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An Eee PC or new notebook battery?

Just a quick post… The battery in my Dell Inspiron is fried. It’s been my main computer for around 18 months now and the battery has given up - holding less and less charge every month. Now Vista says there’s no battery at all - quite a pain if you want to take it through to another room, or hibernate whilst you take it in to town.

In fairness, the laptop has been fantastic and has Vista, XP and Ubuntu installed. I have no urge at all to replace it or buy a desktop machine, and have been thinking about scrapping the XP partition having not booted into it for months.

Looking on Dell’s website, another battery the same is £184.90 inc postage and VAT. However, when I looked at an Eee PC over Christmas it was only £200 odd. The Inspiron is very nice, but quite heavy to carry around and not at all easy to use on the train. I can get by with eeeXubuntu just fine on the move, too. The only thing is whether to wait and see where the new 9″ screen model will be priced and how heavy it will be?

Any thoughts?

Last night’s earthquake

Something getting blanket coverage in the media today is last nights earthquake. Whilst it was really very small in terms of damage, and thankfully a minimal number of injuries, it’s a rare occurrence here in the UK and quite exciting.

At around three minutes to midnight I was listening to BBC Radio Suffolk in bed just before the switch into Up All Night on Five Live. I felt the shaking - and thought it might just be a HGV, although it was a little long for that, and very quiet outside. In the first minute of the programme, the host asked the others in the studio if they just felt the earth move. They hadn’t, but within minutes over 50 text messages had been sent and after the news it became very clear that it was some sort of earthquake or tremor.

The programme continued with normal stories and text messages about the quake, and by half past had interviewed someone from the US Geological Survey about the location, severity and other interesting details - the guest explained that it was felt as far north as Consett, about 20 miles north of here. It was a really interesting hour on the radio, and quite amusing to hear that the first thing many did was login to Facebook and update their status. (Yeah - ok - I did the same).

It seems that BBC News 24 were a little slow off the mark - however Five Live, just meters away, were covering it from 01:00, with guests from BBC Radio in Lincoln. Whether it was just an editorial decision or not having the information, I don’t know - if they did, and Five Live is still the first outlet to get breaking news stories and correspondents, it certainly showed.

The comments about the earthquake on The Guardian and Digg are especially amusing. There’s also some interesting stuff on various blogs, and an analysis of how much quicker Twitter was at breaking the news. I half agree with this - I’d class this more as information, rather than news - especially given the policies at various mainstream media outlets of reporting a breaking story.

It’s interesting reading the comments on Read Write Web - especially those which mention that Sky News broke the story after 15 minutes, and the BBC 10 minutes later. It was being reported/discussed on Five Live within a few minutes, which isn’t too bad - but no-one is really talking about radio coverage. Whilst the internet and social media might have beat television on this occasion, I feel radio was pretty quick off the mark too.

New BBC Home Page

Tomorrow the BBC launches its new home page. It’s been available to look at for a little while though, and still is today at bbc.co.uk/home/beta.

New BBC Home Page

I think it’s pretty good - it’s nice to be able to move things around, do away with some of the content that’s not so interesting to me and even choose a colour. However, the customisation could go a little further as develops further.

  • Living in Durham, that’s the weather I’d like to have on the front page. But I’d like to add BBC Tees or BBC Radio Suffolk in the radio box (or ‘category’). The home page only gives the option of BBC Radio Newcastle - it’s not possible to edit the stations to either select additional locals, or remove nationals like Radio 1 or Radio 3.
  • I can untick ‘Childrens’ content for the home page, but CBBC and CBeebies still appear in the TV box. It’d be nice to add and drop TV channels.
  • The blogs box is great - allowing you to add in BBC Internet Blog, Ouch!, dot.life or anything else, but a featured post still appears from PM. Can we have a radio button to say if we’re middle class or not, and therefore get Five Live Drive instead?
  • It also seems a little pointless without the featured blog post title - it simply tells me at the moment “We’re keen to hear if you have any experience in this area.” - what area? GMail has a pretty good feature in webclips where you can choose the content that’s displayed at the top of the inbox. I understand why they’re pushing that content, though.
  • Why isn’t there a Jon Holmes box?
  • Eventually, it would be great if this could be more local. There’s no content from BBC Look North or BBC Tees, the music box features Radio 1 and something from Radio Derby, but nothing from my local BBC Introducing programme.

