Tag Archives: Life

Static

Follow-on to the the TV saga.

I decided to give the indoor aerial option a shot and plumped for naquada’s suggestion of a boosted DVB-T receiver.

Partial service has been restored in that we now have 3 fuzzy analogue channels (1-3). Interestingly we now get the BBC South programmes rather than BBC London, and I’d rather liked the London option.

Next step is to pick up a cheap DVB set-top box and see if we get anything digital through the walls and windows. Given the poor quality of the analogue reception, I’m not hopeful… although the DAB radio does get about 50% of the channels that we should see in our area.

In the interim, I have been watching some stuff online. We’re only 5 days into the month, and my ISP (Pipex) just emailed me to say that I’m at 70% of my bandwidth limit for the month. Wow. And eek.

Update: tried a cheap Philips DVB box that had good reviews. Unfortunately it fails to find a single channel. So, for now, it’s snowy BBC1, BBC2 and ITV through a set-top aerial. This digital 21st century living stuff just rocks…  😦

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Where have I been?

Have I been a bit quiet? That’s because I’ve been here:

Playing in the river In Wisla

And enjoying sights like these:

View from Skrzyczne

And also spending time with our nephew:

Beniamin's eyes

More photos on Flickr, as usual.

Last week I did about 1000km of driving in Poland – the first time I’d driven on the “wrong” side of the road, too. Bit of an unfortunate start to the break, since I managed to leave Ola’s passport at home. Still, it all came together in the end.

Whilst away I also (finally!) read most of The Long Tail, and all of a really great, fun and highly readable book called the The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, which I thoroughly recommend.

I also explored a bunch of interesting new music on the iPod via the Song by Toad podcast, which is worth a listen. Episode 8 is stuffed with new music which I love (Emmy the Great, Monkey Swallows the Universe), Episode 5 has some other cool stuff (Alex Cornish, Thunderegg), and Episode 6 is just hilarious.

Back to it. Service to be resumed shortly.

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The lantern goes dark

We’ve got no television signal.

We moved into our current flat about four years ago. The block was served by NTL (now Virgin Media), and we are not allowed to install satellite dishes, or I would have gone with Sky. I didn’t want to purchase a cable service… I’m happy with BT for the phone line with ADSL, especially since we live within metres of the local exchange, and I know that various colleagues have had issues with VPN over cable.

Here’s the problem: there’s no standard aerial connection into the flat. There is an existing NTL socket on the wall, with FM and TV outputs labelled on the bottom. 

A friend who lived up the road said that I could buy a cable-to-coaxial connector / converter, attach it to the TV output from the NTL socket, just plug the TV into that, and I’d get the standard 5 terrestrial channels. He was right. It’s an analogue signal, so we’ve not had Freeview or anything, but we don’t watch TV a huge amount, so it has been enough.

Unfortunately, as of last Thursday, the signal went dead. Nothing on the TV. Just a blue screen (i.e. no signal being received). It comes through the VCR, so I tried retuning that, retuning the set, connecting the cable directly to the TV instead and retuning, dismantling the outlet to check that nothing had come loose… nothing.

I arrived at one of several conclusions:

  • Problems with our equipment? The TV and VCR are 5+ years old – but that shouldn’t make a difference. DVDs still work fine.
  • Someone else in the block has had cable attached or fiddled with, and the communal router (which I assume exists) has been reset such that we no longer get a signal.
  • Virgin have cynically withdrawn our ability to get a free terrestrial analogue signal through their network in an attempt to get us to sign up.

I phoned Virgin Media TV support, and explained the problem – I’m not a customer, but wondered whether anything changed on the network recently to prevent me from getting a signal from this socket? They wanted my customer number. I explained, again, that I’m not a customer. Oh, in that case, perhaps I would like to speak to the sales department?

Not really. I see from the Virgin Media website that their “M” package is offered for free… so long as I take Virgin Phone, which I emphatically do not want. I also assume that they will want me on a minimum 12 month contract, and we don’t expect to be there for that long.

So what are my options?

  • Find out why we don’t have a coax socket to the communal aerial for the block. Apparently some of our neighbours do have connections to that aerial (but most of them take cable anyway). I can’t see a coax connection anywhere. Pretty sure that’s why I ended up connecting to the cable socket in the first place. The cynic in me suspects that NTL removed it when they plumbed in cable for the previous occupants. Don’t know where to start in trying to find out about this one.
  • Buy an indoor aerial. I figure that this will suck. We live opposite an airport and near to various defence research sites, so reception in our area is notoriously poor.
  • Sign up for the known-to-be-awful Virgin Media service, if it is possible to get it without the phone, and take a hit when we move.

