Jim's Inchoate Weblog
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hits since 18th June 2002
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We live in litigious times, so I should say that content reflects only my opinions!
Wednesday October 5 2005
I wrote recently about the fun I was having
with Tplayer. I don't especially fancy myself as a DJ, but there's a certain amount of fun and a few advantages to having an audio player that'll do cross-fading and so on. For one thing it allows you to put together seamless playlists for particular moods, which is a favourite trick of mine. I have a getting ready for a gig playlist, a nodding off playlist and so on; they're all variable of course, but I like having musical soundtracks to parts of my day. Currently I'm using a great slab of orchestral cheese first thing in the morning. Anyway, I found an even better DJ-style free MP3 player - MP3Tunes. Compared with Tplayer, this has the advantages of cueing facilities, much clearer displays and being in ongoing development. There's even a "jingle" facility, so you can drive yourself and others mad with repeated snatches of sound. As I say, I'm not a DJ by any means but it looks to me as though you could go out and do some really proper stuff with this software and a load of tunes on a laptop. An interesting possibility, actually. Go to a party where the music's not happening and take charge with a laptop. Perhaps not a way to win friends and influence people, but it could work by invitation :)
I've also been a fan of Irfanview for many years. It's a truly excellent image viewer which allows a fair amount of enhancement as well. Just recently I've added FastStone to my arsenal (well, these two) of viewers, since it's equally good. Irfanview is really quick to load, making it ideal as an application to associate with graphics files when you want to use Explorer to browse around your collection. FastStone adds some extra functionality, like comparing multiple images and keeping thumbnails in a permanent database, but loads rather more slowly. Both are good, and I highly recommend them.
How long I'll keep posting about free software is anyone's guess, but it seems to be where my head's at right now. Other content may follow shortly.
Posted at 9:04 pm by Jim Woods
Tuesday October 4 2005
I think I've mentioned this before,
but if you're the kind of person who likes to listen to some idiosyncratic ranting mixed in with some good cookery then check out the Podchef and his gastrocasts. These have become a staple of my listening, now transplanted entirely to online media. Well, I was never one for the radio anyway - apart of course from the statutory BBC Radio 4. There is something deeply relaxing about food programmes anyway, probably because they resonate with our deep, core animal which relies on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Alternatively, maybe I'm a fat greedy bastard. Whatever, there's no better accompaniment to a browsing session that some intelligent commentary on an interesting theme. The computer, allied with a decent bandwidth connection to the net, is now the source of more entertainment of this kind than anyone could possibly have time to listen to. Check it out.
Posted at 11:17 am by Jim Woods
Monday October 3 2005
Two more free and good software discoveries,
because let's face it - that's what I tend to write about these days. Alleycode seems to be a good little HTML editor, light in its requirements but possessed of all the necessary stuff. I haven't used it an awful lot yet, but I have plans. No built-in FTP, but you can configure it to work with your usual client and apart from that it's all there. Good on CSS, and there's an optimiser which helps create meta tags; no good creating a work of genius if no-one can find it!
Another nice thing is VideoLAN, which is a media player. Apart from a geeky ability to actually act as a stream server, the most noticeable attribute that sets this player apart is that it can play an awful lot of formats without the need for additional codecs. Given what a pain in the arse it is playing about with codecs under Windows, seemingly destined always to wind up with me having to do a clean install, this is a real plus. Sure enough, my own researches have proven that it will play a fair amount of stuff that other players say they cannot due to appropriate codec absence. I find the whole interface a little busy, and rather confusing in some areas, but let's face it - it gets me round a particular problem, and it's free under the GNU.
I'm still loving the Foobar2000 mind you. As audio players go it's very cool indeed. I know I raved recently about how Winamp had it all with the recent addition of podcast-specific RSS functionality. I stand by what I said; Winamp is a great media player. But the truth is I've always been a bit annoyed by software that focuses on the skin thing. I don't want a garish looking application, I want a simple quick one. Skinning has not generally proven to work towards that aim for me. Foobar2000 does, and it's pretty extensible too. Three cheers and a brace of banging tunes.
Posted at 11:14 am by Jim Woods
Can you believe it?
I actually remembered there's a links page on my site, and then I checked the links thoroughly and removed the dead ones. Must be a couple of years since I did that... Amazingly, there were only three links that have passed away into history since - erm, ages ago. Good news, really. Anyhow, if anyone peruses my links they can now be assured that the list is far from moribund.
It's weird looking through the list, actually. Kind of a map of where my head was at a while back, at least with regard to the net. Things move so quickly in tech. I can't imagine going back to running a load of old Dos software any more, for example, even for fun. Then again, if someone gives me a 286...
Posted at 8:51 am by Jim Woods
Went to a good party
up near Burton-on-Trent at the weekend, and was surprised at the facility of getting there from Oxford. Essentially motorway all the way, apart from the last five miles or so of the trip. Total distance ninety miles, therefore traffic permitting a trivial hour and a half or so maximum to drive there in the state Micra. I am constantly surprised by the nippiness, economy and lack of directional stability of it. Still, it's hardly a motorway car by design. Great economy is the secret, particularly with the price of petrol doing what it's doing these days.
Not having a fancy navigational 'puter thing, and I've yet to see one that even half justifies the price tag, I remembered nonetheless that I had an old Magellan hand-held GPS. Road signs are rather more use than latitude and longitude in the real world, or at least my world, but I do find the compass and the speedo on it very useful. Accurate speed readings in particular are a boon. The car speedo over-reads by five miles per hour at eighty, for what it's worth. I quite fancy mounting the GPS in a phone holder and powering it from the car, but it has a ridiculous power connector - just two widely spaced contact plates on the back of the case. Probably not ridiculous given its intended hand-held outdoor use, as it allows the unit to be waterproof, but a bugger if you didn't buy the car kit ten years ago with the unit and now want to hook it in. I'll need to fashion something, even if that means modifying the unit with simple wires. I don't use the thing any other way, after all. Magellan of the Micra.
And I do like having a car that I don't have to worry about.
The party was a timely reminder of how friendly Midlanders are, and although the disco was a last-minute stand-in I thought it was quite fun. My hostess didn't really share that view. They're supposed to be tacky, aren't they? But I think her fortieth was a great success all told. Good food!
Other news includes my doing a lot of cleaning and housework, which thrills me more doing it than writing about it if anything.
Oh yes, and no post complete these days without a software rant. The latest test version of Xnews is out. Exciting? Well, it's the first work done on it it a couple of years at least, so that's an encouraging sign. It is by far and away the only news-reader I've ever had any joy with, and I've used it for probably about a decade. It's that good. So if you need something to explore newsgroups with, you know what to use. Free, naturally.
I am still in a huff about the end of summer, and I'm not busy right now. This is why I am indoors doing the chores. Soon I will launch myself up to town with renewed vigour though. I have done woefully little with the watercolours I bought on a deal to have a go, and I could really stand to do a bit of diagnostic recording myself, but this will all wait I think. Getting the garden cleared out will be the next thing. I am slowly making it low-maintenance, but slowly really is the operative term.
And I'm not all that cross these days. Good for me, but perhaps a little disappointing for my readers.
Posted at 4:47 am by Jim Woods