Why XBMC is the best thing on TV

When people come to my flat there usually amazed by my mediacentre setup. They never knew XBMC could look so beautiful. Problem is I can describe the experience but its never the same as when you see it in action. So here's a video speeded up of XBMC in my living room.

So people keep asking what's the specs of the machine I'm running XBMC on? Well its pretty simple, so I'll do a detailed spec sheet.

Software wise I'm running Ubuntu Linux 8.04 on the 2.6.24-24-generic kernel. XBMC runs as the default option when Ubuntu logs in under the under-privileged user xbox. So the Gnome or KDE backend is not loaded. I would upgrade to 9.04 but there's issues with Pulseaudio which I know have been solved but I don't really mess with my XBMC box too muc

Hardware wise, I'm using a slightly under powered Compaq EVO D510 which is a Intel Pentium 4 with 512meg of Memory and 13gig of hard drive space. I tried to switch to using just a Flash drive but found it was actually much slower that using the hard drive (maybe obvious now). I use Samba Shares (SMB) for everything, so the box does nothing but play back media. Other boxes take care of the downloading and storing of media. I'm holding close to 4.25 Terrabytes across my network. Inside the XBMC box, I'm using a standard PC with a old 5x speed creative (no-region) PC DVD drive and GeForce 6200 128meg AGP card. The DVD drive plays everything pretty much and believe it or not is almost 10 years old, the AGP card is simply because the machine doesn't support PCI-Express and XBMC requires a card which supports OpenGL 2.0. The GeForce card can handle most things but doesn't really like 1080p.but 720p and 1080i isn't a problem. The whole thing is hooked up to my Samsung 40inch TV using a DVI to HDMI connection and the sound to my Onkyo 7.1 Surround sound reciever from a Trust 5.1 soundcard using a single optical cable. I have gotten Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES 6.1 out of XBMC, without too much problem. Finally I use a Bluetooth dongle with a wii-remote to control the whole thing. It looks impressive but requires little fiddling if none at all.

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Storytlr, goodbye so soon?

I'm upset to hear storytlr is closing down, but not from lack of interest. I use storytlr to do my lifestreaming on www.ianforrester.org and was thinking about deploying it elsewhere.

we have decided to stop operating Storytlr in 10 weeks, on December 31st 2009. The reason is simple: our lives have moved on, kids were born, house were bought, new projects appeared and we don't have time anymore to operate this service properly.

We have spent the last months looking for alternatives, potential partners, and even thought about creating a startup around this project. Yet, in the end, nothing did really make sense for us and we have decided to pull the plug. It was a tough decision to make, it is a sad day, and we feel sorry for our passionate users who have put so much effort into their page and who have helped us improve the service through their many comments.

This is why we have also decided to open source the platform. Not today. It will involve first a major refactoring, since at the moment it looks more like a giant spaghetti than an easy to install package. We don't know when it will ready, but we will do our best to do it as soon as possible. Please get in touch if you want to help with this effort.

Open source it great. But my next thoughts are towards my data. Data Portability is always a worry when a service goes away or down. But they have done a excellent job of allowing data download into CSV files plus there will be a Zip file of any binary blobs like mp3's and pictures.

Nows a good time to find an alternative I guess…at least till the open source version is easily deployable. Sweetcron is looking more and more attractive.

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The stoke of a fire mix

Been a while since I've published a mix on soundcloud. This is one I did while on holiday in of all place Stoke on Trent. The old style hotel had a fireplace and nice big chairs to get sucked into. So after most of the old people had retired to there rooms, I put down the ereader and slammed on the pacemaker. This mix is very warming and showcases some of the best trance over the last year. Enjoy!

  1. Flamboyant – Petshop Boys
  2. Invisible Touch (ferry Corsten touch) – Bobina
  3. Sinister – Airbase
  4. Shadow World – Thomas Bronzwaer
  5. Rewire – Robert Nickson & Daniel Kandi
  6. Key of life (Marlo remix) – Ohmna featuring Nurlaila
  7. Into something – richard durand
  8. Constellation (john O callaghan remix – Thomas Bronzwaer
  9. Summer Melodies (Frequence remix) – Frequence
  10. Embrace (ferry fix) – Embrace
  11. Surreal – John O Callaghan featuring Jaren
  12. Language (Santiago Nino Dub tech mix) – Hammer and Bennett
  13. Look ahead – Thomas Bronzwaer
  14. Radio Cursh (extended mix) – Ferry Corsten
  15. Certitude – Thomas Bronzwaer
  16. Ultra Curve – Cosmic gate
  17. Seven Cities (V-one's living city remix) – Solar Stone
  18. Flamboyant – Petshop Boys

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Girlfriend Scared by Fake Head in Bed

I'm sure everyone's seen this video, its being played to death online but it still cracks me up when I watch it again. Yes its kind of cruel but you got to laugh when the guy pokes his girlfriend with the broom handle and the look on her face when she sees the head in the bed can not be faked. What would you do if you woke up to a stranger where your partner was meant to be?

