an engineering student with an interest in the web, independent media & software

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  1. Spotify vs Rdio

    Thursday 5th September 2013

    I’ve been a user of Spotify for over five years, and a paying premium member for at least three of those. Spotify has great range of music, is (today) very reliable has a good mobile app and is an all round fantastic service. But - for the time being - I’m switching to Rdio.


    For myself Spotify has some major failings:

    • No good way to catalogue ‘your’ albums Spotify has playlists, and only playlists. You can’t say ‘I’d like to bookmark this album’ without adding it’s contents to yet another playlist. My sidebar is very long.
    • The player has sat still for five years There have been no major changes to the desktop player. For software this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but for an expanding service from very basic beginnings a remodel wouldn’t be the worst thing.
    • The nature of ‘bolting on’ new features While the majority of the software has remained unchanged, new ‘features’ have popped up around the edges, a bar on the right tells me to follow people and I get nagged every now and again to try yet another lyrics app. New features are not woven into the experience, they’re stuck on the side as a kind of afterthought. Artist and album pages now behave very differently to any other type, for example no CTRL-F on those pages, yes everywhere else.

    Through all of this a very messy picture is painted when I click that green icon everyday.

    I remember a few years ago I got quite annoyed to find, as part of a strategy to promote a new feature, an obnoxious share button next to each track. I look back now to see it still there, I’ve managed to get used to it by now. I’ve never used it.

    So I embark now, with a subscription to Rdio in hand, on a new adventure. An adventure with a pretty player (albeit only on the web browser, I’m a linux person), an even prettier mobile app and sensible features like a collection of albums and remote control built in.

    A word to note I’ve not tested Rdio yet, it looks nice enough but I have no idea if it will surpass Spotify. Check back later, there might be a another note.

  2. My street looking very summery, pity I’ve got an exam tomorrow

    My street looking very summery, pity I’ve got an exam tomorrow

    Monday 27th May 2013
  3. Starting the CAD models for my ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) project. This is very preliminary, not much thought has been put into practicalities, more just on the general arrangement of things.

    Still to do are: the thrusters, the feet, the camera and a gasket for the hemisphere on the front!

    All the internals will be mounted on a removable chassis, this consists of two ‘trays’. This is best shown in the last picture. The red is the I/O board, which controls motors and lights etc as well as reading the inputs. The small block on it is an arduino micro. The green board below is a Raspberry Pi, this connects to the I/O board via a two wire serial UART connection. The Pi then talks to the surface over an IP link.

    For the connecting wire (the umbilical) use of cheap Cat5e would be best, this can take ethernet - which only needs to be 10Mb/s - power and composite video.

    Beneath the Pi in blue is a transformer from 120/230 AC to 12V DC. I’m planning to use high voltage AC as this will reduce losses in the umbilical and allow for use of lower diameter wire (such as Cat5e). As this is dangerous part of the surface kit will need to be safety devices such as a circuit breaker for overcurrent protection (~1A) and and RCD for leakage.

    Currently also playing around with software to run on the control PC, the Pi and the Arduino. Planning for some level of auto-pilotage. Very exciting!

    Tuesday 16th April 2013
  4. Alas, vim, you’re still not winning (+ iOS SSH development)

    Friday 5th April 2013

    Around the end of January I decided to go cold turkey on graphical text editors and use vim, and only vim. This is what happened…

    Read More

  5. NSDF13 awards for The Nottingham New Theatre!

    NSDF13 awards for The Nottingham New Theatre!

    Tuesday 2nd April 2013
  6. Day 6 NSDF 2013

    Thursday 28th March 2013

    The day of Mercury Fur. In by 8:30, on stage by nine. Blank firing guns used so we spent 2 hours training actors on the use of these, going over blocking and running many times. By 11 we sorted any remaining plotting and had a run going. Minor issues but all good.

    Control booth in the venue was set up for one person to control sound and lights and another to call the show using comms, cue lights and a backstage relay. Lighting was on a ETC ION, a board we’d really like to get  our hands on back at Notts. First time I’d used cue lights, we had this for starting the show and cueing a curtain opening and closing.

    "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Mercury Fur cast this is your half hour call you have thirty minutes, thank you."

    First performance attended by judges, and the show was in a word.. phenomenal. The development of the actors over the past 5 months was clear, the venue was perfectly suited for the show and our tech went without a hitch.

    Second performance, only an hour and a half later was just as good, if not better. Audience was more receptive, a notable collective rustle when members all had to put hand to mouth in a rather graphic scene.

    "Ladies and Gentlemen, there are five minutes to lights down in the Round, five minutes to lights down in the Round, thank you.”

    Audience out, cast/crew all buzzing, set taken apart and stacked. Massive haulage fail. Resigned to moving set next day.

    Then a the piss up at the homestead.

  7. Day 5 NSDF 2013

    Thursday 28th March 2013

    Nice early start to get down to the Mercury Fur get in, parking fiddle at the centrally located, but annoyingly parkingless Steven Joseph Theatre. Locked in the green room by FOH, escaped green room entrapment. Sorted the focus of lights, moved set in, manoeuvred a sofa through doors and up stairs.

    Quick lunch back at MF house, returned to build set, position cue lights, plot lighting and load up & route all the sound. Right fiddle with venue staff wanting us to go much earlier than we were supposed to. Oh well, sorted a compromise.

    Din dins, beer and then off to see 101. A play inspired by 1984, but a highly different concept in terms of performance. All I should probably say is only seven people can see it at a time and you are separated. Throughly enjoyed, and a little disturbed.

    Back home, quick meeting on the schedule of tomorrow. We’re on at 4:30pm so have a reasonable amount of time to sort things. Oh and Aaron had his chest waxed, highly amusing.

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