A review of last years resolutions 2010

Its that time of the year, so first up the review of last year.

  1. Go skiing on real snow
    Yes this has been on going and to be honest, with all the spare time I had this year I could have but it would have been against the doctors advice. Anyway this coming year it will happen for sure.
  2. Blog more
    Yep achieved
  3. A better routine and live more healthy
    Yeah this is certainly in effect, never guessed I would have ended up in hospital midway through the year. Crazy stuff.
  4. Kick off Manchester werewolf night again
    We did kick off another werewolf night but its always at the wrong days, so I need to do more about this.
  5. Find my perfect development stack
    Yeah to be fair I still need to work on this but I did end up buying XML Oxygen editor and played with PHP and Xquery. With mydreamscape I got into the type of development I rather liked. Stitching together things which work like lego bricks
  6. Playout live more
    Yeah I didn’t quite achieve this one but I have plans for 2011. I certainly like to play Trance out live.
  7. Use even more graphics
    This didn’t quite happen, but hopefully this will change
  8. Upgrade sooner if it makes a noticeable difference
    Yes this is working for me
  9. Be involved in a regular podcast
    Indeed this worked out great. Techgrumps is fantastic and hopefully we can develop this even further.
  10. Buy a flat in Central Manchester
    Yes I finally this year bought a 2 bedroom flat in Islington Wharf, just on the east edge of central Manchester. I owe my sister and Billie my amazing mortgage advisor greatly for this whole thing
  11. Avoid all online services which don’t perform to my acceptable levels of data portability
    I’ve done this but I certainly could do more in this area.
  12. Play more games
    This is certainly something I am still not doing enough of. I did buy a Xbox 360 a while ago and to be fair I did buy a whole selection of games when I was recovering from my bleed on the brain, thinking I would now finally have the time to invest in them.

The TV tracker

Tioti tv tracker

via Paul Pod at Tapeitofftheinternet

In the last blog post about SharetheTV and Trakt.TV, I mentioned the need for a way to track TV episodes which your social network were on. It got me thinking what ever happened to the promising startups of the time including tape it off the internet (tioti.com) and sharetv.

Back then, all these services relied on you putting all the data in and to be fair it might have been a little early. Now you got serious processing power under the TV from boxes like XBMC, Boxee, GoogleTV, etc. Setting up a TV tracker site would be pretty easy now. Almost all the boxes now talk to the Internet and there’s APIs a plenty now.

It is surprising no ones really pushed the idea yet. Like the prototype above shows, it doesn’t take much to get it right.

Know your meme public message broadcast

I love know your meme and have been catching up with the episodes I’ve missed for a while but I love this almost like a public service message episode which is attached to downfall.

In response to Constantin’s attempted takedown of these satirical videos, the Institute for Internet Studies offers this helpful public service announcement explaining how to dispute a wrongful copyright claim on the grounds of Fair Use.

XBMC dharma goes online

In a surprise (surprising to me at least) move to XBMC there is now a couple of services which allow you to show off your collection to the awaiting public. Something a little like Boxee does but much more like Last.FM (or rather Audioscrobbler) does.


The first one is Trakt.TV which simply tracks what you watch, just like last.FM/Audioscrobbler but for TV and Film. Of course its still early days, so theres not a lot of data right now but the database is powered by other open source projects the movie database and the TV database. Of course the scobbler plugin is built directly into the new Dharma XBMC, but you can force it into Camelot too if you don’t want to upgrade quite yet. One of the nice settings in the plugin is the ability to only send a update when you watch a certain percentage of the film/TV show. And of course you can blacklist certain directorys if you want to protect your p0rn for example. You can imagine the Lol’s when someone finds your secret stash of p0rn on the site. Credit is certainly due to trakt.tv for the global stats and chart pages, alas OKtrends.

Oh by the way my profile is here but its quite empty right now because I’ve not been watching anything from my xbmc library today.

Share the TV

Share the TV is the next one which aims to be less like Trakt.TV and more like a place to just dump your whole movie collection. Like Trakt.TV theres a plugin directly in the new XBMC and its just a matter of enabling it. Also like Trakt theres a load of options you can configure so its only uploading you collection every once in a while. Unlike Trakt, share the TV uploads the whole of your current movie and TV database to the site. So ideally you can show your friends what you got. Its also powered by the movie database which is a nice touch.

