This feed contains pages with the tag "Tech".

Blast From The Past

Marc-André Hamelin composed a classical rendition of Nokia's orignal iconic ringtone. I had a Nokia phone for many years and Trigger Happy TV's Nokia sketchs always crack me up.

I've switched from my corporate Blackberry to my shiny new Nexus One and haven't done much in the way of changing the default sounds. This seemed like an excellent opportunity.

I found all sorts of conflicting and useless advice on how to take the audio of a Youtube video (flv format) and save it as an mp3.

Turns out it's really easy.

  1. Download the video (I used youtube-dl)
  2. Install ffmpeg (sudo aptitude install ffmpeg)
  3. ffmpeg -i downloaded-video.flv -acodec copy audio.mp3

et voila

no need to transcode or mess with flags or anything.

Who wants to start a betting pool on how long it takes someone to strangle me for my annoying ringtone?

But Koolaid Is So Tasty

My Mum started her own soft furnishings business, IQ Rooms, about two years ago.

At the time Google Apps For Your Domain was fairly new but it was perfect for a small business. Tanya helped Mum setup the trademarks and business name. Once that was done I registered the domain with Enetica, who I use for all my domains, and used their free, simple DNS hosting (which they apparently don't do anymore).

Once the domain had propagated I created the GAFYD account and then after pointing a few CNAME, MX and A records at Google it was all running.

Mum had gMail, gCal, Docs and gTalk all with her shiny new domain name.

The website...that took another 2.5 years :)

I put a quick placeholder up using Google Pages with the intentions of updating it once Mum got me some copy. Which never quite happened...

During our recent visit to Oz I got Mum and Dad a new PC to replace the ancient frankenstein I'd built them eons ago (it was an overclocked PentiumII with 256Mb RAM). The new box was a Lenovo ThinkCentre m57e which was on sale for $299. Throw in 2Gb of RAM, a 500Gb HDD and a DVD burner and the whole thing was still under $500, with a 4 year warranty! Crazy.

I put the latest version of Ubuntu, Intrepid Ibex, on it and copied all the old data over. After I got Picasa setup and the digital picture frame sorted, I sat Mum down to work on the website.

Since the first placeholder went up Google bought JotSpot which later relaunched as Google Sites and is available as part of GAFYD. That meant we had an easy way for me to create a website for Mum that she could later update.

Tanya and Liam worked on a better logo while I futzed with setting up the site and getting some copy out of Mum.

I was pleasantly suprised by all the integration between the various Google products.

Sites has a Picasa album widget so we were able to easily add some shots of work Mum had done to the front page. Now all Mum has to do to put new photos on the site is add them to that Picasa album.

Enabling Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to track the site was simple, both available as options in the site management screen.

Adding the business to Google Maps via Google Local Business Center was also really straight forward and the entry shows up for searches like "blinds toowoomba" and "curtains toowoomba".

So it would seem I'm drinking the Kool-aid in grand style. :)

PS. if you're looking for curtains, blinds or other soft furnishings and you also live in or around Toowoomba, give IQ Rooms a call. :)

You've Been Framed

One of my projects for our trip home was to setup the digital picture frames I bought for the family a while back. The idea was for each household to have an online photo album (eg. Picasa) that supported RSS. The picture frames would be configured to read all the RSS feeds and display a slideshow of everyone's photos.

After a bit of research I had settled on the Samsung SPF83V, as it supports WiFi and RSS. The marketing material was a tad misleading however. It claimed the SPF83v supported WPA (it doesn't) and multiple RSS feeds. The device does support multiple RSS feeds...just not at once. What I'd expected was for it to merge multiple RSS feeds but that was a bit optimistic of me.

Not supporting WPA was a royal PITA. I ended up biting the bullet and downgrading each of my families WiFi to WEP. None of them are in high density areas and they don't have byte charged internet accounts. So worst case some twit piggybacks on their network for a bit and we change it back to WPA.

The frame's woeful RSS support was a much larger sore point. I threw together some quick python code to do the RSS merging but the frame would just crash when reading it. I debugged for a bit before realising I'd rather be spending time with my family than coding. So I poked around on the net for existing solutions and they all crashed the frame too.

Then I remembered Yahoo Pipes and the sun broke through the clouds and a beam of golden light shone down upon me.

Yahoo Pipes is awesome. It reminds me of a graphical processing app I played with called Cantata (sp?) on a Sun SPARCstation in 1992. That supported working on images rather than text but it was the same concept.