Going further, it would be nice if all the BBC ‘blogs’ were in the format found on the BBC Internet Blog and national radio programmes. At the moment, local radio blogs appear to be just content pages - no RSS feed, no comments, no pingback, no archive, no categories etc.

Overall it’s a nice improvement and I’ll probably use the BBC home page more than before, but it would be nice to have just a little more control. And that Jon Holmes box.

Obligatory GCap announcement response blog post

A few weeks ago I wrote about the closure of some stations on DAB Digital Radio, and over the past week there’s been a lot of speculation on what GCap might do about their stake in Digital One, who operate a digital radio multiplex which carries stations like Planet Rock, theJazz, Virgin Radio and Birdsong. Fru Hazlitt (who I’ve stood next to - go me) has today announced that GCap will be closing Planet Rock and theJazz. She said;

“DAB with its current cost structure and slow consumer response is not an economically viable platform for the group.” - Fru Hazlitt

There’s plenty of analysis at Media Guardian, as well as comment from folk including James Cridland and Nick Piggot.

DAB Digital Audio BroadcastingI know some people who bought digital radio just for Planet Rock, and I don’t imagine that they’ll be best pleased. On a personal level, DAB feels quite different to how it did back in 2004 when I bought my first set. It was a fairly heavy and robust thing bought after lots of saving up - really just to listen to Virgin Radio in the evenings where AM reception was poor and to get more choice during the day than FM offered.

Having moved to the North East, I can’t move for FM stations. There’s Alpha, Durham FM and Sun FM from TLRC alone, three BBC locals (Tees, Newcastle and York), Metro, Galaxy, TFM, Century and others - all on my cheap DAB/FM radio. But this isn’t the same everywhere and the loss of another two or three DAB stations will be noticable to real fans.

GCap also announced that they’re trying out streaming radio on the iPhone and iPod touch. This would be a “killer app” for me, especially having seen what my Reciva set can do with listen again content and podcasts. It’s not the first time that streaming radio has been done on the iPhone, but it does look good and easier for the consumer.

BBC Three Blobs Are Off

The BBC has revealed the new look of BBC Three, and the orange blobs are set to go.

BBC Three Ident - Blobs

Credit: BBC. But I captured it all on my own!

According to research carried out by the BBC, viewers think that they’re “cold and shouty”. Personally, whilst I never really warmed to them, they’re unique and interesting. I think the background is a little cold, but you couldn’t accuse the channel of not having a personality.

New Logo

Credit: BBC Press Office

Being honest, I’m not keen on the new branding. All I’ll say is that the channel gets a really hard time from the DCMS select committee and this’ll do nothing to help. ;-)

Digital Radio Changes - is it in “free-fall”?

I turned on my DAB set this morning and had a flick through. It’s one of those ones with the knob that goes through the stations as you turn it, and I landed on Core which immediately changed its name to BFBS Radio. I knew it was closing (the last presenter-led show was a while ago), but the addition of BFBS was interesting. Oneword has also closed and whilst it retains the same name and a scrolling message about the closure, Birdsong has made a return.

Thinking about closures, I remember listening to the last few hours of Capital Disney on DAB last year, and the set still has “SMASH HITS!” in the list, although there’s nowt there. In London, Virgin Radio Groove has gone, and digital station The Arrow is dropping presenters. Sky News Radio has lost a partner, and Virgin Radio Viva will now not launch. Capital Gold and Classic Gold are now one. Life is also set to close.

It’s not like the services aren’t being replaced, though - I’ve noticed one or two additions here, including Traffic Radio. Personally I think it’s a shame for listeners - Capital Gold and Classic Gold felt distinctively different to me, and Sophie Bruce on Core was always great to listen to. A rolling news service on radio would be great - and it would be a shame if this now does not launch. Virgin Classic Rock took on several presenters a while back and made the station far more enjoyable to listen to. Many of those presenters have now gone. The Arrow has always been a haven when you didn’t fancy the heavier Planet Rock, but will also now have less presenters.

