Switched from Storytlr to Soup.io

I just switched ianforrester.org from Storytlr.com to Soup.io. There both lifestreaming services which allow you to attach your own domain but I'm sorry to say storytlr.com is shutting down from New years. There's been talk about open sourcing the platform but to be frank, there's already sweetcron which has also been dropped into limbo when the creator also decided to move on to bigger and better things. It certainly doesn't look too good for lifestreaming apps/services.

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Open Rights Group coverage

I was surprised to hear the Open rights group on FLOSS weekly last week. Don't get me wrong it was all good stuff but its rare I ever hear/see ORG on the channels of communication I'm using. I should blog about the ORG more, but have never the time… Their current big campaign is the three strikes plan which France recently adopted and every one is trying to push through
in many countries
(and there trying to make it 2 strikes instead of 3). Anyway thanks to Tim who introduce me to Dan Bull who seems to be a big big thing in the world of P2P. He has a interesting take on the 3 Strikes bill.

Don't forget to sign the petition at Number 10 downing street, if your a UK Citizen.

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Lily Allen: Bootlegs Ok, Sharing Bad?

Found via Zeropaid, Lily Allen: Sell Bootlegs of My CDs, Don’t Share for Free.

UK recording artist, and vocal anti-file-sharing critic, remarks that she’s fine with people selling bootleg copies of her CDs rather than sharing it for free with others since the person selling it is at least placing “some kind of value on” her music.

“If someone comes up with a burnt copy of my CD and offers it to you for £4, I haven’t a problem with that as long as the person buying it places some kind do of value on my music,” she recently told UK radio station Key 103.

Enter Dan Bull, a musician labeled “one of Britain’s best young songwriters” by Is This Music? Magazine. He’s precisely one of the emerging artists that seems to be using the Internet and the art of the free album giveaway as a means to promote his work and gain fans.

He wrote a melodic rebuttal to Lily Allen’s rantings called “Dear Lily [an Open Letter to Lily Allen],” and posted it as a part of a video on YouTube.

The song really cuts to the heart of the matter and sums up just how short-sighted and naive Allen really is.

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Specs of old and new XBMC box

People keep asking me for the specs of my XBMC boxes. Although I thought I'd done that here (old) and here (new). I've got them line by line now.

Compaq EVO D510 Small Desktop with Intel Pentium 4 2.8ghz processor. 512meg of Ram and 13gig ATA hardddrive. 5x speed creative (no-region) PC DVD drive and GeForce 6200 128meg AGP card (low profile card with DVI output). Came with 2 full PCI slots free and one low profile AGP slot, now have a Trust 7.1 sound card slotted in the PCI slots. Power usage is 185 watts sounds silent unless playing a disc.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M55p Small Desktop with Intel Core 2 Duo 1.86ghz processor. 2gig of Ram an 80gig SATA harddrive. 16X speed DVD-ROM and Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3000 (onboard with VGA output). Came with 1 full PCI slot free and 1 weird (swear its not, some forums say its a ADD 2-R or PEG slot) PCI Express slot, now have a Trust 7.1 sound card slotted in the slots. Power usage is 225 watts but still also silent unless playing a disc.

Both machines are running Ubuntu 8.04.1 with Pulseaudio savaged to not run. The Lenovo has the latest beta of XBMC 2.2 while the Compaq is running the mainline 2.1. The main difference is in the CPU usage.

I ran the Lenovo through some of the most challenging trailers and films I own and it made mince meat of everything. The Sony Advert where the colour balls are bouncing down the streets of San Francisco, you know the one. Well I got that in sub 1080p (1440×1080) and on the old machine playback would drop to sometimes 12fps on intense scene changes. Even the audio would sometimes break up and you could see the CPU running at 100% through out. Now with the new machine its running the whole thing at 40% on one CPU! My ultimate test was the Spiderman 3 trailer which was not only the full 1080p but at a high bit rate only reserved for BluRay. The old box would give up playing this half way through, while the new one got stuck in and hit a CPU peak of 60% for both CPUs. Playback was flawless except 3 frames it had dropped the whole 2mins. On other stuff like my HD Back to the Future and Matrix collection, it was perfect, even with DTS sound. This is what Home entertainment should be like…

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Boxee’s app repository, a game changer?

