My College comes under QAA fire

When Adam phoned me today I was very suprised to hear Ravensbourne College was in the times higher education supplement but for the wrong reasons. We had a terriable QAA this year and its hit the college hard. But honestly we knew there were things which should have been sorted along time ago, but just dragged on. No the interesting thing was the faults were focused at management rather than the people on the floor everyday. Which I would say is pretty true, even though there would be some people who I would like sorting…

Anyway so the full audit report has been available incomplete form since this year (the audit is still ongoing). While the the published piece is available here if you subscribe to the times. I have copied it for those of who do not.

College comes under QAA fire

Phil Baty
Published: 07 May 2004

Quality watchdogs have “limited confidence” in the control of degree standards and course quality at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication.

In an audit report published last week, the Quality Assurance Agency orders the college to put in place a proper quality control system and clear quality management structures “as a matter of urgency, to ensure that the academic quality and standards of the awards… are maintained”.

The college is affiliated to Sussex University and awards Sussex degrees under a validation arrangement.

The QAA report highlights the fact that student numbers have increased almost 40 per cent in the second half of the 1990s. At the same time, academic staff numbers have decreased from 72 full-time equivalents to 45, with the institution relying more heavily on casual staff.

“Over the same period three sets of new managerial and administrative structures have been implemented,” the QAA says.

“The college maintained that it chose to restructure… in response to changes in the industry and growth of student numbers. The audit team was informed that (the restructures) resulted from staff changes and was not presented with evidence that alternative strategies had been considered.”

The QAA says that the college has not properly engaged with the “national higher education agenda on quality and standards” and is only beginning to engage with the agency's code of practice.

It added that the lines of responsibility were confused.

“In discussions with a range of staff, the audit team heard different views as to where responsibility for quality and standards lay,” the report says.

The college was “unable” to provide the QAA team with key documents.

Problems were “exacerbated” by a number of relevant documents that were supplied for the team's scrutiny without indication of source, date or purpose.

The QAA concludes: “Limited confidence can be placed in the soundness of the institution's present and likely future management of its programmes and the academic standards of the awards which it makes on behalf of the University [of Sussex].”

In its response to the report, published as an appendix, the college says:

“Ravensbourne graduates have an excellent reputation in the creative industries.

“The college is therefore disappointed that the judgement was only limited confidence… Nevertheless, the college is committed to addressing the recommendations in the report.”

Pretty damming if I do say so myself…

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Ipaq TV remote controller

tv remote in action

Honestly never thought TV Remote on the PocketPC was all that good. The default maps were pretty crummy to say the least. I learned what CCF mode was and now i'm away. Created a CCF for my 5 remote setup and its all working quite well now. Only problem I got is my ipaq usually sits in its craddle activesyncing rather than just hanging around.

6 in one kameleon remote

I bought my wife a 8 in one kameleon remote for a christmas present in the states but it didnt work so we sold it. But recently I bought her a 6 in one kameleon from the uk and it actually works after phoning one for all main times. Oh by the way the xbox remote still doesnt work on the remote yet, but they reckon they can sort that out with a bit of time.
But anyway she can pretty much control anything now. And she takes great delight watching movies from her laptop shared documents on the widescreen tv now. It actually works quite well for being over 11meg wireless.

Anyway back to my remote, I'm going to customise it to have many macros soon, and hopefully sarah will do the same once the xbox works with the remote. Only one thing about the xbox, it will not start up without you pressing the power button the front which is a crying shame really…

By the way I'm reading the furrygoat experience and laughing quite a lot. Specially the wife factor. I'm going down the home automation/entertainment route but on a small budget using open technologies and lots of simple hardware. I know i've raved about the xbox media centre but I swear its made a huge difference to the way we watch media now. I would like to get one in the kitchen a bit later so sarah can watch anything on her laptop from the kitchen. Not being sexist of course, just know sarah would like to sometimes watch things without the digital surround sound. But that also means were consuming more media off the web and this might be the time to consider a 1meg or higher internet connection. Sarahs torrents and mine are killing the half meg connection.

I know my next step is to make recording off digital tv as painless as possible. If that means buying a freeview pvr or setting up my linux box with mythtv we shall find out over the coming months.
If only the xbox had video in…

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Nullsoft streaming video

Maybe i'm out of touch but I've never heard of Nullsoft Steaming Video (NSV). Tell a lie, I did but that was years ago when it was a rumour. Now its a completely working system using the open VP3 video codec and Mpeg3 audio codec. Humm I wonder if vp3 will be good for the copyright vs community lectures.

Interesting piece. Internet TV? Yeah, We Got That. Also found a nice little plugin for tv playback and the forums for NSV. I think later on I will do some more work on NSV.