At the end of the day, digital radio sets are getting cheaper, more people are buying them and according to Digital One, stations are interested in joining the platform.

Smooth Radio

This week Smooth Radio North East launched, with local presenters Tom Davies and Paul Wappat, with the likes of Mark Goodier doing the morning show. Everyone I’ve spoken to this week is aware of the launch and has listened at some point. The buses passing the flat have their adverts, and the coverage on local TV has been widespread.

I’m not really a ”smooth” listener - but I have to admit the station sounds excellent. The local news in the evening is superb (especially CSI: Crook running this week), and the number of calls and texts being fielded by local presenters is immense. Everyone absolutely loves the music - well done them for pulling off a great launch.

Thinking about 2008

When I started this blog six months ago talking about chips, Birmingham and recently purchased books, I was really excited about everything I was going to post about. In May I had so many ideas for blog posts I filled a month and a half of my Google calendar with them, if I posted one every day. But like so many blogs, it’s gone quiet, and I could have done with some tumbleweed.

The year has flown by, and sitting here in that week between Christmas and New Years I’ve been thinking about 2008 and some new years resolutions. Here’s a few, and I’ll come back in a years time and see how I’m doing.

  • Learn more about Photoshop. I really like Photoshop and use it almost every day. However, I know there’s so much I’ve not yet discovered. Two sites I plan to spend more time on are Radiant Vista and PSDTuts. The level of quality and professionalism in the video tutorials at Radiant Vista is phenomenal, and PSDTuts has been a great site for experimenting with Photoshop in downtime.
  • Audit everything. I’m not Robert Scoble, and sure don’t need to be subscribed to as many feeds as he is. Last night I cleaned out my GMail inbox so I’m now down to 1 unread email (next on the list is starred and drafts). I probably don’t need three operating systems on the laptop (especially as I use XP and Ubuntu for only 2-3% of the time). Do I need so many accounts all over the place? Can I bring my to-do lists (in Tadalist) and planning (in GoPlan) and contact management (in Outlook) together, online? I haven’t updated Twitter in 123 days… do I need to use it? Does it need to be on the side of this blog?
  • Do more learning. I’d really like to get into Ruby on Rails, and perhaps build a tiny project with it. It’d be nice to find time to read more of the paper, watch more decent programmes on Television and listen to more World Service and NPR.

A less serious resolution is to finally build a HTPC. Oh, and stop procrastinating over a portable music player. (That’s actually a good post for tomorrow). I’ve been playing with 43 Things (a site where you can list goals, have a public profile and set yourself reminders via email). Time to start adding to that list…

Nice use of music in a design

Outfit Mode has a really nice use of music on their site, playing Wonderwoman by Leaf - currently number ten in the Dutch Top 40. It’s a really nice design, which the song sort of compliments.

Screenshot of Outfit Mode website

Review: Tevion Internet Radio and Media Player

Last week Aldi had a £50 internet radio and media player on offer. I’ve been looking at a Squeezebox for a while, but that still requires an amplifier of some sort, and it’d be redundant if and when I sorted out a media centre in the main room. Plus it’d be nice to wake up to stations all over the country, even world.

Tevion Internet Radio

I’ve bought a Tevion product before - a digital radio in July. I keep meaning to finish the review of that, but it’s been brilliant so far. This internet radio uses the same design, and the software is similar. The main difference is the lack of a battery compartment, and it only does FM radio - not DAB. That’s a shame, but it’s easy to see why. I’ll cover the hardware, the Reciva service, listening to stations (and on demand, which is brilliant), adding streams and podcasts and playing your music collection.

The Hardware

On the way out of the store I had a peek in the box - it looked like it had been opened before. Getting home confirmed that, but it was a dream to set up. It feels heavy and well built, and I assume the antenna is for FM radio rather than wifi. There’s not a lot going on in the box - just the radio, the power adaptor, the manual and packing material.

Tevion Internet RadioThere’s some little rubber feet, and it feels sturdy when you use it. Earlier in the year I looked at a few internet radios and they shot across the surface when you tried to press a button. Not so with this Tevion model. The buttons are a little clunky and you don’t always get a response.

