Blog entries from April, 2011

That missing day

Saturday, April 30th, 2011 at 04:07pm

During my road trip I had two technology failures, a lens and a memory card.

Luckily there is a Canon service centre around the corner from work so it was a no-brainer to drop it off one morning before work. A little over two weeks later I returned, parted with $165 and have my everyday lens back. Being able to zoom again is quite handy.

The memory card wasn’t as straightforward. First I started off by contacting SanDisk to find out how a warranty claim would be affected by sending the card to a data recovery company. They said it would be ok so I posted the card to their recommended data recovery company in the UK.

The timeframe from me posting the card, the company advising what data they has recovered, me confirming the recovery, and return postage of the card and DVDs with the data also took a little over two weeks. Apart from the charge to my credit card, it was otherwise painless.

That was a few days ago and today I selected a few of them to add to the set on Flickr.

And those three images I had to ask you to pretend were in the previous blog post? How about these:



The lights finally came on

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Anyone selling a first generation iPad?

Thursday, April 21st, 2011 at 12:12am

Right now I am only a fraction away from buying an iPad. However, not an iPad 2, but a first generation iPad for a much more reasonable price.

Why? Let me back up a bit…

After moving into my place I did briefly consider putting a television in the kitchen. This would be in addition to the one in the lounge and in addition to my computer. But I decided to be reasonable and I resisted the tempation. The logical place to put a tv would have required an extra power point, plus it would be another place to run a network cable to. So there is no television in the kitchen.

However something that became annoying was that I would be at my computer working on something with video playing in the corner of the screen when I needed to go cook dinner. So I would pause the video, go to the kitchen for 20/30 minutes and then resume the video.

This got me thinking. What if I had a tablet that I could take to the kitchen with me that continued to play the video. My first thought was something that I could redirect the video stream to, but then I started to think about mounting the tablet next to my monitor (freeing up some screen real estate) and playing the video on it all of the time.

This tablet didn’t need to be very fancy. It needed wireless ethernet for connectivity and in addition to playing video a web browser would be handy while watching the television in the lounge.

My first thought was the iPad, but I initially dismissed it because of its price and limited video format support. My second thought was an Android tablet which has better support for formats and playing directly off the network, but they are not as refined as the iPad, yet still as expensive.

Then the iPad 2 came out, so I could consider a first generation iPad to be within my price range and a little investigation found at least two options for streaming video from a server that transcoded it.

Using an iPad borrowed from work I first gave VLC streamer a try, but it was quite fiddly to use and the server component didn’t give feedback and control over how many videos were being transcoded. It was also annoying that it left transcoded chunks behind on disk.

I gave the iPad another try tonight, this time with Air Video which has proven to be a success over the past four hours with a variety of formats including a 1080 mkv. I quite like how it can detect a supported format, can perform live conversion, or can convert in the background. The full version of the app (which lets you see more than a couple of videos per folder) would be worth the couple of dollar purchase price.

So now I am on the hunt for an iPad. Either from someone I know who is upgrading to an iPad 2, or I will turn to eBay…

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The TV on the wall

Saturday, April 16th, 2011 at 09:55pm

Shortly after musing about a media player, and before I moved, I picked up a WD TV Live. My reasoning being that it was cheap enough that replacing it later wouldn’t be much of a sunk cost and I knew it would serve my immediate needs once I moved.

And it did, albeit on an old CRT TV. So, thanks to the boxing day sales, I bought a new TV, a 40″ Samsung Series 7. I had decided on 40″ as that was a suitable size for the space and I ended up with the Samsung as it was both thin and the sockets on the back did not come straight out. This model supports 3D which I didn’t really care about, but the price difference with the next model down (only 2D) wasn’t much and the 3D model has a redemption of a second TV, some 3D glasses and some 3D movies. As I don’t need a second TV, my plan is to sell it and also some of the 3D glasses (I don’t need six pairs) which makes the price even better.

I am fortunate that the previous owners had removed a gas heater and converted the space into an alove with a pipe running through to the wall where, after buying a nice thin mount, I have mounted the television. Inside the alcove are powerpoints and the aerial socket, the only thing mising is a network connection.

So what is in the alcove? Two devices, the WDTV Live and a Sony BluRay player. While the WDTV Live will get the most use in playing media from the network, I wanted something that could play DVDs and since I have a 3D TV I decided to splurge a bit on an inexpensive player that supported 3D movies. My choice came down to the Sony and a Samsung player for the same price, but I decided on the Sony as when I was fiddling with the Samsung player on a Samsung TV in the store, I couldn’t tell if I was in the menu for the player or the TV as they looked the same.

With the addition of an ethernet switch and a cable running around the walls (eventually I will run it under the floor) all three devices are on the network and I am satisfied with the setup. More so after picking up a universal remote to control it all

But there is an issue. An issue with the WDTV Live that is could turn into a deal breaker.

For some reason the WDTV Live does not let you skip forward or backward when playing a video. It does let you fast forward or rewind, but skipping back 30 seconds is much easier than rewinding the same amount. It is also an issue skipping forward to a point where you want to resume playback.

An alternative is to watch videos directly on the TV – it does support an impressive array of formats – but it cannot read off network shares and connecting via USB storage isn’t as convenient. The TV can play from a UPNP server, but so far I am not impressed with the couple of Linux based ones I have tried so far.

Investigations will continue…

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Rote learning ITIL

Monday, April 11th, 2011 at 10:41pm

Six years ago (almost to the week) I attended three days of ITIL Service Management Essentials training. Today was the first of three days for the ITIL V3 Foundation Certificate.

At first glance, today’s course appears to be the version 3 equivalent to the previous version 2 course, with them both being the first ITIL course you take and there being a multiple choice exam at the end. After only one day it is clear that they are quite different beasts, but you don’t have to go beyond the name of the course to find out why.

The service management essentials training six years ago was a an overview of ITIL in addition to a description and practical simulations of supporting a service through the service desk, incident management and problem management. I felt that this was useful training as everyone would have a more practical understanding of service management.

The v3 foundation certificate has been, and appears like it will be, about rote learning the ITIL terminology in order to pass the exam. There will be a simulation, but instead of multiple runs of it being spread out during the course, it will be run on the last day, after the exam. Instead of the simulation being used as a learning tool, it appears to be a tacked on afterthought to try and convey some practical knowledge out of the training.

Oh well, there is nothing I can do about the form of training except to attend it. I only hope that after spending all that money on training every ICT related staff member, that we can directly apply this new terminology.

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