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The Wonderful World of Reals

Posted by Chalky on May 2, 2009 in Technology

I spotted this XBOX 360 Advert when I had a quick visit to the Last.fm website. It looks into the life of an XBOX 360 Avatar from its point of view. I thought it was quite clever!

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

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Creating Ringtones for the iPhone

Posted by Chalky on Apr 12, 2009 in Technology

I mainly made this post for myself more than anything so that I can remember how to do it myself. However, I thought it might also be useful to others!

The process only uses iTunes and the File Manager (Finder on a Mac and Windows Explorer on a PC) and therefore does not require the purchase or download of additional software.

I did the process on my iMac running Mac OS X Leopard and iTunes 8.1 (Build 50), however the process would be the same on Windows, however, you need to make sure that Windows is displaying File Extensions in order to be able to do it. To do this, open a Windows Explorer window and go to Tools -> Folder Options:

Windows Explorer Tools Menu

Then, go to the View tab and make sure Hide extensions for known file types is not ticked.

File Options View Menu

Here are the steps for making your own tracks into Ringtones for the iPhone:

1. Go to iTunes -> Preferences:

Step 1

2. In the General tab, click on Import Settings:

Step 2

3. In the Import Settings window, select AAC Encoder on the Import Using drop-down. You can choose any Setting for the Ringtones, I have used iTunes Plus without any problems. I chose this option because this is the setting I use for importing CDs:

Step 3

4. Go to the song you wish to make into a Ringtone and right-click on it and select Get Info. Note where the file is located in the Where field and open a Finder (Windows Explorer in Windows) window to that location:

Step 4

Click on the Options tab.

5. The most important step! The iPhone only supports Ringtones up to 30 seconds in length. If you make the Ringtone longer than this, it will show up in the Ringtones folder of iTunes but will not sync to your iPhone. 

Tick both the Start Time and End Time options and then enter where you would like the track to start (your favourite part of the track, or knock the beginning silence off) and then add 30 second for the End Time:

Step 5

Click OK

6. Right-click on the song and select Create AAC Version:

Step 6

7. Wait for the Track to be converted. A message is shown under Playlists during the conversion:

Step 7

iTunes will show the progress of the conversion in the Status Window:

Step 8

8. Go to the Finder (Windows Explorer) window you opened earlier and you will see an additional .m4a file:

Step 9

If your source file was already an AAC (m4a) file, it will most likely have a (1) next to it, it will also be the smaller of the two files. Copy and Paste this file to a location outside of your Music Library, for example, your Desktop

9. Go back to iTunes and delete the extra file that has been created, you will be able to tell which one it is by the Time field:

Step 10

Click Remove

10. On the next dialog, make sure you select Delete File/Move to Trash/Move to Recycle Bin (depending on your Operating System and location of Music Library) and not Keep File:

Step 11

11. Go back to the file your Copy and Paste’d earlier. Press Enter (on OS X) or F2 (on Windows) to rename the file. Move your cursor to the end of the File Name and delete the a from m4a and replace it with an r to make the file an m4r file. This is the File Extension iTunes uses for iPhone Ringtones:

Step 12

12. The Finder will warn you that you are about to change the File Extension of the file from .m4a to .m4r. Select Use .m4r:

Step 13

A similar message will be displayed in Windows:

 

13. Double-click on the the new .m4r file. This will Import the file into your iTunes Music Library and will be displayed in the Ringtones section of the Library:

Step 14

You can now sync the track over to your iPhone in the Ringtones tab:

Step 15

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Google Street Stalk!

Posted by Chalky on Mar 23, 2009 in Sheffield, Technology

Since seeing the News Article on the BBC Technology News Website, people have been frantically trying to find themselves on Google Street View. I managed to find Percy the Punto outside my house and after thinking of how it might be possible to find myself in two places at once, I found Clarence the C3 still on the forecourt of the Woodseats Motor Company on Woodseats Road:

Clarence at Woodseats Motor Company

On Friday, my Dad showed me his claim to fame:

Google Street View - DadGoogle Street View - DadGoogle Street View - Dad

A few people have expressed concern over being found on Google Street View. However, I think that it’s not really much of an issue, most faces are either blurred or of too low a quality to distinguish. Unless you saw the Google Street View Car driving by or can remember exactly where you were when it drove by, there’s not a great chance that you’re going to be noticed. But that’s just my opinion.