Plex apps store

I adore XBMC, I really do but I do rate Boxee for everything its doing. The social features are not perfect but far better that I've seen elsewhere so far. While the competition plonk twitter an facebook intergration on top of everything they do, Boxee has weaved in the social to be a core part of the platform instead of on top.

Another key thing I noticed about Boxee since my upgrade is the Apps changes. I've said for years XBMC is the best platform to demonstrate whats possible when you move away from broadcast television to ip based vision. Python supplies XBMC, Plex and Boxee with incredible scripting power and new APIs to manipulate the video and interface. So far the scripting has been all the obvious stuff like scraping websites for multimedia content but recently there's been more DVD like experiences to stuff which you may be downloaded or streamed. So maybe a menu or options to dive into more content that just what's in the linear storyline. Nothing too interactive, just options to play more linear content. But you can certainly see that changing in the near future. And unlike before its going to get very easy to see these apps deployed on your screen.

XBMC has always had the ability to download scripts from the net while sitting in the sofa but its been not very clear or popular. Plex from what I gather (I don't run plex) has a apps directory like you would expect from the Apple store but Boxee has gone one step further by including the option to subscribe to your own repository. So for example, the BBC could have not only its own apps with everyone elses but have a total repository of its own which only includes maybe BBC approved apps. This guy from the Boxxxee adult network raves on about what a game changer this could be and to be frank where the porn industry goes, others do follow.

The “open-ness” of the Boxee platform is what, I believe, will ultimately make it wildly successful. The ability for content creators to instantly distribute their creations to monitors and TV sets around the world is a game changer. Unfortunately, installing a Boxee app manually is a task only a developer (or hardcore tech geek) would feel comfortable with. Surely, for those who are using Boxee free from any keyboard (maybe with the awesome iPhone remote app?) manually installing an app is impossible.

Fortunately, Boxee has a killer little feature called the App Box. Within the App Box, users can add “Repositories,” essentially directories that house third-party applications. Once a repository is added, installing the apps from that repository is a one click process. Developers can add additional apps and they’ll show up automatically in a viewer’s App Box as soon as they are available. I love it!

He's quite right to be excited, I expect the apps will become much more mature and boost levels of interaction which will surprise most traditional broadcasters off guard. If that doesn't get them the ability to redefine the rules of TV within the stream and the media of the box will. Avner Ronen of Boxee asks TV programme producedrs to start changing the way they write programmes to fit with a audiences who don't need a cliff-hanger at the end of each show. Why is a show 22 or 44 mins, why the tricks to persuade the viewer to stay on board in stead of a solid plot?

The issue is that today writers create artificial suspense before commercial breaks and at the end of each episode (to ensure viewers will tune in next week), and they also feel the need to remind the viewer of key plot themes (since it’s been a week and the viewer may have forgotten). When you watch a few episodes over a short period of time these “tricks” are clearly apparent and they hurt real story telling.

The on-demand experience should also put into question other axioms. For example, why stick with the format of 22/44 min long episodes? some plot lines could be longer and some shorter. A show could also be non-linear, letting the viewer follow different paths from different angles, putting new story telling tools in the hands of the writers.

Lastly If you had any doubt, you should be looking at XBMC, Boxee and Plex for game changing ability just consider the amazing things been done in the field of dual screen ability with Xmote (video). Yes its iphone only right now but there has been remotes for other platforms like Android, Symbian, PocketPC and Blackberry. Generally most of the hardwork has been about connecting the two but now that has been solved your starting to see some amazing enhancements like being able to pull up the cast and crew of the film your watching on the big screen without a break in the viewing. So imagine combining this with the ability to script and manipulate the content? Heck imagine doing this with 4 of your friends or the family. What would be possible? I don't know but rather that dreaming about it, the people working on XBMC, Plex and Boxee are prototyping the future, now! Why don't you get involved now?

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Upgrading the Media Centre

XBMC 2.2 beta

I have decided to make the switch from my old but decent Compaq Pentium 4 machine to a brand new Lenovo Dual core machine. Main reason is to get flawless 720p playback and better support for 1080p video. My LCD only handles 720p/1080i but its good to know that the box can playback anything smoothly.

I choose the Lenovo because of the 1.8ghz dual core processor and full size PCI slots. Other machines I have looked at have had half size or low profile PCI slots and to be honest after all the hassle getting the graphics card for the last one, I'm not willing to do it again. The Lenovo has intel graphics (which seem to be accelerated and are open source) which play well with Ubuntu but I was worried about the OpenGL 2.0 support. So far it all seems to be ok. I also gave the new machine a serious upgrade in memory and space. From half a gig of DDR to 2 gig of DDR3 memory.