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Installing Knoppix on box

At long last I've installed Debian complete with GUI by cheating. I ran Knoppix 3.4 and installed it to the hard drive of my spare machine today. This guide is great for anyone whos in the same position. All the other guides I saw were aimed at Knoppix 3.3 and 3.2, which I could have done but this is nicer. Next step for me will be installing Synergy so I can have one decent mouse and keyboard. Oh and I need to setup user accounts and all that.
Knoppix found almost everything including the firewire, soundblaster and usb's. Dont know if it picked up the multiple video capture cards though.

Ok so after the last few hours messing around the debian box, I'm glad to say I havent broken it yet. I'm learning the pain and joy of apt-get and sudo with the source.list.
I couldnt get the synergy client working at all. some fatal error = Cserver.cpp.102: unknown screen name 'Knoppix'. Anyway I've moved on to installing mythtv, freevo and VLC.

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Xbox mediacentre pulls it together

xbmc media center logo

I've just installed Xbox Media Centre version RC 1 on my own xbox. Came with the project mayhem skin built in so that wasnt the hassle it usually was, however there was a newer version on the mayhem site with some bug fixes so I uploaded that to the xbox instead. Seemed pretty much the same.

I was interested to read that xbox mediaplayer is now considered a dead project with the release of xbox mediacentre 1.0. Theres a really nice comparision of media player vs media centre. There are some interesting comparisons. I now know why shoutcast doesnt work recently, it doesnt support .sc files. Seems its been depreached in favour of pls files. Internet Radio (SHOUTcast MP3) support (native or streaming via RelaX) – Only supports PLS playlists. while xbmp Support both SC and PLS playlists.
So i've had to now go through most of my sc files and change them all to pls files, which isnt a easy batch job. Theres also no audio filters on xbmc which they say isnt needed anymore. kind of agree but it would be nice for the user to decide. The one I miss alot is the xmltv tv guide which was a pain because you needed to do it from your pc but it was there and working in xbmp. My weather isnt bad though and if the tv guide is as polished as the weather, were in for a treat.
Other things I miss from xbmp include. Xbox front LED Control, Busy Indicator, Video bookmarking via OSD (so can resume a movie later, even after reboot), M3U video playlists from DVD-ROM, HDD, SMB, XBMSP or XNS (inc. create/save) and FFWD/RWD and PAUSE in AVI/OGM/MKV/MPEG/MPG media.
The chart says xbmc doesnt support Quicktime 6 files, but I dont have a problem playing them, specially if there using the simple mpeg4 codec.

Anyway some interesting things I discovered while I was installing and researching. I finally got the FTP feature working but I cant work out how to change the password so it defaults. Which is a pain but I'm still considering using xbmc as my dashboard because evox is never really used too much. Plus xbmc has file explorer and a program launcher to go with the ftp server. But honestly I do think I will wait till version 1.0 before I do it. The other launchers seem really good but I use mediacentre all the time now. Why press a button each time it starts up?

Xbox connect, xlink, xbox link whatever you call it is something I havent got into too much, I know its a rival to the xboxlive service without all the hooha of monthly payment and centralised servers. But now the great creators of xbmc have bundled in a KAI client for connecting to your friends to play games. Think of it as instant messager and you got a rough idea. I prefer the term uber tunnelling for the masses..
Anyway I signed up for a xtag – cubicgarden.
The whole thing is unsupported at the moment, so I dont expect much at this moment. But would be nice to get a game of tony hawks underground and try it out anyway.

One of the other things I spent time on while working away on xbmc was the alternative ways of streaming. The problem I have is my windows 2000 server doesnt seem to share to the xbox at all. I only got it working once along time ago with xbmp. So I tried xbmsp and xns using ccxstream and relax-xstream. None of them worked. Relax came close but wouldnt share the media beyond the folders. ccxstream didnt show anything even though the test util said it was working. I may try again, but I would rather keep my network with two sharing protocals – webdav and samba. Specially now xbmc prefers smb to xns.

Can someone tell me what on earth NuppelVideo and PVA containers are? I've never heard of them. Nice to see xbmc supports Nero digital's mpeg4 files which claim to be mpeg4 simple advanced. I will give it a try later on as I've converted the brass eye mockmentary series to mpeg4.
I'm really hoping that someone will bring out a pvr which is in the same vain as the ReplayTV 4000 and 5000 series. There is a hacked Tivo which runs ccxstream but I dont know if that is possible with the freeview pvr's? Microdvd support is nice too.

