Down to Surrey - Day One

We left Aberystwyth today at 10:30, Tom, Steve and myself on the road to Surrey to work for Sun for a week.  We stopped in Gloucester to drop off one of Tom’s mates, who’s parents had kindly made up soup for lunch, then we were off again!  We had to be at our accommodation by 4:30, and we were told it could take three hours to get to Surrey from Gloucester, leaving at 2pm, we didn’t feel too confident.

We did, however, arrive with time to spare!  The place where I’m staying is very nice.  It’s called Tekels Park Guest House.  I have a double bed in my room along with TV, basin and a KETTLE!  Tea and coffee!  And some shortbread!  It’s amazing!

We went to somewhere which was almost like Wetherspoons, but it wasn’t.   I had ‘Surf & Turf’, a.k.a. Scampi and steak.  It was very nice and for that with pint, it cost less than a tenner :D

Just in the library at the moment, it’s the only part of the Guest House with the internet.  So I thought: Check emails, check Facebook, look at blog!

I’m about to sign off and try out my double bed…I think I may get lost!

Facebook: I'm a Fan of...

When did these start cropping up?  Noticed them yesterday, seems that someone signs a person/thing up to Facebook and you can all become a Fan.  Quite a good idea, similar to appreciation societies I guess…

So far I’ve become a Fan of Bill Bailey and Aber uni…Why?  Because they both rock and both contain beardy people…Who are, of course, the best kinda people around :P

10.5.2 is out!

Today, 11th February, Apple release the second system update to Leopard. So what did we get?

As normal, there are a number of things to make the system generally more stable, these include updates to ‘Back to my Mac’, ‘Active Directory’, Networking and some other bit. One thing that I’m looking forward to is the improvements on 802.1X and general AirPort stability.

Some things that are updated, which are quite cool include:

Dock > Stacks: New list view, and the ability to have just a Folder icon in place of the stack.

Time Machine: Time Machine now lets you have n icon on the Menu Bar which allows you to do things like “Back Up Now”.

Menu Bar: The Menu Bar now comes in ‘solid’ mode! Many users criticised the Leopard menu bar for being slightly transparent, now you can turn off transparency in the Desktop preferences!

There is also a Sync icon in the Menu Bar allowing you to quickly use iSync!

iPod Touch

Last Saturday (2nd February) I placed a bid on an iPod Touch on eBay, £199 plus £5 for p&p, bring the total to £204. This was a two month old Touch, 16GB capacity, along with charger (£20), protective film (£15) and four socks (~£20). The 16GB iPod Touch is £270 alone on the Apple Store (at time of buying).

The bid was won on Saturday, the iPod arrived on Tuesday. Everything stopped. I sat in the university library uploading my entire (only 6GB) of iTunes songs and the last five albums from iPhoto. Lecture time and I was still playing with it…

Throughout the week I have discovered more about it and changed my computing habits. I now don’t have smart playlists for artists on iTunes, I use the browse section, this stops me having to think about what goes on the iPod and selecting specific playlists. I have also updated my Address Book on the Mac to have pictures of 90% of it’s occupants. Little things starting to use iCal to record lectures, which has been a great help walking up Aberystwyth hill (Penglais) and forgetting what room Im in, no longer will I need to take off my pack and get out my laptop, I just look at the Calendar application on the iPod! It checks my Mail, it plays music, shows me photos, surfs the net, keeps me on track of what I should be doing…It’s like a little PDA, although it does have reduced functionality.

The interface is very nice, a little cramped with the keyboard, but still very elegant. And it’s really easy to sync between the Mac and the iPod, then just double check it’s all on my phone and away I go! Next thing will be an iPhone in a few years, then I can reduce three items (Mac, iPod and phone) down to just the Mac and iPhone…

MacBook Air Vs. Eee PC Vs. OQO

The MacBook Air has had much said about it. Jobs claimed it was the thinnest notebook ever, the most portable Mac ever, the Apple site declares that it is ‘thinovation’. But is it really so great? I heard about OQO computers today in a lecture, and there has been talk about the ASUS Eee PC, so I went to look at these computers and compare them.

Lets start with the OQO machine. It is an ultra portable piece of kit, with a width of 1.4cm, height of 0.8cm, a depth of 0.25cm and sports a 12.7cm screen (5 inches), it even weighs less than 500g! It is shipped to you with the Windows Vista operating system, for such a small device one would expect a cut down version, however, it runs the Ultimate version of Microsoft’s latest OS<img src="" width="177" height="132" /> The 5” screen runs at a native resolution of 800x400, but can run an external monitor (through it’s HDMI port VIA an included VGA adaptor) up to 1200x720. The screen also acts as a touch screen (stylus included) and slips up to reveal a mini backlit keyboard. Speakers are built internally along with a small microphone, this should enable users to use the voice commands in Vista (Dear aunt…). Technical specs include a 1.5GHz or a 1.6GHz VIA Ultra Low Voltage C7M VX700 chipset, with 1GB RAM and a 60GB hard driver (64GB solid state hard drive optional), 1xUSB 2.0 and a 4500mAh battery. Networking includes Wireless, ethernet and bluetooth, with 3G capabilities on higher end models. Prices range from £909 to £1,971. Portability: ***** Computing power: *** Price: ***