Upgrading has been a pain. I took the 5.1 PCI sound card out of the old machine and switched it into the new one. Installed Ubuntu 7.10 (didn't have 8.04 cd) and upgraded to 8.04 over the internet before installing XBMC 9.11 alpha. I had to fight to get the display working correctly when the display defaulted to 1360×768 by 60Hz instead of the 1280×720 I wanted. Rather just living with it, I decided to mess with it and got to a point where the display wouldn't show anything. Unlike a normal computer monitor, LCD TV's tend to throw a message up saying not valid signal, which is no use when your trying to work out whats happening. Anyway I got it working and before long was installing XBMC and Boxee. I had previously backed up my XBMC, so once I SSH'ed in and moved things back I was up and running. Next step was the audio which is fiddly because of my setup using the Onyko Cinema Amp. After a long while I setup Ubuntu to output audio over my Cmedia PCI/DNA card, disabled Pulseaudio from starting by changing /usr/bin/pulseaudio to non executing and trial/error in XBMC till it worked. Now I can play Dolby Digital and DTS without a problem. Oh and here was nice bits and bobs which might help with getting a better xbmc experience.

I did some tests with some 720p content I own, and I was shocked at the cpu usage. One CPU core bearly touched 40% and the other one was almost idiling at about 5-10%. When pushed into sub 1080p content (1440×1080) the 1st core touched 50% but never went over it, likewise the 2nd core almost sat idle. All my 1080p content seems to wrapped in a MKV container right now, which currently seems to crash XBMC at the moment. Quicktime also seems to have the same effect currently. I'm sure upgrading to the beta will solve the problem. So far, I'm impressed but my next step is to file some bug reports around MKV files, get XBMC to launch from login like I use to have it an finally autostart with the wiimote

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A Boxee box is coming soon

From the Boxee Blog some news I've been waiting for.

We launched our public alpha for Mac/Linux in January at CES. During the show we met with several device manufactures interested in embedding Boxee into their existing devices or building a dedicated Boxee device.

I am very happy to announce we have signed our first partnership with a CE company. At this point we can not say more about the partner or the specs of the device, but we can tell you we are working closely with them to make sure we deliver a great Boxee experience on it.

Details will leak out on the 7th December at the launch of the beta in New York. There's a promise that a new user interface is coming too. Which honestly is needed badly, boxee has become xbmc's ugly but gifted little sister as of late. But the news of a move to a CE box is very good news, although I'm worried it won't be all it could have been if they had done the same last year.

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The logical conclusion of FB alibi case?

Freeze Frame cover

I over hear someone suggest that the guy who used Facebook as an Alibi was very clever and that more of us should record our lives to prove where and what we had done. My instant thought was to the film Freeze Frame.

Sean Veil is an ultra paranoid murder suspect who takes to filming himself round the clock to provide an alibi, just in case he's ever accused of another crime. Problems arise however when the police do come calling and the one tape that can prove his innocence has mysteriously disappeared.

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Revolver: Your mind will not accept a game this big

Everyone seemed to hate Revolver, and honestly I can understand why. On the surface its nothing like any of the other films Guy Ritchie has done. It also takes its self far too seriously. But what people missed is the sharp plot and cool one liners. The person to look out for is André Benjamin as Avi, he brings a certain element of smoothness to the whole plot, which I have to agree is complex and not easy to explain.

After spending seven years in solitary confinement and having his sister-in-law murdered, confidence trickster Jake Green (Jason Statham) is out to get revenge on Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta).

Jake Green is a hotshot con artist who has acquired a specific strategy (referred to as “the Formula”), that is supposed to lead its user to win every game, during his seven-year stint imprisoned in solitary confinement. The Formula itself was discovered by two unnamed men in adjacent cells either side of Jake’s own. During the first five years of his seven-year sentence, the three men communicated their thoughts on confidence tricks and chess moves via messages hidden inside provisional books, such as ‘The Mathematics of Quantum Mechanics’. They plan to leave their cells simultaneously, but end up leaving Jake behind, who ends up serving the remaining two years. He finds that all of his possessions and money have been taken by the two men with whom he had shared everything but, having the two men’s Formula, he went about making a lot of money at various casinos. Two years later, Jake has garnered a reputation that leads many casinos to fear his freakishly good ‘luck’. The Formula is seen to apply to any game, and is often exemplified by his apparent mastery of chess. The story revolves around Jake’s epiphanic awakening, as he learns how to apply the Formula to the ‘game’ of life.