Any other thoughts from my helpful readers?

In the meantime, we’ve been watching DVDs, and I’ve been using the Mac to see what is available online. Streaming BBC News 24 helps, but it gets a bit same-y. Ultimately, we’d like something we can watch on the TV, and not huddled over a laptop. I never did get around to building the Linux-based Media Server I’ve always wanted to own.

Oh yeah, and to add the domestic woes, we’ve had no hot water for three weeks, thanks to a boiler problem. Hopefully that will be fixed on Friday. Oh, and I broke the kitchen extractor fan and need to replace that.  Fun fun fun.

Moo – the party

Last night I went up to Exmouth Market in London for the launch of the new StickerBooks by Moo.

An excellent party. I think it was Suw who commented that they promised us a “hot and sticky” party, and given the weather yesterday, that’s what we got.

The venue was adorned with various Moo products. I like the look of my own Moo cards, but I’m continually astounded by the quality of the cards that other people come up with.

Minicards

It was also a great opportunity to pursue my efforts to meet people in my social network. I finally managed to catch up in person with Suw, Kevin and Leisa (although the latter took some finding!). It was also good to reconnect with Myk, Al, Kim, Hugh and others. I managed to share a fair number of Moo Minicards, but fewer than I’d expected to hand out. Maybe I’m not so good at this whole networking thing 😉

The bar Very sticky Minicards

There were enough people there that they ran out of name stickers, and for the crowd to spill out into the street and nearly block Exmouth Market. I hadn’t been to that particular part of London before – it seems like a nice area.

Moo party crowd

Incidentally, if you were there and are reading this blog entry, and wondering whether you saw me – I was the person whose superpower is “reckless enthusiasm”. Ola found that rather ironic. That sticker is now on our fridge, as a reminder that I’m supposed to be enthusiastic…

As for the Moo Stickers themselves – very nice. I’d already ordered my own first set before the party, but I hadn’t seen the finished product. I picked up a free book last night. They are the usual high quality product that we’ve come to expect from Moo, although a bit fiddly to peel out of the book. The books themselves contain space for stickers from your friends, and have some lovely touches (all I’m going to say here is: you ain’t seen me, right?). I think they are going to be great for general decoration, sharing my photos with others, and giving to my nieces and nephews. The size of the stickers is also likely to encourage me to take more close-up shots. I’ve been adorning my own items with a few stickers already.

Stickers on display

LaughingSquid also has a review of the StickerBooks.

On a related note – the first real signs of possible competition to Moo have appeared with the new PhotoBox MyCard. These are normal size / standard form factor business cards, but the trick they do have is that they can be double-sided, with a collage of photos on one side. On the negative side, the range of designs is a bit limited, their site is not hugely usable, and they do not pull images from Flickr or other websites… given the quality of the product, ease-of-use of the site and niceness of the people, I have to say that that my loyalty to Moo is strong, especially after events like last night, so I think PhotoBox may have an uphill struggle.

Check out the set of shots I took last night over on Flickr. And then go and order your stickers. You’ll be their new best friend.

Here’s the official write-up on the Moo blog. They used one of my photos. Yay!

To the south and the west

Just back from a week away revisiting Cornwall – not quite as idyllic as last year in terms of the weather, but certainly just as peaceful and relaxing.

The beach in action

After an initial couple of days of reasonable weather, it turned cooler, cloudier and occasionally wetter. So, we took the opportunity to travel as far south as possible, to the Lizard peninsula. We had a tour of the small lighthouse there, too.

Lighthouse on the cliff

Abandoned lifeboat station

We also got down to Land’s End, the most western point in England. It is (barely) redeemed from sheer theme park tackiness by the fact that you don’t have to buy tickets for the various “attractions” there, and can simply walk along the cliffs instead. Unfortunately while we were there, it was very foggy and we barely saw the end of the land at all! We also popped across to Sennen Cove on our way back to St Agnes. One of the first people I worked for after university used to say that he wanted to retire to become a fisherman in Cornwall. I admit that I can see the attraction.

HMS Mulheim Sennen Cove harbour

Do please check out my growing set of photos and let me know your thoughts. I think my work is improving significantly. Incidentally, if you have time, I recommend taking a look at the larger versions of each image.

I was working on my macro photography techniques whilst there, with the aid of a 60mm EF-S macro lens and the new book Macro Photography Photo Workshop by Haje Jan Kamps (of the excellent DIY Photography blog), which I do recommend – more to come when I get a moment, including some images.

Back to work today, with a beta class for an as-yet-unannounced, but interesting new product…

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