAX to see U2 3D.  Being a big U2 fan (so yes this article will be biased!) I was excited to see this film, especially as this was billed as you getting the best seat in the house.  I also wanted to see how this compared to the actual Vertigo concert that we went to in Sydney in late 2006.  I was worried that it would be like all the concert films/DVDs I have seen which I find to be a bit lacking and nothing like going to the real concert.  I much prefer to listen to them than watch.  Well in this case I was not disappointed. You certainly get the best seat in the house as well as get to be up on stage with the band all within the one song.  The 3D effects are not cheesy or overused (certainly not like ones I have seen where you get the red and blue cardboard glasses).  In fact, you get used to the 3D really quickly and almost forget its there.

So was it like going to a real U2 concert? Well yes and no. On one hand the sound was great and you do feel like you were there.  Additionally for us since this was on opening weekend so we had to line up for 30 mins so we could get good seats, so that made it feed a bit like a real concert.  However, it was actually easier to go to than a concert as we did not have to line up for as long! For Zoo TV and Vertigo we lined up for 6 hours or so just to get good spots!  Also, I was not deaf at the end with ringing in my ears for several days afterwoods.  Not that there was any problem with the sound being too quiet! 

There was a problem with some idiots in front of us who kept getting up to get drinks or food (why I don't know as the film only went for 85 mins!) But the really funny reason why it felt most unlike a concert was it was a bit cold.  Normally you get really hot at a concert, but here since we were in an air conditioned theatre it actually felt cold at the end of the concert!  Lastly (and this is more from a fan perspective) I found the concert to be too short and I would have like to have seen the full setlist.  I really liked the Zoo Station / The Fly combination at both the Zoo TV and Vertigo tours and was really disappointed that Zoo Station was omitted.

So, even with a few faults I would highly recommend going to see U2 3D, even if you are not a U2 fan.  This is an excellent showcase of the 3D technology and I hope more bands and filmakers use this in the future.  We will be going again :)

Lastly if you are interested in more details of this, Wikipedia has an excellent write up of how they did the concert and the history behind it.

Wednesday 9 April 2008

iPhone in Australia in June?

According to this post on the MacTalk Australia forums the iPhone will be released in Australia in late June (yes 2008!). Normally I would be somewhat skeptical of this, however, this has come from the Aussie Apple resellers.

Important points:
- late June release
- multiple carriers
- no contract lock in
- current resellers to sell iPhone

Interestingly the last 3 points are a change for Apple as these are not done anywhere else. I wonder if this will be extended to other regions or what other regions will be released at the same time.

The multiple carriers hints at a 3G iPhone as the current 2.5G iPhone needs EDGE which is only used by 1 carrier in Australia: Telstra. Also, this is around the time the 3G iPhone is rumored to be released. Additionally there is this AppleInsider report today on the 3G iPhone. Coincidence?

Saturday 29 March 2008

Using xmltv feeds with EyeTV

UPDATE: the Free*EPG service no longer provides an xmltv download. I have released a new version of the Applescript which downloads the EPG from OzTiVo.

In October last year I bought a Mac Mini to use as a media center. The software I am using is Elgato's EyeTV which does a great job of managing and recording TV shows. Initially I had setup schedules for each of the TV programs I was interested in, but this only works when shows are on at the same time every week (which the commercial networks are notorious at sticking to).

With the release of v3.0 in January one of the new features I was most interested in was "Smart Guides". This allows you to set your recordings based on search criteria (e.g find Top Gear or Doctor Who). This works well when you have a complete EPG. Now while 7, 9 and 10 transmit a 7 day guide, ABC1 & 2 only have one for the next 2 days and there nothing for SBS.

With the latest release of EyeTV (version 3.0.1) it allows xmltv files to be used as an EPG. First drag the downloaded xmltv file onto the EyeTV application. Now Go the the Channels in EyeTV and for each of the channels you want to use the xmltv file for the EPG set its EPG to xmltv.

EyeTV channel set to xmltv

In some cases if EyeTV cannot find the channel in the xmltv file it will ask you to select from a list of channels it has found in the file (this always seems to happen for SBS).

Select EPG from list

This works well, however, EyeTV needs to be restarted or the xmltv file dragged onto it for the EPG to be refreshed for a newly downloaded xmltv file.

I get my xmltv EPG from Free*EPG and to make my life simpler I have written the following Applescript which downloads the zipped file, unzips it and opens the xmltv file in EyeTV. The only user settings required is to enter your ClientID and Postcode into the two variables (they currently contain ????) and save the script.

To activate the script you can either set it to run via iCal or cron. For example I set iCal to run the script daily at 6:50.

iCal Event

The same script can be used to grab files from other services. I included a separate variable for the download link so this can be changed easily for other xmltv providers.

Edited 5th July 2008: updated locations of images

Edited 21st February 2009: included link to blog posting for the updated Applescript

Monday 24 March 2008

RIP Arthur C. Clarke

It was a sad day for me on March 19th as my favourite author, Arthur C. Clarke, passed away aged 90. I had just finished reading one of his best books 'Rendezvous with Rama' the night before.

RIP Arthur, thanks for the inspiration and all the good reading :)

Sunday 2 March 2008

Website update

Haha 2 posts in one day!

As well as some of the REALbasic stuff I have been working on I have also been working on updates to the website. I discovered that Firefox and Safari now support rounded corners (one of the new items in CSS 3). So I replaced the javascript I was using (Ruzee Borders). If you are using IE or Opera the borders will be square.

Lastly I found a cool way to show pictures. It is a javascript called Lightbox. Currently I am only using this on the My Money Minder page to show screenshots, but I may move to using this on our pictures page...

My Money Minder 1.9.8 released

I have released another bugfix to My Money Minder. I had thought 1.9.7 was going to be the last release before 2.0, but a few bugs were found that needed fixing. For the full details of the changes and download links go to the My Money Minder pages