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Google Street View is GO!

Posted by Chalky on Mar 19, 2009 in Scunthorpe, Sheffield, Technology, Work

James found this little gem on the BBC News website today.

Google have made their first set of UK Street View images live including Sheffield and, rather suprisingly, Scunthorpe.

Greenhill Avenue

I noticed that from the photo that I’ve still got Percy the Punto, which dates the Street View car’s visit before 21st July which is when I took delivery of Clarence the C3. However, when being extra sad, I noticed that my friend’s new car is in pride of place on her driveway which narrows down the visit between 18th July and 20th July. Narrowing it down further, one would assume that the area was done on the 18th July because Jill’s car isn’t there, indicating that she would be at work! You will also notice that all the car’s number plates have been blurred out, they have also blurred out people’s faces if they are quite close to the Street View cameras.
As mentioned before, Scunthorpe also features in Google’s lineup of cities that have been Street View’d including where I work:
John Leggott College
It was nice to see it was such a sunny day! From the fact that the Adult Courses Enrolment banner was outside, we think this photograph was taken in September time.
The only little flaw that I did notice is that the disadvatage of it being a nice sunny day is that you actually see the reflection of the Google Street View camera post on the top of the car:
Google Street View Camera
Either way, it’s all pretty cool stuff. Of course, this has already generated some media coverage in terms of people’s privacy. As I mentioned before, people’s faces are already blurred and I don’t really see what the problem is! Admittedly, we did manage to see James’ partner through his bedroom window which was a bit of a suprise!

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SONY’s New Stupid Piece of Shit

Posted by Chalky on Mar 1, 2009 in Funny, Rants, Technology
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

I watched this funny video from The Onion News Network in the latest episode of Diggnation.

I was going to turn it into a rant about SONY/at least say something, but in the end, I couldn’t be bothered!

Enjoy!

 
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Mounting your MobileMe iDisk on Windows

Posted by Chalky on Feb 8, 2009 in Computer

Back in the days when it was still .Mac, there used to be a simple tool for connecting your iDisk called the iDisk Utility for Windows. Whilst performing a Google Search will allow you to find it eventaully, you will probably find that it doesn’t work on Vista correctly.

The MobileMe iDisk is based on WebDAV, a well known internet technology that is supported by all major browsers and has been supported in Windows for some time. WebDAV compliance has been much improved in Windows Vista. In order to retrieve this useful bit of functionality you can follow these simple steps:

Open up My Computer (just called Computer in Windows Vista) and click on Tools -> Map Network Drive…

Map Network Drive

Select an empty drive letter (I usually use Z) and then in the Folder field enter: http://idisk.me.com/yourusername (replacing yourusername with your MobileMe User Name):

Map Network Drive Wizard

If you want your MobileMe iDisk to be automatically connected when you restart your computer, click on Reconnect at logon. Then, click on Connect using a different user name. In this Connect As dialog box, enter you MobileMe User Name in the User name field and your MobileMe Password in the Password field and click OK:

Connect As Dialog

Click on Finish on the Map Network Drive Wizard.

Your computer will process this for a little while and will then present you with a Windows Explorer window with the contents of your iDisk. You can now also access your iDisk as a drive in the My Computer window:

iDisk in My Computer

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Black Marble Technical Update 2009

Posted by Chalky on Feb 7, 2009 in Computer, Technology, Work

I really need to get into the habit of finishing writing entries, rather than starting them and leaving them for weeks where they’re not really relevant anymore!

Black MarbleA few weeks, I attended the Black Marble Technical Update for 2009. It was held at the Leeds/Bradford Holiday Inn. The Hotel itself is in a nice setting, outside both Leeds and Bradford surrounded by trees and fields. I think that if I go to the Conference again next year (which I’m hoping to) then I might treat myself to a night there!

A big thumbs up to the Black Marble team and the Holiday Inn who put on a great spread for the Delegates. A large selection of cake, chocolate bars, Seabrooks Crisps and sandwiches. It is also one of the few events that I have been to that actually catered for people who don’t drink tea or coffee with a wide range of soft drinks and fresh fruit juice.

The first part of the event, was mainly for Business Management and the tools Microsoft provide to facilitate this. As me and Mark weren’t really interested in this, we didn’t go in favour of staying at home!