The speakers / overall sound is very average, but no different from my clock radio which this is replacing. Fine for kitchen/bedroom environments.

Switching on the first time

On turning it on there’s an FM radio, which is simple enough. It defaulted to 108.00FM, and going down a few steps to Durham FM confirmed it was working fine.

On pressing the IR button, it’ll switch to internet radio, search for networks and come back with a list. I confirmed the network, then put in the WEP key. After a little while it changed to ‘Network OK’. On pressing select you can go down the stations menu, at which time it connects to the Reciva service to download a list of stations.

This was suprisingly quick. You can then browse by Genre or Country. The selection is impressive, and I’ve not yet not been able to find a station I listen to missing.

Reciva

What’s been really interesting is the Reciva service. Reciva supplies the database of stations, an area for users to login and add streams, favourite stations and podcasts and the actual brains of the radio to the manufacturer. I signed up to Reciva last night and set up some stations and podcasts, and then followed the manual to get the registration code and serial number from the radio.

Add this to the members area on the Reciva site, power off the radio at the wall and back on (to force the radio to download a list of stations again) and the information is automatically pulled down. Once this was done I played a few stations and streams with no problem, and was especially impressed with the podcasts feature. I download a lot of daily news podcasts and never listen to them - this could be really good to go to bed to, especially as you don’t need to download them locally first - the radio picks them up from Reciva and just starts playing them.

Listening to Stations

Tuning into stations is really easy to do. Just press select, choose Genre or Country and keep going until you find a station. Connection is almost instantaneous on some stations, but buffering for 10-15 seconds isn’t uncommon. I listened for a few hours today and didn’t have any stations buffering once the stream started.

On the BBC stations you get an option of Real, WMA and On Demand. Selecting On Demand comes back with a list of programmes available for listen again, and even more impressive is that you can pause them with the play/pause/stop/forward/back buttons. When you select a programme you can even specify the start time, which is a nice touch. These programmes sound about the same as anything else through the speakers.

Listening to a Music Library

The documentation for setting this up is pretty decent. I had some troubles to start with owing to an old LAN configuration, but passed that and through UPnP I was listening to all sorts of music I forgot I had on various hard drives.

Conclusion

This is a brilliant bit of kit. It’s really excited me about what radio can be with the internet, partly for the convenience of listening to podcasts almost as easily as Radio 4 live. I’ve not really found a breakfast show on local DAB or FM that I like waking up to, so am thinking of tuning into a random station every night and letting the radio wake me up at 6am with the internet radio option.

What would really make it brilliant is the ability to set up alarms with a station (say, weekdays, choose Original 106 at 7am, Saturday choose BBC Radio 2 at 6am and Sunday choose Einslive at 8am). I find the internet radio slow to start at times - I understand other models with the Reciva software are much quicker. Overall, I think it’s well worth the £50.

I’ve been using the radio for about a week now, and am still impressed. For a few days it wouldn’t connect to the Wireless network on its own, but this seems to have cleared and it’s now great. Some stations buffer a fair bit, which is annoying, but some not at all. The main drawback is still the slow startup time, but I’d consider a Reciva radio again in the future.

Identity Theft is Nasty

Recently my card details were taken when a major ticket retailer’s website was hacked.

My No-Longer Flexible Friend

This is irritating anyway, but I didn’t think about it until my bank phoned to say the card had been used and would I confirm whether a selection of transactions were made by myself. Amazingly (to me, at least) the card details had been used in the United States, United Kingdom and Turkey within a matter of days.

The person(s) had been to the Carphone Warehouse, T-Mobile, iTunes, Tesco Online and a few other independant retailers. Walking through town last week I started to think about the music this person might have downloaded, who they called and send text messages to and what food they were buying.

It’s made me more interested in this sort of crime. As a consumer I did everything right; I used a very reputable retailer with SSL on the order process, I never gave my card to anyone else, I never wrote down the PIN and know I don’t have anything like a keylogger. Yet someone (in an age of CVV2 digits and chip and pin) was able to charge hundreds of pounds against my name. The user can’t have had the correct PIN or CVV2 digits, and the retailers still processed the transactions.

Interesting stuff!

(Oh, and. How did I know it would have been taken in London when I saw it?)