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The problem of the single story

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Such a great talk from TED about the problems of single stories. How they breed stereotypes and although stereotypes are not always bad, they are usually incomplete. I remember in Freedom writers, a good speech about how the Nazi's started printing cartoons of Jews in newspapers as a way to point out the differences between people. Its the undermining of people in stories which is the thing which holds us back.

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Second-Hand Sex Toy Competition

Sex toy 1 Sex Toy 2

Not the usual thing I have on my blog but I couldn't help but find this one funny and entertaining. Details for the competition is available on from McBirdie's Blog. Here's a bit to tempt you in…

Sure, money’s tight with the never-ending recession–everyone is trying to finally get on board with re-using, recycling, and giving things they own a whole new purpose in life. Why should sex toys be any different? Not only does it mean you’ve managed to find a new use for something, it’s…just darned funny to see a sex toy floating out in the world in a completely innocuous role.

So what we would like to do is see you use your sex toys in a way that amuses, confounds, or just darn tickles us. Whether you find that your vibrator makes for a great milk foamer or a string of anal beads make for a lovely necklace, take a picture and send it in. If you’re feeling especially creative, you can put together a video (no longer than 3 minutes, please–we have no kind of attention span).

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Don’t bring back the Bananas, please

bananas have split

I've been raving about the new kiwis, apples and limes innocent drink/smoothie for sometime. I'm not the biggest fan of Bananas and a smoothie without Bananas was always going to float my boat. Lovely drink and actually pretty good for you. Innocent drinks have been asking for feedback on this edition of there drinks, so I'm giving it two thumbs up. I've also learned if you mix it with a small amount of lime or apple vodka it makes a great little cocktail too. Not too much or it goes a little funky in texture.

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If bbc backstage had run hackday like this…

1st prize at Yahoo Hackday Taiwan?
The video was removed, so I had to replace it with a image from CocaChou

Found via VickyJo – Can you even imagine what would have happened if BBC Backstage ran a hackday/mashed or any kind of event involving poll dancers and strippers? Oh my goodness can you imagine the newspaper headlines, Eric Huggers apologizing to Mark Thompson, Mark Thompson apologizing to the Trust and the public. And of course I'd be fired and seeking employment elsewhere, maybe Yahoo would be the place to go. I know the culture is very different in Taiwan but as a global brand you've got to think about the reaction.

Seems Tuesday 20th October things have blown up. Not only have the videos been removed or made private but also there's a number of twitters talk about it and blog posts including from Cristano Betta and Simon Willison.

Yahoo finally feeling the pressure, tweeted. Hack Girls from Y!'s Taiwan event don't reflect our values. Was inappropriate, we regret offending anyone. We'll ensure won't happen again.

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Adobe FXG, WTF?

Adobe FXG is so wrong in so many ways, its untrue. When Microsoft decided to do there own xml vector format I was shaking my head but now Adobe's also doing the same my head is in my hands.

FXG 1.0 describes an XML-based graphics interchange format for the Flash Platform. FXG contains high-level graphical and text primitives that can be used to create, group, transform and visually modify basic vector and bitmap shapes. The FXG rendering model follows very closely the Flash Player 10 rendering model and exposes all graphics capabilities of the Flash platform as well as offering expandable support to accommodate future capabilities of the Flash Player.

When initial work on an XML-based graphics interchange format began, the natural first thought was to use SVG. However, there are key differences between SVG and Flash Player's graphics capabilities. These include core differences in SVG and Flash's rendering model with regards to filters, transforms and text. Additionally, the interchange format needed to be able to support future Flash Player features, which would not necessarily map to SVG features. As such, the decision was made to go with a new interchange format, FXG, instead of having a non-standard implementation of SVG. FXG does borrow from SVG whenever possible.