Windows 7The second half was the bulk of the Technical Update. We got to have a sneak peak of the latest Windows 7 BETA which I was pleased to see was running on a couple of DELL Mini Netbooks. It was great to see it running on generally low powered Hardware that I knew from experience wouldn’t run Vista. As a result of the event, I have installed Windows 7 on my work HP Compaq nx6310 which has also failed to run Vista in the past. I am hoping to finish writing up an entry for that soon. We got to see some of the features that will be included in Windows Server 2008 R2 which gave me and Mark a renewed interest in the Server Operating System after our initial enthusiasm had been wiped out! The Black Marble team walked us through the Road Map for these and other Microsoft Products including a very brief look at Microsoft Office 14. There was also a look at Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s rival project to Amazon’s EC2.

Ed Gibson - Chief Security Advisor (Microsoft UK)The evening session was a talk from Microsoft’s Chief Security Advisor for the UK, Ed Gibson. This was by far the highlight of the day. Being an ex-FBI Agent, you’d expect a very serious presentation. However, Ed presents himself in an amusing way but still get’s his point across very well. He presents his information is a story-like fashion and makesman links between different subjects that you would never normally link but leaves the impression behind that makes you wonder why you never did in the first place. The fact that he doesn’t use technical jargon nor any equipment, not even a microphone makes this man even the more interesting when he speaks. He doesn’t hide behind PowerPoint Presentations and booming speakers. Just him and his thoughts. A truly great speaker.

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iPhoto ’09

Posted by Chalky on Jan 28, 2009 in Computer, Technology

iLife '09 LogoSo my copy of iLife ’09 arrived in the post yesterday and I got it installed and immediately went to play with iPhoto ’09. iPhoto seems to have been given the most attention out of the entire suite of apps so I was looking forward to having a go. The most eagerly anticipated feature in my opinion had to be the Face Detection and Face Recognition closely followed by the Facebook integration. So without further ado, here’s some of my thoughts on the new toys in iPhoto ’09

Face Detection

Face DetectionThe first new toy that I was eager to play with was the new Face Recognition feature. But, before any of that, iPhoto has to look through your library and find all of the faces within your photographs. As you can see, iPhoto took about an hour to go through my 3,930 photographs that I had previously loaded into iPhoto and placed them into Events. I left mine overnight, because by the time I’d actually got round to installing iLife and rebooting my iMac, it was already… well… today.

I noticed that as it was going through, it was picking up multiple people in photos and also the faces of people that were in the background of the photos (with other people in the foreground) so I was very impressed with the level of detail in the detection of people’s faces, it even detects the sides of people’s faces! It even managed to find people in some of my not-successful night pictures without a flash where it would be difficult for a human to see a face, let alone an algorithm. It also made light work of my poorly scanned film photos and photos from my first digital camera, back in the day, which had an amazing(!) 640×480 resolution.

It seemed to whizz through photos pretty quickly so I’m confident it won’t take very long at all for iPhoto to handle a ‘normal’ import of photos.

An amusing anomaly was the fact that iPhoto managed to recognise the “face” of a goat produced with flowers for the Hope Valley Well Dressing last year:

Face Detection gone mad!

Face Detection gone mad!

Face Recognition

Empty Faces Corkboard

This was one feature that I was a bit skeptical of in the Keynote. I thought it would be an idea that would be good in practice but doesn’t really work in reality. I was therefore pleasantly suprised to find that it actually works quite well.

For those who don’t know, you simply select one of your pictures from your Library with some faces on it and you tell iPhoto who the picture is of. iPhoto will then look through your Library and looks for pictures that contains what it thinks is the same person. The more you confirm within iPhoto, the more reliable it becomes:

Dublin Faces

I was impressed that it iPhoto was able to recongise faces even if they weren’t looking directly at the camera and that it can sometimes recognise people even if they are pulling a funny face. I found that it likes certain people more than others and is therefore able to recognise them more easily. I also found that it seemed to recognise females more accurately than males.

It was also interesting to see that sometimes it me and my sister, Jill, mixed up. I suppose this has something to do with everyone saying we both look like my Dad. Interesting that it didn’t cross reference any photos of me as my Dad, Jill as my Dad or vice-versa.