My profie is here again.

The crux of the issue

I like both of them but its very handy being able to see the whole collection with sharetheTV. I do worry somewhat that someone will look at my collection and decide that a film which isn’t out yet is obviously pirated (Grow up people!) (I tend to download a lot of trailers of course and XBMC picks up the metadata for them). I would really like to see trakt.tv and sharethetv come together to form a much stronger single site really.

Nothings perfect but theres room for change in both. Being able to change the update perious is useful in sharethetv because for example, Notorious auto scans as the 1946 film with the same name. So I need to change it before it syncs up the cloud.

Its great they both use the open movie/tv sites but it would be great if in turn they would also provide a export option for your own data collected. I’m sure there both working on it but sooner rather that later. I’d also like to see the ability to embed your collection elsewhere (actually trakt does support basic embeding). I’ve been burned on this front before with myfilmz.net.

Finally it would be great if either site could solve the problem which was highlighted by tape it off the internet (or tioti.com which is now findmetv.com) When your watching a TV series such as for example The Event. Some friends are following the UK Channel4 series, some are downloading it and some are waiting for the boxset. It would be fantastic to be able to track all that in a simple web/gui.

A new hope, a new blog


During Christmas I thought I’d do some maintenance to blog because I’ve been meaning to clean up a few things for a while. I’m hosting with GoDaddy.com mainly because there cheap and there pretty hassle free.

I had my /wordpress blog which you might have seen stuff like this at. Then I also had storytlr at the root of the cubicgarden domain and a couple other blogs which I was testing things on like mydreamscape. So I deleted the couple of test wordpress blogs and started putting a axe through storytlr (which is a real shame but I could never get the cron to work). Then I noticed there was no blog in the management option for /wordpress. Which meant yes it was either lost somewhere in the management interface or it was gone….

I was generally pissed off with Godaddy for not making it clear which blog I was deleting. Worst of all, its all happening on bloody Christmas day, when I should be relaxing not wondering what happen to my bloody blog. I almost canceled my contract with Godaddy right there and then, I got a message from the Godaddy twitter account with some somewhat useful information.

So anyway although I wasn’t able to recover everything back to how it was before, I now have a new blog and lifestream.

I had a backup of my blog from Mid December and I’ve been using Disqus for comments so pretty much everything up till then was safe. All the blog entries I usually write in Blogilo, and I had a backup of all the recent entries. So it was just a matter of digging them out and publishing them again with the correct date stamp.

The first thing you will notice is that the /wordpress is now gone (yeh!) and the lifestream is now finally working (double yeh!).


There is still a lot of work to do. I still need to design the bloody thing and this time I’m hoping to do a proper job. On top of that I’m going to sort out all the external links to my life all over the web, so there all linked here in some logical fashion.

I also need to link up ianforrester.org to my lifestream and add in lots of lovely embedded goodness into my pages.

It was certainly quite hairy at one point but it kind of worked out… Happy Christmas everyone…

The next version of XBMC (Dharma) is now available


Almost missed this one.

Unfortunately I’ve not had a chance to play with it on my home cinema setup because I switched off the machine just before I went away for the holiday season. But reading through the list of changes and finally having a little dabble on my laptop confirms this will be the first thing I’ll do when I get home.

XBMC 10.0 “Dharma” is ready for consumption. Those who have been following development know that add-ons are the main focus of this release. In the past, in order to find a new skin, you would have to dig through the forums, find a link, and hope it worked. Ditto for plugins, scrapers, etc.

Those days are over. All of these things are now available within XBMC, no need to put down the remote to find new content or change the look of your HTPC. Just head to the “add-ons” section in the system menu. At the time of this writing, there are 11 different skins available, all with distinct looks and personalities. But we didn’t stop there. Want to watch your favourite youtube videos? Listen to some web radio or podcasts? Install a web interface to control your living-room experience, or even one to manage your media? It’s all available in the new add-ons system. Even before the final release, we have seen an average of 50,000 add-on downloads per day. It’s time for you to see what many others have discovered! And remember, the best part is that the add-ons are very much alive. New ones are being added every day, and current ones are continuously updated.

So finally XBMC has caught up with Plex in regards to plugins and scrapers. The full change log is here.