A few minutes later I had a merged, sorted and pruned RSS feed that had all of our picture frames happily loaded and displayed.

Next step was to install/upgrade everyone's computers to Picasa 3 (which I must say is really slick) and show them how to upload photos.

Now when my sister adds more photos of my adorable niece Madison they automagically show up in my parents house.

A New Hope...err...Host

My colo box is getting evicted any minute now and I have swallowed a bitter pill and let it go.

Having your own colo box is like having a shed for a non-geek. You get to mess about on it without worrying what anyone says and you can install whatever you like. I'm going to miss it.

The inimitable Andrew has graciously offered to host the few things I truly need. That unfortunately leaves my nethack server dead in the water for the time being. Fear not fellow adventurers, it will return.

I'm not ruling out getting another colo box. It's just that right now is not a good time to be setting one up. I'd ideally like to have a box in Australia and trying to set that up remotely would be a nightmare.

I'll be in Oz sometime in the first half of next year to do the US Visa dance again so I think I'll just wait till then. has flown high and served me well for 5 years. Not bad for a box I bought second-hand in an auction with a dead CPU and RAM. May the silicon gods welcome you into their arms.

Shared Distributed Music Backup System

I have a cunning plan.

Buy a few 1Gb USB sticks. They only need to be 1Gb. Backup an album or two that you have to a USB stick. Give the USB stick to a friend that doesn't have those albums.

Now you have an offsite backup of those albums.

Your friend might to listen to the albums while storing them on your behalf. (This would be out of your control, alas) If they did listen to the albums however, they might be convinced to acquire it themselves. When they do acquire it, they'll want their own offsite backup and so they give the USB stick to a third person. ad infinitum.

In this way someone always has an offsite backup of the album somewhere.

There may be some other side effects that I haven't identified yet....

About Face

I'm now importing my blog into Facebook's Notes app. The import is lossy though, no tags and no links back to the original post.

The Facebook blog import help page helpfully tells you to use Feed Validator but the error page when your feed is invalid...doesn't.

You can enable comments on your imported blog posts but they're only accesible inside Facebook and there's no easy way to get them back out. So they're disabled for now. I'll revisit if I ever get comments setup on my actual website.

Icarus Rises From The Dead

Courtesy of the inimitable Tom, my colo box Icarus is back from the dead.

Let this be a lesson to you kids, don't let your current colo box find out you're about to replace it.

Encrypted Synergy

Synergy is an Open Source app that allows you to control multiple machines from a single keyboard/mouse. Unlike VNC, PCAnywhere and friends the idea is not to control remote machines but for when you have multiple machines on your desk.

At work I have my workstation and my laptop, with Synergy I can move my mouse to the bottom of my monitor and it jumps to my laptop. The keyboard then sends input to the laptop.

This is all done over a simple TCP connection, which is fine until you start typing in passwords. After a bit of tinkering I have a script to run the Synergy client over an SSH connection using local port forwarding.

Using an SSH agent is highly recommended for Windows (try Putty's paegent).

You'll obviously need an SSH server running on the machine with the Synergy server.

A Better Blog

They say a poor workman blames his tools but I am finding using Wordpress to be a real obstruction to actually posting. Which robs you, the reader, of my devilishly clever wit and insight...uh...yeah...something like that at least...

I'm torn between another round of testing various blog software packages or writing my own. ikiwiki looks like it could fit my needs but it's written in Perl and I'm trying to learn Python. (Why does that matter? well, knowing myself as I do, I'll want to hack on it)

I've been toying with using some sort of mail-to-blog setup as I've found I quite like the auto-save feature of Gmail. Speaking of Gmail the Google Apps for Your Domain beta is on and I'm pretty chuffed with it so far. Not that I'm biased, I'm not on that team, they're just doing some good stuff.

The problem with mail-to-blog is security. Most of the setups I've seen rely on obscurity, usually some long, "hard to guess" email address. I'd thought of using some sort of passphrase in the message body, a hash of some kind that I could calculate in my head. That way I'm not bound to a particular workstation or OS when I want to post.

Of course this might just be a long winded, round about way of procrastinating and not posting anything. Not sure.

A Slim Chance

I was reading a review of the new Slimdevices Transporter and they were talking about startups in Mountain View.

Hang mean....yup, Slimdevices are just up the road.

I'd love to get a Transporter but I'm thinking having an amp to connect it to might make sense first. (oh and winning the lottery, $2k ouch)