Aka, we see the need for a xml vector language but svg is already developed and we can't be bothered to change our flash engine to support it. Instead we want to write a spec around our already written code base and make you all adopt it. Well geez thanks Adobe. I really hope no one uses FXG, hopefully the lesson will get back to Adobe that they can't just stick opensource on a manipulated web standard and expect people to use it unless you make them do it in your own proprietary world (*cough* Actionscript). Thank goodness at least Google is backing open standards like SVG.

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Software ahead of the curve: Google Wave

Google Wave, is the hottest thing on the web at this current moment. And to be frank marks the start of Google's rise in my estimations and there commitment to the web as the platform. When I first saw the Google IO video was impressed and seeked out my wave invite I would have got if I had gone to the London event. So I've been using/on Google wave for a while now, but since the public beta I've started to really use it for conversations.

So I've noticed Google wave has been getting a bashing from some high profile bloggers in the industry such as Scoble who thinks it will crash on the beach of overhype (what ever that means?). So what do I think? Well I think its amazing and most of my thoughts after watching the video still hold. So I'm going to start with the things I'd like to see changed or I think are not quite right.

Web-like – Wave is on the web but still not part of the web enough. For example why is it I can't send a link to someone directly to a wave or even better using the querystring to a section within a certain wave? Ideally you could do it with Xpointer or Xpath. I know there's wave robots/plugins which can push things out of the wave environment but linking and anchoring should be built in at the basic level.

Groupware – Wave is as far as I can tell a groupware system and although this is great for the enterprise, its also got enough usefulness for much smaller adhoc groups like us arranging events over basecamp, etc. So because of this, it needs plugins for time management, spending, calendaring as soon as possible. Heck I'd like to see a basecamp plugin for Wave but thats for another blog post. I did say ages ago that Lotus, Novell, Microsoft should be worried. There big bulky collaboration systems are under threat by the wave protocal. If they were smart they would quickly launch some skunk work clients or conversion transports using wave. Steve Rubel talks a lot about how Wave doesn't solve a consumer problem and therefore it will die. but I don't it has to, in the same way basecamp doesn't solve a consumer problem. No this is groupware for everyone but someone will adapt it for more clever things.

Client – Wave is crying out for some enterprising developers to create clients for it. I'm not knocking Google's Web Toolkit (GWT), google have done a great job with Google Wave's client but its not quite there yet. Its heavy on my browsers resources. I know there's a version for webkit browsers and the command line, but wheres the XUL, AIR, GTK+, QT heck even a Flash version. The API has been done and theres already reference versions to learn from, so whats taking so long? I can't be the only one thinking this? Anil Dashes excellent blog post talks about the complexity of Wave but never seems to mention how much better wave could be with a different client. Actually this would also solve a lot of the issues Steve Rubel is talking about with Wave.

So i'm still impressed but can't help people are writing it off at the first fence. Give it time to mature and grow before writing it off now. Wave is a hot but not ready for the consumers yet. Oh by the way I've run out of invites sorry.

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Google urges Web adoption of SVG

SVG logo

Thanks Brendan for the pointer to this post about SVG.

Some seeds for overhauling Web browser graphics were planted more than a decade ago, and Google believes now is the time for them to bear fruit.

The company is hosting the SVG Open 2009 conference that begins Friday to dig into a standard called Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) that can bring the technology to the Web. With growing support from browser makers, an appetite for vector graphics among Web programmers, and new work under way to make SVG a routine part of the Web, the technology has its best chance in years at becoming mainstream.

Good stuff, I still think SVG is amazing and deserves to be taken seriously. This might be just the boost it needs to move forward and become fruitful. The benefits to google must be quite clear and i'm sure svg will make it into chrome if it doesn't already have it? It would also make sense to include SVG or even SVG tiny into the Android stack too. And lets not forget Google needs to have a answer to Adobe's Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight. Well between SVG, HTML5, JS, CSS and there recent spend on On2's video codecs who knows what could be built.

Ages ago Antoine Quint gave a presentation at Xtech which showed the total stack of Joost's media player application. The stack included SVG, alongside XHTML, CSS, JS, RDF, XUL. The biggest problem they had was with video playback which integrated and was controlable via dom scripting. Well now with that problem almost solved without the aid of Flash/Silverlight. Its should be easy to complete the web stack, and without bigging up Google again, there doing and thinking the right way again.

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Google Wave? Let Pulp Fiction show you why

I know I've been promising to put my thoughts about google wave up for ages but I wasn't actually sure the EULA allowed public reviews when I was on the sandbox server. However now its somewhat more public, I'm seeing stuff popping up all over the place, so its certainly time to write something. Till then, here's some great use of wave found via a public wave.

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