Hacking the Pacemaker (progress)

Pacemaker Manager

At last a break through, someone (musicinstinct2) has cracked the way the pacemaker adds and removes music to the SQLlite database.

My initial experiments involved using the sqlite database browser to open up music.db and enter track information. Then manually copy the tracks over to the device, making up random hash values (as I couldn’t work out how Tonium were creating these hashes). It works! The device doesn’t rely on any particular naming convention, whatever is in the filename field in the database (music.db) is used by the device to load the track.

Fantastic…! Now this is cracked and Musicinstinct2 is working on a open source client to manage tracks. The next stage is to crack and understand the XML file which is attached to every single track uploaded on the device. The bulk of the data in stuck in a XML element called realBeatLocations.

I expect it won’t take long before we have the whole thing pretty much cracked. What would make things move along quicker is if Tonium would publish the source as it was created under the GPL.

Join the BBC in the North

When I first sat down and thought seriously about going up north to Manchester, I kind of dismissed the idea thinking well its not really for me but after a few visits to Manchester I got a real sense of the excitement and passion which surrounds the North. I couldn’t help but sign up and be one of the first to go.

Anyway 2.5 years later (yeah I can’t believe it myself either) happily shacked up in my new flat and on the verge of moving into Media City mid next year. I can’t shout loudly enough that we’re looking for talented and creative people to join us on our quest into the unknown future.

Everything you think you know about the BBC, you should forget. This is the time to frame the BBC as you want it to be.

As Sean Parker played by Justin Timberlake (of all the people) says in the film the social network,

Photo by Merrick Morton – Columbia Tristar

It’s OUR time…

The economic climate means things are very tight and we will have to take more risks that in previous years/decades. The only way to do this is hiring the right type of people who are willing to try new things and calculate the risks.

As you’d expect there is a bbc website for people to learn more and hopefully apply. I’ll see you at the interviews

The future of publishing is writable

Newsweek book are not dead bezos

Imran posted a link on his facebook wall.

The future of publishing is writable, Trends of smaller, easier, and more personal content signal a shift away from read-only publishing.

There are three convergence trends in publishing that are already apparent.

One clear long-term trend is that smaller pieces of information are being published. Considering just modern digital forms of publishing, there is a roughly chronological progression toward smaller publications: emails, Usenet postings, web pages, blog posts, blog comments, tweets, tags.

A second trend is a reduction in friction. As access to easy-to-use and inexpensive publishing technology increases, it becomes economically feasible to publish smaller and less valuable pieces of content. We have reached the point where anyone with access to the Internet can easily and cheaply publish trivial, tiny pieces of information — even single words.

The third trend is the rise of publishing personal information. Our inescapable sociability is driving us to shape the Internet into a mechanism for publishing information about ourselves.

These three trends — smaller, easier, more personal — provide a framework to examine the development of online information publishing.


In a session at BarCampManchester4 titled Ebooks, I was invited to talk about my Kindle ebook reader. I said I have never bought a book from the Amazon Kindle store and may never do.

So the obvious thing people thought was that I download ebooks from questionable sources. But in actual fact most of my ebook collection is either creative commons licensed ebooks such as cory doctorow’s books or there self published content formed from scraping websites using the much loved calibre and its scripts. Its scripts work with everything from standard sites, google reader, instapaper, readitlater, etc, etc.

I’m not saying I’m a self publisher but if you do look at the percentage of ebooks I’ve made/republished compared to the ones I’ve bought or downloaded. Its clear going by my own habits is we going towards a writable, self publishing future.

Online dating goes a little like this

Me on how to have more sex

According to Stephen Mount, online dating goes something a little like this.

Person A: Hi

Person B: Hi

Person A: What’s your financial circumstances?

Person B: I’m skint

Person A: Bye

In my experience this is certainly not true. It would be interesting to hear where Stephen is meeting these ladies? The only time I’ve ever had someone challenge me about how much I actually earn is when I went speed dating for the first time and it ended up on ITV 1 primetime.

The woman (who I won’t screen shot for her own sake, although I really would like to) who is person A in the following role-play and I’m person B.

Person A: So what do you do?