I think the reception says it all about the film…

The film was generally panned by critics: for example, it has been criticised on grounds of pretension and having an over-complicated plot by critics such as Mark Kermode. Reviews were so poor in the UK that The Guardian ran a story on how the distributor was able to attribute a quote to The Sun saying that the director was “back to his best”. The quotation came from a section of the Sun Online website created by a PR agency on behalf of the film’s distributors.

There were, however, some positive reviews as well. Mark R. Leeper conceded that it was “a film for a narrow audience”, but said that he personally rather “liked it” and gave it a score of 7/10. According to Brian Orndorf, Revolver “is the perfect movie for those who like to crack things open and dig around the innards”, saying that it “reminded [him] quite a bit of Richard Kelly’s film, Donnie Darko”. He goes on to explain that “both films have a taste for the deliberately confusing, sharing scripts that take the viewer on a ride that requires much more than one simple viewing.”

So there you go a film for a niche audience who like there films with complex story arcs and twisted concepts. What more do I need to say?

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Wake up to light in the mornings

Philips Wake up light

I heard about these light alarms which wake you up using daylight from a large bulb instead of a nasty buzzing noise like traditional alarms. So in an aid to improve my wake up routine I invested in a Philips Wake-up Light HF3463. Of course I never paid 100 pounds for it, actually I picked it up for 20 pounds because I knocked the retailer down again and again due to the bad state of the box, paint on the power lead and that it was a return product.

So far I got to say its working pretty well, I do feel better waking up to the bright light and I tend to wake up about a minute or two before the set time or the noise of blips (which I have mine set to). It all sounds like marketing crap but there is something about the bright light which does work even in my room with lots of glowing leds from machines and mobiles.

Will this be a path to a more healthy lifestyle of waking up early and feeling full of energy? I doubt it, I still feel very rough in the mornings and feel so much more alive at night but anything which gets me up without that jolt has got to be pretty good.

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Tesco: All that technology but no ethnic food?

Tesco's online store for home delivery is great, I've been using it for something coming up to a decade I'm sure. But what I don't understand is with all the choice, options and clever ways to drill through the database of items, you still can not buy or order ethnic food or drink.

I'm sure I've highlighted this problem before and Tesco said it depends on which store your close to. Aka they only reflect whats in the store around the corner. Well I'm sorry but its almost 2010 and thats not a acceptable excuse as far as I'm concerned. Imagine if Amazon said that?

What kills me is I'm only after Popcorn Kernals to go in my new popcorn machine. I had no idea that Popcorn Kernals are ethnic goods, wow because they are so exotic of course. So now on top of my full tesco order, I now need to head down to ASDA in Hulme to buy Popcorn Kernals and a loaf of hard dough bread. Tesco if your listening, everything should be available, if it requires extra time or effort to get the item, warn the customer and in extreme cases, suggest a very small service charge. I would have paid at 50p extra to have it delivered instead of having to scoot down to hulme just to pick up two items.

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Is the Relational Database Doomed?


Of course not, but finally thankfully people are starting to take serious stock of other types of Databases. I'm no Database expert but for ages I never understand why I was serialising XML into a relational database to pull it out a bit later in XML. So I started doing some digging and found out about XML databases and object stores. This was way back in 2001. Later in 2004, the suggestion of a XML database or any other database except MySQL, PostgreSQL or Oracle was a no go. How things have changed.

In BarCampLondon7 Simon Wilison gave a talk where he listed a range of different types of databases or datastores. There all listed on this Etherpad titled #bcl7 non-relational database BoF. A very impressive list indeed and there's much more. So will we finally see people moving away from the LAMP stacks? Maybe but I its going to take a while.

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Novell Pulse catches the Wave

You got to hand it to Novell, they are quick off the mark. Rather that trying to fight Wave they have embraced it (something I suggested big collaboration corps should do). Novell have a nice clean enterprise product/service called Pulse, which looks and feels like a very cleaned up Wave system. But here's the kicker, it interoperates with the Wave protocol. smooth move Novell and I'll certainly keep an eye on Pulse for our future plans.

Novell Pulse Demo from ReadWriteWeb on Vimeo.

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