Places

PlacesUnfortunately, I don’t currently have a geo-tagging camera or an iPhone so I can’t really benefit from this new feature. That being, the ability to plot where you’ve taken all of your photographs onto a map.

You can go in manually and tell it where you took each photo, or a general location for an entire event/album. It’s not quite as good, but it gives you the idea. I found that whilst it handles cities and towns very well, it doesn’t recognise many locations (like Museums, etc) outside of London. You therefore have to find them via their postcode, road and town.

Photo Upload

Photo Upload OptionsThe new version of iPhoto has a wide range of options for you to be able to upload your photographs to other places, particularly on the Internet. Along with the familiar export to e-mail and iWeb (iLife’s Web Authoring Application) you can now upload to MobileMe (Apple’s replacement to .Mac and rival to Microsoft’s Mesh), Facebook and Flickr. I’m really excited about these because it means that I can now use iPhoto to centralise all of my Photographs and what I do with them. It means that I will be able to load my Photographs straight into iPhoto from my camera, rotate/crop them and then upload them straight to the relevant place depending on what the photos are, without having to then re-export them from iPhoto, log into Facebook/Flickr and then make an album and upload them. Now, it’s all just one click!

Slideshows

I’ve always been a big fan of the Slideshow capabilities with iPhoto. It’s one of the reasons I bought a Mac in the first place. As mentioned before, it’s often that I get asked to do slideshows for family and church events.

The best feature in my opinion is infact the most boring one. A complete redesign of the way iPhoto exports the slideshows. The slideshows always look awesome in iPhoto, but sometimes they looked awful after being exported and you often found that the slideshow wouldn’t open in anything, including Apple’s own iTunes and you couldn’t play them back on the Apple TV. Now, Apple have made it possible for, not only for you to play them back on these devices and automatically add them to iTunes, but to be able to choose the size of the exported slideshow file. Previously, when exporting video, videos were 800×600 wether you liked it or not!

Apple have also introduced Themed Slideshows, much like the titles with iMovie. So you can now create a great looking slideshow within seconds along with all the usual music and transitions. I thought rather than rabbiting on about these, I’d just upload one:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

So there you are. If you have a Mac, it’s certainly worth buying and if you have friends and/or family with Macs, club together and go for the Family Pack license. If you haven’t got a Mac, why not, go out and buy one now!

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SPAM, SPAM, SPAM

Posted by Chalky on Jan 28, 2009 in Technology

SpamI don’t know if anyone else is having this problem since installing WordPress 2.7…

Every time I reply to a Blog Post Comment using the Reply button in the WordPress Admin Panel, Akismet always marks it as SPAM. It’s getting quite irritating because I often don’t notice for a while because one would assume that it would work properly for a valid logged in user. It’s not even like anything I say in the Replies should trigger any sort of filtering anyway!

 
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XBOX 360 in Disgrace

Posted by Chalky on Nov 29, 2008 in Bad Luck, Technology

Well, it was inevitable really wasn’t it. I should have known from the first crash that with my Bad Luck it was a sign that my XBOX 360 was slowly crawling onto it’s deathbed! Pretty annoying really when I’ve just bought 2 games for it and I’m getting Guitar Hero World Tour for my Birthday from Jill.

I was a bit worried at first because my XBOX 360 is coming up to its 2nd Birthday which would mean that the Console is out of warranty. Seeing as my XBOX was fine before the installation of NXE I thought I’d give them a ring to see what’s what. I endured the torture that is Max. Max is the name of the XBOX Support Line Automated Voice Activated System. Unfortunately he is seemingly deaf and has been programmed to respond to an American persons voice, meaning that he has completely incapable of understanding what I was saying. However, I eventually managed to get to talk to a real person, for future reference, the trick is to keep saying AGENT and he’ll eventually dial out to the Call Centre. 

Luckily (I know, it surprised me too), the 3 Red Lights of Death/Doom/Unhappiness is covered by an extended warranty of 3 years which means that my XBOX 360 will be repaired for free. So really, it was quite lucky that it happened now and not a year down the line! I’ve just got to try and get the game out of the XBOX and remove the Hard Drive before I package it up and send it on it’s merry way. They said it’ll be returned 2-3 weeks after it has been picked up. I’m hoping it’s the former because otherwise I won’t have it for my Birthday!

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