Person B: I work for the BBC on a special project which I love

Person A: Oh thats a shame, I heard the BBC don’t pay very well

After a slight delay (I was weighing up in my mind how this would play out)

Person B: Well that only matters if your a gold digging ******

Person A: **** ******* ******** ******

Lets say the next 2.5 mins were some of the most difficult conversation you could have with a stranger…

Luckily its only ever happened once and even more luckily it was not caught by the camera for the ITV viewing public, because that would be too embarrassing at the time but ever so funny now.

Discovering lovely workplaces

The old twitter offices

I had message on my flickr mail today. The subject read awesome workplaces. I though it may have been spam at first but I checked it out.

Dear Ian,

I found some great pictures of the Citizen Space workplace here: http://www.officedesigngallery.com/template_permalink.asp?id=154#comments

I would really like to add these pictures to my website: WOVOX.com.

WOVOX is a free and open platform for anyone to show and find workplaces. We want to help people find the workplace of their dreams more easily, but also learn from others and find inspiration for their own workplace.

There is room for credits and a link back to your website or social media profile. Your pictures will be available under an attribute & share alike creative commons license.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Thank you,

Arjen Hoekstra

I totally forgot about the pictures I took of the CitizenSpace, the old twitter offices (see the photo above – yes that how twitter use to look back in 2006ish) and the creative commons office, all in San Francisco. I’ve lot loads more which I forgot about. Good thing about flickr keeping all these photos and of course the creative commons license which is a sign that I’m willing to share.

Wovox.com actually looks pretty sweet. The ethos seems pretty well thought out too. For example heres a bit from the user guideline page.

Authenticity! Better show a few things with spirit than a lot of stuff without depth. A mobile phone pic in the heat of the moment is worth much more than a non-descript €1000 pose shot.

Plus its really good seeing Creative Commons licenses being baked in from day one rather that being an after thought (i’m looking at you mixcloud.com crew).

Seeing all these work places in one place, has somewhat inspired me. I hope to add the BBC media city office to the mix in the near future, it will be interesting to see how it grows as we get more people too.

Kindle everywhere your ebooks everywhere…

Kindle everywhere

Amazon are really cornering the reader market. Not only do they have one of the best ebook readers, but its also one of the cheapest (using there ability to ship many of them). But what really smashed it for them has to be the app which pretty much runs on everything. From PC’s to Android phones. Windows phone 7 to the ipad. Now there launching a kindle for the web. This will optimise any browser into a ebook reader. Impressive stuff.

But I’m worried…

This all seems to be out of the same play book as Apple and there itunes music ecosystem. I can already imagine the special links being sent around social networks pointing into the kindle ecosystem. The only saving grace is the kindle for the web.

Hopefully Amazon will follow the Google approach with these things and leverage the web not fight against it.

If Amazon screw up, Google seem to be right behind with there own ebook store.

What does this mean for the Kindle device, well this is all good news for the Kindle. Kindle is a fantastic eink device but shouldn’t be the only place to see ebooks. Hopefully more people will make there way through ebooks on devices like their phones then make there way towards reading on a eink device. I use to read my ebooks on my PDA (compaq ipaq) and it was painful but I found myself getting use to it. Now I can’t imagine using a phone or anything LCD like to read large amounts of text. But thats just me…

Its great Kindle is everywhere, and people can choose how they want to view the ebooks, period. Choice is good!

Now if they can just sort out the ability to buy a book and ebook version at the same time that would be great.

Mixcloud, a service built for djs

In a quick follow up to my previous blog post about soundcloud… I’ve now spent some time with Mixcloud and to be fair its not bad. I’m considering switching over, not because I don’t like soundcloud but because its just not the greatest place to host mixes.

My only problems right now is the ability to upload a decent quality recording (the whole file has to be less that 100meg in total) and the ability to upload multiple types of files under the same mix.

The pledge of mixcloud

The playlist editor is great. It supports Serato playlists (which I’m hoping are in XML, so I can easily convert them from my nfo files I currently use.

Playlist control

Even better is the timestamp method which allows you to jump to any position in the mix and tie it to a point on the playlist. Excellent stuff
Complete timestamp control

Mixcloud doesn’t have the polish of soundcloud but its certainly a better fit for djs. As far as I can see the whole thing is free and it even has competitions you can enter (just like lets mix). Its also UK based which is great (soundcloud is Swedish). If I was speak to the guys behind mixcloud, I would say please please add,

  • The ability to license content including creative commons
  • Allow people to download the mixes if the dj allows it, like soundcloud do.
  • Allow alternative versions of the same mix (this could be a nice pro feature, pro users get access to the transcoder)
  • Add the ability to comment on sections of the mix and the whole mix if they want to
  • Groups are a good idea (they work well on flickr and soundcloud)
  • Spend a little more time on the design of the site if possible

Thats my list really…

Soundcloud from a dj point of view

I love soundcloud but it has a few issues if your a dj and are uploading mixes like I am.