Next we shall take a look at the MacBook Air. It’s super thin, with it’s thinnest point at just 0.4cm! Around half of what the OQO is! It sits at around 32.5cm in width and 22.7cm in depth with a screen of 33.7cm (13.3 inches), yet it weighs around 1,360g! It ships with the latest version of Apple’s OS X, 10.5, Leopard. It’s spacious 13.3” screen boasts a native resolution of 1280x800 and has a micro-DVI out for an extra external monitor, presumably the graphics card can support resolutions of at least 1280x1024 as my MacBook does. The MacBook Air comes with a nice backlit keyboard, along with a trackpad that uses the new multi-touch technology, so you can use those pinch and sweep gestures like the iPod Touch and iPhone. Speakers are built in, but you only get mono, not stereo oddly enough. Like the MacBook and MBP, it also has an in-built microphone for those OS X voice commands. Lets not forget about the iSight either, the microphone and iSight means that you can video conference wherever you have network coverage. Technical specs include the Intel Core 2 Duo (C2D) running at 1.6GHz or 1.8GHz (£190 to upgrade the base configuration), 2GB RAM by default (not upgradable) and a 80GB hard drive, or a 64GB solid state hard drive (high end MBA only), 1xUSB 2.0 and presumably the same 5200mAh battery that comes in a standard MacBook (should last around 5 hours). Networking includes bluetooth and wireless, ethernet is available via a USB adaptor. One thing to note is that there is no Firewire ports. Prices range from £1,199 for the base model and £2.028 for the base solid state hard drive option. Portability: **** Computing power: **** Price: ***

Lastly, we shall look at the Eee PC. Made by ASUS, it has started a craze of small, compact notebooks. It’s nice and portable, yet chunky enough to feel like it has some substance, weighing in at around 920g. Dimensions are 22.5x2.15~3.5x16.4cm (width x height x depth) and it has a 17.78cm screen (7 inches), the height of this machine means that it is thickest machine of the three. It will arrive in your palms running a distribution of Linux, but it is Windows XP compatible. The native resolution of it’s 7 inch screen is 800x480, and it has a VGA out, though I couldn’t see what other resolutions it may support. The Eee PC has a keyboard and trackpad, as well as a microphone in socket. It has built-in speakers but no microphone. Technical specs include an Intel Celeron Mobile (no speed mentioned), 512MB RAM, a 2GB solid state hard drive, 3xUSB 2.0 and a 2400mAh battery. Networking includes wireless, ethernet and a modem! Prices start at £189 (Ebuyer). Portability: ***** Computing power: ** Price: *****

After looking at the three machines, I can’t honestly see why someone would want an Eee PC, only reason that I can see is budget. The Eee PC would be good for a kid to do their homework on, or a business person who needs to travel. But there is little computing power there, it would be little good (in my opinion) in running Windows, and as the storage is only around 2GB (can be upgraded slightly) you won’t be playing music or watching films on it… The OQO machine is nice, I would personally switch Vista to some form of Linux, but it’s got a nice amount of computational power, and a touch screen, along with a mini keyboard… The MacBook Air is also a nice machine, with specs that are similar to other notebooks around. And a plus is that it runs OS X, with all the power of it and UNIX, and with bootcamp you can install Linux and Windows.

For the best of portability and power, the MBA is an obvious choice if price isn’t an option, though the ASUS Eee PC is by far the choice for those people who are working to a budget.

Coding week - Day 5: Crunch Time

Up at 8 am this morning and on the bus by 8:50. Got to an empty computer room to find only one of my team members there. I sat in wait until about 9:30, waiting for team members to appear, or even just other groups…

At 9:30, I moved to the Sun Lounge when a couple of team mates came in. I spent this morning looking at files, formatting them, making sure they were commented right etc. Emails were flying around with new version, new version1, newer version and similar, useful filenames… We finally got some classes into our Approved code folder: -rwxrwx— 1 bil6 csgp08 2381 Feb 1 11:51 -rwxrwx— 1 bil6 csgp08 8448 Feb 1 11:51 -rwxrwx— 1 bil6 csgp08 5814 Feb 1 11:51 -rwxrwx— 1 bil6 csgp08 530 Feb 1 11:51 -rwxrwx— 1 bil6 csgp08 2636 Feb 1 11:51 -rwxrwx— 1 bil6 csgp08 1077 Feb 1 11:51

At noon I was feeling hungry and decided to treat myself to a Meal Deal in the uni, a packet of crisps and a BLT later, I was back on the case of looking for code, trying to get people to complete classes.

This afternoon has been hectic, people running round, we’ve converted our Application to an Applet, and the UI won’t display some tables properly, but things seem to be making slow progress…A little too slow.

As I write this now, it’s about an hour until hand in. We should start testing and more tidying up soon….

15:45 - All .java files get handed to me to start commenting and formatting. 16:20 - Source files are finished and uploaded into filestore. 16:28 - Burning of the hand-in CD begins 16:30 - CD is handed to Rhys.

