Category Archives: Misc

Lord’s Law

The misuse, nay abuse, of Fitt’s law is rife on the world wide web. Upon discussion of this robsta proposed, I named and iain codified Lord’s Law.

Lords Law: all UI discussion will eventually be reduced to misapplications of Fitts Law

I chose the name on account of the fact that Chris is often wrong. Actually, no – it’s worse than that. It’s his insistence of correctness that makes his wrongness all the more frustrating, just like the Fitt’s law abusers. In support of this statement I give you exhibit A; the ongoing Windows debate, and exhibit B; BST.

Credit to iain, robsta and of course the ever affable cwiiis (even when he’s wrong he’s right)

All the toys!

I’ve acquired a bunch of new gadgets of late, I’m very excited about them all so I decided to promote them here.

Reading

A Sony PRS 600 E-Book reader was gifted to me this Christmas, and what a fantastic piece of kit it is.

I’ve been enjoying several public domain texts from Feedbooks as well as a bunch of geeky PDF’s.

The PDF handling is not as bad as I expected, at standard zoom it’s just about readable in good light although much more pleasant to read at M(edium) or L(arge) text size, despite the slightly weird line wrapping you end up with.
Unfortunately tables and diagrams are completely destroyed when the text size is increased so I tend to set it back to S(mall|tandard) text size for those bits and sometimes use the Zoom function to make text more legible in low light.

The touch function is fun and sometimes even handy for turning pages and looking up words as well as highlighting and annotating the more academic reading materials.

I’ve been using Calibre to manage the device. While the UI is not to my taste (photo-realistic icons, busy interface, etc) the functionality is excellent and extremely stable. I should really donate some money to the project.

Listening

The iPod Shuffle just wasn’t cutting it as a portable audio player once I moved to London and had lengthy commutes to fill my ears on. I tried using my Android phone but the short battery life made this a chore, so I decided to pick up a new audio player.

I wanted something relatively cheap which had to have a screen (yes Apple, a screen!), a reasonable amount of storage (more than 2GB) and allow me to put music on it by simply copying files. For extra points it would play Ogg Vorbis and Flac audio.

The Sandisk Sansa Clip fits all of my requirements. With 8GB storage, support for all the formats I care about (and more) and a built in FM tuner it’s a steal at less than fifty notes. I’ve only had it a couple of days but battery life seems reasonable and it charges in a few hours over USB.

Watching

Long have I been meaning to build a PVR machine, and this Acer (Veriton N260G) computer was too cheap to pass up on.

Pair it with a Hauppage WinTV-NOVA-T DVB-T tuner and an install of MythTV and I have a low power PVR running with little cost or effort.

I’ve a few niggles to iron out on the software side but this seems like a more than capable machine at less than two tonne. I’ve not tried watching live TV while recording or trying to shove high def through it but both of these are on my agenda. For now it’s happily (and very quietly) humming away recording things for me.

MythTV is a bit of a pig though, if I was building a media PC without PVR functionality I’d be running Boxee or XBMC and would have had it running in less than an hour from no-OS to full system. Alas that was not the case with the MythTV set up…

Ghostly

When I read about Nine Inch Nails’ latest project, Ghost, I was inspired to hear of a well known artist sticking it to the man and releasing their content without a label and distribution chain, much as JoCo does (although I’d imagine Trent Reznor has much more bankroll behind him than Jonathan Coulton).

As the first (of four) parts of Ghost was a free taster I went to the site and downloaded it, 3 days later I’d listened to it at least once daily and wanted to hear the rest of the collection. $10 is a paltry fee for two pressed CD’s so I ponied it up (plus another $13 for shipping, about £12 in total) and was offered a free one time download of the audio file, DRM free, in either high quality MP3, Apple Lossless Audio or FLAC.

Geek that I am I chose FLAC, for purest quality to later be encoded as I chose. The connection was mighty slow so in the mean time I researched methods for converting the FLAC files to 192kbs MP3s to go on my MP3 player. Here’s what I came up with:

Option 1: Using the command line gst-launch program with a pipeline deduced from the Brian Pepple’s blog and the gst-launch man page: gst-launch filesrc location=file.flac ! decodebin ! lame bitrate=256 ! filesink location=file.mp3

Option 2: Programatically, in Python, as explained at n3il wiki. Uses Python to call gst-launch with a similar pipeline as above but use Python to script passing all of the files in a directory.

Option 3: Using a tidy little Gtk+ application, SoundConverter, which uses uses Gstreamer to encode to one of a variety of formats (MP3, Ogg, Flac, Wav.).