Before I run through them, I want to make sure people understand this isn’t a startup assassination, soundcloud is a dream come true but its not perfect for people uploading mixes. Hopefully this will help improve there service after my tweet on Thursday. Its also worth mentioning that Alex Meyers recommended Mixcloud which seems to be a sound cloud knock off but aimed at djs and radio producers. I’ve yet to really try it out, but I’ll try and give it a shot before posting this blog entry.

Terminology and comments

Here is my latest mix, the geometry set. Soundcloud does a excellent job displaying the waveform, and allowing you to add comments to a part of the track but the terminology is wrong. This isn’t a track, its a mix or some would say a set. Which confuses things even further. Also adding comments to a 60mins mix is tricky at this level. Now before you tell me you can zoom in as such, the point is that comments on a 60-180min mix is kind of a bit of a joke when looking at the wave form like this.

Talking about termology again… What record label do you put the mix under? What catalogue number? What Key and even what BPM? I know there all optional pieces of metadata but it all adds up to a service not very friendly towards mixes.

There use to be an option under type for mixes but thats now gone. The best option I can use to put my mixes under a type is recording or live. Why did mix go away?

Sets and playlists?

Unless you were to upload all your tracks to soundcloud and add them one by one, it seems to be frankly impossible to add a playlist. I end up copying my playlist from a my *.nfo file to the comment field. Ideally Soundcloud would have support for the metadata which dcloud, mixccomes from systems like VirtualDj, Tractor, etc. If not allow me to specify when mixes start and finish. The Pacemaker software I use does actually do this but I want to transfer that metadata over to the web. This may be a problem which can be solved while were hacking the pacemaker.

What I see other people do is add comments to specify the areas of a mix, but to be frank its a bit of a hack and not a very good one at that. Here’s Mark Schouls latest and greatest as a example of how the comment area can be used to hack/divide the mix up.

Even the lets mix has this ability to define a playlist/tracklist by using the metadata of the software your using or allowing you to edit it yourself. Here’s me editing my own mix, one step beyond entropy.

It seems like a hassle but to be honest, if I’m uploading a mix roughly once a month, its going to be worth me doing the hardwork of filling this stuff in. And heck if soundcloud can automaticlly work this out by uploading a file of some kind, even better.

Interestingly Mixcloud does the time stamping straight after you upload a mix. I’ve yet to see how effective it is, but at least it has the option baked into its DNA.


I love that Soundcloud supports Creative commons licenses but what bugs me is that you can only upload one type of item. So if for example I upload a Ogg Vorbis file, soundcloud will ask you if you would like to allow them to create a mp3 of that file for the flash player. Great but if you go to download that file (rights permitted, you have to enable this) it will only give the person the choice of the file you uploaded first time. Aka you upload a Ogg, you can only download a Ogg, not the Mpeg3. Even worst you can’t upload multiple files, say for example a low quality version for people to download and a high quality version for those on a better connection.

I usually upload a Mpeg3 because its the most universal, although my pacemaker generates Ogg Vorbis files. I would however like the ability for the Soundcloud to generate alternative versions or for me to upload alternative versions of the same mix.

I would really pay to see an option to dump files to Archive.org because although I like soundcloud, I don’t really trust them to host my files forever. Just like Blip.TV, if its a public or creative commons piece of media, the option should be there to send it to archive.org.

My other concerns are so very small and not really worthy airing in this blog post. But to give you an idea of what I mean, the flash uploader certainly winds me up sometimes. I know theres a html (old skool) uploader but its also a pain to use when uploading a massive mix. Tiny things, nothing major.

End of the day

Soundcloud is great but its really not a great place to put mixes, they could almost do another sound cloud site change a few things around including the business model and make it just for mixes. In actual fact when Alex Myers said about mixcloud, I did think it was soundcloud but setup for mixes.