It was close, but it got handed in :D I think it all pretty much worked, everything but the search feature…So that was good. A weight off all our shoulders, can now enjoy my Birthday tomorrow :D

Coding week - Day 4

The morning started late with hardly anyone turning up on time. I spent the morning looking once again at some Postgres stuff, but gave up a little before noon.

This afternoon I looked at creating an ANT file.  ANT is like a UNIX make file, except it uses XML with some basic commands.  Once I had gotten to terms with what things did, it was really quite easy.  I made a file that you could issue commands to from the command line to arrange the source files, clean the build directory, clean the source directory, compile all the source code or just the client or the server code.  I even started to look at automating the creation of a jar file.  With no arguments passed it, it would automatically clean the build files then compile everything.  I got to version 1.3 in about two hours.

After looking at ANT (which I’ll need to edit sometime)  I started to look over the other classes, checking that every method had javadoc comments and the file was formatted correctly, the formatting was easy though, Eclipse allowed me to pre-set how I wanted the code laid out and just did it for me :D

Looks like I’ve got a few more classes to do in the morning and that’ll be done.  Hand in for 4, let’s hope it all goes smoothly :D

Coding week - Day 3

The day started by running around the Old College looking for the workstation room, after finally finding it, I settled down to work on looking around for Java with Postgres, as this was the database we are working with…Looking around the web wasn’t much help,nothing was going to be easy, especially as I’m not great with SQL.

I came home for lunch and got back to the workroom for about 3pm, I spent the afternoon looking at trying to get Postgres onto my Mac.  After using this page, I finally had it running, but had no idea how to use it :P  I gave up and came home at about 5:30.  I think I’ll try and install it on my Fedora box…Actually I think there may have been a Fedora binary…

Coding week - Day 2

Ugh, off to another late start, rolled out of bed at 8:10am again…Just about to have some breakfast…Today’s blog may be more of a continually updated commentary of what’s going on…But who knows, eh?

08:41am - Already we have had a suggestion by a fellow team member that all the XML files should be translated into SQL and then form a database…This undermines everything we worked towards yesterday, but as long as it gets done we’ll get the marks I suppose…

13:12 - The morning has been somewhat of a waste of time again. I looked into the TV-Anytime API again, edited some things and found that although it was throwing errors, it was parsing everything nicely. After looking at it though, it would appear that it would be far simpler to convert the XML to SQL and host it on the department’s Oracle server.

16:10 - One of the team members has a perl script to translate the XML into SQL and we will be hosting it on a Postgres database, the upload is slow at the moment, but it is translating and streaming to the server, so hopefully it should be quicker in the end.

It looks like that’s about all that’ll get done today, I may have to look at Java with Postgres, but well leave that until a tad later…I still need to learn Python…

Coding week - Day 1

Today started off with rolling out of bed at 8:10am, out the house for 8:50, I had left it a tad late to make it up the hill in time, though my phone helped, playing a crap, compressed version of 99 Luftballons.

I got into the computer room to find some of the group huddled around our computers. Me a Steve got stuck in with looking at how to parse XML using Java and query it using XPath. By 10am we had cracked the parsing; the files we had been given declared they were UTF-8 encoded, however, every time we tried to parse the file we got an error stating something about 1 od 1-byte not UTF-8 or some such nonsense…After looking around, we changed the declaration to ISO-8859-1, this seems to work :D Our data was parsed, or at least displayed no errors! We battled on with trying to look at XPath, searching various sites, looking at tutorials, but it was useless. We even tried the TV-Anytime API, but our files wouldn’t work correctly, the Genre’s weren’t being recognised…After talking to one of our Project Managers, Rhys Parry, we retreated down into town for lunch.

After lunch we received an email stating that Nigel Hardy (a.k.a. Beardy Nigel) was putting on a Q&A on XML. Steve and myself attending this meeting and asked about XML namespaces and asked questions relating to out XPath problems. We returned to work feeling very informed, but not overly sure on where to go next. I had already contacted Andrew McParland from the BBC who had worked on the TV-Anytime project, with a stroke of luck he replied just after lunch! He suggested editing the API to recognise the new Genres. The class that needed editing was created in 2002 according to the declaration at the top, the files we were using were time-stamped 2007…

So, two plans formed, look more into XPath, or edit the TVAT API…We chose to persist with XPath. At 4:45 we had got nowhere :( We decided to go for changing the API. First of all I tried to parse the XML file with the TVAT API, reciving close to 5000 lines of errors about genres…I copy and pasted around 1500 lines into a text editor (it appeared that the list was repeated several times) and reduced these down to 24 genres in the space of about 30 minutes…After changing the API, compiling and running, we were not just receiving errors concerning that genres weren’t recognised, but also some of them weren’t formatted correctly! After looking at an example, I noticed that it was not only formatted the same as all the others, it was the first in the list of genres in the edited class! This at 6pm this evening, after this day…Almost nine straight hours of work, we decided to retire for the day and come back to it in the morning…

So, tomorrow is another day…We are open to all suggestions :D Comments welcome :P But for now…BED!