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Windows media player 10

Got myself a copy of Windows media player 10. Lots more information here. And I will write a longer account once I get around to installing it. Lots of interesting information from a interview with Bill gates and Microsoft was available in digital home this month. But microsoft-watch has the highlights.
There are some screen shots of Windows media player 10 here

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Controlling two different os machines from one input

I've been downloading the screensavers episodes from bit torrent recently, then watching them on my ipaq into work. Anyway I was watching this episode and came across Sarah's Download of the day – Synergy.

I think this animation explains it all.

I cant wait to see it working on my Windows XP Pro workstation and GNU/Linux Debian test box. Will have to take a photo because my monitors are on different sides of the desk.

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Social software and google’s Orkut

So I've now signed up to from As I'm interested in how it compares to Wallop and Friendster. Gareth was messing with it and showed us that half of the more vocal members of the BBC new media are already on there. Actually looking at it, I did a search for BBC and got tons of groups sorry communities. Slaves of BBCi is where the newmedia people hangout. Owned by Tom coats of plasticbag

Generally it seems ok, tons and tons of questions could be answered, but I opted for a more secretive approch, only giving up name, work number, date of birth and city. Some of the drop downs ignoyed me slightly. For example – am I african american? I don't bloddy think so! Black yes not African or American! Typical American view. But also all the towns and stuff can only be filled in if you live in America. At least has a more balanced view of the world. Talking of which I listened to Scott Heiferman from talk about it on Social Computing Symposium – Keynote: New Dynamics of Using Online to go Offline. Interesting the idea and the risks taken.
Back to Orkut a bit, the interface is yuk! Really need a way to allow you to upload your own stylesheet or pick a style?

Oh yeah my username is cubicgarden by the way, if you want to add me as a friend…

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Calling from munich, germany

So i'm hoping this goes through on to my blog before Wednesday, as I
should beable to send this blog as an email to blojsoms moblogging
plugin from my ipaq. Now unfortunately I tried to send a couple of
emails from work on friday but they never ended up on the blog, for some
unknown reason. Anyway will look into it when I get back from holiday.

Yes this time in munich, germany. And i'm happy to say international
gprs roaming with orange via tmobile is working a treat. Actually
working better than America and even some parts of south london I would
say. I'm in studentenwerk north munich and the gprs is actually quite
quick. All I need to do now is sort out my email accounts so at least of
them will send email from my ipaq. Honesty I even signed up with hotpop
so I could get it working. Should have signed up with orange's email
really, but its long and complex…

Anyway here's to moblogging from abroad…
*raised wine glass* from my sisters apartment in studentenwerk, munich.

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BBC’s DIRAC codecs

Matt web and tom coats seem to be doing a lot of interesting things in
bbc radio and
. But I heard about bbc's open source
sourceforge project called DIRAC through this weeks Its basically a experimental video
codec like ogg theora. It supports resolutions
from quarter cif to 1080 hdtv progressive or interlaced.
Oddly it also uses wavelets and motion compensation as well the patent
tricky area of Arithmetic coding.
Anyway i'm going to try it out and if its good, i'm thinking we could
use it for the copyright vs community
. But I douht its ready for
such use, saying that we could get some support from the bbc if I ask
really nicely? maybe? Worth a email I would say, wouldn't you?

I am hoping to push some of this type of innovation into the world
service. Theres already an opportunity to do some work on blogging for
43 different languages. Hence why i'm watching blojsom's
. Thinking of bringing some of the work with HP's
semantic blogger to the world service. I mean blojsom is that flexible.
Only problem is were using mainly perl and cgi on the backend with
server side includes at the final stage. Don’t think this much of a
secret because everyone can see uses *.shtml. Anyway blojsom
with a bit of xsl 1.1 or even 1.0 could create static pages if needed.
More about xsl 1.1 soon I think.

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Programme guides all around

Been thinking about electronic/internet programme guides once again.

Someone in digital home asked the question about which Freeview PVR box to get. They recommended the fusion digital FRVT-100 over everything else. Including the Humax and Pace. Now I never heard of it but I'm wondering why they prefer it to the others? Is it only because it has its own propitery 7day EPG. While the others only have the now and next feature, hardly EPG contendars. But what will happen when the BBC do there 7 day EPG in summer/winter? Hummm?

Anyway while away I also saw a url in a magazine for which seems more useable than anything else I've seen recently. Then that got me thinking why dont i create a xsl to transform there listings into xmltv? Then I started thinking wheres the tv_grab_uk? blah blah hit richards blog, interesting read might actually subscribe the rss. But I really want a xsl version of that… Cocoon's pipelines could easily handle it.
I'm going to scream… maybe annanova should give up the source files, so someone at the bbc can provide the same for the radio times, cause the current setup of the radio times is terrable…give me a break

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